|From The Editor
I was editing a story last month where court administrative director Steve Jahr was quoted supporting the abandonment of his own agency's name.
It was the director unbound. I did not know he was so quotable.
His comments highlighted the absurdity that surrounds many policy decisions recommended by a coterie of officials from the Administrative Office of the Courts and pushed past judges on the Judicial Council.
"Retiring the name AOC will produce a perceptual change, or perhaps a cultural change," he told the council. "Yet under the substantive law, it makes no change at all."
It could be this, or it could be that, but really, it is nothing at all.
I told the article's author, Maria Dinzeo, that we should quote the director more regularly. She said she had never heard him speak with such freedom.
Indeed, something had changed.
The director's ability to speak outside the jargon and double-talk of his bureaucracy was a flashing sign that he was already outside of it. A couple days later, his retirement was announced.
While the Administrative Office of the Courts no longer exists, its officials, its offices, its policies remain. They are now referred to as the staff of the Judicial Council.
At first impression, I considered the gambit just another move in the game of hide-and-seek the administrative officials have played in the past.
Years ago, when I first began delving into the Cheshire Cat body of bureaucrats behind the disastrous software project called the Court Case Management System, I wanted to understand what made the system tick -- what allowed them to dominate the administration of trial courts that adopted CCMS, how they acquired the arrogance to try and take the power to hire the court clerk away from the presiding judge, how they succeeded in putting information systems in the hands of the clerks by rule, and why the result of such hubris was a trashing of press access.
At the time, I asked officials who on paper worked for the Judicial Council what was the difference between working for the administrative office and working for the council. The response was that they all worked for the same person, then-director William Vickrey. He was the "boss."
So I figured the council was under the boss, was the boss's puppet.
That impression was confirmed two summers ago when the council decided to put a hold on the software project that had racked up nearly a half-billion dollars in expense. The very next council session, the staff came back and said there was no hold, and the project was going ahead.
The obvious conclusion was that a vote by the council meant nothing, unless the staff agreed. Indeed, it meant the staff members could override the council, as they had just done.
Coming back to the present, what difference would it make if the staff changed its name from the AOC to the staff of the Judicial Council. They would still run the show.
So I was surprised at the reaction in the Legislature, which was clearly favorable. In addition, judges who have been strong critics of the administrative office agreed with the abandonment of the name and the idea of a separate administrative office.
Maybe, just maybe, the name change was more than a sleight of hand, more than a mere matter of perception.
In that case, what might the future hold?
First, the council would be held responsible for hundreds of bureaucrats and the ideas they come up with. That accountability would in turn lead to scrutiny of the how the council works and how the committees, many of them now theoretically open to the press, decide on matters to push up to the council.
That scrutiny in turn would lead to questions about how the council is selected and that in turn would lead to the real and only source of power in the whole set-up, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who picks the council members, leads council deliberations and ultimately directs the staff.
That focus could well lead to a better understanding of how the council works and an assignment of responsibility for the results.
Undocumented immigration to the United States is at a 40-year low, according to Border Patrol statistics.
The only immigration "crisis" our country faces today is that it's an election year, and congressional Republicans find it easier to beat up and lie about helpless and downtrodden people than it is to do their job, and actually try to help our nation.
In the past five years (fiscal years 2009-2013), the Border Patrol has arrested 2.1 million undocumented immigrants, an average of 429,046 a year. The last time the Border Patrol's 5-year arrest average was that low was in 1969-1973.
Here are annual Border Patrol arrests, averaged over 5-year periods, for the past 35 years. All the numbers come from the Border Patrol. (I know the agency has a new name now, but it still refers to itself as the Border Patrol, in its own documents.)
You can see the enormous drop in undocumented immigration in the past 5 years: just 36 percent of the average of the previous quarter century.
Yet Border Patrol staffing has more than doubled in less than a decade, from 10,819 in 2004 to 21,391 in 2013. And the 2004 staffing was more than twice its staffing in 1995.
The last time undocumented immigration has been this low was in the 5 years from 1969-73, when arrests averaged 396,495 a year.
So why the national uproar about an immigration "crisis"?
Well, I've already told you why, but let's look at the Republicans' proposed "solutions."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said this week that he's going to send 1,000 National Guardsmen to the Mexican border, to round up them immigrants - and send Washington the bill.
President Obama, suckered with the rest of the country into believing that there's an immigration crisis, asked Congress for $3.7 billion to speed up deportations.
