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viernes, abril 30, 2010

Arizona Backs Down. Sorta Kinda.

Battered by the media tsunami caused by Arizona's "show us your papers" law and the resulting lawsuits and threats of boycotts, Arizona's legislature today sought cover by seeking to moderate provisions of SB 1070. Are these real changes or are they just cosmetic changes and an effort to save face? It's probably some of each. Put another way, those who oppose the law can know that their outrage is being heard and felt. But the changes don't eliminate the problem, they just provide cover for it.

The Arizona Daily Star reports:

State lawmakers voted late Thursday to repeal one of the more controversial provisions from the new law aimed at illegal immigration....

HB 2162, approved by the House and Senate, changes the law to specify that when deciding whom to question about immigration status, police may not use race, ethnicity or national origin as a factor.

That is a significant change from SB 1070 as it was approved by lawmakers and signed less than a week ago by Gov. Jan Brewer. That version of the law permits police to consider any of those factors when deciding if there is "reasonable suspicion" someone is not in this country legally, as long as it is not the only reason for investigating further.

There's more, of course:

As originally approved, SB 1070 requires police to determine the immigration status of those with whom they have "lawful contact" if there is reasonable suspicion the person is not here legally.

That "reasonable suspicion" language remains. But the language about "contact" is replaced with a reference to "stop, detention or arrest." Paul Senseman, the governor's spokesman, said the changes effectively reduce checking immigration status to "secondary enforcement."

"There have to be other steps, such as another law being broken first," he said, before an officer could, with reasonable suspicion, inquire if a person is a citizen or legal resident.

He compared it to Arizona's seat-belt laws: Police cannot stop a motorist solely because the person is unbuckled. But officers can issue a ticket for failing to buckle up if the driver is stopped for some other reason.

Join me in Nogales.

So there are two changes in the new law, HB 2162. Under the first, the cops aren't allowed to use race, ethnicity or national origin as a factor in deciding whether somebody should be approached while waiting for a bus, for example. Under the second, the cops aren't allowed to ask anybody about their immigration status unless the person is first a subject of a legal stop, detention or arrest.

Effectively, that means that the new law, if signed by the Governor and followed by the police, will at least nominally stop the spectre of police approaching people who are doing nothing illegal and asking them to produce their papers. Cops will not be able to go up to people waiting at Tucson bus stops and after sizing up their shoes, or shirt, or hat, or newspaper ask them for papers. To do that, cops will first legally have to stop, detain or arrest the person. Once that threshold has been met, the immigration questions and demands for documents will ensue.

This doesn't mean what whacko Arizona legislators now understand the constitutional rights of people within the state's borders. Far from it. Look at this discussion of the provision eliminating race, ethnicity or national origin as a factor in deciding whether to approach someone:

Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, defended the original provision as being relevant, saying 90 percent of those in this country illegally are from Mexico and points south....

What the change does, Pearce said, is remove a target for foes, both those in court and those criticizing the measure in speeches and demonstrations.

"I'm just tired of the games played by the left," he said. Pearce said making the change and leaving pretty much everything else the same "strengthens the bill's ability of being enforced without letting the left leverage bad stuff."

Nice. Unconstitutionality is now the equivalent of "bad stuff" the "left leverage[s]." But Pearce, and I suppose other Arizona legislators remain unrepentant:

Pearce said he doesn't believe either change will make it harder for an officer to question someone who is suspected of being an illegal immigrant. "The reason we made these clarifications is to make it a stronger case in court," he said. "This is a tough bill. We didn't water it down."

Put another way, the legislators have called up a dog whistle to the cops. And statutory language be damned, they know what to do.

I'm not calling off my boycott.

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martes, abril 27, 2010

Arizona: All Hail The Emerging Police State

Arizona has apparently decided to use its police force as an instrument to oppress and harass Mexican appearing people within its borders. And, as you might expect from a police state, it is doing so at the expense of protecting citizens and diverting law enforcement from its traditional functions, enforcing the penal laws.

Linda Greenhouse, who usually writes about the Supreme Court for the New York Times, had an op-ed yesterday, "Breathing While Undocumented," that captures Arizona as the emerging police state it truly is:

What would Arizona’s revered libertarian icon, Barry Goldwater, say about a law that requires the police to demand proof of legal residency from any person with whom they have made “any lawful contact” and about whom they have “reasonable suspicion” that “the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States?” Wasn’t the system of internal passports one of the most distasteful features of life in the Soviet Union and apartheid-era South Africa?

