Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bitter Truth About GOP

“Michael Steele, you are head of the RNC; you are not head of the Republican Party”—Rush Limbaugh, talk host
It has been about a month after the first Republican Party’s first African-American chairman Michael Steele took his first initial victory lap around America’s major media outlets, proclaiming the rebirth of the party of Lincoln.

He tried to put a bolder, hipper image on the tired old bastion of white conservatism, saying it was going to be more inclusive, more accepting in its recruiting of minorities and women. He was going to breathe new life into the demoralized GOP.

Following his narrow victory into the top post of the RNC, Steele should have known that his “house Negro” stance was not going to be swallowed by the die-hard Christian right or the staunch bigots who never liked anything dark unless it was the chocolate lawn jockey at the edge of their driveways or their narrow-butted corn-silk haired wives with their bronzed Florida tans.

Actor George Hamilton’s orange skin hue was too close to the real thing for them. And now Steele was attempting to shanghai the leadership of one of the last citadels of white political supremacy. No damn way!

What Mr. Steele did wrong was he started to claim his “hood-rat” side. That did not sit right with the good ole boys at the segregated country clubs and the lily white secret societies. He bragged to The Washington Times that he planned to get his posse of “off-the-hook” public relations wizards to target Latino and Black youths in “hip-hop settings.” Huh?

Then he went on the radio waves to blast President Obama as pushing a budget of pork with a heaping helping of “bling bling” through Congress and the Republican faithful grimaced at this phony show of bogus soul.

Mr. Steele was not finished. He challenged late night funny man Stephen Colbert in a podcast to a “rap off” contest. A phony Vanilla Ice knockoff in dark face chanting Public Enemy rhymes. He began to strut like the new president, chat on his Blackberry, and trash-talk about his new crossover dribble. When CNN’s D.L. Hughley quizzed the pretender to the GOP throne about Rush, the oracle of the Right, Steele retorted: “Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer.” Smelling himself, as the folks from down home say, he called the fat boy’s hugely popular show as “ugly” and “incendiary.”

Repeating what James Carville, former Clinton adviser, noted about Rush’s imperial reign the week before, Hughley needled Mr. Steele with a barbed comeback that Limbaugh was the “de facto leader of the Republican Party. Everyone knows that fact is on the money. Even the veteran party members tiptoe around “Tiny” Limbaugh whose tyrannical wrath they have come to fear.

In a recent speech in Washington with the conservatives roaring approvingly, Limbaugh outlined the future of the Republican party, took President Obama to task as an enemy of free market capitalism and individual liberty, and dressed Mr. Steele down as the pompous lackey he is.

He put Mr. Steele in his place. He also reminded that the newly elected RNC chairman was his creation, had his time in the conservative sun on his program, and chided the Negro to not let the job go to his head.

Or as Limbaugh said to his listeners: “something happened to” Mr. Steele. He further drove his point home by adding, “He got airtime on this program. Now I’m just an entertainer” and I’m ‘ugly’ and my program is ‘incendiary.’” The verbal whipping by Limbaugh didn’t go unnoticed by the underlings of the party. In the hours after the show’s conclusion, the phones rang off the hook with praises and kudos.

As for Mr. Steele, he put his tail between his legs and went hat in hand to the Master. He took low. He groveled. He told Politico that Monday that he didn’t mean no harm. “I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t that I was thinking,” the submissive front man moaned.

“It was one of those things where I was thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he’s not.”
America was watching the weak-kneed performance by Steele. Gov. Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, issued a statement that Steele’s whimpering indicated that “Limbaugh is the leading force behind the Republican Party, its politics, and its obstruction of President Obama’s agenda in Washington.” The new president probably had a much needed laugh at the Negro’s reversal of views.

But racially, it sent a poor signal. African Americans and Hispanics, especially the young and the politically curious, looked at the humiliating turn of events between the Oxycontin-popping blowhard and the submissive Negro as another indication of the GOP not being the party of the first choice. It was not lost on them when pundits said that the GOP convention resembled a gathering in Nazi Germany. Or the sour images of convention attendees wearing t-shirts with monkeys on the chest. Now this, they get to see Mr. Steele doing a buck-an-wing before the magnificent Limbaugh holding out his hand with the thumb down.

