Thursday, January 31, 2008

No to Billary and the Politics of Division

There has been a lot of ink and paper used up to explain the South Carolina primary and what it means to the candidates and the electoral process. The two facts that I think South Carolina makes abundantly clear are that the voters are rejecting the politics of divisiveness and the idea of a co-Presidency. Now while much will be made of the fact that the majority of Democratic voters in South Carolina are black, I believe that there is still data that can be gleaned from the results and despite the fact Bill Clinton made absolutely clear that Jesse Jackson carried South Carolina the electorate today was different than when Jesse ran.

Despite protestations to the contrary by Clinton supporters many Democrats both black and white were uncomfortable with the tone the campaign had taken the last few weeks in South Carolina, led by Bill Clinton. The thing one must remember is that in politics perception is reality. So while many of his comments may have been misconstrued, the fact that a number of prominent Democrats were complaining should have been a clue to tone it down. I received many comments that Bill Clinton was only doing what the spouses of other candidates were doing, which of course is ridiculous. No matter how hard they try the other candidate’s spouses can never speak with the authority or the perceived expertise of a Bill Clinton. Many people thought that Bill had elevated himself to candidate Bill Clinton and not just husband-advocate Bill Clinton. The problem for Hillary is that having Bill Clinton out front detracts from her and her message of independence and experience.

Whether you believe the comments made by Bill and campaign surrogates were divisive or racially motivated is really unimportant, what is important is what the voters believed. In South Carolina, the voters believed that they were. Now it can be argued that the voters were swayed by the coverage and the responses of other Democrats, but that misses the point and sounds condescending. Are we to believe that the voters, the majority of who are black in South Carolina cannot determine for themselves what is divisive and racially charged? The thing that the Clinton campaign misread was the psyche of black people which is strange since Bill was the “first black” President. Blacks may have questions about another black person, but when that black person is attacked it is as if all black people are attacked and the wagons are circled. I find it hard to believe that the major events of last year would not have made this very clear to any outside observers.

The way you campaign in the black community is not with a white man attacking a black man, this will automatically raise the communal defenses. For examples of this phenomenon in action one merely has to review the history of black elected officials in America. From Adam Clayton Powell to Mayor Marion Berry, the black community will more often than not rally around a black man being attacked by whites even if those attacks are justified. Bill Clinton falsely believed that he had the juice to cross the race line; he found out sadly that he did not. He listened to the old blacks on the payroll who were chanting, you were “the first black” President, you can do it. Billary! Billary! Billary! What he didn’t recognize was that those blacks had lost any juice they had in the black community years ago and they were just as clueless as he was.

The other issue that the voters in South Carolina and I think may be played out across the country is this idea of a co-Presidency. While many Clinton supporters find the idea appealing, the two for the price of one argument has lost its luster. The idea of a co-Presidency congers up too many images of divisiveness and past battles. To give an example after the defeat in South Carolina, the first Clinton on the airwaves was not Hillary, it was Bill. And even after the primary Bill is still making more headlines than Hillary. This does not bode well for an independent female candidate running on her own experience and strength. It is too early to tell if the co-Presidency is dead, but for many it is a past they do not want recycled. Many people believe that if Bill is taking such a large role in the campaign will he also be taking a similar role in the White House? Also, if Hillary was co-President in the last Clinton administration it only stands to reason that Bill would occupy that same position in the new administration.

South Carolina is one state and too often people try to draw too many conclusions from one primary, remember Iowa? The one thing the Clintons are is smart and once again Hillary will reinvent herself and continue to fight. This election will not play out like past ones there are just too many dynamics at play, dynamics that have never been in play on such a large scale before. Anyone who claims to know the outcome is a fool. This electorate is too volatile and the issues too explosive to be able to predict or to rely on polls. Hillary will have to rein Bill in and once again become the focal point. This election is hers to win or lose. Relying on Bill’s popularity as we have seen in South Carolina is a two-edged sword; if I were Hillary I would use that sword sparingly.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Where’s My Rebate Check?

For the second time in his presidency George Bush has had to provide an “economic stimulus” to the failing economy. When will these clowns get it? These short-term band-aids will not fix a broken economy. These rebate checks are just a way for the politicians in Washington to be able to accept their checks from the lobbyists without guilt. The truth is just like the last rebates they will do little to rescue an economy that has inherent flaws. Rather than do the hard work needed to create a working economy, the Washingtonians have opted for a symbolic gesture designed to appease the masses in time for the fall elections. It is a win/win for both parties and a loss for the American public.

The economic research on effective stimulus is quite clear on this point: there is a greater bang-for-the-buck from rebates targeted at lower-income households than higher-income ones. As the Congressional Budget Office put it in a recent report:[PDF] "Lower-income households are more likely to be credit constrained and more likely to be among those with the highest propensity to spend. Therefore, policies aimed at lower-income households tend to have greater stimulative effects." Given the well-documented increase in income inequality in recent years, excluding low-income households from the rebate also fails on the criterion of fairness.[1]

Rather than deal with the rampant corporate greed that has fed this recession, it is easier to hand out a few hundred dollars in hush money to the electorate while the fleecing continues. Let’s compare the “stimulus package” being offered up by Washington with the profit package that the corporations have been enjoying the last 8 years.

Since 2001, he noted, overall corporate profits have doubled, to more than $1 trillion. Contributors to that gain include a cumulative $440 billion increase in investment, a $375 billion expansion of budget deficits and a $140 billion decline in household savings. The only negative during the period was a $405 billion widening of the trade deficit.[2]

The proposed stimulus package totals 150 billion dollars while the corporate profits are over a trillion dollars, is it just me or is there a small discrepancy here? Are we to believe that a $600 check is going to off-set the unprecedented growth of wealth and profiteering that is taking place in America today? The increase in the price of gasoline alone amounts to more than what is being offered the American public. Many economists believe that one of the main problems with our economy is the lack of savings, so what are we suppose to do with our rebate checks? Go out and spend them to generate more profits for the corporations. Why not just continue to give the money directly to the corporations and avoid the middle-man? So remember when those checks start to arrive in May or June you will be counted on to be a good little American and go out spend that money. Go buy yourself something nice, you really deserve it. Maybe it will help you to forget how truly bad the recession is and how worse it is going to get. Maybe it will help you to forget all your fellow Americans who are being evicted from their homes or who are still patrolling the streets of Iraq. Maybe it will help you forget all those millions of Americans who were forgotten in the negotiations; the unemployed, the food stamp recipients, and the seniors.

Yeah $600 is a pretty small price to pay for silence. I know it’s hard to say no to free money, but this money isn’t free. It will be directly added to the budget deficit which is currently hovering around 9 trillion dollars, so what’s another 100 billion? Our economy needs help, but not these onetime symbolic gestures. The time has come to make some much needed changes that will require making some difficult decisions. I just don’t see the political will or the populist surge to make it happen. So we will take our checks and continue to ignore the giant elephant in the room until there is a total collapse and then everyone will wonder what happened? What happened was that our infinitely expanding economy finally reached the limits of greed and corruption and rammed into the glass wall.


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I Don’t Want To Be Black Anymore

Here is my question, can a person in America change their race or opt out of their racial classification? Can someone who is defined by others as black check another box on the questionnaire? The reason I ask this question is the events that happened over the last few weeks in the golf world concerning Tiger Woods. For those who don’t know there was a major controversy when a Golf Channel anchorwoman, Kelly Tilghman made the comment that the best thing young golfers could do was to take Tiger Woods out in an alley and lynch him. The anchorwoman was suspended for two weeks. Then in an effort to sensationalize the issue and sell some magazines the vice-president and editor of Golfweek, Mr. Dave Seanor decided it would be a good idea to dramatize the issue with a picture of a noose on the cover. Mr. Seanor was immediately fired.

