Under a series of Supreme Court rulings we have lost the rights to protect ourselves from random searches, home invasions, warrantless wiretapping and eavesdropping and physical abuse. Police units in poor neighborhoods function as armed gangs. The pressure to meet departmental arrest quotas—the prerequisite for lavish federal aid in the “war on drugs”—results in police routinely seizing people at will and charging them with a laundry list of crimes, often without just cause. Because many of these crimes carry long mandatory sentences it is easy to intimidate defendants into “pleading out” on lesser offenses. The police and the defendants know that the collapsed court system, in which the poor get only a few minutes with a public attorney, means there is little chance the abused can challenge the system. And there is also a large pool of willing informants who, to reduce their own sentences, will tell a court anything demanded of them by the police. Chris Hedges: The Origins of Our Police State – Chris Hedges’ Columns – Truthdig
Posts Tagged ‘ supreme-court ’
Richard Reeves: A New American Rebellion – Truthdig : LOS ANGELES—As the Supreme Court debated this week over the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the 17-year-old law barring same-sex marriage, Justice Antonin Scalia noted the number of states that are permitting gays and lesbians to marry. “There has been a sea change,” he said, “between now and 1996.”
As Governor Jerry Brown has just signed the California Dream Act into law to allow illegal immigrants to receive state-financed aid for college, the United States should wake up to two mutually reinforcing realities about our broken immigration system. First, America’s failed immigration system is the flip side of a failed foreign policy. For example, Mexican officials are allowed to export their revolution to the United States by not providing a decent standard of living for its citizens who then have to come to the U.S. in search of a better future. In short, America has not insisted on good governance in Mexico. In the meantime, our country has grown from 200 million to more than 310 million in fewer than four decades . This means that states like California need to produce more jobs; protect more of the vulnerable; and build more schools, roads, and bridges. The problem is that the welfare system we have created along with a broken immigration system, is unaffordable under the demographic and economic circumstances of the twenty-first century. Supporters of the California Dream Act argue that we would not have become a global superpower without opening our doors to immigrants, that smart, self-motivated immigrants spur the innovations and create the jobs our economy needs to thrive. This may be true, but it does not tell the whole story. It is our system of government, our culture, our way of life that allowed Sonia Sotomayor to become the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court, Sergey Brin to co-found Google, Pierre Omidyar to found eBay, and Fareed Zakaria to rise to fame as a journalist and the host of a prominent TV show. There are hundreds of Sotomayors in Puerto Rico, Brins in Russia, Omidyars in Iran and Zakarias in India. One of the main reasons why they are successful in America is because of our system. Governor Brown and his allies in Sacramento should advocate an American foreign policy that reorients itself to the soft power of exporting American values and know-how so the Sotomayors, Brins, Omidyars and Zakarias in Puerto Rico, Russia, Iran and India can find success at home. A second fact lost on supporters of the California Dream Act is that global prosperity requires a new narrative on immigration and cross border migration. If we allow the poor from countries like Mexico to escape to states like California and then redistribute the Golden State’s stretched resources to take care of the needy new arrivals, we will only impoverish ourselves in the process. Global prosperity must increase if we are to address this issue seriously and therefore it is imperative that wealth be created indigenously. This is especially true for the economies of Mexico, Central and South America. We must immediately launch a Marshall Plan for our neighbors to the south, establish a micro-finance plan for those who want to go back to their home countries but need start-up capital, and create a private-public partnership plan so that jobs are created south of the U.S. border and immigrants (illegal and legal) who are living in the U.S. have the option to return to their homelands and re-build new lives for themselves. In 2009 California imported $89 billion worth of goods from China. Imagine for a moment a scenario where Californians purchased these same goods from our southern neighbors; creating a win-win situation for all involved — except the authoritarian regime in China. It is in this context of a new narrative on the soft power of exporting American values and need to create wealth south of our border that the Dream Act must be debated — and ultimately supported. Allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to attend state public universities in states like California is a good idea provided we ask these students that once they complete their studies, they return to their home countries to serve and