Truthfully, the Republican Party lacks capable leadership, except some retreads. Their policies of arrogance and aggression cost them two recent elections. They are desperately clinging to the policies of yore and are resisting change or progress. They need fresh ideas and an alternative plan to the president’s hail-Mary stimulus plan. They blame Senator John McCain for their disaster at the polls.

They blame conservative senators Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Arlen Specter as duped traitors of the Obama socialist regime. They will muzzle Mr. Steele and bring him into zombie lockstep in their frenzied quest to take the country back. God, have mercy on your soul, Mr. Steele.

Why Some Black Leaders 'Hate' President Obama

News Analysis , Cash Michaels, Posted: Mar 09,

In the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s historic address to a joint session of Congress last week, the reaction to his call for American courage in the face of economic uncertainty has been widely hailed.

''Tonight, President Obama set forth a powerful vision for our country and an agenda for change that deserves the support of all Americans,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D- Mass).

“President Obama is exactly the kind of leader we need in the face of our nation's significant challenges,” echoed Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Instant national polls afterward showed well over 65 percent of Americans surveyed viewed the first Black president and his message favorably, with almost that many saying that they trust his leadership in this time of crisis.

And, of course, it’s no secret that ever since he mounted his historic run for the White House two years ago, Obama has ultimately enjoyed the overwhelming support of his natural constituency - the African-American community. Most Blacks see both Obama’s election, and leadership, not only as a tremendous source of pride, but an extraordinary example of excellence and achievement that all African-Americans, especially young people, should follow.

“Children with foreign-sounding names learned that they too can be president of the United States, and the electoral aspiration of almost an entire generation of young American voters was realized,” Benjamin Jealous, president/CEO of the NAACP, said the day after Obama’s historic election last November.

But not every Black leader is as fond or as proud of the new president as the NAACP and the American people are.

In fact, there are a number Black “leaders,” who span the spectrum of religion, politics and gender, who expressed during the presidential campaign, and many who continue to expound today, assessments of President Obama that range from philosophical annoyance, to petty envy, and even, in at least one case, absolute hatred.

Some actively worked to stop Obama’s election, and at least one is feverishly at work trying to legally undo it.

Normally these “leaders” - many, but not all of whom, serve as mouthpieces for right-wing organizations or interests that mightily tried to cripple Obama’s presidential candidacy - are ignored, if not dismissed, not only by the African-American community, but the public at-large.

But given the tremendous challenges Pres. Obama faces on the economic and national security fronts in his still infant administration, if his massive $787 billion stimulus plan fails to produce jobs and recovery, or if the nation is struck once again 9/11-style with a crippling terrorist attack, Obama’s critics, especially in the Black community, will gain instant currency to undermine his leadership, and possibly destroy his presidency.

One need only look at the extraordinary cast of Black characters who are fully invested in creating dire drama for President Obama.

Number one on the list is a former 2008 presidential candidate himself, arch-conservative Alan Keyes.

''Obama is a radical communist, and I think it is becoming clear,” Keyes, who lost to Obama in a contentious 2004 U.S. Senate race in Illinois, told Nebraska TV station KHAS-TV two weeks ago. “That is what I told people in Illinois and now everybody realizes it's true.''

Then Keyes, who also has at least four failed runs for the White House under his own belt, issued this dire prediction on-camera, ''He is going to destroy this country, and we are either going to stop him or the United States of America is going to cease to exist.''

Keyes, who is party to a lawsuit alleging that President Obama assumed the office illegally because he has not proven to Keyes that he is a natural-born citizen (the state of Hawaii, which has Obama’s original 1961 birth certificate locked away, confirms the president’s citizenship), alleges even further constitutional calamity for the nation.

''I'm not sure he's even president of the United States,'' Keyes, who refuses to address Obama as “president” continued, ''and neither are many of our military people...who are now going to court to ask the question, 'Do we have to obey a man who is not qualified under the constitution?”

Apparently the TV reporter off-camera openly displayed mocking disbelief of Keyes’ pointed charges, causing the Black conservative to say, “We are in the midst of the greatest crisis this nation has ever seen, and if we don't stop laughing about it and deal with it, we're going to find ourselves in the midst of chaos, confusion and civil war.''

To say that Keyes, who once served in the Reagan Administration, is obsessed with Pres. Obama is an understatement.

On his website, “Loyal to Liberty,” Keyes not only calls Obama a “coward,” “tyrant” and “communist,” but even suggests that the president may “threaten” Keyes’ very life and liberty with counter legal action because of the Black conservative’s efforts to remove him from office.

