Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christie’s Critics Miss the Mark on Snowstorm

By Richard A. Lee

Politics is a full-contact sport. If you let your defenses down or make even the slightest misstep, your opponents are going to take full advantage of the opportunity to score political points.

So it comes as no surprise that, after repeatedly ending up with the short end of the stick in their battles with Republican Governor Chris Christie, New Jersey Democrats are slamming Christie and his Lieutenant Governor for being out-of-state while a massive snowstorm pummeled the East Coast.

The truth is the state’s top two officials should have better coordinated their schedules. If New Jersey is going to have a Lieutenant Governor whose responsibility is taking reins of the state while the Governor is away, he or she should avoid taking vacation at the same time as the boss. That’s the way most successful businesses operate.

But aside from the scheduling issue, criticism of the Christie Administration on this point is off the mark.

For starters, Governors really never are on vacation. They are in contact on a regular basis with senior officials who brief them on activities back home. There also are breaking issues and questions from staffers that must be addressed in a timely matter. I know this from personal experience. I worked in a Governor’s Office for three-and-a-half years, and I was one of those staffers who made the phone calls and asked the questions we needed answered.

Today’s technology also weakens the criticism being leveled at the Governor. As long as you’re connected to a smart phone or a BlackBerry, updates and information from your staff will reach you just as quickly in the Magic Kingdom as they would if you were in one of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities.

In addition, when it comes to managing snowstorms and other weather-related emergencies, a Governor may not be the most important person in the room. It is the emergency management, law enforcement and transportation professionals who have the knowledge and expertise to develop and implement effective response plans.. It is the Governor who signs off on their recommendations, relays information to the media, and then rides a snowplow for a photo op.

In terms of importance, it is difficult to make a convincing argument that a Governor’s whereabouts during a snowstorm should be a major priority. There are plenty of criteria to evaluate the performances of our state’s chief executives. How they manage the state during snowstorms certainly is a part of that equation, but it pales in comparison to how they address issues such as property taxes, education and health care.

Finally, we all need and deserve vacations – and public officials are no exceptions. Vacations make it possible to relax and spend time with our families. They also provide a break from the pressure and tension of the workplace, so that we return to our jobs energized and re-charged.

President Obama has been enjoying a holiday vacation in Hawaii with his family, and he still is managing to run the country. It will take more than a snowstorm to keep Chris Christie from running New Jersey.

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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.

A White Woman Explains Why She Prefers Black Men

How many white men can treat a woman like a lady and ravish her

By Susan Crain Bakos

Black skin is thick and lush, sensuous to the touch, like satin and velvet made flesh. There's only one patch of skin on a white man's body that remotely compares to nearly every inch of a black man's skin. The first time I caressed black skin, it felt like a luxury I shouldn't be able to afford. I craved it more strongly than Carrie Bradshaw craved Manolo Blahnik shoes. That phrase, "Once you go black, you never go back" is all about the feeling of the skin.

And I had the socially acceptable explanation for my craving. I used that paucity-of-available-white-partners rationale to explain my relationships with black men for several years. A white woman past forty is often passed over by her white-male contemporaries. She goes younger or ethnic or foreign-born or down the socioeconomic scale or darker or she spends lonely nights at home with her cats. Black men are happy to get the babe they couldn't have when she was twentysomething and fertile. The laws of the marketplace do prevail. It's not me, it's themthem being the white guys who weren't after me anymore, or so I claimed.

That's a lie. The truth is, I attract about the same percentage of available white men my age (and far younger!) now as I did when I was thirtyand that's not including the unavailable white men who want to play around anyway.

Enough white men want me that I was hardly facing enforced celibacy, but I don't want them.

I want black men. They want me. We look at one another and exchange a visible frisson of sexual energy in the lingering glances. And our attraction is based first on race. We are not those couples who "happen to fall in love" with someone of a different race or more purposefully come together but out of some greater sense of interracial understanding and respect. Not as politically-correct men and women do we seek one another out. The Internet has made it a lot easier for us to find each other now. Men advertise: ebony seeks ivory. Women write: seeking tall, dark, and handsome. Very dark. We are not the same people who say: Race is not important. It is important to us. We have race-specific desires.

Even in a time when nearly 40 percent of single Americans have dated outside their race, that deliberate seeking of the specific other makes some people, especially black women, damned mad.

