Saturday, March 31, 2007
Topics: Capitol Hill testimony of a top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the possible DVD release of the 1946 Disney film Song of the South.
Guests: Bob Meadows, staff writer for People magazine: Penn history professor Mary Frances Berry; and Washington Post editor Joe Davidson.
Host: Tony Cox
Topics: The future of historic black colleges and the private lives of our very public presidential candidates.
Guests: political consultant Walter Fields; economist and author Julianne Malveaux, CEO of Last Word Productions; and Ron Christie, vice president of the lobbying firm DC Navigators and a former special assistant to President Bush.
Host: Tony Cox
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP)- President Bush isn't rushing to the rescue of his old Texas friend, Alberto Gonzales, after the attorney general's one-time lieutenant undercut his old boss' account of the firings of eight federal prosecutors.
Rather than merely signing off on the firings, as Gonzales has repeatedly stated, his former chief of staff says the attorney general was in the middle of things from the beginning.
``I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions of U.S. attorney removals was accurate,'' Kyle Sampson told a Senate Judiciary Committee inquiry Thursday into whether the dismissals were politically motivated.
ST. LOUIS (AP) - A man who spent 11 years in prison for a carjacking he didn't commit was freed Thursday after DNA analysis exonerated him.
Antonio Beaver, 41, arrived in court wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. Shortly afterward, he was wearing a sport coat and slacks, addressing reporters during his first moments of freedom.
``This feels strange,'' Beaver said. ``I'd like to give my thanks to God, because there is a God, and he knew I was innocent from the start.''
Beaver was convicted of robbery in 1997 and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
In the crime for which he was convicted, someone threatened a woman with a screwdriver and stole her car after a struggle. The woman stabbed the man with the screwdriver, leaving traces of the carjacker's blood in the car.
The victim identified Beaver in a lineup, but his lawyers say the lineup was flawed.
DNA testing at the time couldn't provide conclusive results, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said.
In 2001 Beaver filed his own motion for a new DNA test, and he was later assisted by the Innocence Project, a legal center that seeks to uncover wrongful convictions.
Beaver said he plans to stay with an uncle.
This is at least the second Missouri man in recent months to be freed as a result of DNA testing and the work of the Innocence Project.
This situation (of so many wrongly convicted) is the result of an inadequate Public Defender system, which more often than not leaves poor defendants at the mercy of Court budgets, the chronic lack of staff in State and Federal Courts, and lawyers who rarely have their best interests in mind.
Thanks to the Innocence Project, at least a few innocent defendants are getting the assistance that they need.
And just to reiterate- It was the Innocence Project... NOT the NAACP that helped Mr. Beaver and dozens of others in his same situation.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The New York Times and the Washington Post are reporting that American Corporation ITT a major manufacturer of night-vision goggles used by the American military, pleaded guilty yesterday to illegally sending classified military information to other nations, including China, and agreed to pay a $100 million penalty.
More This is the largest conviction of a big military contractor for violations of arms export controls, and ends a five-year federal investigation in which the government found ITT to have enlisted a front company to “set up an end run” around laws limiting the transfer of military technologies to other countries.
AAPPundit says: This company should be charged with treason. ITT is not just corporate idiots they are much more. They are corporate traitors. This defense contractor jeopardized US Soldiers. I say before the Democrats Review Guantanamo's Future send the executives of ITT for a little interview about how they made these decisions to sell our technology to China, which was an un-American act of Corporate treason.
From Katrina, to Iraq, to China these corporations have been taking us to the cleaners.. It appears that no one is prepared to curb government contractor abuse. I guess I understand, insider critics lose Jobs.
African American Political pundit is a regular contributor to Mirror on America
Hat Tip Howard Witt, Tribune's Southwest Bureau Chief, based in Houston, and the Ft. Wayne African American Independent Black Woman for the link.
UPDATE: Hear an Interview with Creola Cotton, and the District Attorney who fought to put Shaquanda in jail. The host of the interview was not strong enough. I would have asked the bigoted DA why the 14 year old White girl who was convicted of a serious arson...was given probation by the same Judge. Listen to Interview
AAO says: Many Black Bloggers may not know the power they have at thier fingertips. It was once the power of the pen, now it's the power of the key board, links, discussion boards, listservs, and political blogs.
Howard Witt knows about the power of Black Bloggers and writes about this new and emerging power in a recent article - Letter from cyberspace.
He writes: "Every once in a blue moon, you write something that literally explodes across the Internet in ways no one could predict. That has now happened with a story I wrote two weeks ago, about a 14-year-old black girl from the small Texas town of Paris, who was sent to a youth prison for up to 7 years for shoving a hall monitor at her high school. A 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family's house, was sentenced by the same Paris judge to probation.
If you had Googled the black girl's name, Shaquanda Cotton, the day before the story was published on the front page of the March 12 edition of the Tribune, you would have gotten zero results. On Monday afternoon, there were more than 35,000 hits.
The story has been picked up on more than 300 blogs around the country, many of them concerned with African-American affairs. It has generated thousands of postings to Internet message boards. More>
How powerful are Black Bloggers? That is a conversation to be continued -
What do you think?
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I am giving a lot of thought to attending. I wonder if I can get close enough to her to give her one of these.
Pelosi to address graduates
First female speaker of the house will deliver speech at Webster's commencement ceremony May 12
By: Kelley Atherton
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will give the commencement address at the May 12 graduation ceremony.
In January Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history. Webster University President Richard Meyers said he is delighted Pelosi chose Webster.
"We want to have a speaker every graduate will remember," Meyers said.
Pelosi said in a statement she is enthusiastic about speaking at Webster's graduation and ushering in the next wave of adults into the workforce.
"I am excited to join Webster University's Class of 2007 to celebrate their outstanding academic achievements," Pelosi said. "It is an honor to be part of the commencement ceremony. I look forward to coming to St. Louis to congratulate our next generation of leaders on their years of hard work and dedication at such a fine institute of higher education."
Meyers said he believes the unique opportunities Webster offers, such as diversity and nation-wide campuses, prompted Pelosi's choice.
"She is obviously more or less impressed with what we do with our military campuses," Meyers said.
Webster has campuses on 43 bases that offer classes (beyond military training) to military personnel and their families, Meyers said. She is making a statement through whatever school she chooses to speak at, he said.
"We are raising the level of competence of our military," Meyers said. "She probably felt she is serving the U.S. by hitting a university that serves the whole U.S. She's doing a much more national presentation."
In addition, Meyers said Pelosi possibly chose Webster because she'll be speaking to 15,000 to 20,000 people at the Edwards Jones Dome in downtown St. Louis. He said it's not common to have that many people at graduation. However, Meyers also said that because Pelosi is a high-profile person there will be greater security measures at the Dome.
Meyers said he wrote Pelosi a letter about a month ago asking her to be the commencement speaker. Then, former Missouri Gov. Bob Holden met with her in Washington, D.C., and gave a presentation on why she should speak at Webster's commencement. Holden was the critical contact in securing Pelosi, Meyers said.
"I have known her and her staff a long time," Holden said. "Meyers indicated he'd like to have Pelosi (speak) and I met with them."
Holden said he asked Pelosi during the fall semester to speak for the Holden Public Policy Series, but it didn't work out. However, he said he prefers her to speak at commencement rather than the series because it will reach a wider audience. Like Meyers, Holden believes the international education Webster offers was a major deciding factor for Pelosi.
