Thursday, April 26, 2012

North Carolina Gets a Racial Conscience

Last week, a convicted murderer had his sentence changed from capital punishment to life in prison. The ruling was the result of North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act. This Act, passed in 2009, was based on statistical evidence showing that if the victim is White, “the odds of receiving a death sentence increases three and a half times.”
The Racial Justice Act allows defendants to challenge their sentence if race is thought to be a factor in their sentencing. Given the many racial disparities long discussed by the Death Penalty Information Center, this is a long-time coming.
Read the rest here

Monday, April 23, 2012

Racism on the Bachelor Has Been Obvious for Years

I have only been a casual watcher of the Bachelor. I watch mainly to see how materialistic the contestants are. One thing that has always stood out was the lack of Black men. At least now I know that I have not been the only one who has noticed. Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, two prospective contestants, brought a lawsuit last week, charging that the show is in fact racist.

One reason that I always assumed that this was an issue is the lack of Black men who are financially wealthy & single. For those who may not be aware of the constant theme of the show - it's basically about a group of 1-2 dozen barbie doll women (often gold diggers of a variety of races) who compete for the affection of a rich or well-to-do white guy (much like the dating scene in America....except it's just a microcosm of that larger scene). Perhaps the producers had trouble filling slots with Black men because it was hard to find enough who met the shows financial requirements. But then the lack of Black men in the lead role as "Bachelor" ended up being a reoccurring theme year after year.... surely after 10 years they could have found a well-to-do Black guy. So after a while it became clear that this could not have been the only issue.

I believe the real issue has more to do with the uncomfortable topic of interracial relationships. The producers of the show probably don't want to see an interracial pairing. They also don't want a situation where racism pops up during production. They are afraid of a situation where non-black female contestants have an unfavorable reaction or may reject a Black Bachelor because of racial differences. They want to avoid a real "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner 2.0" played out in front of a national TV audience, with a rawness that no one will expect. That's one fear... Another fear may be that an interracial pairing may come up that may turn out to be successful (or successful based on silly scripted reality show successful as those pairings can really be). The most likely scenario would be Black men being rejected in the ugliest ways imaginable.

These fears are backed up in the OKCupid report that came out a few years ago pointing out the role or racial prejudice in online dating. I also talked about my experiences with this problem in the commentary "White Men Only". This is how I know...that the plaintiffs in this case are on to something. One of the last ways to really reveal racism is through the dating scene. All of the pretending to love everyone B.S. washes away...and people are exposed for what they really are. Whatever racist feelings that people have buried within themselves are often brought to the surface through the context of dating. The producers at ABC are aware of this...and they are scared to death. I also imagine that a Black male lead probably wouldn't bring the high ratings...for the same reasons.

The network probably wants to avoid the public backlash from either scenario. But I think having a Black lead and exposing these racist feelings within the contestants would finally shed light on one of the last bastions of blatant racism in this Country. People don't know how common this is... but racism in dating is huge, even when we have more Americans than ever saying that they are more comfortable with interracial relationships. Non-Black families bullying their daughters not to bring home a Black guy is an issue in households across the Country. It's a behind closed doors discussion that probably takes place in more households than anyone wants to admit. It is especially big in Asian-American families. Bringing home an Asian man is ok. Bringing home a white man is almost encouraged and seen as a sign of "success". Even an Hispanic or East Indian may be fine. But bringing home a Black man usually falls within " will be disowned by the family" territory.

Unfortunately this case may be hard to win. The case may hinge on the right of a private business (a network and TV show) to exercise a certain level of discrimination or preference to fit the theme of its programming. Networks have a right to show programming that they believe viewers would like to see and that would maximize (within reason) its ability to gain good ratings and earn money through advertising. Unlike a case where public accommodations are involved, there is no inherent legal right to appear on a television program owned by a private business. On the other hand, the show is billed as a reality program...and the lack of diversity with the lead characters is not a reflection of reality in this Country -- I think this may be a legitimate point by the plaintiffs.

Of course I hope the plaintiffs win.

The Trayvon Martin Case is Turning Into a Spectacle

I have decided that, for the most part, I would step back and allow the Justice system to work in the case of Trayvon Martin. There has been too much misinformation and spin from both sides in the case. Luckily I didn't jump to conclusions earlier on.... but waited instead for more information before forming an opinion. Now that more information has come to light... I still believe that Zimmerman was the instigator and has most of the responsibility for the outcome.