rebuild. In the 1960s, the government of Iran established the Education Corps and Health Corps, made up of young men and women with college degrees from the U.S. who served their country by teaching reading and writing and by administering health care. This model can be duplicated across America where legions of illegal students armed with U.S. college diplomas in economics, engineering, computer science and health management fan across the globe and embed themselves in their native communities to serve and rebuild. In short, we should support the Dream Act but with one caveat: eligibility should be contingent on a willingness of students to return to their homelands and help in the economic development of their home countries. This way, an educated Salvadoran or Mexican or Ghanaian can contribute to the socio-economic situation of his or her country by taking advantage of a world-class education. Overtime, creating wealth in El Salvador, Mexico and Ghana is to everyone’s advantage, including the taxpayers of California. Rob Sobhani, Ph.D. is CEO of the Caspian Group and a graduate of Georgetown University. Read more: Rob Sobhani: America’s New Soft Power
Californiality , a statewide California blog, supports Senate Bill 914 , the California Mobile Device Privacy Act . After an overwhelming number of emails were received by Californiality in support of SB 914, this blog’s publisher made Governor Jerry Brown aware of the high level of public support for signing the bill into law. California Senate Bill 914 is the Legislature’s answer to a California Supreme Court ruling that allowed officers to search a suspect’s cellphone as an “incident to an arrest.” The Constitution states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” Cell phones, laptops, tablets and related electronic file storage devices constitute the people’s “papers” and “effects.” Californiality contacted Governor Jerry Brown in support of SB 914 for the following reasons: The bill would not prevent police from ever searching a phone or any electronic device.
This article is not about the Century City subway station. Let’s for a moment assume that birds are chirping, children are playing, the sun is shining and everyone is pleased as punch at the Century City alignment. Let’s assume the tunnel is smack dab between Santa Monica Blvd. and Constellation Blvd. and that there are portals on both of those streets. And so we leave the scene, with the happy, well-adjusted commuters, subway users, schoolchildren and surrounding residents, never more to be seen in this article. Heeding the sage advice of Horace Greeley (or the Pet Shop Boys, as the case were), let’s move one station down the line and let’s turn our attentions west to Westwood. Yes, the area that is the home of UCLA, one of our finest educational institutions and an obvious target for subway access. The station planned for the Westside extension’s Purple Line is known as the “UCLA/Westwood” station. If nothing else, the station name alone seems to indicate the station’s intentions of proudly serving the “sons — and daughters — of Westwood.” Even in the world of college rivalries, where USC is getting the benefit of the new Expo line station, this balance makes a lot of sense. From a transit policy perspective, a station at UCLA makes even more sense than that: creating a viable public transportation option to access one of the region’s most important institutions is what public transportation’s all about, isn’t it? USC gets its station, now UCLA gets its station. Let the best team win, right? Not so fast. All this would seem well and good if there were a level playing field. Let’s not forget: this isn’t the U.S. Supreme Court, where the idea of “leveling the playing field” is both taboo and anathema at the same time — as if fairness were not a basic American value. But how fair is a football game when one team is allowed, say, 30 scholarships more than the other team? And just how useful and functional is the “UCLA” station when it’s not really near UCLA? The “UCLA/Westwood” subway station is planned to be located at the intersection of Wilshire Blvd. and Westwood Blvd. The distance between Wilshire and Westwood and Pauley Pavilion, located towards the southwest part of the UCLA campus, which stretches all the way up to Sunset, is about three-quarters of a mile. It’s a major hike, and way beyond all reasonable parameters for subway access. In fact, the distance to the Veterans’ Administration campus is actually less than the walk from the proposed Metro station to Pauley Pavilion. And, by the way, the Veterans’ Administration is itself the site of the next — and, for the time being — final station of the entire extension. Is the Veterans’ Administration a bustling hub of urban activity? Does it have nearly as much activity on a daily basis as the UCLA campus? Not only will the VA be better served by the subway through its own station, it will actually be better served by the UCLA/Westwood station than UCLA itself. