Physician launches Black health website

By Starla Muhammad -Staff Writer-

(FinalCall.com) – The glaring realities facing the Black community’s health and well-being are in a state of emergency. Whether it is high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, various forms of cancer or obesity, Blacks in many cases have the unfortunate distinction as the leading sufferers of these health maladies.

Dr. Corey Hebert aims to help tackle these dilemmas via cyberspace, with the launch of BlackHealthTV.com, an online social media and video website geared toward a community overwrought with preventable and treatable ailments and diseases.

Launched in October, Dr. Hebert hopes by making health information available online in an interactive format more people will be privy to information that can save their lives or at the very least help them make more well-informed health decisions.

“I was sitting at a table in New York with a bunch of very educated African Americans and one of the guys at the table had a Ph.D. from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and he burned himself with a plate at the table,” explained Dr. Hebert when asked what inspired him to launchBlackHealthTV.com.

“The first thing he told me was, ‘Man let me get some butter so I can put it on this burn.’ And I explained to him that’s the worst thing that you could ever put on a burn. You should never put butter on a burn,” Dr. Herbert told The Final Call in an exclusive interview. Applying butter on a burn can cause infection.

The man continued to insist butter was the answer telling Dr. Hebert, “trust me.”

“I said trust you? I’m a medical doctor and I’m telling you that you’re not supposed to put butter on a burn … everybody at the table disagreed with me,” said Dr. Hebert.

That encounter led him to conduct a poll of 1,000 Black people across the country of varying socio-economic status and education levels. The results said Dr. Hebert was 85 percent thought butter was the correct first-aid remedy.

“The lack of information is appalling and we know that whatever was out there is not working because the health disparities are increasing. If they’re increasing I just felt I had to do something,” continued Dr. Hebert, an award-winning medical journalist and regular contributor on the Dr. OZ Show.

Indeed, the statistics are daunting. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the news regarding Black Americans and optimum health is not good.

Black men have higher rates of getting and dying from prostate cancer. Black women are 1.4 times more likely to die from breast cancer than White women. Blacks are more likely to die from asthma.

An estimated 3.7 million or 14.7 percent of all non-Hispanic Blacks age 20 and older have diabetes, the leading cause of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

In 2009 a staggering 44 percent of all new HIV infections were Black, despite being only 14 percent of the total U.S. population, and 45 percent of Black adults are obese.

What makes BlackHealthTV.com unique is that it is not text heavy, but features video presentations with health tips, health news, recipes, and information on children’s health.

Visitors to the site can also sign up to receive “health tips of the day” via email.

Using modern technology is an opportunity for more access to information, and though Blacks still lag somewhat behind when it comes to the “digital divide,” the gap is closing.

The Pew Research Center notes that 44 percent of Blacks are smart phone users and are more likely than Whites to use their cell phones for accessing Internet and multimedia content. The percentage of Blacks that use the Internet increased from 35 percent in 2000 to 71 percent in 2011, according to Pew.

It is this reason; BlackHealthTV.com is formatted different than other health websites explained Dr. Hebert.

“African Americans search for “health” more than any other group on the Internet and have downloaded more health apps for iPhones than any other group,” said Dr. Hebert, co-founder and CEO of the site.

Other health sites are mostly written word, which can be intimidating to many, he explained.

“I have friends that are Master’s degree people that really can’t decipher some of the stuff on WEB M.D., so the only way that an African American or any minority group or any majority group for that matter can get information and really understand it is if it’s delivered in a way that makes them feel very comfortable,” said Dr. Hebert.

The online video concept grew from there he explained.

“When I start off my videos about diabetes and they start off by saying, ‘You got sugar. Let me tell you what sugar is.’ It puts African Americans at rest about the anxiety about his or her diabetes because I’m speaking to them in a way that they understand and they can appreciate,” said the Baton Rouge, La. native who was raised by a single mother and went on to graduate Morehouse College and Meharry Medical College.

Dr. Hebert said the most important thing to him is that for the first time, a Black person who may not be able to read can now access health information on demand.

Through BlackHealthTV.com, Dr. Hebert plans to link up with other Black organizations.

“That’s my goal. To partner with every Black organization in America and have our content be available to them on their website and any other way that they’d like to get it. We also envision in the long term to be able to have an actual television network called Black Health TV where we have all health content for African Americans, twenty-four seven,” said Dr. Hebert who specializes in pediatrics and emergency medicine.

Making sure the Black community has easy to access information to guide them toward making wiser choices when it comes to their health is what drives Dr. Hebert, who has been featured also on the Discovery Channel, The Oprah Winfrey Show and other major networks.

“I had never been to a classroom with Black people until I got to Morehouse College and that really changed my life and I knew at that point that I was going to have to take care of my people, at all cost. I don’t care what I have to do, I’m going to make sure that at the very least that an African American man or woman can make a poor choice but that poor choice that they make is based on the education that they have and that’s a choice that they’ve really made,” he explained.

The poor health and dietary choices Black people continue to make, said Dr. Hebert are not based on education or fact, something he hopes will eventually change.

“Before I die, you’re going to have all the facts in your mind and if you want to choose to do the wrong thing, that’s your choice. That’s what White people have; that’s what Hispanic people are being able to get right now; that’s what we need to have too and that’s the goal for me. To make sure that I empower every African American, or African for that matter, to have the health information that they need to make the right decisions for their health,” said Dr. Hebert.

Black Louisiana town latest victim of ‘Environmental Racism’

mossville_la_08-13-2013By Saeed Shabazz -Staff Writer

(FinalCall.com) – A handful of free Black men and women led by an ex-slave named Jack Moss settled along the rich bio-diverse region of Southwest Louisiana in the late 1800s, and created the town of Mossville, covering 5.4 square miles. In its heyday, Mossville boasted of being home to over 3,000 families; today there are a mere 310 families left.

Mossville has been destroyed by petro-chemical industries such as polyvinyl chloride factories, coal-fired power plants and large oil refineries, according to residents.

“We were happy in Mossville, where we could escape the hostilities of racism,” explained Dorothy Felix, 74. “This was our little town—it was the place to be—the way life should be; families were families, and we all shared with everyone,” Ms. Felix told The Final Call.

We were proud of what our forefathers did for us, she said.

“In Lake Charles and the surrounding areas, you had plenty of wild game, fishing, wild fruits and berries; you could live off the land,” stated Delma Bennett, 69, who moved to Mossville 40 years ago. However, he told The Final Call that the last 35-years have been a living hell, because of the petro-chemical plants.

We are now surrounded by 14 of those plants and refineries, and their dioxins have a bad effect on human beings, Mr. Bennett said. “The dioxins, a lot of which goes into the water; we would eat the fish—people started coming up with respiratory problems—children had birth defects,” he explained.

“After a while we noticed that the dioxins had entered our food supply, because they would seem to mix in the air; and every so often there would be explosions that made the dioxin levels worse,” Mr. Bennett explained.

 

He said that his wife became ill three years ago. “I almost lost her, and they still can’t tell me what’s wrong with her,” he laments.

Ms. Felix and Mr. Bennett belong to MEAN (Mossville Environmental Action Now); Ms. Felix is the organization’s president. “It was devastating to see our friends and neighbors dying—people in their 30s—the government agencies were telling us that it wasn’t the plants killing our people; it was social issues,” Ms. Felix noted.

“The corporations govern us and most of the local politicians work at the plants; so we organized ourselves and started fighting back,” Mr. Bennett said.

“Go there and you can see for yourself the demise of this once thriving, self-sustaining Black community,” states Michele Roberts, organizer for the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Justice and Health Alliance. I have been working with the people of Mossville since 2007, and they are clearly on the frontline of the ‘Environmental Injustice’ that permeates working poor communities and communities of color across the U.S., she explained to The Final Call.

“Did you know that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has recently de-regulated trash burning to allow tons of plastics and other toxic waste to be burned in coal plants and cement kilns?” Ms. Roberts asked. She argues that this will further exacerbate the air quality problems in Mossville.

“Mossville is the poster child for ‘Environmental Racism’ and Environmental Injustice’ that’s what makes it so unique,” argues Dr. Robert Bullard, Ph.D., Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland school of Public Affairs at Texas Southern Univ. in Houston, Texas.

What is happening in Mossville is so egregious; we had to take the issue before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. Bullard who is a world renowned advocate for communities affected by environmental injustice issues told The Final Call.

Attorney Monique Harden, co-director for the New Orleans-based Advocates for Environmental Human Rights explained to The Final Call that MEAN filed in March 2005 a petition before the Washington, D.C.-based Interim American Commission of Human Rights at the Organization of American States to have the U.S. brought up on charges of violating the human rights of the people of Mossville.

“I have been working in Mossville since 1996. In 1998-1999 the Centers for Disease Control tested the air and said the dioxin level was three times higher in Mossville than the rest of the nation,” she said, adding, “We found out that this level of pollution was legal according to the EPA.”

In 2009, the EPA concluded that the drinking water from the Mossville community “did not pose a health risk to the residents.” However, the government agency confirmed the public drinking water system in Mossville “needed quality improvements.”

In 2010, the EPA conducted a comprehensive sampling in and around Mossville to determine if the area would be eligible for the National Priority List, which is a ‘Super Fund’ cleanup program.

The agency reported in Jan. 2011 that it did not find elevated levels of chemicals; therefore, Mossville did not qualify for the program. [http://www.epa.gov/region6/6sf/pdffiles/Mossville-ssr-ap]

Ms. Harden said in March 2010, the OAS commission agreed that it was the correct jurisdiction by which to file their petition, and they would hear the Mossville case. “No date for the hearing has been established,” she noted.

The petition asks that the polluters be named in the request for remedies and relief; a relocation program;  better health care facilities; a cleanup of polluted areas; a reduction in the pollution; and to change the current system by raising the standards.

Farmers Markets Become “Pharmacies” in NYC

farleyby Katharine O’Marra,

Doctors typically give patients prescriptions for medications. But, a new program in New York City has doctors prescribing fruits and vegetables to obese or overweight patients.

Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley launched the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program today that aims to give at-risk families greater access to healthy foods.

Under the program obese or overweight patients can be prescribed Health Bucks redeemable for produce at local farmer’s markets.

Health Bucks are a part of the city’s initiative to make farmer’s market produce available to low-income New Yorkers. The vouchers are accepted at over 140 New York City farmer’s markets.

The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program is meant to benefit whole families and communities at a time. Patients in the program receive one dollar in Health Bucks per day for them and their family members for a period of at least four months.

Bronx resident Tammy Futch said her family has seen positive changes since starting the program.

“My son lost 40 pounds behind this program,” she said, “and also I lost weight doing it with him and also I have my other kids, I have four other kids also doing the program.”

The Prescription Program was started by Wholesome Wave in 2011 and has since been expanded to seven states.

Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx and Harlem Hospital Center are the first New York State facilities to participate in the program.

Dr. Shefali Khanna is the chief of pediatrics at Lincoln Medical Center. She says the program will bring lasting benefits to the city.

“We’re not only teaching them just about eating healthy,” Khanna said, “this is really an investment for the future and we hope we have a whole generation of kids who benefit from this and reaches adulthood at a healthy optimal weight.”

Smokin’: Report finds marijuana has negligible effects on lungs

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Coaster420/Creative Commons License According to a new study, habitual use of marijuana alone doesn’t appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Coaster420/Creative Commons License
According to a new study, habitual use of marijuana alone doesn’t appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function.

