What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Libby and Cheney Won’t Testify, Says the Defense
By NEIL A. LEWIS and SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 — Lawyers defending I. Lewis Libby Jr. against perjury charges surprised the courtroom on Tuesday by saying that they would rest their case this week and do so without putting on the stand either Mr. Libby or Vice President Dick Cheney.
Mr. Libby was Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff.
The decision means that Mr. Libby’s defense, which will formally end on Wednesday, will have spanned barely three days. Mr. Libby’s chief defense lawyer, Theodore V. Wells Jr., told Judge Reggie B. Walton that Mr. Libby had accepted the defense team’s recommendation to end their presentation swiftly and send the case to the jury by next week.
The decision could be viewed as a sign that Mr. Libby’s lawyers are confident that the prosecution failed to make its case.
Mr. Wells had earlier signaled strongly that he intended to call Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney to testify, which suggests that the defense team recently analyzed the costs and benefits of putting them on the stand and concluded that their testimony would not, on balance, help Mr. Libby.
One likely factor in that calculation is that putting Mr. Libby on the stand would expose him to a cross-examination by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the chief prosecutor, that could be withering. Mr. Fitzgerald complained that the defense had engaged in a “bait and switch” tactic by keeping Mr. Libby off the stand after repeatedly suggesting that he would testify.
Mr. Cheney’s testimony, which was much anticipated, would have set a precedent as the first appearance of a sitting vice president as a witness at a criminal trial. It was also expected to bolster a major part of Mr. Libby’s defense: that he was so consumed by the crush of high-stakes issues like global terrorism and Iraq that he might not have remembered all the details of his conversations.
But the trial threw up numerous instances in which Mr. Cheney took a personal role in managing the White House response to accusations from Joseph C. Wilson IV, a prominent critic of the Iraq war, that the evidence for going to war had been knowingly overstated. Mr. Cheney could have been exposed during cross-examination to uncomfortable questions about his close involvement in trying to undermine Mr. Wilson’s criticisms.
Mr. Wilson also said the identity of his wife as a Central Intelligence Agency operative was purposely leaked to the press in retaliation for his criticism. Mr. Libby is charged with lying to a grand jury and to F.B.I. agents investigating that leak.
The jury is expected to hear final arguments from both sides beginning next Tuesday.
Although the jury will not hear Mr. Libby in person, during the trial, prosecutors played eight hours of audiotapes in which Mr. Fitzgerald questioned him before the grand jury. The jury heard Mr. Libby giving his version calmly in the first two-thirds of the tapes and then seeming to become uneasy and less confident as Mr. Fitzgerald bore in.
Prosecutors have said Mr. Libby learned of the identity of Mr. Wilson’s wife, Valerie Wilson, from fellow administration officials in the summer of 2003 and discussed her with reporters. Mr. Libby swore that he had not discussed Ms. Wilson with reporters and believed that he had learned about her in a conversation on July 10 or 11 with Tim Russert of NBC News.
Judith Miller, formerly of The New York Times, and Matthew Cooper, formerly of Time magazine, testified for the prosecution that Mr. Libby had discussed Ms. Wilson with them. Mr. Russert testified that he never discussed Ms. Wilson with Mr. Libby.
The defense has argued that the three reporters have remembered their conversations incorrectly. And, if Mr. Libby testified incorrectly, it was because his memory was faulty because of the press of official business.
Mr. Libby’s lawyers were able to glean what would have been some of the benefits of Mr. Cheney’s testimony through another witness on Tuesday.
The witness, John Hannah, a former deputy to Mr. Libby who is now a national security adviser to Mr. Cheney, took the jurors on a tour of Mr. Libby’s concerns in the summer of 2003, including the Iraq war, Islamic extremists’ threat of a biological attack, Iranian and North Korean nuclear capabilities and diplomatic crises with Liberia and Turkey.
In Mr. Hannah’s account, Mr. Libby had barely time to draw an extra breath, starting with an early morning C. I. A. briefing “that covers the waterfront of the world.”
Mr. Hannah also provided testimony for another defense argument when he said Mr. Libby had a notoriously bad memory. “On certain things, Scooter just had an awful memory,” he said, using Mr. Libby’s nickname.
He said that on occasion Mr. Libby would tell him some idea in the afternoon, having forgotten that he, Mr. Hannah, had given him the idea in the morning. Mr. Libby, sitting at the defense table, laughed. Mr. Hannah said in response to a question from a juror — an unusual procedure used by Judge Walton — that Mr. Libby had a good memory for ideas and concepts.
Although Mr. Hannah testified for the defense for nearly two hours, the prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, seemed to cut down much of the significance of his testimony in five minutes of cross-examination. Noting that Mr. Hannah had testified that he could usually have a few minutes alone with Mr. Libby only in the evening after the crush of business, Mr. Fitzgerald suggested that Mr. Libby would have devoted time only to matters of great concern to him in the week of July 6, 2003.
