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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama declares war on Fox News (so they say)

The right-wing blogs have been hopping the last few days over comments an Obama Administration Official made this past Sunday. All the right wing blogs declare "Obama has declares war on FOX NEWS".
How Dare he!!?? They ask. My reaction is, it's about time! I ask why should he play nice with those guys anyway? From my perspective Fox News is basically right-wing talk radio on TV. They have a little bit of news sprinkled throughout, in an attempt to legitimize their claim that they are an actual "news" network. Furthermore To those that claim he's acting childish I would respond what was your opinion when Bush, Cheney and crew basically refused to go on any network EXCEPT FOX NEWS?

"What I think is fair to say about Fox -- and certainly it's the way we view it -- is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party," said Anita Dunn, White House communications director, on CNN. "They take their talking points, put them on the air; take their opposition research, put them on the air. And that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is."

Read more here: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/10/12/white-house-escalates-war-words-fox-news/

Let's face it Ms. Dunn said what the majority of us already knew. Fox News is indeed a wing of the Republican Party and they always have been. There was a time when I think they really did try to give the appearance of being "fair and balanced" But not any more. They're so partisan now that they don't even try to hide it anymore. I'm glad somebody finally called these fools out for what they really are. Let the games begin.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dangerous hatred in the US?

Blackman says: Posted without comment.

By Rob Reynolds, senior Washington correspondent

Michelle Bachmann, the US Republican Representative for Minnesota, tells a radio interviewer she believes Barack Obama, the US president, plans to set up mandatory "re-education camps" to indoctrinate young Americans.

Glenn Beck, a television personality working at the Fox news network, says on the air that Obama is a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people".

Comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler, an Iowa man named Tom Eisenhower speaks up at a town hall meeting held by Republican Senator Charles Grassley, and says "The president of the United States, that's who you should be concerned about."

"I'd take a gun to Washington if enough of you would go with me."

Retired FBI agent Ted Gunderson, a prolific writer and speaker about conspiracy theories involving devilish sex cults and the Illuminati, tells a gathering of right-wing "Patriots" in Florida that the federal government has set up 10,000 internment camps across the country and is storing thousands of guillotines for mass executions.

Mel Sanger, a self-described "political researcher", offers visitors to his website a $24.97-report full of "cutting edge evidence" that Obama is the biblical Antichrist.

Tens of thousands of right-wing demonstrators march on the US Capitol waving signs reading "Bury Obamacare with Kennedy" and calling Obama a "bloodsucking Muslim alien".

Steven Anderson, the pastor of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Arizona, preached a sermon last month entitled "Why I hate Barack Obama", in which he declared, "I'm going to pray he dies and goes to hell".

Old-fashioned racism

On August 22, I posted an article on this website (Fear, racism at town hall meetings) about the element of old-fashioned retrograde racism running through the outpouring of venom and hatred for Obama in town hall style meetings, ostensibly over his healthcare reform plans.

I received a lot of feedback from you, the readers - the overwhelming majority of which was positive, with a few obscenity-laced screeds thrown in.

The mainstream media in the US have been slow to catch up on the story of white racial hatred for Obama. But now the debate over the racist roots of the anti-Obama upwelling is out in the open, discussed on television networks and in newspapers.

"Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it," writes The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

"There's something loose in the land, an ugliness and hatred directed toward Barack Obama, the nation's first African American president, that takes the breath away," offered Colbert King in the Washington Post.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre, an essential US institution that researches and exposes hate groups, notes "… unmistakable signs of a revival of what in the 1990's was called the militia movement," adding that "… the fact that the president is an African-American has injected a strong racial element" into the radical right.

The rage from the right has nothing to do with healthcare reform or any other factual policy issue. It is a concerted effort to de-legitimise Obama as president. Former President Jimmy Carter summed it up concisely in an interview with NBC News:

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man," Carter said.

"I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that share the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans.

"And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply."

Fearful times


Some believe the healthcare debate has re-ignited the racial debate [AFP]
Abominable - and dangerous. The simmering potential for political violence underlies the ugly jeers and insults.

They are a motley group: white supremacists, Patriots, Sovereign Citizens, anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers, Neo-Confederates, Skinheads, Teabaggers, end-times prophecy adherents, birthers, Minutemen, New World Order conspiracists, Oath Keepers - the list is long and depressing.

Thousands of videos posted to YouTube show white militia members playing soldier - with real guns.

What they have in common - besides hatred for non-whites - is their worship of firearms and their intense paranoia about the government. They are continually encouraged in their outrage by right wing media and radio talk show hosts.

In several recent instances, right wing rage has exploded in bloodshed. In April, Richard Poplawski, who frequented anti-government and white supremacist websites and feared Obama would take away his guns, allegedly ambushed three Pittsburgh police officers, killing them with a hail of bullets from his rifle, pistol and AK-47.

The same month, Joshua Cartwright of Okaloosa County, Florida, got fired from his job, beat up his wife and headed down to the local gun club. When two sheriff's deputies arrived to arrest him for assault, he pulled out a gun and shot both men dead.

Cartwright's wife said he feared the government was out to get him and was "severely disturbed that Barack Obama had been elected president."

Last July, Jim David Adkisson of Knoxville, Tennessee wrote a vitriolic suicide note denouncing liberals, democrats, blacks, and Obama, then allegedly marched into a Unitarian church and opened fire, killing two churchgoers and seriously wounding six.

Here in Washington in June, an elderly neo-Nazi named James von Brunn allegedly opened fire with a rifle at the US Holocaust Museum, killing an African American security guard. Police found a note in his car. "You want my guns, this is how you'll get them," von Brunn wrote.

"The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews."

America, the sorry truth


Obama, centre front, was heckled during a speech to a joint session of congress [EPA]
While Republican spokespeople and elected officials scoff at the notion that racism is behind their protests, the spectacle of a white, Republican Congressman from the Deep South state of South Carolina shouting "You lie!" at the president from the floor of the House of Representatives blatantly revealed the sorry truth that this country has not entered a "post-racial" period, as some liberals like to believe.

We would like to believe that the racist right-wingers are just the leftover dregs of hate in a society steadily becoming more enlightened.

After all, Obama won the election last November by nine million votes. That means an awful lot of white people voted for him.

But while their numbers may be relatively small, the right-wing radicals - and the media bomb-throwers who fire them up - can do a lot of damage.

A few armed lunatics can alter the course of history. Think of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.

Think of James Earl Ray, who murdered Martin Luther King. Or think of John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

Those last two examples were not chosen at random.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

AP source: Census worker hanged with 'fed' on body

Blackman Says: Who is suprised by this? We all knew it was just a matter of time before one of these right-wing crazies decided to take matters in to their own hands.
So I guess we'll see Glen Beck and the rest of the right-wing crowd in full damage control tomorrow.


By DEVLIN BARRETT and JEFFREY McMURRAY (AP) – 4 hours ago

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Census worker found hanged from a tree near a Kentucky cemetery had the word "fed" scrawled on his chest, a law enforcement official said Wednesday, and the FBI is investigating whether he was a victim of anti-government sentiment.

The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, did not say what type of instrument was used to write the word on the chest of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher. He was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky.

The Census has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, pending the outcome of the investigation. An autopsy report is pending.

Investigators have said little about the case. FBI spokesman David Beyer said the bureau is assisting state police and declined to confirm or discuss any details about the crime scene.

"Our job is to determine if there was foul play involved — and that's part of the investigation — and if there was foul play involved, whether that is related to his employment as a Census worker," said Beyer.

Attacking a federal worker during or because of his federal job is a federal crime.

Sparkman's mother, Henrie Sparkman of Inverness, Fla., told The Associated Press her son was an Eagle scout who moved to the area to be a local director for the Boy Scouts of America. She said he later became a substitute teacher in Laurel County and supplemented that income as a Census worker.

She said investigators have given her few details about her son's death — they told her the body was decomposed — and haven't yet released his body for burial. "I was told it would be better for him to be cremated," she said.

Henrie Sparkman said her son's death is a mystery to her.

"I have my own ideas, but I can't say them out loud. Not at this point," she said. "Right now, what I'm doing, I'm just waiting on the FBI to come to some conclusion."

Lucindia Scurry-Johnson, assistant director of the Census Bureau's southern office in Charlotte, N.C., said law enforcement officers have told the agency the matter is "an apparent homicide" but nothing else.

Census employees were told Sparkman's truck was found nearby, and a computer he was using for work was found inside it, she said. He worked part-time for the Census, usually conducting interviews once or twice a month.

