Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union '06 - On HIV/AIDS ...

A hopeful society acts boldly to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS, which can be prevented, and treated, and defeated. More than a million Americans live with HIV, and half of all AIDS cases occur among African Americans. I ask Congress to reform and reauthorize the Ryan White Act, and provide new funding to states, so we end the waiting lists for AIDS medicine in America. We will also lead a nationwide effort, working closely with African-American churches and faith-based groups, to deliver rapid HIV tests to millions, end the stigma of AIDS, and come closer to the day when there are no new infections in America.

This was good that the President, within the small window of time he allots himself for these types of affairs, devoted a moment to acknowledging the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS in the African American community. It also met one of our requirements for this State of the Union as outlined in our recent editorial: health disparities. But, his reference to the Black church (as this primary public policy conduit to the Black electorate) shows that this is a President relying on the Black religious community to direct Administration views on issues impacting the African American community. On some levels that may seem promising; on others, it could also be troubling in the sense that Black issues are limited through the prism of Black religiosity and the evangelism of a vocal few with multi-million dollar mega churches.

As for HIV/AIDS funding, he proposes "new funding" - but, does that necessarily mean a funding increase? Or, is it simply reallocating funding into different streams?

State of the Union '06 - On Competitiveness & Education ...

And to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hard-working, ambitious people - and we are going to keep that edge. Tonight I announce the American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our Nation's children a firm grounding in math and science.

This is something that should've risen to the top of the Executive's agenda since he took office in 2001. There is little here that one can really oppose, because it is a reasonable request ...

First: I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next ten years. This funding will support the work of America's most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.

Second: I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit, to encourage bolder private-sector investment in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life - and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come.

Here, again, the dreaded tax cut. Not because we fear a tax cut or suggest that irresponsible, runaway and mismanaged federal spending is the answer - but, because it's such a tired talking point. What's needed is much more than a "tax credit" that simply encourages "investment"; there is a desperate, urgent need to recognize that we must invest in R&D on a large scale. Leaving this to a "tax credit" absolves the government from its obligation to invest in R&D.

Third: We need to encourage children to take more math and science, and make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We have made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country.

Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers, to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs. If we ensure that America's children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world.

State of the Union '06 - On Oil ...

We agree with the Administration's assessment on national dependence on oil - if only we were convinced that he was actually serious about moving on what he's asserted here:

Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. Here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.

The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly 10 billion dollars to develop cleaner, cheaper, more reliable alternative energy sources - and we are on the threshold of incredible advances. So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative - a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy.

We must also change how we power our automobiles. We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips, stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years. Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.

The only problem with this is that we are embroiled in politically reforming an entire region where oil is the leading export. Hence, if we need to withdraw ourselves from this "addiction," then good prevention could be found in a different foreign policy path than currently relied upon.

State of the Union '06 - On Healthcare ...

Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care. Our government has a responsibility to help provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility. For all Americans, we must confront the rising cost of care, strengthen the doctor-patient relationship and help people afford the insurance coverage they need. We will make wider use of electronic records and other health information technology, to help control costs and reduce dangerous medical errors. We will strengthen Health Savings Accounts - by making sure individuals and small business employees can buy insurance with the same advantages that people working for big businesses now get. We will do more to make this coverage portable, so workers can switch jobs without having to worry about losing their health insurance. And because lawsuits are driving many good doctors out of practice - leaving women in nearly 1,500 American counties without a single OB-GYN - I ask the Congress to pass medical liability reform this year.

There is no mention of the consequences of rising pharmaceutical costs. Could we perhaps look more closely at how prescription drug pricing contributes to gaps in accessability to affordable health care? The usual rally for medical liability reform (notice the term "tort" is not used) may sound all good, but lawsuits are not the complete reason why 45 million Americans have no access to health care.

State of the Union '06 - On Corruption & Ethics ...