We are what they denigrate and castigate: white women and black men who choose one another because of our racial differences. They resent our taking their men. Black men are two and a half times more likely to marry a white woman than a black woman is to marry a white man. Black women can point to that statistic in justifying their wrath. But in truth, black sisters, we're after the sex, not the ringand these guys aren't the marrying kind anyway.

Yes, the sex!

The woman who goes after black men is a variant of sex journalist Susie Bright's "white bitch in heat," a woman who puts sex first even though women aren't supposed to do that. According to one school of thought, white women turn to black men when their sex drives kick into higher gear and their social inhibitions recede into the rearview mirror. It's a "yes, baby, now I'm ready for you" reaction.

When we get to the "yes, baby" place, they know it, and they are ready and waiting for us. Black men have more energy, style and edge than white men. They know how to flirt, a nearly lost art among the rest of us. A black man is so damned sexy because he knows how to make a woman feel sexy.

I often felt in my White Period that only during heated sex does that little layer of air bubbles between me and the world pop and disappear, leaving me open to intimate connection. It takes a lot of friction for two white people to get that close. These black men, so alive with erotic electricity, cut through the bubbles with a touch, a caress, a kissand they free meand I can truly touch them. I am like a pampered passenger in a Porsche with an expert driver at the wheel. I know I could suggest a route change, but I never really want to do that. On the other hand, the last time I had sex with a white man, we slogged along a bumpy road in a really old VW, the driver like the typical bumbling tv husband who would neither ask for nor accept the directions he badly needed.

My current lover, a handsome businessman, seduced me via eye contact at a neighborhood bar while I was eating burgers with a friend. Without saying a word, he paid the compliments, asked the questions with his expressive eyes. He didn't move over to sit beside me and ask if he could buy me a drink until he knew the time was right. Both soft-spoken and assertive, he has impeccable manners and charm. I was kissing him in a cab 30 minutes after that drink.

On another night in that same bar, a different black man, an artist, knelt and kissed my knees.

I am sure there must be some black men who aren't good in bed. Personally, I have not experienced one who isn't. (True, I am not dating down the socioeconomic ladder, but I didn't do that when I dated white either, so the racial comparisons seem valid and fair.) They look better than white men, they touch and kiss and make love better than white men. Statistically, their penises are only a fraction of an inch bigger on average, but they seem bigger and harder.

White men over 40 have lost their waistlines and their zest for lifeif they ever had it. They carry resentments, grudges and extra pounds in their basketball bellies. Perhaps a good part of that bloat is unhappiness. Even the thin ones look flabby somehow and deeply aggrieved. They nurse the smallest perceived slight longer than their double shots of Scotch. Surely our culture as much as biology turns them into softer, spongier, less-interesting versions of their youthful selves just at the point where women and black men and other minorities are emerging strong. Society overvalues the white man, leaving him angry and bitter when he realizes, around age 40, that he's not all that.

With the exception of some Italians, white men don't turn me on anymore.

That admission puts me in the same category as the older man only interested primarily or exclusively in young women. While women my age scowl and frown at these aging, Upper West Side Boomers pushing strollers as the hand of the thin, blonde wife 20 years their junior rests lightly on their arm, I feel a kinship with the old goats. We are the same, me and that bald white guy, drawn to the exotic other, not caring that the object of our desire has no childhood memory of a Kennedy assassination or a typical WASP Sunday dinner of over-roasted beef, lumpy mashed potatoes and soggy vegetables.

Analyze the roots of attractions all you wantlike scientists have doneand you won't come up with a perfect explanation for why we crave what we do. Desire rises from our depths and is gloriously oblivious to the good opinion of others. Yet until recently, I pretended that my lust was an equal-opportunity craving, because that seemed like the right thing to do.

Halfway through the first glass of wine in my last date with a white man, I realized that little clouds of sadness and self-pity were regularly fluffing off his psyche like the dust clouds kicked up by that dirt-smudged "Peanuts" character as he walks through Charlie Brown's life. This guy was at least mildly depressed, and I wanted to tell him to exercise, lose weight, trim the combover and get interested in something outside yourself. I would have walked out on him immediately, but he seemed to expect that. I couldn't deliver the blow to his ego proffered like the naked neck of a martyr to the ax. My Southern cousins would describe his general demeanor as a "hangdog air." Into the second glass of wine and glancing longingly at the exit, I wanted to hang that dog myself when he mentioned that his face was flushedI hadn't noticedbecause he'd taken a Viagra "just in case."