"Webster is on the cutting edge of academia," Holden said. "The institution has a lot to offer."
Holden said it is an honor for her to speak at commencement, and something that should make Webster proud.
"She is the third most powerful individual in the country, and the first female speaker," Holden said. "She's in the same league as getting the president. It's great for Webster, St. Louis and Missouri."
Meyers said it is unusual for a commencement speaker to agree this early in the semester. The school normally gets a commitment from a speaker about a month before the ceremony.
"This shows she is committed to speaking," Meyers said. "I'm very impressed with her early commitment; it's not common."
Meyers said only a national emergency could prevent Pelosi from speaking in May, and if something drastic were to occur there will be a replacement speaker. There is no back-up speaker at this point, he said.
Nick McGeehon, a senior public relations major, said despite the fact that his politics are different from Pelosi's, her commencement speech will be significant.
"I don't agree with her politically and I'm not a fan of her politics," McGeehon said. "I think it'll be historic. She is the first madam speaker and it's her first commencement speech as Speaker. I'm excited she's coming."
Keith Bryan, a senior history and English literature double major, said he hopes Pelosi doesn't talk about her political agenda because not everyone on campus is a Democrat.
"It could be good if she has something thoughtful and insightful to say," Bryan said. "If it's only partisan stuff she's saying then that's not good. A lot of people would be upset and disregard her if they don't agree with her."
Source: The Webster University Journal
What is Happening With the Chicago Police Department?
The other case involves 6 off duty officers who allegedly attacked a group of businessmen in another Chicago bar incident. Both cases were caught on video.
These incidents (occurring just a few months apart) raise questions about Police standards, in terms of hiring and in terms of off duty behavior once an officer has been hired. These kinds of incidents are just an example of chickens coming home to roost for these big city police departments. Most of these departments have hiring criteria that attract & fast-track meatheads prone to this kind of behavior, rather than hiring people who would be the best for the job. For example, applicants typically get moved up on the hiring list simply because they are former military (NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE THE BEST FOR THE JOB).
Most police departments put more emphasis on physical fitness in their recruiting programs, rather than mental fitness... so it is no surprise that these incidents are occurring more often.
Police departments should not allow officers to carry their badges of guns if they are going to be drinking in bars off-duty. They really should not be allowed to frequent bars or drink at all off-duty, but if they are allowed to do so, they should not be allowed to carry their credentials. Some police departments already have similar policies in place. Although I don't know how that would have impacted these cases. But when hiring new officers, more should be done to weed out potential problem drinkers and people who frequent bars.
The rationale for having a no bar or no drinking policy is that police officers are really never off-duty. They may be called upon to act at anytime. And in order to be ready at all times, they must have a clear head...and must not be under the influence of alcohol.
Character and behavior standards seem to be lacking in many major police departments across the country. The mediocre pay, and the lack of good recruits may be responsible for the more relaxed standards and the lack of good policies.
Webcasters and others who transmit music digitally say a recent ruling that raises the royalty rates for online music could put them out of business. The claim comes in the wake of higher royalty rates for Internet radio sites and other groups that stream music online that were recently announced by the Copyright Royalty Board.
The new rates set by the board, a three-judge panel appointed by the Librarian of Congress, are retroactive to last year.
Continue reading here and listen to audio report.
Also Hear Report From NPR
It seems as though the idiots in the White House have not figured out that this approach does not work. This kind of intimidation is less effective against countries like Iran, that are largely driven by Religious ideology (much like the United States). Would the United States cower if China held Naval exercises off of our coast? Of course not... the U.S. would take that as a challenge. So why do the neocons believe that Iran would cower? This is a country driven by a strong belief in martyrdom and its people are taught not to fear their enemies. Or could it be that the neocons know this and are hoping to spark a confrontation?
By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
The leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies said yesterday that Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government's racketeering case.
Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office began micromanaging the team's strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government's claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Rethinking the NAACP
By Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
The resignation of Bruce S. Gordon as president and chief executive of the NAACP this month portends an important and long overdue shift in black America's struggle for racial justice.
Gordon resigned after only 19 months because he disagreed with the NAACP's board on the best focus for the historic civil rights group. Gordon wanted to direct more resources toward social service programs such as wealth-building, tutoring and pregnancy counseling. The board wanted to maintain its traditional emphasis on fighting racial discrimination and advocating for social justice.
No matter where one stands in this debate, Gordon's resignation signals a critical impasse. The civil rights old guard, represented by the board, seems stuck in a 1960s mind-set that expects a particular form of response from black America -- pushing for government action to remedy the effects of discrimination. This type of response was popular, successful and necessary during the civil rights movement and, in some cases, remains a powerful form of redress.
The successes and failures of the civil rights movement, however, fundamentally changed the country's racial landscape. Of course racial discrimination remains. But we have entered what has been called a post-civil-rights age that requires an array of strategies to address the complex problems many African Americans face.
Gordon sought to extend the reach of the NAACP to include another form of African American dissent: the politics of self-empowerment. Regrettably, the NAACP was not inclined to alter its long-standing approach. Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP board, rejects even the notion that we are in a post-civil-rights period, which requires imaginative and innovative struggle for social justice. Indeed, many current civil rights leaders fetishize the form of dissent most associated with the civil rights movement. They confuse principle with tactics. They behave as though marching and petitioning the government for redress of grievances is the only principled response to the maldistribution of burdens and benefits in our democracy. And they bristle at other forms of dissent, tactics designed to reach the shared goal of equality under law for all Americans. For many, it is either the old way or no way at all.
This is not to say that African Americans should no longer engage in political advocacy. But this tactic need not be the sole or primary focus of the country's oldest and largest civil rights organization. For example, the condition of many black children, from inadequate health care to poor education, begs for new and creative approaches to problem-solving. Why can't the NAACP commit some of its resources, beyond lobbying the government, to addressing the social and moral crisis faced by African American children? Can't we imagine tutoring programs as part of an agenda for social justice?
The NAACP should and must continue to fight for governmental responses to disparate health care, unfair sentencing laws and a bevy of other public policy concerns. But its leaders must also understand that the crisis in black America requires much more. If the board does not grasp this, then it has sealed the fate of the nation's oldest civil rights organization.
Gordon may have lost the battle with the NAACP board to modify its emphasis, but the war is not over. We hope his departure will spark a much-needed debate in black America, and we hope that debate will change the course of our struggle.
Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. is a professor at Yale Law School. Eddie S. Glaude Jr. is a professor at Princeton University. Both are senior fellows at the Jamestown Project, a nonpartisan think tank that focuses on democracy and social issues.
Source: Washington Post Op-ed
Webb staffer arrested with loaded pistol
WASHINGTON- An aide to Sen. Jim Webb was taken into custody Monday morning after Capitol police said he tried to bring a loaded pistol into a Senate office building, a Capitol Police source told The Examiner.
The aide was dispatched to the Virginia Democrat's car to retrieve a bag, the source said. When the aide passed the bag through the scanners of the Russell Senate Office Building, police discovered a loaded handgun and two loaded magazines, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The aide remains in custody and will appear in court Tuesday, the police source said. The aide was not immediately identified.
Webb's spokeswoman did not return calls.
I had been waiting for another Democrat to do something stupid. The Democrats have been overdue. The timing of this incident could not have been worse for Democrats and could not have been better for Republicans. The Republicans are all over this story. They welcome anything that will distract Americans from the mess that they have created around the world and here at home.
