Congress Protects Monsanto, Not Third Graders


My 9 year-old niece Evelyn in Maryland is already very politically-active. Like most of America, she was saddened and outraged about the kids in Connecticut who were mowed down by a killer wielding an assault rifle with 30-round clips. She was especially horrified that the victims were her own age, and in class when they were shot. The 113th Congress has already decided that while it won’t protect 3rd graders from assault rifles and high-powered magazines, it will protect Monsanto from the courts. They won’t listen to a third grader who took the time to make her own sign and join a march in D.C. in support of sensible gun regulations, but they’ll listen to anyone who writes a big enough check.

The push for a renewed ban on assault weapons, which George W. Bush repealed in 2004, died when Harry Reid flatly told Dianne Feinstein that the gun legislation to be discussed in the senate wouldn’t include a renewal of the assault weapons ban. The NRA won again, thanks to their millions spent on browbeating Congress with armies of lobbyists, hefty amounts of campaign cash and the lowest of tactics that includedrobocalling homes in Newtown, Connecticut.

We couldn’t even get the Democratic leader of the Senate to stand by a renewal of an assault weapons ban that was in place just nine years ago, when the 2nd Amendment was still very much intact and people still had plenty of guns. We failed to reinstate a ban on high-capacity magazines, despite ample evidence that Adam Lanza murdered 26 people, including kids just barely out of infancy, in just under five minutes thanks to 30-round magazines in an AR-15 assault rifle. In this moving segment, Rachel Maddow breaks down the situation step by step, explaining how many young lives could have been saved if Lanza had to reload after every ten rounds and carry that many more magazines.

Harry Reid’s admittance of defeat to the gun lobby proves that Washington won’t listen to the grieving friends and family of those who were gunned down in a movie theater in Colorado, or at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a shopping mall in Portland, or at an elementary school in Connecticut. The only thing that moves Washington to act is cash. Lots of it. This is why the NRA won again, and why Monsanto just won in the Senate’s new budget.

Thanks to Monsanto’s aggressive lobbying, Congress hid a provision deep into ahomeland security section of their recently passed budget, by way of a long-winded paragraph loaded with indecipherable legalese, allowing the agribusiness giant to plant genetically-modified (GM) crops without judicial review to determine whether or not their crops are unsafe. Essentially, Monsanto bought enough influence to bypass the system of checks and balances. All that’s needed to solidify this goodie to Monsanto is President Obama’s signature. Although Obama said in 2007 that he would “immediately” work to label GM foods if elected, Obama in 2012 appointed a Monsanto executive as his administration’s food safety czar. It’s safe to say the bill will get signed, paving the way for mutant food to hit the grocery store shelves without any obstacles.

Obama won’t pay attention to the petition with 100,000+ signatures from people representing all 50 states demanding to reject the Monsanto Protection Act, just as Congress didn’t pay attention to 3rd graders marching for gun regulations. This corrupt government will continue down this pay-for-play spiral until we all start throwing wads of cash at them, or organize as one unified group of people and oust them ourselves.

Obama, Republicans Plot Sweeping Attack on Medicare

By Fred Mazelis ,

Behind closed doors, the White House and congressional Republicans are discussing a deal that would impose devastating cuts on the Medicare system and threaten tens of millions of working people.

The New York Times in a front-page article Friday reported on secret meetings between President Barack Obama and House and Senate Republicans. The president has assured the Republicans that he will deliver Democratic votes for historic attacks on Medicare as part of a “balanced” package, meaning one that includes the fig leaf of token tax increases on the wealthy.

The plan that is being discussed would combine Medicare Parts A and B, covering hospital care and doctor visits respectively, in such a way as to impose major increases in deductible payments on millions of beneficiaries.

Currently Part A has a much higher deductible than Part B ($1,184 compared to $147). Combining the two parts and charging a single deductible higher than the current Part B rate would greatly increase costs for the approximately 80 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who use doctor and outpatient services, but not hospital care, in any given year.

Another potential means of extracting money from the elderly is in the premium payment, which is required for Part B coverage but not Part A. Combining Part A and Part B would make it possible to charge premiums for hospital coverage.

Retirees and others covered by Medicare who are not sick enough to require surgery or hospitalization, but need to see their doctors on a regular basis, would face steep increases in out-of-pocket costs. These would be on top of their monthly premium, which is now $100. With Medicare now enrolling some 50 million Americans, about 40 million people would be hit by the proposed increase in deductibles.

An attack along these lines was proposed some 25 years ago, in the last year of the Reagan Administration. Congressional Democrats then opposed it, but are now spearheading the offensive against Medicare. In an attempt to dampen popular outrage in advance of the 2016 elections, the White House is proposing that any changes would apply only to those eligible for Medicare after 2016.

The bipartisan proposals now taking shape are also aimed at other elements of Medicare and will have dire consequences. Obama is proposing a 15 percent surcharge on Medigap plans. These plans, now purchased at significant cost by many retirees in order to provide protection from ever-rising health care costs, would now become even more expensive.

In its report, the Times writes that one of the major goals of the restructuring of Medicare Parts A and B is “to discourage people from seeking unneeded treatments.” This is very much in line with the campaign, in which the liberal editorialists of the Times have played a leading role, to deny many tests and treatments to the working class majority of the population. The wealthy, of course, would be able to obtain the care they chose.

The attacks on Medicare are being hammered out behind the backs of the American people, highlighting their antidemocratic character. The news report makes reference to meetings that have never before been publicly reported. The idea of public hearings or local meetings at which those who will bear the brunt of these cuts can be heard is not even considered.

The Times report makes clear the fraud behind the frequent claims of political gridlock and partisan warfare in Washington that allegedly paralyzes the federal government. Despite their tactical differences and vitriolic political campaigns, Democrats and Republicans are united in a conspiracy against the working class.

They have been discussing plans to attack Medicare and other social programs for years. Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor discussed the restructuring of Medicare Parts A and B as long ago as 2011, when he participated in a panel on fiscal issues headed by Vice President Joseph Biden.

It is within this context that the House budget plan introduced by Wisconsin Republican and 2012 Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan must be understood. Ryan’s proposals, which include vouchers that would essentially do away with Medicare, are being used to give Obama and the Democrats political cover. As part of the political fraud typical of the two-party system, the Democrats pose as opponents of Medicare privatization while pushing for increased costs and reduced benefits for recipients and turning the program into a shadow of what it was in the past.

The role of the Democrats in this conspiracy was spelled out by Virginia Senator Mark Warner. Warner, the Times explains, “has long led a bipartisan group of senators seeking a fiscal deal.” The Virginia Democrat called for an end to “stale arguments” that he compared to “World War I trench warfare.” He welcomed the views of those Republicans who said, as he put it, “Well, we don’t really like what Ryan has done—premium support—but we want systemic reform.”

In other words, the choice is between alternate ways of gutting bedrock social programs and making the working class pay for the crisis of the capitalist system. The Republicans propose the most extreme attacks and the Democrats come forward to defend something quite similar that previously would have been considered politically impossible.

The Medicare cuts being discussed will have a major impact on the lives of millions of working people and retirees. Medicare already has serious limitations, including its partial privatization in recent decades through Medicare Advantage plans, Medigap and the prescription drug plan enacted under the George W. Bush administration. All of these counter-reforms have enriched the private insurance industry and pharmaceutical giants at the expense of the working class.

Nevertheless, Medicare has constituted a lifeline for many millions of working people since it was enacted, extending the length and quality of life. It was one of the very last social reforms that American capitalism was able to provide, and then only in response to great social struggles. Today, however, as part of the global crisis that has worsened in the years since the financial collapse of 2008, these reforms are on the chopping block in the US and worldwide. They can be defended and extended only in the struggle for the socialist reorganization of society on the basis of human needs and not profit.

Economic Changes Hurt The Bottom Line For Rural Ga. Hospitals

Stewart-Webster Hospital last week suspended operations

Stewart-Webster Hospital last week suspended operations

By: Andy Miller,

In the small Georgia town of Demorest, Habersham Medical Center, like many rural hospitals, has seen its patient base change in a way that hurts its bottom line.

As unemployment in the northeast Georgia mountains remains stubbornly high, more of the hospital’s patients have no health insurance.

Among those patients with private coverage, an increasing number have high-deductible policies, which means that patients must pay all or a large portion of the bills out of pocket. And a large share of patients have Medicaid, the federal-state program for low-income people that often doesn’t reimburse enough to cover the cost of services, hospital officials say.

The hospital has enough cash to meet its payroll and service its debt, but that’s about it, says Jack Fulbright, the acting CEO.

Still, Fulbright and hospital authority board member Rick Austin assert that Habersham Medical will survive these tough times. “Habersham Countians are resilient,” Austin says. “We’re tough as a boot up here. We’re not going anywhere.”

Its financial squeeze reflects trends facing rural health care providers, both in Georgia and nationally.

Financial problems recently led Calhoun Memorial Hospital in Arlington in southwest Georgia to close its doors. Earl Whiteley, the hospital’s CEO, cited as a major reason the increase in charity care that the 25-bed facility incurred. “You just can’t continue to give away free care,” Whiteley said in a recent interview.

Stewart-Webster Hospital, 50 miles north of Calhoun Memorial, announced that it, too, was halting operations effective last Friday.

The closure of a hospital can have broad repercussions for a rural area, including:

* Deteriorating health care. People in rural areas tend to have poorer health than elsewhere. Patients’ health outcomes in Stewart County, where Stewart-Webster Hospital is located, were ranked next to last among Georgia counties, according to new 2013 county health rankings produced by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The bottom 10 Georgia counties in the rankings are mainly rural.

* Recruiting doctors to the community. “Rural hospitals are struggling to produce an economic quality of life for young physicians,” says Jimmy Lewis, CEO of  HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals in Georgia.

* Maintaining economic stability. The availability of health care is vital for a rural area’s economy. A hospital itself is often the top or No. 2 employer in a rural county. Habersham Medical, for example, employs more than 500 people, and the closing of Calhoun Memorial will result in a loss of 100 jobs. Stewart-Webster Hospital is the largest employer in the town of Richland. In addition, a rural area’s ability to attract businesses is partly tied to the availability of a hospital and other health care services.

* Losing important services. In a sign of the overall predicament of rural hospitals in Georgia, at least 40 of them have given up delivering babies. The hospitals blame high costs and low reimbursements. Another big factor is the shortage of rural obstetricians.

