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No Trump, No Way, No How

Friday, September 16th, 2016

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropThe presidential elections of 2008 and 2012 now seem like a century ago in terms of where the country is now headed.  In 2008 and 2012, President Obama campaigned on hope and change which resonated with voters.  In 2016, we see an extreme form of racism, xenophobia and misogynist campaigning by Donald Trump appealing to many voters.  And with a little of over a month until the election, there appears to be a growing trend leaning now towards Donald Trump.  In November, we could be calling Donald Trump our next president.

 

In the eight years of President Obama’s two terms, I came to realize that racism is alive and well in the U.S.  In fact, it never really went anywhere. While many persons speak of patriotism towards the U.S. and against protests during the playing of the national anthem, there was often little patriotism shown towards our Commander in Chief with many persons, including Republican members of Congress and the GOP Senate disrespecting President Obama throughout his term in unprecedented ways.  Donald Trump capitalized on that disrespect with his Birther movement theories. He has now broadened his attacks.

 

Now Donald Trump’s comments take on attacking women, Muslims, Hispanics, Blacks, LGBT and anyone else that appears to attack him or be a perceived threat against him.  Present polls, at least those this week, show the Presidential race is in a statistical dead heat.

 

Some missteps by Hillary Clinton, including how she handled her pneumonia, only added to the surge by Donald Trump.  After the Democratic convention, Hillary Clinton should have been easily able to coast to November and an easy victory.  Her attitude of inevitability is what caused her the Presidential primary in 2008.  This year, Clinton’s attitude of avoiding primary debates along with no press conferences for over 275 days, while Trump commands the airwaves like he owns all of the networks, is working to an extreme disadvantage for her.

 

We are currently on a 24/7 news cycle.  While Clinton and her team may believe that she is better off avoiding press conferences, it is inconsistent with her taunts to Trump to release his tax records.  She avoids transparency albeit in a different way—the result is the same.  The American voter is left without a transparent picture of Clinton or Trump.

 

All is at stake in the November election for Millennials, women, Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims, working families, single parents, LGBT community, unions and even the working and poor white folks who believe their country must be taken back.   Trump regularly spreads vicious stereotypes about communities of color.

 

Trump thinks all black people live in ghettoes with nothing to lose by voting for him. Trump’s appeal to African Americans includes describing   Blacks as having no jobs and living in poverty. His pitch was: “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed.” “What the hell do you have to lose?”  Trump has threatened to change the U.S. Constitution to get rid of birthright citizenship which grants citizenship to all persons born in the U.S.  Birthright citizenship in the 14th amendment is what made all African Americans born into slavery U.S. citizens.  And he still thinks President Obama is not an American citizen—although his campaign representatives differ. So what do African Americans have to lose with Trump? Everything for starters.

 

And remember Trump kicked off his campaign by calling those of Mexican heritage criminals and rapists.  He stated a Muslim judge was not capable of handling a lawsuit against him—due to the judge’s religion. And the centerpiece of his campaign is building a wall on our southern border and making Mexico pay for it. He proposes to ban Muslims along with Mexicans. Trump has suggested appointing judges to turn back LGBT same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights and supports legislation discriminating against transgender people.

 

Polls show Trump and Clinton are not trustworthy in the eyes of voters. The choice between an untrustworthy and aloof Hillary Clinton and a downright racist, ignorant Donald Trump is not a good choice for me.  But it is the only choice I have. Yes, I have discounted out the third party candidates, Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

 

After eight years of President Obama, it’s difficult to realize that our only choices boil down to these two candidates.  I recall Hillary Clinton saying to her supporters who might have wanted to stay home and not vote back in 2008, “No Way, No How, No McCain” in supporting then Senator Barack Obama.  And now we’ve got to say to those voters who might want to stay home in November, 2016, Dump Trump, Ditch Trump and Drop Trump and support Hillary Clinton.  There is no other way.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines, trial lawyer, legal/political commentator and former prosecutor often appears on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, Fox 5 DC, PBS, MSNBC, NPR among others. She also writes opinion pieces for the Huffington Post, Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.

 

Hillary Clinton Can No Longer Play it Safe

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropAccording to a recent CNN poll conducted September 1- 4 of this week, Donald Trump is in the lead for the Presidential race. All other recent polls show that Hillary Clinton is in the lead and in some polls leading by a decent margin. However in politics as in sports, apparently most voters and especially the media hates a run-away game. If the game is too close to call, it becomes more exciting. CNN’s poll may be a good thing for Hillary Clinton. It shows Trump’s lead by 2 percentage points- albeit within the margin of error.  Despite the polls, most voters, myself included, are somewhat apathetic to this election.

