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Black Law Students / Gentrification/Urban Renewal: Yea or Nay?
« on: July 02, 2007, 02:16:37 PM »
Here's an intriguing article about Bushwick, the neighborhood directly south of my own neck of the woods in NYC.  

The Second Battle of Bushwick
Thirty years after the blackout riots, it's getting hot all over again
by Tom Robbins

From the top of the spanking new steel-and-glass 14-story condo tower now open for inspection on Grove Street just off of Myrtle Avenue, you can see most of Bushwick—the landmarks of the neighborhood that was, and the one that's fast being remade, the sites of the bad old memories, even of some of the good.

This is the Brooklyn neighborhood's first major luxury residential construction project, but the marketers of the 59 condominium units for sale here steer clear of the name Bushwick as much as possible. Promotional materials aimed at luring hipsters with the means to buy a one-bedroom for $270,000, or a three-bedroom penthouse for $682,000 refer to "ever-expanding Williamsburg" or "East Williamsburg" as the building's locale. This despite the fact that the tower at 358 Grove Street is in deepest Bushwick; look it up on any map.

"This is the continuation of Williamsburg," insists the condo's frantic real estate agent, dashing about the sixth-floor sales office. "Look," he says, burbling the happy nonsense of a salesman, "people in the neighborhood are ready to take their lives to the next level."

What's at work here is straight out of the brokers' handbook: Link the property in buyers' minds to the worldwide cachet of that now-prosperous and booming neighborhood a couple miles west of here. "The Peter Luger Steakhouse is just a couple of blocks away," the agent says, leaning over an unfinished rooftop cabana. Actually, Peter Luger's is a solid eight subway stops away from here on the M train that rumbles along Myrtle Avenue. But no matter. There are some very solid marketing rationales for this approach.

For one thing, mention of Bushwick still summons up unfortunate images lodged in the collective municipal subconscious. Most enduring are the apocalyptic blazes that erupted 30 years ago this summer when, on the sweltering night of July 13, 1977, New York City's lights and power went out. Looting and burning— the worst since the draft riots of the Civil War—broke out in half a dozen city neighborhoods. Nowhere was it worse than in Bushwick, which had been lurching steadily downhill for years. Pummeled by the loss of its blue-collar, job-generating breweries and knitting mills in the late '60s and early '70s, the neighborhood underwent a wrenching racial transition as low-income blacks and Hispanics replaced fleeing Italian and German families. By 10 p.m., minutes after the lights went out and the subways froze in place, crowds began pouring onto Broadway, racing under the elevated train tracks to smash gates and windows of appliance, clothing, and sporting-goods stores, hauling away whatever could be carried: televisions, air conditioners, mattresses, shotguns. Looting continued into the next day before cops got things under control. There were 890 arrests in Brooklyn, most of them in Bushwick.

A few days later, things got worse: A massive arson blaze erupted on July 18 in an abandoned knitting mill at the corner of Knickerbocker and Myrtle avenues. It quickly escalated into an all-hands fire—the biggest blaze in modern city history until 9/11. Even with 300 firefighters responding, the firestorm wiped out more than 30 buildings, leaving 250 families homeless and smoldering ruins that bespoke only urban hopelessness.

Later that year, Howard Cosell brought the South Bronx international notoriety when he announced in the midst of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning." But most New Yorkers understood that for a true picture of Dresden-like devastation, Bushwick—the old Dutch settlement on Long Island's western shores—had no peer.

The devastation bred despair. Another reason not to invoke the neighborhood's name in a real estate sales pitch is its lingering reputation for that other urban scourge, drugs. In the firestorm's wake, drugs swept through local streets. Much of the merchandising was homegrown: Before he was famously gunned down in 1979 while dining on the back patio at Joe & Mary's restaurant on Knickerbocker Avenue—his cigar either clenched or planted in his teeth—Bonanno crime-family boss Carmine Galante peddled so much heroin in Bushwick and other neighborhoods that he became an embarrassment to his own Mafia cohorts.

Those who challenged the lucrative trade suffered the consequences. From the upper floors of 358 Grove Street, condo purchasers will have a direct "view corridor" down Irving Avenue to Maria Hernandez Park. The once thriving drug supermarket had its name changed from Bushwick Park back in 1989 in honor of a 36-year-old community activist who confronted the local crack merchants. On the morning of August 8, 1989, Hernandez was shot to death while she was standing in her bedroom on Starr Street blow-drying her hair, about to leave for her job as an accountant in New Jersey. The shooter—who was never apprehended—fired five potshots through the bedroom's drawn blinds.

