Thursday, August 31, 2006

Black Women & Abortion ...

Conservatives have been struggling for some time, particularly during the '06 mid-term, to find a wedge issue specifically targeting the African American electorate. The gay marriage fracas in the 2004 Presidential election seemed to hold some weight amongst church-going African Americans; and polling showed school vouchers doing the same. That doesn't mean Blacks are going Republican, it just means that many of us are socially conservative at home (although we don't show it at the polls). The latest issue is abortions in the Black community, the argument being that liberal support of abortions is killing a whole generation of Black babies. The final analysis: why are you Black people loyal to a political party that kills you? It's a bit of a macabre argument ...

Colorado Media Matters is dilligent enough to make us aware of recent remarks from Colorado GOP Gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez:

On KCFR's Colorado Matters, host Ryan Warner let stand Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's citation of the false statistic that "as high as 70 percent, maybe even more," of pregnancies among African-American women end in abortion.

CMM goes further to set the record straight with data:

In fact, according to the latest figures from the November 2005 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among states in which abortion rates by race were adequately reported, the 2002 "abortion ratio for black women" was "495 per 1,000 live births." In other words, roughly 33 percent of pregnancies among African-American women that do not end in miscarriages or stillbirths -- less than half of what Beauprez claimed -- end in "legal induced abortions."

Still, what we find interesting is that CMM didn't cut even further to the chase by simply citing data from that same report on White women. We'll do it for them:

In the 37 reporting areas for which race was provided classified according to the same categories used in previous years, approximately 54% of women who obtained legal induced abortions were known to be white, 36% black, and 8% other; for 3%, race was not known (Table 9). The abortion ratio for black women (495 per 1,000 live births) was 3.0 times the ratio for white women (164 per 1,000), and the ratio for women of the nonhomogeneous "other" race category (357 per 1,000) was 2.2 times the ratio for white women. The abortion rate for black women (29 per 1,000 women) was 3.0 times the rate for white women (10 per 1,000), whereas the abortion rate for women of other races (20 per 1,000 women) was 2.1 times the rate for white women.

We cite this information because we sense an implicit statement promoted more directly by Beauprez and more subtly by CMM: if abortion were a psychological barometer of cultural attitudes towards children, then numbers show that Black women don't care about their kids. Since we're on the subject of Black women and abortions, why not talk about everybody else and their abortion habits?

Matthew Mosk on Maryland Senate Race

Matthew Mosk from the Washington Post discusses the Maryland Senate race with Listen to the full interview in its entirety at ASCENT Perspectives, part of the Audioblog Network.

Deon Roberts in New Orleans on Katrina Recovery .... (Part I & II) talks to Deon Roberts, Reporter with New Orleans City Business on the state of recovery efforts a year after Katrina. Listen to the interview in two parts at ASCENT Perspectives, part of the Audioblog Network

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ellison & D.L. Chandler on Hip Hop No Show & '06 Elections, Powell in NYC and Maryland Senior Producer Charles Ellison and Senior Contributing Editor D.L. Chandler give it straight no chaser about Hip Hop, the '06 Elections, and that Maryland Senate race on ASCENT Chamber, part of the Audioblog Network.

Dr. Leonard Moore, LSU, on Katrina, Nagin and Black Political Power

Listen to Louisiana State University Professor Leonard Moore's controversial take on New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin at ASCENT Perspectives, part of the Audioblog Network.

Mayor Daley: Where the Black Contractors At?

Chi-town Mayor Daley knows what's up:

Mayor Daley said Tuesday that "no one is satisfied" with the 9 percent share of city contracts going to African-American construction firms, but the only way to increase that number is to encourage more blacks to become general contractors.

Sudden focus on Black businesses when faced with likely Mayoral contest against Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL). Heated race - with racial overtones all over the Chicago landscape - about to happen. Still, Jackson, Jr.'s dad - from what we hear - isn't the most popular cat in Black Chicago. We're interested in seeing how son can navigate through father's past.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Deborah Simmons, Washington Times, on ASCENT Perspectives ...'s Peter Groff talks with Washington Times Deputy Editorial Page Editor Deborah Simmons about Katrina One Year Later, the Maryland Senate race and the Battle for D.C. Mayor on ASCENT Perspectives.

Groff & Ellison on ASCENT Chamber

Listen to's Senior Publisher Peter Groff & Senior Producer Charles Ellison discuss the political dynamics of the Hurricane Katrina anniversary on ASCENT Chamber.

Aimee Allison (G-Oakland) on Senior Producer Charles Ellison talks with Oakland City Council District 2 candidate Aimee Allison on her upcoming November run-off, being a Black Green Party Candidate and the state of Oakland on ASCENT Perspectives.

Voila! Voting Made Easy

This NY Times piece by Sewell Chan is a glimpse into the voting future, a real fingernail biting view of what's in store for democracy's next generation:

The direct-recording electronic system is not inherently flawed, the report found, but when it is combined with full-face ballots, there seems to be more difficulty, particularly in areas with more black, Hispanic and low-income voters.

Such voters, according to the report, would find it easier to use digital machines that allow voters to make one choice and then flip to the next page, which is similar to what customers do at A.T.M.’s and airport check-in kiosks that dispense boarding passes. But the full-face requirement precludes the use of such machines.

Obviously, the "digital divide" rears its ugly head once again. But, it's not as simple as that. First: one can argue that the implication here is that people of color are too stupid to figure out basic technology; it's not like electronic voting machines are high end. The problem with the "digital divide" debate is that it fails to make distinctions between accessability and level of aptitude. Since there are more African Americans (particularly between the ages of 18-25) playing videogames and watching TV (which is becoming mostly HDTV and representing a platter of multimedia offerings) as compared to their White and Latino counterparts, this blog won't be so quick to underestimate the ability of African Americans to use electronic voting machines. What about poor White communities for that matter? Or, whenever we talk about low-income, the assumption is that it automatically corresponds with someone Black or Brown.

The problem with the discourse on electronic voting technology is the focus on user-friendliness rather on a more significant issue: accessability. While focused on the fundamentals of push-button voting booths, we may be ignoring the trend to limit the number of polling locations, a move that greatly diminishes access to the voting machine. Why trip on the voting technology if most of us can't get to it?

However, the Brennan Center study makes a cogent, empirically-driven case. Which is why opponents of electronic voting, particularly in the African American political establishment, are going to have to go way beyond simplistic voter registration drives and launch the mammoth task of a more comprehensive voter & civics education movement. The reality is that electronic voting technology won't be going anywhere anytime soon - in fact, it's the standard. The real issue, in terms of the technology, is ensuring it's secure enough to tabulate fair results without interference from hacking. But, think about it: did we need e-voting machines to make that point in the first place? It's old wine in a new bottle ...

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Difference Between the Christian Science Monitor &

The attached piece is pretty old news, but we had to post it to make a point: What's the difference between a predominantly White-owned mainstream publication covering the 2006 Black political landscape for the very first time and an African American think tank that's been on top of the story since before anyone noticed?