And in case the phrase “lawful contact” makes it appear as if the police are authorized to act only if they observe an undocumented-looking person actually committing a crime, another section strips the statute of even that fig leaf of reassurance. “A person is guilty of trespassing,” the law provides, by being “present on any public or private land in this state” while lacking authorization to be in the United States — a new crime of breathing while undocumented. The intent, according to the State Legislature, is “attrition through enforcement.”

The rest of the op-ed is definitely worth reading. But there's another point that deserves to be made about the Arizona statute.

What is the effect of this crazy state statute on law enforcement in Arizona and how law enforcement fulfills its usual role, not as an agent of BICE enforcing the federal immigration laws, but in investigating actual crimes and making arrests for them? The answer to that question: it's a complete, unmitigated disaster.

Let's suppose there is a robbery. Let's suppose the person who is robbed at gunpoint is undocumented. After the mugging, when the robber has disappeared with her purse and credit cards and other documents and her money, does the victim call the cops to report the robbery? Maybe not. After all, she's "trespassing" in the US. And the police who come to interview her about the robbery are clearly making a "lawful contact" with her. After she provides her name and address, might they stumble in their conversation with her upon a "reasonable suspicion" to ask her for her immigration documents? Maybe. And if you forget about the procedural niceties, as I'm sure the police will, isn't she inviting the double whammy: first she's mugged, and then she's arrested on suspicion of being undocumented because she called the cops.

But what if the victim of the mugging is legally in the US? If that victim is legally in the US, because she's a citizen or has obtained the right papers, will she be able to display her papers for the gendarmes investigating the robbery, to show that she shouldn't be arrested? Of course not. Don't be silly. They were supposed to be in her purse. And her purse is now gone. Knowing this, does she call the cops to report a robbery? I don't know the answer, but I note that there's a new, powerful disincentive for dialing 911. The disincentive is arrest and detention while notoriously slow BICE sorts out her status.

These are legitimate fears that reporting a crime will end up badly for the victim. Faced with these possibilities, do crime victims report crimes against them? Do they report crimes to which they are witnesses? Do they dial 911 to ask for help when there's a crime, or an accident, or an injury? If you dial 911, you think that the police will respond to your call. And when they do, aren't you, whether you're documented or not, going to be having "lawful contact" with them? Is this exercise of civic responsibility going to turn out badly for you?

This is why local cops shouldn't be working on the immigration issue. Ever. This is why they shouldn't be asking about immigration status. Society in general needs victims of crimes and witnesses to their occurrence to be able freely to call the cops. To dial 911. When you introduce incentives not to call, not to get involved, not to see what happened, not to talk to cops, everyone in society is that much less safe.

Do the Arizona legislators and the Governor care about this? Evidently not. They'd rather go on a vendetta against the Latino population of their state than think for a nanosecond about the consequences of their racism. They've made everyone in Arizona less safe. They should take responsibility for that.

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lunes, abril 26, 2010

Arizona: A Picture's Worth 1000 Words

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domingo, abril 25, 2010

Arizona: Enough Is Enough

I love these posters and the concept behind them. This entire continent had no borders until 1492, when Columbus landed in Baracoa, Cuba, and "claimed" the hemisphere not for Spain, but for Christendom. That launched the conquests and the extermination of many of those who lived here. Those not killed in battle often fell to small pox and other diseases. Those who lived here were routinely killed, enslaved, brutalized. Until they submitted. And now the most recent arrivals assert their right to demand proof that someone is here legally. Que ironia. What an utter disgrace.

Arizona really deserves a boycott for this latest law. And a filing cabinet full of lawsuits. All of which Arizona will soon receive.

h/t and credit to

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Papers Please/Papeles Por Favor

Please add the following update to your travel guides about visiting Arizona. It may be of assistance in avoiding discussions with Arizona law enforcement, arrest and detention, and harassment. If you already live in Arizona, something I wish on no one, you already know everything I am about to say. I am writing this so that others may reflect on your situation.