By: BRUCE JANCIN, Internal Medicine News Digital Network

LOS ANGELES – The pulmonary consequences of regularly smoking marijuana are far less than for tobacco, according a review of the published evidence conducted by Dr. Donald P. Tashkin, emeritus professor of medicine and medical director of the pulmonary function laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Habitual use of marijuana alone doesn’t appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function, nor does it increase the risks of COPD or either lung or upper airway cancer. It is associated with an increase in symptoms of chronic bronchitis; however the symptoms go away upon discontinuation of use, according to Dr. Tashkin (Ann. Am. Thorac. Soc. 2013;10:239-47).

“The accumulated weight of evidence implies far lower risks for pulmonary complications of even regular heavy use of marijuana, compared with the grave pulmonary consequences of tobacco,” he concluded.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Mark A. Ware called Dr. Tashkin’s article “the most comprehensive and authoritative review of the subject ever published.”

Dr. Tashkin’s conclusion that smoking marijuana is not a major risk factor for airway cancer or COPD “will affect the way health professionals interact with patients, parents with teenagers, and policy makers with their constituents,” predicted Dr. Ware, a family physician and anesthesiologist who is director of clinical research at the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at McGill University in Montreal.

Dr. Tashkin reported having no conflicts of interest. Dr. Ware has received lecture fees from the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of the Cannabinoids and a research grant and honoraria from Valeant for conducting a randomized trial of nabilone in fibromyalgia patients.

Five Things To Know About Obamacare Premiums: A Guide For The Perplexed

Premiums will skyrocket next year!  Premiums will be lower than expected!  Premiums will be about the same!

Consumers are understandably confused after weeks of conflicting pronouncements about the expected cost of plans, for individuals and small groups, to be sold in new online insurance marketplaces under the federal health law beginning Oct. 1.

New York regulators said average premiums on those plans will be half of what they cost now, while Indiana warned of an average 72 percent increase.  Florida’s insurance officials projected 30 to 40 rate increases, while the White House trumpeted a report saying that rates in 10 states and the District of Columbia will average 18 percent less than forecast.

How is a consumer to make sense of this?  For starters, state rates vary considerably because state regulations differ, although that is expected to lessen under the health law.  But a bigger factor is that state officials who have opposed the health law are inclined to compare measures that show a big increase, while those in favor are inclined to do the opposite.

“Premiums across states vary a whole lot less than the spin does,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy research organization. (KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF.)

Most policy analysts concur that average premiums will go up for younger, healthier people – and that they will get better benefits than they do now – but that rates may fall for older or sicker Americans, as new rules go into effect Jan. 1.   Increases may be offset for many of those buying coverage through tax credits available to people with low and moderate incomes.

In general, the rates for individual policies look an awful lot like what employers pay now for workers’ coverage, said William Custer, who studies health insurance at Georgia State University.

“The goal was to let people buy comparable coverage to what employers get with comparable prices. It seems like that’s the premiums we are seeing,” he said.

To help you parse reports in your state, here are five things to keep in mind when evaluating claims about the cost of coverage that starts in 2014:

Comparing apples to apples is virtually impossible.  The first thing to understand is that policies that will be sold to individuals and small businesses in online marketplaces are brand new and must cover a range of essential benefits that were not always covered in the past. That includes prescription drugs, hospitalization and maternity coverage. Consumers cannot be turned away or charged more because of health problems, as they can now in most states.  Women cannot be charged more than men. In addition, the amount you’ll have to pay out of pocket will be capped at $6,350 for singles or $12,700 for families. Currently, almost a third of individual policies have caps that exceed those amounts, according to a report by Kaiser Health News and U.S. News & World Report.   “You have to compare apples to apples, to the extent you can. But those apples don’t exist,” said Joseph Antos, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “There isn’t a good way to do a comparisons.”

Look for which premiums state regulators are using for their comparisons.  Under the health law, coverage sold through new marketplaces to individuals and small businesses include a range of types, from the lowest-cost bronze plans that have the highest deductibles to higher-premium platinum or gold plans, where you pay fewer out-of-pocket costs.  But premiums are just one part of the cost of health insurance.  When considering a report on rates, ask which type of coverage was highlighted and how much the deductibles and co-payments are.  Was it the low-cost bronze plan price, the slightly higher priced silver plans or the highest priced platinum or gold? Or some combined average?

You are not average.  Many of the estimates are based on averages, which really don’t reflect what any individual consumer will pay. Premium prices will vary based on a person’s age, where they live and the insurer they select.  Generally, younger people – especially  those few who are buying high-deductible coverage now — may see an increase in premiums, while older or less healthy people may see their rates go down.

Subsidies will offset costs for many people.  Most people shopping in the new marketplaces are expected to qualify for a subsidy to offset part of the cost of the premiums.  Sliding-scale subsidies will go to those earning between about $11,590 and $46,000 a year as individuals. Those who get subsidies will also likely pay a portion of their household income – from 2 percent to 9.5 percent – toward the premium cost.

Last, but certainly not least – premium changes are unlikely to affect you at all.  The rates submitted to states and the federal government are for coverage sold to individuals and small businesses with fewer than 50 workers that are not self-insured.  Currently, the vast majority of Americans with insurance coverage get it through their jobs – and they generally work for companies with more than 50 workers.  Large firms already offer coverage similar to what the health law will require insurers to offer individuals and small firms, so little change is expected.  The new rates are most likely to affect people who buy their own coverage. About 15 million do so currently and an estimated 7 million more are expected to do so next year because of the health law.

Republicans Sabotaging, Not Governing America

By Dave Johnson, Campaign for America’s Future,

Imagine a political party that keeps government from helping people, because that might lead people to support government. Imagine a political party that hurts parts of the country because those parts tend to not vote the way they want.

Imagine a political party that would hurt the public, the economy and the country so they could say in the next election, “Hey look at how the country is hurting, vote for us instead.” That could never happen here, could it?

This Is Who They Are Now

At RedState today the featured post is titled, Defund Or Be Challenged. It calls on Republicans to demand that Obamacare be defunded – killed – or they will shut down the governemnt. It says pass a budget that defunds Obamacare and if the Senate won’t take it up or the President vetoes it, shut down the government rather than pass a reasonable budget.

If you say, “So what?” and ask, “Who is RedState” then you are making the same mistake that many in the Democratic establishment have been making for decades. Asking “Who is Rush Limbaugh / Glenn Beck / Sean Hannity / Sarah Palin / Ann Coulter / etc.” or saying that what they say doesn’t matter is a mistake. This is who they are now. This is who the Republican Party is now. It is RedState, Limbaugh, Coulter, Drudge Report, etc. It is not Bob Dole or John McCain or even Ronald Reagan. It is not Ronald Reagan playing poker with Tip O’Neill.

Ronald Reagan would be primaried out as a “RINO” in today’s Republican Party.

If you don’t get it yet, let this sink in: Mitch McConnell is being primaried for being “a big government guy” and too “progressive” and working with Democrats. Mitch McConnell!

This is who the Republicans are now. RedState, Limbaugh, Coulter … this is who they are now.

Obamacare Helps People – So They Want It Killed

Obamacare, for all its policy and political flaws, makes our health care system far better than the corrupt and dysfunctional system we have now. (I think Medicare-For-All is the right approach and would have high public support.) People with “preexisting conditions” will finally be able to get insurance. Subsidies will help people afford private insurance. The expansion of Medicaid will help millions receive health care.

The Republicans want it killed, period, and are willing to sabotage everything to get that. They want this because it will help people and therefore will be popular. They offer no alternative plan and do not care about all of these people who will be helped. In fact, they complain that so many new people will have access to health care that it could cause a shortage of doctors!

They want the health care act killed because it helps people, which they fear could lead people to support Democrats and government in general.

They mean it. They are willing to shut down the government unless their demands are met. They are about sabotaging the program and sabotaging all of government to make that happen.

Is that a strong statement? Remember that they were willing to refuse to raise the credit limit and destroy the credit rating of the country – and destroy the world’s economy unless their demands were met. Remember that they have actually shut down government to get what they want.

This is who they are now.

Norm Ornstein

Norm Ornstein has an important piece at The Atlantic today, The Unprecedented, Contemptible GOP Quest to Sabotage Obamacare. In it he compares how Republicans are opposing Obamacare with they way Democrats responded to the passage of Bush’s Medicare drug plan. Please read these next two paragraphs,

The clear comparison is the Medicare prescription-drug plan. When it passed Congress in 2003, Democrats had many reasons to be furious. The initial partnership between President Bush and Senator Edward Kennedy had resulted in an admirably bipartisan bill – it passed the Senate with 74 votes. Republicans then pulled a bait and switch, taking out all of the provisions that Kennedy had put in to bring along Senate Democrats, jamming the resulting bill through the House in a three-hour late-night vote marathon that blatantly violated House rules and included something close to outright bribery on the House floor, and then passing the bill through the Senate with just 54 votes – while along the way excluding the duly elected conferees, Tom Daschle (the Democratic leader!) and Jay Rockefeller, from the conference-committee deliberations.

The implementation of that bill was a huge challenge, and had many rocky moments. It required educating millions of seniors, most not computer-literate, about the often complicated choices they had to create or change their prescription coverage. Imagine if Democrats had gone all out to block or disrupt the implementation – using filibusters to deny funding, sending threatening letters to companies or outside interests who mobilized to educate Medicare recipients, putting on major campaigns to convince seniors that this was a plot to deny them Medicare, comparing it to the ill-fated Medicare reform plan that passed in 1989 and, after a revolt by seniors, was repealed the next year.

Dems could have taken down the Republican Party over this, but instead they let seniors get the prescriptions, at least as far as this program went. Compare to the way Republicans are trying to sabotage the new health care plan:

For three years, Republicans in the Senate refused to confirm anybody to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the post that McClellan had held in 2003-04 – in order to damage the possibility of a smooth rollout of the health reform plan. Guerrilla efforts to cut off funding, dozens of votes to repeal, abusive comments by leaders, attempts to discourage states from participating in Medicaid expansion or crafting exchanges, threatening letters to associations that might publicize the availability of insurance on exchanges, and now a new set of threats – to have a government shutdown, or to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, unless the president agrees to stop all funding for implementation of the plan.

This is who they are. It is time to recognize just who and what we are dealing with.

Other Sabotage

For President Obama’s entire first term Republicans obstructed every effort to boost the economy. They blocked badly-needed additional stimulus. They blocked infrastructure projects because they would employ people. They blocked the Bring Jobs Home Act. They blocked everything. Then they campaigned by saying the economy isn’t better, so vote for them.

Republicans are now sabotaging the new immigration bill. The reason? They say that Hispanics who get citizenship might vote for Democrats.

Republicans have been opposing statehood for D.C. for the same reason – the people there might vote for Democrats.

Republicans in the old slave states, newly unleashed by the Supreme Court, are working furiously to get minorities, senior, students and other who might vote for Democrats off the voting rolls. They are repealing early voting because black churches organize voter drives. They are passing extremely restrictive voter-ID laws specifically excluding the kinds of ID that minorities are more likely to hold.

This is who they are now.

Hold Them Accountable

They have to be held accountable.

The answer is not to threaten to withhold your vote when you don’t get everything you want. The answer is for all of us – every single alienated, ignored, disillusioned citizen – to promise to always vote. Then the people you would actually want to vote for will have some assurance they can win, and take the risk of running, even if they can’t raise a poop-load of corporate cash.

The Business of Mass Incarceration

Illustration by Mr. Fish

Illustration by Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges

Debbie Bourne, 45, was at her apartment in the Liberty Village housing projects in Plainfield, N.J., on the afternoon of April 30 when police banged on the door and pushed their way inside. The officers ordered her, her daughter, 14, and her son, 22, who suffers from autism, to sit down and not move and then began ransacking the home. Bourne’s husband, from whom she was estranged and who was in the process of moving out, was the target of the police, who suspected him of dealing cocaine. As it turned out, the raid would cast a deep shadow over the lives of three innocents—Bourne and her children.