According to news reports- The aide mistakenly carried the bag inside....after being told to hold it or retrieve it by the Senator.
This will not look good for Democrats one way or the other, if we find that the gun belongs to Mr. Webb. I wonder how long Webb will allow his assistant to take the blame (if it does belong to the Senator).
Webb's office seemed to dodge responsibility for the Senator, saying "To our knowledge, this incident was an oversight by the Senator's aide. The aide, Phillip Thompson, is a former Marine, a long-term friend and trusted employee of the Senator. We are still awaiting facts."
So I guess they are going to leave this guy hanging.... at least for a while. According to some sources, members of Congress are allowed to have firearms on the Capital grounds. It's still an incredibly stupid move on the Senators part to make that kind of oversight.....if this is in fact what happened. We will just have to wait for more information to be released.
Iran argues that it has a right to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. There are no signs that Iran will back down. Even its allies Russia and China are beginning to sense the urgency of the situation and are now publicly urging Iran to be more cooperative.
Like N. Korea, Iran is possibly planning to hold out until the very last minute, hoping to get the best deal possible. But for now, it appears that Iran is moving ahead with uranium enrichment more on principle (that they have the right to do it) rather than what is best for their relationship with the rest of the world.
This will only encourage the position of the warmongers in the Bush Administration, who are eager to use military force against Iran to take out its nuclear sites (which most analysts believe cannot be done with pinpoint airstrikes or special forces....and would do much more harm than good in the troubled Persian Gulf region).
Meanwhile, Iran is also continuing to hold 15 British Sailors that it says violated Iranian Waters near the Persian Gulf. There are now signs that diplomats on both sides may be looking for a way out of the standoff.
But this is certain to highten tensions. The U.S. and Britain will likely beef up their forces in the region.... hoping to spark a confrontation. I have always believed that any confrontation between the West and Iran would start with some incident with Naval forces in or near the Persian Gulf. The Iranian, U.S. and British Navies are crawling everywhere in the Persian Gulf, raising the risk of some kind of incident, through a mistake, misunderstanding or otherwise.
And the U.S. may use a Naval confrontation as a Gulf of Tonkin or Lusitania excuse to take broader military action and get us involved in another disastrous war. So this is playing right into the hands of the Chicken Hawks in the White House.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
The U.S. benefits from having a boogeyman in Asia. The U.S. Military Industrial Complex makes money from having a North Korea armed to the teeth. This provides the incentive for Japan, S. Korea, and other nations to buy U.S. military equipment.
(The U.S. now seems to be reneging on a committment made in negotiations to free up North Korean funds that were frozen as part of sanctions).
March 23, 2007
Talks on North Korea's nuclear program ground to a halt yesterday.
The North Korean and Russian envoys both left for the airport after four days of negotiations that had gone nowhere.
North Korea has avoided discussing a February deal to shut its main nuclear reactor by the middle of next month since the talks began on Monday, demanding that $US25 million frozen in a Macau bank first be transferred to a bank in Beijing.
North Korean envoy Kim Kye-gwan did not talk to reporters as he entered the airport to catch one of the three scheduled weekly flights to Pyongyang from Beijing.
An evidently exasperated US envoy, Christopher Hill, said the delay in the transfer from Macau's Banco Delta Asia needed to be overcome.
"The day I'm able to explain to you North Korean thinking is probably the day I've been in this process too long," he said as he stepped out for talks with China's envoy, Wu Dawei.
Attention Mr. Hill.... You made a committment to release these funds as part of the agreement that had been reached. The fact that someone actually expects the U.S. to keep its promises seems to be a surprise to you.
Hours before the talks stalled, American aircraft carrier the USS Ronald Reagan arrived in South Korea for joint military exercises that North Korea has condemned as a rehearsal for an invasion.
Carrying more than 5000 crew, the nuclear-powered ship docked at the southeastern port of Pusan for weeklong war games that begin on Sunday, involving 29,000 US troops and an undisclosed number of South Korean soldiers.
The US and South Korea characterise the annual drills as purely defensive.
But North Korean state media have routinely criticised the exercises in recent weeks, labelling them a preliminary war aimed at mounting a surprise nuclear attack on the communist nation.
The North also claims the drills run counter to efforts to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program through dialogue.
Yet the White House and Republicans in Congress are continuing to show their support for the Attorney General. This is setting the stage for a major political battle, unless this "support" from Bush & Co. is just a front. For now, it looks like the White House is not backing down....nor are their Republican allies in Congress. This makes it more likely that Democrats will have to use subpoenas to attempt to drag White House staffers in to testify under oath for the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. But the White House will challenge any subpoena attempt in Federal Court.
From the UK's 'Guardian'
WASHINGTON (AP) - Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he was not involved in any discussions about the impending dismissals of U.S. attorneys.
On Friday night, however, the Justice Department revealed Gonzales' participation in a Nov. 27 meeting where such plans were discussed.
The firings of eight prosecutors has since led to a political firestorm and calls for his ouster.
At that meeting, the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials discussed a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Gonzales' aides said late Friday.
There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was drafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week.
Another Justice aide closely involved in the dismissals, White House liaison Monica Goodling, has also taken a leave of absence, two officials said.
Continue Reading Here
By Celina De León
Chris Rabb's life as a blogger started with an e-mail. For four years, he sent out an e-newsletter to thousands of names in his address book. The newsletter eventually became his blog, Afro-Netizen, which provided Rabb's commentaries on politics and news, with a focus on Black communities. Since then, Rabb has become one of the most outspoken voices on the racial divide in the blogosphere.
"As bloggers of color, we are such a smaller number of people than our white counterparts. That makes reaching the volume of traffic much harder, and the lack of social and financial capital also makes this harder," Rabb said.
People of color make up 40 percent of bloggers, but only 26 percent of Internet users. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project's "Blogger" report, which was based on findings from their February through April 2006 tracking surveys, 11 percent of bloggers are Black, 19 percent are English-speaking Hispanic and 10 percent are some other race or ethnicity.
There are no bloggers of color with the kind of exposure and influence of superstars Matt Stoller of mattstoller.com or Duncan Black of atrios.blogspot. The result, according to Rabb, has been a typical white liberal/left dialogue in the political blogosphere.
"They won't talk about the racial element of anything that's been deracialized by mainstream media. They're not going to talk about affirmative action, about the racial element of the immigration issue," Rabb said. "Whenever issues of race come up, it's seen as a distraction."
Meanwhile, people of color face more barriers to accessing web-based technologies and are less likely to have the type of jobs with the flexibility and support to, for instance, blog as part of their work. As Rabb puts it, a bus driver is probably not going to blog as much as a professor.
The Internet's element of anonymity has allowed both relief from racism (people of color who shop and do business online don't experience the racism they do offline) and, at the same time, emboldened racists hiding behind the mask of virtual reality.
For bloggers of color who reveal their racial identity and whose blogs tackle race and cultural politics, this has meant contending with hate mail.
Kortney Ryan Ziegler, 25, shut down her blog, Blac(k)ademic, because of the onslaught of negative comments she received last summer. Ziegler, who lives in Chicago and is pursuing her PhD at Northwestern University, blogged under her alter ego, Nubian, about the racism, sexism and homophobia she experiences and observes in her life and in the media.
"I just think people really don't want to hear the truth They instead attack you on your character, your writing style, and not your argument. They distract from what you just said by saying you can't spell, or that you should have put a comma there," said Ziegler.
