Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Socio-Legal Dimensions of COVID19 Pandemic (Video Colloquium)

The Washburn Law faculty produced a 55 minute faculty colloquium on the sociol-legal dimensions of the COVID19 pandemic.  This is a helpful resource to share with law students and members of the general public eager to learn more about these issues.
 
 
 
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Kudos to Dean Carla Pratt and her faculty for organizing such a speedy and timely resource.  Hopefully, other law faculty will consider producing their own video content applying their expertise toward analyzing the myriad legal and policy implications of the COVID19 global pandemic
 
 

March 31, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 23, 2020

ONLINE SYMPOSIUM: Inequality of Wealth, Race, and Class; Equality of Opportunity by University of St. Thomas on 3/27 via Zoom

The students at Univ. of St. Thomas (Minn), rather than cancelling their symposium, are holding it on Zoom.
 
St. Thomas (MN)
 
Please consider attending! 
 
Inequality of Wealth, Race, and Class; Equality of Opportunity
Mar 27, 2020
8:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)
 
Housing Panel 9:30am -11:00am
Tax Panel 11:00am -12:30pm
Social Mobility 1:30pm - 3:00pm
Poverty: Urban and Rural 3:00pm - 4:30pm
 
Please click the link below to join the webinar: https://stthomas.zoom.us/j/531167739
 
Or iPhone one-tap : US: +16468769923,,531167739# or +13126266799,,531167739#
Or Telephone: Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
 
US: +1 646 876 9923 or
+1 312 626 6799 or
+1 301 715 8592 or
+1 346 248 7799 or
+1 669 900 6833 or
+1 253 215 8782 or
877 853 5247 (Toll Free)
Webinar ID: 531 167 739
 
International numbers available: https://stthomas.zoom.us/u/acbZLbLLvz
 
More information available here. Thank you to Professor Diane Klein for sharing these details via Facebook.

March 23, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Welcoming Collaboration from Business Orgs/Corps Profs

Cross-posting from The Faculty Lounge:

Bridget Crawford (Pace) and I are both teaching from the new textbook by Lisa Fairfax (GW), Business Organizations: An Integrated Approach (Foundation Press 2020).  We are in the process of planning to pool resources to create video resources for students.  We welcome collaborators who would like to develop a library of materials that students could use (e.g., pre-recorded lectures of professors discussing cases, etc.).

If anyone else is teaching from Professor Fairfax's book and would like to join forces with Professor Crawford and me, please contact her at bcrawford at law dot pace dot edu. 

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March 15, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Daddy at War (Guest blog by Prof. Craig Jackson)

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I was in a squat position in a trench with bombs exploding all around me.  I was safe.  I had my military issue weapon, and my daddy next to me.  He was the sergeant of the platoon.  He yelled his orders and we rose out of the trench toward the Jerrys weapons blasting and grey German uniformed soldiers falling to the left and right of us.  I pulled a grenade out of my pocket, pulled the pin, and threw it at the German bunker from where the sniper fire came, and—a direct hit, an explosion, and silence.  We had won the battle.  Daddy picked me up and we celebrated with milk and cookies.  

Two days later we retook a German occupied French city.  This time I’m in a tank.  Dad is driving.  During the battle I was in charge of the big gun.  I directed it toward the German Panzer tanks in the way.  Me along with the other gunners hit four that day, opening a pathway for the troops to charge toward the German regulars, take prisoners, and liberate Paris.  In celebration, the French, famous for their good milk, cookies and ice cream, allowed me to eat and drink my fill for several days.  

I don’t remember anything after that, and I remember these stories from my Dad’s recollections of the war—World War II.  Though I was born in 1955, I was told that I was in the war with him and fought along side of him.  I was four during these re-tellings and couldn’t do the math.  We re-enacted those battles in our yard in North Beaumont Texas.  Dad said I would remember them if we played war.  I believed him then and still do.  In a way.  

These were the 1950s and war play was common for little boys at the time and it was before the psychological theories and child raising methods that took over our collective consciousness a decade later which rendered that kind of child raising passe’—though Dr. (not Mr.) Spock’s theories were beginning to circulate when I was hurling grenades at the Germans in 1959.  