The murder of a teenage boy by an armed vigilante, George Zimmerman, is only one crime set within a legal and penal system that has criminalized poverty. Poor people, especially those of color, are worth nothing to corporations and private contractors if they are on the street. In jails and prisons, however, they each can generate corporate revenues of $30,000 to $40,000 a year. This use of the bodies of the poor to make money for corporations fuels the system of neoslavery that defines our prison system.

Prisoners often work inside jails and prisons for nothing or at most earn a dollar an hour. The court system has been gutted to deny the poor adequate legal representation. Draconian drug laws send nonviolent offenders to jail for staggering periods of time. Our prisons routinely use solitary confinement, forms of humiliation and physical abuse to keep prisoners broken and compliant, methods that international human rights organizations have long defined as torture. Individuals and corporations that profit from prisons in the United States perpetuate a form of neoslavery. The ongoing hunger strike by inmates in the California prison system is a slave revolt, one that we must encourage and support. The fate of the poor under our corporate state will, if we remain indifferent and passive, become our own fate. This is why on Wednesday I will join prison rights activists, including Cornel West and Michael Moore, in a one-day fast in solidarity with the hunger strike in the California prison system.

 

In poor communities where there are few jobs, little or no vocational training, a dearth of educational opportunities and a lack of support structures there are, by design, high rates of recidivism—the engine of the prison-industrial complex. There are tens of millions of poor people for whom this country is nothing more than a vast, extended penal colony. Gun possession is largely criminalized for poor people of color while vigilante thugs, nearly always white, swagger through communities with loaded weapons. There will never be serious gun control in the United States. Most white people know what their race has done to black people for centuries. They know that those trapped today in urban ghettos, what Malcolm X called our internal colonies, endure neglect, poverty, violence and deprivation. Most whites are terrified that African-Americans will one day attempt to defend themselves or seek vengeance. Scratch the surface of survivalist groups and you uncover frightened white supremacists.

 

The failure on the part of the white liberal class to decry the exploding mass incarceration of the poor, and especially of African-Americans, means that as our empire deteriorates more and more whites will end up in prison alongside those we have condemned because of our indifference. And the mounting abuse of the poor is fueling an inchoate rage that will eventually lead to civil unrest.

“Again I say that each and every Negro, during the last 300 years, possesses from that heritage a greater burden of hate for America than they themselves know,” Richard Wright wrote. “Perhaps it is well that Negroes try to be as unintellectual as possible, for if they ever started really thinking about what happened to them they’d go wild. And perhaps that is the secret of whites who want to believe that Negroes have no memory; for if they thought that Negroes remembered they would start out to shoot them all in sheer self-defense.”

The United States has spent $300 billion since 1980 to expand its prison system. We imprison 2.2 million people, 25 percent of the world’s prison population. For every 100,000 adults in this country there are 742 behind bars. Five million are on parole. Only 30 to 40 percent are white.

The intrusion of corporations and private contractors into the prison system is a legacy of the Clinton administration. President Bill Clinton’s omnibus crime bill provided $30 billion to expand the prison system, including $10 billion to build prisons. The bill expanded from two to 58 the number of federal crimes for which the death penalty can be administered. It eliminated a ban on the execution of the mentally impaired. The bill gave us the “three-strikes” laws that mandate life sentences for anyone convicted of three “violent” felonies. It set up the tracking of sex offenders. It allowed the courts to try children as young as 13 as adults. It created special courts to deport noncitizens alleged to be “engaged in terrorist activity” and authorized the use of secret evidence. The prison population under Clinton swelled from 1.4 million to 2 million.

Incarceration has become a very lucrative business for an array of private contractors, most of whom send lobbyists to Washington to make sure the laws and legislation continue to funnel a steady supply of poor people into the prison complex. These private contractors, taking public money, build the prisons, provide food service, hire guards and run and administer detention facilities. It is imperative to their profits that there be a steady supply of new bodies.

Bourne has worked for 13 years as a locker room assistant in the Plainfield school system. She works five hours a day. She does not have medical benefits. She struggles to take care of a daughter in fragile health and a disabled son.

Bourne and her children sat terrified that April afternoon in their apartment. After about 10 minutes four more police officers arrived with her husband. His clothes were torn and disheveled. His face was swollen and bruised. He was handcuffed. “He looked like he been beat up,” she said.

“They were telling him, tell us where you have the stuff at, the drugs at,” Bourne said when we met at a prison support group I help run at the Second Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, N.J. “Tell us where you have the stuff at ’cause if you don’t we are going to handcuff her and the kids. And you be a man, you know, you know be a man and tell so we … don’t have to handcuff her and the kids. And he told them they [she and the children] have nothing to do with this, and there’s nothing in the house.”

The police took her husband to the kitchen. “They were hittin’ him in the kitchen,” she said, “punchin’ him, like in the stomach. Like by his ribs. He was saying they don’t have nothin’ to do with it, you know, they don’t.”

She could hear the officers repeating: “Where are the drugs?” They beat him for about 10 minutes, she said. The police then went into the living room and handcuffed Bourne and her son and daughter. They took her husband out of the apartment. Three officers remained until a K-9 dog unit arrived. The police removed the handcuffs and took Bourne and her children into the kitchen. A dog was guided around the living room and then coaxed up the stairs to the bedrooms, where it stayed for five minutes before being brought back down. The police remained in the bedrooms about 30 minutes.

 

Bourne heard banging sounds. She heard one of the officers say: “We found drugs in a black boot.” Her husband’s boots had been in a plastic bag with his clothes in preparation for his moving out of the apartment.

 

Although not under arrest, Bourne was taken to the police station, where she filled out forms and was fingerprinted. No charge was filed against her at the time. Two hours later the police drove her home. It would be weeks before Bourne learned—in an indirect way—that she, too, would face the possibility of jail time because of the raid.

When Bourne returned home that spring night, “It looked like a tornado had went through my bedroom. Everything was piled on top of each other. The TV was broken. It had been pushed over on the floor. I had my cellular phone charging in the socket—the charger was ripped out the socket. There were nails holes [made by the police] in the wall. You could see little dots, probably about six, seven, 10. The computer was pushed over on the ground. The cable was pull out the TV. The blinds was removed. The shades were removed from the windows. The containers that I have clothes in was all thrown on the bed. The dresser drawers were sitting high on top the bed.”

“I felt violated,” she said. “Very violated. I felt that if [they] wanted him so bad, why destroy my stuff?”

In cleaning up she found that her wedding and engagement rings, kept on the top of her dresser in a small box from Macy’s, had disappeared. She soon found that other items were missing.

“They took video games that I bought for my kids that was packaged inside a closet in a shoe box,” Bourne said. “They took a remote control that go with one of the game systems. I had collectible like coins that I bought way back. That was gone.”

She had seen police leaving the apartment with a yellow plastic container that had a new Acer computer she had bought for her cousin. “I had told them, ‘Where are you going with that computer?’ ” she said. The police immediately returned it.

Her husband is in Union County Jail in Elizabeth. He is charged with possession of drugs in public housing and possession of drugs in a school zone. When Bourne spoke to him by phone he told her the police had taken $900 he had in his pocket and that he had $2,000 in the apartment closet. When she checked the closet the money was not there. The police report in Bourne’s possession claims the officers confiscated $134 from the apartment and $734 from her husband. There was no mention of the other missing items, including her rings.

When Bourne was in court for her husband’s arraignment in early July she was stunned to hear the prosecutor tell the court that cocaine was also found by the police in a pocket of her jeans.

She told me she was not wearing jeans at the time. She said she does not take or sell drugs. And she pointed out that the police report, which she showed to me, never mentioned finding drugs on her person. After being charged she met with a public defender who told her that she should urge her husband to confess that the cocaine was his. If he does not, Bourne could face six years in jail.

The state-appointed attorney, with whom Bourne spent less than 15 minutes, told her to stay out of trouble. She has never been arrested at any time in her life. She said the encounter with the lawyer left her feeling “degraded.”

“I have two kids,” she said. “I’m 45. Why would I be trying to go to jail? That’s not me, that’s not how I was brought up. My daughter is sick. My son has a disability. I’m the only one that take care of both of them.”

If she goes to jail it will be catastrophic for her children. But this is not a new story. It happens to families every day in our gulag state. Bourne is one human being among hundreds of thousands routinely sacrificed for corporate greed. Her tragedy is of no concern to private contractors or supine judges and elected officials. They do not work for her. They do not work for us. They are corporate employees. And they know something Bourne is just discovering: Incarceration in America is a business.

An Open Letter to Don Lemon of CNN

Dear Don,

I share your frustrations and concerns about black-on-black crime, black unwed mothers, use of the N-word and caring about where you live, but I don’t share your desire to join with the likes of a race-baiting hustler like Bill O’Reilly to denigrate the entirety of my community based on malicious half-truths.

Don, I think you genuinely care about my community because you used to be part of it and used to know it.  O’Reilly doesn’t know jack sh!t about Black America.  Like an angry human volcano, he spews all the negative stereotypes and anti-black rhetoric that appeals to, incites and sparks feelings of superiority among the angry white guys Lindsey Graham anxiously says about the GOP is running out of.

Whether you know it or not Don, when you jump on O’Reilly’s racist bandwagon, you come across as a clueless sock puppet…a sell-out, who has lost touch not only with the black community, but with your own soul, as well.

When you raised those five points you broad-brushed the entirety of my community just like O’Reilly does with his “fire-ready-aim” approach to ranting about how terrible and deserving of scorn black people are.

The fact is, problems in my community run much deeper than wearing sagging pants, saying the N-word and listening to “gangsta” rap.  That’s an overly simplistic way to say what they’ve said about us since we got off the first slave ships:  Blacks are lazy, dumb, cowardly people proned to being natural criminals.  But Don, you know better because not too long ago, you were one of us.

Educated, worldly man that you are, you’ve got to understand that there are correlations between crime, poverty, segregation and cultural genocide that have created what amounts to a permanent underclass of black Americans that O’Reilly and those of his ilk can’t and won’t understand.

This might sound like the blame game, but in reality ever since blacks were brought to America they’ve tried to make their culture ours.  They took our names.  They took our religion.  They took our families. They took our languages.  In short, they took everything from us and made us believe our culture was worthless. They made us hate ourselves, from our looks to our intellect—or supposed lack thereof.  If you tell someone—even an entire people—long enough that they’re nothing, they will believe it, hate themselves and live down to low expectations.

That’s gone on for almost 400 years and it’s not going to change overnight just because you and your racist partner Bill O’Reilly say black Americans are our own worst enemies and worthy of all the disdain and fear white people choose to heap upon us.  It’s like digging a bottomless pit of poverty, unbalanced educational and criminal justice systems and self-hate…throwing a whole race of people into it and then blaming them for not climbing out fast enough on their own.

But in spite of all of that, we’ve done all right.  Of course, we can do better…but so can every ethnic group in our country.  But we’re better than what you and O’Reilly think.  We’re a resilient people, who are finding ourselves and pulling ourselves out of that pit…slowly but surely and some slower than others, but we’re getting there.  But most importantly, as you and O’Reilly seem to believe, crime in America is not a “black thing,” implying that whites have a legitimate reason to profile and fear black people.

Another thing Don, crime transcends race and is typically intraracial. According to Justice Department statistics, white Americans are pretty much as likely to be killed by other whites as blacks are to be killed by other blacks and Hispanics are to be killed by other Hispanics.