Chad Dion Lassiter on

Chad Dion Lassiter, President of Black Men at Penn, talks about challenges faced by African American men, Violence in Philly and solutions on ASCENT Voices, part of the Audioblog Network.

"Cousin" Rev. Jeff Johnson on ... Senior Producer Charles Ellison interviews Rev. Jeff Johnson, CEO of Truth is Power and also known as "Cousin Jeff" from BET's "Rap City," on his recent endorsement of Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell's bid for Ohio Governor. Catch the interview in its entirety at ASCENT Perspectives, part of the Audioblog Network.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Joh McWhorter on Andrew Young ...

We agree with McWhorter here, responding to criticism of former U.N. Ambassador, Atlanta mayor and civil rights icon Andrew Young's comments about Jewish and Arab corner store owners:

But Young is hardly unreflective. He was addressing a real problem: Too many poor blacks have easy access only to corner stores where merchandise is, in fact, stale, bad and wilted. In the small, all-black New Jersey town of Lawnside where I spent part of my childhood, a few such stores still remained, and I will never forget buying a bag of potato chips with an expiration date of 1978 -- in 1983! The shopkeeper in this case was black, however, and Young mentioned in the interview that black shopkeepers have charged their communities high prices as well.

Albeit it came off as his opportunity to take aim at something "Black" or "Black-owned." We sometimes, really, can not understand what McWhorter wants because there is a lot a contradiction. But, the problem of corner stores in poor or working class African American neighborhoods has long been a serious problem - and not just because of "stale" merchandise. It's a public health and mental health problem, as well: many Black kids don't know any geography beyond the corner store and too many Black families compromise their health on corner store diets.

McWhorter, putting much thought into this, writes on:

Allen's faux pas is but the latest case of people being damned for uttering racial epithets that few people even regard as such. In recent months, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and White House press secretary Tony Snow have used the term "tar baby" to refer to sticky situations, only to be assailed for employing what is presumably a slur against black people. Yet I'd wager that not even one in 1,000 Americans is aware that tar baby has historically been a racially tinged insult.

First: comparing Young's comments to those of Snow, Romney and Allen may be a stretch. Second: Americans should be aware that references like "tar baby" are in poor taste and considered historically racial. It may not have been employed as a slur against Black people, but letting major public officials off the hook for saying it encourages further ignorance. McWhorter typically campaigns to preserve the art of conversation, but then prefers ignorance with the point above. Which one is it?

That Hissing Sound Called the Housing Bubble ...

An extremely interesting piece in the Washington Post by Michael Grunwald titled "The Housing Crisis Goes Suburban" about that nasty housing bubble no one wants to say is about to burst. Of course, it's not a crisis until it impacts the suburbs - we don't want to talk about affordable housing shortages in low income urban neighborhoods (which were happening long before the housing boom). All good things come to pass ... and that includes inflated housing prices that just about pushed a good number of hard working cats out of their "American" dream for a number of reasons. Because of over-zealous speculators, ignorant politicians and inept zoning boards. But, let's get real: it's really about our voracious social appetite for excess. Americans want everything big - big car (SUV), big house, big bank account, big serving of food and fly clothing to go along with it. And we want what everybody else has at any cost. That's why so many of us opt to live above our means in overpriced homes on limited budgets - to keep up with the Jones, episodes of MTV's Cribs and an Oprah lifestyle. Writes Grunwald:

Homeownership is near an all-time high, but the gap is growing between the Owns and the Own-Nots -- as well as the Owns and the Own-80-Miles-From-Works. One-third of Americans now spend at least.

30 percent of their income on housing, the federal definition of an "unaffordable" burden, and half the working poor spend at least 50 percent of their income on rent, a "critical" burden. The real estate boom of the past decade has produced windfalls for Americans who owned before it began, but affordable housing is now a serious problem for more low- and moderate-income Americans than taxes, Social Security or gas prices.

Yet nobody in national politics is doing anything about it -- or even talking about it.

Charles Ellison on Voter ID Laws ... Senior Producer and CAAP Senior Fellow Charles Ellison talks about the proliferation of Voter ID laws. That and more at ASCENT Brainstorm, part of the AudioBlog Network.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Arnold Kling, Ph.D. of Cato Institute on Audioblog Senior Producer Charles Ellison interviews Cato Institute scholar Arnold Kling, Ph.D., also an Adjunct Professor of Economics at George Mason University, to discuss his latest book Crisis of Abundance: Rethinking How We Pay for Health Care. The full interview in three parts on ASCENT Perpsectives, part of the Audioblog Network.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Black Vote in Maryland & Party Politics ...

In a move that's making ripples across the political talk circuit, Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons publicly endorsed Maryland Republican U.S. Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. What's the big deal? Well, Steele is a Black Republican and Simmons (also Black) has a reputation for supporting "progressive" and Democratic party causes. Observes Donna Brazile in the attached Washington Times piece:

"This is a major endorsement for Lieutenant Governor Steele that will help him attract young people, as well as black voters," Ms. Brazile said. "Once again, this should serve as a wake-up call to Democrats not to take their most loyal constituents and voters for granted."

First Jeff Johnson for Ken Blackwell in Ohio, now Simmons and RadioOne founder Cathy Hughes for Steele in Maryland (We haven't heard of Pennsylvania Gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann (R) having that kind of luck). These are powerful endorsements, the extent of which should be of great concern to Democrats.

However, this is about more than just sudden shifts in party allegiances. We caution against framing this conversation within "party talk" which is to simply talk about Black votes as though they are only pawns being pushed around on a partisan chess board. No, that's not the case. The African American electorate is maturing and becoming much more sophisticated and independent. This is an essential change - yet, one that requires constant oversight lest the poorer and dispossessed in the community fall further behind. We suspect Steele, known as a consummate deal-maker in the Maryland business community, is making backdoor promises to both Simmons and Hughes (Simmons needing to diversify as commercial hip hop gets stale & Hughes getting innovative as RadioOne loses serious revenue in the wake of satellite radio & mp3s).

Congressman Rangel on Senior Producer Charles Ellison interviewed Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee. The full interview in three parts on ASCENT Perpsectives, part of the Audioblog Network.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sharpe not looking so Sharp

The Newark Star-Ledger reports on how this could be the actual reason why Newark Mayor Sharpe James is retiring:

Federal and state investigators launched separate criminal investigations yesterday into the use of city-issued credit cards by Sharpe James when he was mayor of Newark.

Grand jury subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney's Office and the state Attorney General's Office were delivered in the morning to City Hall and the Newark Police Department, demanding the former mayor's credit card records and related documents.

The subpoenas followed a story in The Sunday Star-Ledger detailing years of travel, meals and entertainment, including a trip to Rio de Janeiro his last week in office, that James charged to two city credit cards.

Terrorism Scare Could Dominate the November Polls

Chris Cillizza in The Fix on the power of the national security issue bending in the Republicans favor. has asked this question on occassion during ASCENT Perspectives: is the Democratic takeover of Congress media hype? We've been thinking for some time that it is, seeing better chances for the Dems in the Senate than in the House since many Dem incumbents are just as vulnerable as many Republican incumbents. But, it's good cover to talk about this dramatic change on the political landscape. In the end, American voters will pick "fear" on the ballot box, drawing on one of our most humanistic urges: survival. Here's Cillizza:

The USA Today/Gallup poll seems to validate Republicans' decision to frame the 2006 midterm election around national security/terrorism.