Clearly, we would have liked to have heard more on the issue of ethics and accountability in government. This didn't happen. And we wonder if this is due to this President's famous habit of removing himself from reality or if he has been advised that its best to ignore this issue and place it so far at the bottom of this speech that it becomes a footnote. The problem here is that the State of the Union in 2006 is centered around the state of ethical standards in government.

A hopeful society expects elected officials to uphold the public trust. Honorable people in both parties are working on reforms to strengthen the ethical standards of Washington - and I support your efforts. Each of us has made a pledge to be worthy of public responsibility - and that is a pledge we must never forget, never dismiss, and never betray.

A preachy and scripted paragraph on corruption inside the Beltway is as good as it will get. And since the President gives Congress a slap on the wrist for heinous unethical conduct (that, we assure, goes much deeper than just Abramoff), expect obligatory window dressing that does little in the way of serious reform.

State of the Union '06 - On Immigration & Border Security ...

Our Nation needs orderly and secure borders. To meet this goal, we must have stronger immigration enforcement and border protection.

This statment rings hollow when you nominate Julie Myers to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security. A lawyer with little to no experience in Immigration or Border security, Myers went from claiming to manage a $25 million budget and 170 employees as Asst. Sec. of Export Enforcement at the Dept. of Commerce to now managing a $4 billion budget and 20,000 employees. It pays to be the niece of former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard B. Meyers and now wife of DHS Secretary Chertoff's Chief of Staff John Wood.

State of the Union '06 - Social Security ...

He's feeling it now. To raise Social Security as a central issue again after its stunning legislative death in Congress last year shows a certain amount of obstinance and determination on the part of this President. This is very compelling ... and bold. Still, the failure of Democrats to present an alternative plan contributed to this issue being raised as a central theme again.

Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security, yet the rising cost of entitlements is a problem that is not going away - and with every year we fail to act, the situation gets worse. So tonight, I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of Baby Boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This commission should include Members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan answers. We need to put aside partisan politics, work together, and get this problem solved.

The focus, now, is on the impact of Baby Boomers.

State of the Union '06 - On the Economy ...

There is little that this particular speech can say or do in the wake of massive lay-offs announced by huge economic engines such as General Motors and Ford. Simply relying on tax cuts as the cure all or ultimate remedy to economic woes lacks creativity and innovation for a problem that is as multi-faceted and multi-dimensional as it is universal.

Keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars. Every year of my presidency, we have reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending - and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another 14 billion dollars next year - and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.

Yet, federal spending is out of control to the tune of a nearly half trillion dollar deficit.

I am pleased that Members of Congress are working on earmark reform - because the Federal budget has too many special interest projects. And we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto.

We were looking for more on the subject of corruption in Congress and the pervasiveness of money in politics.

State of the Union '06 - On Wiretapping ...

There is the paradox of undeterred and Constitutionally questionable mass surveillance by the federal government justified by a drive for freedom.

State of the Union '06 - On Hamas ...

On this point, on the call for Hamas to disarm and reject its long-standing mission to destroy Israel (thereby plunging the region into perpetual unrest), we agree.

"Democracies in the Middle East will not look like our own" - this is a very true and frank assessment from an Executive with a reputation for not acknowledging the obvious.

State of the Union '06 - On Iraq ...

The President opens this State of the Union with a subtle plea for "civil" discourse between the Executive and Legislative branches, yet he is taking liberty with somewhat coarse and defensive comments on criticism of the Iraq war's direction, characterizing such debate as "defeatism."

The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home. As we make progress on the ground, and Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead, we should be able to further decrease our troop levels - but those decisions will be made by our military commanders, not by politicians in Washington, D.C.

Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy. With so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candor. A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison ..... put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country - and show that a pledge from America means little. Members of Congress: however we feel about the decisions and debates of the past, our Nation has only one option: We must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand behind the American military in its vital mission.