This is a bus stop in Tucson, Arizona. I know it doesn't look like a bus stop in New York, or Chicago, or New Orleans. This is an Arizona bus stop:

There are some things that are very important if you are waiting for the bus at such a stop in Arizona. These are not listed in order of importance. One of these things is not to wear shoes that look like Huaraches. This is a huarache:

If you wear this kind of foot gear, foot gear that was worn in Arizona and Mexico before 1500, police might think they should approach you.

Another thing not to do is wear a guayabera. This is a guayabera:

Guayaberas are incredibly comfortable and stylish wear in warm places. Like Arizona. Guayaberas probably come originally from Cuba, but they are popular throughout Central America. And Mexico. And some people think they originated in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. If you wear this kind of shirt, a shirt that has been worn throughout this hemisphere for more than 100 years, and was worn in Arizona before it became a state, police might think they should approach you.

Another thing not to do is read newspapers in Spanish. This is what a Spanish language newspaper looks like:

Spanish language newspapers are really helpful if you're trying to learn Spanish, a language which will soon be spoken by more than half of the people in the US. Some Spanish language newspapers have wonderful local coverage and fantastic sports coverage. If you want that information, you can read the paper. And of course, there are a lot of people who just find it easier to read a Spanish language paper than an English one. Because Spanish is their original language. Nevertheless, if you read this kind of newspaper while you're waiting for a bus, the police might think they should approach you.

A burrito is a flour tortilla wrapped or folded around a filling. The important part of the burrito is that it is made with a tortilla, and it looks like this:

If you are eating tortillas in any form-- burrito, tacos, enchiladas, totopos-- while waiting for a bus, the police might think they should approach you.

There is one other thing that will probably make the police think they should approach you. This is probably the most important, though some Arizona officials deny it. You probably know what this is. If you are brown skinned, or the police think you appear to be stereotypically Mexican, the police might think they should approach you. It does not matter to them that you are a US citizen and that your family has been in Arizona for 350 years, or that you are a US citizen who was naturalized more recently, or that you are legally in the US, or that you are a Sephardic Jew, or Pakistani or Indian or an Arab or an Original American. It doesn't matter to the the police whether you are part of the vast Mestizo race that has lived in North America from Vancouver to Panama City for 5 centuries. They will think they can approach you and ask you for proof that you are legally waiting for the bus.

Of course, the chances, if you are illegally in the US from China, Canada, England, Ireland, Germany or Sweden, that you will be asked to show your papers is incredibly small.

The key salient factor in having conversations with the police and being asked to show your papers is skin tone. Please mark you travel guide accordingly.

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viernes, abril 23, 2010

Meanwhile In Nazizona: Show Me Your Papers

What an unbelievably ignorant and oppressive and probably illegal "immigration" law Arizona has just passed. In its efforts to oppress the Mexican American and immigrant population within its borders, and anyone who might appear to be in that group (some Native Americans?) Arizona has enacted a law that facilitates prejudicial law enforcement and a blatant police state. Put simply, this law is an outrage passed by and for the radical right, and it's designed to make life for brown people and those who aren't very white even more difficult.

The basic provisions of the law:

The law, which opponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in the country in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime. It would also give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have decried it as an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.

According to The New York Times

The Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles called the authorities’ ability to demand documents Nazism. While police demands of documents are common on subways, highways and in public places in some countries, including France, Arizona is the first state to demand that immigrants meet federal requirements to carry identity documents legitimizing their presence on American soil.

And President Obama isn't exactly thrilled either:

Even before ...the bill [was signed], President Obama strongly criticized it.

Speaking at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active-duty service members in the Rose Garden, he called for a federal overhaul of immigration laws — an overhaul that Congressional leaders signaled they were preparing to take up soon.

Saying the failure of officials in Washington to act on immigration would open the door to “irresponsibility by others,” he said the Arizona bill threatened “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

And the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF} notes:

“Governor Brewer caved to the radical fringe,” said a statement by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, predicting that the law would create “a spiral of pervasive fear, community distrust, increased crime and costly litigation, with nationwide repercussions.”

When is the last time you saw a new state law greeted with such an outcry? Probably never. This law is that bad and deserves all of this and more.

As frightening as the law is, and as likely to be abused by police, Governor Brewer's facile explanations are even more chilling. She's obviously trying to rile up the base rightwing nutjobs, including the Minutemen. Or she's completely clueless. I think it's the former.

Governor Brewer acknowledged critics’ concerns but sided with arguments from the law’s sponsors that it provides an indispensable tool for the police in a border state that is a leading magnet of illegal immigration.