What did he think would entice me more: That he assumed sex was probable because I'm a sex journalistor that he would need chemical help if sex did occur?

I cannot even imagine a black man bungling an attempted seduction in such a sad way.

That was my last token white guy. I recently came out of my racial-preference closet and told my friends, "I love black men. I'm not attracted to white men over 40, and I'm not dating them anymore. Really, it's not them, it's me.

Nobody was surprised.

What do you think? 
Black men have something white guys don't have anymore: confidence in their masculinity, their sexuality. They clearly know they're men. White men appear to be waiting for the latest sociological research study to let them know if they are men or not. Yet black men are gentlemen, something else white men no longer are. They make me feel like a woman, both respected and desired. I can let go of my inhibitions, my need to control, when I am with them. How many white men can treat a woman like a lady and ravish her too?

Ugly Truth: Most U.S. Kids Sentenced to Die In Prison Are Black

This is the second in a two-part series on juvenile life without parole. Read Part One here.

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court heard two cases that could have major implications for the way juvenile offenders are treated in our criminal justice system. Sullivan v. Florida andGraham v. Florida both involve men who are serving life without the possibility of parole for crimes they were convicted of as teenagers -- crimes in which no one was killed.

Joe Sullivan was only 13 years old when he was accused of sexually assaulting a 72-year-old woman in her Pensacola, Fla., home, hours after he and a group of older teenagers robbed her house. Sullivan, who reportedly suffers from mental disabilities, insisted that, while he participated in the robbery, he did not commit the rape. But his co-defendants, 15-year-old Michael Gulley and 17-year-old Nathan McCants, 17 pinned the crime on him. Both were tried as juveniles; Sullivan was tried as an adult.

Sullivan is African American, a fact that was stressed repeatedly at trial. The victim, Lena Bruner, testified that her assailant was "a colored boy" with "kinky hair" -- "he was quite black, and he was small," she said. Bruner admitted that she "did not see him full in the face," but she remembered him saying, "If you can't identify me, I may not have to kill you."

According to the New York Times, "at his trial, Mr. Sullivan was made to say those words several times." ("'It's been six months,' the woman said on the witness stand. 'It's hard, but it does sound similar.' ")

Sullivan had shabby representation -- his lawyer didn't bother making an opening statement and later lost his license to practice in Florida -- and his one-day trial should have cast serious doubts about his guilt. "The only physical evidence was a fingerprint lifted from a plaque in the bedroom, which could have been made during the burglary," wrote Amy Bach in Slatelast week. "The clothing and other evidence have been destroyed and couldn't be tested for DNA." Nevertheless, he was found guilty, and at 14, Sullivan became the youngest person in the country to be sentenced to life without parole.

"I'm going to send him away for as long as I can," the judge said.

Today, Sullivan is one of some 109 prisoners in the country whose non-homicide crimes have condemned them to leave prison only in a coffin. No fewer than 76 of those prisoners are behind bars in Florida. (Until last month there were 77, but 29-year-old Travis Underhill, sentenced to life in 1999 for armed robbery, "collapsed while playing basketball at a Palm Beach County prison on Oct. 8 and died," according to the Miami Herald.) The vast majority -- 84 percent, in Florida -- are African American. On a national level, according to Human Rights Watch, African American youths are serving life without parole at a rate of about 10 times that of white youths.

Monday's oral arguments covered a lot of ground, including whether life-without-parole is comparable to the death penalty (which has been banned for juveniles); whether the purpose, ultimately, is about deterrence or retribution -- "What is the State's interest in keeping ... the defendant in custody for the rest of his life if he has been rehabilitated and is no longer a real danger?" -- whether, for sentencing purposes, there's any practical difference between a 13-year-old or a 10-year-old -- or, for that matter, an 18-year-old and a 17-and-11-month-old ("the line has to be drawn somewhere.") At points, it got downright philosophical ("Why does a juvenile have a constitutional right to hope, but an adult does not?" asked Justice Kennedy.) But at the center of the argument was the question of whether children -- and their potential for rehabilitation -- should be judged by the same standards as that of grown-ups. "To not recognize the difference between a child and an adult is cruel and unusual," defense attorney Bryan Stevenson told Justice Antonin Scalia.