“To any who insist on questioning his actions, he offers the drastic change of ruin and destruction,” Keyes writes, later adding, “To tell you the truth, I expected Obama's ruthlessness, as I expect that it will escalate until his threats extend to liberty and even life itself. Tyrants are like that.”

When Irving Joyner, associate professor of law at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law in Durham, saw Keyes’ KHAS-TV interview online, he couldn’t believe it.

“Alan Keyes is the worst example of radical right-wing politics even as he clothes himself in Black skin,” Prof. Joyner told The Carolinian. “It is certainly tragic that Keyes is able to obtain undeserved and unwarranted press attention by being a lead ''attack dog'' for interests and sentiments which are in direct opposition to the best interests of the vast majority of African-Americans.”

Joyner continued, “It also demonstrates how desperate Keyes has become, and the unmitigated gall which he exhibits when he goes to any [length] to obtain some attention and public exposure, especially when it is done at the expense of the most successful African-American political leader in American history...President Obama's political success and leadership paint a vivid picture of the scope of Keyes' failures and the pitiful depths to which he has sunk.”

George Curry, veteran journalist and former editor of Emerge Magazine, was blunt.

“People such as Alan Keyes and [conservative commentator] Larry Elders have zero credibility in our community. Therefore, I never think about what they think or if they think at all,” Curry said.

Stella Adams, newly elected First Vice Chair of the NC Democratic Party, agrees.

“As an African-American who fully embraces the agenda that has been set by our President Barack Obama, I am perplexed and dismayed by the remarks of Alan Keyes and others who have made outlandish and very close to seditious statements against our President, she told The Carolinian.

“I find it hard to believe that men like Alan Keyes, Larry Elder and others are sincere in their demagoguery but rather they understand that their outlandish positions will extend their 15 minutes of fame,” Adams continued. “Unfortunately, the media believes that it must put forward the opinions of any Black pundit who speaks in opposition to President Obama regardless of its relevance, I guess it is no different from the coverage that Ann Coulter receives.”

As both Adams and Prof. Joyner indicated, Keyes heads a long list of Black conservatives who have worked overtime trying to claim Obama’s rhetoric head for their mantle.

Black conservative Ken Blackwell, the Republican former Ohio secretary of state who failed in his bid recently to become the new chairman of the Republican National Committee is another who relentlessly branded Obama a “socialist” and questioned his patriotism based on Obama’s “questionable” association with controversial figures like is former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and 60’s Weatherman radical Prof. William Ayers.

“I want to make sure we protect the integrity of our democracy,” Blackwell told conservative commentator Glen Beck last year when asked why he opposed Obama.

Conservative author Shelby Steele wrote the book, “Bound Man: Why We are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win,” postulating that the Black liberal presidential candidate, like all Black liberal public figures, would have to bargain with whites that if they would forget he’s black, he won’t accuse anyone of racism. Steele felt that Obama, as some point, would undoubtedly fall short of the bargain, and lose, because, using the word “cowardice,” he refuses to define himself.

“Sometimes, he’s Martin Luther King, sometimes, he's a Black militant from the Sixties, then he’s a Baptist minister. He can be so different. There’s not yet an Obama voice. That troubles me on other levels. It’s hard to know what bag he’s going to come out of when he takes to the podium,” Steele said in an interview with Kam Williams.

Months later, when it was clear that Obama was a lot more talented than he thought and stood an excellent chance to win, Steele admitted to Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the “Why he can’t win” subtitle was an ill advised “afterthought” that he “regretted.”

Other noted Black conservatives like Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell have attacked Obama as “lacking in character, values and understanding,” and “is himself a lie.”

On the journalistic front, they’ve been joined by Juan Williams, prizewinning author of “Eyes on the Prize,” national correspondent for National Public Radio, and frequent commentator on Fox News’ Sunday and The O’Reilly Factor.

Williams, originally thought to be politically moderate, has distressed many in both the liberal and African-American communities with his remarks about both President Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama.

In March 2008 during the height of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, Williams was frequently appearing on Fox News blasting Obama for remaining a member of Wright’s church for 20 years.

“This is the closest Black people have ever been to having a president of the United States of America. And suddenly you see, wait a second, he's playing games and corners here on the race question. He's not being straight ahead and saying, ''You know what, I stand astride racial polarization.''