Sparkman has worked for the Census since 2003, spanning five counties in the surrounding area. Much of his recent work had been in Clay County, officials said.

Door-to-door operations have been suspended in Clay County pending a resolution of the investigation, Scurry-Johnson said.

The Census Bureau has yet to begin door-to-door canvassing for the 2010 head count, but it has thousands of field workers doing smaller surveys on various demographic topics on behalf of federal agencies. Next year, the Census Bureau will dispatch up to 1.2 million temporary employees to locate hard-to-find residents.

The Census Bureau is overseen by the Commerce Department.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our co-worker," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with William Sparkman's son, other family and friends."

Locke called him "a shining example of the hardworking men and women employed by the Census Bureau."

Appalachia scholar Roy Silver, a New York City native now living in Harlan County, Ky., said he doesn't sense an outpouring of anti-government sentiment in the region as has been exhibited in town hall meetings in other parts of the country.

"I don't think distrust of government is any more or less here than anywhere else in the country," said Silver, a sociology professor at Southeast Community College.

The most deadly attack on federal workers came in 1995 when the federal building in Oklahoma City was devastated by a truck bomb, killing 168 and injuring more than 680. Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for the bombing, carried literature by modern, ultra-right-wing anti-government authors.

A private group called PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, tracks violence against employees who enforce environmental regulations, but the group's executive director, Jeff Ruch, said it's hard to know about all of the cases because some agencies don't share data on instances of violence against employees.

From 1996 to 2006, according to the group's most recent data, violent incidents against federal Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service workers soared from 55 to 290.

Ruch said that after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, "we kept getting reports from employees that attacks and intimidation against federal employees had not diminished, and that's why we've been tracking them."

"Even as illustrated in town hall meetings today, there is a distinct hostility in a large segment of the population toward people who work for their government," Ruch said.

McMurray reported from Lexington, Ky. Associated Press writers Roger Alford in Frankfort, Ky., and Hope Yen in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Carter: Racism plays major role in opposition to Obama

Carter: Racism plays major role in opposition to Obama

(CNN) -- Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that racial politics played a role in South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's speech to Congress last week and in some of the opposition the president has faced since taking office.
"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American," Carter told "NBC Nightly News." "I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shares the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans."
"That racism inclination still exists, and I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of belief among many white people -- not just in the South but around the country -- that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply," Carter said.
Michael Steele, who is the first African-American to chair the Republican National Committee, denied Wednesday that race is fueling protests.
"President Carter is flat-out wrong," Steele said in a statement. "This isn't about race. It is about policy."
Carter made similar remarks at an event at his presidential center in Atlanta, Georgia, The Associated Press reported Tuesday, pointing to some protesters who have compared Obama to a Nazi. "Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national program on health care," the former president said at the Carter Center, according to AP. "It's deeper than that." Watch Carter link animosity toward Obama to racism »
He grouped Wilson's shout of "You lie!" during Obama's speech in that category, according to AP. "I think it's based on racism. There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president," he said.
"The president is not only the head of government, he is the head of state. And no matter who he is or how much we disagree with his policies, the president should be treated with respect."
The House voted Tuesday to formally disapprove of Wilson's behavior during the joint session of Congress. The resolution was approved largely along party lines, with Republicans calling the measure unnecessary partisan politics.
Wilson apologized to the White House last week, but congressional Democrats said he owed the chamber a similar statement of regret.
Steele said Democrats are just trying to divert attention from what he called the president's "wildly unpopular government-run health care plan."
"Injecting race into the debate over critical issues facing American families doesn't create jobs, reform our health care system or reduce the growing deficit. It only divides Americans rather than uniting us to find solutions to challenges facing our nation," he said.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rapper behind 'Roxanne's Revenge' gets Warner Music to pay for Ph.D


Blackman says: Good for her!


BY Walter Dawkins SPECIAL TO THE NEWS


Updated Sunday, August 23rd 2009, 1:07 PM


Watts/News
Roxanne Shante was a young rap star. When the music stopped, she didn't miss a beat.

Roxanne's revenge was sweet indeed.


Twenty-five years after the first queen of hip-hop was stiffed on her royalty checks, Dr. Roxanne Shante boasts an Ivy League Ph.D. - financed by a forgotten clause in her first record deal.
"This is a story that needs to be told," Shante said. "I'm an example that you can be a teenage mom, come from the projects, and be raised by a single parent, and you can still come out of it a doctor."
Her prognosis wasn't as bright in the years after the '80s icon scored a smash hit at age 14: "Roxanne's Revenge," a razor-tongued response to rap group UTFO's mega-hit "Roxanne, Roxanne."
The 1984 single sold 250,000 copies in New York City alone, making Shante (born Lolita Gooden) hip hop's first female celebrity.
She blazed a trail followed by Lil' Kim, Salt-N-Pepa and Queen Latifah - although Shante didn't share their success.
After two albums, Shante said, she was disillusioned by the sleazy music industry and swindled by her record company. The teen mother, living in the Queensbridge Houses, recalled how her life was shattered.
"Everybody was cheating with the contracts, stealing and telling lies," she said. "And to find out that I was just a commodity was heartbreaking."
But Shante, then 19, remembered a clause in her Warner Music recording contract: The company would fund her education for life.
She eventually cashed in, earning a Ph.D. in psychology from Cornell to the tune of $217,000 - all covered by the label. But getting Warner Music to cough up the dough was a battle.
"They kept stumbling over their words, and they didn't have an exact reason why they were telling me no," Shante said.
She figured Warner considered the clause a throwaway, never believing a teen mom in public housing would attend college. The company declined to comment for this story.
Shante found an arm-twisting ally in Marguerita Grecco, the dean at Marymount Manhattan College. Shante showed her the contract, and the dean let her attend classes for free while pursuing the money.
"I told Dean Grecco that either I'm going to go here or go to the streets, so I need your help," Shante recalls. "She said, 'We're going to make them pay for this.'"
Grecco submitted and resubmitted the bills to the label, which finally agreed to honor the contract when Shante threatened to go public with the story.
Shante earned her doctorate in 2001, and launched an unconventional therapy practice focusing on urban African-Americans - a group traditionally reluctant to seek mental health help.
"People put such a taboo on therapy, they feel it means they're going crazy," she explained. "No, it doesn't. It just means you need someone else to talk to."
Shante often incorporates hip-hop music into her sessions, encouraging her clients to unleash their inner MC and shout out exactly what's on their mind.
"They can't really let loose and enjoy life," she said. "So I just let them unlock those doors."
Shante, 38, is also active in the community. She offers $5,000 college scholarships each semester to female rappers through the nonprofit Hip Hop Association.
She also dispenses advice to young women in the music business via a MySpace page.
"I call it a warning service, so their dreams don't turn into nightmares," she said.
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons said Shante is a shining role model for the rap community. "Dr. Shante's life is inspiring," Simmons said. "She was a go-getter who rose from the struggle and went from hustling to teaching. She is a prime example that you can do anything, and everything is possible

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In America, Crazy Is a Preexisting Condition

Blackman says: Posted without comment. Original article appeared in the Washington Post.

