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NC Voting Rights Crisis

North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory and the republican legislature are not interested in winning your vote.
The republican majority in North Carolina’s legislature gained a huge victory this week when the US Supreme Court stayed the Fourth Circuit court order reinstating two voter restrictions that will effect the coming election in November. The first gets rid of same day voter registration, and second gets rid of a rule that will count an eligible voters vote even if they cast that vote at the wrong precinct. Both of these decisions can be overturned before the presidential election in 2016 but they will be in effect for the coming election in November (2014).

In 2008 Barack Obama won the state of North Carolina and that victory helped him win the white house. The success of North Carolina’s Obama for president coalition in 2008 caught the state’s republicans off guard. Obama’s coalition was something southern politics had never seen before and something no one thought was possible. That coalitionpresident obama in north carolina included black people, white people, Latino’s, college kids, independents, first time voters, women from 18 to 80, just a huge array from all different backgrounds working together for a common cause, and working hard to elect a president they believed in. This coalition shouldn’t have caught republicans off guard if they were paying attention to NC’s changing demographics. For every presidential election that preceded 2008, republicans won by tailoring their campaigns to address the issues of one demographic; white men. Convincing the state’s white men to vote for them was all they needed to win. So all of the issues that were important to every other demographic were ignored. Especially issues of concern to minorities and women. Marginalizing those two groups left the door wide open for a candidate with a message of hope and change. President Obama spoke to their concerns and made them feel like their issues were important to him. It was just that simple. Listen to the people, address their concerns, and show them a way government can help equalize opportunity so more than one demographic group can succeed. The election happened and of course Barack Obama won. After the election North Carolina’s GOP was floored at the results. Even though they won the white male demographic by a landslide, they still lost.

Following 2008 NC’s GOP had two choices if they were going to remain competitive in future elections. They could listen and address the concerns of minority and women voters, or they could use their legislative majority to gerrymander districts, tweak and change voting rules, and add newNC General Assembly 2014 restrictions on registering new voters. Their choice tells us something very important about who they are and what they believe. They love freedom, they proudly support each American’s right to vote, and they are huge fans of democracy… until freedom, voting, and democracy doesn’t work in their favor. Since none of that worked in their favor, North Carolina’s republican led legislature began passing unprecedented sweeping changes that altered the way North Carolinian’s exercises their constitutional right to vote. We know these changes are designed specifically to lower democratic voter turnout and stifle any minority influence within the legislature because the proof is in the results that the laws give us.

If you ask governor Pat McCrory why these changes are being made he will lie and say these restrictions are needed to protect the integrity of the vote, and to cut down on voter fraud. We know that is a lie because voter fraud is almost nonexistent in NC. North Carolina hasn’t prosecuted one single case of voter fraud in the last 30 years. We can prove the real 130731_moral_monday_ap_605motive behind this by looking at the specific changes they made. Minority voters have a tradition called “souls to the polls” where church congregations load up in a bus after Sunday church service and go to vote as a group. So NC’s GOP decided to get rid of Sunday voting. Minorities are a lot less likely to have two forms of id. So NC’s GOP created a new voting rule requiring two forms of id to vote. In districts with a large percentage of democratic voters, NC’s GOP made sure they have less resources to accommodate the large number of voters. 70% of NC’s minorities took advantage of the state’s early voting in 2008. So NC’s GOP cut the number of early voting days. In the 2008 election blacks accounted for 42% of those who utilized the same day registration rule. So NC’s GOP got rid of same day registration. I could go on and on with statistics just like these that all hurt democratic candidates and unfairly target minorities. Every republican legislator who denies that these laws are designed to suppress the vote are insulting the intelligence of the American public. It’s impossible to put these restrictions and laws in place without knowing who they will negatively impact. I wish they would just be honest about their intentions because even though I think it’s a vile despicable slimy way to hold power, I’d at least respect their honesty and feel like they respected me enough to tell me the truth.

The good news in this sad state-of-affairs we call NC politics is, the Reverend Dr. William Barber and the Moral Monday movement. They are on the front lines fighting to get rid of these unconstitutional un-American, unfair, voter suppression laws. The movement has grown to include 80,000 North Carolinian’s from all walks of life. GovernorRev Dr William Barber McCrory and NC’s republican legislators should be very afraid of Dr Barber and his movement. Just like the Obama coalition from 2008, the Moral Monday movement is diverse, organized, and motivated. If you look at some of the protests you’ll see white, black, republicans, gay, straight, Christian, men and women. Some of these activist even voted for McCrory, but they see these voting laws for what they really are, and they refuse to sit in silence just because they are republican. When you have truth and justice on your side, you will be victorious in the end. The harder the opposition defends these unconstitutional laws, the larger the Moral Monday movement will grow. That will eventually lead to a democratic majority in North Carolina’s legislature, and a democrat in North Carolina’s governors mansion.

Just when you thought they couldn’t sink any lower they pull one of the sleaziest vote tampering tricks in the book. If you thought Kevin Spacey’s character on House of Cards was bad, you haven’t seen anything yet. The billionaire Koch brother’s political organization that helps republicans get elected, created a mailer with incorrect voter registration information and sent out thousands of them to North Carolina voters. Anyone who gets this in the mail andkoch brothers Americans For Prosperity fills it out thinking they are registering to vote will be in for a rude awakening when they show up to the polls to cast their vote in November because their registration will not be processed due to the dirty trick the Koch brothers mailer played on them. And even though they can prove they thought they were registering when they filled out the mailer, NC’s new voting laws says they are still ineligible to cast their vote. This is how desperate the state’s republican party has become. They are willing to do anything, even shred our country’s constitution to hold on to power at any cost. Zero integrity, zero honesty, extremely poor character. I have no idea how Novembers election will turn out, but I know for a fact that the communities they are trying to stop from casting their vote, will show up in record numbers to let them know that this state can not be bought by billionaires with no morals, or won by dirty tricks created to elect republicans like Tom Tillis.



