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Gun Shootings Require Action From Lawmakers–Not Just Prayers

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

Two days after the midterm elections, I woke up to the news that another mass shooting occurred–this time in a supposedly safe suburban community outside of Los Angeles.  A white man opened fire in a college bar and grill restaurant killing 12 persons, including a 29 year police veteran.

On Saturday, November 3, I woke up to the news that a gun shooter killed two persons in a yoga class and wounded several others. My initial thought was we can’t even peacefully pray, meditate or practice yoga or dance in this country without the fear of being gunned down. It was just the previous week that I felt the pain of gun violence at a Pittsburgh synagogue killing seven Jewish persons. And yet, many of our powerful lawmakers act powerless in the face of tragedy.  We need more than just thoughts and prayers in these tragedies from our lawmakers.

Tragedy is what propelled Lucy McBath, a gun control advocate, to run for office. McBath appears headed to Congress from Georgia’s 6th district, once held by Newt Grinch. McBath fueled her grief over the death of her son, Jordan Davis, to running for office to end gun violence. Davis was shot down because the white killer acted out his rage against a car of African American teenagers.

I do believe one person can make a difference. And there must be a counter position to that of Donald Trump. Trump thinks that putting guns and armed individuals inside every building in America will solve the problem. A security guard and police deputy entered the shooting today.  Blaming the victims for not having armed guards in their places of worship, schools, malls and everywhere across the country is not the answer. Having more guns is not the solution to the problem. Guns in the hands of more individuals will only cause more deaths. There is a reason why many police departments across the country have gun turn in days where persons can turn in guns to the authorities without any hassle. Many law enforcement leaders know less guns on the streets equal less lives being taken.

Trump also wants Americans to accept that gun violence is a way of life that we must accept. We can’t do anything about death. We all will die. We must accept death. We can do something about gun violence.

Most people want a cure to cancer, Alzheimer’s and most other illness that often take the lives of our loved ones. We accept that cures for terrible diseases are within our reach. Gun violence is a malignancy that is affecting our way of life. And unlike cancer and other terminal diseases, there are no attempts for gun legislative cures being sought. Other countries have found a solution to the problem. Yet, “Make America Great Again” Donald Trump and most of the Republican party have thrown in the towel on fixing senseless gun violence.

Let me give our leaders and future leaders some advice. All is not lost. As a country, we can’t give up or give in to gun violence. We are a country of fixing problems. That’s what will make America great—not succumbing to apathy to gun violence and deaths from it.
First, we can take a lead from other countries where gun violence is relatively low. We can also make it difficult to quickly obtain a gun permit; increase the age requirement; and require more lengthy background checks to investigate a person’s mental stability . The assault weapons ban must be renewed outlawing those military style weapons and high capacity magazines whose sole purpose is to shoot multiple persons at a time—not intended for hunting or sports. In 2017, that bill was voted down.

Just as all cancers are not alike and require different cures, not all gun killings are alike. And there must be different legislative cures for the differences in gun violence. Mass shootings often occur with military style guns that can kill and injure many persons at a firing.

We can also vote in those politicians, like McBath, who have a passion to fix the gun violence plague. After all, any one of us might be the next victim of gun violence. The life you save may be your own.

UPDATE:  15 House Republicans with an “A” rating by the NRA lost in the midterm elections. They were replaced by Democrats who received a “F” rating by the NRA.  Lucy McBath will be joined by others in a quest to legislate for gun control to save lives.

Debbie Hines is an attorney, legal commentator and former Baltimore prosecutor.

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.

Is SCOTUS Nominee Merrick Garland the Next Clarence Thomas?

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

supcourt_buildingPresident Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in likely response to the Republican position to deny any nominee a hearing or vote.  Garland is a hard choice for Republicans to deny as he is a moderate choice who may lean conservative  on some  issues. He was confirmed on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals with only 23 Republican senators opposing. Republicans had little to say against Garland’s qualifications.  The votes against him were geared towards whether additional seats were needed on the District of Columbia court of Appeals. President Obama is playing a game of chess with Republicans in much the same way, Republicans did in nominating Clarence Thomas to fill Justice Thurgood Marshall’s seat.

 

President George H. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas in 1992 to fill the seat of retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall.  Marshall, the first African American justice to sit on the Supreme Court was known as the champion of civil rights causes—having won the landmark case of Brown versus Board of Election and ruled favorably on many civil rights cases.   Marshall sat on the court from October, 1967 until October 1991.

 

On Justice Marshall’s retirement, many Democrats and minorities wanted an African American to fill his vacating seat.  Hence President Bush selected an African American named Clarence Thomas.  Thomas’ appointment was a political move based on what was perceived to be the request by many minorities.  Of course, in light of the Anita Hill hearings then and subsequent rulings since then, Clarence Thomas sided with Justice Antonin Scalia and the conservatives on all issues, including civil rights. To say that Thomas is the antitheses to Thurgood Marshall would be an understatement.  It was almost as if the Republicans dared the Democrats to deny an African American male to seat the vacancy of Justice Marshall.

