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Monday, February 15, 2016

Antonin Scalia's passing and other issues

Antonin Scalia died recently. He was an originalist (or a textualist). He was a well-known conservative who was involved in gutting the Voting Rights Act and saying controversial plus racist statements against black people too. His legacy is set in stone as allowing Bush to be President in 2000, supporting Citizens United (which created corporate personhood and expanded corporate influence of elections) and he was an arch reactionary. He is notorious for his misogyny and he even was a friend of his ideological opponents like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Scalia opposed the right of Guantanamo prisoners to habeas corpus, or the right to petition for judicial review of their detention. When the Supreme Court narrowly permitted some form of judicial review for Guantanamo cases, Scalia denounced the majority as traitors, whose decision “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” Scalia supported the death penalty even for 14 year old children. I disagree with his judicial philosophy. I do realize that his friends and family are experiencing grief over his passing. Likewise, the fight for justice isn’t over. The Republican debate in South Carolina was contentious and heated. Candidates in the debate called each other a liar, a bully, a liberal, etc. It was a debate where the candidates honestly told each other how they felt about each other. Donald Trump criticized the Iraq War and said that the Bush administration lied about weapons of mass destruction. Jeb Bush was angry and said that his brother created a security apparatus that protected America. The obvious truth is that Bush used 9/11 to promote the deceptive Iraq War under false pretexts. Jeb Bush has also attacked Medicaid expansion too. Trump wants to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants from America and build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border which is extremist and fascist. All of the candidates agreed that they support Scalia’s views and they want no new judicial nominee to replace him until a new President is elected. President Obama wants to nominate a new judicial candidate during his term. The President has the legal right to nominate a new justice. The Scalia issue is the one issue that all of the candidates agreed upon. Rubio and Cruz debated each other on immigration in fighting on who is the more rightwing on immigration. Rubio accused Cruz of being a liar and Cruz talked to him in Spanish. Rubio is wrong to assume that the Constitution is not a living breathing document as the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment existed beyond the first 10 Amendments. Dr. Ben Carson complained about the moderates not asking him enough questions. Kasich wanted the candidates to stop fighting each other.  None of the candidates on the Republican side advocate the increase of the minimum wage to a living wage which will help the economy.

No one can understand the history of Detroit without understanding World War II. America came into World War II officially by the end of 1941. World War II brought tremendous changes to the city. From 1942 to 1945, production of commercial automobiles in the city ceased. Its factories during that time period were used instead to create M5 tanks, jeeps, and B-24 bombers for the Allies. A headquarters for wartime production was located in the Guardian Building. Detroit made a huge contribution to the Allied war effort. That is why Detroit during WWII was nicknamed “America’s Arsenal of Democracy.” The B-24 Liberator was the most produced bomber in history. It was used to bomb Germany heavily. Before the war, the aviation industry could produce, optimally, one such plane a day at an aircraft plant. By 1943, Ford’s plants managed to produce one B-24 an hour at a peak of 600 per month in 24-hour shifts. Many pilots slept on cots waiting for takeoff as the B-24 rolled off the assembly line at Ford’s Willow Run facility. Racial tensions grew rapidly during World War II as high paying jobs brought in tens of thousands of families, despite severe housing shortages. One historian of Detroit's Poles said that they saw black people as "threatening their jobs, homes, communities, and churches." Of course, that is total, bold faced lie as black people were fighting for survival and justice in racist American society. An August 1942 Life article, "Detroit is Dynamite", discussed in detail the city's labor and race issues, stating that "the news from Detroit is bad this summer ... The result is a morale situation which is perhaps the worst in the U.S." Because of the city's importance to the war effort, the article was censored from copies of the magazine sold outside North America. The June 1943 race riot in Detroit came about between white people and black people. Both groups of people fought it out in street fights, etc. It started in Belle Isle.  From 1941 to 1943, 400,000 people migrated into Detroit (both African Americans and European Americans). They were competing for jobs in housing in a crowded city. They also competed against immigrants from other places. By the 1920’s, the Klan was prominent in Detroit. The racist, white supremacist organization called the Black Legion was active in Detroit and in the Midwest.  48 members were convicted of numerous murders and attempted murder in 1936 and 1937, ending its run. A high percentage of Southern born residents lived in Detroit during the 1940’s. The NAACP identified as causes of the riot as part of the longstanding problems in the city of housing and job discrimination, lack of minority representation in the police, and police brutality. It lasted for 3 days. By the time it was over 24 black people and 9 whites were killed. 433 people were wounded. There was destroyed property costing $2 million. The U.S. Army was called in to restore order in Detroit.