NC Republican admits they are trying to suppress the vote of minorities.


www.kayhagan.com



Impeach For What

Impeach For What?

US Congressman Lou Barletta is the latest republican calling for the impeachment of twice elected President Barack Obama. During a conservative talk radio interview Barletta said “President Obama wouldn’t survive an impeachment vote in the House of Representatives”. Barletta went on to say “the President is ignoring the Constitution, ignoring the law, and ignoring the checks and balances outlined in the Constitution.” He also said he believes there are enough votes in the house to impeach the president.

Since the beginning of President Obama’s first term in office we’ve heard the word “impeachment” from a lot of republican lawmakers and conservative pundits (see video clip at the bottom of page). I’ve heard this so many times that I’ve become desensitized to the weight and gravitas the word once held. Talks of impeachment use to be reserved for matters of extreme seriousness. Now it’s just another word republicans use to stir-up their base and capitalize on the far right’s hate and disdain for our TWICE ELECTED president. The problem is, the people they are pandering to aren’t realizing how disingenuous Barletta and others like him are. The hate they have for our TWICE ELECTED President Barack Obama blinds their ability to see logic. I almost can’t blame them because the right wing media money machine bombards them daily with a ton of misinformation and outright lies. Congressman Barletta’s comments aren’t unique by any means. Almost every single republican in the House and Senate have threatened or entertained the idea of impeaching President Obama at one point, but none of them are serious… and I can prove it. Here’s a small sample of quotes from republicans about President Obama:

Ted Cruz – “The president’s lawlessness and disdain for our constitution puts all American’s in grave danger.”

Michelle Bachman – “President Obama abuses power, assaults the constitution, declared war on business and energy, spends recklessly, creates divisiveness, and rules by executive order.”

Senator John Cornyn – “Under President Obama, inconvenient or unpopular legal requirements have repeatedly been swept aside by executive fiat”

Senator Orrin Hatch – “The president has put our entire economy in jeopardy in order to serve his own political interests.”

Republicans For Impeachment

Grover Norquist – “Obama does everything by executive order. He’s made no effort to work with Congress”.

Represenative Kerry Bentivolio – “Who is going to stop Obama from everything that he’s doing against our constitution? Impeachment would be a dream come true if I could find the evidence.”

Senator Tom Coburn – “The administration is lawless and incompetent, and getting perilously close to impeachability.”

Congressman Farenthold – “What message do we send America if we impeach Obama and he gets away with what he’s impeached for and he is found innocent?”

Rep Bob Goodlatte & Jonathan Turley – Obama ignores the constitution. The danger is quite severe. The problem with what the president is doing is that he’s not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system. He’s becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid.

Notice how no one ever gives details on any specific laws that they think the president has broken. All they have are vague accusations and meaningless rhetoric. Conservatives and conservative media should ask themselves, are there legitimate reasons beyond partisan politics to have a discussion about impeaching the president. But something as rational as that seems like too much to ask for with them. Instead they engage in debate asking HOW can they impeach the president.

Law makers in both houses have a responsibility to uphold the law and balance the power of the executive branch. If they think the president is breaking laws and not following the constitution they are duty bound to start the process of impeachment. If they honestly believe everything they are saying about president Obama then they can’t say I would vote to impeach but I know it won’t pass the senate. The oath of office they all took does not allow them to ignore acts of treason and high crimes committed by the president just because it may hurt them politically. That would be an abdication of duty and it would make them just as guilty as they claim the president to be. Republicans hold the majority in the house. If they felt their reasons were just, they’d bring the issue to the floor for a vote. But they’re not going to do that because they know they have NOTHING. fox pushes impeachmentThey know the president isn’t guilty of anything. When you see them on FOX or hear them on talk radio calling for impeachment, it’s all a performance. They get an opportunity to bash the president which makes the base happy. The more outrageous their rhetoric is, the more attention they get. They get invited for Hannity and Glen Beck interviews. They get their name in the paper. It’s a chance to raise their political profile. Even if they lose their office, they can make a lot of money within the conservative media money machine (books, radio show host, speaking engagements, lobbyist, think tank advisers, tv punditry, etc.). The incentives to engage in this type of behavior and practice this type of politics are huge. They are putting personal gain ahead of what is right for the country. The democrats aren’t perfect by any means but they have never been careless with words as powerful as impeachment. While George W Bush was president the democrats always showed respect for his title even when they may not have respected the man.  Yes, there were a few democrats who talked about impeaching President Bush, but it was a very small minority and they actually had good detailed reasons for that discussion.  Some dems wanted to press criminal charges against Bush and his administration, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (the most powerful democrat at that time) got her fellow democrats to move on and focus on fixing the economy.  That’s what real leadership and integrity looks like.  More times than not democrats are the party who puts the countries interest above their own. The republicans in office right now have forgotten how to do that.

So, to all of the conservatives reading this blog post right now, I just gave you a sure-fire way to test your party’s elected officials truthfulness (especially in congress). If they are constantly screaming impeachment and saying President Obama is lawless, ignoring the constitution, and taking freedoms away, then they need to back it up with action. Tell them to take it to the floor of the house for a vote or shut the hell up.

 

 

20 Things To Know About Race

20 Things To Know About Race

I get a ton of angry rants and comments every time I blog about race.  Most of those comments are vile and insulting so they never pass our moderation process. I refuse to let anyone post hate-speech on my blog. Besides being vile and insulting, these comments and commenters have another thing in common. They all lack a clear and basic understanding of what racism is. This lack of understanding impairs their ability to take part in an open honest dialogue about race in an intelligent well-informed non-combative manner. In this blog post I want to help those who fit into that category learn a few things that will help them remove the wall of defense, and open them to receive a perspective they have learned to reject. Shouting past each other or only talking to those who already agree with us impedes progress which leads to racial resentment, racial tension, and increases the polarization on issues of race. So here are 20 things to keep in mind when commenting on race.