Later when my frontal lobes developed a bit more I did the math and realized that the stories were fables.   But I was immersed in war stories, war movies, overhearing conversations with his Prairie View college buddies who also went to the war, with his brother who was injured in the Pacific.  He dragged my mother and me to the South Park Drive In theater to watch the film “The Longest Day” where the non-combatant movie war hero John Wayne stormed the very same Normandy beaches that my father stormed just under two decades earlier.  Didn’t much care for the film.  A few years later when the film “The Battle of the Bulge” was released, he and I went—mom was becoming a little resistant to the war film genre and declined the invitation to attend.  I was nine and liked the action.  From the time I was seven, Tuesdays at 6:30, when prime time began in those days, was reserved for the ABC series “Combat!” with Vic Morrow.  I even remember the final episode of the series when Morrow’s Sgt. Saunders’ arms were burned severely after being captured by Germans, who perished in an Allied bomb attack out of which Saunders was the only survivor.  Crazed from the pain, he wandered through what I believe were the outskirts of Paris before being rescued by American troops who told him that the war was over.  

These war experiences initiated conversations between me and Daddy about the war, at a time when I was older, skeptical, yet still curious in my hero worship of my father.  I learned that he was in Prairie View A and M’s “Corps” before the war, and after Pearl Harbor, the Corps, what we would call ROTC today, was called up.  He spent time in England where English families “adopted” American troops stationed there in 1944 for Sunday dinner and occasional breaks from training (he had pictures of him and his “family”). Later in high school and college, we discussed the long wait for the invasion of the European continent everyone in the world knew was coming, but no one knew from where and to where. He never conveyed fear in these conversations, just told the stories.  Then came the invasion.  Not a lot of details shared about that from him.  I once asked him how many Germans did he kill.  I remember getting antagonistic saying that he did not know, and reminded me that those soldiers were young men with families too.  The rest of the stories as far as I remember included an episode where he was bunked down in a Belgian barn with his mates when a rat scurried into his sleeping bag.  Or when he admitted to smoking some marijuana that somebody scored over there during a long wait for orders and the effect that it had on him such that he said he never smoked the stuff, what he called reefer, ever again.  

The only grim stories that he told were about his group of tank soldiers getting wiped out during a battle which found him jumping out of his tank after it was hit and diving head first into a ditch right when a piece of bomb shrapnel sheared his thigh producing a scar that he kept for the rest of his life.  He spent time in a military hospital, and was approved for duty, and spent the rest of the war in the Red Ball Express ferrying gasoline to the front line for the war operations.  Many members of the Express died horribly in explosions in that effort.  He would become quiet telling these stories.  I recall a few occasions when he changed the subject to football, another one his favorite topics.  

All of the stories, including the fables which included pre-natal me as a combatant, were about the Negro Army.  It was the largest of the two segregated armies during the war, the other being the Japanese American unit in Italy.  Both the black and Japanese American soldiers were of that part of the United States Army known as the Buffalo Soldiers, a name retained from the famed black frontier unit of the 19th century, and was later disbanded after President Truman’s executive order desegregating the military.   The Army apparently couldn’t figure out any other place to put the Japanese American soldiers whose families were in internment camps back home. They became the most decorated soldiers of the war for their fighting in Italy against the remnants of the Italian and the reinforced German armies.  

After a pre-teen childhood of taking in the atrocities of the white reaction in the South to the Civil Rights movement I moved from patriotic Boy Scout, to cynical Black Panther admiring 13 year old.  I recall a moment at a professional football game that I attended with my father, when I pulled a Kaepernick, about 30 years before he was born, and declined to stand for the national anthem.  He was upset, angry or furious might be better words.  But I didn’t stand.  We did not speak during the game.  Later, after a furious yelling match in the car, I explained that I never saw black soldiers in all those (I wanted to say damned, but this was 1969) war films that he took me to and that he might give consideration to not standing himself.  Just file that one in the asshole kid file.  

Driving from Houston to Beaumont, a journey of 90 minutes, there was silence.  I don’t recall how long the silence continued, but knowing him, it lasted at least through most of the next day.  Mom probably told me to talk to him and apologize, which I probably did, and that was that.  What I did not acknowledge in that moment of adolescent arrogance was the fact that he was antiwar, ranting and raving constantly about the Vietnam War as he worried about my draft eligibility barely half a decade away.  It was a pacifism that was made clear to me 22 years later as I, armed with a masters degree from Johns Hopkins in international affairs, tried to explain to him, perhaps arrogantly again, the strategic importance of getting Iraq out of Kuwait and how the impending Gulf War was necessary for national security.  He essentially told me to shut up.  He had seen war.  I hadn’t.  Then he hung up.