During daylight hours, the park is pretty tame these days, thanks in part to a program the city launched a couple of years ago called the "Bushwick Initiative." The program, arranged by Bushwick's longtime political heavyweight, State Assemblyman Vito Lopez, has attempted a coordinated attack on crime, sanitation problems, and ailing housing in a 23-square-block area near the park. Some progress is already in evidence: On the first Saturday of June, an artists' group called Bushwick Open Studio held a parade through the neighborhood, celebrating the new art being created in the lofts and studios along Bushwick's western fringe. The parade route went right past Maria Hernandez's old house on Starr Street and ended at the park. That's the kind of thing that cheers the hearts of the promoters of 358 Grove Street.


Black Law Students / New AUSA Hiring on the Way
« on: August 01, 2006, 07:26:53 AM »
Justice Department to hire more prosecutors for border areas     

By Tim Korte

4:20 p.m. July 31, 2006

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Attorney General Alberto Gonzales outlined plans Monday to add 20 new federal prosecutors to handle immigration related offenses and five others who will target drug trafficking in states along the border with Mexico.

“We've heard the cries of our U.S. attorneys, who tell us they need additional resources,” Gonzales said during a news conference at the U.S. attorney's office in Albuquerque.

Gonzales also challenged Congress to keep the money coming, saying comprehensive immigration reform will require more judges, marshals and bed space to fully secure the border.

“We need to ensure that as we increase our efforts on the front end of the process that we also have the ability at the back end to prosecute these folks,” he said.

The $2 million supplemental funding will help federal authorities assign prosecutors for border areas of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to address human smuggling, illegal entry into the United States and document fraud. They also will target employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

Five additional prosecutors – one in each of the five federal law enforcement districts along the border – will be assigned under the Justice Department's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. They will target drug trafficking organizations.

“There is some correlation,” Gonzales said. “Obviously, smuggling occurs in connection with illegal immigration. Also, there is a serious drug trafficking problem on our southern border.”

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security will identify lawyers who will be designated as special assistant U.S. attorneys, responsible for prosecuting immigration offenses.

The U.S. attorney in each of the districts along the border will determine the best ways to specifically allocate the new prosecutors.

Gonzales said over the past six years, the Justice Department has boosted the number of federal prosecutors along the Mexican border by 29 percent, to 561.

During the same span, he said immigration prosecutions have increased about 40 percent, and that about 30 percent of all new criminal cases involve immigration crimes.

That makes immigration the largest category of cases addressed by federal prosecutors. Gonzales said last year, more than 95 percent of immigration prosecutions led to convictions.

During an earlier visit to Santa Fe, Gonzales said the Bush administration remains hopeful that Congress, despite election year pressures, will agree on comprehensive immigration legislation this year.

“I wouldn't say that we've given up. Quite the contrary,” Gonzales said.

Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat and the nation's only Hispanic governor, expressed support for legislation that offers a path to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States. Comprehensive legislation also should include additional resources, such as more agents and electronic sensors to tighten border security.

Gonzales agreed those were important elements for legislation but said the administration hasn't endorsed a specific measure in Congress.

Richardson and Gonzales also addressed a conference of the National District Attorneys Association. Gonzales, in his speech, focused on federal efforts to crack down on the exploitation and abuse of children by sexual predators using the Internet.

Richardson told the prosecutors he was worried Congress wouldn't act on immigration legislation this year because of election year divisions.


Black Law Students / Honest Question on Torture
« on: July 28, 2006, 12:27:39 PM »
Read the following excerpts from Michael Levin's "Case for Torture."  Yes, Levin has some suspect work w/r/t race -- but I studied under him for years and found him with nary a biased thought in his head (just in his books).  Also, keep in mind that I'm not (nor is he) advocating torture here.  Just an interesting thought experiment.

Suppose a terrorist has hidden an atomic bomb on Manhattan Island which will detonate at noon on July 4 unless ... here follow the usual demands for money and release of his friends from jail. Suppose, further, that he is caught at 10 a.m on the fateful day, but preferring death to failure, won't disclose where the bomb is. What do we do? If we follow due process, wait for his lawyer, arraign him, millions of people will die. If the only way to save those lives is to subject the terrorist to the most excruciating possible pain, what grounds can there be for not doing so? I suggest there are none. In any case, I ask you to face the question with an open mind.

Torturing the terrorist is unconstitutional? Probably. But millions of lives surely outweigh constitutionality. Torture is barbaric? Mass murder is far more barbaric. Indeed, letting millions of innocents die in deference to one who flaunts his guilt is moral cowardice, an unwillingness to dirty one's hands. If you caught the terrorist, could you sleep nights knowing that millions died because you couldn't bring yourself to apply the electrodes?

Once you concede that torture is justified in extreme cases, you have admitted that the decision to use torture is a matter of balancing innocent lives against the means needed to save them. You must now face more realistic cases involving more modest numbers. Someone plants a bomb on a jumbo jet. I He alone can disarm it, and his demands cannot be met (or they can, we refuse to set a precedent by yielding to his threats). Surely we can, we must, do anything to the extortionist to save the passengers. How can we tell 300, or 100, or 10 people who never asked to be put in danger, "I'm sorry you'll have to die in agony, we just couldn't bring ourselves to . . . "

Here are the results of an informal poll about a third, hypothetical, case. Suppose a terrorist group kidnapped a newborn baby from a hospital. I asked four mothers if they would approve of torturing kidnappers if that were necessary to get their own newborns back. All said yes, the most "liberal" adding that she would like to administer it herself.