And Congress, sensitive as always to its own vile urges, refused: preferring to keep the phony crisis in the news rather than to help suffering people, or admit the truth.
Look, there is a humanitarian crisis in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the closest U.S. port of entry to Central America.
The crisis is that tens of thousands of traumatized children are coming to the United States, some with their mothers, some all alone, because of murderous violence from drug gangs and their own governments in Central America.
Suffering children are always news.
Suffering children need help.
It does not help suffering children to turn them into political ping-pong balls, to stir up hatred against them with calculated lies, to accuse them of bringing "diseases" into the United States, or of trying to "take our jobs," though child labor is illegal here.
Honduras, the murder capital of the world, averages 82 homicides a year per 100,000 people: that's 6,600 murders a year, in a country of 8 million.
El Salvador, the world's second most-murderous country, averages 66 homicides per 100,000, according to United Nations figures.
To put this in perspective, the murder rate in South Sudan is 13.9 per 100,000.
In the United States, the average is 4.8.
Speeding up deportations of these children, which President Obama has proposed as a "solution" to this catastrophe, will not relieve suffering.
Gov. Perry's insane bluster will not help.
These children do not resist arrest. Tracking them down and arresting them is not our problem. Figuring out what to do with them is our problem. The Texas National Guard can't help us with that.
Some day, if political honesty becomes legal again in the United States, today's brouhaha over a nonexistent immigration crisis will be seen as what it is: a national disgrace. A vile, pathetic, brutal, dishonest response to the suffering of thousands of children.
(CNS news editor Robert Kahn is the author of "Other People's Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decade.")
|From The Courts
I once applied for a job at a 7-Eleven.
It was the only job interview I've ever had that included a lie detector test.
Security clearance is vital when you're being considered for a sensitive position.
The experience made me a lifelong skeptic about lie detector tests. The contraption made me so nervous that apparently I was lying about my own name.
I got hired anyway.
Maybe they didn't care what my name was.
I bring this up because a lawsuit was filed recently in Los Angeles Federal Court that surprisingly (to me, anyway) confirmed a racial stereotype.
It seems that people from South Asia do indeed run a lot of convenience stores. There is truth to the world of "The Simpsons."
Limousine liberal that I am - well, actually, compact car liberal - I always assumed this guy-from-India running a 7-Eleven store thing was just racist mythology.
But when a group called FOAGLA, Inc., which represents more than 1,200 California 7-Eleven franchisees, files a federal lawsuit claiming that all of its members are affected by a corporate policy discriminating against South Asian franchise owners, you have to admit there may be some truth to the stereotype.
The software engineer/spelling bee champion thing is probably true too. I'm not sure why we haven't seen convenience stores with web design and proofreading aisles.
In case you missed the news story , the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles was epic. It contained sentences such as this one: "Once a validation of the uniquely American franchise model, 7-Eleven is now a modern validation of historian John Dalberg-Acton's warning that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Morgan Freeman should do the audiobook version of this thing.
If true, it is a dramatic tale.
Indians and Pakistanis make 7-Eleven a success only to see a Japanese company buy out the company.
The Japanese then hire a bunch of West Point grads "with a cold, predatory and militaristic approach to business" as corporate hitmen to, allegedly, manufacture reasons to cancel franchises belonging to South Asians so the franchises can be resold - over and over again.
I won't go into the details, but one sentence did catch my eye: "7-Eleven knowingly violated its franchisees' rights to privacy with a surveillance program arguably more sophisticated and invasive than ever deployed in the franchise industry."
I guess they wouldn't hire me today if I didn't get my name right.
Advise your clients not to shoplift at 7-Eleven.
Let it Begin: What would happen if the entire Supreme Court had to recuse itself?
I don't know the answer to this question. If any of you do, let me know.
Since I don't know the answer, I'll do what comes naturally - make a suggestion.
Before I do that, let me explain why I've been thinking about this. The U.S. Supreme Court got a tad of criticism lately after it unanimously ruled that a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics was an infringement of free speech.
This seemed hypocritical to critics who noted that the Supreme Court has an even larger buffer zone around its own building.
But is it hypocritical?
It may just be that no one has thought to sue the Supreme Court over this issue.
This concept inevitably leads to the question of entire Supreme Court recusal. There's definitely a conflict of interest there and the court can't appoint replacements either because, well, they have a conflict of interest.
The obvious solution is to let Joe Biden decide.
Then let the constitutional crisis begin.