“If he gave something an hour or two that week, it would be something Mr. Libby thought was important, right?” asked Mr. Fitzgerald.
“Well, with regard to me, yes,” Mr. Hannah replied.
Left unsaid in the exchange was undisputed testimony that Mr. Libby spent nearly two hours on Tuesday, July 8, with Ms. Miller, then a Times reporter. Ms. Miller has testified that Mr. Libby told her in detail about Ms. Wilson at the meeting. Mr. Libby acknowledged meeting Ms. Miller to counter Mr. Wilson’s accusations, but said he did not discuss Ms. Wilson.
Underlying Mr. Hannah’s testimony was a fierce legal battle between the defense team and prosecutors over how much the jury should be told of Mr. Libby’s busy schedule now that he is not going to testify. One of his lawyers, John Cline, said, “We want to show he was caught in a tornado of information.”
Judge Walton ruled that without Mr. Libby’s live testimony he would not allow Mr. Wells to argue in his closing that the issue of Ms. Wilson was far less important than the national security issues on his agenda.
“I’ve said that relative importance is not going to be an issue on the table if Mr. Libby doesn’t testify,” he said.
Jill Abramson, managing editor of The New York Times, testified earlier on Tuesday that she could not remember a conversation with Ms. Miller after the July 8 meeting with Mr. Libby. Ms. Miller had testified earlier in the trial that she had suggested to Ms. Abramson that day that The Times assign someone to look into the role of the Wilsons.
Ms. Abramson, who was on the witness stand for less than five minutes, said, “It’s possible I occasionally tuned her out,” but said she had no recollection of the conversation.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
So Far, Obama Can’t Take Black Vote for Granted
WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 — He is hailed by his supporters as the hope of an increasingly multicultural nation, a political phenomenon who can wow white voters while carrying the aspirations of African-Americans all the way to the White House.
So why are some black voters so uneasy about Senator Barack Obama?
The black author and essayist Debra J. Dickerson recently declared that “Obama isn’t black” in an American racial context. Some polls suggest that Mr. Obama trails one of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the battle for African-American support.
And at the Shepherd Park Barber Shop here, where the hair clippers hummed and the television blared, Calvin Lanier summed up the simmering ambivalence. Mr. Lanier pointed to Mr. Obama’s heritage — he is the American-born son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas — and the fact that he did not embody the experiences of most African-Americans whose ancestors endured slavery, segregation and the bitter struggle for civil rights.
“When you think of a president, you think of an American,” said Mr. Lanier, a 58-year-old barber who is still considering whether to support Mr. Obama. “We’ve been taught that a president should come from right here, born, raised, bred, fed in America. To go outside and bring somebody in from another nationality, now that doesn’t feel right to some people.”
On Wednesday, the question of race took center stage in the presidential campaign because of remarks that Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, made about Mr. Obama. Mr. Biden characterized Mr. Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” and then spent the day — his first as an official presidential candidate, explaining and apologizing for his remarks.
But among many blacks, the awkward and painful debate about race, immigrant heritage and the presidency has been bubbling for months.
Mr. Obama certainly has prominent black supporters and many shake their heads with exasperation at such talk about a man they see as the first African-American with a real shot at the presidency.
His supporters say his background only enhances his appeal as someone who has addressed the concerns of black Americans as a community organizer in Chicago, a state legislator in Illinois and a senator in Washington.
“He has a track record for being concerned about people who are poor, and it seems to be genuine,” said Carol M. Swain, a black professor of political science at Vanderbilt University who has written about black politics. “Not only do I think that black Americans will embrace Barack Obama, but I think they will do it with enthusiasm.”
Indeed, many pollsters and analysts believe Mr. Obama’s life story of growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia with his mother and his maternal grandparents and of his struggle to define his own racial identity will resonate with voters across ethnic and color lines.
But while many whites embrace Mr. Obama’s melting pot background, it remains profoundly unsettling for some blacks who argue that he is distant from the struggles and cultural identities of most black Americans. The black columnist Stanley Crouch has said, “When black Americans refer to Obama as ‘one of us,’ I do not know what they are talking about.”
Ms. Dickerson echoed that sentiment.
“I’ve got nothing but love for the brother, but we don’t have anything in common,” said Ms. Dickerson, who wrote recently about Mr. Obama in Salon, the online magazine. “His father was African. His mother was a white woman. He grew up with white grandparents.
“Now, I’m willing to adopt him,” Ms. Dickerson continued. “He married black. He acts black. But there’s a lot of distance between black Africans and African-Americans.”