He's saying, ''I play racial polarization at one moment to my advantage - Reverend Wright - next moment I will distance myself and disavow Reverend Wright when that's convenient, too,” Williams said.

None other than arch-conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, famous for playing the “Barack the Magic Negro” song on his program and calling Obama a “half-rican” because his mother was White and his father was a black African, applauded Williams’ charge of dishonesty against Obama.

Recently after the inauguration, Williams was forced to apologize when he suggested on Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor that First Lady Michelle Obama “she's got this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going. If she starts talking…her instinct is to start with this ''blame America,'' you know, 'I'm the victim.' If that stuff starts to come out - people will go bananas.”

NPR, Williams’ primary employer, was so deluged with complaints about Williams’ remarks on Fox, that the company formerly asked Fox to no longer identify Williams’ association with NPR during his appearances. He was forced to apologize, and now there’s pressure to have him fired from NPR.

The brazen attacks on Pres. Obama haven’t been limited to just politics and commentators. Several Black ministers have gotten in on the act, using the Bible to say some of the most outlandish things about the historymaker.

Conservative Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, a frequent guest with Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel, heads up a Los Angeles-based organization called BOND Action, Inc. He has issued “10 Reasons to Fear an Obama Nation” which include “dangerous, corrupt appointments; surrender in the war on terror; perpetuating genocide against the unborn; and 'unrestrained socialism' which he further describes as “turning America into a ghetto.”

Peterson is known for saying that only Republicans and conservatives can be Christian, and “96 percent of Black people are racist” towards Whites.

When preachers like T.D. Jakes and pastor Shirley Caesar hailed President Obama’s victory, Rev. Peterson publicly attacked them as “worshiping the wrong Messiah.”
But even Peterson’s rhetoric is nothing compared to fiery attacks leveled by Rev. James David Manning, pastor of Atlah Worldwide Church in Harlem, NY.

Rev. Manning, who has made numerous radio and television appearances, and can be seen on YouTube online, made headlines last year for saying that Obama “was born trash” because he had a White mother and Black African father. He has also called Obama a “mack-daddy.”

“He got started — you didn’t notice him ’til he brought out those big-chested White women with their tight T-shirts and their short pants,” Rev. Manning preaches in one of his infamous videos. “That’s what a pimp does. He’s a mack daddy. He pimps White women and Black women. Obama is a long-legged mack daddy.”

Rev. Manning has also alleged that every speech Pres. Obama has made is tinged with his “hatred for America” and White people.

Recently, Manning has alleged that “the jury is still out on whether Obama is Black or not,” and suggested that Blacks really had nothing to be proud of in his election.

Amazingly, Manning does have a growing following, thanks to the Internet. Black Republicans like new GOP chair Michael Steele have taken shots at Obama in the past, and still do, but mostly those jibes are political in nature and rarely as deeply personal.

Many analysts say that what many of Obama’s critics have in common is that they are virtually divorced from the African-American community. They have no real base of Black support.

Intellectuals like Shelby Steele and Walter Williams work at high profile universities and conservative think tanks, so their salaries are paid by whites, not Blacks.

That’s one of the reasons why when they attack Obama or anyone else in the black community, they are seen as doing so from outside of the community, and thus, get no respect from inside.

The list of Black notables who have sought to personally and politically diminish Barack Obama is by no means limited to conservatives, a fact proven in January 2008 during the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary when billionaire Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson, a Hillary Clinton friend and supporter, tried to undermine Obama, telling an audience that then candidate Sen. Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, ''have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues — when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood; I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book — when they have been involved.''

Johnson was making a thinly veiled reference to Obama’s published admission of drug and alcohol usage as a troubled youth. Johnson later apologized, but three months later, bashed Obama again when he said that if Obama were White, he wouldn’t be leading the Democratic primary race over Clinton.

Conservatives, both Black and White, were enjoying the free-for-all as Black Democrats seemed to line up to take cheap potshots at the young, foreign-named political rookie who dared to say he wanted to be the next Commander-in-chief.

When then- Sen. Obama prepared to face-off against Sen. Clinton and others in the primaries in December 2007, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, a close lieutenant to slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made it clear during a television interview that as far as he was concerned, the Illinois senator was an upstart and lightweight.

Referring to former Pres. Bill Clinton’s alleged philandering in an effort to question how “Black” Obama was, Young, in an apparent tasteless dig, said, “Bill is every bit as Black as Barack. He’s probably gone with more Black women than Barack.”

