Alma Adams: Newest Member of the Congressional Black Caucus

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Rep-Alma-Adams1-350x235

 

Tuesday saw the election of NC State Representative Alma Adams (D-Guilford), as the next congresswoman from North Carolina’s 12th congressional district.

182 of 182 precincts – 100 percent

x-Alma Adams 14,927 – 44 percent

Malcolm Graham 7,482 – 22 percent

George Battle 4,426 – 13 percent

Marcus Brandon 2,974 – 9 percent

James Mitchell 2,032 – 6 percent

Curtis Osborne 1,934 – 6 percent

 

Adams, 67, a veteran member of the North Carolina General Assembly, succeeds Mel Watt, who resigned after being appointed by President Obama as the head of the federal Housing Finance Authority.

Adams, a retired college professor, is known for her colorful personality, forceful manner, and her distinctive hats. A former chairman of the NC Legislative Black Caucus, I predict that she’ll make a mark quickly and will chair the Congressional Black Caucus within 4 years.  In succeeding Watt, she presents a sharp contrast. Watt is known for his unassuming manner and for surprising constituents and others by personally answering the phones in his congressional office.  Adams, on the other hand, is rather imperious and known in Raleigh as someone difficult to work for.

This race should have ended differently. Given the footprint that Charlotte has in the 12th Congressional District, this race was State Senator Malcolm Graham’s to lose and he lost it. He never consolidated his base and Greensboro State Representative Marcus Brandon was never a threat to Alma’s despite his strong fundraising. His humiliating 9% showing was the shock of the evening.

 

 

Chris Christie: an imminent threat in 2016

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Cory Booker, Chris Christie

I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve got a bug up my ass about Chris Christie.  He scares me in a way that no Republican does.  It occurs to me that as Mitt Romney sinks into the quicksand of evasive, duplicitous bullshit of his own making, Chris Christie would be having a much better go of it this year against President Obama.  Although I’m loathe to writing the following words, I must acknowledge that Ann Coulter, the High Priestess of Hate, was right when she said, “If you don’t run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we’ll lose.” And lose they will this year. Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!

The governor of New Jersey isn’t a wooden establishment patrician that lacks a common touch. He is a relatable everyman that has a broad appeal, which keeps me up at night.  If he’s smart, he’ll use Ann Coulter as a battering ram and bridge to the fringe crazies she’s made a fortune from as a best-selling author.  Her support alone makes him viable and his recent cozying up to a racist assclown like Steve King indicates he’s quite serious about exploring a run in 2016. I miss the good ole days when “imminent threats” were dealt with by preemptive war.  Chris Christie is an imminent threat to Democratic designs on the White House in 2016 and we need to declare war on his ambitions. Now!

That’s where Cory Booker comes in.  The only way to head off Chris Christie in 2016 is to defeat him in 2013. I’m not one of those who believe Christie won’t run for re-election. He loves the power too much and New Jersey has one of the most powerful governorships in the nation. There’s no better way to position oneself on the right than to vanquish an ambitious Negro for power.   If he’s smart, Christie will assemble some of the best GOP talent in 2013 and their job will be to amass a huge war chest and a landslide victory in preparation for 2016. I remain unconvinced that Christie is beatable in 2013, but I know full well that Cory Booker is the only contender that could pull off that heavy lift.

Booker, if he’s also smart, will assemble the best talent the Democratic Party has to offer and will turn 2013 into a marquee race and opening skirmish for 2016.  All he has to do is sell his party on the necessity of defeating Christie and eliminating him as a future threat. He should be able to do that by sweet talking some heavyweight Obama bundlers into helping him out. Get your popcorn, people. This race is gonna be the fun one to watch.

Congressman Chaka Fattah’s son subject of FBI raid

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HAT TIP:  PHILLY.COM

Wed, Feb. 29, 2012, 11:52 AM

By Martha Woodall, Mark Fazlollah, Kristen A. Graham, and Joseph Tanfani

INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS

Federal authorities are investigating why a company owned by the son of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was paid $450,000 by an education firm that has received millions in contracts from the Philadelphia School District, according to sources familiar with the probe.

Agents from the FBI and U.S. Treasury Department served two search warrants early Wednesday for Chaka Fattah Jr.’s records, the first at his apartment at the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton.

Shulick

They also seized Fattah’s records and a computer from the Logan Square law office of David T. Shulick. He is president of Delaware Valley High School, a for-profit company that contracts with school districts to educate students with discipline problems.

The younger Fattah, 29, known as “Chip,” is owner of a consulting company called 259 Strategies L.L.C. that works as a subcontractor for Shulick’s companies. Fattah Jr. has working space at the law office.

The $450,000 payment from Shulick’s company is more than 10 percent of the approximately $4 million that Delaware Valley will receive from the School District this year.

Ron Sarachan

“We are cooperating with the investigation,” said attorney Ronald A. Sarachan, who jointly is representing Fattah with Gregory P. Miller. “We’ve been in communication with the government.”

Sarachan said he was “hopeful” that the investigation would be quickly resolved.

Shulick, who was interviewed Wednesday morning by agents at his home, said he was told that neither he nor Delaware Valley were the focus of the investigation.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with the school,” Shulick said. “We have nothing to hide, and we let them in and let them search [Fattah Jr.'s] office unfettered.”