In both cases many blacks and whites were outraged by the events and demanded swift and severe punishment. It should be noted that in both cases the offending parties apologized and stated there was no racist intent in their actions. While they may have exhibited poor judgment or poor choice of words there was no ill intent involved. Now here is where my question comes in, Tiger Woods the object of all of this attention was not offended by any of these events. Tiger stated that he knew and was friends with Ms. Tilghman and that no racist intent was involved in her comment. He stated that he spoke with her and accepted her apology. Upon hearing how Tiger responded to the incident many blacks were irate that he could so casually downplay the issue.

For his part Tiger was quick to forgive and forget, saying through his agent, Mark Steinberg, that the incident was a "nonissue" and later releasing a statement that said, "Regardless of the choice of words used, we know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments."[1]

Many have asked why wasn’t Tiger more offended, if not for himself for the millions of other blacks affected by the comment. The answer is simple. Tiger Woods does not consider himself to be black. According to Tiger he is Cablinasian, a word he himself invented that combines his Caucasian, Black, and Asian heritage. It is not unusual for prominent blacks to “transcend” race and become more than black in the minds of white Americans, it helps assuage any guilt they may have of worshipping an inferior human being. And in some cases the black person may believe that they have in fact been able to opt out of being black into a new racial category. We have witnessed this phenomenon with many black conservatives as well as sports and entertainment stars.

So since Tiger Woods is not black the racial epithets and symbols of racism do not apply to him, so why would he be offended by them? Not only is he not offended by them but he doesn’t understand why other blacks would be. This attitude is similar to whites more so than blacks, “why can’t they just get over it”. So, I guess the answer to my question is yes you can change your racial classification if you are Tiger Woods and you made over 100 million dollars last year in endorsements alone playing a game largely played, viewed and supported by white people. However, for Pookie down on the block it isn’t so easy. When the cops roll up on him as hard as he might try to claim “Cablinasian” status the cops will see him as just another ni**er and they of course will deal with him based on those assumptions. As hard as we try to claim color-blindness the truth of the matter is we are not. We constantly make decisions about others based on their appearance and to deny that is deny our humanity.

So are other blacks upset with Tiger because he is able to overcome his “blackness”, like very light-skinned blacks in the past were able to “pass” for being white or is it something else entirely? The truth be told no one or no group wants to be dissed by a member of the group regardless of their identification with that group or not. I think it is especially painful when it is a member of that group. I remember the talk about O.J. when he was suddenly presented with the fact that he was black and how he embraced that fact when his ass was on the line. Tiger Woods can not be black if he chooses because of the world he lives in. The problem is for most other blacks that is not an option and so I think there is resentment in the fact that he can, because that means he is extremely rich but also that he would choose to do so. A similar case in point would be the infamous Michael Jackson.

So Tiger enjoy the ride and I hope you are never confronted with the ugly truth, but my experience here in America says different. But not to worry, you will always be a member of the family even if you deny us now. We have always been very forgiving, just ask OJ. Oh by the way to show how little any of this meant to him, Tiger went out last weekend and beat the brakes off everyone in the Buick Open winning by 8 strokes.


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Monday, January 28, 2008

When Is A Treaty Not A Treaty?

When is a treaty not a treaty? When the Bush administration says it isn’t. In an effort to once again prevent debate on Iraq and our ultimate objectives there the Bush administration has begun negotiations with the “Iraqi government” on replacing the soon to expire UN mandate with another agreement setting the terms for US involvement in Iraq. This agreement being negotiated is referred to as a military to military relationship agreement. This agreement will set the ground-rules and the parameters by which the US military can operate in Iraq. While there are many reasons that this agreement should be brought before the American people for debate I would like to discuss three.

This emerging American negotiating position faces a potential buzz saw of opposition from Iraq, with its fragmented Parliament, weak central government and deep sensitivities about being seen as a dependent state, according to these officials.

American officials are keenly aware that any agreement must be approved by Iraq’s fractured Council of Representatives, where Sunni and Shiite factions feud and even Shiite blocs loyal to competing leaders cannot agree.[1]

The first reason is the state of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government is in disarray which makes any negotiations tricky at best. How can we expect a government that is unable to resolve its own internal struggles through compromise to be able to negotiate in good faith? The current government does not have the standing or the mandate to negotiate with anyone concerning anything. Hoping to seize on this vulnerable state the Bush administration is trying to lock not only the US, but also the Iraqis into an agreement that is one-sided and heavily tilted towards the US. The administration says they don’t want a permanent presence in Iraq, but based on the spending for the new embassy and bases which is over 1.5 billion dollars, it is hard to accept that line. It is precisely this type of heavy-handed negotiations that have endeared the US presence around the world. How many embassies must be attacked and countries overthrown before we get a clue? These negotiations only underscore the lack of sovereignty of the Iraqi government and further humiliate the Iraqi people.

However, the American quest for protections for civilian contractors is expected to be particularly vexing, because in no other country are contractors working with the American military granted protection from local laws. Some American officials want contractors to have full immunity from Iraqi law, while others envision less sweeping protections. These officials said the negotiations with the Iraqis, expected to begin next month, would also determine whether the American authority to conduct combat operations in the future would be unilateral, as it is now, or whether it would require consultation with the Iraqis or even Iraqi approval.[2]

The second reason is the immunity clause being forced upon the Iraqis. The US is trying to include in the agreement full immunity for civilian contractors in Iraq, which would be unprecedented in these types of agreements. This immunity would give the private security forces a license to kill in the literal sense, not only would they be shielded from Iraqi justice but as we are learning with the Blackwater case US justice as well. This would give the US government a private army that could be used for missions that would not be desirable for the regular military to undertake, all the while providing cover for US officials for any mission that went badly. It was a rouge band of private contractors that committed those atrocities. Sound familiar?

Representative Bill Delahunt, Democrat of Massachusetts, said that what the administration was negotiating amounted to a treaty and should be subjected to Congressional oversight and ultimately ratification.

“Where have we ever had an agreement to defend a foreign country from external attack and internal attack that was not a treaty?” he said Wednesday at a hearing of a foreign affairs subcommittee held to review the matter. “This could very well implicate our military forces in a full-blown civil war in Iraq. If a commitment of this magnitude does not rise to the level of a treaty, then it is difficult to imagine what could.”[3]

Finally, there is the small matter of oversight and debate. George Bush has succeeded in preventing any real debate on Iraq for almost 5 years. By using fear, hate, and false patriotism he has quashed any meaningful debate concerning not only the run-up to the war, but his policies since the invasion. Because we first had a Republican controlled and now a weak-kneed Democratic controlled Congress, the American public has been left out of the debate concerning Iraq. At one point the mid-term elections were supposed to have registered the American people’s concern and disenchantment with the war. Those concerns and that disenchantment have been brushed aside not only by the Bush administration, the MSM, but also the Democratic Congress. Many of those Congresspersons campaigned and won on ending the war platforms.

The Bush administration should not be allowed to commit this country to an open ended security agreement with Iraq. It is bad enough he got us there with lies and secrecy and now he wants to use the same tactics to keep us there for who knows how long. If it quacks like a duck?