Asked whether they approved of the job Bush was handling terrorism 55 percent of the sample said they did while 43 percent said they did not -- a 12 point net approval rating for Bush.
Contrast that with Bush's overall job approval rating in the poll (42 percent approve/54 percent disapprove) and his even more negative ratings on a variety of other issues including "foreign affairs" (39/55), the "situation in the Middle East" (39/56), the economy (39/57), the "problems caused by Hurricane Katrina" (37/56), the "situation in Iraq" (36/61) and energy policy (30/60).

Those results were mirrored in other polls conducted over the past month. In a survey conducted for Time Magazine 46 percent said they approved of Bush's handling of the global war on terrorism while 48 percent disapproved. Those numbers look a lot better when compared to the dismal 32 percent approve/64 percent disapprove numbers when asked to rate the president's handling of Iraq. His approval numbers were only slightly better on the economy (37/58).

The Post's own poll -- conducted in conjunction with ABC News -- showed much the same. Overall, 40 percent approved of the job Bush was doing while 58 percent diapproved. Bush's best numbers came on his handling of terrorism where 47 percent approved compared to 50 percent who disapproved. On Iraq (36/62), the economy (39/59), and the Middle East (43/50) Bush's numbers were less positive.

Bush Approval Ratings ... what??? ... Up?

Recent USA Today/Gallup poll on the President:

The arrest of terror suspects in London has helped buoy President Bush to his highest approval rating in six months and dampen Democratic congressional prospects to their lowest in a year. In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, support for an unnamed Democratic congressional candidate over a Republican one narrowed to 2 percentage points, 47%-45%, among registered voters. Over the past year, Democrats have led by wider margins that ranged up to 16 points.

We don't see how that could be when the British did all the work. A case of media brown-nosing in case the GOP remains in the majority?

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Writing off Reading" ...

We'd be remiss not to mention this very significant, poignant piece in Sunday's Washington Post (yesterday) which talked about how this multi-media maddened society is driving our young minds farther away from reading. The art of conversation is, indeed, lost:

In our better private universities and flagship state schools today, it's hard to find a student who graduated from high school with much lower than a 3.5 GPA, and not uncommon to find students whose GPAs were 4.0 or higher. They somehow got these suspect grades without having read much. Or if they did read, they've given it up. And it shows -- in their writing and even in their conversation.

When students with A averages can't write simple English, it shouldn't be surprising that people ask what a high school diploma is really worth. In California this year, hundreds of high school students, many with good grades, faced the prospect of not graduating because they could not pass a state-mandated exit exam. Although a judge overturned the effort, legislators (not always so literate themselves) in other states have also called for exit exams. It's hardly unreasonable to ask that students demonstrate a minimum competency in basic subjects, especially English.

Now, beware: some might easily dismiss Elon University professor Michael Skube's argument as ensconced within a White middle-class bubble; but, we'd like to point out that that's the point -internally, the African American community must set its intellectual standards much higher. There is no reason why, for example, students from other countries speak, write and command better English than many African Americans of the same age.

If Skube is describing this problem as alarming amongst average, well-to-do, backpacking White kids who make it to college, just imagine the extent of this problem among our Black youth, particularly the overwhelming numbers of Black men who are not going to college. And while Juan Williams, Bill Cosby, etc. and various public intellectuals express displeasure at the pervasiveness of "bling" and "ghetto" culture, we don't see enough of us in the public policy & activism community expressing how absolutely critical it is for us to achieve that most basic function: reading.

Ed Gordon's Beef w/ NPR ...

Richard Prince's Journal-isms column:

Ed Gordon, host of National Public Radio's "News and Notes" show, the network's 18-month-old attempt at programming to an African American audience, said today the network had communicated with him more frequently since Monday, when an article by television critic Eric Deggans in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times noted that the show had lost 17 percent of its original audience and questioned NPR's ability to connect with African Americans.

But Gordon nevertheless voiced a number of frustrations with the network, ranging from a decision that led to George E. Curry, the editor of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, leaving the show, to what he called a failure by NPR to own up to its own responsibilities for "News and Notes'" failures.

Maybe it's something else. Content maybe? Don't know. Still, what do you expect when the leading Black cable network doesn't even want to support a healthy news show line-up. But, many Black talk/pundit shows have to also avoid predictable content.

Juan Williams joins The Cosby Show ...

It's hard not to poke a little fun at NPR Correspondent and Fox News Analyst Juan Williams latest piece in the Washington Post titled "Banish the Bling" - the title draws you in with a chuckle. But, the topic is serious enough to warrant its worth in social commentary, and Williams - as of late - has become the latest cast member of Bill Cosby's diatribe.

The argument, banishing the "bling" generation, can seem more generational than polemic at times. It makes a strong point here:

Where is the civil rights groundswell on behalf of stronger marriages that will allow more children to grow up in two-parent families and have a better chance of staying out of poverty? Where are the marches demanding good schools for those children -- and the strong cultural reinforcement for high academic achievement (instead of the charge that minority students who get good grades are "acting white")? Where are the exhortations for children to reject the self-defeating stereotypes that reduce black people to violent, oversexed "gangstas," minstrel show comedians and mindless athletes?

First: we're not certain these are civil rights issues. And, two: it's hard to look at one's self in the mirror and make a bruising critique of one's progress ... or lack thereof.

Williams' rant is so heated, we can see the spit. He goes on:

In order to face this century's class battles, young minds need the self-confidence that comes from examples of inspiring historical personalities, such as a black woman born into slavery who made herself a national leader, Sojourner Truth, or a black man living under rank segregation, A. Philip Randolph, who defied corporate power to break segregation in organized labor. Frederick Douglass had to teach himself how to read before standing up to defeat slavery. These examples should empower young people to believe in themselves and to organize across racial lines and build institutions with a solid footing in the nation's political and economic power. This is real black culture, and it is based on strong families creating determined, self-reliant young people.

This seems slightly short - not saying we completely disagree. But, it's got to be more than this. Yes, we do need to revisit, remember and cherish our past - but, sometimes we can overdo that at the expense of alienating our youth or losing the right connection with them. Williams places too much faith in a past that youth of today are far removed from. Empowerment will need to come from practical tools - an all-out community assault on dysfunctional school systems, mandatory financial literacy, and a needed lesson in civics is one other start. He's right, however: we must continue to have these very brutal conversations about ourselves.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

DNC: Presidential Primary Rules & Online Voting ...

Much of this talk about rule changes in the Democratic party reflect a growing sense that the donkeys will retake Congress in November and reign White House supreme come 2008. There's the emerging anxiety over the House Democractic Caucus changing Committee chair rules and thereby cutting the leveraging legs from beneath the CBC. And then there is this ongoing, internal party debate over the Dems' Presidential primary schedule, which described ("Democrats & The Presidential Primary Process,") quite some time ago as inherently slanted and elitist, if not outright racist and outdated.