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, now does it? Perhaps Metro thought that the naming of the UCLA/Westwood station would solve all its problems. “Hey, we have a UCLA station. See? It says so on the sign over there.” But this “strategy” seems to be the transit equivalent of sticking an “organic — no trans-fat” label on a box of Fruity Pebbles and calling it health food. How is it possible that UCLA got so royally shafted by the subway station location without so much as a peep from the self-styled transit advocates? UCLA gets a station the better part of a mile away from the campus, while USC gets a station close to both the campus and the Coliseum. Heck, the USC campus can actually be reasonably accessed by multiple Metro stations. Where are the protests and where’s the uproar? Where is the Self-Appointed Transit Truth Squad (SATTS) when you really need them? Perhaps they’re all dyed-in-the-wool Trojans? Perhaps they’re Bruins who are so embarrassed about UCLA basketball’s decline that they want to spare fans the indignity of seeing the Trojan basketball team beat the pants off of Coach Wooden’s heirs at Pauley? Perhaps they’re afraid of offending Metro CEO Art Leahy? Despite degrees from both institutions, Art Leahy hardly seems divided when it comes to his own loyalties. As LA Streetsblog wrote in an interview with him: “When entering Metro CEO Art Leahy’s office, you can’t help but notice that he’s a sports fan and a native Angeleno. His wall is decorated with USC football paraphernalia… When staff that happened to graduate from UCLA are in the room, they get ribbed.” Perhaps the location of the station the ultimate way to rib UCLA acolytes: “Yeah, you beat us in football in 2006, but wait’ll you Bruins get a load of where the ‘UCLA’ station is — ha ha ha!” Or maybe the station location is the ultimate payback for UCLA pranksters’ painting Tommy Trojan blue and gold. OK, I admit: that might be pushing it a bit. Of course, Art Leahy, who himself answers to the Metro board, wasn’t trying to give the Trojans yet another competitive advantage, but there aren’t really a lot of better explanations as to why the SATTS isn’t hot and bothered about the UCLA station. So what are the real reasons behind this “UCLA station that’s not a UCLA station”? Let’s begin our attempt to answer this question by stating the obvious: there is no question that a station in the middle of Westwood Village would better serve the UCLA campus and UCLA community and the Village itself, along with continuing to serve the office buildings along Wilshire. The middle of the Village would seem to have everything that Metro purports to value in a subway station, with both ridership and access to one of the most important educational institutions in the region. So why not build the station where it makes the most sense? For one, Metro is suggesting that there are construction-related issues. We’ve heard that the streets in Westwood Village are narrow and it’s difficult to find room for the construction equipment. While that may be true, we’ve also heard on numerous occasions from most of the SATTS that most potential obstacles are but small bumps in the road for Metro. We’ve heard how construction of a subway in an earthquake zone is no problemo. We’ve heard how long-term construction impacts are basically non-existent and how there is no task that Metro and modern engineering are not up to. So the streets in Westwood are narrow: big deal, big shmeal. Ever been to Rome? Or London? Or Paris? Ever seen how narrow some of the streets there are or how some of the subway stations seem to fit into the most irregular spaces? Surely, the engineers at Metro are up to the technical challenges and could figure out how to build a station in Westwood which would actually serve the needs of the UCLA campus, as well as the surrounding areas. But placing the eponymous UCLA station the better part of a mile away from UCLA isn’t just about construction or engineering challenges. One of the other reasons we’ve heard about not building a subway station with better access to UCLA in the middle of Westwood Village was that the westward extension of the subway towards the VA would necessitate tunneling under a cemetery. Again, we’ve heard from the transit crowd that “there are subway tunnels under synagogues, churches, schools, department stores, and dance studios. Heck, there’s even a subway tunnel under the Pentagon.” So why should tunneling under a cemetery preclude Metro from picking an alignment which will actually serve UCLA? Is it a safety issue? Is it a potential noise and vibration issue? We’ve heard from Metro : “Since the first segment of the subway opened in 1993, Metro has received no complaints about noise or vibration due to subway operations. Additionally, in the North Hollywood area, there are sound recording studios adjacent to current subway tunnels.” So the inhabitants of the cemetery can rest assured that their eternal rest will be disturbed by neither noise nor vibrations. And that should mean that the best station location to serve the living should be chosen. Yet flying in the face of the actual geographical location of UCLA and the demographic make-up of Westwood, a number of the transit hipsters have seriously tried to suggest that the intersection of Wilshire Blvd. and Westwood Blvd. is actually the best location for the UCLA/Westwood station. Guess they don’t actually need to access the UCLA campus or care whether the students and faculty can or can’t. It seems like they’re being protective of Metro and thinking politically rather than logically in trying to justify something that really