Mr. Obama’s strategists are keenly aware of the gap and are trying to address it. On Martin Luther King’s Birthday, he spoke at a scholarship breakfast alongside the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Mr. Jackson introduced him by saying, a “new president is in the house.”
Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, who is an African-American, were also on the February cover of Ebony.
Mr. Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton, both former black presidential candidates, have declined to formally endorse Mr. Obama so far.
But Julian Bond, the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has described him as “tremendously appealing.” Several black Democrats in Congress, including Representatives John Lewis, the civil rights pioneer from Georgia; Jesse L. Jackson Jr. of Illinois, the son of Jesse Jackson, and Artur Davis of Alabama, have supported his presidential bid.
His supporters, who note that he carried the black vote in his Senate race, say they are unperturbed by a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll that found that 20 percent of black voters surveyed supported Mr. Obama while 60 percent supported Mrs. Clinton. The survey had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus nine percentage points.
Emil Jones Jr., the president of the Illinois state senate and one of Mr. Obama’s early mentors, says he is frustrated by black voters who question Mr. Obama’s Kenyan heritage. As a state legislator, Mr. Obama had the support of voters in his district, which is 67 percent black.
“He doesn’t share the same kind of background as most African-Americans, but he’s addressed those issues that related to underprivileged communities throughout Illinois,” said Mr. Jones, who is black.
Mr. Obama describes himself as an African-American, and as a young man, he has said, he yearned to be accepted by black Americans.
Mr. Obama declined to be interviewed, but in his memoir, published in 1995, he acknowledged being dogged by “the constant, crippling fear that I didn’t belong somehow, that unless I dodged and hid and pretended to be something I wasn’t, I would forever remain an outsider, with the rest of the world, black and white, always standing in judgment.”
Still, Mr. Biden’s remarks this week only heightened concerns among some blacks who believe that Mr. Obama, as the son of a black Kenyan, is more politically palatable to white voters because he is viewed as less confrontational and less focused on redress for past racial injustices than many black Americans descended from slaves. In that context, he resembles the last black man deemed to be a powerful presidential contender, Colin L. Powell, who flirted with a White House bid in 1995.
Discussing his appeal to white voters at the time, Mr. Powell, the light-skinned son of Jamaican parents, noted that he spoke English well and was not confrontational. He concluded by saying, “I ain’t that black.”
Philip Kasinitz, a sociologist at the City University Graduate Center, said such a description might as easily apply to Mr. Obama. “He’s identifiably black, but in many ways he’s outside of normal race relations,” said Mr. Kasinitz, who has studied black immigrants in New York City politics. “He’s a black politician for whom whites don’t have to feel guilty.”
Ronald Walters, who advised Mr. Jackson’s presidential campaigns, said Mr. Obama’s campaign “evokes something which is very much in vogue, this notion of diversity that is not rooted in a compensatory concept.”
“He’s going to have to win over some African-Americans,” said Mr. Walters, who is black and heads the African-American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland. “They have a right to be somewhat suspicious of people who come into the country and don’t share their experience.”
In the 1990s, the number of blacks with recent roots in sub-Saharan Africa nearly tripled while the number of blacks with origins in the Caribbean grew by more than 60 percent, according to the State University of New York at Albany. By 2000, foreign-born blacks constituted 30 percent of the blacks in New York City and 28 percent of the blacks in Boston, according to demographers at Queens College.
Several leaders of the civil rights era had immigrant roots, including Stokely Carmichael, who was born in Trinidad; and Shirley Chisholm, the former presidential candidate and the first black woman to be elected to Congress. Her father was born in Guyana and her mother in Barbados.
Donna Brazile, who ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign, said she believed that Mr. Obama could woo black voters.
“Barack will tell us that we don’t have to go back to being just a white America or a black America, that we can now become something else, together,” said Ms. Brazile, who is unaffiliated with any presidential candidate.
“That’s the promise of his campaign,” she said, “and his challenge.”
Sabrina Pacifici contributed research for this article.
Monday, January 29th, 2007
Herman Badillo is a hero for our time.
Badillo, born in Puerto Rico and raised in the Bronx, has impeccable credentials - he's been a congressman, a borough president, a deputy mayor of New York and chairman of the board of the City University of New York. He has not only been around the block, he has been in the neighborhoods and has thought long and hard about the various obstacles to those minorities presently given to accepting low levels of performance as "normal" or "cultural." He knows enough about human beings to recognize that once their value system includes and celebrates high academic achievement, most of the problems disappear.
One of the things that has held minorities back is that many have lost sight of the value of the high standards that provide success in this country.
The result was that too many people have begun to see actual shortcomings as "cultural" styles that have to be defended against racism. Not being able to read, for instance, or not being able to speak English are not "cultural choices"; they are examples of an impermanent condition that can be cured by instruction.