A thin margin

Rural hospitals generally operate on a very thin margin, even in the best of times.

Brock Slabach of the National Rural Health Association says the latest figures available show rural hospitals nationally have a negative profit margin of 5.68 percent.

That negative trend will be aggravated by sequestration, the automatic federal spending cuts that went into effect this month. It will reduce Medicare payments by 2 percent and could result in the loss of 12,000 rural hospital jobs, from nurses to support staff, according to Slabach.

Rural health care is accustomed to tough times, but this period appears especially tough, he says.

The Georgia legislature moved quickly this year to help rural hospitals, passing a bill that will speed renewal of a fee hospitals pay allowing the state to draw down an extra $400 million in federal Medicaid funding.

But Georgia hospitals will also lose $400 million in federal indigent care funds under the Affordable Care Act, which has many hospital industry officials concerned. The law cut back payments, called Disproportionate Share Hospital funding or DSH, that had helped cover care for uninsured patients.

The law assumes that most of these uninsured patients would get coverage through an expansion of the Medicaid program. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year, however, that states don’t have to expand Medicaid to cover such people, and Republican Gov. Nathan Deal says Georgia won’t do it because it’s too costly.

Medicaid expansion is necessary to add more paying customers for hospitals, Lewis says. “We don’t have a choice’” in order to save rural providers.

Fulbright of Habersham Medical Center says Medicaid expansion “would certainly help us.” Meanwhile, the hospital is seeking a partnership or affiliation with a bigger hospital, perhaps Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.

“We’re looking at everything we’re doing [to find] the best way forward,” Fulbright says. Recently the hospital sought to be annexed by the city of Demorest, which would lower its utility bills and security costs.

No more deliveries

For many rural hospitals, a key way to cut costs is to eliminate childbirth services.

Last year, Burke Medical Center, south of Augusta, gave up obstetrics, saying it was losing more than $1 million on the services.

Unless a birth is considered so imminent that it’s an emergency — in which case the delivery is performed in Burke’s emergency room — pregnant women must travel 25 miles or so to Augusta to have their babies.

Among Georgia’s “critical access” hospitals — rural facilities with no more than 25 inpatient beds — 32 of 34 have given up maternity services, according to Lewis of HomeTown Health.

One reason is that it’s difficult to maintain a high-cost service with low reimbursement rate.

About 60 percent of births in Georgia every year are covered by Medicaid, and Georgia physicians and hospitals say the government insurance program generally does not pay them enough to make up for the costs of the care. Georgia obstetricians have not had a Medicaid pay increase in more than a decade.

“Payments don’t cover deliveries and follow-up care,” says Lewis. And if there’s only one OB in an area, that doctor is always “on call,” he adds.

Pat Cota, executive director of the Georgia OBGyn Society, says roughly 40 counties in Georgia — one in every four — has no OB/GYN. “Between Athens and Augusta, there’s no delivery hospital.” Cota says. “It continues to get worse and worse.”

Pregnant women in Burke County get prenatal care through family medicine physicians and nurse practitioners in the area.

Infant mortality is improving in the state, though Georgia still ranks among the bottom 10 states on that measure, says Dr. Paul Browne, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, which is helping Burke County with its prenatal care. He adds that the maternal death rate in the state is actually getting worse.

Increased reimbursement for physicians is a critical need, Browne says. But he acknowledges that it’s hard to persuade budget makers to include such funds given the state’s financial crunch.

The big question, he says, is: “Will the state subsidize rural health care in Georgia?”

– See more at:

Vampire Capitalism Comes to Detroit, Michigan and Dekalb County, Georgia

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon,

What do Detroit MI and Dekalb County GA in suburban Atlanta have in common? Each has about 700,000 people, and both are majority black, Dekalb at 55%, and Detroit over 80%. Both elect local officials to manage local affairs, like city government in Detroit, and the school system in Dekalb County GA. In both cases, phony fiscal and educational crises have been manufactured in accordance with state law to allow state governors to sideline or fire outright local elected officials — City Hall in Detroit, and the elected school board in Dekalb GA, to impose programs of vicious fiscal austerity and privatization.

The crises exist because corporate media, and our bipartisan political elites, including the black political class, tell us they do. And although the laws in Michigan and Georgia which enable governors to sweep aside elected officials in these “crises” were passed by Republican legislators and and the triggers are being pulled by Republican governors, the virtually all-Democrat black political class has rallied no resistance, its pundits and intellectuals have proposed no alternatives. At most, some like MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry have offered the standard neoliberal justifications for austerity and privatization as if they were explaining some impersonal, automatic phenomenon like gravity — “there’s no money…. budgets have to be balanced” and invite us to fruitlessly wonder whether the whole thing was “racist” or not. Really, who cares?

In the first place, the “crises” are fabrications of corporate media, and the wealthy banksters, bondholders and privatizers whose “solutions” are inevitably pushed upon us. In Detroit, bondholders and banksters declared they feared the city would miss or default on the interest payments for previous loans, and that was just about all the governor needed to sweep aside Detroit City Hall and appoint what amounted to a dictator over every aspect of local government. In Georgia, the private organization which accredits public school systems is a captive of the US Chamber of Commerce and right wing pro-charter and privatization foundations, so it threatened to revoke the accreditation of a county school system serving 100,000 children based upon spurious, insubstantial, and in some cases anonymous charges against elected school board members, so the governor could fire and replace them with his own appointees. In both locations, the gubernatorial appointees will impose massive job, wage and service cuts, and are expected to privatize everything that’s not nailed down.

This is the hollow soul of vampire capitalism — the conversion of local government from an engine which collects local tax revenue, user fees and dollars from state and federal levels to pay living wages, health care and pensions to its service-providing employees, into an engine that diverts tax revenue straight into the pockets of banksters for debt repayment, and sells off public assets like city and school district real estate for a song to well-connected looters and privatizers. On the economic level bloodsucking fiscal austerity is just about as rational a the brain deciding to strip mine the liver and kidneys for minerals.

The black political class of politicians, preachers and business people from whom the ranks of establishment black leaders are drawn doesn’t just lack a vision of how to do things better. They lack the soul that believes a better world, a more just society, with high quality education for everybody’s children, jobs at living wages, decent housing, a clean environment, justice and an end to war are even possible. Our black political class has been entirely captured. They are held hostage by their own perks and job prospects. While local governments in the heavily black constituencies that made their rise to prominence possible are being nullified by “crisis” and “emergency management” laws, they toast and roast and coast on the victories of the sixties, instead of leading campaigns of mass action and defiance that might enable African Americans and all Americans to dream a new world and begin to build it. All that our black misleadership class knows how to do any more is get paid.

Black Mass Incarceration —- Is It New? Is It Jim Crow? Is the Prison- Industrial Complex Real? And What Difference Does It Make?

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon,

The short answers are yes, not exactly, not really, and a whole lot, which tells more about the inadequacies of short answers than it does about whether “New Jim Crow” is a really useful description, and who it’s most useful to.

Is it New?

Prisons are certainly not new, and the employment of prisons to enforce a racially unjust social order isn’t new either.  The post-civil war Black Codes prescribed heavy penalities for all sorts of infractions by African Americans.  But the scale of the modern US prison state simply has no precedent.  Nobody has ever locked up this many people for as little, for as long.  Whatever you want to call the present situation with prisons, prisoners and US society, you have to call it something brand new.

Is it Jim Crow?

Not exactly.

Michelle Alexander’s 2010 book, The New Jim Crow, was a breakthrough in many ways. It came at a time when just about every African American family knew there was a crisis, when the shadow of prison literally squatted in the homes of hundreds of thousands, but when the black political class — the gaggle of preachers, politicians and business types we imagine to be our “leaders” lacked even the language to discuss it, apart from tropes inherited from the jailers themselves, like “personal responsibility”, and “do the crime, do the time.”

Describing the prison state as a “New Jim Crow” played to the imagined history of the current black political class, which never stops celebrating the fifties and sixties victories over the old Jim Crow which made its birth possible, and which incorrectly advertises itself as the author of those victories, rather than the after-the-fact beneficiaries of them. In truth, the struggle against Jim Crow wasn’t conducted by black politicians because there weren’t many of them, especially in the South. Some black business people supported that struggle but they didn’t lead it either, and most black preachers stood aside as well. The cutting edge that broke Jim Crow and carried out the final wave of organizing in the South which resulted in the Voting Rights Act were black youth.

“New Jim Crow” also absolved the black political class, at least initially, from responsibility for the prison state. They were the “civil rights leaders” and such, after all, you could hardly blame them for Jim Crow, old or new. And above all, by evoking the imagined spirit of class-blind racial unity which prevailed during the struggle against the old Jim Crow, “New Jim Crow” as a sort of descriptive slogan strengthened the credibility of the black political class.

Alexander’s persistent calls for a mass movement to be raised against the “New Jim Crow” are on target. But where do we imagine that movement will come from? College students? Not likely, as today’s students are burdened by debt as no others before them in history, and college-educated blacks are by relatively exempt from the depredations of the police and prison state. A college educated black male today stands a third the chance his uncle in 1980 did of going to prison, while today’s black male high school dropout is several times more likely to serve prison time sometimes during his life than his uncle the same age and status in 1980. Business people just don’t lead mass movements — ever — so that’s not worth thinking about, and the black church, which often makes the historically absurd claim that it was the fount and wellspring of the fifties and sixties Freedom Movement won’t do it either. Neither will our black political class, who are deeply implicated in the day to day running of the prison state.

Alexander herself notes that if US incarceration rates were to be rolled back to 1980 levels, not only would more than a million prisoners walk free, but a million prison guards, sheriffs, judges, bail bondsmen contractors, and others would suddenly be jobless. A lot of their faces are black, which brings us to a second difference between the old and “new” Jim Crows. In the old Jim Crow, apart from black business people who had captive markets white firms didn’t compete with them over, it’s hard to identify any stratum of black people who had a material interest in keeping the old system. You can’t say the same about this “New Jim Crow.”

The closer one looks, in fact, the more “New Jim Crow” looks like a slogan, a metaphor, rather than accurate analysis. To her credit, Ms. Alexander’s is pretty clear on the question of class within the black community, noting that she had to make a personal journey of her own to begin to see lower-class black males and through them their families and communities as the principal victims of the predatory penal state.