Consider this from an article written by Edward Wyckoff Williams that was posted on the Grio.Com April 12, 2012 ( http://www.theroot.com/…):

In fact, all races share similar ratios. Yet there’s no outrage or racialized debate about “white on white” violence. Instead, the myth and associated fear of “black on black” crime is sold as a legitimate, mainstream descriptive and becomes American status quo.The truth? As the largest racial group, whites commit the majority of crimes in America. In particular, whites are responsible for the vast majority of violent crimes. With respect to aggravated assault, whites led blacks 2-1 in arrests; in forcible-rape cases, whites led all racial and ethnic groups by more than 2-1. And in larceny theft, whites led blacks, again, more than 2-1.

As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes rightly pointed out recently (http://www.mediaite.com/…):

“There are about 200 million white people in America, making up about 63% of the population,” he said. “In 2010, 1,179 white people were killed by black people. Compare that number to the roughly 20,000 white people who died from accidental poisoning, 16,000 who died from accidental falls that year, or the 2,000 or so white people estimated who died from accidental drowning. In other words, Bill O’Reilly, you have more reason to be afraid of your own swimming pool than any young black man you see in a hoodie.”

I hope you heard that, too Don.

According to a 2012 study by Scripps Howard, it also isn’t true that black America is growing increasingly violent.  Here’s what Radley Balko wrote in a Huffington Post article posted July 24, 2013 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…):

Again, black homicides, like all homicides, are in a steep, 20-year decline. In fact, the rates at which blacks both commit and are victims of homicide have shown sharper declines than those of whites. It’s true that Chicago has had an unusually violent last few years, but this is an anomaly among big American cities. The 2012 murder rate in Washington, D.C., for example, hit a 50-year low. Violent crime in New York and Los Angeles is also falling to levels we haven’t seen in decades.

In addition, here’s an excerpt from an article about the huge role race plays in America’s criminal justice system by Keith Rushing posted on the Huffington Post on June 23, 2011 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…):

The Washington Post featured an essay by two experts, Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, and David Cole, a Georgetown law professor, who in “Five Myths about Americans in Prison” examined the role of race in incarceration.These men show that not only are people of color stopped more frequently by police, their communities, particularly with anti-drug efforts, receive far more attention from police. And black men are often charged and prosecuted differently than their White counterparts.

Mauer and Cole attempt to dispel the myth that there is a disproportionate number of black people in prison because black people commit more crimes.

They point out that although whites and African Americans use and sell drugs at about the same rates, Black men in 2003 were almost 12 times as likely to go to prison as white men. Although black people are 12 percent of the population and 14 percent of drug users, according to Mauer and Cole, they comprise 34 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 45 percent of those incarcerated in state prisons for such offenses.

Both men attribute disparities in incarceration rates in part to the way urban black communities are policed.

“Police find drugs where they look for them,” they wrote. “Inner-city, open-air drug markets are easier to bust than those that operate out of suburban basements. And numerous studies show that minorities are stopped by police more often than whites.”

Likewise, Don, TV pundits like you and O’Reilly find America’s scapegoats where they look for them–typically and conveniently within the black community.  

You and O’Reilly make it sound like the issues you rant about are peculiar to the black community—more specifically to BLACK PEOPLE.  Nothing could be more off-base and soothing to people looking for reasons to justify their hatred for and vilification of blacks.  The same issues that afflict poor inner city blacks tend to afflict poor communities across America be they predominantly white, Hispanic or Native American.

Your so-called “tough love” is nothing but scapegoating Don. And worse, it gives cover and solace to racists who applaud you publicly, but still call you n****r privately.

And there’s no balance in your scapegoating…just a bunch of tainted, misguided darts thrown at black folks and that’s just plain wrong Don—especially when those darts are thrown by somebody who used to be one of us and should know better.

Sincerely,

A Black American Who Refuses To Be Labeled or Scapegoated By You, Bill O’Reilly or Anyone

Exclusive: Signs of declining economic security

This photo taken Friday July 12, 2013, shows the Salyers' produce stand in Council, Va

This photo taken Friday July 12, 2013, shows the Salyers’ produce stand in Council, Va

By HOPE YEN,

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to “rebuild ladders of opportunity” and reverse income inequality.

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy “poor.”

“I think it’s going to get worse,” said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County, Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times, Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend, but it doesn’t generate much income. They live mostly off government disability checks.

“If you do try to go apply for a job, they’re not hiring people, and they’re not paying that much to even go to work,” she said. Children, she said, have “nothing better to do than to get on drugs.”

While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in government data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.

The gauge defines “economic insecurity” as experiencing unemployment at some point in their working lives, or a year or more of reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.

“It’s time that America comes to understand that many of the nation’s biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position,” said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty.

He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities have more optimism about the future after Obama’s election, while struggling whites do not.

“There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front,” Wilson said.

___

Sometimes termed “the invisible poor” by demographers, lower-income whites are generally dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are also numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America’s heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

Still, while census figures provide an official measure of poverty, they’re only a temporary snapshot. The numbers don’t capture the makeup of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points in their lives. They may be suburbanites, for example, or the working poor or the laid off.

In 2011 that snapshot showed 12.6 percent of adults in their prime working-age years of 25-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a person’s lifetime risk, a much higher number — 4 in 10 adults — falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.

The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality. For instance, people ages 35-45 had a 17 percent risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; that risk increased to 23 percent during the 1989-2009 period. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8 percent to 17.7 percent.

By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.

By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85 percent of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity.

“Poverty is no longer an issue of ‘them’, it’s an issue of ‘us’,” says Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the numbers. “Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need.”

Rank’s analysis is supplemented with figures provided by Tom Hirschl, a professor at Cornell University; John Iceland, a sociology professor at Penn State University; the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute; the Census Bureau; and the Population Reference Bureau.

Among the findings:

—For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households who were living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade, spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock births among whites. White single-mother families in poverty stood at nearly 1.5 million in 2011, comparable to the number for blacks. Hispanic single-mother families in poverty trailed at 1.2 million.

—The share of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods — those with poverty rates of 30 percent or more — has increased to 1 in 10, putting them at higher risk of teen pregnancy or dropping out of school. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 17 percent of the child population in such neighborhoods, up from 13 percent in 2000, even though the overall proportion of white children in the U.S. has been declining.

The share of black children in high-poverty neighborhoods dropped sharply, from 43 percent to 37 percent, while the share of Latino children ticked higher, from 38 to 39 percent.

___

Going back to the 1980s, never have whites been so pessimistic about their futures, according to the General Social Survey, which is conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America.

The divide is especially evident among those whites who self-identify as working class: 49 percent say they think their children will do better than them, compared with 67 percent of non-whites who consider themselves working class.

In November, Obama won the votes of just 36 percent of those noncollege whites, the worst performance of any Democratic nominee among that group since 1984.

Some Democratic analysts have urged renewed efforts to bring working-class whites into the political fold, calling them a potential “decisive swing voter group” if minority and youth turnout level off in future elections.

“They don’t trust big government, but it doesn’t mean they want no government,” says Republican pollster Ed Goeas, who agrees that working-class whites will remain an important electoral group. “They feel that politicians are giving attention to other people and not them.”

___

AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta, News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writer Debra McCown in Buchanan County, Va., contributed to this report.

Unions Are Rethinking Their Support for the Affordable Care Act

Mike Hennessy | HCPLive.com,

Another week, another major blow to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Last week it was the revelation that bureaucratic bungling and the administration’s ineptitude will result in the employer mandate being postponed for at least a year. This week brings more news that major players in one of the president’s key constituencies – the unions – are having second thoughts about supporting the ACA, with several going public with their concerns and misgivings and openly calling for major reforms or even full repeal of the law.   The heads of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), and UNITE HERE (a hotel workers’ union) recently sent a letter to Democratic leadership in Congress warning that unless they and the administration “enact an equitable fix, the ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.” The letter listed several unintended “perverse incentives” inherent in the ACA, including an incentive for employers to keep employees’ work hours below 30 hours a week in order for the employer to avoid paying a penalty for not offering health insurance to full-time employees. The letter also expressed serious concern over the fact that employees who currently receive their insurance through non-profit health insurance plans (known as Taft-Hartley plans or multi-employer plans) will not be eligible for tax subsidies to help pay for insurance (though, as the letter points out, these plans will be taxed to help pay for other peoples’ subsidies). The unions claim that these and other restrictions will “make non-profit plans like ours unsustainable, and will undermine the health-care market of viable alternatives to the big health insurance companies.”   The administration’s own analysis confirms that the ACA does not provide tax subsidies for the millions of people covered by these plans. Because of this, union officials are worried their members will be forced to change their insurance and accept “more expensive and perhaps worse coverage in the state-run exchanges.”   Even some public sector unions are beginning to take notice of these flaws in the ACA and are urging their members to contact their Congressional representatives and let them know they are unhappy about proposed legislation that will force them to enroll in the ACA’s health exchanges. The National Treasury Employees Union (which represents about 150,000 federal employees, including the IRS) has created a form letter its members can send to their representatives that states members are “very concerned” about recently proposed legislation that will “push federal employees out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and into the insurance exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).”   The NTEU letter notes that this legislation “would treat federal employees differently from state and local government employees and most employees of large private sector companies who receive health insurance benefits through their employer.” The NTEU letter reminds legislators that “the primary purpose of the Affordable Care Act was to provide a marketplace for the sale and purchase of health insurance for those who do not have such coverage – not to take coverage away from employees who already receive it through their employers.”   More and more unions are waking up to the fact that they were duped. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) released a statement calling on the president to live up to the promises he made when he was pushing unions to support the ACA and “move now to guarantee that his signature law will not cost [IBEW members] their coverage.” Kinsey Robinson, president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers International, has gone a step further and called for “repeal or complete reform of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.”   It appears that President Obama’s infamous claim that “If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance” is being exposed for the lie that many observers always knew it to be.   When even the unions are conceding that the ACA will hurt working-class Americans by forcing more of them into part-time employment and forcing them to give up their current health insurance, it’s time for the president and his supporters in Congress to admit this law is unfair and unworkable and replace it with bipartisan, common-sense reforms that address the issues of the uninsured without disrupting the lives of those who are happy with their current insurance. – See more at: http://www.hcplive.com/physicians-money-digest/blogs/hennessys-highlights/07-2013/Unions-Are-Rethinking-Their-Support-for-the-Affordable-Care-Act-#sthash.CCsdYJnD.dpuf

Dream Defenders to draft ‘Trayvon’s Law’ legislation from halls of Florida’s state capitol

Harry Belafonte joins Dream Defenders' Executive Director Phillip Agnew on Chris Hayes' show, 'All In.' (Video screen capture)

Harry Belafonte joins Dream Defenders’ Executive Director Phillip Agnew on Chris Hayes’ show, ‘All In.’ (Video screen capture)

by Dominique Mann | theGrio.com,

Reverend Jesse Jackson announced his support of the Dream Defenders today, the latest in a string of high-profile affiliations, which includes entertainment and civil rights icon Harry Belafonte.

The Dream Defenders are leading a push to repeal Stand Your Ground laws, address racial profiling, and launch a national discussion on issues catalyzed by George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman was found not guilty of the second degree and manslaughter charges related to the case and says he shot Martin in self-defense.

On this, the fifteenth day of the Dream Defenders’ sit-in at the Florida Capitol building, protestors continue to press state lawmakers to address these issues.

Jackson announced plans to stay overnight with the protestors, stating to the Grio that, “The Rainbow Push Coalition is mobilizing elected officials in support of these student movements. Too many people in Florida are disenfranchised.”

The Dream Defenders formed as an organization when Zimmerman’s case first began to gain national attention about six weeks after the death of the Florida teen in February 2012.  Funding derives from donations, mostly funneled through the Dream Defenders’ website.