Whereby this could be an opportunity to somehow persuade public sentiment to exercise patience in the rebuilding of Iraq, the President appears to use this event as a platform for trigger-happy war-time rhetoric that ostracizes the dissent.

State of the Union '06 - Bush on Terrorism & Tyranny ...

Focus on terror, tyranny and totalitarianism deflects attention from foreign policy missteps and keeps the electorate in a constant state of nervousness. And, of course, "the advance of freedom" ... in the Middle East ... "We seek the end of tyranny in our world" - yet, this does little to allay fears of Administration eavesdropping.

We're impressed by the mention Zimbabwe receives as the situation there deserves attention. And, what about Liberia?

"We love our freedom and we will fight to keep it" is the predictable pep rally tone we expected in this speech.

State of the Union '06 - Bush on Coretta Scott King ...

At the opening of the State of the Union, the President gives respectful and necessary props to the memory of Coretta Scott King, but this is as close to a reference to civil rights as this speech may get.

Get Nagin ...

And so it begins. The beginning of what was already a terrible end. New Orleans' displaced Black folks will cry foul, and fairly comfortable White folks in the Big Easy won't be exposed to unsightly reminders of racist legacies and Black poverty.

Reports the Times-Picyaune:

Handing New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin perhaps his most formidable political challenge to date, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu has decided to place his name on the April ballot, a key Landrieu supporter said Monday. While Landrieu is expected to publicly announce his candidacy in a written statement this week, a source said a formal declaration with a kickoff event and a campaign speech likely won't come until after the Legislature's special session set for Feb. 6-17.

The mayoral primary has been scheduled for April 22, with a runoff, if needed, on May 20. Qualifying for the race will be March 1-3. Before Hurricane Katrina, Nagin was considered a virtual lock to win a second four-year term. But the city's slow recovery from the disaster and Nagin's missteps -- most notably his notorious "chocolate city" speech on Martin Luther King Day -- have made him highly vulnerable in the eyes of many political handicappers.

We're beginning to agree with the latter assessment and may have to renounce one of our initial political predictions for 2006. Nagin's profile was looking pretty good until he went off the rhetorical deep end recently - we suspect the whole post-Hurricane affair may have overwhelmed him. We also thought that maybe Nagin, once a Republican, may have been gauging Evangelical votes while considering a future state wide run. Still, the fact that Mitch Landrieu, brother of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), decided on a run for Mayor of the much Whiter, new, improved, rebuilt New Orleans should be of serious concern not only to Nagin, but to the Black political elite in Crescent City. For years, the African American political establishment dismissed opportunities to seriously address generations of poverty in their city. The consequences of that inaction (and the years of corruption) are becoming very clear in this impending political battle.

On the Passing of Coretta Scott King ...

There is much to reflect on concerning the passing of civil rights icon Coretta Scott King, and the thoughts on our end are varied and somewhat troubling:

- There is an odd and dismal sense of irony caught in the Senate's confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito as the Supreme Court's newest addition only hours after the death of Mrs. King. It's as if her death not only signaled the tragedy of her missed presence, but - through Alito's confirmation - it seemed as if it marked the literal, official ending of an era. Alito's record on civil rights does nothing to ease the souls of those who mourn today. So, we simply wait and see just how unreasonably far to the ideological right the Court will go. Media reports characterized the final Senate vote as an "ugly battle" - far from it. If anything, it was partisan window dressing set up for the purpose of galvanizing opposing bases. There is no honor in appeasing political interest groups.

- In the wake of her passing remains the challenge of determining the exact future of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, GA. We hope that the King family will resolve any internal public disputes over the potential sale of the Center to the federal government, which we think is a good idea considering its current state of poor maintenance and disrepair (plus, the federal government already chips in $1 million in annual grants; a 50% percent increase authorized by President Bush). It makes good sense, especially if the deal maintains independent thought and action at the Center. Federal funding (an appropriate investment) simply recognizes Martin Luther King Jr.'s rightful place as a national icon - some could argue a 20th century Founding Father in some respects. This should also lead to the resolution of a pending federal probe into the use of $1.3 million in grant funding, saving the King family from any embarrassment.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Move to the Right

This morning the United States Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8, perfectly along party lines, to give the nomination of Samuel Alito to the United States Supreme Court to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation.