1.  Black police can racially profile and violate the civil rights of other black people just like white officers can.  Black people are just as prone to believe racial stereotypes about their own race as some white people are.  Most of these stereotypes are reinforced by the media because they’ve been floating around as fact since the first slave stepped foot on American soil.

2.  Having a black friend does not exclude you from being racist.  It does not excuse your discriminatory or racist behavior.  It does not absolve your comments from scrutiny when they contain ambiguous racial undertones.  And it most certainly does not give you a pass to perpetrate and regurgitate hate speech.  Donald Trump is a serial offender when it comes to this tired trope.  “I’m not racist.  Some of my best friends are black”.

3.  Racism and discrimination are not the same. Racial Discrimination is a process that makes arbitrary distinctions, exclusions, or restrictions that are based on things like race or ethnic origin. This process intentionally rewards one group at the expense of another.

Racism is a construct or a belief that someone’s race can determine the limits of that person’s individual achievement, which leads to the belief that one race is superior and has the right to rule the others.

4.  Someone can use racial slurs without being a racist person.  But those who use racial slurs are much more likely to be racist.  For example; in an argument you say things you don’t really mean.  You may tell someone you hope they die in the middle of an argument.  Does that mean you’re a murder?  No.

5.  Believing racial stereotypes can negatively effect your interactions with black people.  For example; if you run a business and need to hire new employees and you believe black men are more likely to be violent than white men, you’re going to be less likely to hire a black man to fill your open positions. This happens on a subconscious level and numerous studies have proven this to be true. This is also reflected in pay disparity among races, higher unemployment numbers for minorities, job promotions, interview callbacks etc.

6.  Yes, black people can be racist against white people, but a black persons racial bias has little negative effect on whites.  I say this because white people are in a position of power, and black people aren’t.  Whites have much more wealth, they are in charge of every major corporation, and they have much more political power. If they are racist, they have the power and means to turn their racist views into discrimination and racial oppression.  Slavery and Jim Crow has produced an inherent distrust when it comes to the way black people interact with whites.  However, that does not excuse any black person who has racist beliefs, but it’s important to know that black racism and white racism are not equal or the same in any way.

7.  There is no such thing as “reverse racism”.  Racism is racism no matter where it comes from.

8.  Pointing out racism and acknowledging it’s existence does not make the person pointing it out a racist.

9.  The term “playing the race card” is offensive and diminishes the existence of real racism.  It is also detrimental to any dialogue about race.  Ignoring it’s existence does not make it go away.

10.  Calling someones comments racist, and holding them accountable for their hate-speech is not fascism or a war against free speech.  You have the right to say whatever you want because it’s protected by the first amendment.  But I have the right to be offended and voice my opinion about your hate-speech as loud and often as I like.  If you have a job that puts you in a position of power, or a job in the public eye, your employer has the right to protect their interest and end your employment if your hate speech jeopardizes the success of their business.

11.  When talking about one specific person who is racist and happens to be white, it does not mean you’re talking about every white person.  Therefore the ubiquist phrase “not all white people are racist” is unnecessary.

12.  Civil rights organizations and civil rights leaders have made and continues to make this country a better more equal place for everyone.  Not just minorities.  The work they do should be respected.  The leaders who are in the public eye are human and will make mistakes just like any other man.  Their ambition, mistakes, and shortcomings does not make their work any less noble, it does not disqualify them from fighting against racism, and it certainly does not disqualify them from making us aware of injustice when it occurs.

13.  Words and phrases like “thug”, “taking back our country”, “the race card”, “pimp”, “welfare queen”, “food stamp president”, “lawless”, “race hustler”, “race baiter”, “ghetto”, “uppity”, “makers & takers”, and “the race card” are used as dogwistles to those who have racist views and beliefs.

14.  You don’t have to be black to join the NAACP, and historically black colleges welcomes students of all races, not just blacks.

15.  All black people do not share the same views on race and racism.  Our opinions are just as varied as any other group of people.  But the racism we’ve all experienced has put us in a position to recognize it much faster than others who have not experienced it.  The effects of racism and proof of it’s existence can be found in statistical data collected by the government and organizations who study institutionalized racism.  For example, the arrests and incarceration rates of black men vs white men.  Access to health care, interest rates, credit, the home market, the job market, access to education, etc all show intentional disparities.

16.  It is not racist to want to see more diversity in movies and tv shows with an all white cast.  It’s normal to want to see people who look like you in the programs you watch. Calling for more diversity does not mean we believe the creator, director, or producer is racist or intentionally excluding minorities.  Most of the time casting all whites is done unintentionally and once they become aware, it gives them a chance to rethink their casting process and opens the show to a much broader audience.

17.  The intent of racial discrimination is not needed to produce a racial or discriminatory outcome.  For example; a republican can support new voter id laws with the intent of hurting democrats in an election. His intended outcome is to win elections, but the unintended outcome is the decreased participation of black voters.  Any laws designed to negatively effect a specific minority group is wrong and racist no matter the intent.

18.  The election of Barack Obama does not mean racism is over in the United States.  It does mean some of the limitations that race put on minorities have been broken, but the pieces of the broken limitations are still very visible and can be put back together very easily.

19.  Some of the opposition and hate thrown at President Obama is driven by racism and intolerance. Some of it is subtle and subconscious, and some of it is direct and obvious.  Acknowledging this fact isn’t some left-wing conspiracy to make republicians look racist, and it isn’t something democrats invented to use as an excuse when the president gets criticized.  We’re barely 50 years away from Jim Crow and segregation.  Those who grew up in the segregated south are still alive.  Whites who championed segregation, the police who sicked dogs on and beat black people with clubs for marching and asking to be treated equal, political figures who constructed laws that made black people 2nd class citizens are still alive.  I’m sure some of those people have realized the error of their ways and have changed their racist views, but it would be ludicrous to think that the beliefs that lead to Jim Crow all vanished with the signing of the civil rights act.  So those who refuse to admit or even discuss the racial opposition to this president are either ignorant or completely detached from reality.  I feel I have to say this again and be very clear because I know someone is reading this thinking “everyone who dislikes the president isn’t racist”.  I AGREE!!!  THAT IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE!!!!  JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T LIKE THE PRESIDENT DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE A RACIST!!!!  I wrote that in all caps because defensive reactionary statements like “not all whites…” keeps us from advancing the conversation past that point.