The apparent reality is most voters, except perhaps the minority of fear mongering Trump folks, appear lethargic by this election cycle. Voter apathy is an understatement. Who the apathy curve will benefit remains to be seen. The media is trying to infuse some excitement in an otherwise dull apathetic election by constantly putting Trump on display and bringing up Clinton’s past issues with the private email server or the Clinton Foundation. Meanwhile Trump is playing by his own racist, narcissistic, misogynistic and xenophobic rules. And Clinton is playing by her own play it safe rules. Clinton unlike Trump tries to remain out of the media’s way for likely possible fear that the media will badly misquote her or do even worse harm to her election chances.

 

An election win for Trump is a scary proposition, one that could become true. November in political days is still a long way away. But what is even scarier is Hillary Clinton playing by her own old rules. Avoiding the media by refusing to give press conferences and answer questions in over 275 days and counting.

 

In politics, as in sports, one does not usually end up winning by playing it safe. In my sport of choice, football, the Super Bowl is not won by the team that plays it safe. It is usually won by the team that goes all out and plays to win at all costs and against all odds. Hillary is playing –not to lose. And there is a difference as many sports aficionados know. The one who plays it safe in a championship game is often the one who loses the game.

Hillary Clinton needs to step up her game. Unfortunately, the stakes are way too high for the country for Clinton to play it safe or by the old Clinton set of rules. Staying away from the media while Trump bombards the airwaves with mostly false propaganda is not being safe. It’s running scared. Whether one calls it running scared or playing it safe, Clinton must change her strategy.

My advice to Hillary Clinton and her team is that she must change. All this talk about change for the country and the one person who seems adverse to any change is Hillary Clinton. If Clinton is going to change, the time is now.  The best sports team as judged by sports analysts does not always win. It is not enough to be the best team or candidate. Hillary Clinton needs to be winning candidate in November.

I suggest that Hillary Clinton bring her “A” game in the remaining days. A “B” game is not good enough. The stakes for our country are way too high for Hillary Clinton to continue to play it safe.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political analyst and former prosecutor. She often appears on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, C-Span, PBS, Fox 5 DC, MSNBC among others. Her writings appear in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Huffington Post.

Colin Kaepernick Did the Right Thing

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

1397150326000-USP-NFL-NFC-Championship-San-Francisco-49ers-at-A

 

San Francisco  49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to again  sit down during the singing of the national anthem  due to his stance against this country’s unfair, unjust and racist treatment of African Americans and people of color. And in the process, a firestorm has erupted on line and off line. Many support his stance and others decry that it is unpatriotic. Some question his motives. Others say that he should do more than just a silent protest. Then there are others who say the silent protest is inappropriate.

Regardless of what persons think about Kaepernick’s actions, he has every right under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protest in the manner that he chooses. It is really a mild form of protest—except that Kaepernick is a public sports figure. And that is causing the hail storm of comments and controversy.

Kaepernick’s stance came about from his concern of police killing black people and people of color with impunity while continuing to receive a pay check. From 12 year old Tamir Rice, 17 year old Laquan McDonald, 18 year old Michael Brown, 22 year old Oscar Grant, 25 year old Freddie Gray, 43 year old Eric Garner, 50 year old Walter Scott , just to name a few, the police have no age discrimination when it comes to killing blacks. Kaepernick dared to take a stand against these actions.

For those who know history, this is not the first time that an athlete or public figure has spoken out against discrimination in the U.S. The “greatest” Muhammad Ali was vocal against racial discrimination. In the 1960’s, Ali spoke about why he wouldn’t go to Vietnam to fight for our country stating our country would not fight for his rights here in America. And over 40 years later, there is still discrimination against returning black veterans who have fought abroad for our country. Many of those veterans gave online support of Kaepernick’s actions.

At the 1968 summer Olympics, U.S. Olympians gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos raised their hands in the Black Power salute and lowered their heads in protest of racial injustice and inequality in the U.S., during the playing of the nation anthem. Both were later vilified by many at home in the U.S.

Symbolic silent protests on issues are not just made by black athletes. Recently last year, many officers of the New York City police department  stood but turned their backs on New York Mayor De Blasio as he spoke during an officer’s funeral. Some police officers felt that De Blasio disrespected them when he spoke about warning his son Dante to be wary of cops and the dangers posed by them for African Americans.  De Blasio ‘s son is biracial.  The lesson that De Blasio gave his son is one that many African Americans must teach their children daily about police.