The committee vote was not a surprise but now all eyes shift to the full Senate in anticipation of how the Senate Democrats will behavior. Will they vote in a block and watch Judge Alito be confirmed to the court? Will the party lose a couple of vulnerable Senators (Ben Nelson, Nebraska, Bill Nelson, Florida, Byron Dorgan, North Dakota...) but vote en masse sans defectors and watch Judge Alito be confirmed to the court? Or will they attempt to filibuster, air their concerns and watch Judge Alito be confirmed to the court?

Notice the trend, regardless of what Senate Democrats do; it appears that Samuel Alito will be confirmed to the nation’s highest court. The question is will he garner 56, 57 or 58 votes.

The court is currently evenly divided on the issues of race, civil liberties, privacy, presidential powers and constitutional check and balances. In recent years there have been 193 5-4 decisions, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the justice Judge Alito is replacing, on the deciding side 77% of the time.

Justice O’Connor’s well staked out position in the middle of the judicial mainstream has saved myriad of programs that have assisted people of color, women and those who believe in the constitutional balance between the branches of government.

The constitutional concept of checks and balances, affirmative action, privacy, civil liberties protection and equity for the defendant in criminal cases are all in jeopardy as Judge Alito comes riding in from the more conservative judicial mainstream. He’s confirmation would shove the court to the right, fulfilling the promise of the President to appoint a more activist conservative judiciary from the appeals level to the United States Supreme Court.

This more activist conservative court will rule for a generation at least and their rulings may hold for two generations. Judging by the Mr. Alito's committee hearing, his previous rulings on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals or answers to the submitted questions before the hearing, presidential power and privilege will not have a backstop and efforts to diversify a privileged society will probably go the way of the Warren court.

The Warren court, named after Chief Justice Earl Warren, of the 1950’s and 1960’s laid the foundation for the progressive laws that literally changed the face of America. It ushered in an era of equality, privacy and rights theretofore unlike anything America had ever seen. From the Brown v. the Board decision (which struck down legal segregation), through Miranda v. Arizona (requiring law enforcement to give suspects their rights), Griswold v. Connecticut (which created the concept that the right to privacy is in the constitution) to Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims (the decision that cemented the idea of one person one vote) the Warren Court formed the social and political structure of the America in which we live today. No other “court” benefited America and the supposed ideals of the country like the Warren Court did during its tenure.

Despite the monumental changes brought about by the Warren Court, Judge Alito was drawn to the constitutional law in college because of his disagreement with the Warren Court and its landmark decisions. Disagreement.

Our hope is that the Roberts Court, anchored by probably Justice Alito, won’t have the same historical impact, in reverse, as the Warren Court. But if it does, we can only hope that there is some five year old who will get to college and be drawn to constitutional law because of he or she disagrees with the march to the right engaged in by the Roberts Court during the early part of the 21st century and will in fifty years coming riding in from the left and shove court in that direction.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ascent Open/Close Music

Ascent Open/Close Music: "1. Politrix (Instrumental) - Akir"

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

ASCENT LIVE! on KVDU radio POSTPONED till next week ...

And we had a good show lined up for tonight. But somebody at KVDU Radio goofed in a serious way on the programming schedule and had AL! inadvertently bumped from the schedule. We'll say no more on the subject ...

KVDU extends its profound regrets for the incident.

We'll see you next week.

The Art of Strategic Evasiveness ...

If we've learned anything from the Alito Nomination Hearings, it's how to perfect the Art of Strategic Evasiveness. Sun Tzu would be jealous. Clausewitz would be knocking his head on a wall screaming "Why didn't I think of that while immersed in total war?" We feel R.J. Matson's linked editorial cartoon in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch best captures this situation.