[2] Ibid.

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War On Drugs VII

The thing that makes the war on drugs so insidious to me as a black man is not the fact that it has increased the number black felons or that it has turned our neighborhoods into war zones. No to me the one factor that has caused the most damage to us as a people is how it has removed us from the process of democracy. I think that this was its original intent and it has not failed to deliver. The United States is the only democracy in the world that does not allow its citizens the right to vote after they have served their sentences. In America, it is once a criminal always a criminal. To understand the racist nature of these laws all one has to do is to examine their historic beginnings.

Felon disenfranchisement was sometimes used as a tool by the states to disenfranchise blacks. Some Southern states passed laws disenfranchising those convicted of what were considered to be "black" crimes, while those convicted of "white" crimes did not lose their right to vote. For example, South Carolina disenfranchised criminals convicted of "thievery, adultery, arson, wife beating, housebreaking, and attempted rape," but not those convicted of murder or fighting. Mississippi modified its broad, earlier law--which disenfranchised convicts of "any crime"--to specifically target "black" crimes.[1]

The laws allowing for the disenfranchisement of criminals can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and first appeared in America as early as the 1600’s. So for anyone looking to disenfranchise a group of citizens the groundwork was already laid. If felons forfeited their constitutional rights all one would have to do is to construct and create laws to make more felons and then through a bias application of the laws exclude the majority population while ensnaring the targeted group. This of course is a broad statement and on its own proves nothing. In order to verify its validity there would have to be a statistical anomaly between the number of people in the criminal justice system from the targeted group and the percentage of that group in the national populace that cannot be explained by happenchance. Is there such an anomaly?

Although the incidence of crimes committed by blacks has not increased, the number of black prisoners has tripled since 1980. Approximately 13% of black males have lost their right to vote due to felony convictions, or around 1.4 million persons (Sentencing Project, 2000). The primary theoretical tool used to explain LFD legislation is the racial threat thesis (Behrens et al., 2003). The idea is that the presence of a high proportion of African Americans creates a threat that can be temporarily reduced by sentencing a large number of blacks to prison...Yet we will demonstrate that through policies that have been explicitly and are now "implicitly racial, state institutions organize and enforce the racial politics of everyday life" (Omi and Winant, 1986: 77).[2]

I would say a tripling of black inmates is such an anomaly. Are we to believe that the increased number of black inmates is due to better police tactics or that more blacks are committing more crimes? No, there has been a concerted effort to marginalize black men and exclude them from the democratic process. In a democracy people must have free access to its instruments to affect effective change in their lives and in the lives of their children. The black man has never been given full access to those instruments. The results of that denial of access can be seen in the deterioration of the black community. If you can’t vote, you have no voice in the direction of your community or its resources. If you can’t vote you can’t elect people who are accountable to your interests. You in effect become invisible. And that is what we have in America millions of invisible black men, who are only seen when their faces are flashed on the television screens on the nightly news. They are never heard from, they have no voices.

I believe that the rise in hip-hop and “gangsta-rap” is a direct consequence of that loss of voice. If your voice is not heard through traditional methods, if your concerns are ignored then you are left with few choices. We have millions of young black men who have never voted and never will vote, ever. They have no concept of the democratic process because it does not apply to them. They have seen no improvements through traditional methods. The violence of the past to acquire the right to vote has no influence on them, they could care less. They don’t care because for many it is a “right” they will never get to exercise.

The following is a representation of Florida, multiply these numbers across the country and you begin to see the pattern.

Recent interest in LFD laws springs in great part from the experience in Florida (Johnson v. Bush). Florida's disenfranchisement law kept in excess of 600,000 citizens with felony convictions from voting in 2000 (Rapoport, 2003), of whom one-third were black (Wagner, 2001). Thus, Uggen and Manza (2002) argue that the outcome of the 2000 presidential election, as well as of several other presidential elections and U.S. Senate elections, would have had different outcomes if disenfranchised ex-felons would have had the vote. Florida's part in the 2000 presidential election has become infamous since the Supreme Court proclaimed George W. Bush as president. Before the election, state officials waged a $4.3 million campaign to purge Florida's felons from the voter rolls (Palm Beach Post, 2001).[3]

You may have noticed that I have not used the “C” word or mentioned Republicans, because it isn’t just them. Unfortunately, there are some Democrats who allow these injustices to take place. It not only helps the Republicans to disenfranchise so many blacks, it also helps some white Democrats as well. If you live in a city with a substantial black population and you are a white politician it would be in your interest to suppress the black vote regardless of your Party affiliation. Remember, all politics are local and in local elections it isn’t always good to have a large bloc of voting blacks, especially if they are independently minded. We all know that these laws are disenfranchising millions of black voters, so why have they not been repealed? This is the question that the Dems have to answer as well as the Republicans.


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Friday, January 25, 2008

The Fight For The Soul Of Black America

For the past decade there has been a struggle for the soul of black America. This struggle has been waged on the social, psychological, spiritual, and economic fields of the black community. As the black community continues to evolve there is a growing gap that is developing between the haves and the have nots. As more and more blacks are able to escape the inner cities for the suburbs they are leaving behind a growing number of poorer and less educated blacks. To many this may not be news since there has always been the desire for many blacks to escape the poverty, inferior schools, and lack of jobs of the inner city, but the numbers have been escalating over the past two decades.

In Los Angeles, the proportion of blacks is 9.9%, just over half what it was in 1970, although the number of blacks remains relatively high — 366,000, according to 2005 Census estimates. And in Chicago an estimated 1 million blacks remain — about one-third of the population — even though more than 55,000 have left since 2000, says Kenneth Johnson, a Loyola University Chicago demographer who analyzed 2005 Census data.

While I would never cast aspersions on any black person wanting to escape the dangers, blight, and inferior education of the inner city, what this flight has created is a vacuum for those blacks that are unable or unwilling to leave. As more and more neighborhoods lose upper and middle-class blacks this results in the further deterioration of the neighborhoods and a reinforcement of this “gangsta” lifestyle that has taken over many of our neighborhoods. There are becoming fewer and fewer alternative narratives to the “Get rich or die trying” scenario, thus leaving many young blacks with only one translation of the American story. The black community has a rich and multi-faceted history. We have endured many internal and external attempts to minimize and marginalize us. Throughout our history there have been many voices who would have us to believe that our dreams are unattainable and we should just give up. And just like in the past we must not listen to those prophets of doom today.

There is an African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child, well if the only input that child is getting is negative what result can we expect. I remember growing up and how important it was for me to see black people who were successful around me. This was during the time when blacks had to live around other blacks and one could see the whole social-strata in one community. Most everyone took pride in the accomplishments of others and made an effort to strive for their own success. I don’t know why but for some reason the blacks that have reached a modicum of success today have surrendered the black narrative to those who want to exploit it. It is almost as if to say that if they haven’t made it by now they aren’t going to make it, so f ‘em. Unfortunately, my faith and who I am do not afford me that luxury. I don’t know what the answer is, but I know doing nothing is not an option for me.

Rather than criticize we need to develop and implement strategies that have been proven to increase high-school graduation, college preparation and graduation, also job skills and opportunities. One of our main problems is we have too many young men without jobs and without hope. The “dream” of America means nothing to them because they have no way of realizing it. The lure of the street with its easy money and excitement is not being met with any opposition, because we have none. Instead of promoting truth, too many of our so-called leaders have been promoting some “pie in the sky” formula for restoring our communities. We must begin to accept some hard truths about our leaders, our government, and our own conduct.