I have mixed feelings about Civil Rights Inc.. and its efforts to bring this case to the forefront. On one hand, if not for those efforts, the case may not have received national attention. On the other hand, it has set the Country up for more division and will do little to solve any of the real social and legal issues surrounding the case. I see this case heading for the category of spectacle. Just add a tent and some clowns and you have a huge circus. It's just going to turn into infotainment that the networks will gin up for ratings, playing one part of the citizenry against another. Sadly, no real social issues are likely to be solved as a result of this case. Moreover, in practical terms, the Martin family may not get "justice". The case is just unbelievably flawed.

The initial mishandling of the case by the Sanford Police Department is a poison pill. I don't see any way to recover from that in a criminal trial. Secondly, there is no way that George Zimmerman, with the facts being what they are today, will be convicted for 2nd degree murder. I recognized that from the start, and I was surprised by the higher charges. The jury will likely have an option to go for manslaughter, but a conviction even on manslaughter is a 50/50 toss-up, due to the tainting of the case and the media circus. I hope the Martin's can get some resolution and some peace...but I think justice may have to come by way of civil court. Criminal charges are being brought now as a way to diffuse tensions (people remember L.A. in the early 90's... I recall it like it was yesterday). I think prosecutors and the State of Florida in general would like to pass this off to the court system... hoping that the courts can fix the mess of a lunatic with an arrest record being issued a CCW license, and a police department botching an investigation. They at least would like to be able to say they sent the case to a jury. But in the end I just don't see a conviction.

I have been amazed by all the wrong commentators focusing on all the wrong issues. Examples if misguided commentary: (the examples that annoy me the most).

1. Bill Cosby thinks it's strictly a gun issue....that citizens should not be allowed to have guns. That this case should be the impetus for removing all guns from the population (if he had his way). Wrong. While I am mostly in the Cosby camp when it comes to problems within Black culture/the Black community... Cosby is off the mark on this issue. People on the far left immediately sought to hold this case up as a reason to get rid of CCW laws, to ban guns, and limit self defense. This is about an idiot with an overzealous personality who wanted to play cop. Could the laws be a little stricter... perhaps. Zimmerman, with a record of 3 prior arrests.... (one for a felony) should have never been issued  a CCW permit. So yes, the laws should be tightened a bit in that respect, and rules of engagement in self defense matters should be better defined. But to take away rights is nonsense.

2. The media keeps referring to Zimmerman as a neighborhood watch person. According to reports, he was not part of any organized program for neighborhood watch. It seems like this is an effort to make Zimmerman appear to be some great guy. It also suggests that he was sanctioned by his community and had training that he simply did not have.

3. This is an issue that highlights the relationship between police and black males. Wrong again. Although there are some general comparisons that could be made in terms of profiling.... the two situations are not really the same at all. George Zimmerman was not a Police Officer, or bonafide Security Officer, and therefore Martin had no responsibility whatsoever to stop for him. Yet, I keep hearing this point brought up. Just yesterday, Dr. John McWhorter proclaimed on NPR that the Martin case could help highlight the relationship between Black men and police forces in this Country and could move the debate forward. Again, this framing makes Zimmerman look like such a good guy..... he was just doing police work after all. Give the guy a break. I keep hearing this narrative repeated across the media. Media: Please stop this nonsense.

4. It's all about race. Well, yes and no (mostly no). I think race is playing a part on a more nuanced, institutional level. I don't think race is playing such a big menacing role up front like some have suggested. I am not sold on the theory that Zimmerman sought to go out to kill a Black kid that night.... unless the prosecutors have information that we have not heard/seen yet, this argument won't hold up. But subconsciously... yes, race has probably played some role. I don't think a white kid would have been kept in the morgue for days with no one doing an investigation to locate next of kin. I don't think a case with a white shooting victim and a black shooter would have been handled in the same manner. And the bail... that's part of the circus that I mentioned earlier. All we're missing is a tent. A $150,000 bond seems awfully low for a 2nd degree murder case. I don't recall ever hearing of a bond that low for a murder charge... but i'm sure it has happened somewhere at some point. It just seems odd. Would a bond that low have been allowed in a case where the victim happened to be a white kid? Probably not.

5. The "Stand Your Ground Law" is the main culprit. Wrong. Most States allow for reasonable claims of self defense (with or without this additional law). People who don't know much about the use of force and self defense have been completely spooked by the term...because of this case. However, these laws are generally just fine. Even in my State (Missouri) CCW laws in general are useful to business owners who are transporting money, jewelers moving valuables, and they make it easier for businesses to operate in some of the worst urban areas in the Country (like North St. Louis) where few services are available for citizens. These shield laws or Castle Doctrine laws were not intended to protect someone like a George Zimmerman (the instigator) in a case like this one....although it may end up offering him some cover as an unintended consequence.

