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Imagine with me for a moment: How would you handle the following scenario?

You are running and there are a pack of wild wolves coming at you. They are chasing you out of a forest. They have no intention to kill you; they are just going to bite you. They are just going to let leave a “permanent mark”, something for you to remember the pain.

Although the mark will be with you for your entire life and the bite will cause extreme discomfort; you know without a doubt you will survive the attack. But you are running anyway.

Now suppose rather than get bite you have two choices. You have come to a cliff. On the other side is “safe land”. If you jump and land on the other side everything will be alright and you never have to worry about the wolves again. Indeed the whole purpose of the wolves chasing you is to induce you to attempt (off your own free will) a jump over the cliff.

Now, most people make it over the cliff; some do not, but most do.

Some other force that shall remain nameless for the moment does not want you to jump off the cliff.

They do not think you should be pursued by the wolves either, but they cannot (or choose not) to concentrate on that. Their sole focus currently is to make sure that you not don’t attempt to jump over the cliff.

So in order to force you to not attempt a jump, they put all sorts of things in the pit between the cliff and the other side. All but ensuring “death” if you are one of the few “poor souls” that attempts a jump, but for some reason does not make it into the other side.

So you are being perused by wolves that are chasing you like they are out for your blood, but really only want you to attempt to make the leap off the cliff. You know some people make it and some people don’t. You know that if you don’t make it you most certainly will “die” because of the contraptions but into the pit to discourage you from even jumping.

The wolves are at your back, the cliff is in front of you, and you have to make a choice. What do you do?

Perhaps that is an easy decision for some, perhaps it is not. The better question for all is: if you really don’t want someone to attempt a jump off the cliff in that situation wouldn’t the best thing to do be to get rid of the wolves, not put more things in the pit?

Such a choice as described above is the kind of choice that will face numerous young, college young men and women during the upcoming school year.

Instead of a cliff they will be faced with the choice of whether to join a Black Greek Letter Organization (BGLO) or not. In many cases, they will have to decide whether or not to “pledge” (a process that is basically banned by all BGLO). Instead of wolves, it will be there peers who will be pressuring them to make sure they come in “the right way” and not “skate”.

The other side is the end of their process as a “full member” and not simply a “paper” one. The “powers that be” are there National Organizations (D9), who want them not to attempt to make the leap to the other side (or not to even try and pledge) all cost. They have created an alternative to the “leap of faith” called MIP (Membership Intake Process), but “the wolves” will have none of that.

However, instead of attacking “the wolves” the “powers that be” would rather increase the certainty of “death” if you fail to make it to the other side and fall into the pit. Meaning that instead of tackling why their own members continue to insist that new prospective pledge to join, the national organizations have instead increase the penalties for being caught pledging. They have instituted fines and suspensions and in some cases even increased the certainty of “Fraternal Death” (revocation of chapter charter and expulsion from the organization).

But “Fraternal Death” while it may sound like a nice and easy way to satisfy an insurance company that is getting wearing about paying out all this money for your hazing cases is not a solution to the problem of hazing.

The fact of the matter is, when the possibility of being expelled from the organization because of getting caught hazing and/or participating by being hazed is weighed against the perceptional certainty of being disrespected by their peers for “skating” into the organization; certainty beats possibility most of the time.

There are many things that could potentially curtail BGLO organizational legal liability for the actions of their members. Some of which I have wrote about in the past.

Arbitration agreements have often been a way to avoid going to trail and being in front of a jury, as William C. Terrell recently wrote about in the University of Memphis Law Review. (See Pledging to Stay Viable, 43 U. Mem. L. Rev. 511)

I have advocated for “individual member indemnification”, in which individual members and individual chapters would have to agree to indemnify their national organizations for any cost that is generated by adverse action during initiation, as a prerequisite for being allowed to conduct MIP.

I have also written that something as simple as sending a letter to the perspective members parents altering family members that their son or daughter is going through an initiation process, that the organization has an anti-hazing policy, and what to look for as signs of hazing (such as change in home call patterns, excessive spending, etc) and a number to call would go very far in spreading the burden of responsibility for preventing tragic events.

These policies, if instituted, could go a long way is stopping hazing incidents, but expulsion will not and here is why.

For the most part expulsion as a method to handle and solve the problem of BLGO hazing issues is not a self-generated or self-regulating solution.

Putting aside the fact there is not one study that has been done that shows any correlation at all between the amounts of members suspended and/or expelled in a BGLO and a marked decrease in hazing incidents involving the organization conducting the suspension or expulsions.

