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Archive for May, 2011

Memorial Day – A Time for Remembrance

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Memorial is a day that we remember the men and women who serve and have served in the military. Despite our partisan views, it is one day that we can agree on.  Memorial Day was established and named “Memorial Day” in 1967. In 1968, it became  a Monday holiday in 1968.   Many persons have lost their lives serving in the military and many more have been wounded both physically and emotionally.  While freedom is not free, the price for service in the military is priceless.

Today as we honor those who have served, let us remember that according to US government figures, that Operation Iraqi Freedom has resulted in 4421 deaths and 31, 931 wounded in action.  The death toll in the Afghanistan war stands at 1,475 with 11, 541 wounded in action.  Their families deserve recognition at this time, too. They are also heroes.  Family members left behind while a loved one is deployed overseas, raise kids alone,  and care of extended family members’ well – being until the family is united again. The has a form for sending an electronic message to a military family, to be delivered  by USO. Click to send a message @

NetRoots Nation  for the Troops  also has a care package program to send packages to the troops. Over the past 4 years, Netroots for the Troops has packed over 800 boxes to send to the troops. In a few weeks, Netroots Nation will again be sending packages to pour troops and you may help by donating here

Netroots For The Troops is a project of Netroots for the Troops, Inc., a Virginia non-profit corporation.  Netroots For The Troops raises money for the assembly, mailing and delivery of care packages to American military in war zones, and to provide assistance to military families in the United States.  Netroots For The Troops, Inc. is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization.

Those who are going to Netroots Nation convention in Minneapolis may help by actually packing boxes on Saturday, June 18, 2011.

Whatever you do today, remember  to take the time to remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom and future.

Casey Anthony- Did She or Didn’t She Do It?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Caylee and Casey Anthony

While Orlando is known for Disney theme parks, another reality set in on Tuesday in the opening statements in the Casey Anthony trial. While some wonder whether she killed Caylee, her 2 year old daughter, the real question is whether she can get a fair trial. And regardless of the answer to the question of guilt or innocence, she is entitled to a fair trial.  The case while having been tried by the media for the past few years, the real trial starts in earnest now. 

The prosecution will not have a slam dunk.  The case as it unfolds is a circumstantial case with no eyewitness and little CSI forensics as seen on TV.  There is no cause of death as the body was too badly decomposed when found. So, there will be no testimony on how she died. But, her death was ruled a homicide.  A homicide means a killing did occur and she did not die by natural causes. Casey Anthony is facing charges of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter and 4 counts of lying to police. The state has an emotional case with photos of a cute 2 year old and those of her mother partying, getting tattoos and lying after her child’s disappearance and the stink test, if allowed.  The prosecution wants the jurors to smell the stench that was found in the trunk.  Casey’s mother said the trunk smelled like a dead body had been inside it. There is no eyewitness testimony, linking Casey Anthony to any crime.

The defense’s hardest job will be to undo what are perceptions about a mother killing her own child.  Yet, studies show that children under the age of 5 in the US are more likely to be killed by a parent than a stranger, contrary to popular belief. The studies of parent child deaths between 1976- 1999 show 30% committed by a mother and 31% committed by a father. While motive is not an element of murder, no doubt jurors will wonder why a homicide occurred.

Now the defense counters in its opening that Caylee’s death was an accidental pool death that was hidden by Casey and her father.  While not required by law, I hope they have an explanation for the duct tape that was covering Caylee’s mouth. And they will also need to cross examine the prosecution’s recovery of computer data that shows google searches of “how to make chloroform” and neck strangulation, if allowed into evidence.  Traces of chloroform were found in Casey Anthony’s trunk.  

The state always has the burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense does not need to put on any witnesses nor does the defendant need to testify. In this case, it will be even more than problematic to put Casey Anthony on the witness stand. She faces the death penalty, if convicted.  Her testimony, if disliked by the jury could very well have her facing the death penalty.

The trial for the jurors will be the most challenging job they’ve ever faced. Holding someone’s life in your hands will not be as easy as assessing and judging the case as a non- juror through the media lens.  Judge Belvin Perry intends to hold trial 6 days a week, with Sunday off for good behavior, for the next estimated 6-8 weeks.  This schedule is also unusual.  But then again, there is nothing usual about this murder trial so far. The jurors will be sequestered away from their families in a hotel.