Many of our leaders today have become nothing more than black faces who are paid to appear whenever a black face is required. Instead of demanding support for our communities they demand support for themselves. It is time we stop waiting on others to do what we must do for ourselves. The government cannot be counted on to provide for all of our needs and concerns. They have disenfranchised so many of our men that they can now ignore our communities because we can’t even vote. So the people who need to vote the most can’t vote. It is sad when you consider the number of people who died just so we could have the right to vote and today we surrender it so easily.

And finally we must begin to stop doing those self-destructive things that continue to increase our problems. It used to be a stigma was attached to having children outside of wedlock and it was frowned upon. Today we have gone from acceptance of this behavior to promotion and enthusiasm. A woman doesn’t need a man to have a baby. Wrong the statistics and the problems in our communities say otherwise. A woman may not need a man to have a baby, but a child needs one to grow up with any chance of success. The drugs and other poisons we are taking and selling must be given up. How can any black man feel good about making money killing his fellow black man?

There is a war and right now the forces of evil that would tear us apart are not only winning, they are routing us. It is time for all good people of conscious to begin to stand up and say I’ve had enough! No longer will I remain silent in the face of evil, we are in a fight for our children. It is time to show them they are worth it.


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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Drug Wars VI

The politicians in this country have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in the war on drugs. In an effort to cover the budgetary shortfalls in the State of New York, Democratic Governor Elliot Spitzer has included in his new budget a provision requiring taxes to be paid on illegal drugs sold in the state. Now while this tactic is nothing new and is currently being used by 29 states, it illustrates to me the bankruptcy of our political system and the true nature of the war on drugs. This war has never had anything to do with the health and safety of the public, but has always been a red herring for the politics of racism and for economic gain.

The bill sets a tax stamp rate for marihuana of $3.50 per gram, and of a controlled substance at $200 per gram or fraction thereof, whether pure or dilute. The tax is paid by the dealer, in advance of his or her receipt of the marihuana or controlled substance, through the purchase of tax stamps from the Department of Taxation and Finance (“Department”). Upon receipt of the product, the dealer must affix enough stamps to the packages of marihuana or the controlled substance in order to show the tax has been fully paid.

The Spitzer administration projects that the proposal would raise $13 million in the 2008-9 fiscal year and $17 million each year thereafter. According to the Spitzer administration, 29 other states have already passed laws imposing tax liability for controlled substances: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.[1]

The problem I have with this law and similar laws in general is that they penalize people for being poor. It’s like the idea of having inmates pay for their own incarceration, it is another way to make people who are already poor take the burden of society as their own. In the process they remove the burden from the society that is supposed to be offended by their behavior, another kick while they’re down. The majority of people caught selling or using drugs are not major distributors or kingpins usually it is someone in a poor neighborhood with few other opportunities trying to survive. While I don’t condone the selling or the taking of drugs, it is not and never has been a criminal issue.

Let’s face it the majority of drug users are adults and while we may not agree with their decision to take drugs, it is still their choice. There are many people who make bad decisions everyday that I don’t agree with, but I don’t consider putting them in jail for them. The problem is that in America everything has political connotations and many times racial as well. The war on drugs has given the law enforcement community unprecedented rights to override the constitutional rights of many Americans and like most laws in America they have been used in a uneven and biased fashion. The war on drugs has allowed the police to declare a war on whole communities with impunity.

The propaganda is that the dealers and users are holding the communities hostage, the truth is that it is the police that are holding the communities hostage by their heavy-handed tactics and selective enforcement of the laws. By using their militaristic tactics the communities have evolved into a siege mentality where the residents are caught in a viscous circle, they have the dealers on the one side threatening their lives and their families and the police on the other side treating everyone as a suspect no matter how ridiculous the circumstances. We need to step away from this war mentality and recognize this issue for what it really is; a public health issue. It should only be a criminal justice issue if the user commits another offence, just like how we treat other people who choose to do unsafe behavior. The war on drugs allows the already bias criminal justice system to target those they consider undesirable and sentence them to a life of almost hopelessness.

Rather than blaming the drug users and dealers for the budget shortfall, maybe the Governor should look a little closer to home. To my knowledge drug users and dealers are not allowed to make state policy or spend state funds, so to try and balance the state budget at their expense is punitive and unfair. I’ve got an idea, why don’t the politicians learn how to spend only as much money as they have in the State treasury then they won’t need to pander to the mob mentality. It amazes me how whenever these politicians run short of funds because they spent too much they attack the easy targets. The ones like smoking, alcohol, and drugs that no one complains about.

Until we take the money out of drugs we will never be able to deal responsibly with the issue. It is not just the illegal money from drug dealers that must be shutdown, but also the legal money that so many states and local communities have become addicted to. The war on drugs has never been about people and today the truth of that is self evident, this war is about money. It is about money to militarize the police forces, it is about money to provide rural communities jobs, and it is about money to fund the political ambitions of politicians. Let’s face it just as the illegal money is a scourge against our economy, so the legal money is a scourge against our citizenry. Instead of addressing this issue as the health issue it is it has been reduced to economics. The war on drugs makes money and as long as it continues to make money it will continue to go on. Laws like these only perpetuate the myths and continue to promote the lies. This isn’t about criminals; it’s about dollars, period.

UPDATE 1/24/08 - ALBANY — Gov. Eliot Spitzer has agreed to a pay raise for legislators, even as he has called for cuts elsewhere to help close a $4.4 billion deficit, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has told Assembly Democrats.[2]


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A Riddle Wrapped in Mystery, Inside an Enigma

This line always comes to mind when I think about the American economy. The designers of this “economy” have wrapped so many layers on top of layers that I don’t think anyone truly understands it. Oh sure we have these “leading economists” and scholars who pontificate on the inner workings of capitalism, but I have come to believe they are no more reliable than the local weatherman. The problem with an economy as complex as ours is that no one can truly predict how one component will truly affect another. They have their theories and their models, but the reality is they don’t have a clue. The sad part about it is they don’t have to. Most average folks don’t understand it and have no desire to learn about it. For them if they go to work, get paid, and can pay their bills the economy is working.

The truth however is that it isn’t that simple. There are economic hurdles strategically placed to ensure that those with capital are able to increase it at the expense of those who don’t. While we claim a free-market enterprise, we really don’t practice it. We have created so many layers on top of each other without any insulation or safety nets that collapse is inevitable. The reason there is no insulation or safety nets is because Americans do not save money. If the American consumer saved money not only would they provide insulation and a safety net for themselves, but also it would force the financial markets to do likewise. Instead of promoting savings our markets have promoted spending, but not only spending but debt spending.

Think of it as getting the sacrifice of U.S. soldiers and the obliviousness of U.S. shoppers a little more in sync. The non-relation between expensive wars and exempt non-warriors, a mirage Bush has fostered, has become unsustainable.

Roach estimated U.S. net national savings at a tiny 1.4 percent of national income and household debt at 133 percent of personal disposable income. That last figure means middle class families are tapping into home equity - borrowing against their homes - to buy their kids socks. And if they can't pay the resulting never-sleeping debt, they lose not a room or two, but the house.[1]

So we have many people who have spent more than they could ever hope to repay based on market assumptions that could never have been met. The whole Bush recovery was based on lies, it was predicated on the continued debt spending of not only the American public, but also the American business community and government. In an economy that is built on false assumptions on top of other false assumptions when one of those false assumptions finally is proven false it takes the others with it. The false assumption that was exposed by the sub-prime crisis is not the only one and as we are seeing the whole economy is at risk. We are in the beginning of a recession; the only question now is how deep and for how long.