Expulsion has a remedy (for the most part) is a way for BGLO to satisfy the needs of their insurance company that is covering them, not something that they would do otherwise. The idea of expulsion in particular or “Fraternal Death” in general remains widely unpopular among the rank and file members of BGLO for numerous reasons. Only a solution that is generated by and has the backing of the majority of a BGLO’s members will be able to properly solve the current issue. As long as that solution remains in contention or in direct conflict with the preferred solution of BGLO leaders (which in reality is the prescribed solution of their insurance company) we will have a problem.

Furthermore, whether BGLO like to admit it or not, many of their most serious cases are perpetrated by members who have long since ceased to be financial and to whom the concept of expulsion means very little if anything at all.

What is the purpose of suspending someone accused of habitual truancy from school when they probably are not going to come to school either way?

BGLO’s fail to acknowledge that while they intend expulsion to be a serious act that is reserved for a serious crime, the only real difference between those being expelled and those doing the expulsions are that one made it to the other side of the cliff while another did not. When the only difference between the judge and the convicted is that one got away with the “crime” and one did not, the former had lost all the moral high ground to the latter. I would estimate that we are maybe still 30-40 years away from having a leader of any D9 organization that would fall under the label of “paper”.

Furthermore, this is the decade in which many organizations will see ascend to their ranks of local, intermediate, and national leadership members who were inducted after 1990 and indeed “pledged” at that time as illegally as those members being expelled for doing it today.

I have always said if an organization really wanted to show that they were 100% against “hazing” (as the laws define it now, which in many cases makes it synonymous with pledging) they would adopt a policy requiring anyone who wanted a leadership role in the organization to prove that they never pledged and never took part in any form of pledging at all. The major problem with a policy like that is in some cases there wouldn’t be enough people left to lead the organization if that policy was enacted.

Another reason why expulsion will not work to solve the BGLO hazing puzzle is that many BGLO’s have failed to establish the value of their financial membership as something that is worth so much it cannot be lost. The reason the death penalty is considered by some to be such a good deterrent to certain crimes, is the concept that one’s life is of uttermost importance to them.

For expulsion to be as strong a deterrent against hazing, financial membership in a BLGO (which is what expulsion in effect ends) must be as import to the person being specifically deterred and the population being generally deterred as one’s actual life is. To the vast majority of members of BGLO it is not, that is why over 2/3 of them who join their organization during their undergraduate years do not continue financial membership afterwards, even when not suspended or expelled.

Furthermore, the reality is that while the vast majority of members of D9 orgs deviate in some (small or large) form or fashion from their prescribed MIP process only a small fraction of those who do ever get caught.

To go back to the cliff analogy, if you are running from wolves, and you have already seen 10 or so people make a successful leap in to the other side ahead of you, why wouldn’t you do it as well?

What BGLO’s really want prospects to do is not say I would rather get bit than take the chance and jump, but rather they want them to care so little about being “bit by the wolves” that they don’t feel the need to jump at all.

However, again, this is a problem with “the wolves” not a problem with “the cliff” or “the jump”. In order to make “the jump” less attractive you have to make “the fall” more likely, and that is very unlikely for BGLO to do because “the fall” hurts them as much if not more than (considering most individual members are “judgment proof”)  it hurts the members that cause it.

Finally, expulsion from organizations as a solution to curve and/or eliminate the BGLO hazing problem is more likely to cause more hazing than it is to prevent.

The general deterrence factor of expulsion in the BGLO context when it comes to hazing is overstated by BGLO leadership, overestimated by the insurance companies that cover these BGLO, and non-existent if you are looking for its substance based on the results of any empirical research.

There is currently no research data which shows that expelling members from a BGLO fraternity or sorority decreases the number of hazing cases that BGLO has to deal with.

In fact, I would argue the opposite effect is possible. What you are in fact doing when you “expel” members who were already initiated into a BGLO (this is different from baring perspective members from hazing membership) is that you telling that 18-25 year old young man or woman that from now on the only way you can participate actively in your organization is through the very thing that got you where you are at: participation in an underground pledge process.

Unlike a probationary suspension period (in which members would have to refrain from any hazing activity in order to get off) expulsion offers no incentive for an expelled member not to haze again. The hazing laws of our land don’t treat anyone who is expelled differently from someone who is not.