Based on the attached report from the Washington Post, we are quite pleased that somebody was listening and appreciate DNC activist Donna Brazile's no-holds-barred assault on that antiquated and rather lily White primary schedule.

With respect to another outstanding issue, the Post notes:

Looking to broaden primary voting participation, the committee also voted to encourage state parties to provide for Internet voting. Some questioned whether such a step could further disenfranchise the poor and minorities, who have more limited access to computers. "Because of the ongoing digital divide, we're going to continue to monitor how that's implemented," said Brazile

However, this blog doesn't know how long the left can maintain that argument given the rapid advancement and pervasiveness of technology in the 21st century. Computer power doubles every month and at the rate we're transitioning into a cashless society, we're not so certain this point will hold much weight over the next decade. In pursuit of closing the "Digital Divide," the African American political community is also caught between wanting respect for a burgeoning Black professional/middle class and promoting sympathy for an entrenched Black underclass. Perhaps it will be more progressive to place greater focus on how disadvantaged communities adapt to the information age. Technology won't wait up for us to catch up.

Friday, August 18, 2006

How Allen's Comments Work for Him ...

Big ups to Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post for what amounts to the most well-written and thoughtful piece on the topic to date:

I think he was playing to the crowd by singling out the one person who didn't belong there, not because he was a spy from a rival campaign -- shadowing is standard campaign practice these days -- but because he looked "foreign" (my word, not his). I think he came up with "Macaca" as a kind of generic name for a foreigner who appeared to be from the Indian subcontinent, or someplace over there where people have dark skin and straight black hair. Why else would he add the "welcome to America" bit if not to emphasize Sidarth's apparent foreignness?

There is a story of two Virginias here: one Virginia (bearing North, much more diverse and heavily immigrant) where Allen wouldn't dare and the other (bearing harder South and redneck White) where Allen feels most comfortable. As repulsive as the comment is, it might actually work to Allen's favor among those in the latter Virginia who are White and feeling Disposessed by a surging immigration boom in the state. It will all depend on what his challenger, James Webb (D-VA), does with it. Webb may realize the anti-immigration dynamics at work here and, rather than risk alienating White votes he'll need, prefers not to say too much about it.

What's more interesting is the deafening silence of the Black political mainstream and electorate in Virginia, known for enduring years of Confederate-born racism. An interesting question worth asking is whether that silence is based on behind-the-scenes politics or a quiet undercurrent of African American resentment over other pluralistic groups taking a piece of the economic and political pie.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Foot that found George Allen's Mouth ...

We scoped out Jeffrey Feldman's rather intense & persuasive blog in The Daily Kos. After weathering a pretty excessive usage of the "N" word in this blog (seems like White dudes, regardless of ideological ilk, jump at any chance to say it), we finally dug Feldman's point about recent comments from Sen. George Allen (R-VA), who is looking to keep his cozy Hill job:

... George Allen's campaign is saying that the word was Allen's mispronunciation of 'Mohawk,' but reasonable people can discount that answer. The word 'macaca' (three syllables) is no closer to 'mohawk' (two syllables) than are the words 'Madison' or 'Mac n' Cheese.' And since Allen pronounced the word twice in a short period of time--each instance with emphasis, as if he was setting up 'macaca' to be the keyword that everyone would hear--we can conclude without hesitation that his use was conscious. He used the word because he chose to use it in advance at that moment and to make sure that everyone in the audience heard him use it. 'Macaca,' in other words, was the keyword in his communication strategy to handle the situation of a campaign staffer from his opposition following him around with a video camera.
With this issue dominating his campaign, Allen will now face extremely stiff opposition from a number of fronts:

- Northern Virginia voters (mostly liberal to moderate)
- Immigrant voters
- Definitely Black voters

Possibly White conservative Republican voters in the Commonwealth? We doubt that, because Virginia - once cradle of the Confederacy - harbors some pretty deep seated, edgy bitterness against folks of color, especially immigrants.

We have an unusual theory about this nasty episode: Allen may have been set up. We're not defending him and we've never been the biggest George Allen fans - in fact, his flirt with 2008 has made this blog a bit naseous. However, politics is a dirty game, and much of that dirtiness is played through using the misery of Black folks and other people of color. Notes the Washington Post:

Big-time campaigns often assign trackers to shadow their opponents, hoping to catch the candidate making a gaffe or shifting the message to accommodate different audiences. Virginia Republicans have tracked Webb this year. Often, videos can end up in campaign commercials.

That was the job of Sidarth, a University of Virginia senior who attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County. His father, Shekar Narasimhan, is a mortgage banker who has contributed more than $35,000 to Democratic causes in the past decade, according to a review of state and federal campaign finance reports.

Sidarth joined Webb's effort this summer, initially working as a field organizer. Last week, when Allen kicked off his statewide "listening tour," Sidarth was asked to trail Allen, he said.

Someone in Webb's campaign had a pretty good hunch that Allen would mess up. How couldn't he? Here's Sidarth, brown-skinned and standing out in a sea of White people, with video equipment - obviously, he's not with the Allen camp. Obviously, he's not really with the crowd of supporters, either. Hence, it ends up becoming a recipe for Allen's eventual self-destruction.

Says Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) in that same Post article:

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who during his campaign last year was dogged by young GOP operatives with video cameras -- usually called trackers -- chided Allen. "It's insensitive," Kaine said. "Campaigns are tough. But George has been in campaigns. He knows there's trackers. It's just a fact of life. You should just do your thing and not single them out."

Blackwell & The Element of Surprise ...

A rather interesting, somewhat major development for Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's gubernatorial bid:

Gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell today announced Black Entertainment Television (BET) host and former NAACP national youth director Jeff Johnson has joined his campaign team. Johnson will serve as the campaign's advocate to young and urban voters.
"Jeff Johnson is one of the most influential leaders of his generation," said Blackwell. "I am proud he has joined my campaign team as we embark on this historic endeavor."
"Ken Blackwell represents the very best that Ohio has to offer in this year's gubernatorial race," said Johnson. "My feelings reflect the position of many within Ohio's African American community who believe that Mr. Blackwell has a clearer vision for Ohio's diverse Black community. I will carry the message that it is time to challenge the antiquated political alliances which have failed to include young and urban voters in their policy agenda."
Johnson is considered the voice of a new generation of leadership. He engages viewers on issues ranging from violence to voting on BET's "Rap City" on Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m.

This is a strange mix, one must admit. We're not certain what to make of this, since Johnson doesn't strike us as the GOP-type. But, it's a very savvy, smart move on the part of the Blackwell campaign, which will need to find a creative way to make serious inroads with Ohio's extremely active Black political and voting community. This might be one of those moves. The candidate who successfully engages the Black vote in Ohio (particularly in strongholds like Dayton, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnatti) is winner in November. Our 2006 prediction had Blackwell losing, primarily due to Black voter rage over his part in the 2004 Presidential race. If done right, hiring Johnson could change that in a big way ...

