Detroit, Michael, Michael Ratner discussed on A Public Affair
Phone is Michael. Stephen Smith, Michael is an attorney former longtime board member at the center for constitutional rights and a longtime member of the national lawyers guild. He's written or edited various titles, including notebook of a sixties, lawyer, and unrepentant memoir, and selected writings lers. You'll like putting Uman rights. I the emerging police state by William kuntsler, which he ended in and shake Vara and the FBI with Michael Ratner. He's the co editor of imagine living in a socialist USA Smith has written articles for the New York state bar association. The journey. Capitalism nature and socialism against the current and socialism and democracy is co host of the weekly radio program law, and disorder broadcast from New York City's WBAI today, we're going to discuss Michael's recent book lawyers for the left in the courts in the streets and on the air, Michael Smith, you are on the air WR, t welcome. Hello. How are you nice to be on the show? I'm I've been looking forward to this ever since I cracked your book. Oh about a week or so ago. So let's jump right in Michael. First of all, tell us about yourself, some, some background a summary of your trajectory as left activists and attorney to in a sense, the Scituate this book. Well, I'm very happy to report that I'm from the great state of Wisconsin. I grew up in FOX point, which is a little Republican village on the lake north of Milwaukee in the fifties. And I luckily enough because I was pretty much a juvenile delinquent school. But in those days, I don't know what it's like now, but in those days, the university really had except anybody who applied as long as they were morally fit. And there was some question about that. But I finally got in a week before classes started. And I got a real education that I was fairly ignorant where I grew up, there was no library. There was a police station and fire station. And if you want to read a book you get on your bike, and you pedal, six blocks up to the strip mall, and there are some books in a wire, hanger up there that you can read or otherwise, it was hard to learn anything, but it was certainly not hard to learn stuff at the university of Wisconsin. Even though Madison isn't far away from where McCarthy was situated in Appleton it was light years away because it was a progressive university with. Stood the witch hunt of McCarthy. And when I got there, nineteen sixty I actually had four socialist professors, had a course called capitalism, socialism, by economists named Jack bar bash, but it was mostly about socialism. I had George MARCY Williams Williams was the greatest story in. He understood that the Cold War was really American aggression expansion, and he became twenty years later, when, when he was elected, the president of the American historical association, he his thought became pretty routine, but in those days he was really guard and I had like you Allen, I had the great to Harvey Goldberg that explained explains it. Now, Chaman my book, you know, years ago, friends of mine were able to put his lectures, which had been taped on CDs. I still listen to him. He's brilliant. Now you ever was. And, and he certainly influenced me, I think more than any other professor. And I know that you had them too, because I was at the meeting in Madison last summer when you were on that panel Alan talking about him. So, you know, you, you end up going to did you go to school here in Madison as well after a while, I wanted to live in New York, I had a girlfriend, whose parents were New York intellectuals when I was living in FOX point, and I couldn't wait to get out of there, and I use the opportunity when I graduated from undergraduate school to get into NYU law school, but my parents ran out of money so I didn't last a year, and I was very disappointed in losing my told. New York I went back to Madison but it turned out university. Wisconsin last was great place to be certainly a much superior to NYU where the students read the Wall Street Journal, and they had their shoes. Polished by black guys on the sidewalk in front of the law school carried unbrellas. I was one of the two radicals in the law school. The other guy was found revest. Yes. Michigan. So I was pretty isolated why you got back to Wisconsin. The antiwar was, was starting to crank up and it was terrific place. And I was able to graduate from university law school, nineteen sixty seven so, so you come out of Madison and law school, and so on radicalized by the environment here by what was going on the war, and the civil rights movement, and so on, and you become a what was often called at the time, a people's lawyer tuck about a just a little bit more about that, that, that is the lawyers guild in eventually, the committee for constitutional rights that you become involved with, well, those days in the mid sixties, you had to go into the military, unless you had a drafter ferment, and I wasn't interested in going to Vietnam is anything. I was on the side of the Vietnamese. So. So I joined what was called the domestic peace corps, and I had a choice of going to either Chicago or Detroit, and Chicago. Lenny, Bruce Chicago is so corrupt. It was thrilling. So I knew that Chicago would not be a place where you could get done, and I opted for Detroit. So in the fall of nineteen sixty seven I was in Detroit working for community legal services, our job. There were ten of us in our job was to represent community organizations in the inner city in the ghetto of Detroit. And I did that until I was no longer eligible for the draft. And then I opened up a law firm. There were seven of us and we bought an old house, right near the GM building in downtown Detroit. And we fixed the house up mitt into an office and for years. We represented the movement in Detroit. Lieutenant Dennis Mullany of the red squadron, Detroit. We got our we did a foia request information. Question. We got our secret files they used to spy on our law firm, and he said there wasn't an war, feminist or moving group or group or underground newspaper in the city of Detroit that wasn't represented