I think citizens in these States may need additional training on when to use force....and I think those with a CCW permit should be required to 1). Avoid conflict/trouble at every opportunity. And 2) They should be required to carry intermediate defensive tools.... like pepper spray if they are carrying their weapon. (This should have already been required). Most confrontations that the average person will be involved in will not require deadly force. It is probably on the order of less than 10%. The vast majority of conflicts require avoidance and/or pepper spray. Having a gun with no other intermediate choices can lead people to panic and pull out a firearm when it isn't appropriate....because they had no other tools.

More should also be done in terms of evaluating who should have a weapon. The right to carry or even own a weapon shouldn't be afforded to anyone who shows up at the gun shop or at the permit office. Psych tests can be developed to eliminate those who lack the intelligence and common sense to have a weapon, those who have a personality that seeks confrontation, and those who lack discipline/self control. Zimmerman appears to fail on all of those counts. Add the arrest record...and he was a disaster waiting to happen.

(Not reported in the media) Zimmerman also violated his CCW training that night. Most CCW courses tell you to stay in your vehicle if you are in a car.... and they also teach you to avoid being the aggressor/or instigator.

One likely outcome from this case may be.... no criminal conviction.... but a civil suit where the State of Florida, the permit issuing County Sheriff, the gun store, the Sanford Police department & others may be plaintiffs. The Martins may have a lot more luck in a civil trial. I just hope that any awards or settlements are not so huge that they frighten other States and Sheriffs departments into halting CCW programs or that it  makes gun ownership so difficult that citizens no longer exercise the right of ownership, or makes self defense so difficult to claim that legitimate victims go broke defending themselves in the legal system because the burden of proof will be all on them.

It just seems as if the media lacks the ability to discuss this case accurately and intelligently....and it has led to all sorts of misinformation. If they televise this trial... (and I don't think the networks could resist the ratings opportunity) it will turn into a complete circus. I will be subjected to more stupid commentary (what I mentioned above is just a portion). All of the facts in the case will be disregarded...and it will turn into a stupid Black vs. White event.... because, for one thing, the networks can make more money from ratings if they can feed into that frenzy. It will be a show trial. Nothing will be gained in the end.

Keeping Track of Willard's Lies

It's time for Willard's Lies of the week. Once again, I will point out the site on the blog roll: Romney The Liar: because there are Liars, Damn Liars, and then there's Mitt Romney. Steve Benen, now at The Maddow Blog:. Here's last week's entry of Chronicling Mitt's mendacity: The Opening:
Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XIV By Steve Benen - Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:28 PM EDT. Campaigning in Ohio yesterday, Mitt Romney told supporters, without smirking or sounding sarcastic, "If I'm president of the United States, with your help, I will tell the truth." Ordinarily, those seeking national leadership positions don't vow to tell the truth if others help them, but since I am nothing if not helpful, I thought I might give the presumptive Republican presidential nominee a few examples of instances in which he fell short of honesty this week. Indeed, if Romney intends to "tell the truth," he can start by reading the 14th installment of my weekly series, chronicling Mitt's mendacity. 1. Speaking to the NRA, Romney said, "The Obama administration has decided that it has the power to mandate what Catholic charities, schools, and hospitals must cover in their insurance plans.... Here we are, just getting started with Obamacare, and the federal government is already dictating to religious groups on matters of doctrine and conscience." In Massachusetts' governor for one term, Romney took the same position Obama has adopted. He somehow forgot to mention this. 2. Romney also told the NRA audience, "We need a president who will enforce current laws, not create new ones that only serve to burden lawful gun owners. President Obama has not, I will." The grammar in this sentence makes it hard to understand, but the implication seems to be that Obama has created new restrictions on gun laws. That's a lie. 3. Romney also claims to be a "lifetime" member of the NRA. In reality, Romney used to oppose the NRA, but became a "lifetime" member fairly recently by buying the honor from the group.

Discussion On Poor Aims to Put Poverty in Spotlight This Election Year

Found an interesting discussion on poverty this week on NPR. The main guests were Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West. Don't kill the messengers. While the messengers are not the greatest (I sometimes wonder if either of these guys has ever really struggled), I think the topic deserves much more attention. This is especially the case in a Country where the working poor have become virtually invisible and where we have a major Presidential candidate who openly and proudly proclaims that he's not concerned with an entire segment of the population - 1 in 3 Americans - who he wants to represent as POTUS (a President should be concerned with every part of the citizenry...with every person in his/her Country. What is amazing is... Republicans can't even seem to grasp that concept at all). Why is this such a touchy issue for politicians? I'll just come out and say it... the terms "poor" and "poverty" have become buzz words associated with minorities, being black specifically, and with single motherhood. But primarily, it's about race. Classic case of word association. These are portions of the American population that Republicans have developed disdain for...and that the Democrats feel that they cannot afford to mention for fear of getting a "socialism" label and losing support from Independents.