Ice Cube the Pundit ...

This very, very brief piece in ContactMusic that was spotted just recently. It holds more meaning than it conveys:

Rapper/actor ICE CUBE is in no hurry to see a black president in the White House, because he isn't convinced black politicians make a difference. Ice Cube, real name O'SHEA JACKSON, insists black politicians such as former Secretary Of State COLIN POWELL and his replacement CONDOLEEZZA RICE, still can't changed life for poverty-stricken African Americans. The GANGSTA GANGSTA hitmaker says, "It doesn't matter who's in the White House, you've still got to get up and got to work in the morning. All that s**t doesn't concern me or the people in the inner cities. "Ok, it matters because of the significance in history, but life is still painful right now and we've got black people in positions of power right by the side of the President. Just because the President's black doesn't mean he's going to make the change."

Some may argue that Ice Cube, of all people, is barely qualified to speak on political issues. But, what qualifies anybody to speak on politics for that matter? Something in this statement highlights that growing perception, education and and class stratification taking place in the larger African American community. Still, we're not placing too much faith in Cube's ability to articulate political science - nor do we endorse him for any elected office. We are encouraged to see him engaged in the issues, however, even if he's missing some details.

It all depends on what change is expected. And, Cube seems insightful enough to realize that the authenticity assumption is not always a two-way street. So, in a manner some would deem crude, he actually expresses a bit of substance here. Hopefully, O'Shea Jackson at least votes.

More on Democrats Changing the Rules ...

Hmmm ... wonder where The Hill got this from? Very little attention paid to this issue until started analyzing it. Anyway, good stuff on this topic:

The Congressional Black Caucus is positioned to dramatically increase its clout next Congress if Democrats win control of the House. The 43-member group, already one of the most powerful blocs among House Democrats, would control as many as five committee gavels in a Democratic House, including two exclusive panels, Ways and Means and Judiciary. Members of the group also would lead 15 subcommittees, six of them on exclusive panels. And Caucus Chairman Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) would be a contender for majority whip.

The CBC could also expand its membership to 50 if all goes according to plan in November.

Signs of serious political maturity are beginning to blossom in the CBC. Another interesting note out of The Hill:

On the business front, the CBC would be poised to marshal the backing of K Street to boost its legislative agenda. Even in the minority, the CBC was able to attract large companies to help ensure the renewal of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). More than 10 corporate chief executives wrote House and Senate leaders encouraging quick passage, as did one large business group, the Business Roundtable. Several CBC sources suggested that using lobbyists to push legislation, a model pioneered by House Republicans, would become a part of the CBC’s playbook after the VRA success.

Univ. of MD professor Dr. Ronald Walters suggested on ASCENT Perspectives several days ago that Democrats may be faking the funk on chairmanship rules as a way to distract Republican voters from controversial figures like Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who both stand to chair powerful committees.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Terror War & Politics ...

Not really digging the Washington Times ultimate slant on this, but here it goes:

As part of an effort to label Democrats as less qualified to protect Americans, Mr. Bush said the foiled plot is a "stark reminder" that "the nation is at war with Islamic fascists" and that his administration has "given our officials the tools they need" to fight it. With fewer than three months till the midterm congressional elections, the arrests set up a fight in Congress over those tools -- detention of terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and monitoring of terror suspects' bank records and phone calls.

The funny thing is that British authorities seem to be doing all the heavy lifting on this one while cats across the Atlantic are drowning in their own shouting matches. Goes on further ...

Lawmakers said they expect those fights to dominate the same way the creation of the Department of Homeland Security did in 2002. Then, Democrats were blocking Mr. Bush's plan for a new department on the grounds that it didn't include enough union rights for new workers.

That last statement comes off a little party-line. Although we remember there was a lot more to it than just union rights. Wasn't there some other stuff about bloated bureacracy, fear of worse coordination and, oh yeah, anxiety over an already misled FEMA being placed under another level of authority?

(Attack on Black Women, Part II) Lack of A Policy Focus on Domestic Violence ...

This is pretty messed up. The Washington Times reports:

A misconduct hearing has been canceled for a Prince George's County judge because he retired this month. District Judge Richard A. Palumbo was accused of violating judicial standards in several cases -- including his handling of a hearing in September for Yvette Cade, in which he rescinded a protective order against her estranged husband. About a month later, the husband set Mrs. Cade on fire. She survived but suffered severe burns.

We understand that petitions are circulating in Maryland in Support of Yvette Cade & to Ask the Judicial Disabilities Commission to Try the Judge Palumbo Case, & to Increase Awareness of (a) Domestic Abuse and Domestic Violence (b) Violence Against Women – (c) the Indirect Consequences of These Events on Family Members, Friends, Neighbors, etc. & to Ask for Legislation & Funding (1) to provide mandatory annual training for Judges (2) Fast Track Re-Consideration and (3) establish a Court Watch Program.

Yet, the purpose of the petition was an effort to preempt the scenario above. Not certain what will happen next. In the meantime, for more information, we suggest contacting Julia Johnson at or writing to P.O. Box 6634, Annapolis, Maryland, 21401.

There may be an opporopportunity to shed greater light on this growing problem, yet you may not think it is that big given the silence about it, especially during the elections. Media reaction has been tame at best, treating it as an isolated incident. There is no real serious discussion about the scope of not only domestic violence, but the ability of batterers in fooling the legal system or manipulating it. wrote a rather steamy editorial about this some time back.

This is an extremely important topic - PG County is not the only jurisdiction faced with this dilemma, it's a national epidemic. And, it's not just judges - it's lawyers, as well, who continue to offer batterers an effective way to manipulate the system. There is a need for better oversight. But, PG County is a disturbing case given the demographics of African Americans in that location. A predominantly White justice system seems unsympathetic to Black women being abused and the damage inflicted on children. White women are dealing with it too, but the significance of the problem is disproportionately pronounced in the African American community.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Where's Snoop on "Where My Dogs At?" & The Assault on Black Women ...

We slip into a pop-culture moment. Steve Gorman in Reuters reports on yet another episode in the never-ending saga of our image problem:

A new MTV cartoon depicting black women squatting on all fours tethered to leashes and defecating on the floor is drawing fire from several prominent African Americans who call the episode degrading.

In it, a look-alike of rap star Snoop Dogg strolls into a pet shop with two bikini-clad black women on leashes. They hunch over on all fours and scratch themselves as he orders one of them to "hand me my latte." At the end of the segment, the Snoopathon Dogg Esquire character dons a rubber glove to clean up excrement left on the floor by one of the women.

Stanley Crouch, itching it for relevance, quickly pipes in:

columnist Stanley Crouch, condemned the segment as misogynist, racist and crude, and they questioned the sincerity of MTV's contention that it was satirizing the outlandish behavior of a real-life rapper.

Crouch suggested in a column this week that the "Where My Dogs At?" segment was an extension of dehumanizing images contained in gangsta rap videos aired by MTV and projected "around the world as 'real' black culture."