20.  We overcome racism, stop discrimination, and end racial stereotypes by having open honest conversations about it.  Not just with people we already agree with, but people who see things from a different perspective.  I wish people would stop being so afraid to hurt someone’s feelings, or afraid to say what they really think for fear of being attacked.  If you make a statement that I believe is racist, and I tell you why I think it’s racist, that is not an attack, and shouldn’t make you defensive and nasty when you reply.  I have numerous examples of this saved in my “comments that failed moderation” folder.  If it weren’t for the hate-speech and foul language I’d post a few, but I created a comment policy and I plan to follow.

I hope all of this will help those who read my blog and feels the need to call me a racist every time I write about racism.  You’re never too old to learn something new.  If you disagree with anything I’ve written I welcome your input because you may teach me something I didn’t know.  But if you try to post comments with derogatory language or a long tirade attacking me, I will not allow your comment to get posted, and I will not respond to anything you’ve written.  So writing those long tirades will be a total waste of your time.  If you’re not sure what may get your comment booted, take a look at our comment policy.  If you include your email address when leaving a comment, I will give you a chance to modify the language and repost it if there are mod issues.





Mega Church Killing Civil Rights

Civil Rights Activism

Watching republican led legislatures all over the country advocate and pass harsh new voting restrictions clearly designed to disenfranchise and marginalize the African American vote has brought up personal feelings of dismay and frustration. But the subsequent abject silence on this issue from most notable African American elites has left me feeling puzzled and frustrated even more. Out of that frustration came three questions I’d like to explore and attempt to answer:

1. What happened to the solidarity and sense of duty to each other that made the success of the civil rights movement possible?
2. Why aren’t today’s African Americans with wealth, celebrity, and power as visible and outspoken as African American’s with similar standings were in the 1960’s?
3. What is the biggest issue in 21st century America that directly threatens the gains won by civil rights activist in the 1960’s?

Before we can begin to answer any of those questions we have to define what contemporary Americans consider activism to be. In the 1960’s social activism meant marches, protest, attending lectures and speeches, making personal sacrifices for the greater good, rallies, lobbing friends, neighbors, and family members who may not understand your position or why that particular issue is important, and holding elected officials accountable to the people who elected them.

Taking part in the political process now means being involved in politically biased or partisan media, and/or shouting down friends on social media (like facebook or twitter), and signing online petitions. That is one of the biggest changes in how we participate as citizens in politics. I have even heard some people say they only watch television shows or movies with black people in the cast… as if that does anything to help minority communities. If that is the extent of your activism then you are most definitely wasting your time.

The biggest change in civil rights and how African Americans take part in it and the lack of visibility or urgency in it can not be blamed on laziness, apathy, or resting on the gains already won in the 1960’s. Of course all of that does play a part but it’s a very small part. A lot of it has to do with the social separation between African American’s with wealth or celebrity from everyday working class, middle class, and poor African Americans. Another huge factor has to do with the changes in traditional African American churches. First let me explain the part about African American churches, and I’ll come back to the social separation idea afterward.

African American churches were at the center of the civil rights movement. It’s where MLK and others met to plan rallies, share information, inspire activism, and it was also a place where African Americans felt safe. That has all disappeared from today’s African American churches. Today’s mega church’s seem more concerned with money, power, and a place to network. Once the church was removed from the movement there was nothing there to take its place. A lot of people don’t know this but one of the main reasons African American churches are a lot less politically active has to do with money. In 2001 President George Bush created a new government organization called “The White House Office Of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives”. He created this office to give government grants to churches and religious organizations. Churches were already tax exempt but the 1st amendment to the US Constitution says “government shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, more commonly known as “separation of church and state”. So because of this constitutional amendment churches were excluded from getting government grants. President Bush and some really smart lawyers came up with a way to give grant money to churches. All the churches had to do is incorporate themselves as a non profit organization and change their church name if it was something overtly religious that could identify what type of religion the church practices. For example, if the church name is “Jesus Is Love Tabernacle” they would have to remove “Jesus” and change it to something like “Love and Worship Tabernacle”. The same pastors and religious folk that were so appalled at prayer being removed from schools jumped at the chance to change their church name to get government grants… how hypocritical is that? But I digress… After they do the name change that church is now eligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of government grants (keep in mind that grants do not have to be paid back aka free money). To stay in compliance and keep their government grants they have a lot more rules to follow. That church can not be involved with politics or back any political candidate. So no church rallies for civil rights, and no telling your congregation which candidate will help the community the most. But with all that money you can build a huge mega church, buy nice buses with the pastor’s face on the side, employ a full time staff and compensate them nicely (most of the time it’s the pastors family), and the pastor’s salary can reach baller levels. I don’t want to make it all sound bad because some of these churches are doing good things with the money. They provide services for the community like free daycare, feeding the homeless, family and marriage counseling, pay medical bills and buy prescriptions for those who are sick and in need etc. But all of this new grant money has crippled the traditional black church’s involvement in civil rights. If not at church, where is the base for civil rights activists? This is a major problem that has not been addressed.