From these experiences I developed a fascination with the Second World War, the European Theater in particular.  I have read books on the war, Eisenhower, the battles, more books about Hitler and the Weimar Republic than I care to admit.  I’ve even read Mean Kampf to understand Hitler’s mind, to no avail.  As historians began to recognize the black soldiers, airmen, and sailors during the war, I picked up as much of those writings as I could, a task I continue to this day. I have an insatiable appetite for that war, because my dad was in it.  And because my dad was in it, I avoid certain treatments of the war in cinema or literature of the “heroic warrior” genre if they only depict white soldiers.  I admit to seeing “Saving Private Ryan” because it was sold as being the first realistic depiction of the horrors of the Normandy landing, and it sure was.  And that Spielberg film sure was white.  Clearly his work on “The Color Purple” and “Amistad” did not have any effect of self-reflection of the type George Lucas experienced after the all white first Star Wars caused him to correct his mistake by making his next films truly diverse.  To the contrary, Spielberg insensitive to diversity, did not include any black soldiers in his film. Yet, they were there in the mud and blood of western France.   

So last month I sat glued to my television watching “Apocalypse:  The Second World War” a French documentary from 2009, on Hulu.  It was an amazing documentary about the war no doubt from a European standpoint (with the Pacific war relegated to occasional mentions throughout six episode mini-series). It was dubbed in English and narrated by Martin Sheen for American audiences.  Exhaustive in detail, some might forgive the French film documentarians for not delving more into the racial history of the United States, whose entry became the centerpiece of the second half of the documentary, because, I suppose, they are French.  But the French are supposed to know better, or at least that was the reputation portrayed by black American artists, writers, and jazz musicians of the 50s and 60s in self-imposed exile there describing a race culture that black revolutionaries in French occupied Africa might not recognize.  But I digress.  

The documentary’s history, for a devotee of that war as I am, was fascinating, well told, and displayed with a cinematic intensity of which it is not hard to find oneself transfixed on the story for several episodes before realizing that one has other things to do on a particular day.  But when the documentary told the story of German war prisoners being taken away from Europe so as not to repeat the mistake of the French of holding captured German pilots in territory that would be taken by the Wermacht during the collapse of the French Army, allowing those prisoners to resume battle against the Allies, the narration noted that many prisoners taken by the Americans were taken to farms in the US South to replace black farm hands that had been drafted.  

That was it.  Yep, that was it.  The only mention.  

This goes unnoticed by those not affected by such omissions.  Count me as one so affected.  The previous stories not withstanding, the one thing that affected me more than anything else was what my mother told me after my father died in 1991.  He would awaken from nightmares frequently in their young marriage which began in 1948 screaming curses at the Germans (I think she recalled him saying something along the lines of get off me you Jerrys.  I imagine it was more profane than that, but, as a southern woman of her generation, a more graphic description would not be uttered to her son).  The nightmares apparently lessened over the years, her nights of consoling and massaging his shoulder to lull him back to sleep lessening as well until they finally abated sometime in the early 80s according to Mom.  I never knew.  Her story gave me pause.  Made me sad.  Made me angry.  

And then it occurred to me that my normal father, loving father, community leader father, Boy Scout loving father, stand for your flag father, had been going to war movies, watching “Combat!”, and playing war with his toddler kid as part of an unconscious attempt to treat PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder.  He was never diagnosed, and I am not psychologist. And as far as I can tell, never had any other symptoms like rage, drinking, somberness, and the like.  And after all, he just might have been a war film buff, and an amateur historian of the Greatest War (a branding that his father a WWI veteran frequently disputed).  But the nightmares that my mother revealed to me have seared my amateur diagnosis in my consciousness.  He dealt with it, or whatever it was, as best as he could.  Like that entire generation did.  

He took courses at the Sorbonne in Paris, thanks to a grateful French public, where he was stationed after the fall of Berlin waiting for orders to load up and go to the Pacific to take part in the invasion of Japan.  Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed those orders and after declining an offer to steal some military supplies and sell them on the black market (he was 22) and stay in Paris to live the good life, a temptation offered by a black gangster he knew in the army, he went home, marched in the colored troops parade in Harlem, and stayed there working at the post office and going to clubs at night.  Of all the fantastic tales he would tell me, the one about meeting a gangster named Malcolm Little, known as Detroit Red (who would become Malcolm X) was one I am not sure about.  But it could have happened, because Harlem was like that, filled with disaffected black vets, many from the South, whose disaffected white counterparts are depicted in the film noir movies of the post war era.  Finally after declining an order from his father to come home to Texas, he was “kidnapped” by some college friends and fellow WWII vets sent to New York by Granddaddy to bring him home.  He resumed his college on the GI Bill, played out his final year of eligibility on the Prairie View Panthers football team, student taught in Palestine Texas in pursuit of a teaching certificate so that he could make a living, slugged a white man manhandling a black woman on a bus there, was picked up later by the Klan and taken to a barn outside of town, told he was one of them smart-assed niggers from the war (a true statement), was rescued by the local sheriff (in one of history’s few instances of law enforcement coming to the rescue of a black person at that time), left town, got his degree, worked on his masters, did research on the sly at Rice Institute at the invitation of a secretly progressive biology professor there, received his biology masters, got a teaching job in Beaumont, met and married my mother, and a few years later I was born.  

