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Archive for July, 2011

KPFA Interviews LegalSpeaks on Race and Gender in the Law

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Berekeley, California radio station,KPFA, interviewed LegalSpeaks founder and legal blogger, Debbie Hines on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case and the Casey Anthony case on the issues of the intersection of gender and race and the differences in the media’s handling of the two cases.  It aired on Monday, July 25 2011 at 1:00 pm and can be heard by clicking here:

Women’s Magazine – July 25, 2011 at 1:00pm

Click to listen (or download)

President Obama Takes Budget Talks to The Streets

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Photo by Samantha Appleton

White House Photo by Samantha Appleton

President Obama, once again took his case to the streets and the American people to demand that a compromise be made in the budget talks and that a deal be reached. We are still at a stalemate in talks. In speaking to the nation last night, the President made clear that “while the America people may have voted for a divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government.” And right now dysfunctional is what we are seeing.


Avoiding a default crisis by paying our past bills is a path we have walked many times before.  What we are doing is raising the debt ceiling “to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up”. It is not to pay any new bills or buy new stuff.  And this is nothing new nor rocket science. Since the 1950’s Congress has always passed it and every President has signed it. Now, all of a sudden, with President Obama in the White House, the Republican Congress wants to change the way history has always led us—paying our bills.

Yes, the Republicans, this time, refuse to do what was done under Republican President Regan 18 times. Republican President George W. Bush raised it 7 times.  Instead, now the Republicans would rather see American default on all of bills, including Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits and government contracts, risk our credit rating and even deepen our economic crisis. That’s just the way the Republicans roll. And President Obama makes note that “it’s a dangerous game that we’ve never played before, and we can’t afford to play it now.”


And it’s a simple premise, one that many Americans are faced with each paycheck.  According to President Obama, “we’ve spent more money than we take in”. And we’ve not been using the money to pay our debt for the last 10 years but on trillions of dollars in 2 wars and new tax cuts for our rich Americans. The recession certainly hasn’t helped maters.


Republicans have said in the past that the only way they’ll agree to avoid a default is to agree to their deep spending cuts. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities President Robert Greenstein says “House Speaker John Boehner’s new budget proposal would require deep cuts in the years immediately ahead in Social
Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, the repeal of health reform’s coverage expansions, or wholesale evisceration of basic assistance programs for vulnerable Americans. … If enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.”

So where do we go from here?  President Obama is urging everyone to call their representative to get the job done.  Yet, there is still a path to avoid an economic catastrophe  before the deadline of   August 2, 2011. The US Constitution requires that America shall pay her debts. Defaulting is not an option under our Constitution, not even for a day.  A clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, “The validity of the public debt of the United States…shall not be questioned.”

President Obama and his team of lawyers need to seriously consider making history by saving our country rather than making history to lose our world standing. I
urge President Obama to show exemplary strength by taking whatever path he can find to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling and pay our past bills, if the Bozo’s in
can’t get the job done.

To listen to  the President’s speech, click here

Post Script: Congressional Sites crash after Pres. Obama’s speech.


Debbie Hines is a legal and political commentator who is frequently seen in the media. She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on race and gender in law and politics. She also writes for the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center. She has been featured in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Black Enterprise, among others.



President Obama Gives A Shellacking to the GOP

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

In a fiery speech last night, President Obama gave Speaker Boehner and the Republican leaders a verbal shellacking, as he spoke about Boehner’s call to walk away from the debt ceiling talks, saying he’s ” been left at the altar now a couple of times”. In the past, President Obama has used childlike references to the GOP in saying it’s a eat your peas moment and do your homework on time. Yesterday, Obama spoke bluntly of the Republicans’ failure to lead the country.  And if you play childish games, you need to be spoken to and lashed out  like children.

The American people are looking for leadership, not political games, ploys or tactics. They are not looking for 2 year old adults who can only say no to everything. President Obama even asked last night, can they say yes to anything.  At present, it doesn’t appear so.  They walked away from a deal proposal that even a lot of Republican voters are puzzled as to why it couldn’t be done. Far from approval of the Democratic leadership and distasteful to many progressive Democrats, the Democrats were willing to engage in serious negotiations, “despite a lot of heat from a lot of interest groups around the country”, says Obama. Obama made clear the Democrats stepped up in ways to show that they’re willing to work on the tough issues that the Republicans ran away from.