But not everybody who throws around “New Jim Crow” as a slogan has or will ever bother to read the book. And not all who do read the book bother to read it carefully or closely. “New Jim Crow” is an acceptable term for the prison state for the black political class and even for much of white America precisely because it seems to blame “racism” for everything, and in blaming “racism” actual human beings and governments they act through tend to be obscured.

It’s the job of intellectuals to come up with not just catchy slogans and malleable metaphors, but actual analysis. Anyone who deals with actual people on the ground knows that people will, after a short while, begin to treat catchy slogans as if they ARE analysis. You plan for it, it’s just the way you expect a lot of people to operate. For example, during Occupy Atlanta last year there were misguided souls in the (non)leadership who took anti-immigrant positions because they imagined that “we are the 99%” meant they should adhere to whatever positions the vast majority of Americans did, and most Americans were thought to be (if you read the mainstream media) hostile toward immigrants.

It’s more useful and concrete to note that police, prisons, courts and criminal laws are are functions of government than it is to say they are “racist institutions” being run in a “racist” way. Under one formulation we are fighting the state, trying to re-make the state. If our enemy is racism and New Jim Crow, exactly who or what are we fighting, and by what means?

Is the Prison Industrial Complex Real?

Finally, for the sake of clarity, we should look at the problematic term “prison industrial complex.”

It seems to say that the growth in prisons during the last thirty years was motivated by profit. The facts don’t seem to back this up. Most prisoners are not working, not performing any economic activity. Better than 90% of all prisoners any given day are simply languishing in their dorms or cells, period, not doing anything. Federal prison industries in several of the last few years, have failed even to make a profit. There are plenty of contractors, who handle everything from feeding prisoners to medical services, and they are raking it in. But they aren’t dictating the growth of prisons over the last thirty years. Politicians do that, for reasons that have lots to do with sustaining their own careers, and asserting the authority of the state over supposed delinquent segments of the population, teaching them “a lesson”, supposedly deterring crime, ensuring public safety and all that. In short, prisons cost money, they don’t make money and the money that is being made from prisons is far too small to account for the six and sevenfold increase in US prisoners over the last 40 years.

Those of us on the left generally and correctly regard privatization as evil, so it’s hard to imagine anything more evil than a privatized prison. Although a number of very profitable private prison outfits DO exist, the fact is that the percentage of prisoners housed in privatized prisons is growing very slowly, and most of that growth is confined to a single sector, the incarceration of immigrants.

It seems that private prison companies want to make profits. The least profitable prisoners are the old, the sick and those requiring extra security precautions. Immigrants came here to work. They are mostly young, mostly healthy, and not especially disposed to violence, which makes them the most profitable prisoners. The trouble is that the Obama administration has rounded up and is deporting record numbers of immigrants, and with the unemployment levels remaining quite high, immigration as a whole is declining. So the boom in immigrant prisons is not sustainable either.

Think about it. Can anyone seriously argue that the drive for profit has fueled the six and sevenfold growth of US prisons over the last 40 years? For this to be true there would have to be not a handful, but dozens, perhaps hundreds of prison billionaires, just as there are hundreds of billionaires connected with military contracting. But these do not exist. There are profiteers, but not a hundredth as many even as in the field of rapidly privatizing education. Prisons have never been especially profitable.

Lock-em-up laws, aggressive policing, runaway prosecutions and racist policing have all been about enforcing a new social order on population segments whose labor is no longer needed as it was 50 years ago, and for whom no jobs, training, quality housing or meaningful education will be provided. Prisons are about showing somebody who’s boss, about perceived “public safety”, about enforcing an unjust social order.

To fight the “prison industrial complex” , like generating a movement against the “new jim crow”, is to fight a ghost. Neither of them are real. What’s real is 2 million plus people in US prisons and jails. Prisons are real, and prisons are about statecraft, not about runaway profits, not about “neo-slavery”, whatever that is, and not about “racism”, which is everywhere anyhow.

A movement that challenges the prison state must come in part from the prisoners and former prisoners and their families. It will have to be a movement that challenges the way we are governed, the way housing, health care, jobs and resources are distributed, the way we educate our young and care for our elders. The prison state is another aspect, along with privatizations and austerity, of neoliberal capitalism. That’s what’s real. Time to wash the “new jim crow” pixie dust from our eyes.

Close Corporate Tax Loopholes, Not Public Schools

By  ,

If you’re in a canoe that’s got a hole letting in water, do you throw the other passenger overboard who is helping you row, or do you just patch the hole and keep rowing?

Chicago public schools are facing a $1 billion deficit. The corporate media would like you to believe it’s due to excessive spending and that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to close more than 50 schools, most of them in low-income neighborhoods, is the only solution. But the state of Illinois loses $4.8 billion annually in federal tax dollars due to corporate tax loopholes that shift profits overseas. It doesn’t take a math genius to see that simply closing these excessive loopholes would save the schools that so many kids in Chicago depend upon for their education.

These corporate tax loopholes cost us over $100 billion a year in federal tax dollars, which results in state and local budget cuts and tax hikes due to a decreased allocation of federal funds. The corporations most known for complex offshore tax avoidance schemes get these loopholes by spending millions on hiring armies of lobbyists and incampaign donations to chairmen and ranking members of tax-writing committees in Congress.

The lobbyists submit draft paragraphs of new gimmicks and loopholes to those committees. The campaign donations continue to flow toward reelection campaigns with the understanding that those who are making the donations get what they want out of their sponsored politicians. Thanks to this corrupt process, the tax code grows longer and more complex year after year, the most recent version topping out at roughly 72,000 pages.

There is already legislation on the books in both the House and Senate to close most of these loopholes and rein in roughly $60 billion a year. A small sales tax on Wall Street transactions would raise roughly $150 billion a year, more than enough to offset the cuts that are closing 50 schools. These aren’t radical solutions; they’re based on the simple premise that if you hire Americans, sell to Americans, use American public services and infrastructure and make the bulk of your profits in America, you should pay the American corporate tax rate of 35 percent.

Ever since Brown vs. Board of Education, there has been a coordinated right-wing attack on free education. The latest plot is an attempt to close public schools and turn them into low-performing, for-profit charter schools funded by Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers. The attempts to do this are disguised as “reform,” but are really little more than an effort to bust teachers’ unions and cede public education over to the authority of big corporations.

Public schools to educate our children aren’t a burden to the state, they’re an investment. If you want more kids to grow up into responsible, successful adults who contribute to our society, and if you want lower crime rates and prison populations, investing in good public education makes sense. We need our kids to help row the canoe down the river, not throw them out while ignoring the gaping hole in the boat. It’s time to stop making our kids pay for their crisis.

Freedom Rider: What Ails the GOP

 by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley,

The Democrats have taken positions which were once the sole property of the GOP.”

The plight of the Republican Party and its damaged brand are much in discussion recently. Republicans are in a state of despair over their loss in the 2012 presidential election and, as is always the case, debate among themselves about the reasons for their defeat. Despite the absence of polling or other data which might indicate a Mitt Romney victory, they had high hopes of defeating Barack Obama. They used every opportunity to undo and weaken his initiatives but they made the error of listening only to those within their bubble, and created needless enmity among enough white Americans to help Obama win convincingly.

Their meme of labeling 47% of Americans as deadbeats did not exclude white people, and sealed their doom among those voters they needed. The anti-immigrant “self deportation” plan turned Latino swing voters into a solid part of the democratic bloc. The gender gap won’t go away as long as Republican candidates outdo one another with sexist comments about birth control and abortion.

Yet there is another factor which spells, if not doom, bad omens for the Republicans. Simply put, the Democrats have taken positions which were once the sole property of the GOP and in so doing have either held down their turnout or stolen voters away from them altogether.

The Democratic Party is now the Republican Party.”

Consider that the Democratic Party is now the party most representative of the American imperial imperative. Bush and Cheney may have begun making the fantasy of the New American Century a reality, but Barack Obama has perfected their doctrine and turned it into an electoral winner.

While George W. Bush claimed the right to name anyone an enemy combatant who immediately lost all due process rights, Obama has gone even further. He claims the right to name anyone a terrorist and have them killed. The victim need not be charged or tried in a court of law. Congress, the corporate media and, sadly, most Democrats have gone along with what ought to be an outrage, and allowed a Democrat to move to the right of Bush and Cheney.

The prison at Guantanamo is still open for business, holding as captives men who are clearly not “the worst of the worst” as Americans had been told. They are kept in conditions which are universally condemned as torture but there is no talk of their condition ending anytime soon.

On the domestic policy front, Obama has succeeded in putting the already frayed safety net on the budget cutting table. Social Security was once “the third rail of politics,” untouchable by any political means. It is now as touchable as anything else Americans once thought were sacrosanct, like the postal service and public schools whose existence are now endangered by Democrats in Washington and around the country.

Obama has succeeded in putting the already frayed safety net on the budget cutting table.”

Simply put, the Democratic Party is now the Republican Party. Obamacare is nothing more than the plan which Richard Nixon presented forty years ago. Mitt Romney found it hard to distinguish himself from Obama in part because he too had enacted almost identical legislation as the governor of Massachusetts. The far right may call the Affordable Care Act a socialist scheme for national health insurance. We should be so lucky. It is a bailout of the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries which must make Tricky Dick Nixon smile in the great beyond.

Republicans are now dependent upon the worst of the worst Americans. Only the most solid of red state voters, white supremacists, misogynists and other dead enders can be counted on to vote in their column. Republicans prevail only in the House of Representatives because their victory in the 2010 off year election allowed state legislatures to gerrymander districts in their favor.

In the post mortem of the 2012 elections, Republicans moan that fewer white people voted. Of course their turnout dropped. Republicans forgot to tag only black people as sponging parasites and they didn’t do as good a job of taking over foreign countries as Obama has done. There was less reason to go to the polling place now that the Democrats are also the white people’s party.

Why shouldn’t fiscal conservatives want to vote for Obama?”

While Republican run state legislatures come up with more bizarre schemes to end abortion rights or prevent black and brown people from voting, Democrats have usurped their role of popularizing formerly right wing ideology. Democrats gladly make the case for austerity and budget cutting. Why shouldn’t fiscal conservatives want to vote for Obama?

Republican ire directed at Barack Obama now comes mostly from racists who don’t want to see a black president. That black president still represents the demands of the 1%, the demand for empire, and racism conducted by more subtle means. There are enough white people satisfied with that post-racial state of affairs to keep Obama and the rest of the Democrats in control.