By Rick Perlstein
Sunday, August 16, 2009

In Pennsylvania last week, a citizen, burly, crew-cut and trembling with rage, went nose to nose with his baffled senator: "One day God's going to stand before you, and he's going to judge you and the rest of your damned cronies up on the Hill. And then you will get your just deserts." He was accusing Arlen Specter of being too kind to President Obama's proposals to make it easier for people to get health insurance.
In Michigan, meanwhile, the indelible image was of the father who wheeled his handicapped adult son up to Rep. John Dingell and bellowed that "under the Obama health-care plan, which you support, this man would be given no care whatsoever." He pressed his case further on Fox News.
In New Hampshire, outside a building where Obama spoke, cameras trained on the pistol strapped to the leg of libertarian William Kostric. He then explained on CNN why the "tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time by the blood of tyrants and patriots."
It was interesting to hear a BBC reporter on the radio trying to make sense of it all. He quoted a spokesman for the conservative Americans for Tax Reform: "Either this is a genuine grass-roots response, or there's some secret evil conspirator living in a mountain somewhere orchestrating all this that I've never met." The spokesman was arguing, of course, that it was spontaneous, yet he also proudly owned up to how his group has helped the orchestration, through sample letters to the editor and "a little bit of an ability to put one-pagers together."
The BBC also quoted liberal Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin's explanation: "They want to get a little clip on YouTube of an effort to disrupt a town meeting and to send the congressman running for his car. This is an organized effort . . . you can trace it back to the health insurance industry."
So the birthers, the anti-tax tea-partiers, the town hall hecklers -- these are "either" the genuine grass roots or evil conspirators staging scenes for YouTube? The quiver on the lips of the man pushing the wheelchair, the crazed risk of carrying a pistol around a president -- too heartfelt to be an act. The lockstep strangeness of the mad lies on the protesters' signs -- too uniform to be spontaneous. They are both. If you don't understand that any moment of genuine political change always produces both, you can't understand America, where the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy, and where elites exploit the crazy for their own narrow interests.
In the early 1950s, Republicans referred to the presidencies of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as "20 years of treason" and accused the men who led the fight against fascism of deliberately surrendering the free world to communism. Mainline Protestants published a new translation of the Bible in the 1950s that properly rendered the Greek as connoting a more ambiguous theological status for the Virgin Mary; right-wingers attributed that to, yes, the hand of Soviet agents. And Vice President Richard Nixon claimed that the new Republicans arriving in the White House "found in the files a blueprint for socializing America."
When John F. Kennedy entered the White House, his proposals to anchor America's nuclear defense in intercontinental ballistic missiles -- instead of long-range bombers -- and form closer ties with Eastern Bloc outliers such as Yugoslavia were taken as evidence that the young president was secretly disarming the United States. Thousands of delegates from 90 cities packed a National Indignation Convention in Dallas, a 1961 version of today's tea parties; a keynote speaker turned to the master of ceremonies after his introduction and remarked as the audience roared: "Tom Anderson here has turned moderate! All he wants to do is impeach [Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl] Warren. I'm for hanging him!"
Before the "black helicopters" of the 1990s, there were right-wingers claiming access to secret documents from the 1920s proving that the entire concept of a "civil rights movement" had been hatched in the Soviet Union; when the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act was introduced, one frequently read in the South that it would "enslave" whites. And back before there were Bolsheviks to blame, paranoids didn't lack for subversives -- anti-Catholic conspiracy theorists even had their own powerful political party in the 1840s and '50s.
The instigation is always the familiar litany: expansion of the commonweal to empower new communities, accommodation to internationalism, the heightened influence of cosmopolitans and the persecution complex of conservatives who can't stand losing an argument. My personal favorite? The federal government expanded mental health services in the Kennedy era, and one bill provided for a new facility in Alaska. One of the most widely listened-to right-wing radio programs in the country, hosted by a former FBI agent, had millions of Americans believing it was being built to intern political dissidents, just like in the Soviet Union.
So, crazier then, or crazier now? Actually, the similarities across decades are uncanny. When Adlai Stevenson spoke at a 1963 United Nations Day observance in Dallas, the Indignation forces thronged the hall, sweating and furious, shrieking down the speaker for the television cameras. Then, when Stevenson was walked to his limousine, a grimacing and wild-eyed lady thwacked him with a picket sign. Stevenson was baffled. "What's the matter, madam?" he asked. "What can I do for you?" The woman responded with self-righteous fury: "Well, if you don't know I can't help you."
The various elements -- the liberal earnestly confused when rational dialogue won't hold sway; the anti-liberal rage at a world self-evidently out of joint; and, most of all, their mutual incomprehension -- sound as fresh as yesterday's news. (Internment camps for conservatives? That's the latest theory of tea party favorite Michael Savage.)
The orchestration of incivility happens, too, and it is evil. Liberal power of all sorts induces an organic and crazy-making panic in a considerable number of Americans, while people with no particular susceptibility to existential terror -- powerful elites -- find reason to stoke and exploit that fear. And even the most ideologically fair-minded national media will always be agents of cosmopolitanism: something provincials fear as an outside elite intent on forcing different values down their throats.
That provides an opening for vultures such as Richard Nixon, who, the Watergate investigation discovered, had his aides make sure that seed blossomed for his own purposes. "To the Editor . . . Who in the hell elected these people to stand up and read off their insults to the President of the United States?" read one proposed "grass-roots" letter manufactured by the White House. "When will you people realize that he was elected President and he is entitled to the respect of that office no matter what you people think of him?" went another.
Liberals are right to be vigilant about manufactured outrage, and particularly about how the mainstream media can too easily become that outrage's entry into the political debate. For the tactic represented by those fake Nixon letters was a long-term success. Conservatives have become adept at playing the media for suckers, getting inside the heads of editors and reporters, haunting them with the thought that maybe they are out-of-touch cosmopolitans and that their duty as tribunes of the people's voices means they should treat Obama's creation of "death panels" as just another justiciable political claim. If 1963 were 2009, the woman who assaulted Adlai Stevenson would be getting time on cable news to explain herself. That, not the paranoia itself, makes our present moment uniquely disturbing.
It used to be different. You never heard the late Walter Cronkite taking time on the evening news to "debunk" claims that a proposed mental health clinic in Alaska is actually a dumping ground for right-wing critics of the president's program, or giving the people who made those claims time to explain themselves on the air. The media didn't adjudicate the ever-present underbrush of American paranoia as a set of "conservative claims" to weigh, horse-race-style, against liberal claims. Back then, a more confident media unequivocally labeled the civic outrage represented by such discourse as "extremist" -- out of bounds.
The tree of crazy is an ever-present aspect of America's flora. Only now, it's being watered by misguided he-said-she-said reporting and taking over the forest. Latest word is that the enlightened and mild provision in the draft legislation to help elderly people who want living wills -- the one hysterics turned into the "death panel" canard -- is losing favor, according to the Wall Street Journal, because of "complaints over the provision."
Good thing our leaders weren't so cowardly in 1964, or we would never have passed a civil rights bill -- because of complaints over the provisions in it that would enslave whites.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Don't hold Obama to race agenda

Blackman says: This is an excellent article and she articulates sentiments that I've had for a while. Particularly my ambivalence towards so called "Black leaders".

Professor Harris-Lacewell correctly asserts that the days were the oppressed masses of black folks need anointed leader(s) to speak on their behalf are gone. She succinctly summed it up with this one passage:

"Further, Smiley and his "soul patrol" seemed to have missed the intervening 40 years between the era of King and the election of Obama. African-Americans are no longer fully disfranchised subjects of an oppressive state."

Like the author I to think there are a number of so called "black leaders" that are struggling to come to grips with the new paradigm. As I have stated in the past, I have to wonder just how in touch are these black intellectuals with the masses of black people they are supposed to represent? When Bill Cosby spoke out a few years ago about some of the ills in the black community and the importance or personal responsibility. He was assailed by the likes of Professor Dyson etc. I and many other African-Americans happened to agree with Bill Cosby. In fact he did not say anything that I had not previously heard in many a black barbershop conversation. So when certain black leaders and intellectuals tried to portray Cosby as some elitist middle class black person that was picking on defenseless poor black folks, I had to raise the BS flag.

In the late 1980's and on in to the early 1990's the conversation the black community was centered around when and who would take the place of the current black civil rights leadership establishment. There was growing discontentment among younger African-Americans with the fact that the older generation of black leaders were refusing to step aside and make room for a new generation of black leadership. However I think that there have been a number of drastic changes in the landscape that have made this hierarchical model of black leadership obsolete. It's not just the age of Obama that has rendered the traditional black leadership model irrelevant. It's also the explosion of the Internet which enabled the blogosphere and globalization which has affected almost every facet of American life just to name a couple. The issues we face today are different and more complex that what we faced two even one generation ago.

We can all agree that the election of Barack Obama did not magically erase the racism and bigotry that is ingrained in our culture. We know there is still plenty of work to be done.

The question is what's the best way of accomplishing this work?

____________________________________
Story Highlights
Melissa Harris-Lacewell: Some have said Obama should be held to racial agenda
She says nostalgia for the old days of protest obscures last election
Black politics has come of age, and African-Americans are equal partners, she says

By Melissa Harris-Lacewell Special to CNN

Melissa Harris-Lacewell is associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University. She is the author of the award-winning book "Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought," and writes a daily blog titled The Kitchen Table.