This is the other issue that needs to be dealt with. African American celebrities and those with wealth or political power aren’t subjected to the same treatment as poor and middle class African Americans. During the civil rights movement all African Americans were subjected to Jim Crow and separate but equal. Black performers and entertainers could not stay in the hotels they performed in. Couldn’t eat at the restaurants that their fellow white entertainers ate in. This created a solidarity among all African Americans. Performers like Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr., Muhammad Ali, etc championed the fight for civil rights because they had a personal steak in it in addition to doing it just because it was the right thing to do. They were all willing to put their carers on the line to help all Blacks. Today it’s hard to find true civil rights activist among Black entertainers and Blacks with wealth such as Jay Z, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Sean Combs (P. Diddy), Bob Johnson, Bishop TD Jakes and even President Obama. The wealth and power these people have gained totally insulates them from the discrimination, pains, and issues felt by middle class, poor, and impoverished African Americans. Jay Z doesn’t get stopped and frisked every time he leaves his lavish penthouse apartment in New York. Oprah doesn’t have to worry about her polling location being removed just because she lives in a district that’s predominately African American. P Diddy doesn’t have to worry about his voting rights being revoked because of a petty drug charge he plead guilty to when he was 15 years old. Tyler Perry doesn’t have to worry about predatory lenders that target his neighborhood because it’s inhabited by poor African Americans who can not get traditional loans from traditional banks or credit unions. Bishop TD Jakes isn’t effected by republicans harsh and brutal cuts to social programs like medicaid, wic, social security, disability, food stamps, head-start, planned parenthood, etc. Bob Johnson doesn’t have to worry about his children not being able to attend college because government grants have dried up.

All of the people I named have huge visibility and enormous resources which they could use to effect change and improve the lives of all minorities while making our finical, educational, and criminal justice systems treat all citizens equally. Instead of doing this they have chosen to enrich themselves with more power and more wealth. I hate to point specific people out because there are thousands just like them who I haven’t named. I would also like to acknowledge that these people have donated to charities and are good well-meaning people for the most part. But they have a greater responsibility to the people that made their wealth and power possible. What if Harry Belafonte or Muhammad Ali hadn’t fought for civil rights? The lush charmed lives of Oprah and Jay Z wouldn’t be possible. So in turn they should do the same for those who are currently being victimized by racial intolerance and inequality. What good is making it to the “top” if you don’t reach back and pull your brother up with you? For rappers like Jay Z and Lil Wayne it’s not enough to just rap about the harsh conditions of the inner city and make people aware of the inequality in our justice system. Hip Hop has done an amazing job of that over the years (which was no small feat). But if you continue to rap about inner city problems, gain enormous wealth from it and not involve yourself in creating a movement to change it, then you’ve turned one of the most sui generis and innovative art forms ever created into egregious exploitation.

I know my critique of the African American elite is a bit harsh, but I can’t assign 100% of the blame on them. We as a whole have allowed them to behave that way. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating success or acknowledging those with special abilities. But when all you do is congratulate and celebrate without demanding something in return you are giving them permission to obtain more wealth and power at your expense. Tyler Perry, TD Jakes, and Jay Z owe a huge part of their success to the poor and working class African Americans who support them. There are people who live far below the poverty line who will scrape up a few dollars to see Tyler Perry’s latest movie, or attend one of TD Jakes conferences, or buy Jay Z’s newest album. That fact alone should be enough to move them and make them want to be more vocal. Building a bigger super mega church doesn’t help our community. Buying a basketball team doesn’t help our community. Buying a private island doesn’t help our community, and now we have this new phenomenon where anyone who questions the elite are shunned and labeled “haters”. Somehow our entertainers and those of us who support them have lost our way. We’ve lost the will to fight. We’ve accepted the status quo and have become complacent or (in my case) cynical. Yes I’ll admit I have become a bit cynical. When the problems are so huge and the solution seems so very apparent it drives me crazy to see those with unlimited resources doing nothing.

How can we remind these people of their responsibility? How can we show the elite they still have a steak in civil rights? Obviously empathy and “doing the right thing” aren’t viable motivations anymore. Maybe we should play to their vanity and start praising any and all (no matter how small) charitable work they do, or anytime they call for criminal justice reform in an interview, or anytime they campaign for candidates who are pro civil rights, and ignore the trivial vapidness and superficial self importance of inconsequential celebrity gossip.

Martin Luther King, Bayard Rustin, President Kennedy, and all of the other great civil rights activists from the 1960’s would be astonished at the lack of diligence that has taken hold since their great gains at the height of the movement. Most notably the Supreme Court decision to strike down parts of the voting rights act earlier this year which led to a number of harsh new voting restrictions put in place by republican governors to disenfranchise the minority vote. I believe Martin Luther King would also be shocked and disappointed at the lack of support from the black community for marriage equality and gay rights. I say this with a great deal of confidence because one of MLK’s most trusted advisers was an out gay African American man named Bayard Rustin (who I just referenced at the beginning of this paragraph). A few of MLK’s other advisers tried to talk him into firing Bayard because of his sexuality and MLK would not do it. Without Bayard the historic march on Washington may not have happened. He was the top organizer for the event. I feel I have to acknowledge that the black community is moving in the right direction on this issue. The NAACP publicly announced support for gay marriage last year sometime right after President Obama announced his support. So there is progress and hope on this issue…. but hope enough to assuage my cynicism?… the jury is still out on that one.

2013 CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUES TO ADDRESS:

END STOP AND FRISK!
END RACIAL PROFILING!
RESTORE THE ORIGINAL VOTING RIGHTS ACT!
GET RID OF ALL “STAND YOUR GROUND” LAWS!
REFORM THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM!
ALLOW ALL CITIZENS TO VOTE, EVEN THOSE WITH A FELONY!
END THE COSTLY INEFFECTIVE WAR ON DRUGS!
CLOSE ALL PRIVATE PRISONS
ENACT A MORATORIUM ON BUILDING NEW PRISONS
LEGALIZE GAY MARRIAGE IN ALL 50 STATES!
MAKE THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT SUCCESSFUL!