Conspicuously absent from the oral arguments, however, was any discussion of race. The one time Stevenson attempted to mention it, as one of the "arbitrary features" of the distribution of life-without-parole sentences -- these prisoners are "disproportionately kids of color," Stevenson said -- he was interrupted by Justice Alito, who questioned the reliability of his statistics. ("What is your response to the State's argument that these statistics are not peer-reviewed?" he asked.)

It can be tricky to pin down exact numbers when it comes to specific prison populations from state to state, particularly given the differences between sentencing statutes across the country. And states have not traditionally kept track of how many juveniles are in their adult prisons. But when it comes to juvenile lifers, there are some figures that have been widely accepted (and not contested by the state of Florida.)

"There are 73 children 14 and younger who have been imprisoned for life without parole," Stevenson told the Court. "...For the age of 13 and younger, there are only nine kids, and that's including both kids convicted of homicide and non-homicide. For non-homicide, there are only two. They are both in Florida and Joe Sullivan is one of them."

What he did not get to say is that of the vast majority of kids who are sentenced to die in prison are black.

This is unfortunate. Racism has been central to the policies that led to the rise in life sentences for juveniles in the first place -- and not just in Florida. The Supreme Court may rely on legal precedents to make their decisions -- but that does not mean it necessarily considers history.

The Myth of the "Superpredator"

The crime that led Joe Sullivan to life in prison took place in 1989. It was the same year that would see notorious serial killer Ted Bundy executed at the Florida state prison in Starke -- an exceptional case that would capture the mood of the locals when it came to dealing with would-be-murderers. (The St. Petersburg Times reported that year, "Across Florida, radio stations bade 'Bye, Bye, Bundy,' while next door to the Chi Omega sorority, where Bundy killed two young women, a campus bar was offering 'Bundy fries' and 'Bundy fingers' -- actually, french fries and strips of alligator meat.")

Florida serial killers aside, 1989 was also the year that a young, blond investment banker from Manhattan brutally assaulted in New York's Central Park, a horrible crime that the cops, the press and even people who lived nowhere near New York City declared solved within days. The rapists, it was decided, were five young black and Latino teenagers from Harlem. All of then would turn out to be innocent (a fact that came out only after each lost years of their lives in prison.) But in the eyes of many commentators at the time, these teenagers were the worst kind of monsters:

"They were coming downtown from a world of crack, welfare, guns, knives, indifference and ignorance," New York Postcolumnist Pete Hamill wrote in the days after the crime. "They were coming from a land with no fathers. … They were coming from the anarchic province of the poor."

And driven by a collective fury, brimming with the rippling energies of youth, their minds teeming with the violent images of the streets and the movies, they had only one goal: to smash, hurt, rob, stomp, rape. The enemies were rich. The enemies were white.

So the country was introduced to the new urban "superpredator," as Princeton University Professor John DiIulio would brand this new prototype of youth crime. These twisted teenage thugs -- described in New York as traveling in "wolf packs" that hunted innocent people upon whom to inflict their mob violence ("wilding") -- were a whole new breed of criminal, he said, and existing laws were no match for their evolving standards of brutality.

DiIulio would spend the next few years spreading the gospel of the superpredator, warning that "Americans are sitting atop a demographic crime bomb."

"On the horizon ... are tens of thousands of morally impoverished juvenile superpredators," he wrote in The Weekly Standard in 1995. "They are perfectly capable of committing the most heinous acts of physical violence for the most trivial reasons."

The difference between teen criminals in decades past, he argued in his book, Body Count, amounted to "the difference between the Sharks and the Jets of West Side Story and the Bloods and the Crips."

"It is not inconceivable that the demographic surge of the next 10 years will bring with it young criminals who make the Bloods and the Crips look tame."

But how real was this so-called superpredator or the terrifying crime wave to come? Although the country saw a spike in juvenile crime in the early 1990s, it wasn't entirely clear what was behind it.

Some cited crack cocaine, others cited the country's changing demographics (with baby boomers' offspring entering adolescence), and others pointed to high unemployment. But in the years to come, one thing became clear: The teenage crime wave so ominously predicted by DiIulio and his political affiliates was pure fiction.

Owning up to this fact is none other than DiIulio himself, who pulled a fairly stunning 180 a few years ago, when he admitted that his influential theory of urban superpredators was wrong.