There have also been hateful comments when she posted about her frustrations with being asked by a white grad student whether her Black skin tone attracted heat. Then, Ziegler reached her breaking point. She did an interview with Feministing.com discussing her experiences of "Blogging While Black." As a result of the interview, she was accused of believing that race trumps gender, and mistaking "plain assholishness for racism."
Ziegler took a leave of absence after the posting of that interview and then stopped blogging altogether.
"Every time I would log on to read the comments, there was always something hurtful," said Ziegler. "And it got me thinking, Wow, I put myself out there. There's my photograph. There's my school information ' I felt more vulnerable, not being anonymous. I now don't have any pictures on my blog, or my name."
Ziegler acknowledges that for all the distress, blogging also proved to be beneficial to her. She has made multiple academic connections and met many women of color from her participation in the Radical Women of Color Carnival, which she helped to start. A carnival is a collection of writings on a specific topic that is usually hosted by alternating bloggers. There are multiple carnivals throughout the blogosphere focused on different themes. The Radical Women of Color Carnival dedicates itself to publishing women of color who write for social change.
Susana, a 32-year-old Chicana who doesn't want to give her last name, goes by brownfemipower on the Women of Color blog. Her writing has been published on the Radical Women of Color Carnival. Pursuing a master's degree in Creative Writing at Eastern Michigan University and a single mom of two, Susana usually blogs late at night. She started blogging late last summer, but didn't start making community until sometime in September.
"I was like, there's nothing else going on staying at home with my kids. So, I decided to start trying it. As I figured out more about how to actually use blogs, then I started to get more into it," said Susana.
Blac(k)ademic was the first blog that Susana found, and she connected right away with Ziegler. Susana was always interested in how different forms of media can contribute to a social movement. It was after attending workshops at the Color of Violence Conference hosted by Incite! that Susana was inspired and armed to make her own media contribution.
"I consider my blog to be within the context of a movement," said Susana. "Whether I make posts, I'm always thinking at the back of my head how could this be used to further a movement, and focus on radical women of color It's more of the idea of transferring that discussion that academics get to have into a real-world setting."
Susana blogs regularly about social unrest and disparities domestically and globally. She's written extensively about the Oaxaca protests and the organizing of women in the Middle East. Susana's discussions have also received numerous critics and attacks. Like Ziegler, Susana leaves her blog open for comments. One highly disputed post on her site received 113 comments. Susana had commented that criticizing what a woman chooses to wear in the United States is not the same thing as imposing a burqa on Afghani women. Susana thought such a comparison derided the choice and agency of many Afghani women.
"I pointed out some different things, and right away I got some really positive feedback from feminists of color who read my blog. But then I also got really, really, really challenged all over the place by the liberal white feminist bloggers who came over to my site," said Susana. "It was a constant, I'm not going to believe you until you prove it to me. Prove that Afghani women are aware that the burqa is viewed as misogynist and oppressive.'"
Many discussions on popular blogs often spread like wildfire all over the Internet. This discussion spread from Susana's Women of Color Blog to other blogs.
"I didn't personally comment on a lot of the other boards because they were just personally offensive to me," said Susana. "But I did go over to a bunch of other boards to see what other people were saying, and they were violently defensive: I don't care what any of these Afghani women have to say. I'm looking at it this way because I know better, and I know that this is oppressive.' They really didn't even care what women of color had to say. Like women of color don't really understand that they're being oppressed. They took away any work women of color have been doing for years."
According to Susana, many liberal white bloggers attack her because they don't want "their precious movement" to be overtaken by "stupid identity politics." Susana also feels many white feminists view her as a threat to the "sisterhood" they are promoting. It is this disconnect that has frustrated Susana as well as kept her blogging.
"Whenever issues of race come up, it's seen as a distraction."
Susana and Ziegler attended the Women of Color Blogging Caucus meeting at the Allied Media Conference this past summer where they were able to vent and mobilize with other women-of-color bloggers facing similar issues. Strategies that came out of that meeting include mobilizing together as a community of women of color bloggers to market each other's blogs, protecting each other's blogs from trolls (a blog terminology for obnoxious commenters), and helping each other to bridge the technical divide.
Lack of social capital and the wealth gap stand as the real obstacles to people of color accessing the blogosphere, according to Chris Rabb. Despite these challenges, he said, blogging is an important tool, given the corporate control of most media and the lack of independent outlets owned by people of color.
"Blogging is very low-hanging fruit that will allow us to have a broad range of expression without great expense and offers us the control, autonomy and creativity we're not getting elsewhere," Rabb added. "This is a great benefit to underrepresented groups."
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Now it's time for the Lavena Johnson case to get the same attention. I wonder if race is playing a role in the Lavena Johnson situation. Is the fact that she was a Black female a reason why her case has not received the national attention that it deserves?
Lavena Johnson Blog
But the Democrats are fighting a battle that they cannot win.
This was another symbolic gesture by the Democrats because it is really all they CAN do.
The Democrats don’t have enough votes in either the House or the Senate to override a Presidential veto. And they don’t have enough to stop a Republican filibuster in the Senate. So actually the bill won’t even reach the White House in its present form.
What will happen is that the bill will go through the Conference committee process and will be changed in the next couple of weeks (with no pullout timetable), OR the Democrats will have to rewrite a new funding bill that Bush will agree to sign.
They just wanted to get the Republicans on record….voting against a pullout plan. It’s all strategy to set the stage for 2008.
I think the Democrats should concentrate more on oversight through Congressional Hearings. They should work harder to expose the corruption and misconduct of Bush & Co.
The Missouri State Board of Education made an historic decision this week to takeover the St. Louis Public School System
State of Missouri Votes to Take Over St. Louis School System
I am happy with this decision. It was something that was long overdue. SOMETHING had to be done to break the culture of failure and corruption in the St. Louis Public School system. The St. Louis Public school system requires a massive overhaul...sweeping fundamental changes, not cosmetic fixes. The fundamental changes that are needed require outside intervention.
The St. Louis Public School system has been haunted by corruption, mismanagement, and a culture of poor performance & low expectations for far too long. Many of the officials on the School Board and many of the school administrators were incompetent. The Mayor of the City, Francis Slay, wanted to deal with these issues, but he had little power to do so. The position of Mayor in the City of St. Louis is weak in terms of actual power. The Mayor has no control over many of the City's governmental institutions.....including the Police Board and the School Board (among other things).
In recent years the School system went from one Superintendent to another. Micromanagement and thuggery from the School Board prevented many of the Superintendents from being effective. It is a system that needs fundamental change. However, any kind of proposed change was always met by resistance from the School Board and by the Teachers Union. The Teachers Union seemed to be interested in keeping the status quo of failure, low expectations, poor performance and no accountability. The Teachers Union fought back any effort to hold teachers to higher standards, and worked in concert with the School Board to prevent anyone from coming in and turning the school district around. This situation led to a culture of corruption and failure that no one seemed to be able to break.
An outside consultant group was even brought in a few years ago to try to make fundamental improvements, but that didn't even work. The consultant group was also stonewalled by the Teachers Union and the School Board. However, the consultant group did manage to uncover, for all to see, a level of mismanagement and corruption that is best described as obscene. It basically showed that the St. Louis Public school system was a free-for-all for many many years....with no one really in charge and no one being held accountable. Teachers were having social get-togethers, and calling them "official school business" and charging the food and beverage costs to the school district account. They eventually ran up a tab of a half a million dollars. That is just one story of many. There are also safety issues (in some schools... gang activity and violence are so common that it is the norm), making it hard for the serious students to learn. Student attendance, grade inflation, kickbacks, low teacher pay and a lack of well trained teachers, crumbling schools, and all sorts of other problems also plagued the district. Most of the good teachers leave the district for suburban schools when they get the chance, because students (and parents) are often not held accountable in city schools, and there tends to be fewer disciplinary problems in the burbs. Plus the pay is much better....for less headache.