There is nothing in the ligation history of BGLO hazing cases that is (yet) to suggest that national organizations are any less liable for the actions of expelled members than non-expelled ones. I would admit that if someone were to have been accused of hazing and the fraternity did nothing about it that could speak toward a theory of negligence. But I fail to see how expelling someone can be used as a method to eliminate an already established duty of care.

Instead what you are doing is creating for yourself a sort of lost generation, which will be like a fraternity in the fraternity. Those that are just “members” will exist along sides those that are “martyrs”, and the perspectives members (those with the real power to stop hazing forever) will be helpless to tell the difference.

Via expulsion the national organizations are fighting a war with a strategy of providing “the other side” fresh “ammunition” every two years in the form of martyred expelled members.

Rather than reformers that have seen the error of their ways (and therefore spread the philosophy that the national organization is hoping to promote), the policy of expulsion produces scapegoats who have a simple choice: abandon their organization forever or embrace with even more varicosity the practices that engaged them in their current said predicament. Expulsion may say something about how an organization feels about people caught pledging, but it does little to nothing to try and convince perspective members not to pledge.

Again, when the possibility of being expelled is weighed against the “certainty” of being disrespected by their peers for “skating”; certainty beats possibility most of the time. This problem will never be solved until that “certainty” becomes more of a possibility or is non-existent.

Every problem has a solution, but it’s up to the problem solver to do its due diligence to find it. If the problem solver gets lazy and succumbs to the pressure to produce a “quick fix”, they often end up causing more of a problem than fixing one. This is exactly what happened in 1990, when the D9 orgs hastily and frantically installed MIP, without any study of the far reaching repercussions or results.

It is time these organizations show some real courage and deal with the real problem. You want to stop people from “jumping off the cliff” deal with “the wolves”.

Deal with the attitude among your members that membership gained exclusively via MIP is brought and not earned.

Deal with the deficiencies in the Membership Intake Process that create that perception.

Deal with the fact that you are trying to bury a practice that produced most of your members today.

Deal with the fact that vast majority of your victims are willing participants in the acts in which they are hurt, and start educating them earlier.

Take responsibility for the Frankenstein you created, and do what needs to be done to change the mindset of the membership not the perception of the public.

Interesting…

Abagond

I am trying this as a thought experiment to see where it goes:

If Black America were a country it would have 37 million people – which is just about the number of people who live in six of the seven blackest states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. A fourth of all blacks in America live there already.

Facts & Figures:

(The numbers in parentheses show its world rank out of 224 countries)

  • Name: Black America
  • Population: 37.0 million (#35)
  • Area: 771,000 sq km (#38)
  • Capital: Atlanta
    • Largest cities: Atlanta, Charlotte, New Orleans, Birmingham
  • Language: English
  • Religion: 80% Protestant (mostly Baptist), 5% Catholic, 1% Muslim, 1% other, 13% none
  • Economy:
    • GDP: $892 billion (#17)
    • GDP per capita: $24,100 (#55)
    • Class structure: 46% middle class, 29% working class, 25% poor
  • Education: 20% of those 25 or older…

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Why Race Still Matters: A simple cry to save affirmative action.

I wrote this back in May. 

Why Race Still Matters: A simple cry to save affirmative action.

 

 

                About three years and a half ago I took a class taught by VA State Senator Dr. Mamie E. Locke at the school I was attending at the time Hampton University. At that juncture, I thought that that it was rather foolish that at a Historically Black University we would have a class where the text book was titled “Race Matters”. “Of course race matters” I taught to myself. Why else would I (a first generation American that lives in New York City) be here (in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the heart of the former confederacy) if race didn’t matter.

             The class was taught by the Dean of my school in the University, it was small, and I got to speak my mind. So I took it despite my confusion. Dr. West’s book is a classic and I enjoy reading it now as much as I did back then, but I have to admit I didn’t understand it.

             How could I have? I grew up in a racial diverse city, always wen to racially diverse schools, was from a racially diverse background. A lot of the stuff they told us about the Civil Rights movement was just that stuff… They were just stories. I knew racism existed, but that awareness alone was not and is not enough to know exactly why race matters.

            Fast forward to today. I go from the Commonwealth of Virginia to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I am no longer studying Political Science, but I am now fully immersed in the study of the Law. The Law which is supposed to be blind to all color and fair to all. It was not until I was fully embedded into this system in which race was not supposed to matter, that I finally realized that race without question does matter.

