Thursday, July 16, 2009

Zell Miller: Obama needs to sit in ‘Gorilla Glue’ and stay put

Zell Miller is back, and as edgy as ever.

The former Georgia governor and U.S. senator, who has kept out of the limelight these last couple years, today put in an appearance at a meeting of the Republican-oriented American Legislative Exchange Council in downtown Atlanta.

My AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin was there, and posted a full account on Gold Dome Live. Here’s the part that will resonate:

Miller said [President Barack] Obama’s decision to try and close the Guantanamo Bay prison where suspected terrorists and enemy combatants are held, is “nuts.”

“This strange Obama sense of justice penalizes our civilians’ with their loss of freedom while rewarding the terrorists with new rights they never had before,” Miller said.

Obama, “our globe-trotting president,” Miller said, “needs to stop and take a break and quit gallivanting all around. I think [chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel ought to get some Gorilla Glue and put it in that chair in the Oval Office and say ‘Sit here awhile.’”

Oh, Zell. How we’ve missed you.

Black Man Wears Klan Sheets to City Council Meeting

Don't you hate it when some fool tweaks raw racial sores and the First Amendment just to get attention?

Allow me to introduce you to the latest, and one of the most offensive perpetrators: Michael Hunt. Hunt, a black man, walked into a Los Angeles City Council meeting and refused to remove his Klan hood. Consequently, the meeting was shut down because a whole group of people just got up and left. ...

Hunt, an African American, submitted a card to speak during the standard public comment period and was called to the microphone by Councilman Dennis Zine, who was presiding officer.

Mr. Hunt, you're going to have to remove your hood," Zine told Hunt twice.

"Are you refusing to remove your hood? ... Mr. Hunt, we can't hear you. Remove your hood."

Source: Man Attends City Council Meeting Dressed in KKK Robe - KTLA

Mayor Sam's 'Sister City' blog refers to Hunt as "an African American Klansman and jackass-at-large." Co-sign! And Hunt's done it before.

It is a testament to the civility of the other city council attendess that Hunt emerged unharmed. Hunt better count his blessings that this all went down in the City of Angels.

Hill Harper: Offering 'Conversation' For Black Men and Women With New Book

When 'CSI: NY' actor Hill Harper decided to pen a tome to inspire and uplift young African American men, he was confronted by plenty of naysayers. At his New York book-launch party for 'Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny,' the Harvard-educated author talked about the numerous people who told him young black people don't read. Instead of letting the negative comments dissuade him from writing, Harper stood firm in his belief that he had a message that young people needed to hear.

"I knew I could get an effective message across to our amazing young people. I am happy to know that both of my books have become [New York Times] best sellers, because that indicates to me that statistics and stereotypes can be overcome."

Harper's 2006 debut, inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke's 'Letters to a Young Poet,' includes advice from the likes of his Harvard Law classmate President Barack Obama, as well as rap star Nas and tennis great Venus Williams.

In 2008, Harper's second offering, 'Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny,' followed. The book, which was designed to inspire young women and is written in letter format, features advice from influential black women like First Lady Michelle Obama, Nikki Giovanni and Ruby Dee.

Now, the 43-year-old, who notes that his biggest struggle in dating has been how much time he spends on the road, is hoping to switch gears and talk about relationships in his new book, 'The Conversation: How Black Men and Women Can Build Trusting Relationships.'

"My last two books, 'Letters to a Young Brother' and 'Letters to a Young Sister,' relied heavily on contributions from well-known men and women who had wisdom to impart to and inspire our youth. 'The Conversation,' however, is different," he clarified.

"The research I did for the book was all about talking to many people from all different walks of life to explore how we are or are not communicating as men and women."

The idea for 'The Conversation,' which includes stories from couples in all stages of relationships -- from new love to 50-year-long marriages -- came from the Iowa native's travels while promoting his previous books.