Immediately realizing how off-color his remark was, Young quipped, “I’m clowning.”

During that same interview, Young said, “I want Barack Obama to be president…in 2016. It’s not a matter of being inexperienced. It’s a matter of being young.”

Even though no one from the traditional Democratic or civil rights leadership publicly came to Andrew Young’s defense, even after he later apologized, it was common knowledge that there was a resentment on the part of some of the old guard like Rev. Jesse Jackson, Young and others towards Obama because he didn’t come to them to ask for either their blessing or guidance.

That resentment was especially apparent with Rev. Jackson, who, even though he publicly supported Obama, openly criticized the Democratic candidate if he didn’t speak out on an issue of Black concern, like the Jena 6 controversy.

Jackson’s angst, and some say jealousy over the fact that Obama had clearly gone much further in his presidential aspirations than Jackson’s two unsuccessful tries in the late 1980’s, apparently boiled over when he was secretly taped in a Fox News studio last July telling a fellow guest that he would like cut Obama’s privates off because he was “talking down to Black people” about parenting.

“You are hurting Black America and Senator Obama,” Los Angeles community activist Najee Ali angrily wrote in an open letter to Jackson afterwards. “Your continued verbal attacks (see Jena 6 drama) are unwarranted. It is as if you're jealous that he has eclipsed you and both of your campaigns for the Democratic nomination.”

Rev. Jackson, who apologized even before the tape became public, has been kept at considerable distance from Obama ever since.

For many Black Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton last year, it took well into the general election before many of them finally accepted that Barack Obama could be, and should be the next president.

For many Black conservatives and religious figures, however, their opposition to Obama, and what they believed he stands for, only increased after he won election.

“It is fair game to challenge President Obama on ideological or political grounds,” Prof. Irving Joyner told The Carolinian. “That is a principled position, even if the position opposes policies of the Obama administration...It is despicable to attack the President based on his race, and the fact that Obama has succeeded where others, like Keyes, have failed. This is especially true when the attacks come from someone with the hue of an African-American.

Keyes and other ''haters of color'' diminish our entire race and cheapens the historic struggles and political progress which African-Americans have made.”

Joyner continued, “Keyes' attacks are unprincipled in every respect and he, and others like him, should be condemned by every African-American in this country. It is to be remembered that success needs no explanation or justification, and failures, like Alan Keyes, have none.”

Joyner concluded, “We all should pray for Alan Keyes...because he is truly one of the very few lost sheep.”

Other defenders of Pres. Obama agree that where there is truly constructive criticism of the president and his policies from political adversaries, that should be both respected, and debated.

“I believe we have to take seriously the actions of [GOP Chair] Michael Steele and other sincere Republicans who have different but legitimate views of President Obama's agenda,” Stella Adams, NCDP First Vice Chair, said. “We must agree to disagree with their arguments and look for common ground where we can work together for the benefit of the African American community. I am eager in my position as 1st Vice Chair of the Democratic Party to explain to our community why President Obama has provided a clear path to the future for our community and our country.”

Eye on the Middle East: Arab States’ Growing Fear of Iran

No single country can help Obama achieve his objectives in the Middle East more than Iran. It can help stabilize Iraq, which is crucial to the withdrawal of 100,000 American soldiers by 2011. It can establish alternative supply routes to Afghanistan instead of the ones provided in Pakistan, which are deemed unsafe. And, it can defuse both Hizbollah and Hamas.

Obama’s rapprochement with Iran, however, has unnerved Arab states. Already fearful of an expansionist Iran, they fear that the new American-Iranian relations may encourage Tehran’s hardliners to pursue their nuclear ambitions more freely. They are also concerned that Iran will be emboldened to expand at the expense of small Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and, of course, Iraq.

Arab television stations, newspapers and Web sites no longer portray Israel as the primary threat in the Middle East, despite all the recent bloodshed in Gaza. Arab states, especially in the Gulf, find themselves facing more imminent and direct threat from its neighbor Iran.

The London-based Al Hayat newspaper ran an article by Saud Al Ris titled, “The Greater Iran” on Feb. 21. “Until recently there was a lot of talk about the Zionist project of Greater Israel, however this is no longer possible,” he wrote in the article. “Israel territorial ambitions were overwhelmed and it has withdrawn from territories it occupied in the past such as Sinai, South Lebanon and Gaza.”