Instead the GOP tactics put at risk 70 million checks, including social security, veterans, disability, business contractors providing services to the federal government and many more. And if 70 million checks are put at risk, “that is not going to be good for economic growth”. The Republican proposal wants to “essentially ask nothing of corporate jet owners, it asks nothing of oil and gas companies” and people who have done extremely well economically. Instead, the Republican plan wants to tilt our country’s revenues on the backs of the poor and middle-class families.


And so where does that leave us and President Obama. Obama summoned Boehner, Mitch McConnell,. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to meet him at 11:00 on Saturday. The time has run out for playing games. Work must get done. If the Republicans can’t do the work, then give President Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling and take responsibility for it.  He’s willing to risk any political consequences for doing it  rather than the more adverse consequences to the country from not doing it.


President Obama’s bottom line is the debt ceiling must be extended through 2013. And that’s based on how difficult it is to get any deal done. We can’t keep going through this every 8 months or so. And if the Republicans want to lead, then they should lead instead of running away like cowards or bullies.


And if anyone should be saying no, it should be the voters in 2012.  No, to more Republican shenanigans and yes to Democratic leadership.


Debbie Hines is a legal and political commentator who founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on law and politics focusing on race and gender issues. She also contributes to the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center. She is frequently seen and heard in the media addressing issues. on race and gender in politics and law.

Why New Voter ID Laws Will Disenfranchise Women

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Voter ID laws enacted now in over half the states, requiring voters to present some form of identification as a requirement to vote, are seemingly  simple in nature. But they will place unreasonable burdens on many women who may well be unaware of the difficulty they could face when casting their vote in the 2012 election.


Fourteen states require a government issued photo ID when voting in person. At the time of registering to vote, other states like Kansas and Alabama further demand proof of citizenship beyond the federal legal requirement that citizens swear they are citizens. During the 2011 legislative session, five states—Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina—joined Georgia and Indiana by enacting the strictest form of photo ID requirement for voters, and most of these newest changes will first come into effect for the 2012 elections.


Proponents of the laws argue that photo ID’s are a reasonable way to protect our elections and make them fair.  But far from harmless, the laws are complex and place unnecessary hardship on women—those who are newly married or recently divorced as well as senior citizens and low-income women.

To read more, see  the entire  exclusive article in the Women’s Media Center posted  on July 22, 2011.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a legal and political commentator who is seen frequently in the media on issues affecting  women and African Americans. She also writes for the Huffington Post and Politic365.   Follow her on Twitter at LegalSpeaks.

A Tale of Two Cases: Casey Anthony and Strauss-Kahn

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

The murder trial of Casey Anthony and the sexual case of Dominic Strauss-Kahn, accused of sexually assaulting the hotel maid in New York, have all the same elements of sex, race and politics, yet each will have a different outcome.  The Casey Anthony case from the start was a media frenzy combined with a missing 2 year old white child, a mother partying all over town and a prosecutor bent on trying the case . Then there’s the other case of the sexual assault on a hotel maid in New York oozing with sex, race and politics, yet with a different end about to occur.  There has been little media frenzy and little outcry for justice in the case of an African maid sexually assaulted by one of the most powerful men in France. Sex, race and politics play two different roles in each of these cases. In the case of Casey Anthony, this trifecta worked to convict Casey Anthony in the media; yet it works to invoke an acquittal in the media world for Strauss-Kahn. So what is the difference?


First, the child missing in the Casey Anthony case was a cute little white child.  And the black blogosphere has been filled with comments of whether the media coverage would have been the same if the child were African American, Latino or some other ethnicity. And we need not go far to find that answer.  The media has had cases of missing black children and yet, fails to find them suitable enough to cover. Take the missing case of Phylicia Barnes, a 16 year old black honor student headed for college a year early, who travelled from North  Carolina to visit her relatives in Baltimore over the Christmas holiday. She turned up missing and the Baltimore detectives felt foul play had occurred and tried to get national media coverage for her case. They practically pleaded with the media to air her story. And other than 1-2 times on the Nancy Grace show and the Today show, no national media covered her story. She was later found dead this year.  Yet, Nancy Grace spent countless hours on the “tot mom” case as she dubbed Casey Anthony. The same holds true for the coverage of the hotel maid sexual assault case. Once it was learned the maid was African, negative comments in the media began occurring shortly after Strauss-Kahn’s arrest even before any difficulties with the case occurred.