"While traveling the country on book tours and speaking engagements, I meet all sorts of people. ...Many of them trust me and feel comfortable enough to share their feelings and personal experiences," he said. "It made me want to explore both the reasons for the poor state of our men-women relationships and solutions for making them better."

Considering, as Harper points out, that in 1966, nearly 80 percent of black children were raised in two-parent households. Now that rate is a mere 33 percent; it is a good time for 'The Conversation' to hit bookstores this September.

After the release of 'The Conversation,' Harper hopes to work on a children's book series. But he's quick to remind everyone about how proud he is that his Harvard classmate is now the president of the United States of America.

"I'm so proud of him; I am so proud of us. Let's all of us work as hard as we can in our own communities to create the change that he discussed during the campaign so that we can see real transformation. He can't do it alone, and he is working really we should do the same."

Harper is certainly doing his part as an author. If 'The Conversation' is as successful as his previous two books, President Obama is certainly equally proud of Harper.

Hill Harper Letters'The Conversation' will be released via Gotham Books on Sept. 8.

Bury the Never Ending Myth of Jackson as Child Molester

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Websites, blogs and chatrooms pulsed with garish cracks about it. Legions of commentators and news reporters snuck it in every chance they got. More than a few of Michael Jackson’s fervent admirers and supporters made a dismissive reference to it. Even President Barack Obama in a cautious acknowledgement of Jackson’s towering contributions to American music and artistry still made reference to the “tragedy” in Jackson’s life which was a subtle nod to it. And New York Congressman Pete King skipped the niceties and flatly said it.

The “it” is the never ending myth of Jackson the child molester. It still hangs as a damning indictment that feeds the gossip mills and gives an arsenal of ammunition to Jackson detractors. This is not a small point. In the coming weeks, there will be a push to bestow official commemorative monuments, honors on and a national stamp for Jackson. The taint of scandal could doom these efforts to permanently memorialize Jackson.

The child molester myth doesn’t rest on Jackson’s trial and clean acquittal on multiple child abuse charges in a Santa Maria courthouse in June 2005. Only the most rabid Jackson loathers still finger point to that to taint Jackson. The myth of Jackson as child abuser rests squarely on the charge by a 13 year old boy a decade before the trial and the multi-million dollar settlement out of court. The settlement, then and now, feeds the suspicion that Jackson must have done something unsavory and probably criminal, or else why settle?

16 years later, though, the facts remain unchanged. The charge that Jackson molested the boy was brought by the boy’s father. In interviews the boy repeatedly denied the charges. This changed only after he was administered sodium amytal, an invasive, mind altering drug that medical experts have frowned on and courts have disregarded in witness testimony. Prosecutors, police departments and investigators in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara spent millions of dollars, convened two grand juries and probed nearly 200 witnesses that included 30 children, who knew Jackson to try to substantiate the charge. Not a single corroborating witness was found. Nonetheless, a motley group of disgruntled Jackson’s former housekeepers, attendants and bodyguards still peddled the story to any media outlet willing to shell out the cash that Jackson had engaged in child sexual wrongdoing. Not one of the charges was confirmed. Typical was this exchange between one of Jackson’s attorneys and one of the accusing bodyguards under oath:

“So you don’t know anything about Mr. Jackson and [the boy], do you?”

“All I know is from the sworn documents that other people have sworn to.”

“But other than what someone else may have said, you have no firsthand knowledge about Mr. Jackson and [the boy], do you?”

“That’s correct.”

“Have you spoken to a child who has ever told you that Mr. Jackson did anything improper with the child?”


“Where did you get your impressions about Jackson’s behavior?”

“Just what I’ve been hearing in the media and what I’ve experienced with my own eyes.”

“Okay. That’s the point. You experienced nothing with your own eyes, did you?”

“That’s right, nothing.”

When asked at the time about the charges against Jackson, child behavior experts and psychiatrists nearly all agreed that he did not fit the profile of a pedophile. They agreed that the disorder is progressive and there are generally not one but a trail of victims.