HOMEWORK:

Read “The New Jim Crow” by: Michelle Alexander (if you can’t find or afford a copy please let me know and I will purchase one and send it to you. It’s a must read for anyone who cares about civil rights and how mass incarceration became the solution for dealing with African American men.)

Shutdown Blame Game

www.sociallyurban.com

As some of you may know, I love a good facebook debate about politics. I have a smart and very diverse group of friends in terms of race, ideology, and political affiliation. I didn’t know how rare that was until I read a Reuters poll a few months ago that revealed 40 percent of white Americans and 25 percent of non-white Americans are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race.  If you’re one of those people whose social circle lacks diversity, I implore you to critically examine your life and the circumstances (conscious or subconscious) that led you to have such a limited view when choosing your friends.  I know you’re asking what the hell does any of this have to do with the government shutdown.  Well let me explain.  This morning I posted something on facebook about Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s cunning political prowess which is evident in how he’s dealing with the less cunning republicans lead by Ted Cruz (yes Ted Cruz, not John Boehner.  That’s not a typo).  My best friend Shante’s boyfriend Doug read my facebook post and left a comment.  We have differing views on who and what caused the government shutdown so of course a lively facebook debate ensued.  If you read the full debate you’ll see why it’s important to have friends who aren’t exactly like you because they may help you see something from a different perspective that you wouldn’t have otherwise.  I think I kinda sorta got Doug to admit I was right about who caused the shutdown but I did understand why he thought there was a problem with exemptions.  Anyway, here’s the debate (my comments are in red):

Me:  Harry Reid is giving them hell. He’s so soft spoken and unassuming. Many new Senate Republicans underestimate him. Big BIG mistake.  lol

Doug: They are all corrupt! The gov shutdown is because the senate refuses to remove a 72 percent subsidy for federal employees and exemption from health care for themselves. At the same time the GOP is making backdoor deals to exempt themselves also. They are all liars n covering there own self interest at the public’s expense.

Me:  We could argue the “they are all corrupt” trope a thousand times over but the real reason we’re at a shutdown is because House Republicans have tried to pass through legislative back channels an anti-Obamacare provision that they have failed to move either through House votes the 41 times they’ve attempted to repeal the ACA (Obamacare), through the Supreme Court, which upheld the law’s constitutionality, or through the election of 2012 when Mitt Romney advocated defunding Obamacare over and over and lost. It’s a law, and by attaching its defunding to a budget, the GOP is sidelining the legislative process. The 72 percent subsidy wasn’t even brought up until the day of the shutdown. Before that they were asking for a full repeal of the law. And when they saw that wasn’t going to happen they changed their demand to a 1 year delay plus a laundry list of other demands they failed to pass legislatively. I’m all for assigning blame equally when it’s due but this government shutdown is purely the fault of the far right tea party republicans.

Doug:  Partially correct! Yes they have tried to defund. Yes its law. We agree! Yet, against the law itself the administration has changed it 12 times giving perks to whoever speaks the loudest. The final bill sent by house only ask, why are all these groups being exempted if we are mandated. Those changes were added after the supreme court ruled. How can anyone defend a lawmaker imposing a law on us that does not apply to them. Its in the details. This law wasn’t even about healthcare. That was the bait to get the vote. Its the single largest shift in power to the executive branch in history. Its a bad bill but suits the need at the moment. It was lies! U cant keep ur doc( or wont be able to in three years) and its not cheap and affordable. Thats not republican or democrat. Thats just whats happening. Very few that can be trusted on either side. I appreciate your opinion though. You very informed which most people arent.

Me:  We switched from arguing the cause of the shutdown to the merits of the arguments of the reason the shutdown happened. So I’ll take that to mean you agree that the Senate is not the cause afterall . I understand your concerns with the ACA and I also understand why you think there are problems with exemptions. But I think it’s too soon to make leaps and assumptions. If the law is horrible and does everything opponents are predicting then it will die under it’s own weight. But those who are actively working to undermine it (tea party republicans) just because they do not like the man in the white house is wrong.

I want to say a big thank you to Doug for helping me post something new this week.  I wanted to post something about the shutdown and the Affordable Care Act but just hadn’t took the time to write it yet. So again, thanks Doug. 🙂

 

*All blog graphics are created by me and can be found at http://sociallyurban.com/graphics/

Secret Leaks And Hard Choices

Secret Leaks and Hard Choices

Over the past couple weeks we’ve learned about top secret government programs designed to seek out terrorist who wish to do harm to the United States of America. What started out as a small leak has turned into a gushing waterfall of classified top secret information. First we had a story about the Department of Justice secretly seizing two months worth of phone records from the Associated Press without a warrant. These records were seized in an effort to identify the Associated Press’s informant who leaked very sensitive classified material to an AP reporter that jeopardized an ongoing CIA mission and could have cost the lives of those carrying out the clandestine mission if the target became aware of it. Keep in mind that the DOJ only obtained the numbers called both inbound and outbound, but never listened in on any phone conversations or asked to see transcripts from any phone conversations. A few days after that story broke another revelation came to light. The DOJ obtained a warrant for Fox “reporter” James Rosen’s email account to find his source for a 2009 report about North Korea responding to a United Nations sanction with a nuclear missile test. Yesterday another classified leak of US intelligence occurred. Cellular service provider Verizon complied with a top secret court order (issued in April 2013) to give the National Security Agency information on all phone calls from all of their customers in an indefinite ongoing daily basis. Then before we had time to digest this troubling occurrence, another government surveillance story broke. A reporter from “The Guardian” uncovered a top secret government program called PRISIM that allowed them to access or monitor any US citizen’s internet use and read anyone’s email.