            Now. It is ok to think of how far America has come on its racial issue as a triumph of our progressivism and ability to change. It ok to think that in an America lead by a black man, any other black man that works hard and does the right thing can get ahead. It is ok to think that in most cases merit should beat out cosmetics in deciding who is best qualified for a job or best worthy of an opportunity. All this is fine.

           What is not ok is that in most of my classes in my Law school I am the only black male. What is not ok is that nationwide the black student college graduation rate remains at 42 percent according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

          What is not ok is African Americans account for only 13 percent of the U.S. population, but make up 40 percent of all prisoners in the United States, while African Americans make up only 3.9% of all lawyers in the United States.

            Soon the Supreme Court of the US, which has been busy this year, will decide Fisher v. University of Texas. A case the court heard on October 10, 2012. This article will come too late to convince anyone of anything, however it is my hope that it does come in time to make someone realize that we are not in the race blind society that we all want to believe we are, and the most stringent proof of that is our legal system.

            Race matters because when the system of justice that is supposed to determine your guilt and innocence is so far weighed to one side of representation this system of justice loses its credibility; in one’s mind if not in reality.

          Race matters because we have made it matter time and time again. We fought a civil war on the battlefield, a civil war in the public sphere in the form of the epic Civil Rights Movement, and a civil war in our courts and legislatures in the form of the numerous cases both before and after Brown v. Board of Education.    

          Race matters because only a scheme in which the accused is fully shielded from even the slight possibility (all be it unlikely) that a social construct (which he or she cannot change) will be a factor in the judgment of guilt or innocence, merit or unfit, accepted or rejected. 

           At some point next term, The US Supreme Court will decide Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary. In that case the court will decide the constitutionality of a voter passed referendum in Michigan banning race- and sex-based discrimination or preferential treatment in public university admission decisions.

        The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in November of 2012 concluded the affirmative action ban, which Michigan voters passed in a 2006 referendum, violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection laws because the referendum created a unfair “comparative structural burden” that was greater on a black student than other students.

          It is telling that the court chose to hear this case last month, even as Fisher v. University of Texas is yet to be decided. Choosing not hear the case would have upheld the Sixth Circuit ruling which struck down the affirmative action ban.

          Furthermore, as Fisher v. University of Texas has to do with the admissions policy of a University, Schuette will consider a state wide referendum (much like Prop 8 from California in Hollingsworth v. Perry) passed by the voters, which will not just bring affirmative action into the mix but have significant ripples of a good federalism debate as well. 

         Full disclosure, I would not be where I am today if not for affirmative action programs. If not for affirmative action programs you probably would not be reading this article today, I fully admit that. However, it is also possible that if not for affirmative action programs there would be not black men in some of the classes in Law School in which I am the only black men. That is simply not ok.

           We have come a long way in this country and have made remarkable progress, but we are not at a point yet in which race does not matter. Race still matters in America and to make the mistake and think that it does not now will put at risk all the progress we have made over the last few decades. It is my hope that this simple truth will be acknowledged and our courts will not put our society in the position of going two steps forward and three steps back.   

President Obama Delivers Morehouse College Commencement Address

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e50Tt9qJRQk

In his final inauguration speech, the President of the United States used his usual style and forceful tone to establish what was a moral challenge to both himself and all the “people” around him to make the “we” in “we the people” mean more than it has up to this point in our nation’s history.

 

Never before in an inaugural address had a President more forcefully injected the fight for the rights of immigrants, gay Americans, and all of America’s varied minorities into the national stage, and in doing so he set the stage for what will be the last term of his elected political career.

 

This President has been criticized by both friend and foe for being too calculated in his approach, overly moderate in his vision and execution, and unwilling to take the bold risks and moves that would truly shape his legacy for the ages going forward.

 

As the President moves into his second and final term, on the back of a pretty convincing victory, one way in which he will be able to shape that legacy is through the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

Currently, President Obama and his Justice department have not exactly been the most active in federal judicial appointments. But (as of the writing of this article) the 174 justices that the President has appointed so far has him on pace to surpass his immediate predecessor, President Bush, and  match the last Democrat to serve two terms in office, President Clinton.

 

President Obama has already matched both Presidents Clinton and Bush in Supreme Court appointments with the historic appointment and conformation of two women; Justices Elana Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Within one term the President tripled the female population on the U.S. Supreme Court, an institution that saw its first female justice in 1981. He also appointed the first Hispanic to the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

It is the anticipated retirement of another female justice that is the spark that ignites the fire of imagination that I dive in to in this article.