In a later e-mailed statement, Shulick said Fattah Jr. “is being victimized merely because his last name is ‘Fattah.’ “

” . . . He is dealing with issues that nobody without the last name ‘Fattah’ would have to deal with,” Shulick wrote.

The FBI has been asking questions about Fattah Jr.’s business operations for at least a year.

In January 2011, agents went to the South Florida home of Mikel Jones, a lawyer and childhood friend of Fattah Sr., as part of an investigation into Jones’ finances.

During a daylong conversation, they also asked Jones why he had paid more than $90,000 to 259 Strategies and to American Royalty, another Fattah Jr. firm that provided luxury services to well-heeled clients, according to an FBI document that summarized the conversation.

It surfaced last year in a federal fraud case against Jones. He was convicted and is appealing.

Jones, who ran a personal injury law firm, told the agents that he hired the younger Fattah to help expand his business – and because Fattah had “access,” the document said.

The FBI said Jones told them Fattah “had some good ideas, but he could not remember any of them offhand.”

“I know what this looks like, but there was no quid pro quo,” Jones told the agents, the document said.

“Did I overpay him? Was it a good investment, strictly speaking? No, but I was desperate and he had access,” Jones said. The nature of that access was not described.

In an interview with The Inquirer last year, Fattah Jr. said his work for Jones had nothing to do with providing access to his father or anyone else.

“I came up with a lot of ideas,” he said. “Mr. Jones was a client of my concierge service, and I also acted as a management consultant in terms of finding new clients for his personal injury firm, period.”

Fattah declined to go into detail on his work for Jones, but said that many of the payments from clients were used to purchase goods or services for them. American Royalty charged membership fees.

“We might get a call at 3 a.m. saying a client needs a jet in the morning,” he said in a 2007 interview with the Philadelphia Business Journal. “We have access to one of the top private jet companies in the country, so we’re able to make that happen.”

In 2007, the Capital Grille restaurant in Philadelphia filed a police report alleging that American Royalty had failed to pay a $15,000 bill. Fattah settled the tab, saying it was run up by a client.

Federal agents arrived about 6:40 a.m. Wednesday outside Fattah’s home, and at Shulick’s office shortly after 10 a.m. They left the law office about 50 minutes later, carrying a Dell desktop computer and boxes of records.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation said that while some agents were serving search warrants and collecting documents at Fattah Jr.’s residence and the law office, other agents were conducting interviews with other people, including Shulick.

Shulick said he believes that the inquiry is focused on the younger Fattah, who has been doing work for Shulick since 2009, according to documents and interviews. Shulick said Fattah Jr. works as “a contracted employee” for the law firm, the school, and his charity, the Judith B. Shulick Memorial Foundation, named for his mother.

Last May, when Shulick threw out the first pitch at a Phillies game, Fattah Jr. posted a video on YouTube.

Earlier this month, Fattah Jr. appeared before the York City school board pitching a $1.5 million contract for Delaware Valley and describing himself as the company’s director of business development, according to a published report.

Rep. Fattah has been a supporter of Shulick’s schools as well.

He sought a $375,000 federal transportation grant to replace the school’s fleet with “green clean fuel burning vehicles,” according to his website. The grant was not approved.

Rep. Fattah, whose district covers parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County, is the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and has long pushed for education funding.

“I stand by my son,” he said in a statement. “Nothing came of the request for funds, and my son had nothing to do with any request for funds.” He said he would “await the results of the investigation before making further comment.”

His spokesman, Ron Goldwyn, said the investigation does not involve Fattah Sr. or the congressional office.

Incremental Change I Can Believe In

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As the nation sits on the precipice of default and worldwide Depression, my frustration with progressives has turned from annoyance to blind rage.  The delusional fantasy that Barack Obama can wave a magic wand, part the Red Sea, and create progressive change with the stroke of a pen, just won’t die.  And it frustrates the hell out of me.  I understand the mindset intimately because I was there.  This presidency is a unique moment in American history and it has fueled the idealism of the American people. That’s a good thing.  However, it has also unleashed a tsunami of unrealistic expectations.  

Our system of government is designed to frustrate reform and change, especially progressive change. Whatever change we manage to get is ALWAYS incremental and a foundation that can be built upon. I thought that was widely understood.  I was wrong.

Anybody who hasn’t been under a rock for the last few weeks understands that there is no reasoning with the Republicans on Capitol Hill or anywhere else.  David Brooks said it best:

… the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative. The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.

…If the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.

And they will be right.

Given the ruinous catastrophe that the country faces, I find it maddening that some progressives think that the president is going to be able to achieve anything worthwhile as long as Republicans control the House of Representatives.  Didn’t we learn this lesson 16 years ago when Bill Clinton was president? After Clinton’s re-election the GOP doubled down on the crazy.  Bill Clinton was immensely flattered to be considered the first black president and the Republicans resolved that any white male that would cop to that should be treated like a nigger. That’s what the humiliation of impeachment was ultimately about and they haven’t changed. The thin veneer of solidarity with African Americans and other people of color displayed by our party leaders renders the Right-Wing constitutionally incapable of accepting any Democratic President’s legitimacy.