If proven true, all of these secret surveillance operations are a stain on Obama’s presidency, a stain on law abiding American’s civil liberties, and a stain on the credibility of the DOJ and the NSA. I have to say this is the most disappointing and troubling part of an otherwise amazing presidency. We all know president Obama is a pragmatist but his unbelievably fast evolution on the issue of civil liberties makes me determined to find out why. Before he was elected president his position on Bush’s far reaching Patriot Act was very clear. He was very vocal about his opposition to most of the bill. Especially the statutes about government surveillance on law abiding citizens. After he won the election all of this changed. If I were a cynic I’d chalk it up to politics and probably believe that he knowingly misstated his position to get elected. But that’s not the Obama I know. Everything about his life shows a man with immense integrity, so I have to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think his change was prompted by some pretty scary intelligence that only him and a few top advisers are privy to. Being president has a huge burden that comes along with the job. You are responsible for 300 million people every day of your life for 4 to 8 years. The fate of the entire county rests in your hands and every decision you make could have dire consequences. I’m not making excuses for him infringing on American civil liberties, but I can understand why he may feel it necessary to do these types of things. It’s easy for me to feel outraged by it all when my outrage carries no consequence. So as you watch these issues unfold in the news, please keep that in mind and respect the enormity of that type of responsibility. These are complex issues and the president has to weigh the safety of nation against what is allowable by law. If his actions are indeed legal, then we have to ask ourselves if we’re just going to criticize pontificate and debate endlessly whether or not we feel comfortable with the government having this tool available to them, or are we going to push our elected officials to remove the legal ambiguity that was purposely written into bills such as the Patriot Act? Government as an institution will never voluntarily make itself less powerful, nor will any president. For that to happen the people have to be united, organized, and dedicated to restoring the principles that made this country great. I’m not willing to give up my civil liberties in order to maybe possibly probably catch one or two suspected terrorist every now and then. We are the smartest most technically advanced country in the world so there’s no way anyone can convince me that spying on law abiding Americans is the only way to fight or prevent an act of terrorism.

The Will Of The People

The will of the people

When President Barack Obama won reelection in 2012, he made a number of promises that captivated progressives and made us all hopeful once again. We all knew these were very big ideas and would not come easy at all, but when the President has the will of the people on his side and a crumbling economic structure where only a few benefit, then of course these factors would make things much easier. Ideas like gun control, marriage equality, income equality, immigration reform, health care reform etc. Under any other circumstances I’d be crazy or embarrassingly naive to think we’d get anywhere with such a lofty progressive agenda. But the more I think about it, all of those things should be easy. They should be a given really. Think about it… mandatory enhanced background checks for all gun purchases is supported by 90% of the American people. Marriage equality is supported by 60% (and rising more every day). An increase in minimum wage has 80% support. Immigration reform has the support of 55% favoring a legal pathway to citizenship. Sixty percent of the American people either fully support Obamacare (aka The Affordable Care Act) or think the bill isn’t liberal enough (those who still favor the public option which was dropped from the bill to get it through the house). Every one of those lofty progressive ideas that the President spoke about in his speech has support from a majority of the American people. Something is wrong here. Something is definitely wrong here. We’re supposed to live in a democracy where the president and elected officials are chosen by the people to carry out the wishes of the people. So if you have a situation where a majority of the people overwhelmingly support something, but that something still does not come to pass, we need to ask ourselves why the hell not. This is a question I’ve been struggling to make sense of for quite some time. How can you have the will of the people support something, and a majority of the senate support something and still it does not come to pass?

I’m a lover of politics but ultimately I’m a lover of information. I love history and science and finding out how things work. I love reading obscure historic biographies and watching every history channel special about past wars and presidents. As I began to write this blog I remembered something about World War II that helped me understand how elected officials can completely ignore the will of the people over and over again and still remain in office. I know it sounds crazy right now but let me explain. During WWII Japanese Emperor Hirohito and his military generals devised a propaganda campaign of massive proportion. They relentlessly drilled into the minds of their civilian and non civilian population that the Americans were complete savages. Every single day they were told stories of the Americans coming into villages raping women, decapitating babies, dismembering kids, drinking the blood of the people they kill after torturing them, and whatever else the regime’s sick sadistic minds could make up that would put the fear of god in them. They did this because it made their army fight till the death and it made the Emperor look like a protector. But one very unintended consequence of this type of propaganda says a lot about human nature and how what was intended to strengthen through manipulation can end up weakening and leading to a huge downfall. Ok, so the Japanese people heard and believed all these horrible stories about Americans and American soldiers. When our army finally reached the shores of Japan and started to make their way through the villages, they were not there to harm civilians. We knew about the Japanese propaganda so we printed up thousands of pamphlets in Japanese telling them that our soldiers were not there to kill or hurt them and if they surrendered peacefully no harm would come to them. But of course they did not believe us. They were bombarded with horror stories about us for two straight years so to them an American soldier was the devil incarnate. When it became clear that they were losing the war and they saw US soldiers coming to their village, the parents would slit the throats of their children and then slit their own. To them this was the only way of saving their children from the devil. They’d rather die by their own hand so they could make it quick and relatively painless than be tortured, dismembered, decapitated, raped, etc. Village after village the same thing happened over an over no matter what the soldiers tried to do to let them know we meant them no harm.

This small piece of WWII history helped me understand why the will of the people can be ignored time and time again without an all out revolt. We’re Japanese villagers. We’ve been conditioned. We’re fearful and therefore powerless. The president wants to raise the minimum wage and has the complete support of the people. Every working person in this country can agree that a person working a full time job should not be in poverty. But that’s the way it is right now. Full time job working everyday of the week and still does not make enough to feed their family. Wall Street seeing a huge upswing, major corporations making record profits, CEO’s getting millions in bonuses and instead of using all those profits and bonuses to pay the people who work for them a fair wage, they use it to buy politicians, to lobby the people we put in office so they can keep their huge profits and keep paying their workers shit. These lobbyist get political pundits and “so called” journalist to tell the electorate that a raise in minimum wage would kill jobs. And people are so afraid of losing their low paying crappy job that they start to believe the propaganda. Never mind that what these so called experts and pundits are saying does not make sense. A company making record profits can’t afford to pay their workers a living wage? If that’s true they should go out of business. If they are that close to the edge then that’s not a healthy company. We need to stop separating ourselves into republicans or democrats, or white or black, or native or immigrant… those are really just labels that help the fear machine push out more and more lies and more and more propaganda. We have the numbers, we are the majority, we have the power so it’s about time we start acting like it. We’ve all seen the gap in income disparity grow larger and larger and yet we’ve done absolutely nothing NOTHING to fix it. Our president wants to raise the minimum wage. The American people want to raise the minimum wage. Why isn’t it happening? Are we going to take responsibility and support this until it’s law or are we going to be like Japanese villagers in WWII waiting to slit our throats to avoid an even worse fate?