PRINCETON, New Jersey (CNN) -- It seems Tavis Smiley has been irritated with Barack Obama for a long time. Smiley is perhaps the most recognizable African-American journalist in the country. He is a fixture on radio and television, and has authored several books that are best-sellers among black readers.
One might suspect that Smiley would be enthusiastic about the opportunities presented by America's election of a black president.
Instead, Smiley seems annoyed.
In February 2008, Smiley denounced then-candidate Obama for failing to make a personal appearance at Smiley's annual State of the Black Union. His continuing criticism of Sen. Obama during the fall campaign produced substantial outcry from listeners of the Tom Joyner Morning Show, a popular radio program where Smiley had been a well-liked regular.
After Obama's election, Smiley published a text titled "Accountable" and has repeatedly indicated his intention to hold President Obama "accountable" to an explicitly racial agenda.
The specific policies suggested by Smiley's books are not substantially different from those of the Obama administration, but Smiley insists on explicit and repeated acknowledgement of race, while Obama typically seeks to address inequality within a racially neutral frame.
Despite writing about race in both of his books, addressing race in the historic Philadelphia speech during the Democratic primary and repeatedly acknowledging that racial inequality endures, Smiley's critique implies that Obama's approach to race is both inadequate and inauthentic.
On May 24, TV One aired the latest installment of Smiley's accountability campaign: a two-hour documentary titled "Stand." Recycling Spike Lee's Million Man March film, "Get On the Bus," Smiley assembled a group of prominent black male public figures for a bus ride through the South.
Ostensibly, this bus trip would provide Smiley, professors Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson, Dick Gregory and others an opportunity to reflect on the meaningful upheavals in American society and politics in the summer of 2008. "Stand" was an enormous disappointment.
Its low production value, wandering narrative, flat history and self-important egoism did little to reveal the shortcomings of the Obama phenomenon. Instead, the piece exposed and embodied the contemporary crisis of the black public intellectual in the age of Obama.
The film and its participants (two of them my senior colleagues at Princeton University) appropriated the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to implicitly claim that they, not Obama, are the authentic representatives of the political interests of African-Americans. They used King's images and speeches, gathered on the balcony where King was assassinated, and explicitly asserted their desire to play King to Obama's LBJ, and Frederick Douglass to Obama's Lincoln.
On its face, this is not a bad model. Presidents are deeply constrained by the structural and political limitations of their office. A robust administration needs an active and informed citizenry to engage, push, cajole, criticize and applaud its efforts.
But this appropriation misrepresents rather than preserves King's legacy. King was a powerful questioner and, at times, ally of President Johnson because he was at the helm of a massive social movement of men and women who were shut out of the ordinary political process. It was not King's intellectual capacity or verbal dexterity that made him an effective advocate for racial issues; it was his own accountability to that movement.
This is not true of Smiley and his "soul patrol," who are mostly public personalities and tenured professors largely unaccountable to the black constituency. King's meager income, though supplemented by the lecture circuit, was grounded in the voluntary contributions of black churchgoers.
Smiley is backed by powerful corporations, like Wal-Mart and Nationwide, that have troubled relationships with these communities. The college profs on the bus are comfortably supported by well-endowed universities. This does not invalidate their views on race, but it does make the analogy with King a poor fit.
Further, Smiley and his "soul patrol" seemed to have missed the intervening 40 years between the era of King and the election of Obama. African-Americans are no longer fully disfranchised subjects of an oppressive state.
African-Americans are now citizens capable of running for office, holding officials accountable through democratic elections, publicly expressing divergent political preferences and, most importantly, engaging the full spectrum of American political issues, not only narrowly racial ones. The era of racial brokerage politics, when the voices of a few men stood in for the entire race, is now over. And thank goodness it is over. Black politics is growing up.
The men of "Stand" yearned for an imagined racial past. By their accounting, this racial past had better music, more charismatic leaders and a more-involved black church.
Their romanticism ignores the cultural contributions of contemporary black youth, forgets the dangerous limitations of charismatic leadership and revises the fraught, complicated relationship of black churches to struggles for racial equality. And these men ignored the democratizing effect of new media forms, which revolutionized the 2008 election.
Black people were not duped by some slick, media-generated candidate. African-Americans were co-authors of the Obama campaign. Through social networks, YouTube videos, political blogs and new-media echo chambers, black people were equal partners in shaping the candidate and his campaign. There was no need for the entrenched pundit class to tell black voters what to think or how to behave; they figured it out for themselves.
Still, there is plenty to criticize in the young Obama administration: the refusal to prosecute those implicated in the torture memos, civilian casualties caused by drone attacks, bank bailouts and inadequate defense of gay rights to name a few. But black communities are already engaged in these critiques and many others. Black local organizers, elected officials, bloggers, pundits and columnists have taken substantive, specific positions on a broad range of issues.
In black communities, nonprofit organizations continue to work for justice, and charities still try to fill the gap during tough economic times. African-Americans are engaged as mature citizens ought to be: in both discourse and action.
This political maturity is precisely the source of the black public intellectual crisis: What do Smiley and the Soul Patrol add to this process? Their bus never stopped at a Habitat for Humanity site to build a home or at a soup kitchen to serve the hungry. Their dialogue centered more on the relative merits of Aretha vs. Beyonce than on meaningful political issues.
Though they spoke with elders, their self-congratulatory revelry never paused to engage any elected officials, issues specialists or local activists. And while they talked a great deal about women, they never spoke to a woman.
"Stand" was sad because I still believe in a role for black public intellectuals. Scholars and journalists often have a particular capacity for curiosity, questioning and issue synthesis that has real value in public discourse. It was painfully clear that this particular accountability crusade is not informed by any of those skills. Instead, it seems determined to stand in the way of the maturation of African-American politics in order to maintain personal power.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Melissa Harris-Lacewell.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

NewBlackMan: Reconciling the Romance for Black Institutions

I got the following article in my inbox the other day. I found it to be interesting reading. I am a graduate of an HBCU (Elizabeth City State University) and come from a family of HBCU graduates. I'm also a former employee of a predominately White institution (Duke University)
which black employees routinely referred to as the "Plantation".
I must say my epxereinces as a employee at Duke only strengthened by view that HBCU's were both necessary and relevant in the post civil rights era. However I do agree with some of the authors critiques of HBCU's.


NewBlackMan: Reconciling the Romance for Black Institutions

Friday, April 10, 2009

Media conservatives fearmongering: Obama will "take away your gun"

Blackman says: These right-wing idiots are at it again. How quickly they have forgotten Tim Mcviegh and Oklahoma City which taught us that not all terrorist call their God Allah.


Summary: Since President Obama's election, several conservative media figures have warned their audiences that Obama is planning to, in the words of Glenn Beck, "slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun" or have suggested that a government effort to ban guns is likely. Read the full article here

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Forgotten Contribution

Blackman says: No comment needed.



Before Rosa Parks, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on the bus.

Eliza GrayNEWSWEEK

Rosa Parks's name is known round the world, but what about Claudette Colvin? On March 2, 1955, nine months before Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., a skinny, 15-year-old schoolgirl was yanked by both wrists and dragged off a very similar bus.
A new book by Phillip Hoose, "Claudette Colvin, Twice Toward Justice," describes how the girl stood her ground, yelling, "It's my constitutional right" as the cops pulled her off the bus, threw her into the back of a cop car, and handcuffed her through the window. In Hoose's telling, a teacher named Geraldine Nesbitt had emboldened her students, teaching them about the 14th Amendment. "It just so happens they picked me at the wrong time—it was Negro History Month, and I was filled up like a computer," Colvin tells NEWSWEEK, "I felt like Sojourner Truth was pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman was pushing down on the other—saying, 'Sit down girl!' I was glued to my seat."
Today, Colvin is 69 years old and is a retired nursing-home nurse living in New York City—her bold actions largely forgotten and long ago eclipsed by Parks. "I just dropped out of sight," she says of her move to New York in 1958. "The people in Montgomery, they didn't try to find me. I didn't look for them and they didn't look for me." In the years that followed her heroism, Colvin felt completely isolated from the Alabama activists who had once been so interested in her case.
But at the time, as Hoose describes, Colvin's dramatic arrest did not go unnoticed; energized by the prospect of using her case to challenge the segregation laws in court, black leaders hired an ambitious young lawyer to defend her and raised funds from the community for her trial. A 26-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. accompanied black leaders to the police commissioner to plead her case. Colvin was convicted nonetheless, and the news tore across Montgomery. There was talk of a bus boycott—African-Americans made up three fourths of the passengers and the Women's Political Council, headed by Jo Anne Robinson (a professor at the historically black Alabama State College) had long known a boycott would be their most powerful weapon.
But leaders were unsure about Colvin. Hoose describes their thoughts at the time: "'Some felt she was too young to be the trigger that precipitated the movement,' wrote Robinson. E. D. Nixon, an influential black leader heavily involved with the case, said, 'I had to be sure that I had somebody I could win with'."
Despite Colvin's lack of fame, Hoose believes she was an instrumental predecessor to Parks's actions nine months later. Before Colvin, Hoose tells NEWSWEEK, civil-rights leaders in Montgomery had been taking measured steps. Colvin "threw the stone in the water and forced them to jump in and think about what they had to do," he explains. Colvin's attorney, Fred Gray, a civil-rights activist who still practices law in Alabama, agrees: "Claudette gave all of us moral courage. If she had not done what she did, I am not sure that we would have been able to mount the support for Mrs. Parks."
When Parks was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955, Montgomery was ready. Within days, Robinson and the Women's Political Council had organized a wildly successful and crippling bus boycott, and snapped the whole country to attention. Unlike Colvin, Parks was a refined and grandmotherly seamstress completely above reproach—she was the face that leaders had been searching for.
Colvin remained anonymous. She knew Parks, often spending the night at her house after weekly NAACP youth meetings, which she had gotten involved with after her arrest. Some time during the summer of 1955, Colvin became pregnant by an older, married man. Nixon would later say the pregnancy was part of the reason activists chose not to use Colvin as the face of their boycott. Still, in May 1956, Colvin testified with three other women in a successful class-action suit that ultimately desegregated the Montgomery buses.
Hoose hopes his book will introduce Colvin's contributions to a larger audience. "I want it to be impossible to tell the story of the civil-rights movement without Claudette" he says. "Rosa Parks has to scoot over a little bit." The civil-rights movement was made up of a million tiny acts by anonymous individuals, says Richard Willing, a former USA Today reporter who wrote a story about Colvin in 1995. Rosa Parks makes a "great book mark," he says, pointing out that even she lived in obscurity for many years working in a congressman's office in Detroit. Historian David Garrow, a biographer of Dr. King, adds that oversimplifying the story to only include Parks sends "the implicit message that everything in history happens only because of unusually great individuals." The reality is usually more complex than that, he says.
While she's glad Hoose has told her whole story, Colvin says she's satisfied with a bigger reward. "Being dragged off that bus was worth it just to see Barack Obama become president, because so many others gave their lives and didn't get to see it, and I thank God for letting me see it."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Injustice by Default