Thirteen years later, the president who saved us from Depression, secured comprehensive health reform, and reversed DADT without embarrassing his wife, his family, and the nation with sordid details of oval office fellatio, can’t seem to do anything right for the people who vigorously defended the philanderer-in-chief who got all of that progressive policy wrong in addition to weakening the social safety net and deregulating the banks that speculated us into the current predicament.  In the African American community, there is an aphorism that we are taught as children: We have to be twice as good to get half as much.  True to form, Barack Obama is twice as good as Bill Clinton ever was and doesn’t even get half the credit.

I’m tired of the cacophony of criticism from the firebagger caucus that President Obama is somehow defective.  He’s the most effective president on domestic policy since LBJ. Unlike Charlie Sheen, Barack Obama IS winning, which I think is the realization fueling the Republican drive to blow up the economy and his presidency so they can play blame-a-nigga games during the 2012 Presidential election.

The fact that firebaggers refuse to acknowledge the latent racism behind Republican machinations blocking a raise in the debt ceiling reveals that Republicans are not the only ones with a race problem they need to own up to. The need for Barack Obama to be perfection personified before some progressives can trust and applaud his leadership is delusional at best.  At worst it is racist and it is time we had an adult conversation about that. His election has not exorcised the demon of racism in this country and relieves no one of their moral obligation to continue supporting fairness and equal opportunity.

If President Obama has a failing, it is that he refuses to acknowledge that truth and the racism behind the animus he faces from the Republicans.  Whatever.  I’ll support him regardless because nobody in my lifetime has demonstrated that they’re more worthy of being President.

Oval Office Address Open Thread

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President Obama addressed the nation on the occasion of the official withdrawal of combat forces in Iraq.  I am interested in your thoughts regarding the address and ask that you consider the following questions:  (1) Do you believe that the combat mission in Iraq was worth the cost in blood and treasure to the American people?  (2) Do you believe Bush’s trillion dollar imperial crusade improved Iraq in any way at all?  (3) Did the President reassure you that he is sufficiently turning his focus to domestic concerns–the economy in particular?  (4)  Does Obama look comfortable sitting behind the big desk and if not, why not? (5) What didn’t you hear that you expected and needed to hear?

Talk to me.  Don’t be shy.

Richmond set to face Cao for Big Easy Congressional seat

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Hat Tip: New Orleans Times Picayune

State Rep. Cedric Richmond won two of every three votes cast in heavily African-American precincts and nearly half of all votes in heavily white precincts in Saturday’s Democratic primary to advance to the Nov. 2 general election for the 2nd Congressional District, an analysis of ballot results shows.

Cedric Richmond

Richmond, a three-term legislator from eastern New Orleans, will face incumbent Republican Anh “Joseph” Cao, also of New Orleans, and three little-known independent candidates to represent the district that covers most of the city and a swath of Jefferson Parish.

Cao, the first Vietnamese-American elected to the U.S. House, won the seat with strong Democratic support two years ago when he ousted nine-term incumbent William Jefferson, who campaigned under the specter of a federal corruption probe. After a trial last summer, Jefferson was sentenced to 13 years in prison and remains free on appeal.

Joseph Cao

Richmond got 60 percent of the vote on Saturday, when a dismal 8 percent of the district’s voters turned out, a poor showing that was likely a result of rainy weather and the distraction of the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

State Rep. Juan LaFonta came in second, with 21 percent, followed by former Jefferson chief of staff Eugene Green, with 10 percent, and newcomer Gary Johnson, who served a stint last year as research director for the House Rules Committee, with 8 percent.

In a district where six of 10 registrants are African-American, Richmond’s strong showing among black voters — especially in Jefferson Parish — helped secure his victory, according to an analysis by University of New Orleans political scientist Ed Chervenak.

I believe that it is a certainty that Cedric Richmond is the next Congressman for New Orleans.  His win will be the sole defeat of a Republican incumbent this cycle.

Hansen Clarke to Challenge Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick

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Michigan State Senator Hansen Clarke, according to his facebook page, is gathering volunteers and gearing up to challenge Michigan Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, the mother of scandal plagued former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. It is my contention that Mrs. Kilpatrick is in serious danger of losing her seat in the August Primary.

Mrs. Kilpatrick’s favorable ratings are in the toilet. According to the last poll taken in August,  her re-elect number is 27%, which is beyond toxic.   The recent headlines surrounding her son’s refusal to pay restitution to the city following the sex-scandal that drove him from office and the imminent joint indictment of her son and ex-husband, cannot possibly have helped matters.

The former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus is facing a formidable challenger.  Clarke, 52, a biracial brotha of East Indian and African American descent, is a gifted, low-key politician with a progressive record of achievement in the Michigan Legislature. Clarke sponsored legislation to impose a two-year moratorium on foreclosures that disproportionately plague black and brown communities.  Moreover, he introduced a bill to expand hate crimes laws to protect those targeted on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression.   Clarke challenged Kwame for Mayor in 2005 and made a brief run for Governor this year before he ended his candidacy.  This is a race he can win.  If he goes forward and files, and has the field all to himself, the odds are heavily in his favor.

I’ll have more to say about this in a later post.

A few thoughts on the Tavis Smiley controversy

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I’ve seen some interesting commentary on Tavis Smiley deciding to bring back a black discussion forum on Obama’s. CPL over at Jack and Jill Politics and also Shanti over at WEE SEE YOU. Here is my take:

Given the remorseless hate, vitriolic racism and disingenuous histrionics that rain down on President Obama from the right, it is hard not to give in to the impulse to rally around the flag and reflexively defend his every action. Some on the left, especially the gay community, seem to think that projecting their hostility and frustration onto their Negro president, instead of fellow whites that have rejected every marriage referendum, will magically produce the civil rights they long for.