I am not advocating torture as punishment. Punishment is addressed to deeds irrevocably past. Rather, I am advocating torture as an acceptable measure for preventing future evils. So understood, it is far less objectionable than many extant punishments. Opponents of the death penalty, for example, are forever insisting that executing a murderer will not bring back his victim (as if the purpose of capital punishment were supposed to be resurrection, not deterrence or retribution). But torture, in the cases described, is intended not to bring anyone back but to keep innocents from being dispatched. The most powerful argument against using torture as a punishment or to secure confessions is that such practices disregard the rights of the individual. Well, if the individual is all that important, and he is, it is correspondingly important to protect the rights of individuals threatened by terrorists. If life is so valuable that it must never be taken, the lives of the innocents must be saved even at the price of hurting the one who endangers them.

Better precedents for torture are assassination and pre-emptive attack. No Allied leader would have flinched at assassinating Hitler, had that been possible. (The Allies did assassinate Heydrich.) Americans would be angered to learn that Roosevelt could have had Hitler killed in 1943, thereby shortening the war and saving millions of lives, but refused on moral grounds. Similarly, if nation A learns that nation B is about to launch an unprovoked attack, A has a right to save itself by destroying B's military capability first. In the same way, if the police can by torture save those who would otherwise die at the hands of kidnappers or terrorists, they must.

Black Law Students / WaPo on Signing Statements -- Not All Bad...
« on: July 28, 2006, 07:49:38 AM »
Aside from the rampant supposition, the article says what most right-minded folk have been saying all along: signing statements are not inherently bad.  I still would hold that 90% of Bush's signing statements aren't bad.  It's simply a way of leaving a mark on the legislative history.  If Senators can add all kinds of statements to the Congressional Record in order to (successfully in Hamdan) fool SCOTUS justices with a fabricated intent, then President's should be able to "try" to leave their mark of the legislative history as well.

Signing Off
Presidential signing statements aren't a problem. What Mr. Bush is saying in them is.
Friday, July 28, 2006; Page A24

ACROSS A WIDE range of areas, President Bush has asserted a grandiose vision of presidential power, one to which Congress has largely acquiesced. From domestic surveillance to holding detainees in the war on terrorism, the administration has generally ignored the legislature, brushed aside inconvenient statutes and proceeded unilaterally. All of this, as we have argued many times, warrants grave concern and a strenuous response. But it is worth separating that issue from the ongoing controversy over the president's aggressive use of what are called "signing statements" -- those formal documents that accompany the signing of a bill into law.

Ever since the Boston Globe reported this year that the president had used such statements to question the constitutionality of more than 750 provisions of law, critics across the political spectrum have been up in arms. The Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings, and this week a task force of the American Bar Association issued a report accusing the president of usurping legislative powers.
President Bush brought this skirmish on himself. He has used signing statements -- which indicate that he will interpret new laws so as to avoid the constitutional problems he has flagged within them -- far more frequently than other presidents. In some areas, he has used them to articulate deeply troubling views of presidential authority. Most infamously, in signing the amendment by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) banning American personnel from using "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment on detainees, he stated that his administration would interpret the new law "in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power" -- apparently reserving for himself the power to override the prohibition.

Still, it is important not to let Mr. Bush's ugly signing statements bring the presidential practice into disrepute. Signing statements are actually a useful device for transparent and open government.

Presidents have long used signing statements to identify particular provisions of law as potentially unconstitutional. They have just as long declined to enforce provisions of law they regarded as unconstitutional. Particularly since the Carter and Reagan administrations, the use of signing statements has been on the upswing, and that's generally a good thing. These statements give the public and Congress fair warning about which laws the president intends to ignore or limit through interpretation. They thereby permit criticism and more vibrant debate. And they have no legal consequences over and above the president's powers to instruct the executive branch as to how to interpret a law -- which he could do privately in any case.

While Mr. Bush has been particularly aggressive about issuing signing statements, a great many break no new ground but merely articulate constitutional views that the executive branch has held across many administrations. The problem is not that Mr. Bush reserves the right to state his views; it is the dangerous substance of the views he sometimes states.