 

In President Obama’s first term in office in September, 2009, South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson shouted out “you lie” to the president during his speech. Wilson’s response was in response to President Obama’s statement on undocumented immigrants. While the comment was distasteful, disrespectful and downright racist, Rep. Wilson has a constitutional right to protest President Obama. His protest actions against the leader of the U.S. far exceeded the present actions of Colin Kaepernick. And the House of Representatives issued a formal rebuke—albeit along party lines.

For many African Americans, the reasons behind Kaepernick’s actions come as no surprise. When then Senator Barack Obama was running for office in 2008, Michelle Obama made the statement that “for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” She was almost instantly bombarded for her comments—viewed as negative by many white individuals. Yet, for me, when she made those comments, they resonated with my feelings about our country.

And standing in the cold frigid air in January, 2009 during the first inauguration of President Obama, I felt my first sense of patriotism and pride in the U.S. that I had felt in likely decades—far longer than I can even remember. I remember clutching the small American flag given to me. That moment was a very tiny speck on my patriotic spectrum. I woke up the day after the inauguration and saw that I was in the same America that discriminates daily against African Americans and people of color.

With all the police killings against African Americans and racism and hatred spewed daily towards African Americans, including against President Obama, I support Colin Kapernick’s actions. And he did the right thing.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal/political analyst and former prosecutor. She appears on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, C-Span, Fox 5 DC, MSNBC, PBS and others.

 

 

Why Do Clinton and Trump Hate Following Rules?

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropAs many people have already discovered, this election year is like no other in recent history—perhaps ever. Both candidates seemingly hate to follow and play by the rules. I must admit that Donald Trump’s unorthodox rule hating methods make Hillary Clinton’s rule mishaps look like child’s play.

 

As a child growing up, my brother and I played just about every board game imaginable. That’s how I developed a love of games and learning. In Scrapple, we could not make up words and expect to win. This presidential election for the highest office in the U.S. has shown that practically no rules exist anymore  and words don’t matter.

Donald Trump appears to be making everything up as he goes along. Every Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon has released their tax returns. Democrats from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released their tax returns. Yet, Trump refuses to release his tax returns claiming that he is being audited by the IRS. Whether or not Trump is being audited is disputed. However, there appears no dispute that an IRS audit would not prevent him from releasing his returns.

 

And Trump along with his surrogates and national spokesperson Katrina Pierson can change history at the drop of a hat. Facts have become a thing of the past. Pierson previously said that President Obama brought the country into the Afghanistan war when in fact, it started following the September 11 attacks in 2001. Then there’s Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s surrogates who recently stated that there has not been a successful radical Islamic terrorist attack on U.S. soil before President Obama took office. Somehow, Giuliani overlooks that while he was mayor of New York City that 911 occurred in 2001. But since rules no longer matter, lies have become acceptable.

 

Trump prides himself on being the no rules, anti-establishment non-politician.   That’s why he has presumably broken all rules in making outrageous racist, xenophobic and misogynistic comments, having no policies and disputing known historical facts. All the rules are off the table for Trump.

 

And Hillary Clinton has trust issues because many Americans do not believe she plays by the rules over her decades long career. Trump makes Hillary look like an amateur in rule breaking protocol. Now Hillary Clinton does have her share of issues. For starters, unlike other candidates, she hardly ever gives press conferences. In July, I attended the joint National Association of Black Journalists (”NABJ”) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (“NAHJ”) convention. Hillary Clinton spoke and gave a press conference before the two groups. Trump was invited but declined. At the time of her appearance before the NABJ and NAHJ, Clinton had not given access to the media with a question and answer press conference in 244 days. Unfortunately, one cannot stop Trump from giving press conferences.

And then Hillary Clinton has her every ongoing Email server debacle. The recent mishap is her apparent failure to turn over some 15,000 emails for review. That’s a lot by my count. The fact that Hillary Clinton even thought it was acceptable to have her Secretary of State department emails on a private server at her New York home defies the logic of playing by the rules.

 

The failure to adhere to rules is where the similarities end with Trump and Clinton. Trump is downright dangerous. His lack of knowledge of policies, laws and the U.S. Constitution, narcissistic ways, bullying anyone and everyone, stoking racism, attacking immigrants, while pandering to Russian President Vladimir Putin puts the danger of his lack of rules in a whole other category. While Clinton may be unorthodox with rules that result in trust issues for many individuals, including myself, no one can doubt that she is qualified to be president. Trump is no more qualified to run the country than as my dear mom used to say than a man with a hole in his head.