The myth of Jackson as child molester never hinged on evidence or testimony to substantiate it, but solely on the settlement. Why then did Jackson agree to it?

No charge stirs more disgust, revulsion, and pricks more emotional hot buttons than the charge of child molestation. The accusation stamps the Scarlet letter of doubt, suspicion, shame and guilt on the accused. The accused can never fully expunge it. There is simply no defense against it. Under the hyper intense media glare and spotlight that Jackson remained under, the allegation no mater how bogus would have been endless fodder for the public gossip mill. This would have wreaked irreparable damage on Jackson’s ever shifting musical career and personal life.

A trial in Los Angeles in the racially charged backdrop of the Rodney King beating, the L.A. riots, and pulsating racial tensions in the mid-1990s would have been risky business. A trial in staid, upscale, and majority white, Santa Barbara County would have been even more risky.

Jackson and his attorneys knew that when it came to the charge of child molestation the presumption of innocence, or even actual innocence, is tossed out the window. Though Jackson did nothing wrong, a trial would have left him, his reputation and his career in shambles. The settlement was the only pragmatic, logical and legal way to end the sordid issue.

The settlement under extreme duress must not sully his name and place as an honored American icon. The myth of Jackson as child molester must finally be buried.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard on weekly in Los Angeles on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and nationally on

President & CEO Benjamin Jealous addresses the 2009 NAACP Convention in the Opening Public Mass Meeting in New York City.

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Combining its century-old mission of fighting for equality with the instantaneous reach of modern-day technology, the NAACP has launched a program that lets people use their cell phones to report incidents of police misconduct.

The "rapid response system" was officially launched Monday as part of the annual convention for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This year, the organization is marking the centennial of its founding in New York City in 1909.

The system allows people who capture photos or video of incidents of alleged police misconduct on their cell phones to send it through a Web browser to the organization or upload it through a computer. A form will then be transmitted to the sender, who can use it to provide more information about an incident.

"Technology has basically put a video camera in the pocket of every child in this country over the age of 12 and most grown-ups as well," said Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.

He said the information gathered would be used in several ways. Some video could be used immediately, to present footage for a situation the organization wants to highlight. Another purpose would be to compile a database of incidents that could show a history of discriminatory patterns and practices in particular law enforcement jurisdictions - information the group could take to the Justice Department.

The head of the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder, praised the NAACP's dedication to championing equality but acknowledged the work left to be done.

"We must resist the temptation to conclude that our nation has fulfilled its promise of equality based on one moment or on one election," he said, in reference to Barack Obama being elected president.

"The efforts to harmonize our laws with our best ideals is not yet done," he said.

Monique Morris, the group's vice president of advocacy and research, said the ease of reporting an incident will help give a clearer picture of the prevalence of misconduct.

"What this database will provide is a more accurate account in real time of what's happening in our communities," she said.

Foreclosures More Common in 2009

As expected, foreclosures in the United States are up so far in 2009. According to a report by RealtyTrac, the first half of 2009 saw a 15% rise of United States households that are on the brink of losing their house to foreclosure.

The jump in foreclosures and near-foreclosures is tied to the economy and the rising unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is especially damaging since it’s difficult to get another job in a timely manner due to companies cutting jobs across the board. As a result, many families have lost their homes prior to being able to find another job.

In all, approximately 1.5 million homes are thought to be on the brink of foreclosure. In June alone, the year-over-year increase in foreclosure filings was up in excess of 33%. From May to June, there was an increase of about 5%.

The states hardest hit by this foreclosure epidemic are Nevada, Arizona, Florida and California. In Nevada, 6% of all homes were receiving foreclosure filings.

Mid-Cycle Meltdown!: Jobless Claims July 16 2009

Today, the Department of Labor released their latest read of Joblessness showing seasonally adjusted “initial” unemployment claims declined significantly dropping 47,000 to 522,000 from last week’s upwardly revised 569,000 claims while “continued” claims collapsed dropping 642,000 resulting in an “insured” unemployment rate of 4.7%.