Opinion just released (

MADSEN, J. - The trial courts in these consolidated cases held that
the provisions of Washington's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that
prohibit same-sex marriages are facially unconstitutional under the
privileges and immunities and due process clauses of the Washington State
Constitution.  King County and the State of Washington have appealed.  The
plaintiffs-respondents, gay and lesbian couples, renew their constitutional
arguments made to the trial courts, including a claim that DOMA violates
the Equal Rights Amendment.
The two cases before us require us to decide whether the legislature
has the power to limit marriage in Washington State to opposite-sex
couples.  The state constitution and controlling case law compel us to
answer "yes," and we therefore reverse the trial courts.
In reaching this conclusion, we have engaged in an exhaustive
constitutional inquiry and have deferred to the legislative branch as
required by our tri-partite form of government.  Our decision accords with
the substantial weight of authority from courts considering similar
constitutional claims.  We see no reason, however, why the legislature or
the people acting through the initiative process would be foreclosed from
extending the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples in Washington.
It is important to note that the court's role is limited to determining the
constitutionality of DOMA and that our decision is not based on an
independent determination of what we believe the law should be.  United
States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens talked about the court's
role when he described several noteworthy opinions he had written or joined
while "convinced that the law compelled a result that {he} would have
opposed if {he} were a legislator."  John Paul Stevens, United States
Supreme Court Justice, Judicial Predilections, Address to the Clark County
Bar Association, Las Vegas, Nev. 2 (Aug. 18, 2005).  As Justice Stevens
explained, a judge's understanding of the law is a separate and distinct
matter from his or her personal views about sound policy.  Id. at 17.
A judge's role when deciding a case, including the present one, is to
measure the challenged law against the constitution and the cases that have
applied the constitution.  Personal views must not interfere with the
judge's responsibility to decide cases as a judge and not as a legislator.
This, after all, is one of the three legs supporting the rule of law.
Here, the solid body of constitutional law disfavors the conclusion that
there is a right to marry a person of the same sex.  It may be a measure of
this fact that Justice Fairhurst's dissent is replete with citation to
dissenting and concurring opinions, and that, in the end, it cites very
little case law that, without being overstated, supports its conclusions.
Perhaps because of the nature of the issue in this case and the strong
feelings it brings to the front, some members of the court have
uncharacteristically been led to depart significantly from the court's
limited role when deciding constitutional challenges.  For example, Justice
Fairhurst's dissent declines to apply settled principles for reviewing the
legislature's acts and instead decides for itself what the public policy of
this state should be.  Justice Bridge's dissent claims that gay marriage
will ultimately be on the books and that this court will be criticized for
having failed to overturn DOMA.  But, while same-sex marriage may be the
law at a future time, it will be because the people declare it to be, not
because five members of this court have dictated it.1  Justice J.M.
Johnson's concurrence, like Justice Fairhurst's dissent, also ignores the
proper standards for reviewing legislation.  And readers unfamiliar with
appellate court review may not realize the extent to which this concurrence
departs from customary procedures because, among other things, it merely
repeats the result and much of the reasoning of the court's decision on
most issues, thus adding unnecessarily to the length of the opinions.
In brief, unless a law is a grant of positive favoritism to a minority
class, we apply the same constitutional analysis under the state
constitution's privileges and immunities clause that is applied under the
federal constitution's equal protection clause.  DOMA does not grant a
privilege or immunity to a favored minority class, and we accordingly apply
the federal analysis.  The plaintiffs have not established that they are
members of a suspect class or that they have a fundamental right to
marriage that includes the right to marry a person of the same sex.
Therefore, we apply the highly deferential rational basis standard of
review to the legislature's decision that only opposite-sex couples are
entitled to civil marriage in this state.  Under this standard, DOMA is
constitutional because the legislature was entitled to believe that
limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential
to survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by
encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the
children's biological parents.  Allowing same-sex couples to marry does
not, in the legislature's view, further these purposes.2  Accordingly,
there is no violation of the privileges and immunities clause.
There also is no violation of the state due process clause.  DOMA
bears a reasonable relationship to legitimate state interests --
procreation and child-rearing.  Nor do we find DOMA invalid as a violation
of privacy interests protected by article I, section 7 of the Washington
State Constitution.  The people of Washington have not had in the past nor,
at this time, are they entitled to an expectation that they may choose to
marry a person of the same sex.
Finally, DOMA does not violate the state constitution's equal rights
amendment because that provision prohibits laws that render benefits to or
restrict or deny rights of one sex.  DOMA treats both sexes the same;
neither a man nor a woman may marry a person of the same sex.

Judge Rejects Customer Suit Over Records From AT&T
Published: July 26, 2006

A federal judge in Chicago dismissed a class-action lawsuit yesterday against AT&T that claimed it had illegally given information about its customers to the National Security Agency. The judge, Matthew F. Kennelly, based his ruling on the state secrets privilege, which can bar suits that would disclose information harmful to national security.

The ruling is at first blush at odds with a decision last week by a federal judge in San Francisco. That judge, Vaughn R. Walker, allowed a similar suit against AT&T to proceed notwithstanding the state secrets privilege.