The choice is not perfect by any means. Both Trump and Clinton dance to their own sense of rules. Clinton’s dance is easier for me to follow to the polls in November.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor. She has appeared on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, C-Span, MSNBC, Sky News among others. Her op-eds appear in the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Huffington Post.

Baltimore Police Dept. is a Micro System of Our Society

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

 

 

police-chase_mediumFollowing the Justice Department’s scathing report on the Baltimore Police department’s patterns and practices of civil rights violations and unconstitutional practices on blacks, women and the mentally ill, gender bias, inadequate training and a culture of years of profound blatant racism, there has been an outreach for ways to improve the Baltimore Police department. Improving the department will not be an easy fix after decades of malfeasance. And finding the answers will be like trying to end systemic racism in the overall society and fabric of America—only on a smaller scale.

In the fourteen months following the April 12, 2015 arrest of Freddie Gray, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) investigated the department and found the Baltimore Police intentionally discriminated against residents, used excessive force, made unconstitutional stops and arrests and targeted African Americans, youth and mentally challenged individuals. And the Baltimore Police did not limit its illegal actions to blacks but further engaged in gender bias policing when it came to investigating sexual assaults. In terms of supervision of police, DOJ found the department failed to supervise, had inadequate policies, an inadequate system to even investigate complaints against officers and engaged in retaliatory practices. In essence, the entire Baltimore police department was a dysfunctional organization that harassed and destroyed the lives of many residents, many of whom did not commit any crimes.

The Justice Department analyzed documents, spoke to police officers and Baltimore residents who had encounters from 2010- 2015. It did not review the Freddie Gray case as part of this investigation.

As a former Baltimore prosecutor, I knew of some of the patterns and practices resulting in unconstitutional arrests for failing to obey, trespassing, loitering, resisting arrest and other similar crimes.   During the time that I prosecuted, police officers were often advised that most of these charges lacked probable cause for an arrest. Yet, as I recount in a October, 2015 Washington Post Op ed, Baltimore police seemed to routinely arrest residents despite admonishments by judges and prosecutors.

 

The numbers involved in the report were staggering. Most of the illegal and unconstitutional practices involved a segment of the population involving two districts representing 11% of Baltimore’s population. Hundreds of residents were stopped 10-30 times, with no arrest. And for those who think African Americans commit crime in greater numbers than whites, the report disputed that misconception. In pedestrian stops, one male in his mid-50’s was stopped 30 times without an arrest. It was as if stopping and harassing blacks was a game or sport for police. I guess it really was for some officers.

In vehicle stops, the report found that whites twice as often had contraband versus African Americans. And in pedestrian stops, whites were 50% more likely to have contraband. Yet, of criminal cases, African Americans represented 86% of all criminal offenses although they make up 63% of the Baltimore population. And as reported previously, African Americans use drugs in the same amounts as whites. Yet, police arrested African American 5 times more.

 

In reading the DOJ report, even as a former prosecutor, I was shocked at some practices which I didn’t know existed. Police would stop individuals and ask for identification. In some cases, if no identification was found on an individual, police would detain and take the individual to police station to finger print to learn their identity. This is not Nazi Germany in the 1940’s where certain groups of people are required to have ID. Yet, the Baltimore policing, in some instances, resembled the stopping of Jews by Nazis.

 

One of the most egregious practices was that of public strip searches. I had no idea that such inhumane and barbaric treatment of individuals occurred. And it made me sick to my stomach to read in detail what some African Americans endured at the hands of police. One woman was stopped for a busted tail light. She was ordered to remove her clothes, bra, panties and given an anal cavity search, in full view of everyone watching on the street. She ultimately received a reprimand. In another instance, a teenager was ordered to remove his boxer shorts in full view of his girlfriend while the police publicly strip searched him-and found nothing. He filed a complaint. And later, when encountered by the same officer in a McDonald’s restaurant, the officer, in retaliation, required him to pull down his pants and grabbed his groin.

 

For those who think these were a few rogue police officers—think again.   If it were only a few rogue officers, the Department of Justice would not have determined a pattern and practice existed in the Baltimore police force.