She said that racial profiling would not be tolerated, adding, “We have to trust our law enforcement.”

I'll continue when you stop laughing. Let's say that brown skinned man wearing a t-shirt waiting for a cross town bus in Tucson. He is reading a Spanish language newspaper while he waits. It's early in the morning. He might be trying to get to work. Police see him. They go over to him, and armed with the law, they say in English, "Are you legally in the U.S." "Yes," he responds in English, "Funny you should ask. My family has been living in Arizona for the past 350 years. Right here near Tucson. I was born here. I'm a citizen." The police, who of course have not racially profiled him because of his skin or the paper he is reading or the fact that he's not wearing a blue uniform, decide that this story is at best improbable. It, they think, simply cannot be true. 350 years? In America? None of their families has been in America that long. The story must be false. "Do you have any identification with you?" "No, I left it at home, in my other pants. All I have right now is my bus fare." So they arrest the man. For not having his immigration papers with him. The new law says that's appropriate. They also charge him with the new, Arizona, state law crime of not having his federal immigration papers with him. After all, as the Governor says, we have to trust our police. Really. We have to. After all, the Arizona police, including but not limited to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, have no issues as far as immigrants are concerned and have repeatedly demonstrated their fair mindedness.

What a disgrace this is. This law is completely unacceptable. It's no surprise that convention organizers are already talking about boycotting Arizona.

It remains to be seen what pressure can be found to overturn this awful legislation. That's where you come in. Ideas are needed.

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jueves, abril 22, 2010

Please Remember Haiti

My son just got back from a week in Haiti. Haiti was impoverished beyond belief before the earthquake. And now it is difficult to describe the pervasive suffering. His descriptions bring me to tears.

And then there's this:

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (AP) -- After the Haitian national soccer team couldn't eat another bite of chef-prepared pork or ice cream, and before going back to its cabins at a Texas resort, coach Jairo Rios asked for a favor.

Tents. As many as they could haul back to Haiti.

''I eat well here. I sleep well,'' forward Charles Herold Jr. said in French, speaking through a translator. ''But I cannot help but think of my friends and family who don't have that. I can't get that off my mind.''

I can't get that off my mind either. I hope you won't be able to get it off your mind. The futbol players can't get it off their minds, either:

Players are already wrestling with the guilt of their relatively better fortunes. Forward Eliphene Cadet, 29, escaped from his house in Port-au-Prince after the roof caved on him and two children.

Leaving Haiti meant leaving his family in a tent in a field, near where his house once stood. Other players left their families in similar conditions.

''All the guys talk about it,'' Cadet said. ''I know that they're here. There are still tremors now. That's our biggest worry.''

So as the rains come, shelter is extremely important. And of course medical aid continues to be important. And, of course, drinking water and sanitation are critical.

There are so many of us, and we have so much. Can we use this essay to develop a list of organizations that will accept our small donations to continue aid in Haiti? Can we work together on this? Can we make some donations?

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viernes, abril 16, 2010

The First Amendment Right To Talk Crazy

And the corollary Constitutional right to say extremely crazy, untrue, provocative things to large gatherings of possibly armed people has been getting a workout, too.

Look at this:

A few thousand people gathered at Freedom Plaza in Washington today for the first of two Tea Party rallies in the nation's capital today organized to protest government spending and taxation.

Clutching angry signs and occasionally breaking out into chants of "USA! USA!," the protesters listened to a series of fiery speeches attacking the Obama administration for what they cast as irresponsible spending and far left wing policies.

Rep. Michele Bachmann said the "gangster government" has instituted a "takeover of one private industry after another," again making her questionable claim that "the federal government owns or controls 51 percent of the private economy."

She said the Obama administration is "perfectly content with presiding over a decline in our economy," adding: "I'd say it's time for these little piggies to go home, and come November that's where they're headed."

That, of course, is Constitutionally protected, insane speech. The "gangster government" was elected by a majority vote. And its policies, for better or worse, were what it was apparently elected to do. Evidently, democracy and majority rule are now "gangster government." But strangely, the previous administration's kidnapping foreign nationals off of streets, secretly putting them on airplanes, flying them to secret, black hole prisons, and torturing them for months is not "gangster government." That's necessary "security." The illegal renditions must not have been "gangster government" solely because there was no demand for ransom. But I digress.