But the two decisions can be reconciled, Judge Kennelly wrote. The Chicago case concerns records of phone calls, including when they were placed, how long they lasted and the phone numbers involved. The San Francisco case, by contrast, mainly concerns an N.S.A. program aimed not at a vast sweep of customers’ records but at the contents of a more limited number of communications.

Because the Bush administration has confirmed the existence of such targeted wiretapping, the San Francisco suit could proceed without running afoul of the state secrets privilege, Judge Walker ruled last week. ‘‘The government has opened the door for judicial inquiry,” he wrote, “by publicly confirming and denying material information about its monitoring of communications content.”

In his decision yesterday, Judge Kennelly said there had been no comparable confirmation by the government or AT&T of “the existence or nonexistence of AT&T’s claimed record turnover.” He refused to rely on news accounts of the program as proof of its existence and noted that “no executive branch official has officially confirmed or denied the existence of any program to obtain large quantities of customer telephone records.”

The case was brought by the journalist Studs Terkel, five other individual plaintiffs and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. They argued that the program violated a federal law that forbids the disclosure of some customer records to the government, and they sought a court order to stop it.

Among the papers the government submitted to Judge Kennelly to urge the dismissal of the case on state secrets grounds was a declaration from John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence. “Even confirming that a certain intelligence activity or relationship does not exist, either in general or with respect to specific targets or channels,” Mr. Negroponte said, “would cause harm to the national security because alerting our adversaries to channels or individuals that are not under surveillance could likewise help them avoid detection.”

Judge Kennelly noted his “great antipathy” for dismissing the suit. “Nothing in this opinion,” he wrote, “prevents the plaintiffs from using the legislative process, not to mention their right of free speech, to seek further inquiry by the executive and legislative branches into the allegations in their complaint.”

More than 30 lawsuits over government surveillance programs are pending in the nation. Only one, in Detroit, has moved beyond questions of procedure and privilege to consider the legality of the wiretapping program. A decision in that case is expected soon.

Black Law Students / Bipartisan Presidential Ticket?
« on: July 25, 2006, 01:51:46 PM »
I just got to wondering -- will there ever be a major bipartisan presidential ticket?  Will we ever see a well-known Republican and Democrat pair up to fight the problems that face America?  Or are we entirely too polarized for that to ever happen? 

While pondering, check out this movement to form a bipartisan ticket in 2008:

Who We Are   

Unity08 is a group of citizens deeply concerned that the wheels have come off our political system, that the American Dream is slipping away, and that time is short to get things back on track.

We are of all ages, backgrounds, colors and beliefs and from both parties:

Some of us have been involved in political campaigns at the state and national levels and served in high government positions.
Others of our leadership group have never been active in political life but have been highly successful in the private sector, active in the non-profit world and in other walks of American life.
Still others of our leadership group are students, who are concerned that the agenda of special interests is coming before the national interest.
 View the Unity08 Founders Council.

What We Believe 

Unity08 believes that neither of today’s major parties reflects the aspirations, fears or will of the majority of Americans. Both have polarized and alienated the people. Both are unduly influenced by single-issue groups. Both are excessively dominated by money.

For most of the 20th Century, the contest for the U.S. presidency was waged over those “in the middle.” Recent Presidential elections, however, have not been focused on the middle but on the turnout of each party’s special interest groups – with each party’s “base” representing barely ten percent of the American people.

We believe that, while the leaders of both major parties are well intentioned people, they are trapped in a flawed system – and that the two major parties are today simply neither relevant to the issues and challenges of the 21st Century nor effective in addressing them.

As a result, most Americans have not been enthusiastic about the choices for President in recent elections, the key issues they ran on, or the manner in which the campaigns were conducted.

Therefore Unity08 will act to assure that an alternative ticket is presented to the American voters in 2008.

Our Goals

We have set three specific goals, and are exploring how best to achieve them.

Goal One is the election of a Unity Ticket for President and Vice-President of the United States in 2008 – headed by a woman and/or man from each major party or by an independent who presents a Unity Team from both parties.
Goal Two is for the people themselves to pick that Unity Ticket in the first half of 2008 – via a virtual and secure online convention in which all American voters will be qualified to vote.
Goal Three, our minimum goal, is to effect major change and reform in the 2008 national elections by influencing the major parties to adopt the core features of our national agenda. With a group of voters who comprise at least 20% of the national electorate, we feel confident that our voters will decide the 2008 election.
The new ground broken in meeting our goals will include new choices for voters, new opportunities for candidates, and new uses of modern technology as well. In pursuing our goals, we will both follow the law in every instance and seek the opinion of the Federal Elections Commission to interpret the law where we are breaking new ground. (In fact we are currently seeking an FEC advisory opinion to guide our early decisions.)

We are not looking to build a new and permanent party. That might happen, but our objective is to fix the old parties. A Unity Ticket in office for one term or even taking part in just one election can bring new ideas, new integrity and new leaders to the fore.