Judge Perry has spoken about the need to ensure that the case will withstand an appeal, should a guilty verdict be rendered. (The state has no right of appeal, if they lose).  The most important thing is that Casey Anthony receives a fair trial.  Right now, Judge Perry is committed to making that happen, whether she did it or not.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer and legal and political commentator who frequently is seen in the media speaking on issues affecting women. She also writes for the Huffington Post, Politic 365 and other online publications. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of PA.

Has Cornel West Lost His Mind?

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Last week’s remarks by Cornel West have some people wondering if he has lost his mind. I respect, admire and have heard West speak on numerous occasions. I admire his scholarly assessment of issues, particularly those affecting the African American community. But, his recent remarks this past week about President Obama were neither scholarly or intelligent although they were quite emotionally provoking. For those who might not have heard West’s comments, West unabashedly personally attacked President Obama on his blackness, saying that he is the “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.”

West, a Princeton professor, lecturer and author, has been known to criticize President Obama on the fact that the black community is suffering the most during the Obama administration. And there’s no doubt that the African American community is suffering far greater than other Americans. But, West’s most recent remarks are in the same vein as Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. They  do not offer any sound advice, scholarly or substantive suggestions or sound alternatives to the Obama administration’s approach.  They are personal in nature because West, like his colleague Tavis Smiley, has no doubt felt a perceived Obama snub.

West’s comments are just pure name calling. And when did we become a nation of name callers, “trash talkers” or birth bashers? Perhaps, that is all Newt, Palin and Trump are capable of; But, I expect far more from an esteemed scholar, like Professor Cornel West. West has the intellectual capacity and platform to offer sound advice to the Obama administration. Yet, instead of taking the high road, or the one less traveled today, he resorts to the Fox News GOP approach.   

West’s educational, intellectual background and awareness of African American issues suggest that he is far more capable of helping the African American community by offering his intellectual viewpoints on what is needed to move the country forward. We’ve already had enough of name calling and it has gotten us nowhere. Of course, Cornel West has the “right” to challenge President Obama. Just because he’s within his “rights” does not mean it’s the right thing and the right way to do it. So, I challenge Cornel West to rise above the media hype and join in the critical conversation in a manner that is fitting of his intellect.

I wish that West would offer the advice that he has been known for in his speeches. Perhaps, he has taken the road more traveled today because it’s an easier path to take. Yet, as a black thought leader, West knows his comments will lead to nowhere.

And I could excuse his name calling if he lost his mind.  So, that’s why I inquired, has Cornel West lost his mind?

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer and legal and political commentator who frequently is seen in the media speaking on issues affecting African Americans and women. She also writes for the Huffington Post, Politic 365 and other online publications. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA in African American history from the University of PA.

Is President Obama Doing Enough With High Black Unemployment?

Friday, May 13th, 2011

President Obama

The President met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on May 12th in the State Dining Room of the White House to discuss job creation and economic growth. The economy has added 2.1 million private sector jobs over 14 consecutive months, including more than 800,000 jobs since the beginning of the year, but the President recognizes that too many American families are still hurting and the unemployment rate is unacceptably high—especially among African Americans. 

The rate of unemployment among African Americans of 16. 1 % remains the highest in the nation, while the overall unemployment rate hovers around 9%. But black unemployment is more than a statistic.  It is the faces and stories of real people who are unemployed or under employed. I wonder if these real people stories were told to the president by the CBC during their meeting. Many nameless and faceless unemployed African Americans need to be more than a statistic.  President Obama has said that he feels sometimes that he lives in a “bubble.”  I wonder if some of our black leaders are in the same bubble with President Obama, from the CBC, National Urban league, NAACP and Al Sharpton’s Action Network.  It does not appear that many are pressing the Obama administration on the jobs issues for African Americans vigorously.   One has to wonder if President Bush were still President and the black unemployment rate was almost twice as high as the national rate, if quiet meetings  with little chatter would be the order.

If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.  So I have to wonder if the CBC along with other black organizations is not a part of the problem in not pressing for greater results for black American unemployment. I know of advanced degree, PhD’s, lawyers and college degree blacks who have done all the right things according to society but are jobless or in menial jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree.  And they have six figure college debts to prove it.

If the persons that President Obama has assembled in his administration have not been able to address the black joblessness issues in 2 years, perhaps, it’s time they lost their jobs and became a part of the unemployed.   Perhaps, if they get out of the bubble too, they might see what I see and hear every day.

 Debbie Hines is a lawyer and legal and political commentator. She is frequently seen in the media speaking on issues affecting women and African Americans. She also writes for the Huffington Post and Politic365. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University law School and a BA in American history from the University of PA.