 

With the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens in 2010, Ginsburg became, at 77 years of age, the eldest justice on the Court. Seventy Nine today (I know it is impolite to talk about a women’s age but you will forgive me, she is on the U.S. Supreme Court after all), Justice Ginsburg will be 83 by the year of the next U.S. Presidential election.  Justice Ginsburg has given no indication that she plans to step down any time soon, but the likelihood that she will leave under any other President besides Obama is probably very low. (But not impossible; John Paul Stevens served until he was 90, even though he could have retired under President Clinton at 79 because there was no certainty that he was going to survive 8 years of Bush. But of course he did, and is still alive today.)

 

There have been many articles written about when exactly Justice Ginsburg will retire and who will replace her. Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy, before the 2012 election, even made the case that both Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg should retire immediately to avoid any chance of being replaced by a conservative President.

 

I agree with Professor Kennedy. I think both Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer should retire before 2015, and here is why. It will allow the President to shape the most diverse Supreme Court this nation has ever seen. How you may ask?

 

Kamala Devi Harris is the current Attorney General of California and one of the numerous names that have floated to possibly replace Justice Ginsburg if and when she retires in 2015. Attorney General Harris makes sense for a number of reasons, some obvious and others not so much so.

 

Harris is black (the product of an Indian mother and a father of Jamaican descent). In case you haven’t noticed, while the first President of the U.S. that can be called “black” has made history supporting gay rights and marriage, immigration reform, and nominating two woman (and the first Latina) to the bench, he hasn’t exactly been as profound and historic when it comes to placing other prominent Black Americans in high post never before achieved. Why, is probably better left as the subject of a different article.

 

The nomination of Harris would be a welcome carrot to the President’s most loyal base. She is young (she will be only 51 in 2015), she is possibly liberal enough to be what Ginsburg was (but moderate enough to be confirmed), and she is a politician (something the court has not had in a very long time). She would bring the “real world” perspective to a court seen now as much lacking in that category. The only non-Judge is the recently appointed Justice Kagan. The only Justice not to graduate from either Yale or Harvard Law School is Justice Ginsburg and she went to Columbia Law School (not exactly your average legal institution).

 

The last Supreme Court Justice to hold elected political office immediately prior to being appointed was Chief Justice Earl Warren, and if not for him and the efforts of the court that he led Kamala Harris may not even be in this discussion.

 

In addition, the first black President would be able to name the first black female justice to the Supreme Court as he exits office. A Harris appointment will give Ginsburg the cover to retire and know that 1/3 of the court will still be female; a new trend that I am sure the former ACLU General Counsel does not want to see abandoned.

 

I think Harris would be a great appointment, but I think she should replace Justice Breyer in 2014, not Ginsburg in 2015. Now to be fair and honest, I have no evidence or indication that just Breyer has any intention of retiring anytime in the President’s second term, much less next year.

 

However, at 74 today, Justice Breyer would be gambling that he could survive until 86 by not steeping down under this President (assuming a Republican wins in 2016 and serves two terms which is today far from a forgone conclusion). The much safer thing to do, as Randall Kennedy has already made clear, would be to retire in 2014 and be replaced by Kamala Harris.

 

Who would than go on to replace Justice Ginsburg in 2015? Why not one of her old Law Clerks? No, I’m not talking about Margo Schlanger or Mary Elizabeth Magill. Both of whom would be excellent considerations in their own right. I am referring to current Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California and Constitutional Law expert Goodwin Liu. Yes, that Goodwin Liu. The same Goodwin Liu that Republicans refused to allow on to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2011. Why would the President rehash that fight? For one thing it is a fight he should have fought and won in the first place, but that is a different story for a different article.

Furthermore, however, Goodwin Liu would be THE perfect liberal appointment for the President to the U.S. Supreme Court. Like Harris, he is young (he will be only 45 in 2015), without question liberal enough to be what Ginsburg or Breyer was, and it would be another historic appointment (the first Asian American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court). Liu clerked for Justice Ginsburg in 2000 and finally now has the judicial experience he lacked in 2011 when he first faced the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

I know what you are thinking. As the U.S. Senate hasn’t moved that far to the left from 2011 (and the Senate Democrats failed to introduce much needed filibuster reform at the beginning of this Congress) how would Liu (especially after the Senate potentially confirms Harris) get pass the Senate and into a Supreme Court Seat when they wouldn’t let him on the extremely liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals?