Do you recall the movie Lean on Me with Morgan Freeman as Joe Clark? This is the reality in many of the schools in the city of St. Louis. Same issues, different time.
Now the incompetent School Board (which was never able to get anything done because of infighting and personal interests of the members) has finally been shut down. Locally they were a news spectacle. It seemed as though every week or two you would hear another crazy story about the St. Louis School Board. I think the leaders of the School Board actually liked the media attention and kept whipping up drama.
Superintendents (some of them good) were constantly fired or threatened with being fired. Whenever a Superintendent wanted to make fundamental changes to improve the district and wanted to improve teacher standards and teacher performance, they were always fired by the School Board, usually with the support of the Teachers Union, which was fighting to protect bad teachers and poor standards...the status quo....although this was detrimental to the students. Approximately 4 Superintendents met that fate over the last 7 or 8 years or so. The outside consultant group was also told to leave and many of its recommendations were ignored. The School district built such a bad reputation that for a while, no one wanted the job of Superintendent. Now the School Board can BS around all they want... they have no more power after June of this year. A 3 member State governing board will take over at that time. The board will consist of an appointee of the Mayor, an appointee of the Governor, and an appointee of the President of the City's Board of Alderman. The State Board will control the St. Louis School system for at least 6 years.
But no matter what changes the State puts in place (and they will be making changes), not much will change without more involvement from parents. The management of the school district is only half the battle. Many of the parents of St. Louis Public school students don't have control of their children and are not involved in their children's education (many don't care and don't want to be bothered with it). This is the same kind of problem seen in urban school districts across the country. It would be nice if the State could pass a law that would compel parents to be more active in their childs education, and to participate in school meetings, etc.
The State meeting almost became a riot. The students, likely encouraged to act up by some of the Teachers (and the Teacher Union) and by a few former Board members, almost tore the place up when things did not go their way. The meeting was held in the Missouri State Capital. For the past several days, adults had been feeding a lot of misinformation to the students (particularly the Juniors and Seniors) regarding the worth of their diplomas and their ability to enter college...when at the end of the day, this was not a major issue. However it was part of why students were so fired up (which was what some of the adults involved wanted).
After watching these videos, I get a better understanding of what teachers must go through in the classroom everyday. No wonder there is an exodus of teachers from City schools. It is clear that many of these students have no good parental guidance in their lives. They have no sense of bounderies or a sense of right from wrong. This has led to a culture of bad behavior. And instead of correcting unruly behavior, many of the parents support it and work against the teachers. This is why there has been a breakdown in discipline. Teachers have to be scared of the students. If you look at the video (second video) you hear one of the adults saying "he didn't do anything". Evidently she must not have seen the young man shove the State Capital Police officer.
This was supposed to be a "Civil Disobedience" protest. But I don't think some of these kids really understood what that meant. "Civil Disobedience" is passive....not aggressive...as in shoving, etc.
This incident just makes the City of St. Louis look bad....especially the St. Louis Public Schools (as if it needed anything else to make it look bad). In an ironic sort of way, this incident only supports the State takeover, because it shows that the city has students who appear out of control...or uncontrollable....which is in fact part of the problem.
The City of St. Louis is out of control in many ways. The urban blight, the poor schools, the crime, and the bad parenting are all things that have exacerbated the city's problems.
Watch the Video of the State Board Meeting
Watch unedited portion of the protest, where things get ugly
Additional Sources for This Report
From the New York Times
From the Guardian
Friday, March 23, 2007
Former NAACP President Bruce Gordon, recently spoke with Tavis Smiley about his experience at the organization and why he resigned.
You can find the last NAACP memo from Bruce Gordon here, from the Afro Netizen where he discusses some of the reasons why he decided to leave.
Bruce Gordon was the kind of leader that the NAACP needed. He was the best President that the organization had in quite a long time. In fact, the NAACP Board may have pushed him away because he was too good, and threatened their ability to micro-manage. Gordon was a "Change" leader. He wanted to use his experience from the business world to change the NAACP to match the needs of the social and economic environment, so that it could be more effective.
The NAACP is out of touch with the new realities. The organization does not seem able to adjust and be more flexible, at a time when this is essential. It wants to apply 40 or 50 year old strategies to 21st Century problems. The NAACP Board of directors is stacked with old Black elites who are more concerned with micro-managing the organization rather than getting results. The old timers on the NAACP Board are stuck in the 1950's, and have not realized the need to adapt to the current needs within the communities that they claim to serve.
The organization, in my opinion, has long been irrelevant. And based on the behavior of the NAACP Board, it will remain irrelevant for the forseable future.
That's a shame for an organization with such a rich legacy.
DuBois would probably not be happy with how the organization has turned out.
WATCH THE TAVIS SMILEY INTERVIEW
Patrick Leahy- Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and John Conyers- Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee both received the go ahead to issue subpoenas to compel White House aides to testify as part of the Congressional investigation of the firings of 8 Federal Prosecutors, likely for political reasons (and possibly worse). However, they will likely wait several days before actually issuing the subpoenas.
As I suspected, Bush has vowed not to allow anyone in the White House to be questioned under oath as part of an open hearing. He is basing his argument on Executive Priviledge. This is shaping up the be the first major political battle between the Bush-ites and the new Congress. Both have stated their positions and Bush has drawn a line in the sand, almost daring and tempting the Democrats to cross it. Any attempt by Democrats to drag Karl Rove or any other White House official to the Congress to testify will likely lead to a long, ugly, drawn out legal fight.
Could this be why a compromise is now being worked out behind the scenes? Possibly, but I don't see how a compromise could work, since both sides are so far apart in their positions.
I am just hoping that the Democrats grow backbones and stand their ground. They have to difinitively make their presence known and send a message to Bush & Crew that the behavior that they may be used to getting away with under a Republican Congress will no longer be accepted.
Hear Great Analysis and Discussion From 2 Scholars Regarding the Attorney Firings and the Issue of Executive Priviledge. Listen Here
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Some weeks I have time to write a lot (like this week), while other weeks I really don't have much time to even sleep (I get about 4 hours a night). I sometimes have a hard time keeping up with what's going on let alone finding the time to write anything about it.
I work a full-time job and have other obligations. I also may be entering College once again pretty soon (never thought i'd be saying that)....
I eventually want a team of at least 4 bloggers, including myself.
Some criteria that I'm looking for in co-bloggers:
1.) Preferably someone independent minded.... not committed to either of the two major political parties or any particular political philosophy. Generally looking for people who are more progressive or "populist" in their thinking. People who are fed up with both major political Parties. No one who is extreme one way or another. A Democrat or someone left of center is just fine.... But don't get mad when I slam the Democratic Party, lol (Because I slam the Democrats on a regular basis, lol....mostly because I would like that Party to live up to its principles). But I would also consider someone a little more Moderate.... as long as they are moderate but progressive. (You CAN be Conservative or moderate and Progressive at the same time).
2.) Someone who enjoys writing, has decent writing skills, and has experience with blogs....or discussion groups preferred.