The same could be said of the “fauxgressives”—yawl’s word, frustrated by the health care stalemate. White fear, stoked by misinformation, is killing the progress that could be made in a progressive direction by this president. He has made some mistakes along the way. For example, he’s allowed himself to believe that he could work toward consensus with the insurance industry and bad actors on the right, but what really seems to be driving the debate about all things progressive are the ridiculous fears of some whitefolks that President Obama is somehow out to get them.

Support is collapsing for health care reform in some Democratic quarters on Capital Hill because some members of congress don’t have the intestinal fortitude to push back against the smears and are reluctant to confront the ignorance, racism and fear enveloping their constituents back home. They would rather cut and run or just plain cave in and validate the fear.

It is easy to be lulled into a sense of false security that an urbane, sophisticated, and intelligent President will come out on top no matter what happens, or that the compromises he inevitably makes will preserve the progressive change that people overwhelmingly voted for—that would be wrong. President Obama will only be as good as the pressure we apply. Holding the President accountable, as Tavis suggests, doesn’t mean that we don’t love and admire him and Michelle; it is that our love for them is not a substitute for progressive policy and will not sustain black and brown communities under siege by recession and centuries of racism and economic injustice.

While it is true that Barack Obama has done some great things, like the stimulus package, we need him to do some truly astounding things because times are so damn bad. In order for him to be the president we need him to be we can’t be afraid of criticizing him when it is warranted. Agreeing to a bailout of Wall Street with no strings attached was not the best move, lets be honest. Failing to stem the foreclosure crisis which is hitting black and brown communities particularly hard is yet another. Nobody has to like Tavis Smiley, you don’t even have to agree with him, but you should at least listen when he makes a valid point about a black agenda.

Let’s not mimic some whitefolks and project our anger and frustration over a lack of progressive progress onto those that don’t deserve it. We really ain’t mad at each other or Tavis Smiley for pointing out the lack of a black agenda. We’re mad at those on the right attempting to stymie what little progressive progress this president is willing to fight for. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we are a little peeved with Obama for not fighting harder.

Skeptical Brotha to Martha Coakley: Thanks, Byotch

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Her Imperial Majesty Queen Martha I, Empress of Massachusetts

Your Imperial Majesty,

On behalf of the 45,000 Americans without health insurance who may die this year because you sat on a 30 point lead. Thanks, Byotch.

On behalf of the dozens of unemployed men I pass on the way to work everyday that viewed Ted Kennedy as a hero and needed another one to look out for the rights of unemployed workers. Thanks, Byotch.

On behalf of those who revered Teddy Kennedy as a progressive champion and are thankful to God for his 47 years of service. Thanks, Byotch.

On behalf of the Kennedy Family—particularly Vickie and Teddy Jr. who deferred campaigns of their own and instead wasted their time raising money for you and cutting television ads on your behalf.  Thanks, Byotch.

On behalf of all the judges Barack Obama could have appointed to reverse the right wing B.S. that reigns supreme in the federal courts had you won.   Thanks, Byotch.

On behalf of the struggling taxpayers at the mercy of the banks and credit card companies that could use a consumer protection agency that will never materialize because you were to %*& # busy vacationing in the middle of a special election campaign.  Thanks, Byotch.

On behalf of the struggling homeowners who were targeted by banks and mortgage companies as suckers to saddle with predatory loans.  Thanks, Byotch.

On behalf of those sickened by the smiles you put on the faces of racist miscreants like Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, and Rush Limbaugh for making their dreams of total Republican obstruction come true.  Thanks, Byotch.

On behalf of those who saw through Scott Brown’s campaign of fear and ignorance because they know that mindless obstruction is no substitute for creating jobs, and standing strong for peace and economic justice.  Thanks, Byotch.

On behalf of those who took the time to vote for your imperial candidacy even though you couldn’t be bothered to actually come up with a coherent campaign theme and tell people who you were and what you stood for.  Thanks, Byotch.

Sincerely Pissed,

Skeptical Brotha

Michael Steele: Concern Troll

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The blackface minstrel the Republican Party installed as its chairman has had the audacity to call on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to resign.  Yesterday on Meet the Press, the preeminent Salon of Sunday talk, Steele was asked if Senator Reid should resign for saying Barack Obama was a viable Presidential candidate because he was “light-skinned” and because he did not speak with a “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

I refuse to defend Harry Reid, but even an idealist like me knows the difference between a Majority Leader who advances the agenda of a black president and a Majority Leader who defended segregation.

Steele said, “[F]rom my perspective, whether he steps down today or I retire him in November, either way, he will not be the leader in 2011.” That is mighty curious statement because The Steele Sambo felt differently when Trent Lott found himself in a similar predicament.

The Politico has the scoop:

The Washington Post reported on Dec. 14, 2002: “Lt. Gov.-elect Michael S. Steele said last night that he was personally upset by U.S. Sen. Trent Lott’s praise for Sen. Strom Thurmond and his segregationist past, but said Lott should not be forced to relinquish his leadership position in the Senate. ‘Trent Lott apologized, but he needs to keep apologizing because this is a very sensitive issue to the black community,’ Steele (R) said at an event celebrating his election as Maryland’s first black lieutenant governor. ‘I know Trent Lott personally, and I know that this is not his intent. But it’s still unfortunate. And I think he needs to apologize a little bit more.’”