His is one of those fascinating stories not part of the nations recounting of its history.  Barely in history, and only recently in cinema.  Spike Lee’s 2008 Miracle at St. Anna (about a black unit in Italy), the George Lucas film The Tuskegee Airmen, and a few other treatments just doesn’t fix this.  

At least it doesn’t for me.  

 

 

March 5, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Can Joe Biden “Keep Hope Alive”?: Reflections From Barack Obama’s and Jesse Jackson’s Democratic Primary Campaigns

Today will be a day of reckoning for Joe Biden.  Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic primary revived Biden’s presidential candidacy, and after this Super Tuesday’s primaries, he will find out if it can thrive again.  Although Biden was long the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic nomination, he finished far behind Bernie Sanders in the first three nomination contests—the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, and the Nevada caucuses.  Sanders also recently took the lead in national polls and in many state polls, and many people essentially wrote off Biden’s candidacy.  But Biden’s resounding victory in South Carolina—where he bested Sanders by 28.5 points and won all 46 counties—brought back what the media portrayed as a dying campaign.   Biden now has momentum going into today’s primaries, where 14 more states will vote on the Democratic nominee for President.

Biden can especially thank one group of voters for his revival: African Americans.  Black voters comprised almost two-thirds of Democrats who voted in the South Carolina primary.  According to exits polls, 61 percent of Black voters choose Biden, compared to only 17 percent who voted for Sanders [1].  Throughout the campaign, Biden has led national polls of Black voters.  Of course, African Americans are not a monolith, and there are nuances to Biden’s Black support.  For example, he fares best with older Black voters; younger voters of all racial backgrounds prefer Sanders [2].  But Biden has openly touted African Americans as his core constituency, and he is relying heavily on the Black vote to carry him to the Democratic presidential nomination.

Not even Barack Obama depended as much on Black voters to win the nomination.  In 2008, Obama’s initial support came largely from White voters.  Early in the 2008 Democratic nomination season, Obama trailed Hillary Clinton by a large margin among Black and White voters.  Obama did not obtain a significant percentage of the Black vote until he proved he could win over White voters in Iowa.  This propelled him to victories in South Carolina, Georgia, and other states with proportionately large Black populations.  Eventually, Obama garnered much Black support, and as the prospect of the first Black President rose and excited voters, his candidacy also drove up Black voter turnout.  But Obama did not start out with much support from Black voters: he had to earn it.

Conversely, Biden led comfortably among Black voters at the very start of his campaign.  He was a well-known political entity in Black communities, and his long history working with prominent Black politicians—particularly his loyal service as Obama’s Vice President—gave him a footing that Obama did not have.  Many people also felt that Biden, as an established White male politician with a reputation for decency, was the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump.  Unlike Obama, Biden relied on Black voters as his base from the outset. 

Even after Obama began winning over Black voters in 2008, he was not just reliant on the Black vote.  Although he won Southern states with the highest percentages of Black voters, some of Obama’s largest margins of victory came in very White states: Maine, Idaho, Alaska, Vermont, and Nebraska.  Additionally, Hillary Clinton won Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California—states that have significant proportions of Black voters, although less than the Southern states [3].  Clinton also prevailed in states such as Arizona and New Mexico, which have small Black populations but large Latina/o populations.  But Obama’s Democratic primary victories came not just states with the highest percentages of African Americans, but also in some of those with the highest percentages of White Americans [4]. 

Like Obama in 2008, Biden’s chances look good in Southern states with large proportions of Black voters.  But with Sanders’s recent rise, Biden’s prospects in other states are poorer.  Biden’s Democratic primary electoral map may actually wind up looking less like Obama’s and more like the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s unsuccessful run in 1988.  Jackson’s bid is remembered for his captivating “Keep Hope Alive” speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention.  But he was also a solid contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.  He won Democratic primaries in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Virginia, and Delaware.  Nevertheless, Jackson finished second to Michael Dukakis for the 1988 nomination, because Dukakis won many states with higher percentages of White voters [5].  Jackson thus became the last Democratic primary candidate who won the party’s Black vote but not its nomination [6].