3.) Someone who is able to back up arguments and opinions with 3rd party articles and data.... Someone who uses sound reasoning to come to conclusions, rather than just ranting on emotion or political ideology alone. Although opinion is welcome.... (just try to back it up a little).
4.) People who believe that more power (political power) should be in the hands of ordinary people rather than in the hands of those at the very top (that populist thing I mentioned above). People who believe in real Democracy (Democracy as it was meant to be....not as it is today).
5.) People with a college degree or working on one (Preferred...but not required).
6.) People who have a decent understanding of politics, world politics, who keep up with world events, etc. You don't have to be a news/politics junkie like me.... but you have to know what is going on.
7.) People who are more pro-peace as opposed to pro-war. If you're pro-war, you probably won't get along too well with me, lol. I'm not a blind peace advocate... there are sensible ways for governments to use their power. I believe in a strong military (even stronger than what we have). And I come from a Military Family...and was born overseas....living there two different times as a kid. The military life isn't foreign to me. I'm not 100% Anti-war (as in pacifism), but I am pro-peace. There is a difference. Anti-War is against ANY war under ANY circumstance. I'm almost there....but not quite. There are times for war... but under very limited circumstances IMO.
So I believe in a powerful military....But it's all about how you use the military. I don't believe in the current, Gung Ho, World Police Foreign policy based on Imperialist ideals. Some call that Isolationist.... But that's not it at all. It's called self preservation, and being reasonable. But if people insist on taking it that way...so be it. Isolationism is better than the disasters that we have now....due to this flawed foreign policy. I just believe that the U.S. military should be used to defend U.S. Soil FIRST and FOREMOST. We have more U.S. troops guarding foreign borders than we have guarding our own. There is something really wrong with that. The U.S. military should only be used to defend OUR country, and ONLY our closest allies and most immediate interests overseas. That amounts to just a few countries. I don't believe in all of these Defense Treaties...burdening our sons and daughters with a contract to bleed and die for places that most Americans can't find on a map, especially when the American people have no say in the matter & most aren't even aware of these deals.
Defense Treaties do as much to start big wars and disasters as they do to prevent them (go back to the history of WWI). Most countries got involved in that disaster of a war because of treaty obligations....not because they really wanted to go to war or because their interests were threatened. At the end of that debacle, most countries involved didn't really understand why they got into the fight.
And why are we so dependent on foreign oil for our very survival????? What kind of incompetence got us to this point where the enemy has a noose around our necks? Don't even get me started on this... see...i've gone off on a rant just that easily. That's what i'm looking for....other people who are passionate about the issues.
8.) I cover a lot of issues important to African Americans, but this is not a "Black blog". Although I reluctantly accept the tag when it is given, I don't particularly like that box. In fact, it annoys me. It's often assumed (by those who don't know any better) that if someone is a "Black Blogger" then their range is limited to "Black Issues". That's not the case here...and not the case with many African American bloggers. All kinds of issues are covered here.... domestic-international....and various things in between. What you WON'T find however, are articles about Britney Spears, Anna Nicole, etc. Hollywood could implode tomorrow, and I would not give it much thought. But I am open to an occasional movie review, etc. There are a few light moments on the blog. But what i'm getting at is that race is not an issue for me in choosing a blogger. I don't care if you are martian. As long as you know something about politics, have a progressive passion, are tired of Bush & Co.... and tired of political elites in general (of various stripes).... then that's what i'm most concerned with.
We don't have to agree on everything...and surely won't. It's better that way...because we may have a chance to go back and forth in the comments section.
**Also... look over the blog...to get a feel for the kinds of things that I pay attention to. I like to stay focused on important issues. I try to stay clear of Hollywood celebrity nonsense (unless i'm criticizing it). So keep that in mind.
** I also try to use a wide variety of sources. The list of sources that I draw from is pretty large...and I use a lot of multi-media (video and audio), while most blogs stick to text articles. Some of what I use is hard to find.
It's a wide variety...even though I have some favorite sites.... I try to mix it up. There are probably 100 different websites that I could call upon for postings or resources....but since i'm so busy, I often don't have time to dig through them all to find good information or good topics.
Work i'm looking for?
Well, after reading through the blog, you will have a feel for my posting style and the atmosphere.
Looking for people to post a few interesting articles on socially or politically important subjects. Or those overlooked subjects (but interesting subjects) that are important to the blogger.
There is no shortage of topics.
And looking for a little commentary.... about the size of a 2 page essay (dbl spaced). Something that can be done in about 20 minutes. Just long enough to make your points...nothing to give you Carpal Tunnel.
There is no minimum or maximum number for posting necessarily. But I would be looking for 1-3 postings per week.
The site will remain a no nonsense, stripped down site.... I think this Blogger interface is more than sufficient.
The Angry Independent
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
He had battled kidney problems for many years. Note: his birthdate (year) does not seem to be clear. But I am going with 1937.
From the news services
R&B Great Luther Ingram Dies at 69
By Roger Friedman (Fox)
Luther Ingram, the man who co-wrote one of pop music's greatest hits, has died at age 69.
Ingram, whose recording of "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right" was a No. 1 hit in 1973, died Monday in St. Louis.
He'd had a kidney transplant several years ago and fought kidney failure for most of the last decade.
Starting out with his brothers as The Gardenias in Alton, Ill., Ingram went on to a solo career with Koko Records, which was distributed by the famous Stax label.
He co-wrote the Staples Singers hit "Respect Yourself" with Sir Mack Rice.
Ingram's other hits included "Ain't That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One)" and "I'll Be Your Shelter (In Time of Storm)."
Survivors include his wife Jacqueline, sons Luther Jr. (Eric) and Kenneth, a sister and five brothers.
Additional article with more background information
1. If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Wanna Be Right)
Blogger Terrence Says, also covered this story. See Here
I still don't believe that White America (as a whole) will ever allow a black man to become President of the United States. (The only exception being a Black VP and some strange twist of fate). Perhaps Obama will try the VP route... But then again, I honestly don't believe a White candidate will ever choose a Black candidate as their running mate. Cynical? Yes.... But i'm cynical and right. Racism has always been the biggest Elephant in America's living room. An Elephant that few people want to even admit is there, let alone talk about. And racism is still a big part of White America.... unfortunately. It plays itself out in politics, just like every other facet of America. Although these days it is often a little harder to see. Sometimes it is staring us right in the face and we don't realize it. That's how innocuous racism has become for some of us (and some Whites as well... who sometimes display racism...not realizing what they are doing).
And I don't believe that he will be able to defeat a Republican in the General election.
Could I be wrong? Sure.... but if I were a betting man, I would not put any money on the Senator from Illinois.... not because he's not qualified or he can't do the job... but because of the big part that racism still plays in America.
But I still get a little pride when I see the man doing his thing, although I don't agree with many of his policy positions.
(You can find the rest of the speech via Youtube)
Cummins says that he is not bitter about the firings themselves, but he has a problem with the "reasons" given by the White House and Attorney General Gonzales for the firings. The White House says the attorneys were fired for poor performance.
The "poor performance" excuse has already been shown to be a lie. Based on the Congressional testimony given by the attorneys, it is clear that performance was not the issue. These attorneys all had good records....some were in fact highly regarded in legal circles.