"If I knew then what I know now, I would have shouted for prevention of crimes," he told the New York Times in 2001. Indeed, crime among teenagers -- particularly violent crime, hit a historic low in recent years, with arrest rates of juveniles falling a whopping 49 percent between 1994 and 2004.

But the damage was already done: Throughout the 1990s, the country arrested teenagers -- many of them first-time offenders -- in record numbers, slapping them with long sentences previously reserved for hardened criminals.

Barry Krisberg, president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, wrote in 2005 that in the years that followed the hysteria over superpredators, "More than 40 states made it easier to transfer children to adult criminal courts. Educators enacted 'zero-tolerance' policies to make it easier to expel youngsters from school, and numerous communities adopted youth curfews. Many jurisdictions turned to metal detectors in public schools, random locker searches, drug tests for athletes and mandatory school uniforms.

The panic was bipartisan. Every crime bill debated by Congress during the Clinton administration included new federal laws against juvenile crime. Paradoxically, as Attorney General Janet Reno advocated for wider and stronger social safety nets for vulnerable families, President Bill Clinton joined congressional leaders demanding tougher treatment of juvenile felons, including more incarceration in both the adult and youth correctional systems.

Paving the way was the Sunshine State. "Florida led the country in transferring juveniles into the adult courts," says Stephen K. Harper, a University of Miami professor who teaches juvenile law. At the same time, adult sentences were getting longer. In 1983, Florida abolished parole for most crimes, and in 1995, it got rid of parole altogether. "Adolescents were being transferred into the adult system, while simultaneously the adult system was becoming more punitive," Harper toldAlterNet.

Today, the results are a bit perverse. According to Florida State Law Professor Paolo Annino, "Florida takes the lead in placing the youngest children in the adult prison system."

"The most recent Florida data shows, there is 1 inmate who was 10, 4 inmates who were 11, 5 inmates who were 12, and 31 inmates who were 13 years old at the time of their offense."

Annino and Harper both point to what Harper calls the "unintended consequences" of Florida's rush to incarcerate juveniles. "In 1983 and 1995, the Florida Legislature did not contemplate that hundreds of children would be sent to adult prison in the last two decades," Annino wrote earlier this year. But before the Court, Florida Solicitor General Scott D. Makar defended Florida's large juvenile lifer population, suggesting that the state knew exactly what it was doing. "I believe Florida is very balanced," he told Scalia during oral arguments inGraham v. Florida.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum agrees. In his brief filed inGraham, McCollum argues that it was Florida's brand of tough-on-crime legislation that led to falling crime rates in the late 1990s -- a claim that law professors Jeffrey Fagan and Franklin E. Zimring call "as phony as last decade's crime scare."

"As a member of Congress in the 1990s," they wrote, "[McCollum] promised the United States a 'coming storm' of superpredators as a result of a population surge of kids from fatherless homes."

This, of course was the claim pushed by John DiIulio, the only difference being that, more than a decade later, McCollum still seems determined to believe it.

The "superpredator" myth -- and the racism that breathed life into it -- has been a driving force behind the rush to incarcerate youths of color across the country for years. That the human effects would go undiscussed by the Court may come as no surprise given the justices' routine upholding of other laws that disproportionately affect people and families of color. But in a country with 2.3 million prisoners, leaving race completely out of the decision would not just be willful ignorance; it would amount to what Bryan Stevenson has called an "appalling silence."

*The original version of this piece contained a statistical error in the headline, which stated that all 73 juveniles sentenced to life without parole are black. AlterNet regrets the error.

Single black women should end the blame game

By Dr. Boyce Watkins
Hopefully we can all agree that there is nothing more precious and beautiful than a well-made African-American woman. Your definition of "well-made" may vary from mine, but when I see my daughter, sister, mother and grandmother, they're exactly what I'm referring to.

I recently watched an ABC News special about black people not getting married. It featured a set of beautiful, intelligent black women who couldn't find husbands. One of the women was even a cheerleading attorney who said that, no matter how hard she tries, she just can't find a black man willing to marry her. The show quoted Steve Harvey, who wrote a book on relationships last year, and allowed the rest of America to drone on about how sad it is to be a black woman, where the men you want are just too blind and pathetic to see how great you really are.

I can't help but find it odd that black women in America are taking relationship advice from a comedian. Not to hate on Steve, but you've got to wonder if there is a qualified relationship counselor available somewhere who actually studied this stuff in school. Perhaps it's because black America is getting relationship advice from a comedian that our family structures have become a great big national joke.