The movie Bridge of Spies is about the events of the Cold War. It was directed by Steven Spielberg. The story was about the arrest of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in New York City in June 1957 and his subsequent exchange for U-2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers some five years later. The lawyer, who represented Abel in court, was the lawyer James Donovan. James Donovan was played by the actor Tom Hanks. The spy trade would come in early 1962. The film’s script was co-written by British playwright Mark Charman and American filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen. The film is based partly on Donovan’s 1964 memoir “Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Abel and Francis Gary Powers.” The movie begins in 1957 during the peak of the Cold War. Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), under surveillance by the FBI, goes about his business in Brooklyn, which includes amateur painting and retrieving hidden messages. FBI agents raid his apartment—quite illegally as a matter of fact, as they have no search warrant or “probable cause.” James Donovan was a prominent New York attorney whom was defending a life insurance company against a legitimate claim. He is called on by the local bar association to represent Abel. Donovan is hesitant about it first, because he said that his law days are far behind him. Yet, he represents Abel since he believes that Abel was unlawfully arrested and he feels a sense of duty. “Everyone will hate me, but at least I’ll lose,” he quips. Donovan is selected in part because of his role in the Nuremberg war crime trials, where he served as an associate prosecutor on the staff of Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, and as general counsel to the OSS (forerunner of the CIA) during World War II. He sees Abel as a very intelligent human being.  In his memoir, the lawyer wrote that the Soviet agent “was an extraordinary individual, brilliant and with the consuming intellectual thirst of every lifetime scholar. He was hungry for companionship and the trading of thoughts.” Donovan was Abel’s only visitor during his imprisonment of almost five years.  Abel is calm, collected and highly intelligent. When Donovan notes that “You don’t seem terribly alarmed,” the Soviet spy replies, “Would it help?” This line will recur several times. Donovan views Abel (who worked with Soviet Intelligence in 1927. Her survived the purges of the 1930’s and he refused to cooperate with the FBI) not as Ethel and Julius Rosenberg (who were executed a few years earlier as authorities accused them of being Soviet spies. People debate on the Rosenbergs' innocence or guilt to this very day). Donovan (who was a well connected person to Wall Street and the intelligence community) said that he or Abel is not an U.S. citizen, but just an honorable “soldier” working for his homeland of the Soviet Union. During this time, the CIA created the U-2 spy plan. A group of former Air Force pilots have brought in to fly the aircraft like Gary Powers (played by Austin Stowell). The U-2 flies at high attitudes, CIA officials explain, and takes pictures with it large format cameras. The pilots are instructed to go down with their planes and are provided with poisoned needles that will kill them instantly. In the Abel case, Donovan said that even a “communist spy” like Abel deserves due process. Yet, judge isn’t buying his argument. The judge, Mortimer Byers (played by Dakin Matthews), makes it evident in conversations with Donovan and the prosecutor that he expects and plans to facilitate a rapid conviction. He dismisses Donovan’s argument that the FBI raid was illegal and generally ensures the case goes smoothly for the government. When Donovan’s eventual appeal, on the grounds that evidence had been seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment, reaches the US Supreme Court, it is rejected in a 5-4 decision. Abel was almost sentences to death (as the first count conspiracy to transmit defense information to the Soviet Union was a capital offense), but the judge sentences the Soviet spy to decades in prison. Abel served time in an Atlanta federal penitentiary. Gary Powers in 1960 was shot down in the USSR in 1960. He was interrogated. In a Soviet courtroom, he is sentenced to three years in prison and seven years hard labor. (American officials mistakenly believed that at an altitude of 70,000 feet the U-2 would be out of range of Soviet radar and ground-to-air missiles. They were wrong on both counts. Moreover, they sent Powers on a spy run on May 1, a holiday, when there was much less air traffic than usual) The CIA becomes anxious that Powers will spill the beans. Abel is essentially railroaded to prison. As law professor Jeffrey Kahn observes, in The Case of Colonel Abel, by the time of his indictment in August 1957, “Abel had been held by federal agents in solitary confinement and total secrecy for forty-eight days, two thousand miles from the place of his initial arrest, without meaningful access to counsel, and without having appeared before any judicial officer for any reason.”  Donovan goes to Berlin to negotiate the release of Gary Powers in exchange for Abel. Donovan is successful, but there was tensions. The Soviets and the East German governments are united. Also, an American student is released by East German Stalinists. East Germans wanted to be respected as a sovereign nation. Donovan succeeded in his mission. During this time, the American establishment promoted “democratic values” overtly while carrying on imperialist goals overseas. In essence, Donovan sincerely believed in his defendants’ basic constitutional rights while remaining a Cold Warrior. The movie showed Soviet and East German officials as more negative while giving Abel a very sympathetic characterization. Today, we face torture, imperialism, and Guantanamo Bay, which is similar to the times of the Cold War. The Cold War dealt with anti-communism, the overthrow of the Czar in the 1917 Revolution, CIA war crimes, various wars, and other issues. US-Russian relations today are strained. Also, we face torture, police state actions, militarism, state violence, and violations of constitutions rights in American society today. So, the movie (whose first half is stronger than the second half as the second half goes into jingoistic American patriotism) omits the complex nature of the Cold War while it should instruct us on due process and the struggle of the fight for justice that we must fight today.