He added: “entering into a dialogue with the U.S., does not necessarily mean that Iran will give up its ambitions or change its policies. Iran is trying to gain more time so it can surprise the world one day with the announcement that it has nuclear weapons which will pave the way for Greater Iran”.

Mustafa Alani, at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center told the Jordan Times, "at the same time we have huge concerns that the Americans could give concessions to the Iranians which would undermine our security and be unacceptable to us…. Our basic demand is that America should not give concessions on the Iranian nuclear program and its interventions in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine."

Iranian occupation and settlement activities in the Arab oil-rich region of Khusistan and Arabistan provinces along the border with Iraq has trumped concerns over Israel resettlement activities in the West Bank and Golan Heights, reported Al Arabiya Television.

Farj Ismael and Naser Al Kabi wrote on the Al Arabia Web site on March 4 that, “More than 5 million Arabs live in the region, their Arab identity are constantly under attack; they are subjected to raids, arrests and random executions; their homes are demolished with pretext that economic centers need to be built there and hundreds of thousands of them are being displaced.”

Although the region provides Iran with 80 percent of its oil exports, the disfranchised population there suffers from 50 percent unemployment. Arabs comprise more than 66 percent of the population in the city of Ahwaz, but they only hold 5 percent of public offices there.

According to Al Arabiya Television, the Iranian government is resettling 500,000 non-Arabs in Khusistan province, shifting the demographic character of the region.

Ahwaz is not the only point of contention between Arab states and Iran.

The Arab News, the first English newspaper in Saudi Arabia, criticized the “recent provocative statement” by the Iranian conservative and high-level adviser, Ali Akber Nateq Nouri, who called Bahrain Iran’s 14th province.

Nouri’s and other Iranian officials’ statements generated a storm of condemnation among Arab states. The Gulf Cooperation Council was quick to respond. “Statements made from time to time by Iranian officials infringe on the sovereignty and independence of the Gulf states,” it said, “especially Bahrain, and represent a flagrant aggression on the Arab identity of Bahrain.”

Iran recently said that it respects the sovereignty of Bahrain. Its explanation, however, was not perceived as genuine by Arab states, especially when Iran continues to occupy three islands, including the strategic island of Abu Musa at the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz since Nov. 30, 1971. The islands belong to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Gulf Cooperation Council has repeatedly demanded that Iran return these Islands to the UAE, but Iran has refused.

Since 1992, Iran denied entry to the occupied islands to non-native Arab residents, including teachers and medical workers without acquiring an Iranian visa. Recently Iran opened government offices on these islands.

In response, the UAE has taken a major step to preempt Iran’s occupation of the strategic island of Abu Musa at the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz. According to Al Arabiya, the UAE last month started the construction of a new port that will enable it to export 70 percent of its oil without having to go through the Strait of Hormuz. If oil pipelines are extended to the port from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other Gulf States, it will become a vital oil exporting hub.

The head of the Gulf Research Center, Abdel Aziz Ben Saqer, told Al Arabiya, that the construction of this port, which will be completed in 2010, is a direct response to Iran’s threats to shut down traffic through the Strait of Hormuz.

Indeed, the threat has become a common concern between Arab states and Israel, and therefore changed the way they view Israel itself. Despite Israel’s recent invasion of Gaza, Arab states have kept the Saudi-sponsored Arab Peace Initiative alive.

The overwhelming force used by Iran in 1971 to take over the UAE islands escalated an arms race between Arab states and Iran. This arms race continues despite the global economic crisis. The Khaleej Times recently reported that “despite a slump in oil prices, the UAE made record purchases at the Exhibition worth $18.4 billion (Dh) (almost $5 billion USD). The debate among defense analysts is that this particular trend of military bolstering by the UAE, of its strategic arms, is particularly directed against any possible threat from the Iranian side.”

According to same source, the UAE also purchased the Patriot Missile Air Defence System from the United States last year, and it plans to obtain a missile defense shield system known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD. The sale is likely to be approved by the U.S. Congress, which will make the UAE the first state after the United States to possess such a military capability. Other Gulf States are to follow suit since they share similar security threats.

Ironically, Israel, which traditionally opposed such weapons deals, is now looking the other way.

1 in 50 American children experiences homelessness

David Crary
Associated Press
Tue, 10 Mar 2009 06:23 UTC

One of every 50 American children experiences homelessness, according to a new report that says most states have inadequate plans to address the worsening and often-overlooked problem.

