Thursday, November 29, 2007

Plus ca change. . . . .

From the Times:

The Constitution protects individuals against unreasonable searches, but for this protection to have practical meaning, the courts must enforce it. This week, the Supreme Court let stand a disturbing ruling out of California that allows law enforcement to barge into people’s homes without a warrant. The case has not prompted much outrage, perhaps because the people whose privacy is being invaded are welfare recipients, but it is a serious setback for the privacy rights of all Americans.

San Diego County’s district attorney has a program called Project 100% that is intended to reduce welfare fraud. Applicants for welfare benefits are visited by law enforcement agents, who show up unannounced and examine the family’s home, including the insides of cabinets and closets. Applicants who refuse to let the agents in are generally denied benefits.

The program does not meet the standards set out by the Fourth Amendment. For a search to be reasonable, there generally must be some kind of individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. These searches are done in the homes of people who have merely applied for welfare and have done nothing to arouse suspicion.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, rejected a challenge brought by welfare recipients. In ruling that the program does not violate the Constitution, the majority made the bizarre assertion that the home visits are not “searches.”

The Supreme Court has long held that when the government intrudes on a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy, it is a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. It is a fun-house mirrors version of constitutional analysis for a court to say that government agents are not conducting a search when they show up unannounced in a person’s home and rifle through her bedroom dresser.

Judge Harry Pregerson, writing for himself and six other Ninth Circuit judges who voted to reconsider the case, got it right. The majority decision upholding Project 100%, Judge Pregerson wrote, “strikes an unprecedented blow at the core of Fourth Amendment protections.” These dissenters rightly dismissed the majority’s assertion that the home visits were voluntary, noting that welfare applicants were not told they could withhold consent, and that they risked dire consequences if they resisted.

The dissenting judges called the case “an assault on the poor,” which it is. It would be a mistake, however, to take consolation in the fact that only poor people’s privacy rights were at stake. When the government is allowed to show up unannounced without a warrant and search people’s homes, it is bad news for all of us.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Interesting Things to Attend

Studying the Political and Social Attitudes

of Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals”

Thursday, November 29, 2007 6 - 8 PM

Hunter College

West Building, Faculty/Staff Dining Room – 8th Floor

East 68th Street and Lexington Avenue

NYAAPOR hosts an evening session on new research on discrimination and the health of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals (LGB) – as well as plans for a new study of the political attitudes of LGB populations.

Kenneth Sherrill, presenter, is Professor of Political Science at Hunter College, CUNY and has been doing public opinion research for over 40 years. He has published articles journals such as Public Opinion Quarterly, Comparative Politics, Journalism Quarterly, and PS: Political Science and Politics as well as being the author of Power, Policy, and Participation (Harper and Row) and Gays and the Military (Princeton University Press). In addition, Sherrill has consulted with media on public opinion, voting, and elections since 1968.

Patrick Egan, presenter, is Assistant Professor of Politics at New York University. He specializes in public opinion, public policy, and their relationship in the context of American politics. Egan's current research focuses on how legislators exploit their parties' expertise on particular issues to take positions that are unresponsive to their constituents' opinions; how lesbians and gays acquire partisanship and political views; and how Supreme Court decisions on controversial issues affect public opinion.

Ilan Meyer, presenter, is Associate Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences and Deputy Chair for MPH Programs at the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. His areas of research include stress and illness in minority populations – particularly the relationship of minority status, minority identity, prejudice and discrimination and mental health outcomes in sexual minorities and the intersection of minority stressors related to sexual orientation, race/ethnicity and gender. His model of minority stress is often used in studies of health in lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (LGB) and his studies have been quoted as evidence in briefs to several court cases advocating for gay rights.

Murray Edelman, moderator, is a consultant with CBS News and Seton Hall University, as well as a consultant and Distinguished Scholar at Rutgers University. He was given the NYAAPOR Outstanding Achievement Award in 2005 and has been president of National AAPOR as well as the New York Chapter.

This event is free to NYAAPOR members and student members as well as to Hunter faculty, students, and staff; $20 for non-members.

No refunds (but you can send someone in your place)

Register for the event at: (212) 684-0542,, or


Monday, November 26


A panel on vacant property, housing policy, and homelessness

Time: 12 – 3pm (includes lunch reception)

Organized by Picture the Homeless and the Charles H. Revson Fellowship

Location: Columbia University, Faculty House (Enter through the gate on 116th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive)

Price: FREE

There are enough potential apartments in vacant buildings and lots in Manhattan alone to house every homeless person on the streets and in the shelters citywide. Yet municipal housing policy has no unified strategy to address this massive dilemma, and existing initiatives focus on developing expensive housing that accelerates gentrification. Join us to learn about new strategies to develop joint solutions to issues of housing, homelessness, job creation, and systemic change.

Featured speakers include:

· Prof. Peter Marcuse, Columbia University

· Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition

· Leaders of the Housing Campaign at Picture the Homeless

Introduction by Sudhir Venkatesh, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Charles H. Revson Fellowship Program and the Center for Urban Research and Policy, Columbia University

For more information, call Sam J. Miller at 646-314-6423 or email

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

More of Interest?