Badillo, in his new book, "One Nation, One Standard," shows he is well aware of the fact that minority students from the Middle East and Asia don't rebel against high standards of academic performance; they go about mastering them, which is the only explanation when it is obvious that the same level of performance is seen in black and Latino students who do the same thing.
At one point, there was even a discussion in America of "black English," as though it was a cultural choice and not a lack of mastering the language.
Arguments about cultural relativity did not serve black and Latino students well, nor did so many special programs that did not live up to the ultimate job, which is educating children so well that they can make career choices rather than have to settle for what little their skills can do for them in the workplace.
The liberals who secretly did not believe that black and Latino students were capable of rising to the challenge chose to remove as many challenges as possible in the interest of "fairness," while the world of work moved along as it always had, not hiring them. It was never recognized that being trapped in the world of the poor because one is barely educated is a lot harder on the individual than putting in long hours of study when necessary.
Badillo recognizes the problems and rightly believes that Latinos and the nation at large will benefit from the imposition of high standards and the removal of the lower standards that express more condescension than any kind of actual regard for student potential.
In a period when public education is so slippery with snake oil, it is inspiring to read the words of someone who is not afraid to stand up to a self-serving and incompetent vision that sabotages black and Latino students.
Badillo knows that an inferior education is the equivalent of offering a pat on the back with hands that have razor blades between the fingers.
The little cuts are disguised by the backslapping but, in the long run, the wounds will result in one career corpse after another. Herman Badillo is trying to shed a light on the situation. He is a hero for our time.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
How Should We Interpret Biden's Comments About Obama?
Since he made this statement, blogs have been buzzing. And key media personalities have requested that the Senator and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee clarify what he meant. (watch his response on YouTube.)
This scenario reminds me of that Geico commercial, the one in which the caveman sits across from the therapist who asks him why the company slogan "So easy a caveman can do it" is so offensive to him. Rather than answer the question, the caveman responds with a question of his own: "How would you feel if it said 'So easy a therapist can do it?' To this, the therapist cocks her head and confidently responds, "Well that wouldn't make sense." "Why," asks the caveman, "because therapists are smart?" In the Geico slogan "so easy a caveman can do it" the offensive subtext is obviously "...and as you know, cavemen aren't smart."
It seems to me that Biden's comment plays on the prevailing stereotypes about African-American males: that they are unintelligent, inarticulate, dirty/corrupt/criminal, and unattractive. The subtext of his comment becomes "...and you know those people are unintelligent, inarticulate, dirty/corrupt/criminal, unattractive." If we understand this, then we understand the context for his next comment, which is "It's a storybook, man."
When it comes to race, and comments about race, people are either so quick to defend, or attack, that we end up blind to what lies before our very eyes. But, what if we took Biden's comment out of a racial context? What if we pretended just for one moment that he had instead said, "I mean, you got the first mainstream woman who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking gal?” How would this comment have come across then? My guess would be major controversy about whether or not Senator Joe Biden is a chauvinist woman-hater and therefore, whether or not he is fit for the presidential role.
But Biden was referring to Obama's race. That's not my opinion; here's a direct quote: "...you got the first mainstream African-American..."
And because he targeted race in such a derisive manner (Are we really to believe that never before Obama has there been an "articulate," "bright," "clean," and "nice-looking" African-American in the mainstream eye?), I believe he invited the resulting controversy.
Still, some bloggers have written that they see no harm in his comments, explaining either that this says more about "Biden's tendency to run his mouth off, I think, than it is some indication of latent racism (written by Greg Tinti on The Political Pit Bull)," or, enlightening us all by clarifying that what the Senator really meant to say can only be understood if you add the context words he left out: specifically “presidential candidate....And I presume by “clean” he means “clean-cut” rather than “bathes regularly.” (written by James Joyner on Outside the Beltway)."
And still other bloggers, while acknowledging the arrogance and ignorance of Biden's comments, are taking this opportunity to slam Democrats for making a faux pas on a subject they usually attack Republicans for: "Maybe Biden has been hanging around Robert Byrd for a little too long...Anyway, it’s nice to see the Democrats come out and show you what they really think of minorities in this country. They always bring up race as an issue, and now you know why (See "And the Left Say WE'RE Racists?")."
But let's not forget: Biden is no stranger to controversy. He was a candidate for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, but according to USA Today, withdrew from the race in 1987 amid accusations that he had plagiarized passages in his speeches. In addition, his earlier comments about not being able to go into a 7-eleven or Dunkin Donuts without an Indian Accent (CBS News) also managed to ruffle more than a few feathers.
What's your opinion? Were Biden's comments about Obama appropriate?...Participate in our forum poll.