There's no surprise here: this is classic Snoop Dogg, laughing on the way to the bank. In this, we hear of no statement from Snoop (who continues to snicker on the way to the bank), nor is anyone in the community holding Snoop somehow responsible for the continuing proliferation of Saturday afternoon images shortly after the morning cartoon line-up (who is now in the bank). It then gets a bit difficult to place sole blame on MTV - perhaps, it's appropriate to argue that MTV exercised some bad taste in programming ...

On a more serious note, MTV is a representation of pop-cultural attitudes and - right now - pop-culture ain't feeling sistas. Which explains the nasal snorts and snickers of zealous White yuppie MTV producers having fun at our expense - isn't that what Viacom is all about? Which explains having sistas on all fours. This is nothing new, but it's been reaching a recent pitch as of late. Let's get real for a moment about this:

1) Regardless of what you feel about Star Jones, we can all agree that Barbara Walters & "The View" did her wrong. They wanted an overweight Black woman with that old school, Jim Crow "fat nanny" appeal to make the White girls look good. Then, they engineered her demise so Rosie O'Donnell (a Walters' friend) could take the open spot. Yet, Jones is portrayed as the agitator and her career now spirals into oblivion;

2) Never mind her politics and the controversy, there was an extreme and unprecedented amount of lampooning in the national press regarding the Fall of Cynthia McKinney (we note MSNBC's Scarborough Country segment yesterday evening which was a bit over the top). Still, McKinney doesn't help her cause after devolving into that Pink moment during her concession speech;

3) Secretary of State Condi Rice is being racially vandalized in Arab newspapers;

4) And Oprah can't seem to shake scandalous rumors about lesbian relationships.


The Political Dynamic of the Recent Terror Plot

Somebody is going to ask this question, so we'll put it out there: Why do the British seem more effective than the U.S. in foiling terror plots? That may be more perception than reality, but in this multi-media day and age perception is everything. It may not be a practical question given the size of Britain compared to the size of the continental United States. But, remember how quick the Brits nabbed the suspects in the London Underground bombing? And, now - once again - it seems the Brits are on the ball. After World War II and the IRA, the British don't mess around.

Perception is everything: across the Atlantic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security just doesn't give you the feeling that we're all that secure. It's like a massive bureaucratic elephant bumbling around in the dark. And there is very little impression of transparency - we say impression because we understand that the government can't give out too much information without tipping off a terror cell, but there has got to be a way to better prepare and inform folks. Especially after Katrina, the Administration almost always looks like a deer caught in headlights.

In addition, we're catching the convenient political timing of this action. Foiled terror plot after joint U.S./U.K. operation on the heels of Vice President Cheney's (and others) disturbing remarks concerning the geopolitical implications of Lieberman's Connecticut primary loss. Awfully bizarre - but, we should expect Republicans to use all fear-mongering tools at their disposal in a last ditch bid to keep their Congressional majority.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bringing Closure to the Cosby Argument ....

Temple University Professor and Public Intellectual Marc Lamont Hill opines further on Bill Cosby in

To be clear, Bill Cosby doesn’t merely focus on one issue. Few people would be upset if he were focusing on individual responsibility as part of a larger project for social justice and Black prosperity. The problem comes when his clarion calls for good behavior undermine the equally if not more legitimate demands for living wages, quality education, and safe neighborhoods.

What's missing in the ongoing debate over Bill is where Bill is from. We tend to forget that Bill's hardened Richard Allen Projects North Philly roots offer a very real glimpse into where he's coming from. The Bill we see (and want to cherish) is the Jello gelatin guy in multi-cultural commercials; or that likable, Black middle-class, stable family brownstone dweller in the Cosby Show. Once we disassociate the T.V. Bill from the real North Philly Bill (Bill, Bill - HA! You old school thug you!), we will then arrive at an epiphany of sorts, realizing that what he's saying may not be so "vitriolic" or misplaced after all.

CT - How Lieberman Really Lost, How He Might Win in November, & Ned Lamont's Willie Horton Moment ...

Everybody else is talking about the anti-war & anti-Bush vote & the liberal blogs bringing Lieberman down.

We'd like to think it was that critical 11% Black swing vote that put the nail on the coffin. Few talked about that.

But, Lieberman's (somewhat arrogant) run as an Independent in a 3-way race (regardless of staunch, unfied opposition from the Democrats) may actually work. Especially if photos of an unprepared Ned Lamont standing with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton & Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) are used in such a way to alienate Connecticuts moderate and mostly independent voters. That image could turn out to be a fatal political mistake for Lamont. We'll see - it could be a very interesting test for Jackson, Sharpton and others who believe they are still very relevant in the political mainstream. This could turn into Lamont's very own Willie Horton moment ...

Lieberman could very well split that vote decisively to his favor. White moderates, independents and Republicans, terrified of a Senator controlled by "demagogues" and "liberal activists" from afar (and Black ones, too, oh my!) will feel comfortable giving their vote to the 7-term Senator. At that point, Lieberman will owe nothing to Democrats and he most certainly will owe nothing to the larger Black political community that campaigned tirelessly against him in Connecticut and beyond (unless Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) can repair that already cracked bridge). And, what does this say about the already fractured Black/Jewish relationship? African American politicos were already put off by Gore's veep choice back in 2000 because of his ambivalence on affirmative action.

Lieberman only lost by 4 percentage points in the primary - which means Lamont didn't get a mandate. Prediction: Lieberman wins with Independent, Republican and Conservative support. The real question is whether he will change parties after November. Prediction: yes.

The Brazen Stupidity of the War in Lebanon ...

One can't help but be moved by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's urgent and emotional plea in the Washington Post this morning:

As the world watches, Israel has besieged and ravaged our country, created a humanitarian and environmental disaster, and shattered our infrastructure and economy, putting an intolerable strain on our social and economic systems. Fuel, food and medical equipment are in short supply; homes, factories and warehouses have been destroyed; roads severed, bridges smashed and airports disabled.

The damage to infrastructure alone is running into the billions of dollars, as are the losses to owners of private property, and the long-term direct and indirect costs due to lost revenue in tourism, agriculture and industrial sectors are expected to be many more billions. Lebanon's well-known achievements in 15 years of postwar development have been wiped out in a matter of days by Israel's deadly military might.

There is, of course, little mention of Hezbollah's part in this ... which - to a certain point - is understandable given the situation on the ground. Whomever is telling Israel's Defense Forces (long a misnomer in the wake of its offensive stance) and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the Lebanese people will somehow see the light on Hezbollah's dangerous fundamentalism after being blasted into oblivion by Israeli F-16s and Merkava tanks is definitely smoking Lebanese trees ...

Or - it's an outrageous matter of arrogance and underestimating the Lebanese response on the ground and Hezbollah's appeal. After winning so many wars, Israel must now save face - but, it's not that simple. If faced with the prospect of future oblivion, it pretty much boils down to a "kill-or-be-killed" attitude. Which is the root of the problem, especially when Iran won't back off.

Hezbollah may not have had much appeal before the outbreak of hostilities (and the creation of yet another WW III front), but it certainly does now since Lebanese civilians probably perceive them as the only line of defense. Which is funny since Hezbollah is, in turn, using civilians as human shields. Which, ultimately, doesn't bode too well for this once promising oasis of democracy in the Middle East.