So, what's the purpose of even having a confirmation hearing if it's already accepted that the nominee won't answer the questions? Seems practical to spare the American public the hypocrisy of the process and leave us to our tabloid headliners, our celebrity sightings, our ring tones and our iTunes for $.99-a-song (when you could've purchased an mp3 $100 cheaper and got unlimited downloads for $10-15/mnth).

For all the indignation and incredulity shared by clones in the Senate on selecting a nominee untainted by the perversion of "political agendas," the process seems awfully political. They say judge according to the judge's committment to the Rule of Law - yet, he wouldn't have been considered for nomination if he hadn't done something political in the first place. We even caught a glimpse of Mr. Dog and his trusty sidekick Pony (stars of the hit Dog & Pony Show) dozing in the hearing room. Obviously, since Reagan's infamous Bork nomination, the Senate has shown its ability to absolve itself from any obligation to the Constitution as it relates to this process.

Props to Sens. Kohl (D-WI) & Leahy (D-VT) for bringing up Alito's questionable views on voting rights - we've heard more from them on the subject than the Congressional Black Caucus. Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) gets a holla for sparring with Specter (R-PA) to subpoena documents concerning Alito's membership in some nefarious, shady club of White ivy league exclusivniks known as Concerned Alumni of Princeton. Here's an excerpt from a 1983 article titled "In Defense of Elitism" in their magazine Prospect:

"People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns, blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and Hispanic. The physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports. And homosexuals are demanding the government vouchsafe them the right to bear children."

But on the real: what powerful, influential or decision-making White man doesn't have some unseemly or embarrassing racial activity tucked away in his past? And then they all grow up, run companies, make laws, start wars and it's all forgotten until a nosy reporter sniffs the scent. It's the national past time ...

That was as much drama as we should expect from this hearing (because we already know the script). It added flavor to an otherwise dull, depressing and outright insulting moment in American history.

And so we arrive at the issue of abortion. We grow tired of this topic dominating every aspect of this hearing and the process. To watch old men battle over it is even more frustrating. It seems we can't even talk about landmark cases impacting African Americans unless we talk about abortion. Suddenly, Plessy v. Ferguson & Brown v. Board of Ed. have nothing to do with Black folks and 400 years of slavery & Jim Crow. It overshadows topics that are just as critical, just as key - and, because of it, we get little background on his consideration of other issues such as Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Redistricting and Affirmative Action. This hearing shows us that the Black political establishment has scant - if any - influence on the process. Our voice in this hearing is merely a whisper in the hall outside. We merely scrub the marble floors afterwards.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

RedState.com's $.02 On Blackpolicy.org 2006 Predictions ...

Some thoughtful comments from RedState.com Editor & Blackpolicy.org ASCENT Live! panelist Leon H. Wolf on the ASCENT Political Predictions for 2006. We'll have to agree to disagree with Mr. Wolf on this, but appreciate his willingness to engage:

Also, I would say that your predictions for OH-Gov and MD-Senate are exactly backwards. I understand that we're just reading goat entrails this far out, but I don't think that Blackwell is going to get dragged down with Taft, as he's kept his head pretty well above water. Also, his performance in the Post-Dispatch poll, which oversampled Democrats by double digits, indicates that at this point, it's his race to lose. Added to that, the GOP has a much stronger organization on the ground in Ohio.

For the same reason, I also predict that Steele will lose in MD (although I very much hope that he'll win). Strangely, he seems to poll much better against Mfume, but I think that Cardin has enough control over the party apparatus in MD (and enough money) to probably win the primary. One of our writers spoke with the Steele campaign the other day, and they have polling that shows them dead even with Cardin, however - but of course those kinds of polls should be taken with a large grain of salt. Steele's camp is estimating that with 20% of the black vote they can walk away with a victory, which sounds about right to me - I'm just not confident that he would do it.