The New York Times quotes Steele:

What’s interesting here is when Democrats get caught saying racist things, an apology is enough,” Mr. Steele said. “If that had been [Senate Republican Leader] Mitch McConnell saying that about an African-American candidate for president of the United States,” Democrats would be “screaming for his head, very much as they were with [Former Senate Republican Leader] Trent Lott.

What the record proves, what it always proves, is that when Republicans say racist things an apology is usually enough and The Steele Sambo will be there to back them up.

Perhaps y’all remember this little tidbit from last year in Politico:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says he has reached out to Rush Limbaugh to tell him he meant no offense when he referred to the popular conservative radio host as an “entertainer” whose show can be “incendiary.”

My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.

Class, let’s review what The Steele Sambo has enormous respect for.

Rush Limbaugh has said:

Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?

Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.

The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.

[To an African American female caller]: Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.

I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: “Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.” Somebody’s gotta say it.

[On Justice Sotomayor] “So here you have a racist. You might want to soften that, and you might want to say a reverse racist. And the libs, of course, say that minorities cannot be racists because they don’t have the power to implement their racism. Well, those days are gone, because reverse racists certainly do have the power to implement their power. Obama is the greatest living example of a reverse racist, and now he’s appointed one.”

At every turn, The Steele Sambo has used his race and status as a Republican leader to defend the most aggressive purveyors of the racism he now claims to be offended by. In the blogosphere we called creeps like The Steele Sambo concern trolls. It is a delicious epithet because they damn sure ain’t the least bit concerned about whatever they comment on. And they are almost always an ugly wingnut troll. To be fair, Michael Steele is not ugly, but the racism he consistently defends as the Chairman of the Republican Party is.

While I am no fan of Barack Obama’s safe establishment politics, I hope The Steele Sambo’s book and his rancid political agenda fails.

The more things change…

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Please give a warm welcome to TripLBee,  Skeptical Brotha’s newest contributor.

By TripLBee, Contributor

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Remember 1993? A charismatic young President rode into the White House in shining armor, liberating our tired and weary masses from 12 years of right-wing tyranny. We were giddy. We were hopeful. We were naive.

Within days of taking office, Bill Clinton gave us a clue as to the kind of President we could expect. Having campaigned on a promise to integrate the military, he promptly compromised his GLBT constituency with the ludicrous and triangulating “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. For GLBTs the abrupt about face may have been more aptly described as the “Don’t Trust This Mutha@#$%^& As Far As You Can Throw Him” policy.

Fast-forward 16 years. Another charismatic young President extricates Americans from the grip of a crazed GOP. He is handsome. He is “articulate and clean.” He sports a brilliant and beautiful wife, and two of the cutest kids on the planet. He quotes Jay Z and Jesus in the same speech. He is perfect. He seems too good to be true. Perhaps because he is.

Among the many promises he makes is one to overturn a Jim Crow redux, euphemistically titled the “Defense of Marriage Act.” This act essentially demotes GLBT couples to legally sanctioned second-class citizenship. Cut it and slice it any way you will, this is the essence of the legislation. Those of us concerned about basic civil and human rights are heartened that our new President is set to undo such palpable wrongs. Only he isn’t.

It took our perfect Prez only a few weeks to cause us some concern.

He’s extending the pull out date in Iraq by a year? Ummmm….okay, I guess.

What? He’s tripling the number of troops in Afghanistan, the graveyard of Empires? Oh dear.

He’s pumping money into the biggest banks in the country, but he’s not requiring them to fire their bosses, cap their pay or change the way they conduct their business? Now I am really confused!

Of course we’ve made excuses for our new Prez. Who did we think we were getting after all? Che Guevarra? Look, he’s gotta compromise a little bit. I mean, he has to govern 300 million people, many of them former Republicans. He’s gotta throw em a bone every once in a while. Right?

At some point however, compromise becomes a stale rationalization for “politics as usual.” By filing a friend of the court brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, President Barack Obama has officially become a typical Democrat.

This is a sad day indeed for those of us contributed to his campaign, knocked on doors until our knuckles bled and worked the phone banks until we were hoarse. Many of us, myself included, expected this brother to be different. So far he has proven himself to be smarter, more charming, and slightly more daring than the average bear. But in some fundamental ways, he’s no different.

Born to a white mother and black father in 1961, Obama was literally illegal in 17 states. His parents’ marriage would not have been recognized in many parts of the country. I wonder what they would think if they could see their baby defending state sanctioned bigotry?

And here’s the rub. He didn’t have to do it. He could have told his lawyers to take the day off and play golf. He could have told them to call in sick. Whatever pathetic excuse he has concocted, he didn’t have to go out of his way to spit in the faces of his GLBT supporters. He claims that he had to file the brief because the Defense of Marriage Act is federal law. Well, abortion is a constitutionally protected right. Did you see Bush filing friend of the court briefs when protections for abortion were being challenged in the courts? Nope. Bush knew where his bread was buttered. Apparently Obama does not.

Obama Chooses Sebelius for HHS

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According to OpenLeft and the NY Times, President Obama has settled on Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to Secretary of Health and Human Services.  I couldn’t be more pleased. 