 

The President will have to show some courage and ingenuity off course. But he could take a play out of the 2000 era TV Drama “The West Wing” and do that which it seems so hard to do in Washington currently, make a deal. To get Kamala Harris (a black woman) and Goodwin Liu (an Asian male) President Obama would have to give the Republicans something they could never get, even under a Republican President, a Latino Man.

 

In order to get Liu in 2015 the President could agree to replace either Justice Kennedy or Scalia with (and get Democratic support for) Tea party favorite, former US Supreme Court Clerk, current US Senator: Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz.

 

Now before you stop reading and dismiss this whole thing as pure fantasy, let me make my case.

 

Senator Cruz was born in Canada, therefore can’t be U.S. President and has little more to achieve in the political sense than he already has.

 

Furthermore, as the first Hispanic ever to clerk for a Chief Justice of the United States, he is a natural fit for the court. Like Liu and Harris, he is young (he will be 45 in 2015, whereas both Kennedy and Scalia would be turning 79), and he is without a doubt conservative enough to be what at least Scalia was and balance what Liu and Harris would be.

 

This would be a win on both sides; unless a major shift in politics occurs in the next decade, the Republican Party will not be able to appoint and confirm such a staunch conservative to the Supreme Court. Even with the Presidency in 2017, it would take a 60 vote filibuster proof majority to get anyone like Ted Cruz on the Supreme Court in this new arena in which the minority party does not restrict its use of the filibuster. A Cruz appointment gets him on the bench in 2015 to replace either Kennedy or Scalia, and leaves to the victor of the 2016 election, the decision on who will replace the others.

 

For the Democrats, you get Liu and Harris, something you are not going to get without Cruz. You take way a major player from the Tea party and make him in effect a “non-politician”. You still have the chance of making another crucial appointment if you win the 2016 election and you get a guaranteed balanced bench if you lose.

 

The biggest winner would be we, the people, who would then have the most diverse bench in the history of this nation. We would have two African Americans, one liberal the other conservative. We would have two Hispanic Americans, one liberal and the other conservative. We would have two politicians with “real world” experience, one liberal and the other conservative. We would have the first Asian American Justice in the Court’s history. We would maintain three women on the bench, and at an average age of 58 it would be (once fully confirmed) one of the younger courts in the nation’s history.

 

Now for some reality. There is no indication that Ted Cruz would even accept a Supreme Court nomination from a liberal President. It is not something you turn down, but we have seen more bizarre stuff come out the tea party.

 

There is no indication that Senate would ever confirm Goodwin Liu under any circumstances, after all it’s not every day that a qualified candidate to the court of appeals get filibustered in the first place.

 

There is no indication that Kamala Harris is ready to end her political career and turn it in for a desk job reading and writing all day. After all, she is in a decent position right now to become (as hard as it is to believe) the first female and first black governor of California within the next decade: a platform that, if achieved, could put her in a clear path to be to be the first black female President one day soon, nominating Justices of her own.

 

Not to mention that this whole plan hinges on something occurring that is not only highly unlikely, but would be extremely irregular. That is three justices agreeing to step down in collaboration in order to provide the other two branches of government the vehicle to collaborate and replace them. It kind of steps all over separation of powers.

 

Also, don’t get me wrong; don’t think this is the only way to get to a diverse bench either.  If President Obama does want to nominate an African American Judge, Paul Jeffrey Watford is black, currently on the 9th Circuit, young (he will be 48 in 2015), and has a strong moderate pedigree that would be very confirmable at least under current composition of the Senate – having clerked for conservative Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself.

 

Goodwin Liu is not the only way to get to the first Asian American Justice.  Judge Jacqueline Nguyen is a woman, Asian American, currently on the 9th Circuit, relatively young (she will be 50 in 2015), and unlike Judge Liu has already been confirmed once by the Senate.

 

Kathleen Marie Sullivan will be 59 in 2015, but is clearly qualified and would allow the President to make history in another way, as she would be the first openly lesbian nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court in American history.

 

Both women could replace Justice Ginsburg without the extra hoops and hurdles that my plan calls for.

However, neither nomination makes the political sense and history that my plan does. If the President wants a legacy, here it is, all he has to do is have the courage to reach out and grab it.