My analysis at this point is that Steele has about a 30-40% chance of victory, whereas Blackwell is in the 60-70% range.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Garden State Heads in the Right Direction

On Thursday the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would suspend the use of the death penalty for a year until a study can be conducted on the practice. The study would be prepared by a new commission charged with examining alternatives to the death penalty, administration of the penalty, its fairness, the expense and the humanity of the act.

In the wake of the highly celebrated case of Stanley "Tookie" Williams in California, the highly questionable death sentence of Cory Maye in Mississippi, the surging use of DNA, the racial component of the penalty, the strong possibility of wrongful convictions and the outright barbaric nature of the act, we applaud the legislative move.

The bill, which has already passed the State Senate on a bipartisan vote, is the proper course for the other 36 states that have enacted the penalty since the Supreme Court re-approved the act in 1976. New Jersey, and the other 12 states reviewing the death penalty, should follow Illinois and Maryland and suspend the practice. It makes sense to postpone the penalty now for a variety of reasons.

From a budgetary standpoint it makes sense. It can cost states in the hundreds of millions of dollars to defend the multilayers of appeals death row occupants retain. However, for states to conduct a substantive study could cost just a few million dollars. It also makes sense from a public safety perspective. Ensuring that the right people are convicted for the most heinous of crimes committed helps to secure the streets of America.

From a moral vista moratoriums and studies also makes sense. While most democratic nations in Europe and Latin America have banned the practice (86 countries and territories in all) America continues to practice the punishment. So if the US is going to continue to engage in this behavior (with the likes of Iraq, China and Iran, dubious and unctuous company to say the least), the least we can do is make sure we are "humane"about the practice and that it is administered in a fair and equitable way.

It makes sense for New Jersey to take this step now and we hope the full Assembly passes the bill on Monday so that it can reach the desk of Acting Governor Richard Codey, who is it believed will sign the legislation, before he leaves office on January 17th.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Q's and A's That Must Occur During the Hearing on Judge Alito

Monday morning Judge Samuel Alito will finally stand before the Senate Judiciary Committee and begin the process of replacing moderate Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the nation's highest court.

We anticipate that Judge Alito will be confirmed to the Supreme Court, albeit by a slim margin, but that doesn't mean that Mr. Alito should not have to answer some tough questions, particularly in the area of civil rights, civil liberties and voting rights. In the wake of the spy scandal, the Abramoff indictment, the Iraq War, the tenuous nature of the PATRIOT Act and the Scooter Libby indictment and a brief scan of the Sunday talk shows we are concerned that executive powers and abortion will dominate the hearings and the coverage of the hearings.

While those issues are important, people of color should be demanding questions from Senators and answers from the Judge on the decisions that will affect their everyday life and ability to choose their representation. Samuel Alito has in his 15 years on the bench, writings and job applications before his judgeship shown dissatisfaction and at times outright hostility to diversity and the concept of one person one vote.

During his time at Princeton Mr. Alito join a club which thought Princeton's diversity outreach was unnecessary and wrong. He once said that the Earl Warren Court, the Court that extended civil rights, went too far and that he disagreed with Baker v. Carr, the landmark case that instilled the principle of one person one vote and once said in a case that it was alright to strip search a 10 year old girl even though she wasn't named in the warrant.

Inflammatory statements about and opposition to diversity, voting rights and support for expanded and unchecked executive privilege should be a red flag of mammoth proportion and demand a thorough questioning and substantive answers. Not the tap dance answer game most nominees and the Senators engage in most of the time. This seat is too important and the issues of the day too critical to play the normal Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance game.

We understand the judge is conservative and the president has a right to nominate an active conservative ideological justice, which Judge Alito seems to be. But the public also has a right to know how ideological and how active Judge Alito will be on the court. Will he be like Justices Scalia and Thomas? Or will he be within the judicial mainstream, respecting legal precedent? We hope the Senators will ask pointed enough questions to find out his position on the judicial spectrum.