Nobody wins in this disaster - Hezbollah will recruit fresh talent from angered Lebanese and Muslim carpetbaggers to fill its devastated ranks; Israel will have to pull out or risk getting bogged down, again, in Lebanon; Hezbollah, seeing an opening, will try to seize power in Lebanon, thereby creating a recipe for a new civil war; and Israel will stand by on the border as the carnage unfolds; a Lebanese civil war isn't really good for Israel because it ends up serving as a training ground for battle-hardened Islamists who will ultimately reign terror on Israel. But, it doesn't take a political scientist to understand that Israel is only concerned with the fate of Israel. If it takes launching Lebanon into a civil war to keep Hezbollah and others distracted from protracted missile launches into Israel, then so be it, says Olmert and others. Still, that says nothing of what happens to that region as it continues to spiral into the apocalypse. Nobody wins.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

CONNECTICUT - The Power of the Black Vote in a Place Where You Don't Think it Exists ...

Come on, now, admit it: think about Connecticut and you don't even put that state's name and "African American" or "Black" in the same sentence. But, apparently, the Black voting bloc (11%) in CT is so hot, that everybody's rushing up there to get in the game:

Actor Danny Glover will be in the state today to support New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, who also had recent visits from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. DeStefano's gubernatorial primary opponent Mayor Dan Malloy of Stamford countered with state Treasurer Denise Nappier, former New Haven Mayor John Daniels, New Haven state Rep. William Dyson and Hartford minister the Rev. Alvan Johnson on his black VIP list. Lamont has had Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Sharpton and Jackson in state talking him up. Lieberman trumped them all by bringing in Clinton - the first black president - for the Waterbury stop.

Where's 50 Cent?

Anyway, a lot to analyze here - a real gauge of how the Black vote will influence key battlegrounds in '06 ... and in '08. How effective are figures like Jackson, Sharpton, Waters, Glover, etc.? Does their message still resonate? And, certainly, Bill Clinton's visit was more than a stump - it was a big toe in the electoral waters, feeling out prospects for his wife's '08 candidacy. And, not talked about as much is lack of Black political establishment support for Lieberman, who has clashed with that group before over his resistance to affirmative action policies.

MISSOURI - On Black Republicans ....

We dug St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Sylvester Brown's observation today:

Fundamentally, I think it's a mistake to be a political party hostage. But when the choices are few and the stakes are high, people compromise their loyalties and drift toward oxymoronic "conservative liberals" or "liberal conservatives" - candidates who represent a smidgen of their core values.

ILL-Town's Rep ...

Philly ain't looking so good these days, as underscored by this latest piece surrounding the controversy over an HIV/AIDS campaign image:

While Philadelphia's mayor and police commissioner have been campaigning against surging gun violence, the city's Department of Public Health has been fighting another scourge with both barrels.

In public service ads urging HIV testing, young African American men are shown in the crosshairs of a gun with the tagline "Have YOU been hit?"

Understood that you want to dramatically underscore the problem of HIV/AIDS in the African American community. But, this is not the kind of message you want to send about that segment of the city's population disproportionately impacted by surging gun violence. Ill-town gets real ill:

Philadelphia's seemingly intractable crisis of gun violence has gotten so bad - particularly in poor, predominantly minority neighborhoods - that Mayor Street and regional leaders, including Cardinal Justin Rigali, held an unprecedented summit meeting at City Hall on July 31. As of midnight Sunday, 238 people had been been murdered, compared with 215 at the same time last year.

No crime emergency just yet, like in D.C. Nor does Street figure that he reaped what he sowed on this one after shifting resources from community revitalization to downtown improvement and unimpeded gentrification. It'll cool down after the summer, once the city packs its kids back into that prison called the Philadelphia Public School System.

No Safe Black Districts ...

Compelling piece in the L.A. Times today:

In the final moments of a celebration to mark his 80th birthday, Assemblyman Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Compton) looked out over an emptying hotel ballroom and offered a thought about the future of black politics in Los Angeles.

"There are no safe black districts anymore," he said. "We have to look at politics differently now."

Much has changed in the 44 years since Dymally won his first Assembly seat in a stretch of south Los Angeles County that is home to one of the largest concentrations of black voters west of the Mississippi. A steady migration of African Americans to outlying areas and a massive influx of Latinos have eroded the traditional breadbasket of black political strength from Crenshaw to Compton, and these demographic changes have taken their toll.

THE GA-4 SAGA: Why McKinney Could Still Win ...

Political hacks, wonks and geeks of all shapes, sizes, colors and species are closely watching the heated battle unfolding in today's run-off for Georgia's U.S. House District 4 currently held by the controversial magnet Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D). Former Dekalb County Commissioner and, incidentally, former staunch McKinney supporter Hank Johnson, Jr. is polling 13 percentage points ahead of McKinney. made repeated and unsuccessful attempts to contact the Congresswoman for an interview in an effort to balance it against Commissioner Johnson's appearance.

It's easy to assume Johnson could win, given his lead in the polls. But, then, you have to ask: who's conducting the polls? And how badly do they want McKinney to go? Not assessed here is McKinney's ability to call and get response; her energetic skill at developing a pedagogy of the oppressed - something that resonates fairly well in a majority Black suburb of Atlanta. Even Johnson understands this, and should be shifting his resources accordingly.

The geopolitical situation and anti-Bush, anti-war sentiment is, in some respects, feeding voter angst more so than whether the Congresswoman has succeeded in "... bringing the bacon home," as Johnson observed in his assessment of McKinney during a recent exclusive. Perception is everything in a tight race like this. In this case, just like in Connecticut, voters could be more attracted to the candidate that is most unapologetically anti-war/anti-Bush. Despite McKinney's personal troubles and the perception of incompetence, she is able to build support through a constant focus on the Bush Administration's lack of committment to civil rights and the African American community, including diatribes against electronic voting systems. In addition, despite national polls showing 65% of Americans supporting Israel's incursion into Lebanon against Hezbollah, we're curious to see how voters in District 4 are responding to reports of Johnson receiving significant amounts of cash from pro-Israel PACs - do Black voters in GA-4 support the war in Lebanon? We suspect not for a variety of reasons, and sources indicate that the McKinney camp is using that as an advantage. Hence, this will also translate into a serious test of the mercurial relationship between the Black & Jewish communities.

The numbers of voters who want an advocate who is unapologetically "Black" could very well outnumber those voters who desire a representative able to draw the "bacon home." It doesn't matter what the national mood on McKinney is since all politics is local. We'll see ...

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Ford Gamble

We've focused quite a bit on Tennessee in recent days, particularly Rep. Harold Ford, Jr.'s chances to clinch the open Senate seat being vacated by current Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R). It's very tight and a toss-up - but, don't count him out completely, especially if TIME profiles him:

"Although Tennessee has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since Al Gore won re-election in 1990, the race is starting to look far closer than just about anyone would have expected a few months ago. And with Democrats leading in the five other states that are considered their best opportunities to pick up Senate seats this fall -- Pennsylvania, Montana, Rhode Island, Ohio and Missouri -- it is conceivable that a victory by Ford could give them the sixth one that they need to take back control of the chamber."