Hat Tip : By PETER BAKER, NY TIMES

 

WASHINGTON – President Obama has settled on Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, a key ally with a record of working across party lines, as his top choice for secretary of health and human services, advisers said Wednesday.

 

Should she be nominated, Ms. Sebelius would bring eight years of experience as her state’s insurance commissioner as well as six years as a governor running a state Medicaid program. But with Mr. Obama about to begin a drive to expand health coverage — an issue on which the parties have deep ideological divisions — her strongest asset in the White House view may be her record of navigating partisan politics as a Democrat in one of the country’s most Republican states.

 

Ms. Sebelius resolved a state budget crisis on Tuesday and plans to be in Washington from Saturday through Tuesday for a meeting of the National Governors’ Association. Asked about the cabinet job, her spokeswoman, Beth Martino, said the governor “is focused on the economic challenges currently facing Kansas, including our state budget and the impacts of the federal stimulus package.”

 

Mr. Obama’s first pick for the job, former Senator Tom Daschle, withdrew over his failure to pay $128,000 in taxes until nominated, provoking a storm of criticism and a presidential mea culpa.

 

With his economic recovery plan signed into law, Mr. Obama plans to turn his attention more to health care next week with a budget blueprint that will begin to advance his ideas about covering the uninsured, advisers said. He may also make health care an important theme of his prime-time address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, they said.

 

It remained unclear whether the White House would finish vetting Ms. Sebelius in time to finalize her nomination by next week. Advisers described her as “the leading candidate” and said there were no others to mention, although they emphasized no final decision has been made.

 

 

 Governor Sebelius, you’ll recall, is the woman I supported for Obama’s Vice.  

Dispatches from Post-Racial America

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I’m interrupting your regularly scheduled corporate propaganda to bring some disturbing news from the West Coast.  Apparently, the post-racial America that signaled Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States is a fraud.

 

Shalca, a blogger on MyDD posted the following video, which graphically shatters the myth of a post-racial America.

 

The two-minute video shows how quickly an unarmed black man can die while in the custody of unprofessional toy cops like those that police the Bay Area Rapid Transit System.  

 

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Oscar Grant, a 22-year old unarmed black man, was executed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer on New Year’s Day.

 

 

Amnesty International’s Dalia Hashad, released the following statement:

 

When an unarmed man is shot in the back after police put him face down on the ground, it is the time for authorities to demand action, not patience. Days after the incident, the officer still has not been interviewed. The delay in this critical part of the investigation hints at the callousness to the worth of human life to a public that is all too familiar with racial profiling, police brutality and cover-ups. Whatever the final investigation reveals, the bottom line is that there is never justification to shoot an unarmed person, especially one who is restrained. It is an obvious violation of the most basic human rights standards, and a clear cut abuse of power.

 

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The corporate media have taken to making excuses for the police by peddling the canard that the cop mistakenly went for his Glock instead of his Taser.  

 

Junya, writing for the Black San Francisco Bay View, blows this pernicious lie to smithereens:

 

 

1. The manual states that the Taser X26 weighs 7 ounces. Depending on model and bullets loaded, a Glock pistol can weigh from 25-38 ounces. You don’t have to be a weapons expert to feel the difference between holding about two pounds and holding less than half a pound – try it.

2. Police pistols are all black, sometimes with a very dark brown grip. The X26 has bright yellow markings on it. It also has a 2-digit LED display.

3. The X26 has a safety on the grip that must be released. The Glock safety is on the trigger.

So let’s review the minimum steps of a Taser deployment:

1. You pull out the lightweight, brightly colored weapon. You load the cartridge onto the tip of the barrel. The cartridge is fat and rectangular, looking nothing like a pistol barrel.

2. You reach on the grip and flip the safety up. The LED display lights up like half of your digital alarm clock, then shows the percentage charge.

3. Police are taught NEVER to use Tasers in life-threatening situations (ensuring that the “Tasers save lives” mantra remains a fairy tale). So, since that eliminates the “split-second judgment” defense, every Taser policy I’ve seen requires a warning before firing, to give the victim the opportunity to comply. Police like to report that merely pointing the Taser and issuing the warning is often sufficient.

Most likely, this cockamamie rumor is spread by the police in order to buy time. It’s damage control, to pacify an angry public until they can come up with some way to blame the victim.

A small scale riot the other day confirmed that the lies, excuses, and spin hadn’t been effective in disguising an execution as a “mistake.”  In a “post-racial” America, it would be nice if the deliberate, pre-meditated effort to cover-up an execution got an automatic federal investigation, followed up by prosecution.

Sadly, this has happened twice before and no prosecutions for murder or manslaughter were ever brought against the BART cops in those cases.  They’ve murdered a naked, mentally ill man, and a 19 year-old boy erroneously suspected of armed robbery.  The boy was shot in the back of the head. Both were black. 

In the reality based community I live in, these incidents, taken as a whole, constitute a pattern or practice of misconduct that is actionable under federal law.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice:

…it unlawful for State or local law enforcement officers to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. (42 U.S.C. § 14141). The types of conduct covered by this law can include, among other things, excessive force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests, coercive sexual conduct, and unlawful stops, searches or arrests. In order to be covered by this law, the misconduct must constitute a “pattern or practice” — it may not simply be an isolated incident. The DOJ must be able to show in court that the agency has an unlawful policy or that the incidents constituted a pattern of unlawful conduct.