“We’re not here for the theater. We want action,” Dream Defenders Executive Director Phillip Agnew told theGrio on Monday. While protesting with twenty students and young professionals in the halls of the Florida State Capitol outside Governor Rick Scott’s office, Agnew shared the future of his organization’s movement.

Background and update on the Defenders

The Capitol sit-in began two days after a jury of six women, five white and one Puerto Rican, found George Zimmerman innocent on July 13.

Although the Dream Defenders said they are currently negotiating with Florida lawmakers about their demands, Scott has not conceded their initial request for a special legislative session to address Stand Your Ground laws.

No fewer than 15 protestors stay overnight every day in response to these developments, Agnew said. Overnight protestors sleep on sheets, because the Capitol will not permit sleeping bags or air mattresses to be used.

Agnew counted nearly 150 overnight protestors one evening. The group also has thousands of followers on social media.

Over the weekend, a Capitol staffer reportedly tried to bring food for protestors (who are cut off from the public outside business hours), but the staffer felt intimidated by authorities and never made it through.

This prompted reports that Gov. Scott was attempting to starve the protestors into submission, reports denied by authorities.

Yet, when the Capitol reopened to the public on Monday, the activists were able to bring food in. They will restock with enough food for weekend hours to avoid any future confrontations.

Drafting “Trayvon’s Law”

Those camped inside the Capitol intend to hold their own week-long session in the hallways of the Senate chambers to draft “Trayvon’s Law,” legislation they feel will help redress the perceived social injustices highlighted by the verdict.

Trayvon’s Law has three pillars. First, is the repeal of Stand Your Ground laws in Florida, which sanction the use of deadly force against a possibly deadly threat without the obligation to retreat.

Second, is an end to racial profiling by police coupled with preventative training and disciplinary procedures that curtail it.

The third pillar would end Florida’s zero-tolerance school policing policy. The Dream Defenders say these school policing standards contribute to what activists call the “school to prison pipeline,” a phenomenon whereby young people of color find themselves more quickly and easily incarcerated than others.

According to the Sun SentinelFlorida leads in more school-based arrests than any other state. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice reported that more than 12,000 Florida students were arrested approximately 14,000 times last year in public schools. Although black students comprise 23 percent of Florida’s school population, they make up 47 percent of arrests.

The Dream Defenders’ session will host community experts and testimonies from young people who have been most affected by these issues.

Travyon’s Law versus the Trayvon Martin Act

Their efforts do not dovetail with those of the Trayvon Martin Foundation, which is calling for legislatures to implement the Trayvon Martin Act.

Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, advocated for this act in a speech before the Congressional Black Caucus at a hearing last Wednesday to address the state of black men in America. The act would amend states’ Stand Your Ground laws, making it illegal for people who initiated aggression to act in self-defense.

nversely, Trayvon’s Law advocates for a full repeal of Stand Your Ground, not a revision of the law.

“We need an aggressive stance against Stand Your Ground, otherwise we would be dishonest with ourselves,” said Agnew. “If we come out advocating for reform, we get no movement. It results in a bad deal with devastating consequences for our youth.”

Columbia University professor Dorian Warren, aRoosevelt Institute fellow who studies inequality in American politics, agrees.

“I think the stronger the movement demand, the more successful, especially if it inevitably gets watered down in the political process,” Warren told theGrio. “This is the moment to educate a whole new generation of young activists and mobilize thousands of people while the energy and emotions are high.”

Agnew urges immediate action based on the common ground of achieving justice for Trayvon, while respecting other approaches.

The Trayvon Martin Foundation is not affiliated with the Dream Defenders, and did not respond to requests for comment about the organization in time for publication.

Next steps for the Dream Defenders

After drafting Trayvon’s Law, the Dream Defenders plan to register Florida voters in support of their proposals and present their ideas to committee meetings of the Florida Legislature in September.

Agnew and dozens of protestors plan to camp at the Capitol for “as long as it takes” to have their proposals addressed, rotating in shifts to accommodate students’ and young professionals’ work commitments.

The Dream Defenders have not planned their exact steps beyond speaking at coming legislature meetings.

Yet, celebrities with civil rights leanings such as Jamie Foxx, Chuck D, Nas, Talib Kweli, Q-Tip, androck guitarist Tom Morello continue to show outpourings of support.

Kweli and Q-Tip have called Agnew to express solidarity, while Nas and Morello have tweeted their encouragement. Agnew is grateful, but remains focused on broader goals.

“The celebrities are cool, but this movement has to be bottom-up,” said Agnew. “It’s not about the big names, but the young people affected most by these laws.”

Comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement

As the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington approaches, organizers ponder ways the Trayvon Martin-inspired movement can honor the legacy of civil rights leaders.

Professor Warren described the parallels between the Dream Defenders and previous civil rights actions.

“Without the Freedom Rides, sit-ins, or even Black Power later on, Martin Luther King, Jr. and more mainstream civil rights leaders wouldn’t have had a left flank that made them appear more moderate to the folks in power with whom they were negotiating and bargaining with around national legislative action,” he said, alluding to the value of the Dream Defenders as an agitating force.

In an interview with MSNBC host Chris Hayes on his show All In, Belafonte said of Agnew, “in the course of our conversations I got the very strong sense that there was a resolve and a point of view politically that was solidly rooted in the traditions of our non-violence as well as in the traditions of our taking on the challenges of the system.”

Agnew felt humbled that the Dream Defenders have been compared to the iconic heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.

“I would never compare us to them,” Agnew said. “Those folks have been spit on, had pipes thrown at them, and dogs attack them. We use them as a blueprint, moral compass, and inspiration for everything we do.”

Americus Native Retires from U.S. Army After 23 Years

Submitted Article,

SFC Michael J. Williams is a native of Americus, Georgia. He is the son of Mr. Earvin Williams and Ms. Ola Williams of Americus. Michael graduated from Americus High School in 1990. He entered into the United States Army August 1990 as a (63B) Light Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic. He completed Basic Combat Training and Advance Individual Training at Fort Jackson South Carolina. After completion of Advance Individual Training, SFC Williams was deployed to Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield where he was assigned to Alpha Battery 2nd BN 1ST ADA. After returning back to home station Fort Bliss TX, he was reassigned to Echo Company 214th Aviation Regiment Schofield Barracks Hawaii June 1991. Echo Company 214th Aviation Regiment deactivated May 1995.

SFC Williams was reassigned to 540th Quartermaster Company, Schofield Barracks Hawaii June 1995. SFC Williams was reassigned to HHC 3/7 Mechanized Infantry Fort Stewart, GA, April 1996, as a Senior Light Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic. SFC Williams was reassigned back to 540th Quartermaster Company, Schofield Barracks Hawaii July 1998 through January 2002 serving in a variety of Leadership positions from Senior Mechanic to Motor Sergeant. SFC Williams was reassigned to HHT 4th Squadron 2nd ACR, Fort Polk, Louisiana February 2002. SFC Williams remained in HHT 4th Squadron 2nd ACR until December 2004; during this time he deployed in Support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. SFC Williams was reassigned to Golf Forward Support Company, 94th Brigade Support Battalion Fort Polk, Louisiana, January 2005, serving as Platoon Sergeant and Maintenance Control Sergeant. After serving in the position of Platoon Sergeant, SFC Williams was selected to serve as the First Sergeant of Golf Company, 94th Brigade Support Battalion for 18 months. SFC Williams was reassigned July 2009 to 92nd Engineer Battalion Fort Stewart, GA where he
was assigned to 526th Horizontal Company as Motor Sergeant/Platoon Sergeant. After deploying to Afghanistan with 526th Horizontal Company, SFC Williams was transferred to 385th Military Police Battalion Fort Stewart, GA October
2011. SFC Williams was transferred to (DPW) Department of Public Works June 2012 as a Single Soldiers Housing Inspector for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Air Field Single Soldiers. SFC Williams was then attached August 2012 to (USAG) United States Army Garrison as the Operations Sergeant for (HHC) Headquarters and Headquarters Company. Sergeant First Class Michael Jerome Williams will be officially retired 1 November 2013.

His military schools includes the Primary Leadership Development Course, Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course; Advanced Noncommissioned Officers Course; First Sergeants Course; Environmental Institute (Mold Certification Course), Manager Development Course; Actions Officers Development Course; Supervisors Training Course.

His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (with 6 oak leaf clusters), Army Achievement Medal (3 oad leaf cluster), Presidential Unit Citation, Army Good Conduct Medal (5th award)
National Defense Service Medal, South West Asia Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon (#3 device), Kuwait Liberation MDL (Government Of Kuwait), Overseas Service Ribbon (2 silver oak leaf cluster, Drivers/Mechanic Badge, Basic Marksmanship Qualification Badge.

SFC Michael J. Williams is currently retiring after 23 years in the United States Army. He is the father of proud father of 4 children Bryson, Ashley, Ashlynn and Brandon. His plans after retirement are to spend time with his family.

Next Democratic Party of Georgia chairman must provide real leadership

Democratic Party of Georgia

Democratic Party of Georgia

By: Patrick Davis,

On Monday, July 29, the Statesboro Herald newspaper published a story about Bulloch County’s 2013 Independence Gala which featured local and state Democrats along with candidates for the vacant chairman’s job of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Statesboro is a rural, college town which is home to Georgia Southern University and is located about two hours southeast of Macon.

There is an old adage that says leadership starts at the top, and for the Democratic Party of Georgia, the August 31 special election for the party’s new chairman will be a pivotal turning point for progressives.

A handful of candidates have submitted their names for nomination with knowledge that the deadline is July 31.

Who will be the best person to move the Democratic Party of Georgia forward?

Mary Squires, one of the DPG candidates told the Statesboro Herald the following:

“We have a great opportunity now, you know. The demographics have shifted,” Squires said. “We are solidly 50-50 Democrat and Republican, and Democrats need someone who will focus on winning elections.”

Even though the demographics have shifted, will the strategies of outreach change or shift as well?

Georgia is becoming an increasingly more diverse state, but there is a mindset from some inside our own party that believe capitulating to Republicans or former Democrats on certain issues to ‘avoid being labeled’ is the pathway to winning elections.

Well, it is safe to say, it hasn’t worked.

This leads to mixed messages and as we head into 2014, state Democrats don’t need to be projecting mixed messages on issues relating to the Voting Rights Act, immigration reform, public education, common sense gun control, women’s issues and other topics.

Trying to out-Republican the Republicans is never a winning strategy.

There may a lot of ‘Reagan Democrats’ who are Georgia Republicans, but there are a lot of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama Democrats out there as well and the party should focus on getting these people to the polls in 2014.

I want accountability from the next chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

The next state Democratic Party of Georgia chairman must take all elections seriously, not just presidential elections.

Over the past twenty years, Republicans have made the most gains and done the most damage during non-presidential, mid-term years.

And the figurative hijacking of the Georgia General Assembly by Republicans in 2003 had begun a decade-long effort –led by Sonny Purdue and now Nathan Deal– to turn the Peach State into a more tougher place to live for all of its citizens.

The next chairman needs to address this, and this is where having traits such as being a strong communicator along with having solid organizational skills are vital.

In 2010, a large number of younger independent or Democratic voters stayed home and this has to be reversed.

Additionally, a large numbers of younger voters that didn’t vote or weren’t made aware of the issues that directly affect them as an age group had an impact on the outcome of the last governor’s election in 2010.

Only 11% of younger voters (18-29) bothered to vote nationally in 2010.

And this begs the question, are younger voters –especially under 30– a priority in Georgia?

Candidates such as R.J. Hadley, Doug Stoner, Mary Squires and Dubose Porter need to articulate publicly a plan for outreach to younger voters and tell the public whether he or she agrees with President Obama on various issues.

Let’s face it 2014 will be referendum on President Obama, so this is a pertinent question.