FACTS FOR NONBELIEVERS:

The will of the people

income inequality infographic workers middle class and ceo’s get compared

The next time someone tells you that raising the minimum wage would kill jobs and slow the economic recovery, here are some hard facts that proves those statements to be false.

Among the 50 largest low‐wage employers:

  • 92 percent were profitable last year
  • 78 percent were profitable for the past 3 years
  • 75 percent are earning higher revenue now than before the recession
  • 63 percent are earning higher profits now than before the recession
  • 63 percent have a higher operating margin (a measure of profitability) now than before the recession
  • 73 percent have higher cash holdings now than before the recession

These facts and figures were researched by the National Employment Law Project (PDF).  They killed a very old Republican talking point that low wage jobs were the heart of small businesses.  This study found that the majority of America’s lowest‐paid workers are employed by large corporations, not small businesses, and most of the largest low‐wage employers have recovered from the recession and are in a strong financial position.

White House Crisis Management

Socially Urban Blog White House Crisis

Last week in my “Bad Week For Obama” blog I discussed three current “so called” scandals that the white house is trying to deal with. The IRS debacle, the Department of Justice wiretapping issue, and the attack on the consulate in Benghazi. Honestly I thought all three of those scandals would fizzle and fade away from mainstream media. I knew Fox wouldn’t let these issues die so that part I expected. But mainstream media and even liberal media are still leading their broadcasts with all three of these stories every day. I’m not saying that these issues aren’t important, but they aren’t half as big as everyone is making them out to be. Especially Benghazi. That’s the one that drives me crazy because I don’t understand why an argument over talking points has garnered all this attention. I thought President Obama took all the steam out of that story during the second presidential debate. Romney thought he had a sure-fire trump card that would definitely score him major points but President Obama threw it right back at him and ended up making Romney look like an uninformed opportunist. For some reason Republicans never learn from their mistakes and seem incapable of moving away from issues and political maneuvers that have failed and in some cases failed miserably. Two very good examples of this is Benghazi and the repeal of The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). The House and the Senate can’t seem to get anything done or even bring bills to the floor for a simple up or down vote, but that hasn’t stopped them from voting on the repeal of Obamacare 45 times. They know each time this will fail but they still do it over and over again. Common sense would tell anyone that there’s zero chance of Obama signing a bill that would undo his biggest piece of legislation. The Affordable Care Act is the most important part of his legacy. Hell, it even has his name in the title (lol). It seems as though everyone has caught scandal fever when it should have been just a 24 hour bug.

I can’t blame everything on Republicans because the White House continually makes bad decisions which makes small missteps into huge epidemics. Their number one problem is rolling-disclosure. Leaking small pieces of information here and there day by day keeps these scandals in the news. They’ve done this with Benghazi, the IRS thing, and the DOJ’s wiretaps. I just blasted the Republicans for not learning from their mistakes, but the White House has the exact same problem. I wish President Obama would have taken charge of the IRS issue as soon as they became aware of it. They should have been the one to bring this to the public’s attention. That would have taken 90% of the steam out of the GOP’s argument. But instead his staff and advisers decided that “plausible deniability” would somehow protect him and limit his exposure without risking his political capital… so they didn’t tell him. That works well in business but it never works in politics. Especially when you’re the president. Maybe this time they’ve finally learned that lessen and they’ll stop giving Republicans ammunition.

When Is War The Right Thing To Do

When is war the right thing?I think the western world has a skewed outlook when it comes to war and protecting our people and way of life. I’m aware that war is sometimes necessary and even sometimes unavoidable (ie WW2 & Nazi Germany), but we have to start being honest when it comes to voicing our intent and reasoning. Those that support sending more troops to Afghanistan  are arguing that it’s “the right thing to do”, or saying that we’re going over there to make our country safer and to help the Afghan people. Now, I don’t like resorting to name calling, but anyone that actually believes either of those statements to be true are just outright naive. First of all, the Taliban has been weakened so much that they aren’t that big of a threat to us anymore (compared to other more dangerous countries that pose an imminent threat). And most of the Taliban aren’t even in Afghanistan anymore. They are scattered in low numbers throughout the Middle East. And that’s an absolute fact that even General Petraeus admitted. So in my mind, that kills the whole “keeping America safe” argument. So who are we really fighting over there? We’ve bombed these people so much that there’s really not much left to bomb. How many times can you blow up the same building? All the legitimate targets are now rubble. I don’t see the point of spending our tax dollars on expensive missiles that are targeted to hit rubble and ruins. How does that make our country safer? How does that “help” the Afghanis? We need to understand that the old ways of war don’t apply anymore. We can’t effectively fight terrorism by going after one or two specific countries. Terrorist aren’t all huddled up together in one place. They are smart enough to know that they can not win that way. But I guess our government hasn’t figured that out yet. It’s like we’re trying to put a cassette tape in a cd player, and then wondering why it isn’t playing. But instead of learning a new way, we keep doing the same thing, hoping for a different result. What kind of sense does that make? If we don’t soon adapt, and start being smarter, then I fear 9 11 will happen all over again. And that’s something none of us want.
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