Blackman says: I was forwarded the link to this article on a mailing list that I participate in. All I can say is WOW! Talk about being abused by your government.


_________________________

Injustice by Default

How the effort to catch "deadbeat dads" ruins innocent men's lives

Matt Welch February 2004 Print Edition

Tony Pierce remembers vividly the exact moment in November 2000 when the state of California began trampling on his life. "There was a loud angry pounding at my door at five o'clock in the morning," he recalls. "Very scary."
It was a female police officer with a complaint accusing him of being the father of an 8-year-old girl in Contra Costa County, east of San Francisco. "I'm like, 'Great! I'm definitely not the father of anybody,'" he says.
There were excellent reasons to think so. He had never met or heard of the mother of the child. He had never lived in Northern California, and at the time of conception (spring 1991) he was attending the University of California at Santa Barbara, beginning a monogamous relationship that would last for two years. What's more, he's a condom fanatic -- only once in his life, Pierce swears, has he failed to use a rubber during intercourse, and that was "many years after." (He's been a friend of mine for 15 years, and I believe him.) And if the summons had included the mother's testimony (it was supposed to, but did not), he would have seen himself described as a "tall" and "dark" black man named "Anthony Pierce." Pierce is a hair over five feet, nine inches; he is so light-skinned that even people who know him sometimes don't realize he's black; and no one calls him Anthony except his mom.
The front page of the court document gave simple but misleading instructions: "You have 30 days to respond to this lawsuit. You may respond in one of two ways: 1. File an Answer to the complaint with the Superior Court of Contra Costa County, not with the District Attorney....2. Settle the case with the District Attorney. You may call us at (925) 313-4200 to discuss your case." Concluding incorrectly (but understandably) that he could settle the matter over the phone, Pierce called -- three times that day -- and tried to weave his way through a labyrinthine phone tree. Finally he found a human being, who instructed him to leave a message with a home phone number. The department called him back the next day and left a message; it took another three calls from Pierce before he reached a caseworker for the first time.
"I said, 'What do I need to do? I'm not the father,'" he remembers. "And they were like, 'OK, well this is what you do: You just call in every day, and then we'll understand that you're not it, because if you're it, you're not gonna call us every day.'"
Pierce did everything he was told over the next three weeks of phone tag, except for comprehending that the 30-day deadline for denying paternity in writing was etched in federal law, regardless of what he discussed with Contra Costa employees -- who he says never once told him the clock was ticking. "All they were doing was delaying me from doing what I needed to do," he says. "It's a huge scam -- huge scam....They're just counting the days. They're like, 'Sucker, sucker, sucker, sucker.'...And this is the government!"
Two months later, after the phone conversations had ended and he assumed he was off the hook, Pierce received notice that a "default judgment" had been entered against him, and that he owed $9,000 in child support. He was between dot-com jobs, and his next unemployment check was 25 percent smaller; the state of California had seized and diverted $100 toward his first payment. Suddenly, he was facing several years of automatic wage garnishment, and the shame of being forced to explain to prospective employers why the government considered him a deadbeat dad. "That's when it hit me," he says. "I mean, it's mostly my fault -- 'Fill out the form, dumb-ass!'...But it's so rigged against you, it's ridiculous."
Dad Blamed
What Pierce didn't realize, and what nearly 10 million American men have discovered to their chagrin since the welfare reform legislation of 1996, is that when the government accuses you of fathering a child, no matter how flimsy the evidence, you are one month away from having your life wrecked. Federal law gives a man just 30 days to file a written challenge; if he doesn't, he is presumed guilty. And once that steamroller of justice starts rolling, dozens of statutory lubricants help make it extremely difficult, and prohibitively expensive, to stop -- even, in most cases, if there's conclusive DNA proof that the man is not the child's father.
This stacked deck against accused dads has provoked a backlash movement, triggering "paternity fraud" legislation and related legal challenges in more than a dozen states. Combined with advances in genetic technology, this conflict may end up changing the way we define parenthood. For now, the system aimed at catching "deadbeat dads" illustrates how a noble-sounding effort to help children and taxpayers can trample the rights of innocent people.
Here's how it works: When an accused "obligor" fails, for whatever reason, to send his response on time, the court automatically issues a "default judgment" declaring him the legal father. It does not matter if he was on vacation, was confused, or (as often happens) didn't even receive the summons, or if he simply treated the complaint's deadlines with the same lack of urgency people routinely exhibit toward jury duty summonses -- he's now the dad. "In California, you don't even have to have proof of service of the summons!" says Rod Wright, a recently retired Democratic state senator from Los Angeles who tried and failed to get several paternity-related reform bills, including a proof-of-service requirement, past former Gov. Gray Davis' veto. "They only are obligated to send it to the last known address."
In fact, a March 2003 Urban Institute study commissioned by the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) found that "most noncustodial parents appear to be served by 'substitute' service, rather than personal service, which suggests that noncustodial parents may not know that they have been served." In Los Angeles County, which is notorious for its sloppy summons service and zealous prosecution of alleged fathers it knows to be innocent, nearly 80 percent of paternity establishments come in the form of default judgments. In the state as a whole, which establishes 250,000 paternities a year while collecting $2 billion in child support, a whopping 68 percent of the 158,000 child support orders in 2000 (the last year studied) were default judgments.
Once paternity is "established," even if the government has never communicated with the father, the county court imposes a payment rate and schedule under the statistically mistaken assumption that he makes a full-time salary at minimum wage. (State audits have found that a full 80 percent of default dads don't make even that much.) To collect the money, the county may put a garnish order on the purported father's paycheck or place liens on his assets. If the mother has received welfare assistance after the child was born, the man will be hit with a bill to pay back the state, plus 10 percent annual interest. "That's what they're trying to do, is get some reimbursement to the state," says Carolyn Kelly, public relations officer for the Contra Costa County DCSS. "As you can imagine, [that's] millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars."
If the father falls 30 days behind on his payments, he will be blocked by law from receiving or renewing a driver's license or any "authorization issued by a board that allows a person to engage in a business, occupation, or profession" -- a category that includes teaching credentials, fishing licenses, and state bar memberships. If his credit rating was good, it won't be any more. If his past-due tab exceeds $5,000, the U.S. State Department won't issue him a passport. (An average of 60 Americans discover this each day. Meanwhile, Congress has been pushing to cut the limit to $2,500, while urging the State Department to begin revoking passports, which is allowed under the law.)
"When you tell people about the inequities of the system," Wright says, "they're surprised. They go, 'This is America! You couldn't do that!' And I go, 'Yes, you can.'"
Under the guidelines set forth by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, single mothers can receive welfare only on condition that the state take charge of collecting their child support, including unpaid amounts from the past. If the biological father is not paying support, he will be tracked down and hit with the bill. The admirable goal, which statistics show has partially been achieved, was to encourage more responsible sexual behavior by single women, give two-parent families an incentive to stay together, wean recipients off welfare by forcing them to work, and help them find a little extra cash they didn't have before. At the same time, however, the law gave states an explicit mandate and direct financial incentive to name the maximum number of fathers and extract from them the maximum amount of money.
The bottom-line results have been impressive: Since 1993, according to Senate testimony last March by Marilyn Ray Smith, director of the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, child support collection nationwide jumped from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $19 billion in 2001, while paternity establishments more than doubled, from 659,000 in 1994 to 1.6 million just five years later.
But you can read thousands of pages of laws, reports, and testimonies, and not see a single reference to the importance of naming the right guy, or to the gravity of making a mistake. Since Congress first got into the child support business in 1975, the cornerstone philosophy has been to orient everything toward "the best interest of the child," which in practice has meant ensuring that the kid receives money. Now that the states also have a financial incentive -- they pocket a cut of child support payments, earn performance rewards from the federal government, and enjoy the savings from reduced welfare rolls -- the cash motive is stronger than ever. California, for example, crunches the numbers every which way: total child support dollars collected per dollar of total expenditure, average amount collected per case, and so on. But nowhere does the state bother to count the number of citizens it has wrongfully named as fathers. The bias is overwhelming, and abuses are inevitable.
Paternity Test
Anyone familiar with paternity misestablishment horror stories will tell you that Tony Pierce is a fortunate man. "Oh, he got really lucky," says Taron James, a wrongfully named father who recently founded a group called Veterans Fighting Paternity Fraud. "Mine's going on eight years."
First of all, even at Pierce's current low, entry-level salary, he's rolling in dough compared to most default dads. According to the Urban Institute study, of the 834,000 Californians owing child support in 2001, "over 60 percent of debtors have recent net [annual] incomes below $10,000. Only 1 percent have recent net incomes in excess of $50,000." It's safe to guess that, also unlike Pierce, most don't have good friends who are high-powered lawyers willing to work pro bono. Like obtaining a green card, which is a hellishly complex process navigated disproportionately by the poor, fighting a paternity complaint is nearly inconceivable without legal representation, which Wright says costs a "minimum" of $2,000. "If he can't get the two grand together, you know what?" Wright says. "He's shit out of luck."
Pierce's lawyer, Kim Thigpen, is normally an entertainment attorney, so her crash-course education in family law came as a shock. "I've never seen anything like it," she says. Thigpen was able to get the default judgment set aside -- not canceled -- on grounds of excusable neglect and mistaken identity, thereby blocking the wage garnishment until the mother and child settled the question once and for all by checking their DNA against Pierce's. Nearly three years and $10,000 in legal expenses later, they're still waiting for the mother to comply. (It was far easier for Contra Costa County to declare Pierce the father from 400 miles away than to compel the local-resident mother to show up for a DNA test.) At the hearing, the county attorney admitted that Pierce looked nothing like the mother's description, a fact that a simple Google search would have easily revealed, since Tony publishes a Web site that includes several dozen pictures of himself.
So how was Pierce fingered? How low is the legal threshold for placing men in the cross hairs of default justice? Both Contra Costa County and the California DCSS refused to discuss the specifics of this or any other case, citing privacy regulations (though Contra Costa's Carolyn Kelly did point out that "if you don't contact us, there's nothing we can do"). But a look at how the process works reveals great potential for error.
Counties typically launch paternity investigations for one of two reasons: Either a parent or custodian directly asks for help in locating a biological parent, or a mother applies for welfare, which now is reported to the local child support system. If the mother was unwed, says California DCSS Assistant Director Leora Gerhenzon, "you ask about when you became pregnant, why you believe that date is correct, whether or not the father was named on the birth certificate, has the father seen the child,...does the father provide for support, has he ever lived with the child,...a Social Security number....It's a half-hour [interview], or even an hour and a half to two hours."
What if the only information the mother provides, I ask Gerhenzon, is that it was 10 years ago, with a white guy named Matt Welch, now between 30 and 40 years old, who maybe lives in the Los Angeles area?