Well, the mid-July non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) spike is here and what wonders it has worked on the headline numbers.

Clearly, I misjudged the dynamic.

So, NSA initial claims jumped to their highest level since February and the NSA continued claims climbed to a near peak level comparable to values seen just a couple weeks ago BUT the seasonal adjustment is teasing out a peaking trend.

These series were exceptionally good at forecasting the recession and during all the Bullish brouhaha and nonsense of late 2007 and early 2008, I relied on them to disclose the reality of the trend in the job market and wider economy.

With today’s results it’s becoming more obvious that the massive initial inflation phase to unemployment has likely peaked out.

Now, looking at past cycles (especially the last two recessions), this does not imply that the pain is over in the job markets… we are still seeing a level of literal initial weekly jobless claims (non-adjusted series) well over 550K.

If history is to be at least a rudimentary guide, first time and continued unemployment claims will likely remain unusually high for at least another year or two (… as they had in the aftermath of both the early 90s bust and the dot-com bust).

Given the fragile state of the economy and the substantial financial stress being felt by so many millions of households, there are serious headwinds to any sustained recovery.

Further, the continuing claims series continues to present the clearest picture of what is likely to be one of the most problematic aspects of this period of economic crisis namely how to make an immense and growing number of highly specialized (college educated) service/professional service workers productive again.

It’s obvious now that we have reached the first real test of our majority services-based economy.

Unlike the “tech-wreck” of 2000-2002, our current downturn is very broad, leaving no sector and virtually no corner of the country untouched.

With millions of college educated workers now on the market incomes will clearly suffer but moreover, it will be soon all too clear that our prior bubble economy significantly overproduced service workers (particularly professional service workers) for which current employment opportunities will be scant resulting in continued and fundamental vicious-cycle effects.

Social Security Administration Blows $700,000 At Resort & Spa Conference--With Dancing Girls (Video)

Remember: It's the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Everyone must sacrifice.

The Social Security Administration just blew $700,000 at a resort and spa so managers could learn about "emotional intelligence" and "techniques to empower you."

The dancing girls were there to help motivate the attendees.
Click on photo to watch dancing video:

More video here.
ABC15 reported:

A Social Security Administration motivational management conference held at a high-end Valley resort last week cost $700,000, the SSA told the ABC15 Investigators.

Costs for the conference at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa included airfare, hotel entertainment, dancers, motivational speakers, and food, an administration official said.

A spokesperson from the SSA's regional office said the conference was essential, that teleconferencing was not an option, and that all 675 managers needed to meet in person.

The SSA provided ABC15 with a list of courses provided at the conference, which included "Techniques to Empower You," "Mentoring the Generations," and "Emotional Intelligence."

But the information provided by the SSA did not mention an after-hours casino trip, family members staying at the hotel, or the 20-minute dance party ABC15 observed.
By the way... Social Security is nearly insolvent.

Democrat Congressman Mike Ross (AR) vows to kill health care reform if he doesn't get his way.

by Joe Sudbay (DC) on 7/16/2009 08:56:00 AM
This is the exact problem we've been warning about. Democrats will kill health care reform. It's the damn Blue Dogs, led by Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR):

Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross, who has been negotiating the legislation on behalf of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, went a step further, telling reporters Wednesday that he has enough votes at this point to defeat the bill when it comes up for a vote in the Energy and Commerce Committee unless drastic changes are made.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) promised to work with Ross and others before he brings the bill up for a vote.

“We’re going to have to work together,” Waxman told a group of reporters asking about the Ross threat.
How sick is that? Ross said he'd defeat the signature issue of the Democratic Party and Barack Obama. How very GOP of him, really. And, he is counting on all the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to vote with him to defeat the bill.

