Fifty years ago this week, the Supreme Court issued one of its greatest decisions, the Gideon case. After a poor man in Florida wrote, in pencil, an appeal to the high court that he was convicted when he could not afford a lawyer, that "liberal Warren court", reversing a previous case, decided all of us are entitled to a lawyer, whether we can afford one or not.
Questions still remain because many states, Kentucky included, do not adequately fund the Public Defenders office, and it need greater help, but the principle remains. Gideon's rights now belong to all of us.
35 years ago this month the Scotia mine in Letcher county exploded..not once but twice..killing 26 miners and then rescuers, too. It was one in a long line of tragic mine blasts, but this time Congress did something. It took 2 years but the Mine Safety and Health Act passed, setting up that federal agency to deal with mine safety. In the time since then, major improvements have been made, and mine deaths have greatly declined. But, mine blasts continue..the latest needless tragedy being the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. Mine safety remains a continuing problem, but the nation---and the industry--started towards solutions 35 years ago.
Ten years ago the U-S began its misguided war against Iraq. Based on dubious and faulty intelligence about WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) the U-S convinced the United Nations (and our Congress) to pass resolutions conveying a semblance of justification for the war that began in "shock and awe." No WMDs were ever found, and now the shock and awe are the five thousand military deaths, 50,000 other casulaties..and a long range cost (including lingering health care for vets) at $4.4 Trillion..not billion, but trillion. And Iraq is hardly safer today, or an ally of the west. Are there lessons here for Afghhanistan, an even longer war? Worth reflecting on this week of anniversaries.
I'm just sayin'...