The Republicans have resorted to finding politicians with Spanish surnames to repeat their losing arguments. If someone named Cruz or Rubio is against abortion or says evolution is just a theory, they will still lose. They will lose because the Democrats are now making the Republican argument more effectively than the Republicans do themselves.

Is Clarence Thomas being hypocritical on gay marriage?

by James Braxton Peterson | March 29, 2013 at 7:48 AM

by James Braxton Peterson

by James Braxton Peterson,

Some say that silence speaks volumes. And in the case of Justice Clarence Thomas, that cliché just might be more applicable than ever this week as the SCOTUS considers the meaning of marriage equality in the 21st century.

In his usual fashion, Thomas said little or nothing this week in the Supreme Court proceedings. He literally is off the record on marriage equality and the constitutional validity of the Defense of Marriage Act.

theGrio: Interracial relationships in the post-Loving v. Virginia age

Generally, Justice Thomas’ silence has been interpreted as his tacit complicity in Justice Antonin Scalia’s more regularly vocalized conservative opinions.  But in this historical moment where America’s referendum on marriage equality centers on the LGBTQ communities, an inherent historical irony regarding race and marriage equality is apparent in (anticipation of) Justice Thomas’ decision/vote against marriage equality for the LGBTQ communities.

Clarence and ‘Ginni’

Justice Thomas is married to Virginia Lamp Thomas, a conservative lobbyist who was in the news regularly for her work with Liberty Central and (later) Liberty Consulting, two entities that worked hard to block and overturn the Affordable Health Care Act.

Some called for Justice Thomas’ resignation based on the apparent conflict of interest between his capacity to rule objectively on the ACA and the fact that his life partner was working so hard to block it and then overturn it.

No such resignation came; but for all of Virginia Thomas’ work with Liberty, we can (and should) now wonder if the Thomas’ discuss or debate marriage equality in this particular moment.

We can and should wonder if the Thomas’ identify the historical context for this particular moment as one that directly affects them – life partners with different racial backgrounds who, as short a time ago as the 1960s, may not have been able to marry if they had lived in the state after which Mrs. Thomas is named.

Loving v. Virginia

Maybe there is a natural flaw in my thinking here.  Justice Thomas now has a vote that will impact the lives and partnerships of hundreds of thousands of Americans who want to marry whomever they love.  He and Virginia must know about the landmark Supreme Court case – Loving Vs. Virginia.

Mildred and Richard Loving (a black woman and a white man) were sentenced to a year in prison for violating anti-miscegenation laws in the 1960s.

Maybe we all think that the way toward progressive action or endorsement from conservative politicians comes via personal experience – a family member who is gay or lesbian for example.  The fact that the Thomas’ marriage required progressive Supreme Court action must in some way inform their sense of this moment.

theGrio slideshow: Our favorite Loving Day celebrity couples

Maybe, a’la Sen. Rob Portman, this moment of irony will signal Justice Thomas’ capacity to be judicious sans ideological inclination.  Maybe his silence means thoughtful reflection here as opposed to tacit conservative groupthink.  And like I said, maybe my thinking is flawed.

In 1967 the Supreme Court voted unanimously that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law and others of its ilk were unconstitutional.  Imagine if this current court voted unanimously to overturn DOMA; or if this court voted unanimously to federalize marriage equality.  Unanimous decisions are rare but they send powerful signals – in this case the signal would be that marriage equality is a liberty that should be afforded to all Americans.

Carson Willing to Step Down as Commencement Speaker After Protests

By: Greg Richter,

A pediatric neurosurgeon who has become the darling of conservatives since speaking against nationalized healthcare is now under fire for comments he made about same-sex marriage.

Dr. Benjamin Carson told MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on Friday that he would be willing to step down as commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine after faculty and students signed petitions asking that he not speak.

“I would say this is their day, and the last thing I would want to do is rain on their parade,” Carson told Mitchell.

Carson said in the interview that he has not notified the university he won’t be speaking. “I am waiting for appropriate channels,” he said. “I don’t think television is the appropriate channel.”

The petitions began after Carson told Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, “My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition.”

One of the petitions, quoted by The Hill newspaper, reads: “We retain the highest respect for Dr. Carson’s achievements and value his right to publicly voice political views. Nevertheless, we feel that these expressed values are incongruous with the values of Johns Hopkins and deeply offensive to a large proportion of our student body.”

MSNBC’s web report on the story says Carson equating same-sex marriage with pedophilia and bestiality has caused him to lose some of his star power within the GOP. Carson has said he would consider a run for president if the public was still interested in him a year-and-a-half from now.

Carson apologized for his choice of words in a Baltimore Sun story on Friday, but not for his position. 

“First of all, I certainly believe gay people should have all the rights that anybody else has,” Carson told the Sun. “What I was basically saying is that as far as marriage is concerned, that has traditionally been between a man and a woman and nobody should be able to change that.”

Carson came into the national spotlight in February after criticizing healthcare and other policies of President Barack Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast while Obama was sitting just a few feet away on the same dais. He also drew applause when he spoke to the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month.

Taylor, Brinson Announce April Wedding Plans

Staff Reports,

Deborah Campbell Brinson, daughter of Mrs. Mamie and the late Rev. Joseph R. Campbell, Sr. is to marry Mr. Willie Fred Taylor, both of Americus.

Deborah Brinson most recently graduated from Georgia Southwestern University in 2009 with a Specialist degree in Special Education. She is a recently retired school teacher. Deborah currently works as a part-time consultant in the field of special education for the Sumter County Board of Education.

The prospective groom, Mr. Willie Taylor is the son of the late Mr. Fred L and Mary Ruth Taylor. He is a retired truck driver and the owner, operator of Taylor Produce.

The wedding will be held on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 2:00pm at the Campbell Chapel AME Worship Center. It will be a small intimate affair. No formal invitations will be sent. Rev. Albert M Campbell, Sr. brother of the bride to be, will be officiating the ceremony.


Anthony Snipes, Americus Native, Named Assistant City Manager in Austin, Texas

Submitted Article,

I’m happy to announce the permanent appointment of Anthony Snipes as our newest Assistant City Manager. As you know, Anthony has been serving in an interim role since June of last year, overseeing the Austin Convention Center, Contract Management, Communication and Technology Management, Human Resources and Labor Relations.

Many of you have had the opportunity to work directly with Anthony, either as a direct report or as a partner on key projects. I’ve had the pleasure to know him for more than 10 years, and have appreciated his skill, vision and drive for performance and innovation. I’m confident that he’ll continue to demonstrate the kind of leadership that helps you excel as departmental leaders. With an impressive background that span all levels of government and the non-profit sector, Anthony’s perspective will serve us well as he pursues this new role.

Anthony originally joined us as Chief of Staff in 2008, and has served in leadership roles in the areas of human resources, information technology, finance, administration and utility management for the cities of Fort Worth, Dayton and Tallahassee.

It’s important to me that our executive team demonstrates leadership both inside and outside of the organization, where Anthony’s work has been exemplary as well. Throughout his career, he has been deeply involved in advancing professional management through the National
Forum for Black Public Administrators, mentoring younger professionals and inspiring the next generation of public servants.

During his five years here in Austin, Anthony has supervised the work of more than a dozen City departments, providing the kind of clear, consistent and thoughtful leadership that I feel defines the ideal of being “best managed”. I trust you will join me in congratulating Anthony on his well-deserved appointment to me executive team.


Frank Rich on the National Circus: How Iraq Wounded America

Baghdad, IRAQ: TO GO WITH AFP STORIES ON ANNIVERSARY OF THE FALL OF BAGHDAD: (FILES) A US Marine covers the face of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's statue with the US flag in Baghdad's al-Fardous square 09 April 2003. The world was stunned when iconic images of US marines and Iraqis pulling down a statue of Saddam Hussein flashed across television screens. The toppling of the statue was immediately seized on as symbolising the overthrow of one of the world's most notorious despots. But four years later, some Iraqis say the symbol has turned into a sign of the brutal violence that has devastated their country. The square and its surroundings have changed dramatically since the launch of the invasion in March 2003. AFP PHOTO/Ramzi HAIDAR (Photo credit should read RAMZI HAIDAR/AFP/Getty Images) Photo: RAMZI HAIDAR/2007 AFP

Baghdad, IRAQ: TO GO WITH AFP STORIES ON ANNIVERSARY OF THE FALL OF BAGHDAD: (FILES) A US Marine covers the face of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s statue with the US flag in Baghdad’s al-Fardous square 09 April 2003. The world was stunned when iconic images of US marines and Iraqis pulling down a statue of Saddam Hussein flashed across television screens. The toppling of the statue was immediately seized on as symbolising the overthrow of one of the world’s most notorious despots. But four years later, some Iraqis say the symbol has turned into a sign of the brutal violence that has devastated their country. The square and its surroundings have changed dramatically since the launch of the invasion in March 2003. AFP PHOTO/Ramzi HAIDAR (Photo credit should read RAMZI HAIDAR/AFP/Getty Images) Photo: RAMZI HAIDAR/2007 AFP

By ,

Every week, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich talks with contributor Eric Benson about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week: what the Iraq War has wrought, Reince Priebus’s GOP rebranding report, and Rob Portman’s convenient gay-marriage reversal.

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In The Greatest Story Ever Soldwritten after the war’s “Mission Accomplished” phase, you called the conflict a catastrophe “that might have been averted.” Looking back on it now, what surprised you most about how the war unfolded? And what do you think its most lasting impact on America will be?
If there’s one opinion shared by the war’s critics and cheerleaders, it would be their shock in discovering the Bush administration’s utter incompetence in executing its own ambitions. Given that Bush and Cheney professed to believe that Saddam Hussein actually had weapons of mass destruction, why did they assume the mission would be a cakewalk and have no Plan B for a protracted fight, let alone a multiyear occupation? (The answer can’t be that it’s all Donald Rumsfeld’s fault.) Then again, given the Bush team’s utter ignorance of the country it was invading, perhaps every element of this fiasco was foretold.