I read a piece in the NY Times about how we were not suppose to have any more deep and long-lasting recessions. The very problems our economy is dealing with today are the ones we were supposed to be able to avoid through business efficiency and lessons from past mistakes. The current crisis is based on market speculation. You remember the same thing that has caused previous recessions and the creator of the depression, so I guess the learning the lessons of the past is not reliable. According to the article, because of our economic moderation principles we were not going to experience the type of collapse we are seeing today, so much for moderation.

America does not know moderation. From a President that believes you can wage war without concerns for the economic repercussions to the homeowners and credit card holders who believe that consumption is the answer to all of life’s problems, we don’t do moderation very well. Now greed and conspicuous consumption we do those really well. And that is why the answer to our economic crisis in Washington is to promote more spending. I got it, let’s give out rebate checks for more spending to stimulate a broken economy. The answer to our current situation is not more spending it is more saving. We cannot continue to spend money like drunken sailors, it is time to bite the bullet and make the difficult choices that Bush and company have managed to stave-off for eight years.

For some odd reason saving money in America has gotten a bad name, the corporate profiteers have convinced Americans that we have an infinitely expanding economy, just like the universe and if we just keep feeding the engine of consumption it will continue to expand. I am not an economics professor or a Nobel Prize winner, but I can see the fallacy in that, I wish more of my fellow citizens could see it as well. The lessons learned by the survivors of the Great Depression have been lost on the “boomers”, we must as a nation begin to save money and provide better insulation of our markets. We must stop our addiction to debt spending both institutionally and individually. The problems of our economy may be complicated but the solution isn’t. Save money!


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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why Don’t They Like Her?

I was watching the Democratic debate last night and I couldn’t help but notice the veiled rancor that seems to exist between Barack Obama and John Edwards for Hillary Clinton. This is more than the normal rivalry that takes place when people with tremendous egos compete against each other or the underdogs attacking the presumed frontrunner. The animosity between them has surfaced from time to time throughout the primaries, but I think due to wanting Party unity there has been major efforts to keep it hidden. I like many others had assumed that the recent banter was just due to the competiveness, but last night was a real eye-opener. There is a real dislike that last night was palpable through the television.

My question or concern is that can the Democratic Party survive the general election with the three top tier candidates harboring such acrimony? Will the loser be able to overcome these feelings and commit to fully working for the election of the victor? I can’t recall an election on the Democratic side that carried such ill-will between the candidates.

Mr. Obama was as heated and intense as he has been at any debate over the last year. At times, he appeared angry and close to expressing it at Mrs. Clinton — and also at her husband, Bill Clinton, whom Mr. Obama criticized frequently during the debate for what he said were distortions of his views and record by the former president.[1]

Unfortunately for Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards their acrimony towards Ms. Clinton is being read by a lot of voters, especially women as anti-women sentiments. I think it came into play in the New Hampshire primary when Mr. Obama derided Ms. Clinton at the debate with the remark, “They like you well enough”. For some reason the hostility seems to go beyond the normal give and take of the campaign trail and borders on a deep personal dislike. To my knowledge there have never been any slights by either candidate towards the other of a personal nature. Is there some hidden history between the candidates or does this reflect some insight into the character of the candidates? Are we getting glimpses of a darker side to the candidates or is this just the fatigue of a nomination process that is too long and exhaustive?

My personal belief is that there is something to this antagonism that we are not aware of. I believe that there were private statements either made or attributed to the Clinton’s against Mr. Obama or his candidacy that he got wind of. We must remember that Ms. Clinton has always come across like this nomination was her birthright and destiny ordained from on high. I have researched this riff and I can’t find anything or anybody that can shed any light on it. I would be interested to hear if anyone has any theories on this topic. I have a feeling that as we get closer to the final days of these primaries and the candidacies become more desperate the fur is really going to fly. It will be interesting to see if the national Party leaders can prevent this from becoming a free for all and ensuring a Republican victory in the process.

Another thing I have noticed is that lately when Bill Clinton talks about Barack Obama’s candidacy he seems angry about it, almost as if to say how does he have the nerve to run. In the lead up to the New Hampshire and Nevada elections, it was more than just highlighting the differences between the two candidates, he was actually incensed. Where is this anger coming from? I can’t recall ever seeing Bill Clinton this animated, even when he was being attacked by the “far right wing conspiracy”. I wish I knew what it was about Mr. Obama’s candidacy that sparks these emotions in the Clintons.

While I understand that this is not the first time candidates from the same Party have not “liked” each other, we are at a historical place in our nation’s history and I would hate to believe that personal animosity between the candidates could lead to a missed opportunity. I have also noticed the degree of antagonism between the supporters of the three candidates whether they are public figures or in the blogosphere, there is a genuine dislike. Can such a deep divide be repaired for the sake of the Party in time for the general election? Let’s face it, of course the loser will publically support the winner, but will it be some half-hearted perfunctory support?

I remember following McCain’s defeat in South Carolina, he never truly supported Bush after that and I think to this day he still has an extreme dislike for Bush. Will this be our year for a similar situation? Can either Hillary or Barack succeed without the full support of the other?


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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Which Clinton Is Running For President Anyway?

In what is quickly turning into a two-headed monster, the Clinton’s have developed a new strategy culled from their victories in New Hampshire and Nevada. The new strategy seems to be to run Bill Clinton for sub-President or assistant President. As I am writing this a crazy thought came to mind, can Bill Clinton be Hillary’s running mate? I have just dispatched our crack investigative team to research this and report back. You have to admit the strategy is brilliant, if not devious. You run a former popular two-term President in areas of his greatest strength against a one-term Senator who has never run a national campaign. Add to this strategy the constant refrain of “the first black” President and you have the possibility of black people voting for the black President that really isn’t black versus the guy who really is black. This could get confusing.

Mr. Clinton will be in South Carolina every day until the primary, often joined by his daughter, Chelsea, as he courts fellow Southerners and black voters. He also attended services on Monday at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s old congregation; Mr. Obama spoke there on Sunday.[1]

According to Mr. Obama and many pundits it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell which Clinton Mr. Obama is running against. While I admire the ferocity of Mr. Clinton’s advocacy of his wife, as an ex-President and current leader of the Democratic Party I must take umbrage with the tone of his underscoring the differences in the two candidates. While as an American he has the right to campaign for Ms. Clinton that right must be tempered with the fact of who he is and what he represents. Mr. Clinton it seems is beginning to have flashbacks of his own days on the campaign trail and rather than taking his cues from his wife’s campaign, he seems to be mounting his own campaign strategy for defeating Barack.

I can understand Mr. Obama’s current level of frustration, it is difficult to campaign against a former popular President who isn’t even running for office or is he? In what could be termed a non-violent coup Bill Clinton could be positioning himself to create a Constitutional challenge. Is there any doubt that Mr. Clinton would be able to exert undue influence on his wife and thus return us to his “glory days”. Does the country really want a retro parade down memory lane with the Clintons as Grand Marshals? I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but I have no desire to return to the past no matter how rosy it may now appear. The thing about trying to recapture the past is that you lose sight of the future. You become fossilized in an isolated moment in history, but the problem is that you have not been frozen in some cryogenics chamber so you are not the same as you were then. Because you are not the same you will not be able to experience it as you once did.