BART cops have no civilian review board and are virtually unaccountable for their crimes.  Based on the small amount of research I’ve found (here and here), it seems that they are following the same racist playbook that allowed them to justify questionable uses of deadly force and are simply hoping that the third time is a charm.

 

The Obama Justice Department, at the very least, should be monitoring this case to see what the local prosecutor does. If he does nothing, they should move swiftly on Civil Rights prosecutions against Johannes Mehserle and the rest of the officers in these old cases and use it’s power to force reforms in this rogue agency.  “Change We Can Believe In” is either a slogan or a mantra with teeth—I’d like to see which it is.

About face on Burris

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It has been several days now and I’ve had time to chill and collect my thoughts. During that time, I have come to realize that my opposition to the seating of Roland Burris as the Junior Senator from Illinois is a mistake and a histrionic reaction to Rod Blagojevich’s mischievous and Machiavellian appointment of a qualified African American.

 

There is no way in hell that accepting Blagojevich’s appointment was the rational act of a black politician concerned about fair black representation in the upper house. Instead, it was the juvenile and selfish maneuvering of a washed up politician who equates the legitimate desire of the African American community to be represented by at least one African American Senator with his appointment. They are not one and the same.

The man or woman chosen to replace the President Elect should have been academically, politically, and professionally the best our community could put forward. Burris fails on that score. He is relatively undistinguished but qualified and is definitely over the hill.

 

But what’s done is done and the President Elect and the Democratic Caucus need to deal rationally with the unsavory politics of this appointment without casting aspersions, as many, including me, have done.

 

This is a legally unassailable appointment. Period. Rod Blagojevich retained the legal authority to make this selection and he made it because the Illinois legislature declined to strip him of this authority. Given the time-frame he constitutionally has to decide whether he would sign or veto any piece of legislation, he probably would have been able to stall long enough to make the appointment anyway and we would still be here. Most reasonable folk understand that he had no moral authority, but the law doesn’t require that.

 

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times dropped the dime on Blagojevich the other day. Reid actively maneuvered against any African American appointment. He opposed Jesse, Danny Davis, and Emil Jones. The fact of the matter is that no Senate Democratic leader has done any heavy lifting to benefit a black Senatorial candidate in a contested situation. Nobody has ever attempted to clear the field to benefit a brotha or sistah. Nobody has ever attempted to dry up a white candidate’s fundraising to help out a black senate candidate. It happens for whites all the time. Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, actively sought to dry up Kweisi Mfume’s money to benefit Ben Cardin in 2006.


 

The Senate Majority Leader has never done anything to benefit a black Senate candidate before appointment or before a contested primary. It’s a damn shame I didn’t see that before, but I see it now. Despite Bobby Rush’s clumsy, cartoonish injection of race into the initial press conference—he happens to be right. He also happens to be the worst messenger of the truth because of his unwillingness to support Barack Obama for this seat in the first place.

Rikyrah, CPL, y’all are right, and I was wrong.

What is baffling to me though is why some of the same black people who advocate seating Burris don’t castigate Barack Obama for siding against qualified black representation.

 

Richardson withdraws, historic opportunity at hand

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News broke this afternoon that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his nomination over questions regarding a federal investigation of the state’s $1.5 million dollar financial services contract with a Beverly Hills, California firm, CDR, who’s CEO, David Rubin, donated $110,000 to political committee’s affiliated with Governor Richardson.

 

I am heartsick because I’ve always felt that Richardson’s presence in the cabinet essential to Obama’s success. Nevertheless, as my grandma is fond of saying, “one monkey don’t stop no show.” The vacancy represents an opportunity to do something no president has done and after the Warren fiasco a few weeks back, I’ve come to feel pretty strongly that Barack Obama needs to appoint a “gay American,” as former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy put it, to the cabinet of the United States.

 

When you stop and think about it this is a barrier that Bill Clinton should have shattered years ago, and one Al Gore probably would have if the ignorant tumbleweed that is George W. Bush hadn’t tripped him up. Clinton, after the broken promise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” attempted to buy off the LGBT community with the appointments of James Hormel as ambassador to Luxemburg and Roberta Achtenberg as Deputy Secretary of HUD. The public break with activist David Mixner, a leading LGBT fundraiser and convention delegate for Clinton, damaged Clinton’s relationship with the LGBT community in a big way.

 

Nothing of that magnitude has occurred in this new Administration, but the hue and cry over Rick Warren’s inaugural invocation channels the white-hot righteous indignation of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Debate, and Bubba’s craven signing of the Defense of Marriage Act, which were straightforward betrayals. Obama hasn’t gone back on his word to the LGBT community on any significant issue, at least not yet. But he’s black, so I suppose there are some activists who feel the need to put Obama, and the rest of his dark skinned brethren, “in our place,” and psychologically project their legitimate anger for the failure of prop 8 on the most convenient scapegoats in America—black people, who don’t even make up 7% of California’s population.

 

Anyway, y’all, after little investigation, I’ve come up with two outstanding people that I think can send an inclusive message to the country and tamp down some of the fires of faux outrage burning in the blogosphere.

 

JARRETT BARRIOS

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The first person to come to mind is former Massachusetts State Senator Jarrett Barrios, the CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts. As CEO, he oversees a $55 million dollar endowment that focuses on expanding health care access and improved delivery to the uninsured and underinsured. Barrios, a Cuban American originally from Tampa, Florida, served for 8 years in both Houses of the Massachusetts legislature. An honors graduate of Harvard University, Barrios also possess a law degree from Georgetown University.