It’s too early to say what the war’s lasting impact on America (or Iraq or the Middle East) will be, but as for the current impact at home, any accounting must begin with the human cost. As David Rieff, a war opponent, wrote this week“Could anyone who supported this war today encounter a relative, spouse, or friend of one of the American soldiers who was killed or grievously injured in Iraq and tell them with a straight face that this war was worth their sacrifice?” As it happens, some war supporters still do; Rieff’s piece is part of a telling symposium at The New Republic, where some “liberal hawks” can still be found rationalizing or obfuscating their early support for the war. It’s well worth reading to be reminded of their tortured logic and of just how bipartisan a folly the Iraq War was. Not the least of its legacies was yet another uptick in cynicism about all politicians and the press, much like that which followed Vietnam and Watergate. We should not forget that (as with Vietnam) many Democrats in Washington eagerly signed on to the war plan, and that many “liberal” pundits succumbed quickly to the war fever sweeping the Beltway. The Washington Post editorial page was as fervently a proponent (and defender) of the war as The Wall Street Journal. Virtually every top news organization, from the Times to the broadcast network news divisions, was better at abetting than vetting the White House propaganda campaign that fictitiously tied Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and the threat of nuclear Armageddon. We are still paying a huge price in many domestic arenas. The war bequeathed a new isolationism in both political parties, an extra-Constitutional national security state that is largely unchecked, and serious wreckage on the economy. It’s part of the shame of this misadventure that while some Americans were sacrificing their lives in Iraq, everyone at home was gorging on Bush’s wholesale tax cuts.

The Republican National Committee released a postmortem report on the 2012 elections earlier this week full of suggestions on how to do better the next time. What do you think of this latest, greatest effort at Republican rebranding?
Read aloud deadpan at a comedy club, the RNC’s nearly hundred-page report, a.k.a its “Growth and Opportunity Project,” would be surefire stand-up material. With its talk of “Group Listening Sessions” and its call for an “Inclusion Council,” it reads like a Maoist reeducation plan, or perhaps a liberal affirmative-action treatise. There’s talk of hiring Hispanic and African-American “communications directors and political directors” and of finding “female spokespeople” to explain the party’s views to America’s female people. (Women “represent more than half the voting population in the country” is one of the report’s believe-it-or-not revelations.) We’re also informed that “America looks different” than it used to in the good old days and that “Obama was seen as ‘cool’” in 2008. Who’d have thunk it? To help counter these weird developments, the party chairman, Reince Priebus, announced that he wants “to hold Hackathons in tech-savvy cities like San Francisco, Austin, Denver, and New York — to forge relationships with developers and stay on the cutting edge.” (Could he not find a single red hackathon-worthy city?) Perhaps what’s most revealing about the report, however, is that it has already exacerbated the divide between the Republican Establishment, exemplified by Priebus and the report co-author Ari Fleischer, and the party’s base. The text virtually ignores the party’s Congressional leadership, the Christian right, and the tea party, while repeatedly praising George W. Bush as a Republican role model. No wonder the grassroots right is already ridiculing Priebus’s project more venomously than the mostly amused Democrats.

Last week, Ohio senator Rob Portman announced that he was supporting gay marriage. (His son, it turns out, is gay.) Do you expect other high-profile Republicans to soon follow suit? And what did you make of Hillary Clinton’s own very belated pro-gay-marriage video released on Monday?
By his own account, Portman waited until two years after his son came out to change his position on gay marriage — that is, until after another election had passed. This is no profile in courage. As many, including Jonathan Chait, have written, there’s a selfishness to this change of heart: Portman didn’t give a damn about gay people’s rights until it turned out his son was among those reduced to second-class citizenship. This is in keeping with conservative politicians who suddenly favor stem-cell research, or federal medical funding, or taxpayer-supported mental-health initiatives only when someone in their immediate family turns out to be in need of them. I am sure other Republicans will follow Portman. They read the polls, and supporting gay marriage is a win-win with voters, as much as supporting immigration reform. But it shows just how conflicted the GOP as a whole still is that while Priebus’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” stipulates that Republicans should “campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian and gay Americans,” the one group that does not merit a detailed action plan in his report’s pages is gays … Hillary Clinton’s video, like Bill Clinton’s belated disavowal of his own Defense of Marriage Act, is most notable as an early checkpoint in the to-do list for a 2016 presidential campaign.

Hot Money Blues

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman

Whatever the final outcome in the Cyprus crisis — we know it’s going to be ugly; we just don’t know exactly what form the ugliness will take — one thing seems certain: for the time being, and probably for years to come, the island nation will have to maintain fairly draconian controls on the movement of capital in and out of the country. In fact, controls may well be in place by the time you read this. And that’s not all: Depending on exactly how this plays out, Cypriot capital controls may well have the blessing of the International Monetary Fund, which has already supported suchcontrols in Iceland.

That’s quite a remarkable development. It will mark the end of an era for Cyprus, which has in effect spent the past decade advertising itself as a place where wealthy individuals who want to avoid taxes and scrutiny can safely park their money, no questions asked. But it may also mark at least the beginning of the end for something much bigger: the era when unrestricted movement of capital was taken as a desirable norm around the world.

It wasn’t always thus. In the first couple of decades after World War II, limits on cross-border money flows were widely considered good policy; they were more or less universal in poorer nations, and present in a majority of richer countries too. Britain, for example, limited overseas investments by its residents until 1979; other advanced countries maintained restrictions into the 1980s. Even the United States briefly limited capital outflows during the 1960s.

Over time, however, these restrictions fell out of fashion. To some extent this reflected the fact that capital controls have potential costs: they impose extra burdens of paperwork, they make business operations more difficult, and conventional economic analysis says that they should have a negative impact on growth (although this effect is hard to find in the numbers). But it also reflected the rise of free-market ideology, the assumption that if financial markets want to move money across borders, there must be a good reason, and bureaucrats shouldn’t stand in their way.

As a result, countries that did step in to limit capital flows — like Malaysia, which imposed what amounted to a curfew on capital flight in 1998 — were treated almost as pariahs. Surely they would be punished for defying the gods of the market!

But the truth, hard as it may be for ideologues to accept, is that unrestricted movement of capital is looking more and more like a failed experiment.

It’s hard to imagine now, but for more than three decades after World War II financial crises of the kind we’ve lately become so familiar with hardly ever happened. Since 1980, however, the roster has been impressive: Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile in 1982. Sweden and Finland in 1991. Mexico again in 1995. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Korea in 1998. Argentina again in 2002. And, of course, the more recent run of disasters: Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Cyprus.

What’s the common theme in these episodes? Conventional wisdom blames fiscal profligacy — but in this whole list, that story fits only one country, Greece. Runaway bankers are a better story; they played a role in a number of these crises, from Chile to Sweden to Cyprus. But the best predictor of crisis is large inflows of foreign money: in all but a couple of the cases I just mentioned, the foundation for crisis was laid by a rush of foreign investors into a country, followed by a sudden rush out.

I am, of course, not the first person to notice the correlation between the freeing up of global capital and the proliferation of financial crises; Harvard’s Dani Rodrik began banging this drum back in the 1990s. Until recently, however, it was possible to argue that the crisis problem was restricted to poorer nations, that wealthy economies were somehow immune to being whipsawed by love-’em-and-leave-’em global investors. That was a comforting thought — but Europe’s travails demonstrate that it was wishful thinking.

And it’s not just Europe. In the last decade America, too, experienced a huge housing bubble fed by foreign money, followed by a nasty hangover after the bubble burst. The damage was mitigated by the fact that we borrowed in our own currency, but it’s still our worst crisis since the 1930s.

Now what? I don’t expect to see a wholesale, sudden rejection of the idea that money should be free to go wherever it wants, whenever it wants. There may well, however, be a process of erosion, as governments intervene to limit both the pace at which money comes in and the rate at which it goes out. Global capitalism is, arguably, on track to become substantially less global.

And that’s O.K. Right now, the bad old days when it wasn’t that easy to move lots of money across borders are looking pretty good.

Why Are Politicians Tone Deaf on the Economy?

Robert Reich’s Blog,

Who says American politics is gridlocked? A tidal wave of politicians from both sides of the aisle who just a few years ago opposed same-sex marriage are now coming around to support it. Even if the Supreme Court were decide to do nothing about California’s Proposition 8 or DOMA, it would seem only matter of time before both were repealed.

A significant number of elected officials who had been against allowing undocumented immigrants to become American citizens is now talking about “charting a path” for them; a bipartisan group of senators is expected to present a draft bill April 8.

Even a few who were staunch gun advocates are now sounding more reasonable about background checks.

It’s nice to think logic and reason are finally catching up with our elected representatives, but the real explanation for these changes of heart is more prosaic: public opinion.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds support for marriage equality at the highest in the ten years the question has been asked, with 58% of Americans in favor and 36 percent opposed.

A similar swing has occurred in favor of immigration reform. A new Pew survey finds that seven-inten Americans (71%) say there should be a way for people in the United States illegally to remain in this country if they meet certain requirements, while 27% say they should not be allowed to stay legally. And most who favor providing illegal immigrants with some form of legal status -43% of the public – say they should be allowed to apply for citizenship.

Support for gun control is less clear-cut, which may explain why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won’t seek a renewal of the assault weapon ban. But polls show broad support for universal background checks, and for closing the so-called gun-show loophole.

It’s possible that public opinion is being influenced by courageous political leaders who are urging action on these issues, but the reverse is more likely. Most politicians have a keen sense for tipping points in public opinion, when, say, support for equal marriage rights or immigration reform becomes broad-based, and advocates become sufficiently organized and mobilized to make life hell for officials who
won’t change their minds.

The exception is in the economic sphere, where public opinion seems beside the point.

Before January’s fiscal cliff deal, for example, at least 60 percent of Americans, in poll after poll, expressed strong support for raising taxes on incomes over $250,000. As you recall, though, the deal locked in the Bush tax cut for everyone earning up to $400,000.

Yes, legislative deals require compromise. But why is it that deals over economic policy almost always compromise away what a majority of Americans want?

Most Americans weren’t particularly concerned about the budget deficit to begin with. They’ve been far more concerned about jobs and wages.
Yet maneuvers over the deficit have consistently trumped jobs and wages.

Recent polls show Americans would rather reduce the deficit by raising taxes than by cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education, and transportation. Yet Congress seems incapable of making that kind of deal.

Some 65 percent of Americans want to raise taxes on large corporations – but both parties are heading in precisely the opposite direction.

Half of Americans favor a plan to break up Wall Street’s twelve mega-banks, which currently control 69 percent of the banking industry. Only
23 percent oppose such a plan (27 percent are undecided).

You might this would at least prompt an examination of the possibility on Capitol Hill and the White House – especially now that the Street
is actively eviscerating regulationsunder Dodd-Frank.

But our elected representatives don’t want to touch Wall Street. According to Politico, even the White House believes too-big-to fail will soon be a closed chapter.