"In that case, now it depends," she says. "We run our search on him; if we come back with one Matt Welch who lives in L.A., whose birthday fits that 10-year range, and we have nobody else, we presume in general we have the person. If we come back with three Matt Welches, all of a sudden we know there's a problem. We have to call her back in, or call her on the phone, and say 'OK, here's what we've pulled up. We need more help from you to identify which is the correct [one].'"
So a name, race, vague location, and a broad age range is sufficient to launch a process that could quickly lead to a default judgment, asset liens, and a blocked passport? "Right. Right," Gerhenzon confirms. "If it's clear that she's given us enough identifying information to come up with one discrete name, we would go ahead." Wouldn't that make people with unusual names easier targets? "Absolutely."
In addition to a low threshold for accusing men of paternity, the system lacks penalties for naming the wrong father. Mothers sign their declarations under penalty of perjury, Gerhenzon says, but neither she nor anyone else I talked to for this article could recall a single case where a mother was charged with a crime for naming the wrong man. In fact, until recently California hasn't had any way to see whether a woman had named different candidates in different counties. Asked how a caseworker might respond after discovering such a disparity, Gerhenzon says, "I think in all likelihood they would confront the custodial parent with both names, and say, 'Who is the appropriate parent?'" For both the mother and the state, the punishment for making a mistake is indirect, in the form of receiving less child support. (The state is much less successful in collecting from default dads, on average, and the wrongly named defaults surely pay the least.)
So how many default judgments catch the wrong guy? Nobody knows. Paternity reform activists point to a 2000 study by the American Association of Blood Banks that found 30 percent of the 300,000 paternity DNA tests conducted at accredited centers nationwide excluded the father. But the actual percentage of wrongfully named default dads is certainly much lower, since these samples come largely from people with doubts about paternity (as opposed to real deadbeat dads, who have considerable reason to avoid a DNA test).
Whatever the number, the state of California recognizes misidentification of fathers as a serious problem. "Some default orders are expected," reported the Urban Institute, "but a default rate of 71 percent statewide indicates that something is terribly wrong." In its study, which addressed the collectibility of California's $17 billion in outstanding support, the Urban Institute's No. 1 recommendation was to "reduce default orders." The DCSS now has a Default Work Group, established at the behest of former Gov. Davis after he vetoed one of the reform bills, that is preparing recommendations for reducing the rate.
"What we have done in the past is sped up many of these defaults," Gerhenzon says. "And they were penny-wise and pound foolish, maybe, to go ahead and get quick orders.... And what we've certainly learned through our collectibility study, and...through general customer service, is that it is far, far better to get the right parent up front....In cases where we actually, because of the default, have the wrong parent, we end up collecting a whole lot less money."
Innocence Is No Defense
The systems for establishing paternity and providing child support are replete with legal deadlines that vary from state to state. Besides having 30 days to respond to a paternity complaint, an accused father in California has 180 days to contest a child support order and two years from birth to challenge paternity using DNA evidence (unless he has signed a voluntary declaration of paternity in the hospital under the federal government's new Paternity Opportunity Program, in which case he has just 60 days). If, for what-ever reasons, any of these deadlines aren't met, no amount of evidence can move the state to review the case; the DCSS has to be sued. Unlike capital murder convictions, which are being overturned around the country because of DNA evidence, family court cases typically hew to the "finality of judgment" principle to prevent disruptions in children's lives. Or, in the words of former California legislator Rod Wright, "It ain't your kid, you can prove it ain't your kid, and they say, 'So what?'"
That's how a man like Taron James could be slapped with a support bill for thousands of dollars from Los Angeles County in 2002, and continue to be barred from using his notary public license, even after producing convincing DNA evidence and notarized testimony from the mother that her 11-year-old son, whom he's seen exactly once and looks nothing like, is not his child and that she no longer seeks his support. James says his name was placed on the child's birth certificate without his consent while he was on a Navy tour of duty; then the mother refused to take blood tests for eight years, and he became aware of a default order against him only when the Department of Motor Vehicles refused to issue him a driver's license in October 1996. By that time, James had missed all the relevant deadlines, the court was unimpressed with his tale of woe, and he has since coughed up $14,000 in child support via liens and garnishments.
"I contact Child Support Services, and their whole thing is, 'Take us to court. You don't like what we're doing, take us to court,'" he says. "Whether or not you're the biological father doesn't matter -- if someone's got your name, and you've...failed to participate in the court date, then you have an obligation to pay child support, period."
Needless to say, taking DCSS to court is expensive (James says he's already run up legal bills of $4,000), and success isn't likely. To add insult to injury, even if you win, you won't get any of your money back.
State bureaucrats say their hearts bleed, but rules are rules. "We are obligated by law to enforce the order," says California DCSS's Gerhenzon. "We have no ability not only to stop enforcement of our own, but not to proceed with doing everything we can to get child support in this case, because we have to enforce the legally established order. The recourse is to get that order set aside, or overturned."
When judicial systems enthusiastically enforce rulings they know to be unjust, it's a surefire formula for creating activists. After writing scores of letters to politicians and conducting endless Internet searches, James and his girlfriend, Raegan Phillips, hooked up with a national group called U.S. Citizens Against Paternity Fraud, founded by a Georgia engineer named Carnell Smith. Smith paid more than $40,000 in support over 11 years to an ex-girlfriend's child he assumed to be his, until she requested more money in 1999. He then took a DNA test and discovered he wasn't the father, but the court ordered him to pay $120,000 anyway. Enraged, he launched Citizens Against Paternity Fraud and began lobbying the Georgia legislature to change laws that limited the admissibility of DNA tests. In May 2002, the effort passed, so now at least some default dads in Dixie -- those who have never adopted their children or officially acknowledged paternity -- can overturn support orders using DNA evidence, regardless of how much time has elapsed. In March of last year, under the new law, Smith's personal support order was finally overturned.
Similar laws have passed in Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, Arkansas, and Alabama; others are working their way through statehouses in Texas, New Jersey, California, Florida, Michigan, Vermont, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, courts across the country are trying to redraw the legal lines of paternity now that genetic testing and welfare reform are colliding with 500 years of common law tradition, which has presumed that all children born in a marriage are the husband's responsibility, whether or not he is the biological father. In May 2003, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that men who have admitted paternity, even if the mother lied to them, are not allowed to introduce DNA evidence to challenge support orders. Carnell Smith has been trying to push the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, so far without success.
Although paternity fraud activists are beginning to gain traction, they face formidable obstacles. The Welfare Reform Act is largely a popular success. More two-parent families are staying together, more single mothers are entering the work force, and child support collections have doubled. By just about any measure, these trends are in the best interests of the affected children. In Massachusetts 18 years ago, for example, women had a miserable rate of success (around 10 percent) in suing for paternity, according to Marilyn Ray Smith, the state's chief child support enforcer, and genetic tests were inadmissible except to disprove paternity. For single mothers and their children, the legal climate obviously has changed much for the better.
Which helps explain why so many feminist groups and politicians have dug in their heels to block paternity reform bills. Considered in zero sum terms, any change that prevents some unjustly named fathers from supporting kids they didn't sire reduces the amount of money children and single mothers receive while increasing states' welfare payouts. Child support advocates also worry, with some reason, that narrow-sounding legislation aimed at preventing obvious injustices may become a Trojan horse for men who change their minds about the responsibilities of fatherhood. But that's rarely how the issue is presented. Women's groups usually argue that fatherhood cannot be measured by DNA alone -- a disingenuous stance, considering the thousands of men who pay for kids they've never lived with.
"What makes a father?" California state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) said in an August 2002 interview with the Los Angeles Times, explaining why she was voting against Rod Wright's latest reform bill. "This bill says the donation of genetic material makes a father. I don't agree."
Kuehl, a former family law attorney who cosponsored a law that reworked California's child support system in 1999, has been the single biggest opponent of paternity-related reform bills in the state, to the point where activists like James and Phillips refer to her as "Sheila Cruel" and are planning demonstrations outside her office. Kuehl refused repeated requests to comment for this article. "She says it's not her issue," a spokeswoman told me. "She's not interested to talk about it."
Wright, who considers Kuehl a friend, says he tried several times to sway her with individual stories of innocent victims who'd been trampled by the current system. "Sheila said to me one day in a hearing room: 'You know, I understand that, through the convergence of science and thousand-year-old common law, we have to work toward a kind of balance. And I side with the kids; I don't really care about this guy.'" Wright chalks it up to the prevailing poli-tical winds. "If this was a case where women could be charged similarly," he says, "Sheila would be all over this like a cheap suit. It's really a case where it becomes a guy vs. a child. So it's like, 'Well, screw the guy.'"
Paternity activists argue that the best interests of the child should include, among other things, knowing who her real biological father is, so she can have accurate medical information. And every day the wrong man is on the hook, they point out, is a day not spent finding the real father.
"They have failed her," Tony Pierce says of Contra Costa County's effort on behalf of his supposed daughter. "If they're in it to feel good about themselves and to go to heaven because they're fighting for women -- no, they're going to hell, because they have not found this woman's father, and they have tried to fuck me over....What they should have said right away is, 'Hey look, this isn't the guy; let's get the [right] guy.'"
Every child support official I talked to was sensitive to the criticism and eager to discuss many past and future reforms aimed at reducing the number of default judgments, humanizing the system, and even (in the words of Contra Costa County's Kelly) eliminating the word deadbeat from their vocabulary. "This is a tough area," California DCSS's Gerhenzon says. "When you have bad results in these situations, they are tough on everyone involved in the process: the parents, the legal parents, the child, the system. It is to everyone's benefit not to have these cases come up."
But as long as state and federal laws remain as they are -- with low evidentiary thresholds for issuing paternity complaints, no proof of service required, the presumption of guilt in default cases, a series of short legal deadlines beyond which paternity becomes extremely difficult to challenge, and financial incentive for the government to keep naming dads and extracting money -- these cases will continue to come up. "I can see how so many men could be totally screwed right now," Pierce says. "You know, I was educated, I had a good job, I'd never been involved with the cops before, I had nothing to fear, nothing to run from. But still, I got tied into it....I can see where this stuff could create many victims."
Victims like Taron James, who lost at least two jobs while putting his life on hold for eight years so he could fight a judgment that should have never been made. "I'm a veteran -- I fought for and defended my country," James says, sitting in a Torrance, California, park down the street from his great aunt's crowded house, where he lives with his girlfriend and splits his time looking for work and driving to Sacramento to lobby legislators. "To be treated like this is ridiculous....Right now, I'm fully disgusted with California and the United States for allowing this to go on after I put my hind end on the line."