Porter, who was the floor leader to Zell Miller in the 1990’s, is the only DPG candidate thus far who lives outside Atlanta in the city of Dublin– a hour southeast of Macon.

However, what is his plan? Does Porter agree with President Obama on the issue of immigration reform or what are Porter’s thoughts about the Supreme Court striking down parts of the Voting Rights Act?

Porter owns newspapers in eight different counties surrounding Laurens, but if there is virtually no news in his own newspaper about issues that are important to Democrats locally, then how will Porter be able to lead and/or motivate Democrats in a state that has a 45 percent minority population?

Laurens County’s largest voting location and most progressive is Dublin’s Calhoun Park. However, it ranks among the lowest in regard to voter participation.

There is a disconnect between the Democratic Party of Georgia and the people of Georgia and this problem has to be fixed.

The next chairman must be able to articulate a detailed plan moving forward that includes Central and South Georgia– especially rural counties.

It is difficult for any statewide candidate to win Georgia if the state party routinely ignores counties outside the metro Atlanta area.

And it is also difficult if the leadership of Democratic Party of Georgia isn’t on the same page with a sitting Democratic President, Barack Obama.

 

Justice Department Declares War On The GOP’s War On Voting

8167996521_215b469dfcBy Jason Sattler,

In the weeks since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, Republicans in Texas and North Carolina have demonstrated exactly why the law, which requires “pre-clearance” of new election laws in specific states and counties that have historically discriminated against minority voters, is so necessary.

On the day the decision in Shelby v. Holder struck down Section 4 of the law — making the “pre-clearance” requirements of Section 5 useless — Texas attorney general Greg Abbott announced that he would move forward on actions that had previously been held up by the federal government.

“With today’s decision, the state’s voter ID law will take effect immediately,” Abbott said. “Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government.”

North Carolina Republicans topped off a season of passing some of the most extreme laws in the country with a voter suppression bill that The Nation‘s Ari Berman called the “worst in the nation.”

Now the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Eric Holder, has announced that they will support a lawsuit to reinstate “pre-clearance” in Texas for 10 years based on the state’s history of discrimination and the remaining sections of 1965’s Voting Rights Act. The department may also sue North Carolina if its new voter ID bill becomes law.

“Even as Congress considers updates to the Voting Rights Act in light of the Court’s ruling, we plan, in the meantime, to fully utilize the law’s remaining sections to subject states to pre-clearance as necessary,” Holder said Thursday morning. “My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against such discrimination wherever it is found.”

The DOJ was widely successful in stopping the widespread effort in Republican-controlled areas to limit voting by typically Democratic constituencies in 2012. Section 5 played a key role in its enforcement.

“Let me be clear,” Holder said. “This was a deeply disappointing and flawed decision. It dealt a serious setback to the cause of voting rights . . . And this is why protecting the fundamental right to vote — for all Americans — will continue to be a top priority for the Department of Justice so long as I have the privilege of serving as attorney general.”

Last year, a federal court found that Texas’ redistricting maps were “enacted with discriminatory purpose.”

The same week a court unanimously found that the state’s voter ID law discriminated against minorities for three reasons:

1) a substantial subgroup of Texas voters, many of whom are African American or Hispanic, lack photo ID; (2) the burdens associated with obtaining ID will weigh most heavily on the poor; and (3) racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.

It’s likely that a huge percentage of the 603,892 to 795,955 Latino voters in Texas who lacked voter ID in 2012 still do so in 2013, even though conservatives on the Supreme Court have decided that the Voting Rights Act formula that kept Texas under pre-clearance is no longer necessary.

Texas governor Rick Perry issued a statement condemning the Department of Justice’s actions.

“This end run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process,” Governor Perry said.

We’ll see if a court thinks those aspersions are so unfair.

Republican Health Care Panic

By Paul Krugman,

Leading Republicans appear to be nerving themselves up for another round of attempted fiscal blackmail. With the end of the fiscal year looming, they aren’t offering the kinds of compromises that might produce a deal and avoid a government shutdown; instead, they’re drafting extremist legislation — bills that would, for example, cut clean-water grants by 83 percent — that has no chance of becoming law. Furthermore, they’re threatening, once again, to block any rise in the debt ceiling, a move that would damage the U.S. economy and possibly provoke a world financial crisis.

Yet even as Republican politicians seem ready to go on the offensive, there’s a palpable sense of anxiety, even despair, among conservative pundits and analysts. Better-informed people on the right seem, finally, to be facing up to a horrible truth: Health care reform, President Obama’s signature policy achievement, is probably going to work.

And the good news about Obamacare is, I’d argue, what’s driving the Republican Party’s intensified extremism. Successful health reform wouldn’t just be a victory for a president conservatives loathe, it would be an object demonstration of the falseness of right-wing ideology. So Republicans are being driven into a last, desperate effort to head this thing off at the pass.

Some background: Although you’d never know it from all the fulminations, with prominent Republicans routinelycomparing Obamacare to slavery, the Affordable Care Act is based on three simple ideas. First, all Americans should have access to affordable insurance, even if they have pre-existing medical problems. Second, people should be induced or required to buy insurance even if they’re currently healthy, so that the risk pool remains reasonably favorable. Third, to prevent the insurance “mandate” from being too onerous, there should be subsidies to hold premiums down as a share of income.

Is such a system workable? For a while, Republicans convinced themselves that it was doomed to failure, and that they could profit politically from the inevitable “train wreck.” But a system along exactly these lines has been operating in Massachusetts since 2006, where it was introduced by a Republican governor. What was his name? Mitt Somethingorother? And no trains have been wrecked so far.

The question is whether the Massachusetts success story can be replicated in other states, especially big states like California and New York with large numbers of uninsured residents. The answer to this question depends, in the first place, on whether insurance companies are willing to offer coverage at reasonable rates. And the answer, so far, is a clear “yes.” In California, insurers came in with bids running significantly below expectations; in New York, it appears that premiums will be cut roughly in half.

So is this a case of something for nothing, in which nobody loses? No. In states like California, which have allowed discrimination based on health status, a small number of young, healthy, affluent residents will see their premiums go up. In New York, people who don’t think they need insurance and are too rich to receive subsidies — probably an even smaller group — will feel put upon by being obliged to buy policies. Mainly, though, those insurance subsidies will cost money, and that money will, to an important extent, be raised through higher taxes on the 1 percent: tax increases that have, by the way, already taken effect.

Over all, then, health reform will help millions of Americans who were previously either too sick or too poor to get the coverage they needed, and also offer a great deal of reassurance to millions more who currently have insurance but fear losing it; it will provide these benefits at the expense of a much smaller number of other Americans, mostly the very well off. It is, if you like, a plan to comfort the afflicted while (slightly) afflicting the comfortable.

And the prospect that such a plan might succeed is anathema to a party whose whole philosophy is built around doing just the opposite, of taking from the “takers” and giving to the “job creators,” known to the rest of us as the “rich.” Hence the brinkmanship.

So will Republicans actually take us to the brink? If they do, it will be crucial to understand why they would do such a thing, when their own leaders have admitted that confrontations over the budget inflict substantial harm on the economy. It won’t be because they fear the budget deficit, which is coming down fast. Nor will it be because they sincerely believe that spending cuts produce prosperity.

No, Republicans may be willing to risk economic and financial crisis solely in order to deny essential health care and financial security to millions of their fellow Americans. Let’s hear it for their noble cause!

Republicans Against Reality

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman

By PAUL KRUGMAN,

Last week House Republicans voted for the 40th time to repeal Obamacare. Like the previous 39 votes, this action will have no effect whatsoever. But it was a stand-in for what Republicans really want to do: repeal reality, and the laws of arithmetic in particular. The sad truth is that the modern G.O.P. is lost in fantasy, unable to participate in actual governing.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about policy substance. I may believe that Republicans have their priorities all wrong, but that’s not the issue here. Instead, I’m talking about their apparent inability to accept very basic reality constraints, like the fact that you can’t cut overall spending without cutting spending on particular programs, or the fact that voting to repeal legislation doesn’t change the law when the other party controls the Senate and the White House.

Am I exaggerating? Consider what went down in Congress last week.

First, House leaders had to cancel planned voting on a transportation bill, because not enough representatives were willing to vote for the bill’s steep spending cuts. Now, just a few months ago House Republicans approved an extreme austerity budget, mandating severe overall cuts in federal spending — and each specific bill will have to involve large cuts in order to meet that target. But it turned out that a significant number of representatives, while willing to vote for huge spending cuts as long as there weren’t any specifics, balked at the details. Don’t cut you, don’t cut me, cut that fellow behind the tree.

Then House leaders announced plans to hold a vote on doubling the amount of cuts from the food stamp program — a demand that is likely to sink the already struggling effort to agree with the Senate on a farm bill.

Then they held the pointless vote on Obamacare, apparently just to make themselves feel better. (It’s curious how comforting they find the idea of denying health care to millions of Americans.) And then they went home for recess, even though the end of the fiscal year is looming and hardly any of the legislation needed to run the federal government has passed.

In other words, Republicans, confronted with the responsibilities of governing, essentially threw a tantrum, then ran off to sulk.

How did the G.O.P. get to this point? On budget issues, the proximate source of the party’s troubles lies in the decision to turn the formulation of fiscal policy over to a con man. Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has always been a magic-asterisk kind of guy — someone who makes big claims about having a plan to slash deficits but refuses to spell out any of the all-important details. Back in 2011 the Congressional Budget Office, in evaluating one of Mr. Ryan’s plans, came close to open sarcasm; it described the extreme spending cuts Mr. Ryan was assuming, then remarked, tersely, “No proposals were specified that would generate that path.”

What’s happening now is that the G.O.P. is trying to convert Mr. Ryan’s big talk into actual legislation — and is finding, unsurprisingly, that it can’t be done. Yet Republicans aren’t willing to face up to that reality. Instead, they’re just running away.

When it comes to fiscal policy, then, Republicans have fallen victim to their own con game. And I would argue that something similar explains how the party lost its way, not just on fiscal policy, but on everything.

Think of it this way: For a long time the Republican establishment got its way by playing a con game with the party’s base. Voters would be mobilized as soldiers in an ideological crusade, fired up by warnings that liberals were going to turn the country over to gay married terrorists, not to mention taking your hard-earned dollars and giving them to Those People. Then, once the election was over, the establishment would get on with its real priorities — deregulation and lower taxes on the wealthy.

At this point, however, the establishment has lost control. Meanwhile, base voters actually believe the stories they were told — for example, that the government is spending vast sums on things that are a complete waste or at any rate don’t do anything for people like them. (Don’t let the government get its hands on Medicare!) And the party establishment can’t get the base to accept fiscal or political reality without, in effect, admitting to those base voters that they were lied to.

The result is what we see now in the House: a party that, as I said, seems unable to participate in even the most basic processes of governing.

What makes this frightening is that Republicans do, in fact, have a majority in the House, so America can’t be governed at all unless a sufficient number of those House Republicans are willing to face reality. And that quorum of reasonable Republicans may not exist.

<nyt_correction_bottom>

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 9, 2013

An earlier version of this column misstated the House Republican plan on food stamps. It will double the amount of planned cuts, not halve the benefits.

Corporate Taxes: The 3 Biggest Lies

ROBERT REICH

ROBERT REICH

Robert Reich’s Blog,

Instead of spending August on the beach, corporate lobbyists are readying arguments for when Congress returns in September about why corporate taxes should be lowered.

But they’re lies. You need to know why so you can spread the truth.

Lie #1: U.S. corporate tax rates are higher than the tax rates of other big economies. Wrong. After deductions and tax credits, the average corporate tax rate in the U.S. is lower. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States has an effective corporate tax rate of 27.1%, compared to an average of 27.7% in the other large economies of the world.