Michele Bachmann's (RWNJ-Minn) utterances are so far from the truth and so obviously unhinged that Bill Clinton has criticized them:
"They are not gangsters," Mr. Clinton said in an interview with the New York Times. "They were elected. They are not doing anything they were not elected to do."

The former president, who was in his first term in office when Timothy McVeigh bombed an Oklahoma City federal building, drew parallels between the anti-government rhetoric being used now and what was being said then.

But back then it was the camouflage wearing militia fringe that was making the dangerous, provocative claims. Nobody in their right mind listened to their rantings. They were shunned. And they got no publicity. And now, well now it's an elected Congressperson and evidently the Tea Parties and Faux TV that trumpet this insanity and the rest of the Traditional MediaTM feels compelled further to disseminate the ravings.

The First Amendment Right to crazy talk is getting a total, stretching workout. Let's hope this exercise of madness doesn't lead inexorably to yet another "imminent breach of the peace."

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sábado, abril 10, 2010

Cornelius's Journey Home


This is Cornelius. He is ten. Today he left home.

For the past two or three years, Cornelius has had a seizure disorder. He has big, grand mal seizures. Sometimes he has as many as 4 or even 5 in a day. Sometimes he goes for weeks or months without a seizure. But when he has them, the seizures leave him exhausted, hungry, a frequently hurt. When he's having a seizure, he thrashes around unless someone holds him down. This doesn't stop him from seizing or growling or hissing or from peeing involuntarily, but at least it keeps him from being hurt.

We don't know why he has seizures. When he was a younger cat, he was hunting in the barn. Sometime fell over on him and probably pinned him. He was stuck for 4 days. We couldn't find him. But then he returned home. He was skinny and freaked out. We nursed him back to health. Later we discovered that he had lost all feeling in his tail. This led to him occasionally burning his fur on candles or fires. And, we suppose, this was the initial spinal trauma that eventually led to his seizures.

About 5 days ago, after a few week stretch of not having any, his seizures began again. They were fierce. They seemed to go on for a long time. We gave him his medicine. This usually works after a few days. Yesterday, after a series of particularly hard seizures the day before, Cornelius was feeling somewhat better. The seizures had stopped. This morning he even seemed his normal self.

For the past year or so, Cornelius has not gone far from the house. He stays nearby with Maya the Dog and Romey the Cat. They range far into the fields, he doesn't. He usually stays inside or in the yard or on the deck. Mostly, he sleeps on vacant beds.

This morning we were surprised to see Cornelius walking in the field headed away from the house. He hadn't been there in years. Then we lost sight of him as he walked up the hill, walking farther away from the house.

Throughout the day today, we've gone out with the dog to search for him. We call his name. We make the "kitty kitty" noises. We've walked all the fields to call for him. We've driven the car up the road to search. We've emailed the neighbors. We cannot find him. Now it's dark.

There is always a chance that he will turn up, return from wherever he is. He hasn't eaten since this morning. And he hasn't had any medicine today. But tonight I think he won't come back.

I think he's left to find a place to die, to leave his body behind. I think he's finished his earthly journey.

He's been a great friend and companion. We already miss him. May he be well, wherever he might be. May there be many blessings on his journey home.

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lunes, abril 05, 2010

Play Of The Year On Opening Day

I Love Auto-tune News!!


domingo, abril 04, 2010

Polluters Seek To Cut Off Legal Clinic Funding

Polluters and other defendants in numerous lawsuits brought by Law School Clinics in behalf of the victims of corporate and state government abuse have discovered their adversaries' Achilles heals. Reprising events in the early history of the Legal Services Corporation, the defendants are now actively moving in state legislatures to cut off funding to the law school clinic lawyers who represent their adversaries. The result, they hope, will be continued immunity from legal inquiry and a continuation of business and pollution as usual.

Many years ago, during The Great Society, the federal government funded the Office of Economic Opportunity, (OEO) which provided many services, including civil legal services to poor people. These legal services were obviously capable of transforming society in fundamental ways. Poor people, for so long disenfranchised, found they had access to federal and state courts and free lawyers to pursue fundamental violations of their civil rights. Instantly, poor people had allies in enforcing their legal rights. In response, those who favored the status quo immediately sought not to remedy poor people's complaints, but instead to cut them off from their lawyers, to forbid the lawyers from pursuing these important cases.