The report being released Tuesday by the National Center on Family Homelessness gives Connecticut the best ranking. Texas is at the bottom.

"These kids are the innocent victims, yet it seems somehow or other they get left out," said the center's president, Dr. Ellen Bassuk. "Why are they America's outcasts?"

The report analyzes data from 2005-2006. It estimates that 1.5 million children experienced homelessness at least once that year, and says the problem is surely worse now because of the foreclosures and job losses of the deepening recession.

"If we could freeze-frame it now, it would be bad enough," said Democratic Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, who wrote a foreward to the report. "By end of this year, it will be that much worse."

The report's overall state rankings reflect performance in four areas: child homelessness per capita, child well-being, risk for child homelessness, and state policy and planning.

The top five states were Connecticut, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island and North Dakota. At the bottom were Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana.

Reflecting the disarray caused by Hurricane Katrina, the report said Louisiana had the most homeless children per capita in 2006, followed by Texas and California.

However, Bassuk - a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School - said many states fell short in regard to policy and planning. Only six were praised for "extensive" planning to curb child homelessness. Twenty-four states received an "inadequate" grade.

Ken Martin, executive director of the Texas Homeless Network, said the large number of homeless children in Texas was predictable.

"It's not surprising when you don't put money into human services that you have issues come up," said Martin, who expressed hope that improvements are forthcoming.

The Texas Interagency Council for the Homeless is fine-tuning a plan for curbing homelessness. Lack of such a plan earned the state an "inadequate" rating in the report.

Michael Gerber, executive director of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and chairman of the interagency council, said officials are assessing how to use $41 million in federal stimulus money Texas expects to receive for homeless programs.

In Arkansas, relatively few homeless shelters cater to families or single fathers, so it took a while for Vaughn Summerville to find Our House Shelter in Little Rock. Because it has separate housing for families, Summerville can stay with his two daughters, who attend an after-school program at the shelter while he works at a museum.

"It was horrible at first, but it's getting better," said Tiffany Summerville, 13. "I guess I'm still reacting, because we've never been in a shelter before."

Many homeless families miss out on such support, foregoing shelters because they fear having their children taken from them, said Sandra Wilson of the Arkansas Homeless Coalition.

Shelters in Arkansas are funded mostly through private donations, along with some federal money, said Julie Munsell of the state Department of Health and Human Services. There's no state funding, and backers of a bill to create a housing trust fund said they are not sure where the money would come from.

In Georgia, one challenge is serving homeless youth who are on their own.

"We need to make it safe for kids to ask for help," said Becca Orchard of StandUp for Kids in Atlanta. "The focus is on the homeless adults because we can see them, and they're a nuisance. We can't see the kids, so we don't think they're there."

New York was ranked 38th, worst of any northeastern state. According to New York City's Coalition for the Homeless, the number of families in municipal shelters reached a record high at the end of November - 9,720 families, the most since the city began reporting such data 25 years ago.

Among the families in shelters now are Galina and Mark Turner, and their 18-month-old son, Nareem. They were evicted two weeks ago from their apartment, unable to keep up with the rent.

"It's decent," Galina said of their city-run shelter. "The worst part is it feels like jail."

Mark, 27, is jobless, and thus able to take care of Nareem while Galina works as a security guard.

"We're trying to hold our heads up and be optimistic," Galina said.

The report said homeless children are far more likely than other children to experience hunger, suffer chronic health problems, repeat a grade in school and drop out of high school.

It stressed the long-term damage that can result from disruptions to friendships, health care and family routines.

"These factors combine to create a life-altering experience that inflicts profound and lasting scars," the report said.

It offered 19 recommendations for government action, including beefed-up federal spending on low-income housing, assistance to struggling renters and homeowners, and investment in child care for homeless children. It urged states to place homeless families directly into permanent housing rather than into motels.

Ending homelessness for all U.S. children within a decade is possible, despite the recession, said the report, which Bassuk's center issued to launch a campaign pursuing that goal.

"If we fail to act," the report said, "the consequences will play out for years to come as a generation of lost children grow to adulthood."