Cummins says that the poor performance argument given by Bush & Co. has unfairly tarnished him and his 7 colleagues. He wants the poor performance excuse to be rescinded and he also says that he & his colleagues deserve an apology from the Bush Administration. His argument is that the White House version of events is basically a lie, and that the attorneys were fired for political reasons. He has no issue with being fired for political reasons.... he just wants the Bush Administration to tell the truth and to stop smearing the character and work record of the attorneys involved.
Cummins also mentions how he is being intimidated for speaking out.
Short interview, approximately 14 minutes.
Yet Another Bush Administration Claim Has Been Revealed as a Lie. Report from the Washington Post.
Monday, March 19, 2007
A story that I have been wanting to post for almost a year, but never got around to.
From The Adventures of an Angry Black Man…. How A Trip to the DMV Turned Into A Week From Hell and Led To My First-hand Introduction to “Homeland Security” and the new America….
My how times have changed
It was around the 8th of July, 2006- a Friday, and I needed to renew my drivers license. Like most people, I waited until the last minute to take care of my license renewal. I made sure that I had everything that I needed (which is more today than in the past). I needed a birth certificate- for proof of citizenship- CHECK. A Social Security Card- CHECK. Two bills to show proof of residence in the State- CHECK. The old drivers license along with the renewal notification- CHECK. And the $20.00 Fee for renewal- CHECK. I’ll be in and out in an hour at the very most- so I thought (I was watching the clock because I had to work later that day).
So I hop in the car and make my way down to the Missouri drivers license renewal office, expecting a routine renewal. I get to the office (located on the South side of the city of St. Louis) and it’s packed….and completely out of order.
SIDE NOTE: The DMV services in my area were once controlled by professionals from the State of Missouri. However, at some point over the last few years, the system was given to a private entity to operate (more outsourcing… Sound Familiar?). With private contract companies hiring just about anyone and paying low wages in order to maximize profits, what do you think has been the result of that change? Should I even ask that question? Needless to say, the quality of service has dropped considerably.
So I get to this office on St. Louis' South side, and it’s dirty, there is only one service agent working, and there are at least 30-40 people in the building, seated all over. There was no sign of order…. The number machine was not being used to keep track of who goes next. You just had to find a seat in what looked like it could be a line. With only one service agent working, the “line” moved at a pace that’s somewhere between a Snail and a Tortoise.
After sitting there for 25-30 minutes, the very attentive worker with a professional demeanor and no attitude (tongue in cheek) decided that she would make an announcement to let customers know that “there will be no license renewals today…the computers are down”…and I said Whaaaaaa? “She said…yes…we have been announcing this all day…and there is a sign posted sir”.
I was aggravated…but not Postal at this point. Let me tell you about the “sign” that was posted at the entry way. The message was written on a little piece of construction paper, written in non-descript lettering with a magic marker…. POSTED ON A LARGE BULLETIN BOARD NEAR THE FRONT WITH ABOUT 10,000 OTHER USELESS NOTES THAT NO ONE READS. IT CAUGHT NO ONES ATTENTION, AS INDICATED BY DOZENS OF OTHERS WHO SHARED MY AGGRAVATION. If they wanted to catch someone’s attention, they should have placed a large note on the front glass door where people would see it and read it, warning customers as they arrived…or placed the notice on a large sign holder at the front. But that was too much like right, huh?
Pissed off…. I leave and head out to St. Louis County, to a DMV office about the same distance from my residence. About a 10-12 minute drive from where I started.
I get there and surprise!!!! There is a line leading almost out of the door of this small cramped office. I waited patiently for my turn (about 30 minutes of standing), making sure that I still had everything that I needed.
I finally get to the front of the line and finally got my chance at bat. I explained that I wanted to do a renewal, handed the agent my drivers license….and proceeded to explain my birth certificate to the young lady (who seemed reasonable).
SIDE NOTE: In Missouri (as part of the “Show Me Proof” law, passed by the State legislature to comply with new Federal “Real ID Act” requirements) you have to show a government issued birth certificate…with seal, etc. preferably by one of the 50 States. The purpose is to prove citizenship. They want to know that you're not Al Qaeda. O.k... fair enough.
So I explained to the young lady that I was born overseas (Southern Europe) as a Department of Defense dependent. I presented my original birth certificate from a Federal government hospital, with a government seal, and signed by two military officials. Also on the document was my parents information. In addition, I also presented a copy of my record of birth from the U.S. State Department- issued for children (and U.S. citizens) born abroad. This is most commonly used for “military brats” as official documentation. She looked confused.
She went to the back office and conferred with her superior and she was gracious enough to tell me that I was o.k. (I was a citizen….why thank you for that validation). So she attempted to get the renewal process started. But the fun was just beginning.
Something in the States licensing system didn’t like my name and date of birth. She told me that I would not be able to renew my license that day due to an unknown problem. I would have to call “Jefferson City”… the glorious capital of this Red Ultra-Conservative cow State. So I walk out… thinking of all the times I drove too fast or tried to beat the yellow light. I had no tickets…. You just think of all the bad shit you have been doing over the last 6 years….. (and the baddest thing for me is driving a little fast….but I have no driving record). The only time that I am pulled over it’s for DWB… My driving record is perfect….with no record of any tickets or points on my license.
By the time I got home that afternoon, it was time to go to work (a place that gives me even more stress…and will probably lead to my early death). So I had to sweat over this nonsense until the following Monday.
Monday finally roles around and I call the DMV headquarters in the State Capital. After numerous phone calls, attempting to reach a competent human being, I eventually make contact with a supervisor. The supervisor there tells me that there is a hold (freeze) on my drivers license, put on by the State of New Jersey. She was also unable to tell me what the nature of the problem was. She gave me a number to call from the New Jersey DMV (also known as the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission).
SIDE NOTE: As part of Homeland Security legislation (The Real ID Act) States must now share the driver information of their citizens with all other States through a common database. If there is a problem with a driver in one State, the information will show up in all other States. States are able to prevent you from getting your license (or even renewing as in my case) in a different State.
Soliloquy- Now this is really getting weird. Why would the State of New Jersey put a hold on my license here in Missouri, preventing me from renewing? I have been a licensed driver in my home State for 13 continuous years. New Jersey? From all that I have seen or heard about it… It’s a giant garbage dump…near New York. Not known for anything of any particular significance…other than being a garbage dump. Point is…. I’ve never set foot in that State.
So I call the State of New Jersey….. Mind you, the long distance bills are now beginning to pile up…because it took several calls before I reached someone with a brain in Missouri’s State Capital.
Again… after calling a Toll number and waiting on hold for 15 minutes, I finally got frustrated and began looking for alternate numbers to call (because the main line there is completely useless…especially if you are calling from out of State). Logic would suggest that if the States have this program, and they can hold your license from another State, the least they could do is to provide a toll free number for out of State callers. After calling numerous alternate numbers that I was lucky enough to locate online, I finally got in contact with someone. ALL ATTITUDE. The lip smacking, eye rolling kind. At this point, I was at Postal level. She looked up the information in a database and advised me that New Jersey was holding my drivers license, preventing me from renewing in my home State because I had too many unpaid parking tickets in New Jersey. WRONG ANSWER! I immediately advised her that I have never lived in New Jersey, have never set foot in New Jersey, and I had no friends or relatives in that State. I advised her that my information could be easily verified with the State of Missouri, and that she needed to proceed to unfreezing my license so that I could renew it. I told her this was a problem of sloppy work on the part of New Jersey.