By 1975, in response to conservative complaints, Richard Nixon managed to dismantle the OEO and to replace it with the Legal Services Corporation, which took on the OEO's legal services mission In the early and mid-70's LSC lawyers continued nevertheless to provide poor people with needed legal services to address their personal legal issues (e.g. divorce, foreclosure, debt collections, etc) in cases that could not generate fees (e.g. personal injury accidents which generated contingency fees), but they also engaged in "law reform" cases, most frequently federal, class action, civil rights cases against state and federal agencies in behalf of welfare recipients, consumers, prisoners, and numerous others who could not retain counsel for important, worthy cases. These cases were capable of changing entire systems in state government: how welfare benefits, food stamps and other benefits were provided, how the states ran their penal and mental health facilities, whether the states could permit various kinds of consumer transactions, and so on.

Congress and state governments, of course, reacted extremely negatively to these cases. Who, they inquired, did these welfare recipients think they were to file lawsuits so that they would receive prompt benefits? Who did these prisoners think they were to file lawsuits to require uncensored mail and medical treatment and freedom of religious exercise? Who do these unemployed workers think they are to require fairness in decisions about their unemployment benefits? The list of complaints was as numerous as the policies of governmental and corporate agencies who were being challenged. What made the howling of these defendants most vocal was that for years their practices had been illegal, but those they were taking advantage of, those who were their victims didn't have the resources to fight back in any effective way.

At first, President Nixon's henchperson sought to kill the LSC program off. Failing to kill it completely, the federal government unleashed a trend which continues today in restrictions of the many, many kinds of cases LSC lawyers are not permitted to pursue. In general the civil legal assistance that remains includes the following:

* Family law: LSC grantees continue to help victims of domestic violence by obtaining protective and restraining orders, helping parents obtain and keep custody of their children, helping family members obtain guardianship for children without parents, and other family law matters. More than a third of all cases closed by the local programs are family law cases.

* Housing & Foreclosure Cases: More than 25 percent of cases involve helping to resolve landlord-tenant disputes, helping homeowners prevent foreclosures or renegotiate their loans, assisting renters with eviction notices whose landlords are being foreclosed on, and helping people maintain federal housing subsidies when appropriate.

* Consumer Issues: Twelve percent of cases involve protecting the elderly and other vulnerable groups from being victimized by unscrupulous lenders, helping people file for bankruptcy when appropriate and helping people manage their debts.

* Income Maintenance: Approximately 11 percent of cases involve helping working Americans obtain promised compensation from private employers, helping people obtain and retain government benefits such as disability benefits to which they are entitled.

These are extremely important services, they are very important to a huge number of people and they are worthy of our full support. But if there was at one time a movement in the LSC to initiate reform, to represent poor people in large, class action, civil rights cases against government institutions and corporations, to shift power from the status quo to the then disenfranchised, it long ago moved from LSC. It was no longer funded by the Government. The Government, if it ever was, was no longer intent on rooting out inequality by providing access to the courts at taxpayer expense. There could be civil representation of poor people, and they would benefit from it, but the lawyers would be forbidden from seeking to alter the balance of power in society.

Where is this important legal work now? Two main places (apart from private law firms that for one reason or another decided to handle important cases pro bono): not for profit legal services organizations including but not limited to the NAACP Inc Fund, Center For Constitutional Rights, ACLU and Mississippi Center For Justice, all of which, of course, have limited resources and must choose cases on the basis of the impact they will have, and as important, the Law School Legal Clinics.

And now, to no one's surpirse, the the law school clinics face the same tide of reaction from state and federal government and the large corporations they are suing, as LSC faced thirty-five years ago. The New York Times reports:

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Law school students nationwide are facing growing attacks in the courts and legislatures as legal clinics at the schools increasingly take on powerful interests that few other nonprofit groups have the resources to challenge.

On Friday, lawmakers here debated a measure to cut money for the University of Maryland’s law clinic if it does not provide details to the legislature about its clients, finances and cases.

The measure, which is likely to be sent to the governor this week, comes in response to a suit filed in March by students accusing one of the state’s largest employers, Perdue, of environmental violations — the first effort in the state to hold a poultry company accountable for the environmental impact of its chicken suppliers.