Why are politicians so sensitive to public opinion on equal marriage rights, immigration, and guns – and so tone deaf to what most Americans want on the economy?

Perhaps because the former issues don’t threaten big money in America. But any tinkering with taxes or regulations sets off alarm bells in
our nation’s finely-appointed dining rooms and board rooms – alarm bells that, in turn, set off promises of (or threats to withhold) large wads of campaign cash in the next election.

When political scientists Benjamin Page and Larry Bartels surveyed Chicagoans with an average net worth of $14 million, they found their biggest concern was curbing budget deficits and government spending – ranking these as priorities three times as often as they did unemployment.

And – no surprise – these wealthy individuals were also far less willing than are other Americans to curb deficits by raising taxes on high-income people, and more willing to cut Social Security and Medicare. They also opposed initiatives most other Americans favor – such as increasing spending on schools and raising the minimum wage above the poverty level.

The other thing distinguishing Page’s and Bartels’ wealthy respondents from the rest of America was their political influence.

If the GOPWants to Diversify, It Might Want to Start With Its Platform


Rev. Al Sharpton

Rev. Al Sharpton

It’s difficult for some to process the fact that my parents were Republicans. But they were, as was our Pastor; that is, until the mid-’60s. As it became abundantly clear that Republicans were going to stand on the wrong side of civil rights, on the wrong side of progress and on the wrong side of history, it became obvious to my parents and our Pastor that they would know longer stand with them. And so it went for many African Americans, and progressive Whites. The Republican Party quickly transformed and the Party of old was very different from the Party of present.

Today, that concept can be multiplied tenfold. There’s a reason why Blacks, Latinos, Asians, gays, immigrants and other groups overwhelmingly voted with the Democrats during the last election — mainly that we vote with those who fight for greater equality. So if Reince Priebus, National Republican Party Chairman, and the rest of his comrades think that we can ‘bought’ for any amount of money, it’s time we set the record straight.

As of late, Priebus has been touting the GOP’s new ‘Growth and Opportunity Project Plan,’ which assesses their failures in the 2012 election and ways in which they can reach us minorities. Telling CBS’s Bob Schieffer that the Party would be announcing a $10 million initiative this year, Priebus said the money would be used to send hundreds of paid individuals to venture into communities of color across the country and talk about the Republican Party and its brand. I’m glad that Priebus and Republicans recognize and acknowledge that they have a severe problem attracting minorities to their Party. But unfortunately, they fail to realize that all the money in the world can’t solve their problems unless they learn to change their policies.

Leading up to the great election of 2012, we witnessed countless efforts to disenfranchise the votes of Blacks, Latinos, the elderly and more that were spearheaded primarily by Republicans. Because they tried so hard to stop us from voting, we showed up in historic numbers yet again and let our voices be heard. Clearly, they received the message. But tragically, they have yet to alter their behavior. Until they stop enacting roadblocks to voting, until they stop challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act itself and until they realize that driving voters to the polls enhances our democracy and levels the playing field, they will not win any new supporters.

And let’s not pretend that the GOP’s diversity problem ends with voter equality. When the bulk of their platform and policies continue to reward the rich and punish hardworking Americans, who will side with that? When Republicans want to give tax breaks to the wealthy and cut vital programs like Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits, food stamps for the struggling and more, who wants to align themselves with that sort of thinking? When GOP leaders attack teachers, public workers and workers altogether, why would anyone jump to their Party? When the Republican mantra includes cuts to education, environmental safety, jobs, healthcare, police, emergency services and virtually all the things that make this nation great, how can we ever agree with that?

Last week, Priebus took his ‘minority outreach’ plans on the road and came to my hometown of Brooklyn. As he tried to convince the audience that his Party was going to do more to include minorities, Priebus never once indicated that their policies might shift. So there’s only two things to deduct from all of this: either he and the Republican Party are trying to appear that they are reaching out to people of color in an effort to win moderate Whites, or they really think that we are naïve enough to move to a Party that does not even remotely address our concerns or fight for our interests. Either way, we should be insulted. And they should be embarrassed.

After the massive economic collapse of 2008, a record number of voters participated in the election because they understood how serious the stakes were. In 2012, when Romney’s ’47 percent video’ displayed his disdain for half the country, and many attempted to further disenfranchise voters, we came out in full force. No longer denying our ability to elect candidates and show up to the polls, the Republican Party thinks it can win us over by just acknowledging that we exist. I’m glad they finally realize that they have a diversity problem, but until their fundamental platform changes, they’ll only see that problem grow.

Frederick Douglass a modern-day Republican? Think again

Frederick Douglass (file photo)

Frederick Douglass (file photo), Blair L.M. Kelley

Usually I’m really happy when history becomes part of the conversation. And normally, I’d be thrilled that Frederick Douglass was being talked about in the national media. After all, he was one of the most formidable people in American history. I love to teach his writings and to write about his impact on the fight for voting rights and the battle against racial segregation.

So this week it was sad to see Douglass’s legacy cheapened as members of the right wing sought to use his name as some kind of political racial shield. This week, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference hosted a breakout session entitled“Trump the Race Card: Are You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” Yes, that’s really the title.

The session, hosted by K. Carl Smith, founder of The Conservative Messenger, right-wing pundit, and self-described “Frederick Douglass Republican,” taught attendees how to deflect racism, using their handy-dandy Frederick Douglass shield.

Smith uses Douglass’ historic alliance with the Republican Party of the 1860s and 1870s to try and make claims about the party’s racial bona fides today. Its fine to admire Douglass or want to use his life as a model for advocacy, but it seems that Smith has decided that Douglass’ name alone is enough to silence critics concerned about questions of race in the Republican Party of today.

Born into slavery in 1818 in Maryland, separated from his mother as an infant, never knowing — but believing — that his father was probably his white master, Douglass found his way to freedom and literacy despite tremendous odds stacked against him. Once free, he became an abolitionist and a brilliant orator, speaking throughout the North and abroad. He risked his own freedom as an escaped slave to advocate publicly for the freedom of millions of enslaved African-Americans throughout the American South. But Douglass was more than an abolitionist. He used his platform to become an author, speaker, and advocate for not only the rights of black Americans, but also women’s rights, and the rights of people of color abroad. He became black America’s first statesman; a tireless advocate for justice until his death in 1895.

At his session last Friday, Smith tried to frame Douglass in terms of today’s politics. According to theWashington Post, Smith claimed that Douglass was “born below poverty” and suffered at the hands of slave masters, who were Democrats. Smith then tried to draw comparisons between Douglass’ life and today’s political debates by saying that Douglass suffered under “slavemaster-run health care” and “slavemaster entitlements.”

The historical record shows that the enslaved did not receive any “entitlements” in exchange for their free labor, nor were they enslaved because they were members of the Republican Party. They weren’t recognized as citizens at all, so they certainly weren’t suffering because of any supposed political affiliation. Also, slavery wasn’t an anti-poverty program. In fact, the wealth generated by inter-generational chattel slavery made thousands of slaveholders obscenely wealthy in both land and property.  So I’m pretty sure this comparison doesn’t work.

Smith’s presentation also skips over the dramatic shifts in both the Democratic and Republican Parties since Douglass’s death in the 1890s.

Although the emancipated slaves did initially vote for the Republican Party that worked diligently to ensure citizenship and voting rights during the Reconstruction, the majority of black southerners were stripped of their right to vote in the decades before and after the turn of the twentieth century. Southern Democrats ushered in an age of terror, disfranchising African American voters, passing segregation laws in state legislatures, and enforcing these changes through the threat of lynching.

In the effort to attract white voters, the southern Republicans began the Lily-White Republican movement in the 1880s and 1890s in order to oust black politicians and appointees from the party. By the early 1920s, black voters in the South had no viable political alternatives in either party even if they managed to overcome the poll taxes, literacy tests, and all-white primaries in order to register to vote

Black voters voting outside of the South in the wake of the Great Migration began to shift toward the Democratic Party. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal policies that tried to remedy the crisis of the GreatDepression were the first real opportunities for fair employment and civil rights in decades.  However, this political shift made southern segregationists increasingly uncomfortable within the national Democratic Party.

Angered by Present Harry Truman’s establishment of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights and the addition of a civil rights plank to the Democratic Party Platform, a group of southern Democrats walked out of the 1948 convention and formed the State’s Rights Democratic Party, commonly known as the Dixiecrats. This segregationist party nominated South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond as its candidate for president. While the Dixiecrats won only four southern states and failed to effectively split the vote, their campaign cemented white southerners’ discontent with the national Democratic Party.

The campaign of Republicans like Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Richard Nixon in 1968 attracted many former segregationist “State’s Rights Democrats” to the national Republican Party and repelled the majority of the few remaining black Republican voters. Many southern Democrats like former Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond switched to the Republican Party while the Republican “Southern Strategy” stoked racial resentment for electoral gain.

So a great deal has changed since Frederick Douglass voted Republican.

However, if there has ever been a moment when it would be good for the Republican Party to remember Frederick Douglass, this would be it. Perhaps these Douglass Republicans might fight for voting rights and women’s rights to contest recent moves to limit both.  Perhaps a contingent of Frederick Douglass Republicans can contest the recent wave of state laws limiting access to the polls. Perhaps the Frederick Douglass Republicans can censure those who are passing new laws attacking  women’s reproductive health care.  A real Frederick Douglass Republican would seek to change today’s Republican party from one that seeks to limit rights, to one that is expanding them. But the conclusion of the “Trump the Race Card” session leaves me doubting.

During the question and answer period, an attendee asked why the Republican Party couldn’t embrace Booker T. Washington, who spoke in support of southern segregation, rather than Douglass. While Smith was responding to the question by citing a letter in which Douglass forgave his master for enslaving him, the attendee shouted out a comment wondering why the slaveholder needed forgiveness for “feeding and housing” Douglass for all those years.

This was the moment when Smith’s “inner Frederick Douglass” should have awakened. Douglass condemned slavery as a “gross injustice” that caused children to be “snatched from the arms of [their] mother[s]” and decried the institution as a “blasphemy” against the teachings of the Christian church. Douglass, also an avid opponent of racial segregation and a leader in the movement to contest the segregation of trains in the North, once nearly destroyed the seat of a train car as he held on to his seat in an effort to stop conductors who forcibly ejected him from the first class car and threw him in with the baggage.