The plight of the working poor and near poor...and those who have fallen out of the middle class, has been completely taken out of the debate... just as it was in 2008, 2004, and 2000. President Johnson mentioned poverty openly way back in the 1960's. It's true that he was being pressured by MLK and others pushing for economic justice. The vision of Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph was to make the March on Washington just as much about economic justice as it was about civil rights- a point usually missed, intentionally or otherwise, by historical revisionists. The point is... at least Johnson wasn't afraid to make poverty an issue of national significance. Fifty years later, Presidents and politicians from either Party are afraid to even mention the word 'poverty' in public. So in terms of the level of debate and the prospect of any real policy solutions on the issue of poverty...the U.S. has regressed.

This is all happening at a time when more and more college students are finding themselves drowning in student loan debt... while attempting to chase the American Fairy Tale, when it has become extremely difficult for those in the working class to enter the middle class...and when so many in the middle class are becoming the new working poor. Listen here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The latest in GOP 2012 Voter Suppression: Michigan Edition

I had to read this twice to believe it:


       Michigan Defunding Presidential Election in Predominantly Democratic Detroit
By: Sarah JonesApril 19, 2012

If Republicans took over the country with the White House and a majority in the House and merely maintaining filibuster ability in Senate, Michigan could be a blue print for what is in store for us.

Detroit is facing a crisis. It may not be able to conduct a Presidential election due to lack of funding in the budget. Detroit spent $1.49 million on the 2008 Presidential election, and this year requested $1.2 million but was only granted $737,000.

After Detroit Mayor Dave Bing (D) cut the budget for the Presidential election in half and cut the Department of Elections by 25%, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said there is no way they can conduct the 2012 Presidential election due to their inability to comply with federal law under the severe budget constraints. The Mayor tried to pass this off as shared sacrifices, but sacrificing the root of democracy itself is not exactly the same thing as cutting salaries.

The Detroit Free Press reported the clerk as saying, “You can’t do it. You just can’t do it. We’re mandated by law to do certain things, to have certain things in place, to have a certain number of poll workers. There’s no way we can conduct a presidential election.”

In Detroit, one out of two eligible voters turned out to vote for President Obama in 2008. Detroit is a big city in a state where a Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Romney should have a home state advantage in Michigan, with his father being a former Governor as well as being a Presidential candidate. But Romney’s stand against the auto bailouts have hurt him in Michigan. His exact quote was “Let Detroit go bankrupt.” Now, he and his Republicans are doing just that. The thinking seems to be that if the voters are going to punish you for your positions, you can just render them powerless to vote.

USliberals reports:

In the 2008 election, Democrat Obama was the victor among every age group of Michigan voter, but was particularly popular among voters under 30 years old (68% representing 20% of voters) and African-Americans (97% representing 12% of voters.)

In the last four presidential elections, Michigan voted as follows:
• 2008 – 57% for Democrat Obama, 41% for Republican McCain
• 2004 – 51% for Democrat Kerry, 48% for Republican Bush
• 2000 – 51% for Democrat Gore, 46% for Republican Bush
• 1996 – 52% for Democrat Clinton, 39% for Republican Dole, 9% for Other

The data for registered voters in Michigan shows Wayne County (Detroit is a large portion of Wayne County) with a total of 1,347,245 voters. Consider the impact if those voters can’t vote, in a state with a TOTAL of 7,286,556 registered voters. These numbers indicate that 18% of Michigan voters are in Wayne County. (Wayne County is bigger than Detroit, but Detroit is the major city within the County). McCain lost Michigan by 16% in 2008. Ostensibly, if Detroit couldn’t vote, it would be fair to say assume that it would create a huge opportunity for a Republican Presidential candidate to take the state, as well as assisting with down ticket votes.

Read the rest of the article at the link above.

More about Michigan from Rachel Maddow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Using Small Business Not to Pay Women

Back in 2010 it was a Senate filibuster that prevented passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Act would have helped end discriminatory pay practices against women. Needing 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster, Democrats could only garner 58.