Lie #2: U.S. corporations need lower taxes in order to make investments in new jobs. Wrong again. Corporations are sitting on almost $2 trillion of cash they don’t know what to do with. The 1000 largest U.S. corporations alone are hoarding almost $1 trillion.

Rather than investing in expansion, they’re buying back their own stocks or raising dividends. They have no economic incentive to expand unless or until consumers want to buy more, but consumer spending is pinched because the middle class keeps shrinking and the median wage, adjusted for inflation, keeps dropping.

Lie #3: U.S. corporations need a tax break in order to be globally competitive. Baloney. The “competitiveness” of American corporations is becoming a meaningless term because most big U.S. corporations are no longer American companies at all. The biggest have been creating way more jobs abroad than in the U.S.

A growing percent of their customers are outside the U.S. Their investors are global. They do their R&D all over the world. And they park their profits wherever taxes are lowest — another reason they pay so little in taxes. (Don’t be fooled that a “tax amnesty” that will bring all that money back to America and generate lots of new investments and jobs here — see item #2 above).

Corporations want corporate tax reduction to be the centerpiece of “tax reform” come the fall. The President has already signaled a willingness to sign on in return for more infrastructure investment. But the arguments for corporate tax reduction are specious.

HolderWants Renewed Authority Over Texas Voting Laws

By David Ingram and Dave Warner, Reuters

The Obama administration embarked on a new strategy on Thursday to challenge voting laws it says discriminate by race, an effort to counter a Supreme Court ruling last month that freed states from the strictest federal oversight.

Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to start in Texas, a conservative stronghold where his Justice Department will ask a federal court for renewed power to block new election laws it says illegally discriminate against blacks and other minorities.

The Texas action was expected to be the first in a nationwide roll-out of cases to work around Shelby County v. Holder, the Alabama case in which the Supreme Court on June 25 invalidated a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last,” Holder said to a standing ovation in Philadelphia at the annual conference of the National Urban League, a civil rights organization.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican and possible presidential candidate in 2016, said the move demonstrated contempt by the Obama administration.

“This end-run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s commonsense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process,” Perry said in a statement.

Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration has been searching for new ways to oppose voting discrimination since a 5-4 conservative majority on the high court ruled that a formula used to determine which states and localities were subject to extra federal scrutiny was outdated.

The extra scrutiny had included U.S. government preclearance of any changes in voting laws or procedures, down to the location of polling places, for a select number of states and localities with a history of racial discrimination.

The Justice Department was already tangling with Texas in federal courts, alleging that the state discriminated by race in two impermissible ways.

First, department lawyers objected to the drawing of congressional and state legislative district lines that they say leave too few places where a minority candidate can win.

Second, although the Justice Department has allowed voter ID requirements in some states, it said Texas failed to include measures to protect minority voters.

Based on the evidence already presented in court, “we believe that the State of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices,” said Holder, the first black U.S. attorney general.

Holder also said Texas has a “history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the Supreme Court itself has recognized.”

HIGH COURT WORK-AROUND

The Justice Department was expected to formalize its request in a filing in federal court in Texas on Thursday.

When the Supreme Court invalidated the Voting Rights Act’s coverage formula, it freed Texas and select other jurisdictions from having to submit their voting laws to the Justice Department or a federal court before they could take effect.

The covered jurisdictions were mostly in the South, a region where officials had a history of denying minorities the right to vote. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the high court’s ruling that the South had changed dramatically.

The court left in place, though, other parts of the Voting Rights Act, provisions Holder hopes to leverage to duplicate what was known as the Section 5 preclearance process.

The act’s Section 3 allows a court to “bail-in” a state or locality to the preclearance process if it has committed a constitutional violation. The section has been used against two states, Arkansas and New Mexico, and against six counties and one city, according to a 2010 tally in the Yale Law Journal.

“It has been sparingly used, and it made sense because we had Section 5, which was an incredibly effective tool,” said Myrna Pérez, a voting rights lawyer with the liberal Brennan Center for Justice in New York.

Some members of Congress have discussed passing a new formula for Section 5 that would comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling and automatically subject some jurisdictions to preclearance, but they have yet to do so.

SPLIT REACTION

The Justice Department used Section 5 preclearance to block both Texas’ voter ID law and its redistricting plan, winning two separate cases in federal court in Washington last year.

Then, after the Supreme Court’s ruling in June, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who has since announced he is running for governor, said the laws could go into effect immediately.

State lawmakers ultimately approved a redistricting plan that was deemed friendlier to minority populations, though state Democrats still criticize it and it is the subject of a lawsuit in federal court in Texas.

Holder’s announcement was cheered by Texas Democrats and opposed by Republicans.

“I’ll fight #Obama’s effort to control our elections & I’ll fight against cheating at the ballot box,” Abbott wrote on Twitter.

“It is 100 percent appropriate and a good thing that the Department of Justice is going to pursue every angle to protect the voting rights for Texans who have historically been disenfranchised,” said Jeff Rotkoff, a Democratic consultant in Austin, Texas.

Texas’ voter ID law requires voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot, a measure its supporters, mostly Republicans, said is necessary to prevent fraud.

Democrats said it would disproportionately affect the poor and minorities because even getting a free photo ID would require travel to a state office and proof that costs money to obtain, such as a certified copy of a birth certificate.

 

Two Racist Mikes, Cheokas and Busman, Attack Black School Board Members

The three white school board members of the Sumter County School Board act as if they are still the majority. The three members still want to impose their agendas on the six Blacks who make up the majority. Dr. Michael Busman, a former board chairman, appears to be the hardest of the three to accept his minority status. Meda Krenson and Michael Mock, the other two white board members who often appear clueless on educational policies, always follow Busman’s lead. But lately the three have been joined by another Michael, Republican State Representative Michael Cheokas, to help them remove the Black school board members.

As the newest perpetrator to assist the three, Rep. Michael Cheokas, the owner of several local liquor stores who changed his political party from Democratic to Republican, introduced House Bill 115 in the GA assembly to help Busman, Mock, and Krenson in their continuing efforts to remove the majority school board members. Our legal sources have reported that House Bill 115 introduced by Cheokas is unconstitutional. Both Mikes apparently have a problem respecting the law. Both need to accept the fact the six Black majority members were duly elected by their constituents.

The Black community is losing patience with Busman’s tricks and now with Rep. Cheokas who has chosen to be morally and legally on the wrong side of this issue. What the two Mikes are proposing simply won’t work. Cheokas should be using his time to sponsor lawful bills that would benefit his legislative district. Instead, he sponsors-perhaps knowingly- a bogus piece of legislation to appeal to his racist White base and to assist Busman’s efforts to remove six duly elected officials.

Cheokas was elected as a Democrat in Sumter and surrounding counties before he switched to the Republican Party. Cheokas took over the family’s liquor store business when his father, Arthur Cheokas, died. We knew his father, and unless the community’s impressions are wrong, his dad was well respected in the Black community. His father told the publisher of this paper that, “the Whites in Americus need to understand that Blacks will run the mayor’s office, school board and the County.” Blacks have become politically savvy with their voting power and political strength. The elder Cheokas’ predictions might happen sooner than he envisioned.

And if anyone understands the concept of majority rules, it should be Rep Cheokas. We suspect that is one of, if not the main reason, that Cheokas switched from GA’s minority Democratic Party to become a member of the majority Republican Party. Yet, he joins Busman-a racist with a checkered past from alleged illegal drug use, DUI arrest, to being investigated by GA’s Medical Board. Similarly, Mock and Krenson have little experience in education policies and administration. Even though their goal is to remove the Black majority school board members, their experiences to do so are limited.

Blacks have kept Cheokas and his family living well by buying liquor from his stores on Hwy 19, Big A Liquors, and Tripp Street, at the Party Center. As a veteran businessman, he should know you don’t “bite the hand that feeds you.” His racist efforts to help remove six elected Black officials have insulted his Black customer base. After all, his two stores aren’t the only liquor stores in the community. Jumpin Johnny on Hwy 19 would appreciate receiving more Black customers. Blacks like to shop at stores where the owner cares about them and they definitely don’t want to feed Cheokas who is trying to destroy them politically.

We applaud the Black school board majority for not caving in to racist schemes to take back control of the school board. The lawsuit is correct legally and in order. Attorneys Maurice King and E. Bryan Watkins argued brilliantly on behalf of the school board. The three White board members did not want King and Watkins to represent them. We were so proud of our attorneys. They stopped the racist Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) from dismantling another majority Black school board which has been their legacy.

We have to remind the Sumter County community that our school system has been accredited by the GA Accrediting Committee. We don’t need the racist SACS.

Eric Holder Outlining New Justice Department Drug Sentencing Reforms

Eric Holder

Eric Holder

By Ryan J Reilly | Huffington Post,

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department will avoid charging certain low-level and nonviolent drug offenders with crimes that carry mandatory minimums, Attorney General Eric Holder will announce Monday. The policy shift will allow certain defendants — those without ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels — to avoid what Holder called “draconian mandatory minimum sentences.”

Holder, in a speech before the American Bar Association in San Francisco on Monday, will also announce that the Justice Department is giving U.S. attorneys throughout the country a greater amount of prosecutorial discretion.

“Some issues are best handled at the state or local level,” Holder will say, according to prepared remarks provided by the Justice Department. “And that’s why I have directed the United States Attorney community to develop specific, locally-tailored guidelines — consistent with our national priorities — for determining when federal charges should be filed, and when they should not.”

The “Smart On Crime” plan that Holder is announcing intends to lower the overall federal prison population. As part of that measure, Holder will announce, elderly prisoners who committed no violent crimes and served a significant portion of their sentences may be eligible for early release.

“Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities,” Holder will say. “However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it.”

Under the drug policy, Holder will say defendants would be “charged with offenses for which the accompanying sentences are better suited to their individual conduct, rather than excessive prison terms more appropriate for violent criminals or drug kingpins.”

“By reserving the most severe penalties for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers, we can better promote public safety, deterrence, and rehabilitation — while making our expenditures smarter and more productive,” Holder will say.

Paula Deen Can’t Come Back to Her Birthplace in Glory; She Must Repent!!

Paula Deen

Paula Deen

By John White, President of the Albany SCLC & Former State Representative,

“Some statements & quotes in this article are excerpts from other publication”.

When Paula Deen left her Birthplace of Albany, Georgia the city was 28% Black… She could probably use the “N” Word back then and get away with it …Today, Albany is 68% Black and she can’t use it in Albany or anywhere else without serious consequences, as she has so painfully found out. This also applies to those who are promoting her return to Albany with the Honor of a Museum. To attempt a Museum in a 68% Black City after Paula’s effort to relegate Black People to the Plantation is insulting. Further, it says and suggests that Blacks don’t matter and we don’t care how they feel. I can promise you that this attempt has the makings for a Selective Buying Campaign. Paula made her bad situation worse when she said: “I is what I is and I’m not changing”! O.K. Paula – Open Mouth and Insert Foot. I really kind of feel sorry for Paula; sorry to know that she and her family have not grown more intelligent and more observant of the world around them, in all of these years; sorry to know that they have no respect for those who feed them every day; Sorry to know that they don’t understand what caring for “the least of these” means.

When she said “I is what I is and I’m not Changing”, In my opinion, she was saying ‘I don’t give a Damn what people think or say. I’m going to keep doing what I have always done. “I’m not Changing”! There is no hint of “I’m Sorry” in that…
And, a tearful “please don’t hate me” interview on NBC’s “Today.” Just won’t cut it.