We hope that Senators on both sides of the aisle will grill the Judge on issues beyond abortion and executive power and privilege, and we hope that the media will not allow the other political stories to overshadow the hearings and give equal coverage to questions and answers regarding civil rights, voting rights and civil liberties.

Rise of the Black Republicans (?)

Former Pittsburgh Steelers legend and football commentator Lynn Swann announced his candidacy for Governor of Pennsylvania. Admittedly, we'd like to see a lot more of this: financially secure and retired star African American athletes getting into politics, either donating money, raising money, endorsing or running. It's healthy and it's certainly more productive than opening up car dealerships or putting retired numbers on sneakers. Plus, we miss the activism of giants like Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson and Jim Brown, who fearlessly articulated political and social vision.

Swann is going Republican - which reflects a growing surge of prominent Black politicos or public figures seeking elected office on a GOP ticket. Does this necessarily represent the sudden shifting of Black voters en masse to the Republican party? Frankly, we don't see that happening anytime soon. Black voters, however, are becoming more independent and level-headed about their political choices, with signs of maturation showing the search for fresh, 21st century substance over outdated civil rights paradigm style. It's more about the candidate than it is about the party ...

There is a possibility that the Republican National Committee may be catching on by recruiting qualified African American candidates with media savvy, personal appeal and established track records of respectability within their communities. Firebrand Black conservative dinosaurs of the Right such as Armstrong Williams, Ward Connerly and Alan Keyes are fossilized in favor of a more attractive and moderate approach - but, with the White Religious Right's domination of the GOP, full realization will be very slow and painful.

Which brings us to our analysis of Swann. Current Governor & former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell (D) should be very nervous because Swann could pull this off in 2006 - he's got public persona and his political action committee has been raising solid funds for over a year. Plus, with Swann hailing from Pittsburgh and representing the Golden Age of its most iconic social institution, the Steelers, he can pick up the Western half of the state - where Rendell is not liked (but that's nothing new in this geographically Balkanized battlegroud where East and West can never seem to find common political ground). We do predict Swann clinching his party's nomination in '06.

But Swann needs to run this campaign with a very fresh, new school style if he has any chance of winning. For example, we burst into grunts of disappointment when we read this in the linked AP piece:

Swann said Wednesday that he hopes to convince blacks that he is a better candidate than Rendell, the former Philadelphia mayor. The Democratic Party has "taken the African American vote for granted," Swann said.

That quote is THE most overused, condescending, tired, stale and abused line in the history of Black Republican activism in the 20th century. It never resonated with Black voters and it never will. Our advice to Swann: drop it & immediately hire a new communications director - talk about what you can do to revive neighborhoods, jobs and healthcare for Black folks in cities like Pitt and Philly. A Rendell/Swann match-up will be bloody, but Swann will have a figthing chance if he abandons antique themes.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Alito Will Be Confirmed

We partly agree with the White House's assessment (as reported in the linked NY Times article by David D. Kirkpatrick) of a recent liberal ad campaign to derail the nomination of high court pick Samuel A. Alito, Jr.:

Steve Schmidt, a White House spokesman handling the nomination, called the commercials "dishonest" and "a desperation tactic."

It's definitely desperate. In fact, it's a dollar short and a day late. Alito's confirmation hearings in the Senate could have been qualified as a "Bork Moment," particularly when one considers the controversy surrounding his views on everything from abortion rights to Voting Rights. But he will get confirmed - no doubt. Media hacks are so hyped over wiretapping, Abramoff and Congressional scandals that little attention is being placed on Alito's views. Ironically, Alito's placement and performance on the Court will directly impact the issues above - and many more. We believe the Administration and hardline conservatives are actually using the NSA surveillance issue (Bush is being uncharacteristically upfront about it) and the Abramoff Chronicles as an opportunity to deflect attention from Alito since his confirmation (coupled with Roberts) is a long term political jackpot for the right.