Washington Heights and Inwood Council on Aging
Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University
JPAC / JASA (Joint Public Affairs Committee for Older Adults)
Isabella Geriatric Center

Gentrification, Housing and Us

Thursday November 29th, 2007

8:15 – 11:45 AM

515 Audubon Avenue, at West 190 Street

Keynote Speaker:
Harold M. Shultz
Senior Fellow

Nelson Peralta
Columbia University Medical Center

Kenneth Rosenfeld
Director of Legal Services
Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation

George Sanchez
Executive Director
Washington Heights B.I.D.

Reid Curry
City College Architectural Center, City College of New York

Ethan Cohen

Breakfast will be served.

RSVP Required or 212-960-0801

Perhaps of Interest

Family Support, Foster Care and the Future of a Billion-dollar System

A Child Welfare Watch Forum

Wednesday, December 5, 2007, 8:30 am to 11 am
Theresa Lang Community & Student Center, Arnhold Hall
55 West 13th Street, Second Floor (between 5th and 6th avenues)

The Bloomberg administration is mounting an all-out campaign to reduce the length of time children spend in foster care and to make preventive and post-reunification supports for families more effective. Few disagree with these goals. But in a child welfare system managed by nonprofits, the city must use its power over contracts to drive change. It's an enormous and controversial challenge. Will the city provide enough funding and support for overstretched agencies? What will it take for the sector to follow the road to reform?

John Mattingly, Commissioner, NYC Administration for Children's Services

Followed by a discussion with Commissioner Mattingly and:
Gladys CarriĆ³n, Commissioner, NYS Office of Children and Family Services
Bill Baccaglini, Jr., Executive Director, The New York Foundling
Sabra Jackson, Parent Organizer, Child Welfare Organizing Project
and others

Andrew White , Director, Center for New York City Affairs

Admission is free, but you must RSVP. Call 212.229.5418 or email

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Forgotten War

From the AP:
KABUL, Afghanistan - Six U.S. troops were killed when insurgents ambushed their foot patrol in the high mountains of eastern Afghanistan, officials said Saturday. The attack, the most lethal against American forces this year, made this year the deadliest for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.

. . . . . .

The six deaths brings the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan in 2007 to at least 101, according to a count by The Associated Press — the highest annual death toll for the American military here since it invaded to oust Taliban and al-Qaida fighters after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The war has evolved into an increasingly bloody counterinsurgency campaign.

. . . . . .

Violence in Afghanistan this year has been the deadliest since the Taliban's ouster. More than 5,800 people, mostly militants, have died so far this year in insurgency-related violence, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Poor Defense

From the Times:

On a hapless morning this summer, James Adams, a 44-year-old day laborer, found himself at the Rite-Aid drug store on Salina Street in Syracuse.

What happened then is in dispute. The police said he tried to steal, among other things, a container of Johnson & Johnson baby oil gel. Mr. Adams said they arrested the wrong man.

What happened later is not in dispute. For the 100 days since he was arrested on July 31, Mr. Adams has been in the Onondaga County jail. He cannot pay his $2,500 bail, and he faces at least three and a half years in prison if he is convicted.

Mr. Adams contends that his lawyer has been no help. He will not return Mr. Adams’s calls, failed to show up at one hearing and did not fight when prosecutors charged Mr. Adams with a felony, he said. Reached for comment, Donald E. Kelly, a lawyer appointed by the court to represent Mr. Adams, denied those charges and said he had provided a vigorous defense.

For years, New York State has been criticized for failing to comply with Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark 1963 decision by the United States Supreme Court that required states to provide meaningful legal representation to poor defendants.

Yesterday, in an effort to goad a new governor and a cautious State Legislature to abide by the decision, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit against New York State in State Supreme Court in Albany.

The suit is on behalf of 20 indigent defendants who, the Civil Liberties Union claims, were effectively denied the right to counsel. The defendants include Mr. Adams.

The suit charges that inadequate funding, poor oversight and lack of statewide standards deny New Yorkers accused of crimes their right to competent representation at all stages of the judicial process.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the Civil Liberties Union, told reporters yesterday, “Every day throughout the state, people accused of crimes are deprived of justice because they are poor.”

Gary Stein, a lawyer with Schulte Roth & Zabel, pro bono counsel in the suit, added, “No more studies, no more delay. It is time to act.”. . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Welcome Home

From the AP:
Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.

The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.

There's more. . . .

Friday, November 02, 2007

Listen to. . . .

Ezra, today:

. . . . This gets to the heart of a long-running debate between left-leaning and right-leaning economists -- namely, are living standards getting better or worse? The Right says they're getting better -- we've got the internet, and iPods, and all sorts of awesome, dirt cheap consumer goods. The Left says that that may all be true, but housing, and education, and health care, and fuel -- the big ticket items in our lives -- are getting far costlier, and incomes aren't keeping pace.

They're talking about two different things. I haven't quite worked this theory out yet, but my sense is that economic status has been cleaved free of economic security. So the sort of goods that signal affluence -- iPods and iPhones and laptop computers and plasma televisions -- are becoming much cheaper, more broadly accessible, and thus more widely owned. Lots of people, particularly young people, can thus claim economic status. The trappings of our wealth are all around us.

Yet economic security is quite a bit further from reach. . . .