Paula has lived 66 years and In the last 40 she has seen the change in the Laws of this Land, she has seen the change in attitudes of some Caucasian Americans because the threat of losing their incomes dictated it. she has seen change to
the point of electing a Black President, by mostly Caucasian Voters; not once but twice and She has watched some businesses go under because people of her persuasion were attempting to degrade and some fully degraded people of
another race. It is apparent that Paula didn’t learn anything from that? “What Paula Deen needs to do is just accept that she’s on the wrong side of history in her attempt to take Black People back to a subservient role for her enjoyment. Unfortunately, she was able to get one person to do a portion of what would seem to be the thing that would make her feel superior, as some of her fore parents did on the plantations. In a New York Times story Thursday July 25
th. There is a claim that the former Food Network star asked a black employee to dress like Aunt Jemima. Ms. Dora Charles say’s it was Deen’s idea of having a Confederate-tinged dinner theater. That is a most damaging element of Deen’s effort. Charles tells the New York Times that she refused Deen’s requests to ring a dinner bell and holler for “people to come and get it” in front of her Savannah, Ga., restaurant, The Lady & Sons. “I said, ‘I’m not ringing a bell,'” Charles told
the paper. “That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day.” Deen finally found an African-American employee willing to perform this throwback to plantation life in Charles’ friend and colleague Ineata Jones, whom, the Times
reports, is nicknamed Jellyroll. The paper says that postcards of Jones ringing a dinner bell are for sale at the restaurant’s gift shop. (Reminds one of a slave on the auction block) However, Jones drew the line at dressing like Aunt Jemima,
the syrup and pancake mix brand character who has origins in minstrel shows. “Jellyroll didn’t want to hear that,” Charles said. “She didn’t want to do that.”

The profile of Deen’s cook Dora Charles overflows with allegations of racist behavior. Deen allegedly paid black employees less than white ones and used racial slurs. Deen said in a deposition last month that she has occasionally used
the N-word — but not in a “mean” way. Please tell this writer, how can a White Person say the N-Word in a Good Way?? The Food Network star and her brother, Bubba Hiers, are being sued by Lisa T. Jackson, a former employee of their Savannah, Ga., restaurant, Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House. Jackson says she suffered from Hiers’ violent, sexist and racist behavior and that Deen did nothing to stop it. In a deposition May 17, Deen was questioned about her and her relatives’ use of racial terms and humor, and her desire to have a wedding staffed by African-American men.

Jackson, who says she is a white woman with bi-racial nieces, claims in her lawsuit that Deen once expressed a desire for Hiers’ wedding to be staffed by a “bunch of little N—ers” wearing “long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties,” adding, “you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.” The suit said Deen abandoned the idea because “the media would be on me about that.” Asked by Jackson’s attorney, Matthew Billips, if she had ever used the “N” word, Deen replied, “Yes, of course.”…Readers, you can see how she emphasized using the word, as if it was the popular and right thing to do.

Deen was pressed for details on when, she replied: “Well, it was probably when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head…I didn’t feel real favorable towards him.” She said she likely used the word afterwards, when telling her husband about the robbery. Deen said that while others in her family, including her brother, have told racial jokes, she has not. “We have all told offcolored jokes,” she explained. (“I is what I is and I am not Changing”). Dora Charles, who claims she was not adequately compensated for her role in developing Deen’s Southern-style cooking, has filed complaints with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The New York Times article seems likely to further tarnish Deen’s already damaged reputation following her admission last month that she had used the N-word. The chef was forced to open up about her use of slurs during a deposition related to allegations of racism and sexual harassment brought against Deen by former employee, Lisa T. Jackson.

Cheokas: Liquor Store Owner Joins Busman with Racial Attacks

Dr. Mike Busman School board member(Rotary File Photo)

Dr. Mike Busman School board member(Rotary File Photo)

Rep. Mike Cheokas(R)

Rep. Mike Cheokas(R)

Staff Reports,

The three White Sumter County Board of Education members are trying to determine if a recently passed law would make it illegal to use public funds for some of its members to file a law suit. The six Black board members filed the lawsuit.

House Bill 115 was recently passed and is an amendment to Article 3 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia that would make it a misdemeanor for school board members to use public funds for legal defense.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Mike Cheokas (R-Americus) District 138, a local liquor store owner who represents Americus.

Sumter County’s GAAAP, formerly the NAACP, contends the bill was intended to stop the six black members of Sumter County Board of Education from using board money to fight school accrediting agencies like SACS (Southern Association of
Colleges and Schools.

Attorney Maurice King, school board attorney said the bill is unconstitutional.

“This was an attack by the three desperate White board members against the majority Black board members,” said John Marshall, former president of the local NAACP branch and an officer of GAAAP (God’s Army for the Advancement of All People)

In November of 2012, attorney E. Bryan Watkins, representing Sumter BOE members Kelvin Pless, Michael Lewis, Willa Fitzpatrick, Alice Green, Carolyn Whitehead and the Board’s Chair, Edith Green, filed a civil lawsuit in Superior Court of Fulton County against the Georgia State Board of Education and Gov. Nathan Deal. The three White board members refused to be represented by the two Black attorneys.

The lawsuit came a week before the local BOE was due in Atlanta for another hearing with the State Board of Education regarding whether the State Board should recommend to the Governor that he suspend members of the Sumter County Board of Education.

The suit filed by Watkins and King called for a jury trial, no action has been taken since.

According to section 18 (b) of the bill, “a local board of education shall not expend any public funds for attorney’s fees or expenses of litigation relating to the defense of a criminal action against a local board member” under the Voting Rights Act.

At an early board meeting in August, Sumter School Board members debated over the bill’s interpretation. Board member Michael Busman said it’s clear the law says public funds can’t be used to sue the state.

“So you can’t sue the state using public funds,” he said.

Member Meda Krenson, who is legislative liaison for the BOE, agreed with Busman the suit needed to be dropped.

However, Kelvin Pless questioned during the meeting if Busman’s response was just an opinion.

“I just want to make sure we can make a decent decision not based on an opinion … but get some true, accurate legal advice before we vote on it and not our personal opinion,” Pless said.

The majority Black members voted not to drop the lawsuit. What liquor store owner, Cheokas, fails to admit as an elected state representative is that the majority rules and can make decisions to protect the interest of the Sumter County School System. If left to the White board members, they want to see the school lose its accreditation, says Dr. Marshall. Furthermore, Cheokas left the Democratic Party which is in the minority in GA and switched to the majority Republican Party. Obviously, he understands the power of majority rule, says Marshall.

GAAAP President Rev. Mathis Wright, Jr. said the Sumter County School Board Districts have always been  divided. When White concerns had the majority and voted together and the Blacks voted together there were no new bills introduced. The GA State Board, SACS, or governor did not assist Blacks when they made the same complaints as Whites are making now. It is time for the three Whites on the BOE and their supporters to get over their disappointment and to move on; putting all of our energy behind educating our children.

The Criminal Behavior of a Monster District Attorney

Plez Hardin,  District Attorney

Plez Hardin, District Attorney

Staff Reports,

The Americus Sumter Observer Staff covered a Court hearing brought by District Attorney, Plez Hardin against former wife, Kimberly Brown (Hardin) Dupree.

Hardin was seeking to reduce the child support amount he was ordered to pay in the final divorce decree on November 6, 2009 for his then four minor children. Since the decree, Hardin now only has three minor children with the oldest daughter, Sarah Beth Hardin no longer eligible for child support at the age of 19 years old.

In the divorce decree Hardin was also ordered to pay $1,300.00 monthly to the former Mrs. Hardin because of his adulterous indiscretions with his hairdresser. Hardin has since married Robin Hardin and they have a 2 year old son, Benjamin.

The former Mrs. Hardin stated that she was not after Plez’s money and that he was threatening her with illegal surveillance for no reason except that he believed he was above the law and proved how vindictive and extremely mean he could be.

During the hearing it was clear that the former Mrs. Hardin knew that when she remarried in April, 2013 she would be giving-up the alimony; but that still didn’t stop DA Hardin from coming after her and the three minor children.

The former Mrs. Harden was represented by Attorney Mark B. McManus of Rainwater & Gibbs, LLP. Attorney McManus questioned DA Plez Hardin about his income and tax returns which essential items in an alimony case.

It was made clear that Hardin had lied about his income and donations to Bethel Church in Americus, GA. In sworn affidavits and testimony under oath, DA Hardin had reported that the house he and his new wife (Robin) now live in at 905 Hancock Drive was rental property. Hardin reported that he had paid tuition for his children to attend school at Southland Academy when it was brought out in the hearing that the children grandparents had in fact paid school tuitions.

Hardin testified that he had no income tax withheld from his $109,000.00 (plus) state salary, but received refunds of $2,000.00 and $4,000.00 two consecutive years. Hardin also reported to the IRS that he had made a donation of $1,000.00 to Bethel Baptist Church, but had no record of the donation nor did the church have a record. Hardin testified that he owes the IRS money from past years and the refunds were applied to what he already owed the IRS. Attorney
McManus disputed the legitimacy of this credit to owed taxes when no taxes were deducted from Hardin’s income for the years in question.

It was clear that Plez had provided false information to the IRS and the State of Georgia. It was also brought out that over the pass three years that DA Hardin had over $400,000.00 of unreported income. Also, Robin Hardin owner and operator of the Hair Company, Felder St., Americus, Georgia testified under oath that she made roughly $700.00 gross per week in her business, but that her overhead was almost the same amount so there was no need to claim income
for her business. Her husband DA Hardin testified that he didn’t report her income to IRS although they filed joint tax returns for 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Attorney McManus asked DA Hardin if he was on the “Take, sold guns, drugs, steroids, or what?” Plez said no, however he did not give any information about where the unreported income came from.

The former wife’s parents, the Browns, paid for Plez Hardin to attend law school, paid for a place for him, their daughter and grandchildren to live while they were married and this was the thanks they got.

During Sara Elizabeth Hardin’s testimony, the oldest of the children, told the court that her father, DA Hardin had kept her younger siblings from attending her high school graduation, birthday party and homecoming event, where she was on the homecoming court and in cheerleading competitions.

Sara said that when her grandmother died (DA Hardin’s mother) that Plez tried to prevent her from attending the funeral. She further stated that Hardin had sent her a birthday card and graduation card only to help his case against her mother because he made copies of the cards and brought them in as evidence to pretend cared about her. Sara asked, “Who makes copies of cards they send to someone they love if they truly loved them?”

The judge hearing the case was retired Judge Richard Porter from Cairo, GA.

In his closing statement he temporarily adjusted the visitation of the children. Judge Porter counseled both parents about how they must communicate for the best interest of the children, suggesting that they may need to attend parenting
classes.

DA Hardin has possibly violated the following sections of the law and possibly should be impeached from his position as District Attorney for this circuit.

1. O.C.G.A. § 15-18-27 -Allegation of indictable offense committed by district attorney or staff member; appointment of substitute; procedure if true bill is found. In plain English, Plez Hardin should be reported to the Attorney General and
brought before a Grand Jury.

2. O.C.G.A. § 48-1-6 -Unlawful filing of false documents; omission; tax evasion; penalty, with intent to defraud the state, file any return, report, protest, or claim for refund containing any false or fraudulent statement known by the person to be false. Omit knowingly and intentionally any fact, circumstance, condition, or thing in any written document, the omission of which constitutes a material misstatement or misrepresentation of fact; or by any trick, device, scheme, or plan, evade or attempt to evade any tax, license, penalty, interest, or other amount due the state.

3. O.C.G.G. § 48-7-127 -(a) Willful failure to withhold tax; (b) Willful failure to pay over withheld tax.

It was reported to the Americus Sumter Observer that the Americus Times Recorder Newspaper was notified by email of this hearing. However, no one was sent from the ‘legal organ’ to cover the proceedings.