 

And in 2016, President Obama is playing a similar political game in nominating Merrick Garland to replace Justice Scalia.  President Obama, in lieu of making the bold move, to nominate an African American woman, chose instead to nominate someone that the GOP might be proud to confirm, under any other circumstances.  Except this year, the GOP wants to deny President Obama the Constitutional right to nominate and have hearings held on his Supreme Court nominee.  Republicans instead assert that in an election year, the next president should make the nomination. Despite having no legal authority whatsoever for this proposition, they are using it.  And in reverse, President Obama is playing into their game.  Perhaps, without the Republican blockade, Merrick Garland would not have ever been nominated.  Under different circumstances, maybe President Obama would have nominated an African American woman.

 

It is actually the Republicans that are in a win-win situation with Garland as the pick.  If the Republicans lose the election, they will likely change positions and Garland will be confirmed—for fear that the presumed Democratic winner will nominate a worse choice—a progressive. And if Republicans win in November, they can either nominate Garland or someone far worse.

 

But in nominating Garland to appease Republicans, the Supreme Court could be getting a companion for Clarence Thomas.  While the Clarence Thomas nomination did not backfire on the Republicans and was a slap in the face to many women and African Americans, the Garland nomination could backfire against women and African Americans.

 

Merrick Garland is not a conservative but on some issues, he is far from being progressive.  On  issues such as reproductive rights and abortion, no one knows his views. On the issue of criminal law, Garland might likely side with conservatives on some issues, as he has done in the past. As a sitting federal judge, he rarely voted in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals.  Tom Goldstein of the SCOTUS Blog writes that Garland disagreed with his more-liberal colleagues on ten cases and adopted the position that was more favorable to the government or declined to reach a question on which the majority of the court had adopted a position favorable to a defendant.  This is rare for the D.C. Circuit.  Goldman also notes that Garland has not had to decide many civil rights cases, so his views are not known in such another important area, affecting minorities.

 

In the end game, President Obama should have nominated someone without giving any deference to the Republicans.  Instead, he gave the GOP’s position weight and merit. And it neither deserved weight or any merit.  In nominating Garland, if confirmed, we may see the court swing to the right with Garland siding with Thomas and other conservatives on important issues affecting women’s rights, criminal law and civil rights. Progressives, minorities and women should be wary of Merrick Garland.

 

President Obama had the unusual position of being able to nominate three Supreme Court justices in two terms. This last time, he chose to take the path of less resistance.  He caved to the obstructionism of the Republicans. I wish President Obama had taken the bold path and nominated a progressive African American woman to sit on the Supreme Court.  He had plenty of qualified choices from which to choose. He instead decided to nominate a potential Clarence Thomas supporter.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, Supreme Court bar member, legal analyst and former prosecutor.  She is frequently seen on Al Jazeera America, BET, CBS News, MSNBC, PBS, Sky News and TV One among others.

Scalia’s Vacancy Brings Out GOP Rage

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

supcourt_buildingJustice Scalia’s death resulting in a vacancy to the Supreme Court brings out Republicans’ disregard for the U.S. Constitution.   In a letter that totally makes their position clear, the Senate Judiciary Republicans say they will not even meet to discuss President Obama’s eventual nominee to the Supreme Court—let alone hold a hearing or a vote on the nominee.  The position is despite the fact the U.S. Constitution makes clear that upon a vacancy to the high court, the President shall nominate with the advice and consent of the Senate.  The position is despite the fact there is almost eleven months until the next president will be sworn in.  This position is despite the fact there is no precedent for coming to their decision.

 

Republicans are now making up the rules as they go along—except this is not a game.  It makes a mockery of the U.S. Constitution and our laws.  And the only reason is to ensure the balance of the court does not change hands.  The Supreme Court is now divided and split 4-4 with Justices Sotomayer, Bader Ginsburg, Kagan and Breyer voting on the liberal wing and the remaining four usually voting on the conservative side of rulings.  With a split in decisions, the U.S. Supreme court will be at a stall-mate—possibly for over the next year.

 

Cases that have already been heard may end in a tie. This means the case decision from the lower court would stand. In some instances, that will bode well for liberals as in the case of redistricting. In other instances, it may mean the Texas abortion law will stand and all clinics will close.  In other instances, it may mean that cases will be reargued at the Court’s discretion.  And it will undeniably mean justice delayed might be justice denied. None of that matters to the Republicans.

 

Since the 2008 election and day one of his presidency, the sole goal of the GOP has been to make President Obama a lame duck president.  And despite their efforts, President Obama has always acted with grace under fire—making accomplishments for the American people.  And so, this time will be no different.

 

I predict that despite the efforts of the GOP, a nominee will ultimately be confirmed.  And no matter what happens, it will be a win-win for President Obama and the Democrats.  For starters,  “Democracy Awakening” protests are planned on the Nation’s Capitol  for three days—April 16-18.  The rally consists of a Rally for Democracy with protests, a “Congress of Conscience” sit-in, advocacy at the U.S. Capitol and teach-ins.  So far, attendees are coming from twelve states to call for the vacancy to be filled—as well as other measures such as curbing money in politics.