by my firm. So I spent several years doing that. And I then moved on to New York where I became active in at the center for kasha so rights in the lawyers guild, as you mentioned talking about give our listeners. Please a brief sketch of this book lawyers for the left. Describe what it is. Well, it's interviews with and essays by me of Twenty-three significant lawyers. Lawyers for my generation sixties radicals and lawyers from my parents generation the Genesis of the book came out of my radio show on disorder and law disorder came out of nine eleven I lived right across the street from the World Trade Center on nine eleven if the building would have fallen on its side, rather than straight down would have fallen on my apartment. So I was very much affected by it. The building was covered in four inches of dark ash. It was darkened twice after the second building fell. We didn't know what to do my wife and I were living there with a sixteen pound cat named MO and my talking parrot, Charlie Parker. And it was really we weren't portable. We couldn't get out of there. The top. Came through. Right. And said you have to evacuate, but we really couldn't go anywhere because of the animals so we stayed overnight. But then they came back the next day, and they said, you really have to get out of here. So we left most for day, and we put shyly in his cage, and we started walking up to the village to stay with Michael Ratner and his wife and all the way Charlie was saying from his cage. It's okay. It's okay, but as you know, it wasn't okay and because it wasn't okay. We got the idea of starting the radio show. We had a segment of the radio show called lawyers, you'll like and the half the book, our interviews that have been transcribed and edited down of these various lawyers, who we interviewed under the lawyers. You're like part of the show. The other half are says that I wrote about significant lawyers like Bill consular Conrad, Lynn, Bruce. Right. And I wrote an introduction. About the challenges that are facing lawyers for the left and then I wrote an appendix about what law. My look like if we got rid of capitalism. Much. Give us a little a little taste of that the intro or whatever. Well, let me talk about the challenges we face. Sure. Sure. And this is what I write about introduction after nine eleven. The first thing the government did was passed the Patriot Act as you know, it was the three hundred and forty page active. I'll reactionary laws that they'd been saving up for years. It sailed through congress. Most people never even read it, and the Patriot Act is designed to create a massive police spine surveillance state for example last week. I went to the cardiologists and I had tests on my heart, and then I drove home through the Brooklyn battery tunnel, the Brooklyn battery tunnel has face recognition cameras. So as soon as I drove through that tunnel, they knew who I was, and then under the Patriot Act that can get your government records that can get your medical records. They can get your library records. They get your telephone calls now every time you pick up a cell phone. They know who you're calling. Where you're calling from every stroke on your computer is is recorded. They know who you're writing. There's, there's been a tremendous step backwards in our democratic society after nine eleven. And the Patriot Act was was passed, there were several things that happened that I that I wanted to talk about the national defense authorization act was passed that allows for the army to pick up anybody in the United States, including citizen, and apprehend them and detain them forever. So that act was challenged by gnome Chomsky, and Chris hedges who went to court last year in front of very courageous judge Katherine Forrest here in New York City and check sports found in their favor that the army should not be allowed to pick up detained forever any American citizen. So the government immediately said they wanted to appeal and the plane of said they would cross appeal, but before that they went down to Washington, and the lawyers met with Nancy Pelosi, and they said, we will give up our appeal if you'll take the reference to American citizens. Out of this act and Pelosi wouldn't do it. There's another thing that's particularly scary. And that's the case that we have to central constitutional rights brought on behalf of the father of this radical Muslim cleric named ala walkie. Allah walkie was put on a hit list, by the United States, and it was public knowledge that they were going to assassinate him. So his father retained us at the center to straddle lawsuit to prevent the murder of his son, who is an American citizen, born in New Mexico, and we lost a lot of we were thrown out of court for lack of standing they said, we, we had no ability to bring lawsuit to begin with. That's the same thing they threw out, Chomsky and hedges on. And we were thrown out of court next week. The American government assassinated American citizen, Allah, walkie and two weeks later killed by a drone his sixteen year old son and the last thing I wanted to mention about. About the disappearance of democracy. And our country is the citizens United case, which I'm sure your listeners are aware of the citizens, United case decided by judge. Robert six years ago Roberts was the guy you'll recall that said that his position as a supreme court judge was not to make the law, but just call balls and strikes. You'll be s the decision he wrote give citizenship to corporations gives them people would so that corporations has people now allowed to give as much money as they want to, to various political parties. And that's what's been the source of the development of that right wing in this country. And you we of course, know that, that corporations are not people, I'll believe a corporation person. The dad gets a colonoscopy, it's a legal fiction, but those things the Patriot Act national. Offensive authorization act. The outta walkie assassination citizens United all added up to what Michael Ratner my co host at the radio show that we do in their former president of the center for Kostunica rights, Michael passed.