The insurance industry and Republicans must be laughing their asses off. Here's a Democrat willing to kill reform unless he gets his way. Ross and his fellow Blue Dogs are doing the dirty work for the insurance lobby and the GOP. Now, the insurance lobbyists and GOPers really want to kill reform. But, one other option is to get a bill that gives even more power and profits to the insurance companies. Or, they can just push for a really crappy bill that won't work, thus destroying the credibility of Democrats on health care reform for decades. Seems like Ross and the Blue Dogs are willing pawns in that game.

Ross should know better. But, he's not alone. We promised to name names of those who are trying to block real reform. I've been rooting around to find a list of Democrats who should be doing the right thing, but aren't. The list of Democrats who are willing to do the GOP's dirty work, maybe unwittingly, but that doesn't matter, includes: Barrow (GA), Boucher (VA), Gordon (TN), Hill (IN), Kind (WI), Matheson (UT), Melancon (LA), Pomeroy (ND), Space (OH), and Tanner (TN). If any of these guys represent you, call their offices. The Hill switchboard is 202-225-3121. Or get the local numbers via the House website. Don't be shy about calling. These guys are getting plenty of love from the insurance industry lobbyists. Actually, check the list of House members who serve on Energy and Commerce. They all need calls to say support the America's Affordable Health Choices Act -- and don't kill real reform.

We can't let Democrats be the death of real health care reform. (One does wish the progressive Democrats would play hard ball like the Blue Dogs do.)

Admitted kitty-killer taunts cat lovers in court

Cheyenne Cherry had one thing to say to the supporters who showed up in memory of a tiny little kitten who met a gruesome end at Cherry’s hands- “…it’s dead, bitch!”

Cherry, 17, stuck her tongue out at animal rights activists who showed up at her trial in reverence to little Tiger Lily. As part of a love affair gone wrong rampage, Cherry and a friend left Tiger Lily to die in a 500F oven to get back at Cherry’s ex-girlfriend. The two vacated the apartment after placing the kitten in the oven because Tiger Lily’s screams and scratching were becoming unbearable to hear. She later told police the cat killing was “just a joke.”

Under the terms of a plea deal, the girl will be sentenced on July 31st and is expected to spend a year in jail. She has also agreed to not own a pet for three years. In the past, Cherry has been convicted of stealing a teacup Yorkie at BB gunpoint and robbing an iPod.

New footage shows Michael Jackson Pepsi Commercial Hair on Fire

New unreleased footage taken in 1984 shows the fateful moment that Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial.

The now infamous incident which put Michael Jackson in hospital for treatment for serious burns to his head, is often credited as the point at which Jackson started acting strangely, from bleaching his skin white, through to a full range of other behavior that earned him the tag “Whacko Jacko.”

The new footage obtained by UsWeekly shows Jackson from behind: the first scene shows Jackson performing the first take for the commercial and the pyrotechnics being fired safely. The second scene shows the fateful sixth take with the pyrotechnics going off early and Jackson’s hair catching fire, and the delay between the fire starting and being put out.

The following Michael Jackson Pepsi Commercial Hair on Fire video is disturbing and may not be suitable for younger views.

Survey: Americans expect widespread swine flu

About three out of five Americans believe there will be widespread swine flu cases this fall or winter, but most are not worried it will strike them or their family, according to a survey released Thursday.

About half of those people surveyed by the Harvard School of Public Health said if someone in their family did get swine flu, it likely would be a life-threatening condition. And roughly 90 percent said they would be willing to avoid shopping malls, movie theaters, public transportation and worship services for more than two weeks if health officials told them to.

Many parents were worried about outbreak-caused closures of schools or day care centers, with 43 percent saying they would lose pay or have money problems if they had to stay home a week or more because they were sick or had to care for someone.

About 25 percent said they probably would lose their job or business, which was especially concerning to black and Hispanic parents. More than 40 percent in those racial groups feared losing a job or business, compared with 14 percent of whites.

The telephone survey of more than 1,800 U.S. adults was done in late June. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points for the major findings.

The 60 percent of people who said they were not worried they will get sick from the new flu echoed what was found in a similar survey in May.