Law clinics at other universities — from New Jersey to Michigan to Louisiana — are facing similar challenges. And legal experts say the attacks jeopardize the work of the clinics, which not only train students with hands-on courtroom experience at more than 200 law schools but also have taken on more cases against companies and government agencies in recent years.

State government itself and its powerful, corporate contributors know full well how to respond to meritorious lawsuits that will result in injunctions and expense and changes in their profits. Don't fix the problem, they say, just cut off the plaintiffs' lawyers' funding. Make the plaintiffs incapable of pursuing their claims however meritorious. Forget about whether the claim is or is not going to prevail in court, just make it go away. Cut off funding for the law school clinics, and voila! it's as if the lawsuit had been won by the defendants. The practices that led to the lawsuit remain immune from review and remedy because nobody who is affected can afford to pursue the issue.

The Maryland clinic's litigation is instructive:

The fight is proving especially heated here in Maryland because it so directly focuses on Perdue, one of the state’s most powerful political players and the sixth-largest poultry company in the country.

The suit accuses Perdue and Alan and Kristin Hudson, two Maryland chicken farmers who contract with Perdue, of polluting the Pocomoke River and allowing chicken waste from the farm to flow to the Chesapeake Bay.

The suit argues that Perdue dictates so much of how farmers handle their flocks — including the food and medicine the chickens get, as well as the size and location of the bird houses — that the company effectively shares operational control of the farm and thus should be held accountable for what happens there.

Luis A. Luna, a spokesman for Perdue, said that though the company had done no lobbying in support of the pending legislative measure, the company’s chairman, Jim Perdue, went to Annapolis in early March to tell lawmakers that cases like this one represented “one of the largest threats to the family farm in the last 50 years.”

“Perdue can take care of itself,” Mr. Luna said. “But the small farmers who make up an important part of this industry cannot survive against lawsuits like this.”

And why, you might ask, isn't Maryland's Attorney General's Office pursuing this very litigation to prevent the pollution of streams and rivers with chicken manure? Why is it that the clinic finds itself acting as if it were an agency that was supposed to enforce Maryland and US environmental laws and regulations? Where is Maryland's enforcement power and the EPA?

“There is no reason that tax money should pay for these law students to act like regulators,” said State Senator Robert Adley, a Republican who submitted the bill in response to a request from his state’s oil and gas industry.

Obviously, when the regulators put issues on hold and slumber, someone needs to step in. The concept is called becoming a private attorney general. The law school clinics have stepped up because they needed to, and now for all their good work, they face being drastically limited or shut down. They too will always be able to provide divorces to people who cannot afford counsel, but, just as happened with LSC 35 years ago, those who control the purse strings will be able to stop all of their threatening, law reform efforts.

The answer, if there is one, involves increased funding from private individuals and the Bar to private, not-for-profit firms and organizations which can effectively pursue these important issues. Or more unlikely, the commitment of state governments and law schools to providing counsel in important cases to those who would otherwise remain voiceless, regardless of the controversy that might provoke. In the absence of both of these alternatives, corporate and governmental mis- and malfeasance prevail solely because no one can challenged them in the courts.

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viernes, abril 02, 2010

Chicharito Discovered

It's official. The New York Times has discovered Chicharito:

He is leading the resurgence of Chivas, one of the Mexican league’s most popular clubs. Hernandez has 10 goals in 12 games for Chivas, which leads the 18-team standings, and is bulling his way toward a berth on Mexico’s World Cup roster with four goals and an assist while playing in three recent exhibition games, including the winner in a 2-1 victory over North Korea....

One of Hernández’s recent goals, in which he rose high over a New Zealand defender and hung Jordanesque in the air before slamming a header into the net neatly mirrored the upward arc of his career. It also brought the 90,000 fans who packed the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., to their feet roaring, giving Hernández the chance to respond by throwing his arms wide, then kissing the crest on his jersey.

“Honestly, I’m just happy,” Hernández said recently through an interpreter in a phone interview from Guadalajara. “Being able to participate with the national team is a dream come true.”

I'm waiting for the World Cup. It's just a couple of months away, and I have high hopes for El Tri. Chicharito is just one of the reasons.

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jueves, abril 01, 2010

For Today: This Blog Is Huffington Post

If google can today be Topeka, The Dream Antilles can be Huffington Post.

Enjoy April Fools' Day. But be wary.