We will not waste time assessing blame. Both parties and all of us who have been active in them share responsibility for the current political morass. We hope instead to return the focus of our politics and policy to the common good – those ideas and traditions which unite and empower us as individuals and as a people.

Unity08 on the Issues 

Unity08 divides issues facing the country into two categories: Crucial Issues – on which America’s future safety and welfare depend; and Important Issues – which, while vital to some, will not, in our judgment, determine the fate or future of the United States.

In our opinion, Crucial Issues include: Global terrorism, our national debt, our dependence on foreign oil, the emergence of India and China as strategic competitors and/or allies, nuclear proliferation, global climate change, the corruption of Washington’s lobbying system, the education of our young, the health care of all, and the disappearance of the American Dream for so many of our people.

By contrast, we consider gun control, abortion and gay marriage important issues, worthy of debate and discussion in a free society, but not issues that should dominate or even crowd our national agenda.

In our opinion – since the disintegration of the Soviet Union – our political system seems to have focused more attention on the “important issues” than the “crucial issues.” One result: The political parties have been built to address the interests of their “base” but have failed to address the realities that impact most Americans.

Why Unity08 Will Succeed

Here are four reasons we believe the Unity08 movement will succeed:

The American people know that the current political system is broken and that the time is short to fix it.
A solidly-funded movement of up to 20,000,000 Americans can be built online in order to nominate a Unity Ticket of their choice for 2008.
Seeing the numbers, leaders in both parties will see that a Unity Ticket in 2008 represents the jolt the political system needs to get back on track.
The tens of millions of Americans who have not been voting out of cynicism toward the current system are likely to rally to new leadership with a new approach.
The genius of America is that every generation redefines freedom in its own terms for its own times. Unity08, in a tradition as old as our country itself, is committed to still another rebirth of freedom.

For more information about Unity08, please view the Frequently Asked Questions page and the Governance page.

Black Law Students / Stevens' Mistake --> Hamdan Decision Wrong?
« on: July 25, 2006, 12:34:06 PM »
Snookering Stevens
A justice gets duped.

By Ramesh Ponnuru

Everyone knows that Hamdan v. Rumsfeld was the blockbuster case of the latest Supreme Court term. What everyone doesn’t know — even most of the decision’s critics — is that Justice John Paul Stevens’s majority opinion in the case is partly based on simple factual mistakes.
Hamdan concerned the treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism. To reach a judgment, the Court had to decide first whether Congress, when it passed the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, had removed the case from the Court’s jurisdiction. To be precise, the Court had to determine whether a Graham-Kyl amendment to the act limiting the Court’s jurisdiction applied to pending cases (such as Hamdan) as well as future ones.

In deciding how to read the amendment, Justice Stevens, writing for the Court, looked at senators’ statements, among other things. Here he encountered a problem: The senators disagreed. Senators Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl, the Republican authors of the amendment, thought that it applied to pending cases. Other senators, notably Democrat Carl Levin, did not.

Stevens handles the problem in footnote 10. The statements by Kyl and Graham, he writes, “appear to have been inserted into the Congressional Record after the Senate debate. . . . All statements made during the debate itself support Senator Levin’s understanding” (emphasis in original).

But Stevens has it wrong. None of the statements he cites — on either side of the issue — was made during floor debate in the Senate. All of them were submitted for the record after the debate (but before the vote on the act). Compare the cited passages of the Congressional Record to the CSPAN videotape of the floor debate, and it is clear that Levin’s statement and the other statements supporting his position were inserted after the fact, just as Kyl and Graham’s statements were.

Two briefs to the Supreme Court from Hamdan’s lawyers appear to have been the source of Stevens’s misinformation. (Stevens cites one of the briefs in the footnote.) The lawyers tell an elaborate version of this false tale. They take Levin’s statements to have occurred in real time. They even quote Senator Harry Reid’s remarks agreeing with Levin to support the claim that “[e]vidence of reliance on Senator Levin’s statement was immediate.” But Reid’s statement, too, was inserted into the record after the debate. It does not appear on the videotape.

Hamdan’s lawyers whack at the statements by Senators Kyl and Graham: “That legislative history is entirely post hoc, consisting of a single scripted colloquy that never actually took place, but was instead inserted into the record after the legislation passed. . . . Senator Kyl’s post-hoc colloquy . . . is simply an effort to achieve after passage of the Act precisely what he failed to achieve in the legislative process” (emphases in original).

Hamdan’s lawyers have their facts wrong. Senator Graham’s office insists that the colloquy was inserted into the record after the debate but before the legislation passed. The lawyers’ evidence that the colloquy was inserted after the legislation passed consists entirely of the fact that in the colloquy Senator Kyl refers to the legislation as “now completed.” That’s all the evidence Stevens cites, too. It’s flimsy. Kyl probably meant only that the language of the bill had been finalized, not that it had been enacted into law.

