Friday, May 1, 2009

The Teaching Assistant

Dear all:

What a week!  What with torture memos and 100 days celebrations and critiques and swine flu and Justice Souter . . . there's been a lot going on.  But luckily, your trust assistant has been keeping an eye on stories you may have missed in this maelstrom of a newsweek.

Equal Protection

The issue of disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine was revisited by Congress this week.  Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) wrote in the Hill Blog that the disparity "There is no excuse for breaking the law by using and/or selling illegal drugs.  But today we have a civil rights injustice in our drug sentencing policy between crack cocaine and powder cocaine." 

On gay rights, there is good news and bad new.  On the positive side, new polls have evidence that Americans' attitudes are shifting.  A Quinnipiac poll states a a majority of Americans favor the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.   Moreover, ABC reports that forty-nine percent of Americans favor gay marriage - an all-time high.  At the same time however, California courts have ruled that private schools can expel students on the basis of sexual orientation.

On education, Slate's Willilam Saletan has an article about why analyzing test scores by race may not be efficient or practical.

Closely related to the Ricci case, the Washington Post reports that the number of race discrimination suits filed by whites is surging.

The NYT has an editorial regarding Cuomo v. Clearing House, the case alleging that banks had engaged in discriminatory lending practices to Latinos and African-Americans.

Finally, a San Francisco civil rights institute will be named after civil rights pioneer Fre Korematsu.

Fundamental Rights

Reality Check and the ACLU critique the Obama administration's reproductive rights policies at the 100 day mark.

Secretary of State Clinton expressed the administration's views on reproductive services in U.S. aid abroad on C-SPAN.  Her comments also mention some of the domestic initiatives she undertook as First Lady on this issue, and her view of how the Bush Administration affected those initatives.

Executive Branch

The torture story remains very much alive.  If you haven't already, you must read two items.  First, over at Balkinization, Jack has a post with video and transcript of Condi Rice stating "[I]f it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture."   Second, writing on the Hill Blog, Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va), provides an impassed plea for the investigation of those who authorized the torture.  He writes, in part, " Whether it is through an independent investigation, a “Truth Commission,” a Congressional investigation, or a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice, action must be taken. As long as those who condoned and approved these despicable acts are permitted to escape the consequences, we allow our moral standing in the world to be severely compromised."

Takings Clause

The WSJ Legal Blog has an interesting analysis of the effects of the Court's 2005 Kelo decision.   The primary issue that while jurisidictions want to narrow the operation of the ruling, the breadth of the term "blight" has largely negated those efforts.

That's all for this week.  (And really - wasn't it enough?)  I'll see you next week!


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