It’s like adults trying to go back and recreate their missed prom or other lost opportunities, they can never be recaptured. The reason they can never be recaptured is that you will never be that person again, you will never be 17 again. You can never re-experience those feelings of awkwardness, vulnerability, or anxiety. Bill Clinton is campaigning on the myth of returning to the past only with changes. You can’t have it both ways Mr. Clinton you can’t promise the past and promise change. If you change it, it won’t be the past.

According to my crack research staff, conceivably Bill Clinton could run for vice-President. According to the Constitution he could not be “elected” to the office of the Presidency, but it could be argued that it doesn’t mean he couldn’t “serve” in that capacity. So let’s say he runs as Hillary’s running-mate and they win and something should happen to Hillary he would not be barred per se from serving. The tricky part would be the interpretation of the 12th amendment which states that you cannot run for the office of vice-President, if you are constitutionally ineligible for the office of President. All of this of course would require an interpretation by the courts and with the current political leanings of the Court I wouldn’t bet on a friendly outcome for the Clintons.

While it is clear that under the Twelfth Amendment the original constitutional qualifications of age, citizenship, and residency apply to both the president and vice president, it is unclear if a two-term president could later be elected—or appointed—vice president. Some argue that the Twenty-second Amendment and Twelfth Amendment bar any two-term president from later serving as vice president as well as from succeeding to the presidency from any point in the United States Presidential line of succession. Others contend that while a two-term president is ineligible to be elected or appointed to the office of Vice President, he or she could succeed from a lower position in the line of succession which he or she is not excluded from holding. Others contend that the Twelfth Amendment concerns qualification for service, while the Twenty-second Amendment concerns qualifications for election. Neither theory has ever been tested, as no former president has ever sought the vice presidency, and thus, the courts have never had an opportunity to decide the question.[2]

So is Bill Clinton running for vice-President? I doubt it. But it’s like having Michael Jordan as your dad and being invited to play a dad and kid pickup game. He may go in with the intentions of going easy on the other teams, but once those old competitive juices get to flowing; look out other teams. Bill Clinton is a political junkie and a master politician he doesn’t know how to take it easy. You invite him into your campaign and you’ve opened Pandora’s Box. If it is his wife’s campaign you really got troubles now. I’m just glad Chelsea didn’t run for class president or something. Could you imagine the tactics Bill would have had her employ? Be careful Bill, were all family here.


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Shaker Heights vs. America

In what has become an all too familiar scene for most of America, a man was attacked in his neighborhood by six youths and nearly beaten to death. What makes this case unusual to me is not that the victim was a white middle-aged man or that the accused are six black youths from an inner city. No, what makes this case unusual to me is the location of the case and the responses the case has received. First of all, is the fact that it made the New York Times; it is strange that they would do a story on a random mugging victim in another state. Secondly, is the fact that in an otherwise quiet neighborhood this case would receive the publicity it has gotten. I believe that there are forces at work here that are trying to reinforce the fear and segregation that plagues so much of the American landscape.

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — A week after six black teenagers nearly beat her husband to death, Marybeth McDermott looked out her big living room window at the neighborhood she loves, pursed her lips, then looked away.

She has found great friends here in the Ludlow neighborhood, one of the first places in suburban America where blacks and whites came together to live as neighbors. But for the first time in 19 years, Mrs. McDermott has thoughts of leaving.

For many outsiders, the attack on Mr. McDermott is seen as comeuppance for a community that seemed smug about its wealth, security and racial diversity.[1]

Shaker Heights is a suburb in Ohio just outside of Cleveland. The population here compared to most of America would be considered very diverse, it is 60% white and 34% black. Shaker Heights has embraced diversity and integration to the chagrin of many outside residents, who view the city as being a bunch of rich liberals who have no concept of the real world. The real world meaning that different races cannot co-exist together, I mean the nerve of these people thinking they can get away with such blasphemes. Rather than recognizing this for what it was, a random act of violence by some bad youths, the spin is to attack diversity by raising the issues of fear and safety.

Why is it that when something like this happens it is a harbinger of death and mayhem for all white people? Immediately there is a “rethinking” of living patterns and discussions of a black “crime wave” on the rise. Let’s face it folks we live in a violent society and every now and then it spills over to folks who are normally not at risk. For many this will be used as an excuse to reinforce previously held stereotypes and prejudices, but before contacting the realtor here are some statistics that might help to put this all in perspective.

Violent crime is not an equal-opportunity offender. Your chances of being attacked vary tremendously according to your age, race, sex and neighborhood. The risk of becoming a victim of a serious violent crime is nearly four times higher if you are 16 to 19 years old, for example, than 35 to 49; almost three times higher if you are black instead of white; two times if you are male, not female; and again double if you live in a city rather than in a suburb or in the country. Lump several of these risk factors together and the differences become enormous: For instance, the chances of a white woman 65 or older becoming a victim of serious violent crime are just one-seventieth the odds a black male teen faces. -- Your risk of being a victim does not increase as you make more money -- it actually declines. Although our poll shows that people with high incomes are about as afraid of crime as those who are less well off, your odds of being victimized are two to three times lower if you make $50,000 or more a year than if you earn less than $10,000. Ironically, the fact that crime rates are so low among the affluent may partly explain their outsized concern, according to Mark Cohen, a Vanderbilt University professor who specializes in the economics of crime. Says Cohen: "When you don't know what violence really looks like firsthand, you may have an exaggerated fear of it.[2]

For the city of Shaker Heights here is the latest statistic as compiled by the FBI.

The number of violent crimes recorded by the FBI in 2003 was 28. The number of murders and homicides was 0. The violent crime rate was 1 per 1,000 people.

So, why does this story rate the NY Times? The reason is because it plays to the misguided fears of whites and their need to segregate themselves from blacks. The truth of the matter is that a divided country is easier to pillage for the wealthy, by promoting certain stereotypes and playing to certain fears groups who naturally have common interests are kept disconnected. If you are so busy worrying about the “black menace” then you won’t have time to notice the real crook at Enron. Instead of wondering why you have lost spending power, suffer from job insecurity, and have maxed out your credit just to maintain you are looking over your shoulder at the black folks. Today you have a better chance of losing your job or your pension than you have of losing your life to a black person. The folks at Enron stole more in two years than all the black criminals have stolen in your lifetime, yet the myths continue. The paranoia is encouraged and stoked by a steady diet of isolated news stories that are played up to be everyday occurrences.

The saddest part about this story is the responses of some other whites outside this community. In what is on the verge of spite many have spoken out against the diversity that characterizes this community, as if to say, “we told you so” or “you deserve it”. Many would have you believe that segregation promotes safety, the reality is it does not. By segregating ourselves what we do is confine many blacks to a life of inferior housing, which leads to an inferior education, which leads to inferior jobs, which leads to increased crime; all of which leads back to start the process all over again generation after generation.

For many outsiders, the attack on Mr. McDermott is seen as comeuppance for a community that seemed smug about its wealth, security and racial diversity.

“I wonder how much ‘tolerance’ the ‘progressive,’ snooty, pseudo-intellectual limousine liberal, socialists of Shaker Heights will show now that the thugs are in their neighborhood too,” a reader wrote on a Cleveland Plain Dealer blog.

Ludlow residents understand that for a place just seven blocks across, their little neighborhood carries tremendous symbolic weight.