And although the DOJ report analyzed police data from 2010-2015, the practices occurred over a long period of time. In Baltimore, former mayor Martin O’Malley commenced a “zero tolerance” policy in the 1990’s which many officers continued through 2015. Zero tolerance led to the illegal stopping, detaining and unlawful despicable practices outlined in the DOJ report.

All present and past Baltimore lawmakers are responsible for the broken system. The Baltimore City leadership from mayors to the police commissioners are responsible for allowing the racist, Nazi like system to exist. Baltimore paid out millions of dollars to settle many lawsuits due to unconstitutional police practices. Those settlements were authorized by the Baltimore Board of Estimates and approved by the Baltimore City Councils and Mayors.

The one hopeful reason for change is a Department of Justice consent order, once reached, will be closely monitored by a monitor, be binding on all future administrations and enforced through the federal court. I just don’t know how you prevent systemic racism in our society.

For those interested in commenting, email Community.Baltimore@usdoj.gov.

 

2013-debbie-hines-newsWashington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor. She appears on Al Jazeera, BET, C-Span, MSNBC, PBS among others speaking on justice, gender and race.

 

 

Ryan Lochte and Three U.S. Swimmers in Hot Water

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

 

 

RyanLochte

Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte filed a police report for a robbery committed on him and three other U.S. swimmers in Rio for the Olympics.  According to various accounts of the swimmers which differ,  he and the three other swimmers were robbed at gun point of their money and wallet.  But their credentials and cell phones were not taken.

 

As a former prosecutor, when I first heard the details of Ryan Lochte’s account of being robbed, it did not ring true to me.  In other words, I didn’t think it passed the smell test of being quite true.  The one thing that stuck out was his cavalier attitude about having a gun cocked to his head in a foreign country known for its crime and violence. Lochte mentioned that he refused to lay down on the ground as allegedly instructed by the gun man or gunmen.  And then after the gun was cocked to his head, he did so and was like “whatever”.   Trust me the last thing someone with any bit of intelligence would do is treat an armed robbery in a nonchalant manner.  And now the whole story appears fabricated after authorities saw  CCTV video footage of the swimmers in the gas station doing the damage, allegedly assaulting a guard and damaging a door and other property, and not the other way around. That coupled with the video of their return to Olympic village with wallets intact—and not with a robber, as Lochte claimed, presents some further issues.  Lochte says he did not lie.

 

And so yes, the Rio authorities were correct to detain the swimmers as they would any other person suspected of filing a false police report.  Lochte had already left Rio.  I don’t know about the law in Rio or Brazil but filing a false report is a crime in most U.S. jurisdictions.  It is a misdemeanor. And most people file one to cover up some other true incident—as might be the case with Lochte and fellow swimmers.

 

A Rio 2016 spokesperson defended Lochte and his teammates. “These kids tried to have fun, they tried to represent their country to the best of their abilities,” Mario Andrada told reporters. “They competed under gigantic pressure. Let’s give these kids a break. Sometimes you take actions that you later regret. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.”   At 32, Ryan Lochte is hardly a kid.  And he and his fellow cohorts should not be treated like as if they were kids pulling a prank.  If what is being reported is true, it was anything but boys will be boys. It is likely a criminal act—not a kid’s prank.

 

In contrast, if the parties involved had been African American Olympians, I dread to think of what the headlines might have read.  I am sure it would have talked about “thugs”, persons “up to no good” as said about Trayvon Martin, raised by a single mother with no father in the home, “robber” as Michael Brown was called and other nefarious statements used to describe the actions of African Americans even when they are the victims.  There has been nothing but support for the white swimmers who may have committed multiple crimes while representing the U.S. I would have liked to see some of that support for Gabby Douglas who was bashed online for not placing her hand over her heart during the National Anthem.

 

I surmise that the swimmer crew might have needed to account for their time missing in action and also possibly their lack of money-allegedly used to cover their you know whats.  Money was allegedly used to pay  for property damage and to persons to prevent the story from becoming public.  If so, that money was not well spent.

 

I do not want any American to be subjected to possible prosecution in a foreign country.  That’s a scary proposition. But I also don’t want someone who is representing the U.S. in the Olympics committing an assault, destroying property in the host country, paying money to conceal their acts and then possibly lying about it to authorities to defend what some now call a “kid’s prank.”

UPDATE: Ryan Lochte and Jimmy Feigen  have been indicted for filing a false report. Lochte denies the charges.  According to the AP, two of the swimmers have now stated the police report was a fabrication.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a  trial lawyer, legal analyst /political commentator and former Baltimore prosecutor.