 

The rally’s attention will help to underscore the importance of the Supreme Court.  Until now, the average voter may not realize the importance of the Supreme Court.  And it just may give enough attention to many of the State Senate and Congressional races on ballots this year. There are five Senate seats necessary for the Democrats to win back and control the Senate in 2017.  The  GOP actions in stalling and attempting to subterfuge the President’s constitutional rights may result in backfiring on them.

 

No matter what the future holds, eleven months is a long time.  And I would bet that President Obama has something up his sleeves to get his nominee appointed with or without the Republians.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines, a trial lawyer and former prosecutor, is admitted to the Supreme Court.

 

 

 

 

Black History Month: A Tale of 2 Political Parties

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

RNCLuncehonOn Wednesday, I had the opportunity to celebrate Black History Month as seen through two very different lenses with events held by the Republican National Committee (“RNC”) and another one at the White House. February is a time when many organizations are hosting events to honor the accomplishments of African Americans in America. The White House event consisted of a forum given by Association for the Study of African American Life and History (“ASALH”). The RNC event was a luncheon at the historic Howard Theatre honoring the recent political black Republican wins and a tribute to former Senator Edward Brooks and co-hosted by Roland Martin. Both evoked the singing of Lift Every Voice and Sing, known as the “Negro National Anthem”. But that is where the similarities ended.

 

At the RNC Trailblazer luncheon, the honorees were Senator Tim Scott (R. SC), Congresswoman Mia Long (R. UT),  Congressman William Hurd (R. TX)and the legendary Senator Edward Brooke who recently passed in January, 2015. RNC Chair Reince Priebus touted successes with numbers of blacks voting for various Republican candidates in swing states during the 2014 midterm elections and increasing the Party’s number of blacks, while honestly acknowledging that it will take a lot more  time to increase black participation in the GOP.  During Chairman Priebus’ comments about increased percentages  of blacks voting for GOP candidates, I thought about the various GOP inspired voter ID laws that make it more difficult for minorities to vote.  Reconciling tough voter ID laws with wanting to increase black civic participation is an oxymoron.

 

 

The primary emphasis was on GOP trailblazers such as recently elected black officials in the Republican Party. Missing from the speeches was the policies and bills that the Republican Party intends to introduce that will make a difference to African Americans and people of color.   Congresswoman Love made it a point to express that blacks need to remove themselves from dependency on people in power—presumably meaning the government.  At the beginning of the RNC program, Veterans were asked to stand up while everyone applauded them.  During Love’s remarks, I couldn’t but help think about some Veterans who are homeless, those Vets in need of medical care when Veterans Hospitals are over run with long waiting periods, those Veterans in need of job training who are unemployed and underemployed and how to reconcile the GOP’s position of not having the federal government help those individuals.   There are segments of our society that need government assistance—whether Veterans, who have bravely served our country but suffer from PTSD and other physical, mental and emotional illnesses, unemployed Veterans, homeless Veterans, the working poor, those who are working 1-2 full time jobs and still can’t make ends meet, and unfortunately many others in our society.

 

 

And I wanted to hear how each of the honorees intends to make a difference in America and particularly to African Americans.  I wanted to hear about the GOP’s game plan for moving our country forward, particularly African Americans.  In other words, now that the Republicans control both Houses, I wanted to hear what the GOP intends to do with its newly earned leadership in Congress and the Senate.  Black History Month is a time to discuss African Americans’ accomplishments, including the history of election of black Republicans. It is also a time to discuss the future and moving the country forward for African Americans.  I wanted to hear how the Republican Party intends to move the country forward—and in particular the black electorate that it now is pursuing.

 

In contrast to the RNC Trailblazer luncheon, the White House and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (“ASALH”) event held in honor of Black History Month discussed detailed accomplishments by the Obama Administration in the areas of health care, criminal justice, education and women in making a difference in the lives of African Americans.  The speakers were:

LaVonne Neal, Ph.D. – The Administration’s Legacy on Education

Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D. – The Administration’s Legacy on Women and Gender

Jeffrey Ogbar, Ph.D. – Progress on the Problem of Mass Incarceration

Judy Lubin, Ph.D. – The Historic Importance of the Affordable Health Care Act

BlackHistoryMonthWH

Putting the accomplishments in perspective, the speakers discussed past history and the specific changes that the Obama Administration has accomplished.  From Affordable Health Care which has lowered the amount of uninsured African Americans and making health care more affordable to decreasing drug sentencing which unfairly sentenced blacks at higher rates, the White House event gave specific data as to how the lives of African Americans have improved under the Obama Administration.

 

With Republicans still trying to dismantle health care under the Affordable Care Act, waging battles against women under abortion laws and enacting strict voter ID laws which hinder many minorities from voting, Republicans need to reassess their actions, if they meaningfully desire to increase their ranks of black Republicans.