The Kyl-Graham statements were inserted after the debate but before the vote — which was also the case for every Democratic statement that Hamdan’s lawyers cited on their side of the argument. For example: Hamdan’s lawyers cite statements by Senators Leahy, Durbin, Kennedy, Kerry, Reid, and Feingold from the same day’s record, none of which is on the videotape of the actual Senate proceedings of that day (Dec. 21). There was no debate over either the Kyl-Graham amendment or the Detainee Treatment Act on that day, just a vote. The truth is that there never was much floor debate at any time about whether the act applied to pending or only to future cases.

Kyl was no more trying to manufacture a fake legislative history than Levin was. While Hamdan’s lawyers may have made innocent mistakes here, it is their own one-sided version of the legislative history that is clearly false. It misled Justice Stevens, and it has misled such commentators as John Dean and Emily Bazelon. (It must be said that none of these people seem to have put up much resistance to being misled.)

Legislators routinely insert speeches into the Congressional Record, and they routinely do so in order to influence judges. The manipulability of legislative history by legislators and judges is notorious, and it is one of the reasons Justice Antonin Scalia gives for not basing judicial decisions on legislative history. (He argued that the text of the law was on Kyl and Graham’s side.) After Hamdan, Scalia has more evidence to support his skepticism.


YES:  Geoffrey R. Stone

May law or government policy be based on faith? Given our nation's secular tradition, we would rightly protest a law prohibiting any person to eat pork merely because pork consumption is forbidden by some interpretations of the Bible. Any law based solely on sectarian religious belief should be rejected out-of-hand in a democratic society.

The objection is not that this law abridges the free exercise of religion. To the best of my knowledge, not eating pork does not violate anyone's religion. Rather, it must be rejected because it serves no legitimate public purpose and simply imposes one group's religious faith on the nation as a whole. Whether or not such a law violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"), it certainly undermines a fundamental precept of American democracy -- one person's freedom should not be infringed merely to satisfy another's religious faith.

Sometimes, this is a difficult principle to apply because there may be both a secular and a faith-based reason for the law. Consider, for example, a law forbidding stores to be open on Sunday. On the one hand, this can readily be seen as the illegitimate enshrinement in law of one group's religious faith. On the other hand, there may be a legitimate public purpose in having all or most stores closed on the same day, and why not pick the day most people would rather not work? An even more obvious example is the law prohibiting murder. Unmistakably, this enshrines in law the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." But it is also a perfectly sensible law without regard to anyone's religious faith. A society that failed to prohibit murder would hardly be safe or stable. That the law has a religious as well as a secular purpose does not make it illegitimate.

The principle may also be difficult to apply when there is both a faith-based and a moral-based reason for the law. Murder, again, is a good example. But the line between morality and faith can sometimes be elusive. Eating pork is easy; adultery is less so. Often, people of faith confuse their faith with morality. Therein lies the problem.

George Bush appears to have no idea whatever of the difference between faith and morality. He acts arrogantly on the premise that stem-cell research, gay marriage and abortion are immoral, when in fact his views are based entirely on his own sectarian religious beliefs. His opposition to stem-cell research is no different, and no more legitimate, than a Muslim's opposition to Bush eating pork. Such a policy is merely faith masquerading as morality. As such, it is profoundly, blindly, and disturbingly incompatible with a basic premise of a well-functioning democratic society.

What Bush fails to comprehend is the fundamental distinction between acting in accord with one's faith and imposing one's faith on others. Bush has a right not to marry a man, not to have an abortion, and not to do stem-cell research. But he has no legitimate authority to prevent others from acting differently if they do not share his religious convictions.

Of course, there are real line-drawing problems here, and I don't mean to elide them. Morality and faith overlap. But a thoughtful person, respectful of religious diversity and individual freedom, would pay careful attention to the difference. Bush appears not even to know the difference exists. And in this, he is dangerous, indeed.

NO:  Eugene Volokh

Geof Stone makes a forceful argument, but it seems to me that there are two quite different strands to it — strands that need to be separated.

At times, Geof is asking whether a "law [is] based on faith," whether a "law [is] based solely on sectarian religious belief," whether it "serves no legitimate public purpose." This category, he suggests, does not include laws that are "perfectly sensible law without regard to anyone's religious faith" or that have "a religious as well as a secular purpose," which would include a "moral-based reason" as well a "faith-based reason." Note that so far we're talking about the law. [EV: I should add here that the ban on stem-cell research funding can have obvious "moral-based" justifications, albeit ones I disagree with, just as a ban on experimentation on animals or a ban on killing endangered species would have "moral-based" justifications, even if some may disagree with them.]