Arima Golden Symphony We Come Out to Play 278

Laventille Serenders Hammer Time  277

Super Novas Gold 275

Codrington Pan Family She Ready 274

Tornadoes Not a Pan Tune 268

Tamana Pioneers Gold 268

Cocorite West Wind I Music 265

Fascinators Pan Symphony Tell Dem 264

Golden Hands Gold 263

Merrytones Champions 260

Old Tech Shock Attack 258

 

 

NO STEELBAND SELECTION SCORE
1 San Juan  East Side Symphony Rant & Rave 278
2 T & T Defence Force Iron Man 276
3 Trinidad Nostalgic Dust In Yuh Face 274
4 Trinidad Eastside Symphony Johnny 273
4 Chord Masters We Ain’t Going Home 273
4 City Sun Valley Pan Groove Jump and Breakaway 273
4 Fyzabad 4th Dimension Jab Jab (Wine on something) 273
8 La Creole Pan Groove We Come Out To Play 272
9 Carib Woodbrook Playboyz Bacchanal Time 271
9 Gonzales Sheikers Pan by Storm 271
9 Marsicans Dollar Wine 271
9 Uni Stars Kaka Roach 271
13 Scrunter’s Pan Groove By All Means 269
14 Shades in Steel Suck Meh Soucouyant 268
15 Bar 22 Signal to Lara 267
16 Curepe Polyphonics Party Time 265
17 Nostrand Symphony Ethel 262

Play Whe International Power Soca Monarch
1. Austin “SuperBlue” Lyons
1. Machel Montano
3. Rodney “Benjai” Le Blanc
4. Destra

Digicel International Groovy Soca Monarch
1. Machel Montano
2. Neil “Iwer” Goerge
3. Dexter “Blaxx” Stewart.Roman Garcia
4. – Ravi B

We are truly living in a New America…..

No matter what side of the American political spectrum you fall on (or put yourself on) you would have to admit that it felt like a really different country when you woke up on Wednesday (the day after the election).

No matter your age, creed, religion or party affiliation you are, it would have been hard pressed for you to wake up the day after this past election and not be in a state of shock.

No matter what your Political Party, you had to have got up Wednesday and thought you had awakened in a new America. Something kind of different than we had ever seen before.

On January 15, 1936, film director Louis J. Gasnier’s Reefer Madness was released to mostly negative reviews and mediocrity. The film told of all the evils of the gateway drug, cannabis or marijuana. Since the United States Congress passed the Boggs Act of 1952 and the Narcotics Control Act of 1956, there has been mandatory sentencing for the possession, distribution, and use of weed. The so called “War On Drugs”, however has become an all too real war on drug users. Most of them white, while ironically most of those prosecuted under the drug laws happened to be poor and minority.

On Tuesday, following the results of the 2012 election, recreational use of marijuana was legalized in the states of Colorado and Washington. Weed won on 3/6 ballots it was contested on this past Tuesday. Massachusetts approved it for medical use, while Arkansas failed to follow suit, Oregon refused to make it legal for recreational, and Montana band it for medical use. How this will work in light of Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005) and the Controlled Substances Act remains to be seen.

Ironically the same folks that scream states’ rights on every and anything else, will be looking now to the Federal Government to curtail the will of voters. However, what is very apparent is the new smell of freedom in the air in the states of Colorado and Washington, and the sense that we are truly living in a New America.

Democratic President Bill Clinton was so afraid of anything to do with the social issues that surrounded marriage equality and equal rights for gay Americans that he enacted “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in 1993 and signed the Defense of Marriage Act three years later in 1996 (before going on to destroy Bob Dole in a reelection campaign in which his nonsupport for DOMA would not have hurt him).

Tuesday, behind the first Presidential candidate to publicly support marriage equality, his Justice Department which no longer enforces DOMA, and with “Don’t ask, don’t tell” a thing of the past. On Tuesday, Marriage Equality won on every ballot it was contested on in the US. Maine, Washington, and Maryland all became the first states to approve same sex marriage by a popular vote and voters in Minnesota refused to ban it. We are truly living in a New America.

It has been fourteen years since Matthew Sheppard was tortured and murdered In Wyoming and members of the Westboro Baptist Church protested at his funeral with signs that read “God Hates Fags”. It has been thirty four years since the assassination of the first openly gay man elected in America, Harvey Milk.

On Tuesday, however, Tammy Baldwin defeated a former Republican Presidential candidate, US Sectary of Health and Human Services and Governor of the state she ran in, in Tommy Thompson. Wisconsin, the home state of the GOP Vice Presidential Candidate, Paul Ryan. Wisconsin, the state where Scott Walker had successfully defeated a recall challenge easily just six months early. Wisconsin where just six years early the majority of voters (59.4%) said that Tammy Baldwin should not have the right to marry, on Tuesday chooses her as one of the two people to represent them in the U.S Senate.