One of the most important Supreme Court decisions in history is Milliken v. Bradley. On August 18, 1970, the NAACP filed suit against Michigan state officials including Governor William Milliken. The NAACP charged Michigan of using de facto public school segregation. The original trial started in April 6, 1971 and lasted for 41 days. The NAACP argued that although schools were not officially segregated (white only), the city of Detroit and its surrounding counties had enacted policies to maintain racial segregation in schools. The NAACP also suggested a direct relationship between unfair housing practices (such as redlining) and educational segregation. District Judge Steven J. Roth held all levels of government accountable for the segregation. The Sixth Circuit Court affirmed some of the decision, withholding judgment on the relationship of housing inequality with education. The Court specified that it was the state's responsibility to integrate across the segregated metropolitan area. Later, the Governor and other accused officials appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court case took up the case on February 27, 1974. The subsequent Milliken v. Bradley decision had wide national influence. In a narrow decision, the Court found that schools were a subject of local control and that suburbs could not be forced to solve problems in the city's school district. According to Gary Orfield and Susan E. Eaton in their 1996 book Dismantling Desegregation, the "Supreme Court's failure to examine the housing underpinnings of metropolitan segregation" in Milliken made desegregation "almost impossible" in northern metropolitan areas. "Suburbs were protected from desegregation by the courts ignoring the origin of their racially segregated housing patterns." "Milliken was perhaps the greatest missed opportunity of that period," said Myron Orfield, professor of law and director of the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota. "Had that gone the other way, it would have opened the door to fixing nearly all of Detroit's current problems." John Mogk, a professor of law and an expert in urban planning at Wayne State University in Detroit said that the decision increased mass white flight to the suburbs and a decease of a tax base. Supreme Justice William O. Douglas' dissenting opinion in Miliken held that: "there is, so far as the school cases go, no constitutional difference between de facto and de jure segregation. Each school board performs state action for Fourteenth Amendment purposes when it draws the lines that confine it to a given area, when it builds schools at particular sites, or when it allocates students. The creation of the school districts in Metropolitan Detroit either maintained existing segregation or caused additional segregation. Restrictive covenants maintained by state action or inaction build black ghettos...the task of equity is to provide a unitary system for the affected area where, as here, the State washes its hands of its own creations."

By the 1990’s, the city of Detroit experienced a revival. Much of it was found in Downtown, Midtown, and New Center. One (1993) arose on the city skyline. Newer downtown residents are predominantly young professionals. The city has three casino resort hotels - MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, and Greektown Casino - with one of the larger gaming industry markets in the U.S. There were also many developments in the city too. In November 5, 1992, a black motorist named Malice Green died after struggling with the white policemen Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn during a traffic stop. The officers were later convicted and sentenced to prison. The convictions were overturned, but the officers were retried and convicted of lesser charges. Nevers struck Green in the head with his flashlight approximately 14 times during the struggle which, according to the official autopsy, resulted in his death. A subsequent report presented by experts testifying for the defense at the trial stated that Green died of heart failure, caused in part by an enlarged heart due to years of substance abuse, and aggravated by the struggle with police. Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young stated that Green was "literally murdered by police” on national television. The City of Detroit paid a civil agreement of $5.25 million to Malice Green's family. Malice Green was unarmed. This tragedy represented the continued debate about policing and community issues in America. President William J. Clinton in 1997 elevates Detroiter Charles Leroy Thomas from Distinguished Cross to Medal of Honor, citing a past policy of awarding heroic African-American soldiers lesser honors than white soldiers for similar or greater acts of heroism. Thomas receives the award posthumously for his service in World War II. Later in 1997, the Detroit Red Wings win their first Stanley Cup in 42 years. In 1999, the  Detroit Tigers play their final baseball game in classic Tiger Stadium, which had opened in 1912. The team relocated to the new Comerica Park downtown in 2000. From 1994 to 2001, under Mayor Dennis Archer, the city's credit rating rises to a solid investment grade, on the back of a bout of urban renewal (we know that historically, urban renewal has displaced black and poor communities in America).

By Timothy

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