Obama: US Must Improve Schools to Compete

President Barack Obama says the U.S. must improve education to stay competitive in the world economy. Obama spoke about education Tuesday at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. (March 10)


President Obama has directed federal agencies to initiate reviews for all of former President George W. Bush's signing statements.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, in a sideways jab at Bush, said that President Obama will not attempt to invalidate laws with signing statements as President Bush did. Instead, Obama will use signing statements as they were used prior to President Bush. The President will "not ask that laws be disallowed simply by executive fiat," he said during a Monday press conference.

"When signing legislation, Bush often would use such statements to direct officials to ignore parts of the law he thought were incorrect or restricted the administration's constitutional powers," said the Associated Press.

President Bush's application of signing statements doubled all the statements of all the prior American presidents, combined. He was roundly criticized for effectively ignoring congressional statutes, coming under fire from at least one former president, federal agencies, watchdog groups, members of his own party, political pundits and the American Bar Association, which called the practice as used by Bush, "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers."

"But Mr. Obama also signaled that he intends to use signing statements himself if Congress sends him legislation that has provisions he decides are unconstitutional," reported the New York Times. "He pledged to use a modest approach when doing so, but said there was a role for the practice if used appropriately."

It’s Time to Update the Budget Process By Richard A. Lee

Year in and year out, New Jersey begins its annual budget process with a formal address from the Governor, detailing his or her proposal for the Legislature, the media and the public. The immediate response is predictable. The minority party, be it Democrat or Republican, will be critical. The party in power will be supportive, although there may be a few who do not buy in, usually because of some component of the proposal that negatively impacts their particular constituencies.

Regardless of which side you come down on for Governor Corzine’s Fiscal 2010 budget proposal, most of us would agree that the process that New Jersey uses to enact the state budget is ripe for improvements. I have been involved with our state budgets for 25 years – as a reporter and as a staffer, first in the Legislature and later in the Governor’s Office – and the process we use today is essentially the same as it was a quarter century ago and maybe even longer than that.

As things stand now, the budget process starts in February or March when the Governor delivers his or her proposal to the State Legislature. Over the next couple of weeks the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees will hold separate series of hearings. Most will be with cabinet members who present and defend their departmental budgets; a few will be set aside for public comments.

Other than the fact that there is considerable duplication in the two sets of hearings, the process sounds well and good on paper. But in reality the impact that this long public process has on the final budget product is far less than it should be. When crunch time comes and the clock is ticking toward the June 30 budget deadline, all too often critical decisions are made by just a few people meeting in private. The group typically includes the Governor, the Senate President, the Assembly Speaker, and a few others, such as the heads of the two legislative budget committees. They negotiate and hammer out details, and then everyone else gets to vote. There usually is a rush to get the budget bill printed. Sometimes major proposals are added in the waning days of the budget process and placed before the full Legislature without the benefit of public hearings and thorough review. Members of the minority party will complain – with some justification – that there is not ample time to evaluate the final budget proposal and all of its components.

Despite it all, the process works. Each year, the state manages to enact a budget and keep New Jersey in business (although it took a few extra days to do so back in 2006). But now in 2009, we have the technology to not only to improve the budget process, but also to make it more transparent.

Let’s start off with the Governor’s budget address. As I indicated in an earlier column, the value of formal speeches and all the trappings that come with them may be obsolete in the 21st Century. The internet is how most of us get our information today. So why not eliminate the budget address and just post the Governor’s budget message on the state website and link it to the actual budget document with all the details for any of us who want to see specific parts of the proposal?

In fact, we could make better use of the internet throughout the entirety of the budget process. Instead of testifying (sometimes twice) before budget committees, cabinet members could outline their departmental budgets on the web. Their presentations would be there for everyone to look at, scrutinize, and question. Adding a blog-like format would allow the committee members, as well as the public, to post questions, and the responses from the cabinet would be right there online for all of us to read so we can make our own determinations.

If we did something similar for the public hearings, it would open up the process to many more New Jersey citizens. Under the current system, there are at best a few regional budget hearings during which members of the public can voice their opinions. They often take place during the day when most of us are trying to earn a living, so it is difficult for the many New Jerseyans to take part. But by employing a similar blog-like format, we could make it possible for anyone to provide input. No longer would it matter where you live or when you work. Instead, you could log on to the computer 24/7, post your comments and hopefully have them read and considered by the lawmakers charged with developing and voting on the state budget.

Updating the budget process along these lines would have its challenges, but it is worth a try. After all, it is 2009 and New Jersey should have a budget process that was built for the 21st Century.
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Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.