Ironically, Biden was one of Jackson’s rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988.  Now, Biden’s 2020 campaign could suffer the same fate as Jackson’s did in 1988.  Current polling suggests that Biden could win the Black vote nationally but still lose the nomination to Bernie Sanders, due to the latter’s support from White and Latina/o voters.  Biden’s campaign is trying increase support from White voters.  On the eve of Super Tuesday, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Beto O’Rourke all endorsed Biden and encouraged their mostly White supporters to vote for him [7].  Biden may thus try to rebuild the Obama coalition, but he would have to do it backwards—starting with Black voters.

But there is also no guarantee that African Americans will continue to vote for Biden in the same numbers they did in South Carolina.  Multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg did not compete in South Carolina but will be competing in Super Tuesday states.  Bloomberg has targeted Black voters in those states and could reduce Biden’s share of the Black vote.  Biden has limited resources the Super Tuesday states, and he has not campaigned in them as much.  He will also not get the same boost from Representative James Clyburn’s endorsement, which carried huge weight in South Carolina.

Nevertheless, even beyond winning specific states, the Biden campaign’s overall strategy is heavily reliant on Black voters in other ways.  Delegates to the Democratic National Convention are awarded not only by statewide victories, but also by victories in Congressional districts within each state.  Rather than just focusing on winning entire states, Biden’s campaign is targeting predominantly Black Congressional districts.  In this way, Biden will try to win as many delegates as possible on the strength of his support from Black voters, even if these voters are in relatively White states.

If Joe Biden wins the Democratic nomination, it will be because Black voters allowed him to “keep hope alive.”  Throughout the Democratic primary, Black voters as a whole have continued to support him over other candidates, including Kamala Harris and Cory Booker [8].  Biden has highlighted his long record of working for Black communities [9], and he has promised that he will not take the Black vote for granted.  Although he has made some bad policy choices [10], along with some verbal gaffes, many Black voters have remained solidly behind Biden.  The question now is whether this will continue.  We will find out soon, beginning tonight. 

Notes:

[1]  Biden also prevailed over Sanders for the White vote in South Carolina, 33 percent to 23 percent.  However, Sanders leads nationally among White voters.

[2]  Among Black voters over 65, Biden beat Sanders 78 percent to 9 percent.  But among Black voters under 30, Sanders won 38 percent, compared to 36 percent for Biden.

[3]  Clinton won some Southern states: Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

[4] Why did Obama win some of the very Whitest states?  There are different explanations: for example, Obama won every state with caucuses, where enthusiastic organizers can have a larger impact, and these included several of the Whitest states.  But racism may have also played a subtle role.  Perhaps if the percentage of White voters is very high, the prospect of electing a Black candidate did not feel as threatening.  It is known that “White flight” does not begin in a neighborhood until about 8 percent of the neighborhood’s residents are Black.  Obama may have beaten Clinton in states where: 1. The percentage of Black people itself was high enough to carry him to victory; or 2. The percentage of White people was high enough that they could feel comfortable voting for a non-threatening, “articulate” Black candidate.

[5]  Besides Southern states, Jackson did prevail in the Michigan and Alaska Democratic contests.  The latter could make for an interesting trivia question, because Obama also won in Alaska. 

[6]  Although his platform raised a number of important economic and social issues, White voters saw Jackson mainly as a candidate for pushing Black issues and interests.  America was less also diverse in 1988, and because of Jackson’s history of fighting for civil rights, some White people may have felt threatened by him.

[7]  However, Biden’s explicit appeals to Black voters, such as his commitment to appointing a Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, could further turn off moderate and conservative White Democrats.  Biden’s White male privilege will allow him to get away with explicit appeals to Black voters more than Obama or Jackson could, but this could still be an issue for Biden.

[8]  Like Obama’s 2008 campaign, Biden’s 2020 bid illustrates that Black voters do not simply line up and vote for Black candidates.  Their voting choices are much more nuanced.

[9]  Many commentators do not realize that over 20 percent of Delaware’s population is BlackWilmington, Delaware’s largest city and Biden’s home, is a majority Black city and had an even greater percentage of Black residents during Biden’s time as a Senator.  Thus, Biden has spent significant time campaigning for Black votes and working for Black communities for five decades.

[10]  The media has also misconstrued Biden’s positions on some issues, most notably busing.  See Vinay Harpalani, “Serving Two Masters” Revisited: Derrick Bell, Joe Biden, and the Paradox of Busing, Race and the Law Prof Blog, July 4, 2019.

March 3, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)