“People in the Cleveland area resent us because we’re a repudiation of everything they believe,” said Brian Walker, 56, who was among the first African-Americans to attend Ludlow school. “We’re proof that white people and black people can live together.”

Rather than flee, Ludlow residents say they plan to stay and organize.[4]


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Monday, January 21, 2008

You Call This A Recovery?

You want to know why John Edwards and millions of other Americans are angry. It’s simple really, the country has been hijacked by greedy and ruthless men who don’t give a damn about the poor people left in their wake. The funny thing about America is that there is parity, it just takes longer for it to get around. In other words, the same thing that’s happening to blacks and other minorities will eventually make its way around to whites. Whether it is the epidemic of drugs or the loss of wealth, it is all just a matter of time. It is precisely this effect that causes me to not understand why there is not more coalition building going on. NEWSFLASH – It all rolls down hill people. If you are not in the top 10% of the wealthy, you are in trouble. It won’t matter what race, creed, or color you are. Greed knows no boundaries or has no racial preferences.

The following depicts the nature of the so-called Bush recovery for millions of Americans, not the ones who have received the big tax-cuts or the golden parachutes. No these are the collateral damage stories and there are millions of them every day. As more and more jobs that once promised a decent standard of living disappear and are being replaced by the minimum wage service sector jobs there will be a political firestorm. The backbone of any democracy is the middle-class. If the middle-class loses its vibrancy and is allowed to dwindle, then the stability of our government will also diminish.

Between her husband’s factory job and her intermittent work, they made $30,000 a year in the best of times, Mrs. Joos said. Since last fall, when her husband was laid off by the Merillat cabinet factory, which downsized to one shift a day from three, keeping anywhere near that income required Mrs. Joos to take a second job. She works at a school cafeteria each weekday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m and then drives to Wal-Mart, where she relaxes in her car before starting her 2-to-10 p.m. shift at the deli counter.

The average American worker is having to work so hard just to try and keep their heads above water that they don’t have time for the intricacies of democracy and this is exactly what the top 10% want. Keep the workers so insecure and busy that they don’t have time to concern themselves with the business of democracy. Every day there are more Americans placed in these tenuous positions of having to decide how they are going to make ends meet. It is no longer the illegals or the minorities, but mainstream Americans are having to move back home at middle-age or downgrading their life-styles.

It is not a lack of hard work that has placed them in these positions, but a pattern of corporate greed and a race to the bottom of the wage ladder. In an effort to maximize profits, jobs are being moved to the lowest wage earner countries that are stable enough to sustain their slave workforces. While all this is taking place the politicians and the “experts” are saying don’t worry, be happy. We don’t need those jobs anyway, we will replace them with new better jobs. Tell that to Jeffrey Evans, who now lives with his mother at 49 because his factory job laid him off and now he is working for half as much at one of these “better jobs”, or the wife that has to take on a second job.

Mr. Evans said that moving back into the home where he grew up, after decades of independence, was a stinging reminder that “I lost everything I worked for all my life.”

His mother, Shirley Sheline, 73, had worked 28 years at the same auto parts plant, and shares his dismay. “Can you believe it, a grown man forced to move back with his mother,” she said.

There is growing disappointment for millions of Americans as they watch their standard of living drop precipitously, while at the same time the corporate class standard of living continues to rise. They are no longer buying into the rising tide or trickle down economic garbage they are being fed. There is a trickle coming down all right, but it isn’t economic prosperity, it’s someone pissing on them. The bottom is about to fall out of this economy. The banks and Wall Street have built a house of cards that is about to collapse and it will take with it the dreams and futures of a great many Americans. They have layered so much false paper in their business practices that they now have to go begging from foreign investors to put value back into the economy.

Now more than ever we need someone to step up and face down the greedy. It is time for America to be told some hard truths, the jobs that we are hemorrhaging are not coming back. We need to come up with jobs that provide living wages and a decent standard of living. These jobs can and should come from our efforts to detox ourselves from the current sources of energy. This task will not be easy because the current crop of CEO’s are too greedy and short-sighted to willingly give up their cash cow which is predicated on our current sources of energy. They no longer should be given a choice, it is time for the government to lead with either the carrot or the stick.


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Friday, January 18, 2008

Send Them Back To Iraq

Who says you can’t get away with murder. It just all depends on who you murder and where you murder them at. In what will surely be another case of justice delayed and justice denied, the Justice Department is laying the groundwork for not pursuing the case against the Blackwater employees involved in the killing of 17 innocent Iraqi civilians. In an effort to prepare us for their failure to bring charges, the people at Justice have been meeting with Congressional staffers to discuss the “difficulties” involved in the case.

WASHINGTON — Justice Department officials have told Congress that they face serious legal difficulties in pursuing criminal prosecutions of Blackwater security guards involved in a September shooting that left at least 17 Iraqis dead.

In a private briefing in mid-December, officials from the Justice and State Departments met with aides to the House Judiciary Committee and other Congressional staff members and warned them that there were major legal obstacles that might prevent any prosecution. Justice officials were careful not to say whether any decision had been made in the matter, according to two of the Congressional staff members who received the briefing.[1]

I guess we don’t have any laws on the books that cover the killing of innocent civilians by American corporate employees? Yeah, they hate us for freedoms. The freedom to go anywhere in the world and kill people without consequence is a great freedom to have, it’s no wonder the “terrorists” are angry. They kill innocent people and they get hunted down or have huge rewards offered for their capture, we do it and we don’t have anything to charge them with. I got it, how about pollution for breathing the same air that I breathe. Is this the height of arrogance or what? Americans have the freedom to kill anyone with no repercussions, unless you are a young blond white girl, no one is allowed to kill them.

If we do not have the laws or the jurisdiction to punish the guilty I have an idea, let’s send them back to Iraq and let the Iraqis put them on trial. I would be willing to bet that they have laws that deal with killing innocent Iraqis. In what would surely be seen as a move to demonstrate the sovereignty of the Iraqi government, we could give them the guards and let them put them on trial. But, no we can’t do that because that would equate the value of an Iraqi life with that of an American life and as many people around the world know that isn’t true. Just ask the many families that have witnessed the refusal of the US military to allow its members to be subject to the laws of their countries. There are well documented cases of US military personnel being sheltered from charges stemming from murder to rape in foreign countries.

The truth of the matter is that these guards will not face trial and it has nothing to do with “legal hurdles”. If these men were brought to trial it would open the flood gates and put the whole prosecution of the war on trial. It would reopen Abu Ghrab, water-boarding, and a whole host of other topics this administration would rather not revisit.

In a report to be issued Wednesday, the group, Human Rights First, argues that the laws are sufficient to prosecute contractors, including those working for the State Department, and that the Bush administration has failed to do so because of a lack of political will. The report specifically criticizes the government’s response to the September shooting in Baghdad.

“The U.S. government’s reaction to the shootings,” the report says, “has been characterized by confusion, defensiveness, a multiplicity of uncoordinated ad hoc investigations, and interagency finger-pointing. These failures underscored the Justice Department’s unwillingness or inability to systematically investigate and prosecute allegations of serious violent crimes.”[2]

Once again, the loss of innocent foreign life will fade into the darkness of past American atrocities. What are seventeen lives out of hundreds of thousands? The world will once again witness the hypocrisy that has characterized our foreign policy for decades and led to the backlash of anti-American feelings throughout the world. We talk about international law and respect for human life unless it runs contrary to our “national interest”, then it’s who needs French fries?