Definitely one of the smartest White guys ever groomed to sit on the Supreme Court, we have major concerns about his past opposition to "one-person one-vote," one of the most fundamental basics in Voting Rights. We've taken the liberty of linking to Adam Cohen's recent piece titled Question for Judge Alito: What About One Person One Vote?. And then, when you get a moment, check out this piece by Loyola Law School Election Law expert Richard L. Hasen that predates Cohen's analysis.

Obviously, we remain very skeptical of the Court's direction and what that means for African Americans. There has been continued media and political establishment ignorance of issues such as affirmative action and voting rights since O'Connor's retirement. For Senate cats to suddenly become concerned about these issues when Alito's confirmation is all but locked leaves a sour feeling in the pit of this blog. The lack of action on the part of Black Congressional Members and key civil rights organizations is disappointing.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Prejudice Within Black-on-Black Political Beefs

Guest Wall Street Journal columnist and homeless activist Ted Hayes' recent piece titled "Prejudice" may seem to initially border on the ridiculous at first glance:

American blacks who are affiliated with the Republican Party are vigorously vilified by Democrats, especially black Democrats. Uncle Tom, sell-out, Oreo--the list of slurs is long.

We're certain there are many who don't feel a drop of sympathy for Hayes' and his "ilk." For all their bootstrap talk of personal responsibility, pride and rejecting the evils of victimology, many Black Republicans and conservatives sure do whine a lot when they become the target of philosophical beat downs. It's as if they expected protection from the burdens of being Black once they signed up with the Elephants, so: "That's what you get for thinking you're better than us."

Yes - the scorn is intense. It's like the Black kid who gets beat up after school every day because he "talks White." Many modern Black Republicans fail to consider (or accept) that Black racism can be as cruel as White racism.

But Haye's experiences, although extreme, allow room for thoughtful pause:

But it is not only insults. I am the founder and director of a unique, progressive homeless facility in downtown Los Angeles, known as the Dome Village. Yet the 35 men, women and children and their pets who call the Dome Village home are being "evicted" from privately owned property after 12 1/2 years--apparently on account of my political beliefs and activities. You see, though I am a leading homeless activist, I am also a conservative Republican and a strong supporter of President Bush.

There are those who would argue that maybe Hayes' should think or reconsider broadcasting his political affiliations before the Black world. But then that gets into violating a citizen's Constitutional rights simply because you fervently disagree with him - which can create a slippery slope that effectively destroys the shaky foundation for our collective rights that wasn't easy to create over the past 400 years. Once you've successfully muffled political expression - the most basic and fundamental tenet of the democracy we live in - then you end up looking a bit like a long list of underdeveloped nations trapped within endless cycles of violence, anarchy, genocide and futureless corruption.

See, it's not so much that Hayes' is a Black Republican as opposed to being a Black Democrat - that really makes little difference. His attempt to persuade the Black Democratic masses to come to the Republican side of The Force is weak, at best, because it's not about selling a party or selling one's soul to the party. People make political parties; parties follow what the plurality tells them to do - if the contributions are high enough, of course. We can argue political strategy till we all drop from dehydration, but the bottom line is that political winds change in cycles. Parties are tools that groups simply pick for convenience when the right time and mood align. African American political strategy is beginning to mature to a point where it will, in the future, exercise collective balance in the best interests of its people rather than what's in it for either party.

The shameful nature of Black political racism is that we end up doing or saying things we constantly dismiss our White counterparts for doing to us. We freely hurt one another by using terms created by the racist apparatus. We don't like it when White people create humiliating media images that denigrate our humanity, yet we are just as quick to do it to ourselves. We don't like it when White people think we all look alike (when, clearly, we do not), yet we engage in petty and dangerous disputes over "light" v. "dark." We don't like White people to expect us all to "think alike," yet we police our own political thoughts and expressions with heartless force.