The best thing about Tammy Baldwin ascension to the Senate was that it was just not a victory for a single majority in America, but for all Americans, as Tammy Baldwin was the first woman elected to the Senate from Wisconsin as well. No longer defined by one thing that separates us, we are truly living in a New America.

After the 2010 midterm elections things looked “really bad” for the progressive/liberal/Democratic Party’s cause in America. The economy was in a word bad (the economy is still bad), health care reform by the President was important but unpopular, and the emergence of the Tea Party had provided the President’s party with a self-named “shellacking” in the midterm elections.

Democrats had twice as many seats to defend in the Senate than the other party, no hope of retaking the House, and no President had ever been elected with this amount of unemployment ever. It was in one word looking really “bad” on paper for the Democratic Party, and then we had an actual election.

On Tuesday, the President beat his challenger 332 to 206 (126 margin) in the Electoral College. A smaller margin than his 2008 election victory (192), but a greater margin of victory than any one of George W. Bush’s Presidential “victories”. He won 51% of the popular vote, and his party in no worse off today than they were last Monday (If not better).

How did all this happen?

Well the short answer is easy and the long answer if not easy is at least obvious. The Republican Party was reputed this past week for three things: the Dream Act, George W. Bush, and numbers.

President Obama won the Hispanic vote by 44 percentage points, 8 points more than his margin in 2008. Seven out of every ten voters that self-identified as Hispanic in America voted for President Obama. President Obama achieved this despite the fact that he really didn’t actually do much for Hispanic voters in the four years he was in office. He failed to use his bully pulpit to get immigration reform passed (even do he did every and anything to get health care passed).  Florida is a perfect example of a state that Romney had no business losing and lost anyway. In Florida, the President won 60% of the Hispanic vote up way up from the 44% John Kerry won in 2004. When you can give this little and get that much you can’t lose.

President Obama was able to almost erase anything bad he did in four years and run against, George W. Bush, again. Like no President before him, Obama teams’ successfully took responsibility for everything good that had happened from 2008 on and everything negative was placed at the feet of a man that had been a lame duck President since 2006. When you can choose to run against someone that can’t fight back (or won’t fight back because Romney refused to defend even the parts of Bush’s recorded that Obama had adopted) you can’t lose.

Finally, the numbers show and Republicans just don’t seem to get we live in a very different nation from the time of Regan in the 80’s. Most of the nation shifted to the right in Tuesday’s vote (compared to 2008), but not far enough to secure a win for Mitt Romney. President Obama lost the white vote in America Tuesday by 19 percentage points, larger than the 12 percentage points he lost them in 2008, and it did not matter. There simple where not enough people willing to vote for Romney to make him president. When you have more people on your side, that are willing to do more for you, than your opponent you can’t lose.

Bottom line, when you can give you your two most loyal base voters (Hispanics and Black Americans-think about it 93% of African Americans voted for the President and everyone else is giving everyone else credit for his victory) very little in four years and they still come out to vote for you in record numbers, while you expand your base among white woman there is no way you are going to lose and Republicans need to recognize that.

If you acknowledge that the 2000 election as one that was won on votes by the Democrats and won in the legal battle by Republicans, the Republican party has now lost 5/6 Presidential elections. Everyone that remotely follows politics in America will tell you that they cannot lose a 6th or that will signal the death of the Republican Party as we know it today (with its current agenda, platform, and policy’s).

You can’t keep opposing immigration reform and a path to citizenship when every month for the next two decades, 50,000 Hispanics will turn 18 and be eligible to vote.  You can’t oppose issues that young voters care about when they are becoming a bigger part of every swing state every election. You can’t run candidates who think that even in cases of rape women shouldn’t have a choice of what to do with her body, because that position is extreme in a new America. You can’t run on denying basic civil rights to people because of who they choose to marry and why.

In short, you can’t spot your opponent whole parts of the electorate before the election and think you are going to make up all that ground. On Tuesday, African-Americans chose President Obama by 93%, Latinos by 71%, and Asian-Americans, the nation’s fastest-growing minority, by 73%. You can’t win like that. You won’t win like that. I hope the Republican Party realizes that because the rules have changed. We are truly living in a New America…..

To Be Black at Stuyvesant High