Douglass was no friend to those who made excuses for slavery or segregation. He risked his life for justice and equality for all Americans. I hope that somehow the real spirit of Douglass can be revived. Given today’s political landscape, we definitely need it.

Sumter County Schools Accredited for Five Years

A Defeat for White School Board Members Who Opposed Accreditation

The GA Accrediting Committee has accredited Sumter County schools for five years. The accreditation was approved effective July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2017. The accreditation had its opposition however, especially from unlikely individuals: the three White Sumter County school board members. A non-accreditation decision would have been welcomed by Dr. Michael Busman, Meda Krenson, and Michael Mock, the three White board members. Why would any school board members want our school system to lose its accreditation? It is quite obvious they are not operating in the best interest of our students. We can’t forget the failed efforts of former principal Valerie Duff who has been the leader in the effort to take away the school’s accreditation.

The three Whites have undermined the Black majority school board members of Sumter County since day one after Blacks became the majority. They used all types of demeaning tactics against the Black board members to agitate and mislead many uninformed White citizens at a Tea Party-style rally in Americus, GA. The three enlisted the help of the Sumter County District Attorney, Plez Hardin, to convene a Grand Jury to investigate the Black school board members. The Grand Jury was a charade, for it composed of individuals with weak complaints, and the Jury all supported the White minority’s positions.

The minority board members escalated their efforts to dismantle the majority board representation by seeking help from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). SACS has a reputation of being a convenient racist organization that minority White board members use to dissolve predominantly Black school boards throughout the state. SACS has attacked Atlanta, Warren County, Dekalb County, and Sumter County all Black majority school boards. The three minority White school board members’ deceptive complaint process takes this route: the three members complain of an alleged board policy abuse by the Black majority members to SACS; SACS investigates the “complaints” and renders a decision. Their decision invariably result in SACS’s recommending removal of the board’s Black members to the State Board of Education and on to the Governor of Georgia.

Additionally, Busman, Krenson and Mock wasted the county’s money and time when they took their complaint to the State Board of Education in Atlanta, GA in an effort to have the majority board members removed. The State Board determined in Atlanta that the three White complainants lacked enough substantive facts to remove anybody from the board.

The Black Sumter County school board members voted to hire Attorney Maurice King, a prominent lawyer who practices in Albany, GA and an
expert in school board law. Attorney King recruited Attorney E. Brian Watkins of Atlanta, GA, to assist him in defending the Black school board members at the GA State School Board hearing in Atlanta.

Busman, Krenson and Mock refused legal representation from King and Watkins at the State School Board hearing. They wanted the taxpayers to pay for separate legal representation for them; are they crazy? These are the same White board members who complained about hiring Attorney Watkins to assist Attorney King.

King and Watkins filed an injunction to stop the State School board and SACS from advising the Governor of GA to remove the Black school board members. At the State School Board hearing, SACS CEO Mark Elgart testified that he never would have put Sumter County on probation based on the weak charges.

The three Whites on the Sumter County school board lack sufficient experience when dealing with school situations. The lack of experience
shows even with Dr. Busman who has served as school board chairman. For instance, his limited knowledge of the Civil Rights laws that govern public schools, and the redistricting of school districts were obvious in some of Busman’s decisions. The Black board members, who have been subjected to hateful racially-motivated charges of “not knowing what they are doing” by the three Whites, do know what the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is, the federal laws governing public schools, and the process of Preclearance. Board Chairperson Ann Green and members Alice Green and Kelvin Pless are teachers, and three of the Black board members have served for more than 20 years.

A telling revelation of Busman’s ignorance of school issues, redistricting, and civil rights organizations, revealed itself when he made a motion, which was seconded by Kneda Krenson, to let the redistricting map be drawn by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). ACLU is viewed nationally as a very liberal organization that champions civil rights. Federal Judge Louis Sands had decided that the school redistricting map needs to be drawn by the official state map makers instead of the map drawn by ACLU. Busman’s motion and Krenson’s second to have ACLU redraw the map made it clear they did not have a clue about the ACLU.

The Black community knows that the main objective of the three White school board members’ is to control or dissolve the Black majority, regardless of the consequences. In a democracy, you have to get elected to the majority to call the shots, but the Whites wanted the local DA, SACS, and the state governor to circumvent the electoral process. Their efforts failed. And the GA Accrediting Committee has given the Sumter County School System a five year accreditation.

The majority still rules in a democratic society, says a consultant firm hired by the school board. Also, the consultant’s firm rebuked school board members serving with a DUI record, a clear and not-toosubtle reference to Dr. Busman who has a DUI. (Visit I-Report to see the entire arrest of Dr. Busman). Many school boards have sanctioned members for lesser offenses.

All citizens are urged to support our school system and refuse to allow Dr. Michael Busman, Meda Krenson, Michael Mock, and former
Sumter County school principal Valerie Duff to continue opposing actions and solutions the Black board members propose. The majority Black board’s policies have enhanced the school system for greater student achievement. Duff conspired with the three to deny the school system accreditation and to have the school board members removed and she failed.

Send comments to our email address: or call us at 229 924 0880 or write us at P O Box 1755 Americus, GA 31709.

FTC to set hearing to undo merger of Albany hospitals

Joel Wernick, Phoebe Putney Hospital CEO

Joel Wernick, Phoebe Putney Hospital CEO

With a U.S. Supreme Court victory in hand, the Federal Trade Commission is moving forward with its administrative case to undo the merger of the only two hospitals in Albany.

On Feb. 19, the high court in FTC v. Phoebe Putney Health System Inc. ruled unanimously that the state action doctrine did not immunize the hospital acquisition from the federal antitrust laws.

The FTC has lifted the stay on its socalled Part 3 administrative proceeding, with a trial date set for July 15 at the latest.

“Time is of the essence because ‘this is now a consummated acquisition in which significant integration of hospital assets and operations—and likely, interim harm to competition—may have taken place,'” the FTC commissioners wrote in the March 14 order lifting the stay.

The FTC in April 2011 brought two complaints challenging the merger, one in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia and another administratively. The administrative proceeding was stayed pending resolution of the federal court litigation. The FTC in district court lost its bid for a preliminary injunction to stop the deal, and lost before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. The Supreme Court remanded the case.

Now, the FTC is pursuing its administrative hearing. The commissioners overruled objections from the hospital to lift the stay, writing “[respondents] have not indicated that they intend to file such a motion—nor indeed provided any grounds for the Court’s reconsideration.”

The hospitals were represented by Wilmer Culter Pickering Hale and Dorr partner Seth Waxman before the Supreme Court and Baker & McKenzie; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett; Flynn Peeler & Phillips; Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore; Baudino Law Group; Perry & Walters; and Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs before the 11th Circuit.

King Defeats Coleman in Henry Cook’s Case

Henry Cook, Randolph County School Board Chairman

Henry Cook, Randolph County School Board Chairman

Tommy Coleman, losing attorney for Randolph Board of Education

Tommy Coleman, losing attorney for Randolph Board of Education

Attorney Maurice King, wins reversal at the State Supreme Court for Cook

Attorney Maurice King, wins reversal at the State Supreme Court for Cook

Henry Cook, a longtime member of the Randolph County Board of Education, has won another court battle.

On March 18, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a decision where Judge Wayne Elerbee had concluded that Cook was not a resident of Randolph County, paving the way for him to continue to serve on the board.

The court’s written decision attributed the reversal to there being ” …an absence of evidence to support a finding that Cook intended to remove his domicile to another jurisdiction … ”

Cook, a 20-year board member, said the effort to get him off the board was motivated by race and money – but conquered by the truth and his faith in God.

“Justice has prevailed,” said Cook, who was represented in the case by Albany, GA Attorney Maurice Luther King Jr. The opposing attorney is Albany, GA attorney Tommy Coleman.

Cook is a lifelong resident of Randolph County where he owns property and a business and has been a member of its Board of Education since 1993. Nevertheless, the Board of Registrars of Randolph County concluded during a hearing in 2010 that Cook was not a resident of that county and was not an elector qualified to vote in Randolph County, which eventually was affirmed by Elerbee.

In a press release, Maurice King said the chairman of the Board of Registrars was a political enemy and opponent of Henry Cook as were a majority of the members on the Board of Registrars.

“They are a bunch of loose cannons,” Cook said.

The Randolph County Board of Registrars was represented by the losing Attorney Tommy Coleman, whom Cook said was “motivated only by money to take the case.”

According to King, Cook appealed the decision to the Superior Court of Randolph County and requested that it stay the ruling of the Board of Registrars pending the November 2, 2010, General Election. The Superior Court stayed the election, which Cook would win. Afterward, Judge Elerbee affirmed the Board of Registrars’ decision that Cook was not a resident of Randolph County.

Cook filed an application for Appellate Review with the Supreme Court of Georgia, and the Supreme Court of Georgia granted Cook’s application for Appellate Review. The case was orally argued before the Supreme Court of Georgia, which concluded that it did not have jurisdiction over the case and it was transferred to the Georgia Court of Appeals. King said in reversing Judge Ellerbe’s decision, the Court of Appeals wrote “Nevertheless, the trial court’s analysis of those facts overlooks the absence of any evidence that Cook intended to remove his domicile from Randolph County to his Dothan property. It is undisputed that Cook spends several days a week in Randolph County working at the Industrial Supply Company he owns and operates there.”

Cook said he is elated by the decision of the Court of Appeals.

“They have been attempting to remove me from the Board of Education since 2000 and I am still on the board and I am now back in my position as Chairman of the Board,” said Cook. “I look forward to returning our school system back to where it used to be and to reclaim the students who left our system.”

King applauded the decision also.

“I am glad that the Court of Appeals corrected the Superior Court Judge and reaffirmed that domicile is a lot broader than the narrow interpretation adopted by the Superior Court Judge,” said King. “Mr. Cook did not capitulate and he persevered in a case that was both
tedious and complicated.”

Cook attributed the win to his faith in God. King said the outcome was a testament to Cook’s perseverance and shows that sometimes you have to fight.

“The public and election officials in Randolph County, Georgia need to understand that voters decide elections and not public or election officials, and if they want to remove Cook from office, they need to man up and defeat Cook in a free and fair election where the voters get to vote for the candidate of his or her choosing. King concludes.”