The Economy Affects Jurors in the Casey Anthony Trial

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Caylee and Casey Anthony

While most mothers celebrated Mother’s Day on Sunday, 25 year old Casey Anthony spent Mother’s Day preparing for her trial in the alleged killing of her daughter, 2 year old, Caylee.  Juror selection began on Monday in a rare move to near the Tampa Bay area although the crime occurred in Orlando.  The judge moved the jury selection process in the hopes of getting 12 unprejudiced and unbiased jurors and 8 alternate jurors, due to less media scrutiny there. But the trial will be heard in Orlando. 

A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in our media frenzy world, it’s often the other way around.  Casey Anthony faces the death penalty, if found guilty.  A fair trial and unbiased jurors is what she deserves under the law.

But, the move to select jurors in another county is already resulting in another problem. It is difficult to find potential jurors who will be able to spend 6-8 weeks in Orlando to hear the trial.  Many are expressing economic hardship in these stressing times. Many prospective jurors said they could not afford to serve because their employers would stop paying them.  Jurors cannot be fired for serving on a jury.  It is still a civic duty. Some small business owners said their businesses might fail. Single parents said they had no one to look after their children. Middle-aged children said they had no one to look after elderly parents. And the excuses went on and on.  It’s not unheard of for jurors to express these concerns in a shorter trial. Many judges will not excuse juror for some economic reasons.  But, moving jurors to a trial location many miles away will further exacerbate the juror’s situation.  The jurors will remain in Orlando until the trial is completed which could take up to several months.

The jury selections are expected to continue this week.  The judge is proceeding with caution in ruling on defense motions to prevent a reversal on appeal.  Media frenzy is at its highest in this trial.  Most persons are wondering, if proven, how a mother could kill her own daughter. Others are wondering why a mother would kill her young daughter. Motive is not a requirement for any criminal trial. That only occurs on TV.  The answers, if her guilt is proven by a jury, may never be known.

Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer,  former prosecutor and legal and political commentator.   She also contributes to the Huffington Post.   She addresses issues on race and women. She holds a juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Is the Middle Class in Jeopardy or on Its Way Out?

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Now that we’ve killed Osama bin Laden, produced President Obama’s birth certificate, silenced Donald Trump and backed off of Medicare cuts by Republicans, can we now focus on finding jobs and fixing the economy?  In April, it was estimated that over 240,000 new jobs were added. Of that number over 50,000 were added by McDonald’s Corporation.  While those numbers sound commendable, it is now estimated that at our present rate of job increase, it will take until 2018 before we return to full employment.

Most Americans now believe that their children will be worse off. Many persons with college degrees are now working in either menial jobs or positions that do not require a degree.  Many persons with advanced degrees and six figure college debt are either unemployed or underemployed.  17 million Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that don’t require a degree, according to an April report by New America Foundation.  40 million Americans now receive food stamps.  Countless Americans go to bed hungry on a daily basis. According to the report published by New America Foundation, middle income jobs are disappearing and becoming replaced by low income jobs.  Our jobs have been going overseas with no  end in sight. Who hasn’t called a customer service number only to find out, it’s located in India or anywhere but the USA.

The middle class is shrinking fast. Not being an economist, I don’t have any answers or advice on how to fix the economy. I just know we fixed General Motors,  Chrysler, bailed out the banks and have yet to come to the rescue of the mainstream American public.  While universal health care is commendable, Americans will still need money to purchase it.  I also inquired  in past articles, when is relief coming to the middle class or average American. I just know the middle class is in dire straits and is sinking fast.  And if we lose our middle class, we become just like a third world country where our 3% of the wealthiest rule and the rest of us are poor with nothing in between.   That’s why we didn’t need to give any tax credits to the wealthy. 

Meanwhile, neither the House nor Senate seems capable of fixing the dire situation we find ourselves in. If we need to replace some of our economic advisors, let’s do it. If we need to urge the White House and leaders of both Houses to take action now, we need to do it.  If we don’t do something or remain at the status quo, we are doomed.  Yes, doomsday is on the way and it’s coming faster than we think.  If we keep ignoring it, there will be no way out.

Click here to read the full report “The American Middle Class Under Stress” by New America Foundation.

Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and legal and political commentator.   She also contributes to the Huffington Post.   She addresses issues on race and gender. She holds a juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA in American history from the University of Pennsylvania.