Note: The print edition of this article incorrectly stated Raegan Phillips' name and one detail about Taron James.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hillsborough GOP official rebuked for racial e-mail joke

Blackman says: Sigh! here we go again folks. Yet another Republican official is being called out and forced to apologize for being stupid by distributing what many consider to be a racist joke via email. This time it's right here in Tampa Florida. Although this isn't the first time this group of Republicans has been called out for making stupid racist statements or sending out racist emails.
But you can go to any city in any state and the story is the same. Will this ever end? Right now you hear all this talk coming from Republicans about how they plan to transform their party in the wake of getting whipped in the 2008 elections. There is even a grassroots organization called Rebuild the Party which is attempting to be a driving force in the transformation. While electing Michael Steele is a start, the GOP has a LONG way to go if they even want to be s serious contender for black votes. Republicans need to understand why Black Americans view them they way they do. It's not because the "evil Liberal Media" has distorted their image nor is it due to Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton exercising some sort of mind control nor is because of "Political Correctness" (which they like to blame when ever they get called out on saying inappropriate stuff) The reason black folks view Republican Party (and quite frankly Black Republicans themselves) the way they do is because of BS like this. Now sure we know there are plenty of racist Democrats out there. We saw that during the primaries. But it's always Republicans that are stupid enough to put their racism on display over and over again. I also linked to the story so you can read all the comments from the knuckleheads who are defending this person and the "joke". We can only hope that one day people that think like this will become extinct.

I've said before that a lot of my ideas would probably qualify me as a conservative and maybe
even a Republican. But I can never bring myself to actually make the switch because the Republican party can't seem to dump it's racial baggage. I've even told my Republicans friends
that I would be a Republican if it were not for Republicans.

Before I go check out this Blog entry from Wonkette.

Blackman out..........