Harvard receives funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do surveys on public health concerns, but CDC does not dictate how the surveys are designed.

The number of U.S. swine flu cases has surpassed 37,000 and deaths have risen to 211, according to the most recent numbers from the CDC. The pandemic was first identified in California in April. Since then more than 94,000 cases have been reported in more than 100 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Scientists are investigating this flu strain and how it is different from seasonal flu, but government officials are concerned it may mutate into a more dangerous form and have been preparing for the possibility of a new wave of illnesses in the fall or winter.

In the survey, most people said they had not seen swine flu cases in their communities, but were taking seriously the predictions of experts. "They're convinced by what they've heard that cases are going to be very serious," said Robert Blendon, the Harvard researcher who led the polling.

Should Political Campaigns Take an All-Star Break?

By Richard A. Lee

Major League Baseball took its annual mid-season break for the All-Star Game this week, but there was no break in the action in New Jersey’s 2009 campaign for governor.

Two days after throwing out the first pitch at the All-Star Game in St. Louis, President Barack Obama headed to New Jersey to campaign with Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine. And earlier in the week, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele visited the Garden State for an appearance with GOP challenger Chris Christie.

In political campaigns, the stakes are high and time is always short. A short hiatus, such as baseball’s three-day All-Star break, appears – at least at first glance – to be unwise and impractical. But think about it for a moment.

Baseball takes a three-day break while teams are competing for first place, players are chasing records, and milestones are approaching – and it does not diminish interest in the sport or the intensity of competition. In fact, teams, players and fans can be re-energized by the break, making for a more exciting second half of the season.

The All-Star break does something else for baseball that would benefit politicians: It humanizes the players. True, they are superstars with tremendous physical skills, but we also see how much they are just like us. Like fans, they take pictures and videos of the players and festivities. We see them with their wives and children (and in some cases, parents) at events such as the All-Star Red Carpet Parade and the Home Run Derby. And when they meet the President of the United States, their faces exude the same sense of excitement, nervousness and honor that any American would display.

Politicians often try to paint a similar picture. They strive to humanize themselves because they know there is a value to making voters feel that they are just like them. As Roland Bathes wrote in an essay about photos used by politicians: “A photograph is a mirror, what we are asked to read is the familiar, the known; it offers to the voter his own likeness, but clarified, exalted, superbly elevated into a type. This glorification is in fact the very definition of the photogenic: the voter is at once expressed and heroized, he is invited to elect himself.”

Another significant occurrence that takes place during the All-Star break is the opportunity to see that athletes who are fierce competitors throughout the season can actually appreciate and respect each other’s talents, and work together as a team toward a common goal. Political campaigns, by their nature, rarely allow for such dynamics. Instead, opponents are attacked and demonized in an effort to obtain victory at the polls.

Despite any benefits that may accrue if politicians followed baseball’s lead and took a short mid-campaign break, chances are slim that it will ever happen. But we do have some history that lends additional support to the concept.

After the 9/ll terrorist attacks, politicians – including New Jersey’s gubernatorial candidates – put their campaigns on hold. When they did resume, the tenor was more civil and the debate was more substantive than personal. Granted this was reflective of the mood of the nation at that time, but the different view we saw of the candidates was much like the different view we see of baseball players during the All-Star break.

We experienced a similar moment last year after popular TV journalist Tim Russert passed away during the presidential campaign. For one day during the hotly contested race, Barack Obama and John McCain were not rivals competing for the highest office in the nation. Instead, at Russert’s funeral at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., they sat side by side, two of many people who had come to pay their last respects to a man they all admired.

Will we see any similar camaraderie in New Jersey during this year’s governor’s race? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we should refrain from taking inspiration from baseball. As the president said before Tuesday’s All-Star game, “As a sport, baseball has always embodied the values that make America great – hard work, leadership, passion and teamwork.”

Indeed, these are traits that can lead to success on the ball field, on the campaign trail and in virtually all aspects of our lives.

# # #

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.