She advised me that I had the same name and birthdate as someone who lives there with these unpaid parking tickets. They could not provide any information on age, race, height, weight, or anything about the individual. She then proceeded to tell me that if I wanted to renew my license in my home State, that I would have to prove to the State of New Jersey that I was not the person that they were looking for (when the information was readily available if the two States had done a better job of communicating). In other words, the burden of proof was on me, when it should have been on the State of New Jersey.
So I immediately got busy, writing the letter that they required, and spent the entire day gathering documentation regarding my identity, my residence, my personal info, college transcripts (showing 13 or 14 years of residence in my State), making copies and sending faxes…. Driving around trying to complete errands before time ran out/end of the business day. After 1-2 dozen phone calls, and spending money on copies, and faxes…. I was eventually able to prove that I was not the person that New Jersey was looking for and that I never lived in the State. Of course I was left with the bill for all the errands and long distance phone calls.
I have a fairly common name…so this type of situation is bound to happen with this new formalized system that State governments are using. I was surprised that there were no provisions ahead of time to remedy this situation…or better yet, prevent if from happening. Someone didn’t have their thinking cap on at Homeland Security when they thought of the idea of linking all 50 States together like this.
I was finally able to obtain a “Clearance Letter” from the State of New Jersey, which allowed me to file for a renewal license in my home State. One sticking point is….. It appears that the problem doesn’t go away after you are “cleared”. The document will have to be put on file at Missouri’s DMV headquarters and I will have to carry the letter with me (either on my person or in my car) everywhere I go…and it will be like that indefinitely. Until the garbage dump resident who shares my name takes care of his tickets. In other words, whenever my name is run through the States computer…guess what… this nonsense will pop up every time. Why should I have to be saddled with this burden? I even tried to solicit help from the legal system….but that was fruitless…. Since I’m not among the “well-to-do” of society, I got no assistance from the legal system…no lawyers…no nothing. (And this is the essence of why people go postal in American society… not that I would do it…because it’s not something that I would consider… but it gives some insight into why these things happen).
So I will be saddled with this for God knows how long… And No apology from the State of New Jersey, no reimbursement for the approximately $30-40 of costs that I incurred. Nothing but more Attitude from the people on the other end of the phone.
So later that evening, I attempt to make it to the DMV, just on the off chance that it may not be as packed and I could get everything done. No such luck. I quickly discovered that the small office was packed twice as much as before. So I call it quits and turn around to head for home. I was free the next day anyway, and I could finish up everything then.
Next day… Tuesday (July 12th), armed with all the same documentation that I started with, plus the “Clearance” document from New Jersey… I set out on another Journey to complete something as routine as a drivers license renewal. Feeling relieved… I hop in the car, and make my way towards the same cramped, poorly staffed St. Louis area DMV office. Once there, I discover that the place is packed once again… no real surprise. Only one service agent is handling drivers licenses.
This was not the same agent as before…so I was prepared to explain my birth certificate to the young lady at the counter (even younger and more inexperienced than the agent who assisted me 4 days before). After about 30 minutes, I finally reach the front of the line. I handed the young lady all of my documentation, including my birth certificate from the U.S. Naval Hospital overseas where I was born.
Upon seeing the birth certificate, the agent was immediately confused, because it didn’t look like any of the birth certificates that they are used to seeing (issued by various County governments across the State). So she went to the back to confer with a supervisor. Can you guess the result?
You betcha!!! Although the same birth certificate was accepted a few days earlier at the same private DMV office, this time they decided that they were not going to accept it. Why? Because it was a Hospital issued birth certificate. They require a government issued birth certificate from one of the 50 States. Now all of a sudden I had these people telling me (in so many words) that I was not an American citizen as far as they were concerned. I would have to prove my citizenship.
SIDE NOTE: It appears that when the Real ID rules were put into place, the politicians in Washington DC forgot to make provisions for the millions of military dependents (American citizens) born overseas….while their families were helping to fight the damn Cold War. How’s that for dedication to the troops and their families? The idiots forgot all about us.
The young lady was not able to tell me what I needed to do next. So I asked to speak to the supervisor. Instead of helping me… they laughed in my face. I almost went to jail that day. I won’t say what happened next….but it was an out of body experience. The kind that Richard Pryor had when he burned himself up.
And everything was in slow motion too… I almost reached across the counter to grab the little twit (the supervisor was no older than 22 or 23) by the neck. I wanted to squeeze it until she turned purple. But I caught myself…. The St. Louis County Police department doesn't play around… and they would have shot me in the ass without hesitation. So I got myself together and took my black ass home. I didn’t want to lose my job either…as much as I despise every second that I am there. But I did give them a tongue lashing. I’m usually a quiet, reasonable, docile guy (to a point), until people F--k with me, insult my intelligence, test my patience a little too much, or mistake my “laid back” demeanor for weakness (BAD BAD mistake).
I would later figure out that what I needed was an official document from the U.S. State Department, which holds all of the records on U.S. citizens born outside of the country. The problem is, the documents were $30.00 a piece…and took 4-6 weeks to arrive. It also required me to obtain an affidavit, make more copies, get a notary, etc. It was a mess. I ordered 2 documents and waited. I also had to get an extension on my drivers license, which was expired by this time.
When my documents arrived…. I was finally able to get my license renewed in the State of Misery (Missouri). But not after spending approximately $100.00 dealing with 2 problems related to the Real ID Act.
As strange as it may seem…. I actually support the general concept of the Real ID Act. This is something that the country should have had in place before 9/11. There needs to be a way to make sure that our ID systems are secure and harder to counterfeit. There needs to be a way to make sure that people getting licenses are actually entitled. My problem with the Real ID Act has to do with the way that the government rushed the legislation without thinking it through to come up with a good plan, and the way that it was implemented. The planning and implementation for this has been dismal. There was also a problem with passing information on to the Public. I am someone who keeps up with the news religiously, and even I was barely aware of the Real ID requirements. So how is the average citizen supposed to be aware? There were no PR campaigns informing the public of anything. All I received was a post card from the DMV about 3-4 weeks prior to my license expiring. The card had a brief message reminding me that it was time to renew and that I would need a birth certificate. But it did not explain in detail, what kind of birth certificate I needed, and it didn't address the issue of American citizens born overseas at all. Furthermore, the time needed for me to get my State Department documents (6 weeks) exceeded the time that I had left on my license before it was to expire. It is clear that no one on the Federal or State level thought this through.
The Real ID plan also has a lot of flaws. For example, the Real ID requirements would not have stopped some of the 9/11 hijackers from getting a license because under the Act, non-citizens (such as foreign students) would still be able to get drivers licenses. Many of the 9/11 hijackers were here under student Visas. So therefore, the Real ID Act (as it is currently written) seems to be misguided. Instead of creating this hell for American citizens, more effort should be directed towards securing the Foreign Visa system, to help make sure that terrorists are not gaming that system. I have described ways that this could be done…. Such as limiting Visas from certain countries, and tightening the screening. There should also be an effort to build more American college campuses overseas, so that foreigners can attend American colleges without applying for U.S. Visas…. This could reduce the number of Visa requests…while serving the needs of foreign students at the same time.
There seems to be no creative thinking and no political will among policy-makers to fix these problems.
The Missouri State Assembly Votes Against The Federal 'Real ID Act'
The 'Real ID Act' explained
New Requirements Going Into Effect
CNet Article- How The Real ID Act Will Affect You
Wiki Information on 'Real ID'
Real ID Act: Real Problems
Other ID Issues
ID Requirements Could Impact Healthcare
Article On ID and Healthcare