Still, some problematic developments for Ford, Jr., especially if his brother Jake decides to run as an independent for his vacated 9th Congressional District seat. Does Ford endorse the winner of the primary, White & Jewish candidate State Sen. Steven Cohen (D-Memphis) who may be the next Congressman for a majority Black district? Or does he support his brother? Either way, he risks his Senate bid.

Still, Ford has the strength of personality and charisma on his side, a feature heavily underscored in this article.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Jewish Money & Black Races ...

As Johnathan Allen reports in The Hill:

Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney’s primary run-off opponent has tapped into the pro-Israel fundraising network that helped her virtually unknown challenger Denise Majette topple McKinney and Artur Davis beat then-Rep. Earl Hilliard (D-Ala.) in a pair of hotly contested 2002 primaries in black-majority districts.

Hank Johnson collected at least $34,100 on Tuesday from individuals and political action committees (PACs) that supported Majette, Davis or both, including several pro-Israel PACs. Overall, Johnson reported receiving $63,100 on Tuesday.

This might be an interesting development, given the situation in Lebanon and growing international pressure agasint Israel over excessive bombing campaigns and ground incursions.

The Enduring and Loose Use of N***a ...

The loose, off-the-cuff use of the infamous "N" word by Illinois State Senator James Meeks can be easily seen as a case where politics can truly corrupt the pulpit. It wasn't so much the word itself as it was the vindictive purpose for using it in the first place: to instigate a massive mega church congregation into en masse retaliation against perceived "house n****s" and the "slave masters" they support.

That sort of community discourse gets a bit outdated and tired, particularly coming from prominent Black preachers presiding over stadium size mega-churches in blighted urban communities like Chicago. In this case, the blind leads the blind: Parishioners are wildly entertained every Sunday morning, but return home to mounting debt, rising gas prices, paycheck woes and poor schools. There is little in the form of assistance, financial literacy counseling, access to quality education, primary or preventive health care or legal representation from many wealthy Black churches in a position to do such.

The church is not the forum for internal racial invective or color-coded conflicts. Last we checked, church is supposed to encourage compassion and compunction, even in the face of political challenges and differences in policy. There must have been a better way to express dissatisfaction with the city's public school system or ineffective African American elected officials.

To now have a White mayor chastise an important figure in the Black community for using the
"N" word raises this issue to the ridiculous.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Battle of Jackson, MS: Words, Rights & Crime Emergencies

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is getting much pub as of late while the summer heat index rises and tempers - mixed with poverty, lack of opportunity access and pure boredom - flare into crime waves. First: this isn't unusual and major urban centers dealing with sudden spikes in violent crime shouldn't act surprised when kids have little opportunity or access to enriching activities, families can't afford air conditioners and the heat underscores the desperation of circumstances.

Washington, D.C., only moments after passing its Crime Emergency bill, got immediate flack from the vaunted civil liberties group. Jackson, MS is also in the group's litigious scope. We'll focus on Jackson:

Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union lashed out against Jackson Mayor Frank Melton in a news conference this morning in front of City Hall, accusing the first-term mayor of racial profiling and trampling civil rights in his quest to rid the city of crime.

The claims drew an angry retort from the mayor, who described the organization as doing nothing to help young people or address black-on-black crime in the United States.“We have 26 people that have been killed here in Jackson this year,” Melton said. “I want to know what the ACLU wants to do besides criticize. Besides that, to hell with them.”

This last comment from Melton, responding to news of a co-sponsored local ACLU/NAACP "Know Your Rights" meeting we found especially troubling:

“I hope they don’t obstruct justice and give people false information, because if they do then we will be focusing on them and we’ll come after them,” he said.

Melton's originial position is understandable and, to a degree, justifiable. There is a need to examine "zero tolerance"; perhaps "zero tolerance" with some restraints. But, in the last statement, Melton begins to sound a bit like where Jackson and much of the South was only 40 years ago - which is disturbing coming from an African American mayor. You can't target advocacy groups in a democratic setting, and Melton should be sensitive to that argument. We see a need for caution and balance from both cities like Jackson and the ACLU. The ACLU may be a bit too aggressive and unmindful in its campaign against community and government response to crime waves. But, if the ACLU and others are not there to remind government of its obligation to maintain basic rights, who will? Cities like Jackson, with Mayors like Melton, are right to place greater focus and resources on aggressive crime-fighting strategies, but they are also flawed in consistently ignoring the root causes of those crimes.

Governments aren't preventing these episodes when they can. Frankly, as far as youth are concerned, jurisdictions should consider extending the school year or keeping kids engaged through mandatory enrollment in summer education and extra-curricular programs. Only middle-class families (barely) can afford to enroll their kids in summer camps and other programs, but it's unrealistic to expect the same from most working families struggling to make ends meet.

Oh - that's right - we forgot: the federal government seems more happy to fund short-sighted forays into oil-rich countries rather than make a significant and enduring investment in universal education. States and local jurisdications are no different as corruption and management malfeasance continues infecting school systems like viruses, while elected officials pay lip service to school reform as they dump money into "revitalization" projects.

Rep. Rangel (D-NY) Considering Retirement ...

The long serving Congressman from Harlem & ranking House Ways & Means Committee Member, may also consider retirement if the Democratic Caucus changes the rules on Committee chairmanships. Based on the schisms between the CBC and the House Minority leadership, talk of a Rangel retirement could also be an attempt at ensuring post mid-term leverage.

Rice in the Palestinian Press ...

The unfortunate consequence of being the world's most powerful Black woman is two-fold:

1) She works for the Bush Administration and is a longtime friend of what has amounted to "The Imperial Family";

2) The mixed bag of global racism and sexism that particularly plagues women of African descent shows itself in the most despicable fashion.

But, unlike disillusioned Arabs and Muslims pimped and distracted by despotic Middle Eastern governments into extreme unrest over Danish cartoons, life goes on back in the States. No surprise that the Bush Administration refuses to pursue it as a serious issue, despite the fact that such attitudes may reflect one underlying reason why Rice can't make a cease fire or peaceful resolution fit. This should definitely spark discourse on how the Arab/Muslim world views the African Diaspora and the disturbing history behind those perceptions.'s fresh new look & future direction ...

We heard some of the grumblings, read the hate mail and shuttered every time a reader or two threw tomatoes at the screen. But, ultimately, we listened and realized that it was time for a face lift. has a new look. It took us a minute, and a very nervous summer hiatus to make it work. We had to shut some stuff down for a while; we even postponed the radio show and said farewell to KVDU (which, according to our last check, is still experiencing server problems).

There was a drastic need for change.

And we also relaunched with new content and a desire to give you more information and data. There's quite a bit of action in the Black political universe ... there is quite a bit of action throughout the entire world, and we're here to present that information as it happens and as it relates to the African American community.

There is a lot more to come. Stay tuned and enjoy!