 

In the legislature he made Health Care access and delivery his signature issue and authored legislation requiring Massachusetts hospitals to provide interpreters to non-English speakers. In addition, he authored legislation protecting consumers from unscrupulous predatory lenders and required that lenders abide by Massachusetts laws requiring community reinvestment and he pushed for tax credits to subsidize the construction of more affordable housing.

 

A practicing attorney, Barrios has worked for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and for the law firms DLA Piper and Hill & Barlow.

 

Lastly, as you may have already surmised, Jarrett Barrios is a gay man who led the fight in the Massachusetts Senate to preserve marriage rights for same-sex couples. He is married to Doug Hattaway, a democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton spokesman.

 

The Obama Administration has focused on excellence in its cabinet appointments. I believe that Jarrett Barrios’ academic and professional credentials will stand the test and that he would be an outstanding Secretary of Commerce.

 

SUSAN LEAL

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Because I believe in balance, it is necessary to consider people of both genders and the accomplished Susan Leal, a former businesswoman, health-care executive, Public Utilities Regulator, San Francisco Treasurer and Supervisor, is an even more qualified choice than the first I put forward.

 

Ms. Leal, 59, is a native of San Francisco and a veteran civic leader. She is a first generation daughter of Mexican immigrants and the first Latina to serve on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. While on the board, Ms. Leal co-authored San Francisco’s landmark domestic partners ordinance.

 

An honors graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Leal has degrees in Economics and Law and has an extensive background as a staffer in both the California General Assembly and the U.S. Congress. While in Washington Ms. Leal served as a staff attorney for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Investigations. Back in California, she served as general counsel to the Assembly Committee on Ways & Means.

 

Elected San Francisco’s Treasurer in 1998, she oversaw a $3 billion dollar portfolio of investments and she was the first treasurer to screen the city’s investments to ensure the city invested with socially responsible companies that respected workers, consumers and the environment.

 

A shrewd and successful businesswoman, Ms. Leal and a few friends created a health care startup that they subsequently took public and later sold at a profit.

 

Finally, Ms. Leal last served the public as a utilities regulator and she tangled with PG&E, the powerful utility made infamous in the movie Erin Brockovich.

 

Ms. Leal would make an excellent Secretary of Commerce, Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or as a Deputy Secretary of Energy or Interior. Both of these individuals are qualified, well-educated, Latino and Gay.  It’s past time that all God’s children are represented in the halls of power.

 

Roland Burris: Rod Blagojevich’s Magic Negro

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I seriously doubt that the Wayans Brothers or the writers of MAD TV could have written a funnier spoof than yesterday’s orgy of idiocy featuring Rod “Governor Soprano” Blagojevich, Roland Burris and Bobby Rush. To borrow a phrase from the always-quotable Christopher Hitchens, this appointment is a “ludicrous embarrassment.”


The presser was a comedians dream and the clumsy injection of race by Congressman Bobby Rush was sadder than it was despicable. First, seeing how Bobby has physically suffered from throat cancer was heart breaking, but his reasons for supporting Blagojevich in his bulls*it was even more tragic. Poor Bobby is clearly suffering from chemo brain because Blagojevich’s bipolar antics have grown more outrageous with time, and his latest stunt is as disingenuous as it is insane. I’m with Mary Mitchell in believing that Rod Blagojevich dosen’t give rat’s arse about fair representation and he is desperately trying to disprove the allegations of extortion and contract fraud against him. It won’t work. His career is over and nothing he says or does will ever change that.

Unfortunately for Rod Blagojevich, Roland Burris is not a Magic Negro capable of absolving his manifold sins although he would like him to be. (One needs to be a palatable, focus grouped, establishment Negro creation of David Axelrod capable of raising $750 million dollars to be a proper receptacle for white liberal fantasies of racial absolution.) Burris is an uninspiring and irascible functionary that has let his ego get the better of him.

Burris has had a damn chip on his shoulder ever since he was defeated for the Democratic Nomination for Governor in 1994, a Republican year in which no Democrat would have prevailed. The people of Illinois don’t owe him a damn thing and yesterday’s cartoonish spectacle was clear proof that he has taken leave of his senses. The Lieutenant Governor, a Burris friend of 36 years, clearly would have considered appointing the 71-year-old lobbyist and former Illinois Attorney General as a caretaker Senator once Blagojevich was inevitably removed from office.

By all accounts, Roland Burris is an honest man and probably won’t ever be charged with any wrongdoing. However, the facts surrounding his lobbying firm’s acquisition of $700,000 in state contracts are worth investigating and probably will be given the Governor’s propensity for awarding state contracts to his politically connected contributors and fundraisers regardless of actual merit.

Burris gets points for running against Rich Daley for Mayor of Chicago, a man I’ve always opposed and regarded as White Chicago’s plantation puppet master, but he won’t ever receive my endorsement for the U.S. Senate. I hope the Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White, and Senate Democrats stick to their guns and don’t certify this appointment and seat Burris.

I, too, wanted an African American to replace Barack Obama in the Senate given the dearth of Negroes in that body, but it just goes to show that the aphorism “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it,” is a warning black Democrats should have heeded.