So, while the House passed the bill and a majority of senators favored passing the bill, because Senate rules require a supermajority to invoke cloture, the bill died.

Read the full post here.

Keeping Track of Willard's Lies

It's time for Willard's Lies of the week.

Once again, I will point out the site on the blog roll: Romney The Liar: because there are Liars, Damn Liars, and then there's Mitt Romney.

Steve Benen, now at The Maddow Blog:. Here's last week's entry of Chronicling Mitt's mendacity:

The Opening:

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XIII
By Steve Benen - Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:00 PM EDT.

Mitt Romney recently felt comfortable lecturing journalists about, of all things, "quality control" when sharing the news with the American public.

As Ed Kilgore joked, "Now I suppose when you have already developed a reputation for towering mendacity on subjects large and small, a medium-sized lie about your views on media accuracy is as easy as changing those jeans and a lot easier than changing your entire political persona on a regular basis. But you might think at some point the man would fear being struck down by a thunderbolt right on the spot if he lectures the media -- old or new -- about 'sourcing' and 'quality control.'"

If the presumptive Republican nominee has any such fears, he's not showing it. Those looking for proof need only consider the 13th installment of my weekly series, chronicling Mitt's mendacity.

1. Romney told voters about the cost of the Affordable Care Act, "[W]e've just learned from the CBO, it's not a trillion dollars. It's more like double that.... Obamacare is massively more expensive than had been originally estimated."

That's not even close to being true.

2. On the same subject, Romney argued, "Thirty percent of employers said they are going to drop the coverage for their employees when Obamacare is installed."

Actually, no, they didn't say that at all.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Black Tulsa, White Oklahoma

Historian Scott Ellsworth commented in a recent interview that White Tulsans and Black Tulsans will have differing views of the targeted racially-motivated killing spree perpetrated by Jaocb England and Alvin Watts last weekend.

Ellsworth is right. But, to understand why, you have to know Tulsa’s history.

Read the rest here.

Keeping Track of Willard's Lies

It's time for Willard's Lies of the week.

Once again, I will point out the site on the blog roll: Romney The Liar: because there are Liars, Damn Liars, and then there's Mitt Romney.

Steve Benen, now at The Maddow Blog:. Here's last week's entry of Chronicling Mitt's mendacity:

The Opening:

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XII
By Steve Benen - Fri Apr 6, 2012 2:46 PM EDT.

David Corn covered Mitt Romney's speech to the Newspaper Association of America on Wednesday, and came away gobsmacked -- shocked not only by the Republican candidate's dishonesty, but by the larger context.

Romney stood before a gathering of journalists. He made a series of incorrect and dishonest accusations. And he was not hooted out of the room. He faced no penalty for this -- just a few slaps from those pesky, fact-checking schoolmarms. He will not be banned from similar forums. The politerati is not up in arms. His campaign rolled on. And this may well sum up one of the fundamental problems with American politics.

That's more than fair. Romney's habitual dishonesty certainly deserves to be taken more seriously, and the fact that a likely major-party presidential nominee had no qualms about lying to a room full of reporters -- most of whom, presumably, knew when Romney wasn't telling the truth -- underscores an unsettling degree of brazenness. He seems to tell falsehoods with confidence that there will be no consequences.

This week was an ambitious test of this proposition, with Romney straying from the truth with breathtaking frequency. Those looking for proof need only consider the 12th installment of my weekly series, chronicling Mitt's mendacity.

1. Campaigning in Wisconsin, Romney complained, "The president put an ad out yesterday, talking about gasoline prices and how high they are. And guess who he blamed? Me!"

That's not true; Obama's ad does not blame Romney for gas prices. It simply tells voters that the oil companies are supporting Romney's campaign.

The 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll

hat tip-The Obama Diary:

The 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 09: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) speaks to participants along with (L-R) First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Sasha and Malia during the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House on April 9, 2012 in Washington, DC. Thousands of people people are expected to attend the 134-year-old tradition of rolling colored eggs down the White House lawn that was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878.
----Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 09: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) helps a young participant roll an egg during the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House on April 9, 2012 in Washington, DC. Thousands of people people are expected to attend the 134-year-old tradition of rolling colored eggs down the White House lawn that was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878.
----Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Obama Picks the Wrong Fight

Disregard for a second whether or not the specific points Obama made atMonday’s press conference about potential conservative judicial activism. Disregard for a second that Obama specialized in constitutional law while teaching at the University of Chicago. And, finally, disregard for a second that a poll of judicial insiders all predicted before last week’s arguments that there was only a one-in-three chance that the individual mandate would be found unconstitutional.

Read the rest here.