can’t be justified. Their response is that Sepulveda line — someday, somehow — may actually come to serve the UCLA campus. But even if a Sepulveda line to the Valley is actually built someday, somehow, it won’t do much to ameliorate things. Just look at the map. They’re still going to have to tunnel under the cemetery to get anywhere close to UCLA. If they really want to, that is. Perhaps therein lies the true answer. Another “explanation” I’ve heard for not building the UCLA/Westwood station in the center of the center of Westwood Village is that “UCLA students all live on campus and don’t have cars.” Of course, even if this attempt to rationalize the station location blunder were true, then these students would be in even greater need of convenient public transportation to connect them with the rest of the city, especially considering the hundreds of thousands of hours in reduced bus service Metro is imposing upon their bus system and their riders each year. However, we read that a large number of the students who live close to the campus do, in fact, have cars. And we read that those cars create problems in parts of Westwood. As the LA Times wrote earlier this summer: “For decades, Westwood residents — many of them UCLA students — have packed their cars into driveways in such a way that they block sidewalks and spill out into the street. They argue that the makeshift, but illegal, practice is the only way to deal with a critical lack of parking around the campus and in the Westwood Village area.” The Times article reports further that solution to this widespread “apron parking,” which many in the neighborhood consider to be a nuisance, was a draconian program of relentless ticketing. Wouldn’t an accessible subway station be a better solution? As one of the students quoted in the article says, “It’s pretty impossible to get around without a car.” One would think that a convenient Metro station would encourage such students to “leave the driving to Metro.” One would think that a UCLA subway station that actually served UCLA would go a long ways towards alleviating the massive parking problems in Westwood, including those created by apron parking. One would think that a subway station that actually served ALL of Westwood would have massive benefits beyond the currently planned “Westwood adjacent” station location. One would think. But then one would actually have to think. Perhaps the greatest irony is that, in conjunction with Metro’s reduction of bus service throughout the region, we can read in Metro’s own FAQ about the Westside Subway that their advice to would-be commuters to UCLA is to “take the bus.” Writes an anonymous Metro wag on the Metro site: “There is already significant bus service in the Westwood Village area provided by Metro, Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, Culver City Municipal Bus Lines, UCLA Transit and others that provide many connections between Wilshire and the campus.” So essentially Metro is spending billions of dollars on the subway including on the so-called “UCLA/Westwood” station so that people who want to go to UCLA can… take a bus. Way to go, Metro. Why would it be unsurprising to expect the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the “UCLA/Westwood” station to be accompanied by the Trojan Marching Band playing a rousing version of “Fight On.” Metro’s TOD (transit-oriented dissing) of the entire UCLA community, including its students and faculty, could hardly be any worse. If all else fails in determining the proper location for the subway station, let’s put the UCLA/Westwood station location to the Yaroslavsky Test, that nifty transit-oriented version of the Pepsi Challenge. In the words of Metro Board member and LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, himself a UCLA grad: “Any schoolchild will tell you that the center of the circle is in the middle of the circle and not at the edge or at the tangent.” Presumably Yaroslavsky’s circle statement also applies to UCLA students and grads, notwithstanding the fact that USC now for the second year in a row has topped UCLA in the U.S. News and World Report ‘s college rankings. And the center is… (Drum roll, please). And so, yes, even according to the rigorous and sophisticated standards of the Yaroslavsky Test, the UCLA/Westwood station should be located in the middle of Westwood Village; in fact, it must be located in the middle of Westwood Village; to be sure, it can only be located in the middle of Westwood Village. Or to use the words of Century City Chamber of Commerce honcho Susan Bursk: “”[When it comes to the location of a subway station], we have one opportunity to get this right.” Metro, are you listening? Or are you only able to hear the stirring tones of Alfred Newman’s “Conquest” from “The Captain from Castille,” as you make the “V for Victory” sign with your right hand, bending your arm forwards and backwards to the music’s relentless rhythm? As much as I delight in the cardinal and gold, perhaps for the sake of transit sanity, we can prevail upon Dr. Bartner to take his band downtown to Metro headquarters. Dr. Bartner, could we please — please — ask you to play “Sons of Westwood”? For the sake of the region. Just this once? See more here: John Mirisch: Fight on for UCLA: Rejecting a Westwood-Adjacent Subway Station