Sumter Co. Schools are Accredited by the GAC

Sumter County School Board Members

Sumter County School Board Members


The GA Accrediting Committee (GAC) has notified Sumter County Superintendent, Donnie Smith, that the schools are accredited for five years. The Sumter County School Board has been embroiled in a battle with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) who placed the system on probation. Ironically, Dr. Mark Elgart of SACS has said he never would have placed Sumter County on probation if he had been a part of the investigating team.

SACS has been accused of racist actions against predominantly majority Black school boards like Sumter County. SACS has attacked the Warren
County, Dekalb County, and Atlanta Schools but rarely do they go after majority White school boards. The lone exception is Miller County, whereby the Whites in that county were becoming violent and completely out of control.

The three White Sumter County School board members have constantly criticized the Blacks who make up the majority. They went to the District Attorney, Plez Hardin, and got him to have a grand jury investigation of the board. They had a “Tea Party Republicans” type rally condemning decisions that were decided in school board meetings. And the wife of one board member; Michael Mock, sent letters to employers demanding they fire the Black school board members who are employed.

Dr. Michael Busman, Meda Krenson, and Michael Mock have relentlessly attacked their colleagues on the board and are doing everything they can to have the board members removed by the Republican Governor, Nathan Deal and they want SACS to pull the school’s accreditation, says GAAAP president, Matt Wright.

Another attacker is former Sumter School principal, Valerie Duff, who has been an enabler of the White school board members. She knows
they don’t know much about running a school system. Busman is a physician who has been on the board longer than Krenson and Mock but he doesn’t understand civil rights laws or school board laws. Duff is beholden to SACS because they supported her actions not to fire a White
teacher for simple battery against two pre-school Black students.

Busman was the board member who made a motion to use the Redistricting Map drawn by the ACLU and Meda Krenson seconded. Although,
the Black majority board members were in support of the ACLU map, the Federal Judge Louis Sands wants another map drawn. The point we are making is that Busman and the two other Whites did not know the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is a very liberal organization, says. John Marshall, MD. Dr. Marshall is the past president of the NAACP and a GAAAP member.

The Georgia Accrediting Commission, Inc. (GAC) has served the Georgia schools since 1904, and is accepted world-wide with the lone exception being Australia. GAC does not accredit school districts, each school is accredited individually. The GAC consultant W.T. Henry who visited Sumter County Schools gave glowing reports of the individual schools. Thus, the GAC board voted unanimously to accredit each of the schools at GAC’s highest level: “Accredited with Quality,” effective July 01, 2012.

On March 12, 2013 the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus held a hearing that focused on the accreditation of Georgia schools. The witnesses
were: Angela Palm, Georgia School Board Association, E. Brian Watkins, Attorney at Law, Mark Elgart, CEO AdvanceEd (SACS), Dr. Charles R. Culver, Warren County School Board, Herbert W. Garrett, Georgia School Superintendents Association, Mr. Carvin Brown, Georgia Accrediting Commission, Mrs. Clara Roberts, former Warren County School Board member, and Rev. Mathis K. Wright, Jr., President of God’s Army for the Advancement of All People (GAAAP).

During the hearing GAC representatives testified that the only time they would become involved in a local school board matter would be when a board member(s) do not recognize the chain of command. Their main focus is on children safety, ability to learn in a viable school, organization and standards; the superintendent’s ability to enforce and carry-out standards of conduct and code of ethics that assure each school has the support to obtain its highest level – “Accredited with Quality.”

GAC carries a price tag of $50.00 per program, while SACS is $650.00 per program. Wright said with the tightening of budgets a savings of
$600.00 per program is a huge savings for the school system; and our children won’t be faced with probation by an agency that has a credibility problem when it comes to Black majority and White minority school boards. GAC also testified that they never placed any school on probation, but will put a school on GAC’s lowest level of accreditation when warranted.

Attorney E. Brian Watkins stated that it is inconceivable that local school board members who are constitutional officers are being removed
from office by a private administration; who keeps no records from investigations, no list of whose information was obtained, how it is decided to place a school on probation and why a majority vote is considered “non-functional” when the majority voting are Blacks. Watkins asked how is it fair and equitable to have restraints on board members, removing them at will, and that school districts lose accreditation while the students suffer most.

Elgart (Caucasian) opened his testimony with a quote from the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. SACS has been established
since 1895 and was founded at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia, and is recognized in all 50 states and world-wide.

Elgart stated that the accreditation process was done by volunteers. SACS has five standards, vision and purpose, governance and leadership,
teaching and learning, resources and support systems and ability to improve. Elgart said that SACS do not care who is on the board and there
is a partnership between schools and SACS.

Elgart stated further that the review or investigative teams reflected the demographics of the boards, however this was not the case in Sumter County (Sumter County School District is 75% Black, 15% White and 10% other). The investigative team was four investigators (2 Black and 2
White – 50/50). He also stated that SACS is being misrepresented; SACS is not racial, and kids are its primary focus, children, students are what we are about, Elgart said.

President Wright testified that SACS is one of the most racist and discriminatory organization he has ever dealt with. Wright pointed out that
in 2008 the Black citizens in the local community had made similar complaints against the ‘then’ majority White school board, and provided copies of the documents filed with SACS and the returned receipts from SACS. Wright said that these documents between Black community
leaders and SACS provide absolute proof that SACS will give help to White citizens who complain but not Black citizens.

Wright also stated that there are documents on file which also prove beyond a doubt that SACS main concerns are for the betterment of White students. The Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights (OCR) conducted an investigation at the Sumter County South Campus High School
because of the complaints filed in their office that claimed that the ‘then’ majority White school board along with White administrators, White counselors and some White teachers were deliberately changing and lowering Black high school seniors grades to always assure that the Valedictorian would be a White student. Further, only White students were being allowed to apply for the Robert C. Byrd scholarship; Wright provided documents to prove what he was claiming were true. Wright said that the documents were given to SACS along with a complaint that the White majority school board was dysfunctional. The complaints were sent Certified Mail to SACS and were delivered and receipt was verified, said Wright.

Rev. Wright concluded that the facts bear witness that SACS is racist and shows partiality between White and Black students as well as White and Black board members. The Atlanta teachers who were recently indicted for changing grades are no different than the White teachers in
Sumter County who changed grades to ensure a White valedictorian. We sent the charges to District Attorney, Plez Hardin, who has not prosecuted them yet.


Freedom Fund Banquet

Billionaire Attorney, Willie Gary, keynote speaker

Billionaire Attorney, Willie Gary, keynote speaker

GAAAP, the new face of the fight for civil rights in Sumter County, will hold its inaugural Freedom Fund Spring Banquet at 6 p.m. on April 20, 2013.

With the appropriate theme, “A Change Has Come,” the newly found God’s Army for the Advancement of All People (GAAAP) event will feature as its keynote speaker, Billionaire Attorney Willie E. Gary.

“We invite you to come out for this elegant evening of great food and entertainment,” said Matt Wright, former NAACP branch president and the new GAAAP president.

The GAAAP event will take place at the South Georgia Technical College in the Hangar Gymnasium. It is the same site where the Annual NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet was held last year and their office is in the same building with the same contact information.

Wright said this month’s banquet would be the first major fundraiser the new group will hold and we will inform the public about the reason why we changed to the new civil rights organization.

“We will continue to serve the civil rights needs of our citizens as we have for more than 36 years. We were known as one of the most active branches in the nation and before leaving the NAACP we were number one in new memberships in the nation for a branch our size,”
Wright said.

Wright said the change to the GAAAP would greatly benefit Sumter County and other areas, whereas under the NAACP some of the money
raised by that organization and its banquet had to also go to the state and national level plus portions of memberships, fees and assessments.

“All the money now raised by our GAAAP banquet will go to our community to benefit our citizens. And we do not have to deal with a shady
NAACP State President, Ed Dubose, who happens to be a Black Republican,” Wright said.

Wright said he felt Attorney Willie Gary was the ideal speaker for this month’s banquet to show that our partnership with his Law Office was
not affected by the change. Attorney Gary is a graduate of Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. as well as North Carolina Central University School of Law, Gary was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1974 and opened the first black law firm in his hometown of Martin County, Florida. His practice has since grown into the partnership Gary, Williams, Finney, Lewis, Watson & Sperando, P.L. – operating four offices.

Gary has handled some of the largest jury awards and settlements in U.S. history and has been featured in Ebony magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Black Americans.” Forbes Magazine listed him as one of the “Top 50 attorneys in the U.S.” And his remarkable legal career and tireless work has been well documents on “60 Minutes,” and other news shows.

“We believe that he is the right person to speak on this year’s theme,” Wright said.

Wright said this year’s banquet would continue the tradition of awards to citizens as the local NAACP presented in previous banquets, including recognition of community leaders and the “The Presidential Award.” GAAAP will also continue to present scholarships to deserving students at the banquet.

“We are looking forward to another great banquet as in past years and your support will help us to continue to “Stand in the ‘GAAAP’ for Justice,” Wright said.

Tickets are $50.00 each. Attire is semi-formal or classy casual.

The GAAAP is also asking your churches, organizations and businesses to purchase an ad in the organization’s souvenir journal. A 1/8 page cost $35; ¼ page – $75; ½ page -$100; a Full page – $200; the inside back page – $500; and, the outside back page – $600 (please see the ad sheet attached). As a bonus this year, we will advertise your ad “free of charge” for one year on our Website at:

The decision to dissolve the NAACP branch by the officers, both of the past NAACP presidents and the executive board was a tough one. We
fought for several months to reason with the GA State NAACP president, Ed Dubose and National compliance Officer, Nazar Scott who were
both determined to destroy our branch. They did the same thing to Carol County, Dooly County, Dougherty County, Clay County, and Macon
County branches. Several of these former NAACP branches have joined as partners with the new GAAAP organization and several other NAACP branches that are unhappy with State and National leadership are showing interest. Wright added, the 217 Forrest Street building in Americus, GA that the NAACP used to reside in is privately owned – and GAAAP is currently operating there. We can be reached at 229 924
0880 for appointments.

Wright closed by saying, “With your support through memberships, attending the banquet, buying ads, and other support will ensure that we can continue to fight for our citizens who have been victims of discrimination, unfair practices, and racism.”

Even after all his years in law, Gary still tries cases. Gary said even in today’s time, civil rights organizations are still important.

“Civil rights organizations are part of our roots, part of our fabric, you have to know where you come from to move forward,” Gary said.

Gary said he looks forward to speaking at this month’s banquet and plans to discuss the importance of civil rights organization and the need to support them and why having role models in the black community remains imperative.