_______________________________
TAMPA — Florida Republican chairman Jim Greer said Wednesday that longtime Hillsborough state committeewoman Carol Carter may lose her position because of the racial joke she forwarded in an e-mail.
"Carol Carter has been a hard-working, loyal Republican for many years, but this action I have no tolerance for, regardless of the circumstances or intent," a furious Greer said of Carter's e-mail.
Concerning her future, Greer said, "I am currently considering all options, including my authority to remove her from the office of state committeewoman."
The e-mail read:
From: Carol Carter
Friday, January 30, 9:30 AM
Subject: FW: Amazing!
I'm confused
How can 2,000,000 blacks get into Washington, DC in 1 day in sub zero temps when 200,000 couldn't get out of New Orleans in 85 degree temps with four days notice?
Carol Carter
Later she sent out a second e-mail that read:
From: Carol Carter
January 30, 5:54 PM
Subject: Earlier e-mail
I have been asked to send this apology for my earlier e-mail. I am sorry that it was received in a negative manner. I do hope that we are going to be allowed to keep our sense of humor.
As you can now see, it went to very few people. I did add Todd Marks in this apology, as he is in the mix now. I am also sorry to learn that some of these persons are not real team players. There really was no reason for this to go beyond those that I e-mailed (8 people). This was not an e-mail blast as I do not have that capability.
Carol
"I'm pretty much done with those sorts of inappropriate and, and — I am at a loss for words," Greer said. "I just came back from Washington, D.C., working to get our first African-American elected as (Republican National Committee) chairman. It's one thing to have a person express their thoughts and humor. It's another to have a leader of the Republican Party. I'm just done with it."
Carter did not return a telephone message seeking comment.
Hillsborough has been a magnet for racially charged controversies in the Republican Party in recent months. Former county chairman David Storck was roundly criticized for forwarding an e-mail lamenting the many blacks voting early in the presidential election, and former state party finance chairman Al Austin apologized for forwarding an e-mail joke referring to the assassination of Obama.
Storck's successor, Deborah Cox-Roush, said local and state party officials are investigating the actions of Carter, whom she calls a die-hard, hard-working Republican.
She said she has spoken to Carter, and she was very apologetic.
Cox-Roush has called a board meeting but said nothing could be determined Wednesday.
"We are moving forward, and the Republican Party does not tolerate any kind of racist remarks of this kind."
Others in the party sounded just as flummoxed.
"I just saw Carol last Tuesday, and we had a good conversation," said Curtis Stokes, president of the Hillsborough County NAACP and a prominent Republican. "Never in a million years would I think she would forward something like this."
Stokes said he started getting angry phone calls about Carter early Wednesday morning but didn't learn the content of the e-mail until later that night.
"That kind of behavior has no place in the modern day Republican Party," Stokes said.
Hillsborough Democratic Party chairwoman Pat Kemp said she was surprised at the "utterly ugly" commentary.
"I think obviously she really has to look at herself, and people who would say such a thing really need to look deep at their prejudices and racism," Kemp said Wednesday night. "We aware that this exists, but it doesn't usually hit us in the face so hard. It's just so sad."
Times staff writer Janet Zink contributed to this report.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Key Obama officials reveal executive pay limits

Blackman says: While I'm sure the right wing crowd will howl "SOCIALIST!" I agree with this move. To date the banks that have gotten this bailout money have acted totally irresponsible. They still aren't loaning money to anybody. So what are they doing with it other
than buying corporate jets, paying bonuses and sending their executives on $400,000 retreats?

I can't wait to see how the media wing of the Republican Party AKA FOX News spins this one.

____________________________________
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Executives of companies receiving federal bailout money will have their pay capped at $500,000 under a financial compensation plan that President Barack Obama is expected to announce Wednesday, two senior administration officials said.

$500,000 will be the limit on executive salaries at companies receiving tax dollars, Obama officials said.

Obama alluded to a change in executive salary in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday.
"Tomorrow I'm going to be talking about executive compensation and changes we're going to be making there," he said. "We've now learned that people are still getting huge bonuses despite the fact that they're getting taxpayer money, which, I think, infuriates the public."
Under the president's plan, companies that want to pay their executives more than $500,000 will have to do so through stocks that cannot be sold until the companies pay back the money they borrow from the government, according to administration officials.
The restrictions will most affect large companies that receive "exceptional assistance," such as Citigroup. The struggling banking giant has taken about $45 billion from the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program. Watch Obama talk about limiting executive salaries »
In January, the bank reversed plans to accept delivery of a new $42 million corporate jet, after Treasury Department prodding.
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The new rules will also mandate that shareholders of banks have a greater say about the salaries paid to company heads. The measures will put in place greater transparency for costs such as holiday parties and office renovations.
Institutions that are financially healthy -- and receive more generally available government funds -- can waive these requirements if their shareholders vote to do so, according to the plan.
Obama ripped Wall Street executives in January for their "shameful" decision to hand out $18 billion in bonuses in 2008. The president said it was the "height of irresponsibility" for executives to pay bonuses when their companies were asking for help from Washington.
"The American people understand we've got a big hole that we've got to dig ourselves out of, but they don't like the idea that people are digging a bigger hole even as they're being asked to fill it up," he added.
Congress also was furious, with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, introducing legislation to cap compensation at bailed-out companies to no more than the salary of the U.S. president.
Obama's annual salary is $400,000.
"We have a bunch of idiots on Wall Street that are kicking sand in the face of the American taxpayer," an enraged McCaskill said on the floor of the Senate on Friday. "They don't get it. These people are idiots. You can't use taxpayer money to pay out $18 billion in bonuses."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rush Limbaugh does it again.

Why are they even bothering with this idiot. Hopefully
he and the type of people that follow him will one day be extinct.
The fact that people like Limbaugh, Hannity and Ann (Skeletor) Coulter
have become the face of the GOP is actually quite disturbing. Conservatives
love to blame their shortcoming and failures on the vast Liberal Media conspiracy.
When the real problem is much like Islam thier party has been high jacked by extremist
elements that are wedded to a corrupt ideology that will lead their party to ruin. Mickey Edwards articulates this very well in an opinion piece for the LA Times titled
"Reagan wouldn't recognize this GOP"
____________________________________


CNN) – In a bid to capitalize on Rush Limbaugh's recent comment that he hopes President Obama "fails," national Democrats launched a petition drive Wednesday taking direct aim at the conservative radio host.
"Jobs, health care, our place in the world — the stakes for our nation are high and every American needs President Obama to succeed," says the petition, sponsored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Stand strong against Rush Limbaugh's Attacks — sign our petition, telling Rush what you think of his attacks on President Obama."
Limbaugh told listeners last week he sharply disagrees with Republicans who have said they hope Obama succeeds as president, and particularly expressed frustration over what he viewed as the "absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care."
"If I wanted Obama to succeed, I'd be happy the Republicans have laid down," Limbaugh said. "I hope he fails."
The comment sparked outrage in Democratic circles, while defenders of the remark said it was made purely in the context of Obama's economic polices.
Still, the DCCC petition not only provides an outlet for Democratic anger at Limbaugh, but also serves as a vehicle to gain names and e-mail addresses, presumably for later use in fundraising and organizing efforts.
The petition follows reports Obama warned GOP congressional leaders last week that they should stop listening to the conservative talker, prompting Limbaugh’s response that the new president is "frightened of me."
“He’s obviously more frightened of me than he is [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell,” Limbaugh told listeners Monday. “He’s more frightened of me, then he is of say, [House Minority Leader] John Boehner, which doesn’t say much about our party.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I.G. report says former civil rights chief broke the law


WASHINGTON (CNN) – A long-awaited Justice Department report on the troubled Civil Rights Division says a politically-motivated former chief of the Division violated a federal hiring law and made false statements to Congress about his controversial hiring practices.
Bradley Schlozman, however, will not be prosecuted. The report says the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia decided last week not to prosecute Schlozman for the violations found by investigators for the Inspector General.
The 65-page report by Inspector General Glenn Fine describes Schlozman as a staunch conservative who tried to punish liberal employees within the Civil Rights Division.
"Our investigation concluded that Schlozman… inappropriately considered political and ideological affiliations in hiring career attorneys and in other personnel actions affecting career attorneys in the Division," the report said. "We concluded that in doing so Schlozman violated federal law (The Civil Service Reform Act) and Department policy, both of which prohibit discrimination in federal employment based on political or ideological affiliations, and committed misconduct."
The Inspector General also faulted Schlozman for his congressional testimony.
"Our report concluded that Schlozman made false statements about whether he had considered political and ideological affiliations when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 5, 2007 and in his written responses to supplemental questions from the Committee."
The report is the fourth and final one to be issued by the Inspector General stemming from the controversial firing of U.S. Attorneys by top Justice Department officials, and allegations of extensive improper hiring practices by conservative Republican officials who used political criteria in their decision making.