At other times, though, he asks whether a person (including a political leader) backs a law "based entirely on his own sectarian religious beliefs," whether a person is "imposing [his] faith on others." That is a very different inquiry, an inquiry into the subjective motivations of a law's backers rather than whether the law in fact serves some public or moral purpose. For instance, I take it that all of us would agree that abolition of slavery, prohibition of alcohol, opposition to war, or support for civil rights are laws that have "moral-based reasons" as well as potentially "faith-based reasons." But all these laws were backed by some people — perhaps many people — for reasons that flowed from their own sectarian religious beliefs. (I chose these movements precisely because so many of their backers were deeply religious.)

In fact, I suspect that for many deeply religious people, all their moral beliefs are faith-based, because they believe morality only comes from God. I'd wager that many religious pacifists, abolitionists, and others would take precisely this view. Yet I think that we surely shouldn't condemn either their cause or them for this.

Your moral views may come from your understanding of human dignity; another's view may come from utilitarianism; another's may come from libertarianism; another's may come from fundamentalist Christianity. None of these bases are somehow provable; none is constitutionally superior to the others. (In fact, many of the arguments for religious freedom itself came from the "sectarian religious beliefs" of deeply religious people; I suspect that they supported religious freedom for religious reasons since religious reasons were the only moral reasons that counted to them.)

Any other approach is itself deeply discriminatory — it suggests that atheists, agnostics, utilitarians, and the like are entitled to enact their moral views into law (because they don't rest on religion) while devout Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and others are forbidden from enacting their moral views into law (because they do rest on religion). That's not mandated by the Constitution, it's not in my view compatible with our national traditions, and it's not right.

Hence my claim: It is certainly quite proper to ask whether a law is morally or constitutionally sound. A law banning the eating of pork may be quite unsound. Likewise, laws banning — or allowing — abortion, infanticide, the destruction of embryos or chimpanzees for medical purposes, or the killing of members of endangered species might be sound or unsound.

But it shouldn't matter whether someone supports them because of his belief that laws should turn on the greatest good for the greatest number, his belief that we are all sons and daughters of Gaea and must thus protect our environment, or his belief in the Bible. For most, quite possibly all, of us, our moral beliefs ultimately rest on unproven and unprovable moral axioms. The Constitution doesn't consign those whose moral beliefs rest on unproven and unprovable religious axioms to a lesser citizenship, under which they may not enact their views into law, while others with the same views that rest on unproven and unprovable secular axioms are free to do so.

Black Law Students / Hiring Freezes at USAO Nationwide Until 2008!?
« on: July 25, 2006, 07:04:45 AM »
Lawmakers Urge Funds for U.S. Attorneys
Staffing, Supply Shortages Compromising Prosecutions, Letter to Gonzales Charges

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 25, 2006; Page A13

U.S. attorney's offices around the country are struggling with severe shortages in staffing and supplies, with prosecutor vacancy rates now hovering at 20 percent or higher in Los Angeles and other large offices, according to two House Democrats and government statistics.

In a letter yesterday to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said chronic budget shortages have taken a debilitating toll on the ranks of federal prosecutors, forcing many offices to implement hiring freezes and to charge for photocopies, reuse envelopes and scrounge for binder clips.
Overall, according to the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, full-time vacancies in federal prosecutors' offices have jumped from fewer than 200 in 2004 to 765 as of May.

"According to assistant U.S. attorneys, the lack of staff and resources force federal prosecutors to forego prosecutions in some important cases and to reach plea bargains in others," Waxman and Conyers wrote.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kathleen M. Blomquist laid much of the blame on Congress, saying members have repeatedly rejected administration requests for higher funding and have taken back $120 million intended for prosecutor pay raises and other expenses since 2003. "As this trend has developed, we have urged Congress to support the president's request to fully fund the U.S. attorneys offices so that we can return additional prosecutors to the courtroom," Blomquist said in a statement.

According to a survey by Waxman and Conyers, U.S. attorneys reported vacancy rates of 20 percent in Chicago and Los Angeles and closer to 25 percent in Arizona and Oregon. In Philadelphia, they said, federal prosecutors began charging poor defendants for copies of documents -- and cited budget pressures in defending the policy in court.

In the District, the congressmen said about 40 out of 360 slots are vacant, although one official said the actual total was about 30. Officials in Alexandria and Baltimore referred questions to Justice headquarters, which did not provide statistics for those offices.

The problems are worsening despite an overall increase in funding over the past five years from Congress, Waxman and Conyers wrote, from $1.35 billion in 2001 to $1.6 billion currently.

"Congress has allocated more money for U.S. attorney's offices, but the money doesn't seem to be getting to them," Waxman said in an interview.

Dennis W. Boyd, executive director of the attorneys association, said other costs -- including rising rents and higher personnel costs -- have eaten into budgets despite increases from Congress. Some large offices, such as Los Angeles and the District, struggle to retain lawyers under heavy recruitment from better-paying law firms. "This is a serious problem and getting worse," he said.

Boyd noted that U.S. attorney's offices returned about $3.5 billion to the government through fines, settlements and other forms of restitution -- more than twice what they cost to run.

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