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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Chicken or The Egg?

In what has got to be the most insane strategy in the history of politics, the two Democratic frontrunners are debating race in an election that features a woman and a black male. While both campaigns are responding to these non-issues, the real issues facing the country are being ignored. The choice of who best represents the future direction of the country should be front and center of the debate, not the race or gender of the candidates. Both campaigns are guilty of fueling the flames and highlighting differences that don’t exist. Does anyone doubt that Hillary Clinton is committed to civil rights? Does anyone doubt that she has a healthy understanding of the civil rights movement and its leaders?

The thing that has always bothered me about politics and politicians in particular is their enormous egos and ambition. Here we have two extremely ambitious people who are driven by their chances to make history and in their efforts to separate themselves and win the nomination they have allowed their egos to trump their intellect. No one wins by them cutting each other up over race, gender, or past indiscretions. We must not allow these two to provide any chance of a Republican victory in November by taking a win at all costs philosophy. What is at stake here is greater than either one of these two even if their egos won’t allow them to see it. Our country and our futures are at stake.

There has been a lot of fall-out concerning remarks made by Hillary Clinton concerning the role of President Johnson in the civil rights movement. In her comments Ms. Clinton spoke of how it was the then President Johnson whose signing of legislation ushered in the civil rights victories being pushed by Dr. King and other civil rights leaders. According to Ms. Clinton without the legislation the marches and the speeches would have been for naught, it took a President to bring about real action. This is such a non-issue, anyone familiar with the times understood that Dr. King needed President Johnson and President Johnson needed Dr. King.

In order to understand this relationship, we must look at the motivations of both men. What did Dr. King want? He wanted equal rights for blacks. Where do rights proceed from? There are many sources of rights. There are the rights endowed by one’s Creator, which should transcend any rights bestowed by man. The problem is that when the founders of this nation started endowing rights on folks they forgot a few.

Certain rights/authority are ours having been given/delegated to us as a result of our position or office: legislators, judges, elders; some because of the responsibility laid on us by God: fathers, mothers, neighbors; and some are ours because they came with us at birth as our Declaration of Independence states: "all men are created equal, ...they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."[1]

So even though we have been granted certain rights by our Creator, here in America those rights have to also be given by the government. Dr. King knew that in order to affect the changes that he sought he would need to involve the head of the government; at that time it was LBJ. The main reason for the marches and protests was to bring political and public pressure on the government to pass legislation to make the changes. Dr. King knew that the shortest way to bring about racial change was to first enact it legally and then he hoped that as the legal barriers had been overcome that at some point the social and the personal would catch up. One has to remember that there were legal barriers that condoned and enforced segregation and Jim Crow and until those barriers were removed there could be no social change. Just like in South Africa the legal mechanisms of apartheid had to be dismantled before any real change could take place. This would involve bringing political pressure against the Congress and the President.

LBJ needed the outrage of the country as it witnessed the horrors of the “legal” responses to the protestors to galvanize support for the civil rights legislation. As the country watched in horror at the high pressure fire hoses, the attack dogs, and the police brutality against non-violent protestors the outcry became too great for the politicians to ignore. The question now becomes could LBJ or any President have enacted legislation without protests? It happens every day; Iraq, No Child Left Behind, etc. Could Dr. King have accomplished his goals without LBJ? Absolutely, the winds of change were blowing. It just would have taken a lot longer if the President had been resistant to the changes. So, like most moments in history both men needed each other to usher in the changes that were bound to happen.

So which came first the chicken or the egg? Does it really matter? What should really matter is what are the differences in the two candidates and which one embodies the changes that we all are seeking. If you don’t want to vote for Hillary that’s fine, but don’t do it because she is a racist or insensitive to black people. If you don’t want to vote for Barack that’s fine, but don’t do it because he is a black drug addict. Dr. King’s dream was that someday we would be all judged on our character; maybe we should start doing that today.


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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More Compassionate Conservatism

As if the S-CHIPS fiasco wasn’t enough the Bush administration has decided to prevent states from extending Medicare coverage to moderate income families. In what is sure to lower his job approval ratings even more, Mr. Bush has authorized the government to deny the increase the states have sought to cover families that are 250% over the poverty limits set by the government. The increase being sought by the states would affect a family of four who earn approximately 51,600 a year. The President seems to believe that by allowing the states to increase the poverty limit percentages that families already with health insurance will drop it and come running to join Medicare. Obviously, Mr. Bush has not gotten the memo that there are currently at least 47 million people in America who are without health insurance and if he has his way there will be lots more.

Until now, states had generally been free to set their own Medicaid eligibility criteria, and the Bush administration had not openly declared that it would apply the August directive to Medicaid. State officials in Louisiana, Ohio and Oklahoma said they had discovered the administration’s intent in negotiations with the federal government over the last few weeks.

The new federal policy reflects a significant shift. In the first four years of the Bush administration, Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, often boasted that he had approved record numbers of waivers, allowing states to decide who got what benefits under Medicaid and the child health program.

“Our goal is to give governors the flexibility they need to expand insurance coverage to more Americans,” Mr. Thompson said in 2001.[1]

So let me see if I understand this, after promising the nation to be a “compassionate conservative” Mr. Bush allowed the states to determine who needed healthcare coverage and who didn’t, but now as he is leaving office after having spent untold billions in Iraq and Afghanistan he has lost his compassion for the American people. The solution to the healthcare crisis in America is not Medicare, but it will act as a safety net until a solution is found and enacted. Why is it that those who are covered by government sponsored healthcare are always willing to stand on their principles so long as it doesn’t cost them anything? How can we as a nation be able to afford the costs of two wars; not to mention untold billions in military aid to other countries but can’t afford to provide decent affordable healthcare to our own citizens.

If the answer was flexibility in 2001, what has occurred in 7 years to make that no longer applicable today? Are there fewer people in need of health insurance? No, on the contrary there are more and as the costs continue to rise the numbers will increase. Should middle-income families become indigent due to trying to provide healthcare for their families? I don’t think so; instead of trying to shrink the number of people being helped we should be increasing them. The numbers of uninsured are only going to continue to increase; Mr. Bush has done nothing in his terms as President to stem the tide of the uninsured. Money that could have been used to provide healthcare has instead been used to give tax-cuts to the wealthy and instability in the world.

Why is the answer to every economic question the same for Mr. Bush? As we prepare for a serious recession, we continue to hear the same tired refrain of tax-cuts. Mr. Bush, if tax-cuts were the answer why are we in the position we are in? Just as he has refused to do anything meaningful about the healthcare crisis, he has no new plans for the economic crisis. What the haves will call a recession, the have-nots will call a depression. Mr. Bush is leaving the country at the right time, he has squandered the budget deficits, he has squandered the good-will of the world, and he has squandered the good-will of the American people. It seems like the only thing he is trying to do now is to keep promoting the failed policies he authored from day one. His final goal seems to be to ensure that his pro-rich policies remain in effect Ad infinitum and why not he won’t have anything else to hang his hat on.

There appears to be wholesale gouging which is fueling a rise in inflation by the oil and gas, retail, and the food industries. The rats know the ship is sinking and they are trying to get as much profit as they can before the Bush administration breathes its last breath. Their answer to the economic crisis is to raise prices and squeeze every last dime out of the American consumer. It is going to be a long hot summer for the American public as the market tanks and the gas prices rise. Thank you Mr. Bush, you have done a bang up job.


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