Yet, politics is involved in both cases. In Anthony’s case, politics demanded that a trial occur, even with scant circumstantial evidence about a murder occurring and no cause of death. The prosecutor’s rush to judgment and trial prevented the outcome that  the public and media were seeking. And yet in the Strauss-Kahn case, the prosecutor’s rush has been the opposite–to throw the victim under the bus. And in examining the two from this former prosecutor’s perspective, there is far more direct evidence linking Strauss-Kahn to a sexual assault than there was to link Casey Anthony to a murder. There’s DNA on the maid’s clothing, the hotel room carpet plus medical evidence supporting her claim with vaginal bruising and a torn shoulder ligament. But, Cyrus Vance coming off an earlier rape case loss involving 2 police officers appears to want to dismiss this case to save what he perceives as another difficult sexual assault case.


And for all  the media cry against Casey Anthony, there is none against Strauss-Kahn, who stands to walk away from charges of a sexual assault before his day in court. So where is the justice? In cases of sex, race and politics, there is little justice if the victim is not the right race.


Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political commentator and former prosecutor. She is often seen in the media speaking on topics of race, gender and law.  She also writes for the Huffington Post.


Is Michele Bachmann a Racist?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

While Christine O’Donnell may not be a witch, Michele Bachmann may be a racist, judging by her most recent statements about African Americans. Her recent comments about African Americans begs the question of whether she is a racist.

Last week, she mentioned that African American children and black families were better off during slavery presumably because according to her logic they had both parents living with them.  She brings her comments up to date this week and discusses the black farmers’ settlement.


She spoke out against the multi-billion dollar settlement to black farmers for decades of discrimination by the federal government against them. According to Bachmann, the monies to settle the discrimination suit by black farmers is just wasteful spending and should be diverted elsewhere to benefit people living along the Mississippi river and Missouri river. While the flood victims need redress too, I don’t think anyone should be advocating taking away money from black people who were discriminated against to help others.

If anyone still thinks we are living in a post racial society, they only need listen to Michele Bachmann to come to a different conclusion.  First, for anyone to think that African Americans were better off during slavery is preposterous. Black families were separated and sold to the highest bidder with no regard for families or children. Children were separated from mothers and fathers.  Slave owners, including former presidents raped and had sex at will with slaves, fathering children. Slaves were whipped, beaten and treated as 3/5 of a person and had no rights. And if that wasn’t enough fun, runaway slaves were severely beaten or killed. That doesn’t sound like fun to me or the good ole days. Perhaps, Bachmann should spend some time in the history books to understand the facts before speaking. John Boyd, President of the Black Farmers Association said, “I think it’s bad for the American people. I think if Ms. Bachmann wants to be president of the United States, she should treat all people fairly.” He further states that Bachmann has continued to look at the black farmers in a negative way.

Bachmann’s comments remind me of the Republican California legislator who e-mailed a picture of President Obama with an ape face.  She also didn’t think her comments and E-mail were racist either and saw nothing wrong with it. But comparing African Americans to apes is a throw back to the good ‘ole slavery days where blacks were considered less than a man.

It’s interesting how in the reverse, white conservatives are eager to scream racist when any perceived racial comments are hurled their way.  The comments by Rev. Jeremiah Wright during the 2008 election about whites practically went viral everywhere with almost every white conservative crying racist. But where is the same outcry against Michele Bachmann for her comments about African Americans?

Whether or not Bachmann is a racist, her comments are truly racist.  Incendiary and racist comments should have no place in US politics.  Outspoken racist  comments from a candidate who is seeking her party’s nomination for president of the US should be attacked and not defended. But where is the outcry now against Michele Bachmann?

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, legal and political commentator. She is frequently seen in the media addressing issues on race, gender and law.  She also writes for the Huffington Post.