We know the story: over 70% of all African-American women don't have husbands. That is a tragedy for the entire family, especially the children. The joint social trauma inflicted by a poor educational system, mass incarceration and massive unemployment among black men has come together to create an unsustainable set of social outcomes. That's not to mention the black men who've either chosen to date other men or can't see the beauty of black women when they know that Elin Nordegren might be available. Yes Houston, we have a problem.

I often wonder if there is more to the black relationships story than that. Here are some thoughts to consider:

1) Whites aren't staying married either, so this is not just solely a black issue. The next time Barack Obama gives a speech about black men "behaving like little boys" because they don't live with their children, I would love to see him give that same speech to the millions of divorcees in white America. Given that roughly 50% of white marriages end in divorce, we can't presume that black people create the only dysfunctional families in America. All of America is turning away from marriage, and that's just a fact.

2) Are men the only ones to blame here? When I watched the beautiful women on the ABC special who felt that they could never find a husband, I heard some of my educated, fully employed male friends say, "I'd marry any one of them right now!" Over the years, I've seen many women pass over good men who would make excellent husband/boyfriend/baby daddy material. (Sorry, I hold no ill will toward baby's daddies - I only care about love, not labels).

I've noticed that there are many women who spend all their time chasing the alpha male who may have 10 different girlfriends at once and ignoring the less-than-perfect man who is willing to be their lifelong mate. Given that it's illegal to marry more than one person at a time, many of these "Michael Jordan types" fill the gender gap single-handedly by occupying the attention and loyalty of several women at once.

Perhaps the next time you're chasing the super-fine, super-hunk man of your dreams, you might consider the fact that there is probably a new woman chasing him down every single day. That's not to say, however, that you don't have the right to be attracted to whatever you want - just realize that dating is a market, like searching for a job. The more constraints you put on your search, the fewer options you are going to have. So, if you are passing up men because they are 6'1" instead of 6'2", you'll get very little sympathy as you sit around the fire with your girlfriends crying into a glass of red wine. Your Prince Charming may never have belonged to you in the first place, and you may have kicked the real Prince Charming to the curb.

3) Doesn't it take two to tango? The last I checked, there were usually two people in a relationship. So, although Attorney General Eric Holder has joined the chorus of politicians gaining political points for blaming black men for being the sole cause of the breakdown of the African-American family, I often wonder why African-American women are rarely held to account. This does not imply that black women are systemically unbalanced; we all know that each individual is unique. But it does imply that the same challenges imposed by racism have affected all of us.

I'm sorry if this hurts your feelings, but I've got to be real. Most kind, attractive, intelligent women are able to find good husbands. Some of us spend our lives either barking up the wrong trees or barking in a way that sabotages our objectives. To obtain a good mate, you must learn how to be a good mate and how to choose a good mate. So, after you finish reading Steve Harvey's book, you may want to read, "Secrets about Men Every Woman Should Know," by Dr. Barbara De Angelis. She also wrote, "What Women Want Men to Know," a book based on scientific research, not just speculation. The idea is that in order to get what you want, you must learn how to give what others want. But you can't effectively give to others if you're only thinking about yourself.

4) What's REALLY going on with families and children? You don't necessarily get to declare yourself the hero in a failed relationship just because you kept the kids. In fact, oxytocin production in the brains of women during pregnancy creates a nearly unbreakable bond that makes it almost impossible for women to let go of their children. So, for us to presume that black fathers are being irresponsible because their children do not live with them is a terribly misguided assertion.

Also, while we are quick to share stories of fathers who don't spend time with their kids, we are not so quick to share the stories of fathers who've been alienated from their children or have children who've been trained to hate them. Trifling fathers need not apply for this explanation, but we know that irresponsible behavior does not always align with gender. The most important determinant of a child's outcomes in life is the disposition of the mother. If the mother does not open the door for a child to have a good relationship with his or her father, then no such relationship is going to exist.

5) Perhaps we should work together to solve the problems. Anyone who simply sits around complaining about how irritating other people are without doing any serious introspection is doomed for a life of frustration. Additionally, given that there are serious obstacles being faced by black men, perhaps we should all work together to support causes that serve to liberate African-American men from the shackles of oppression.

President Obama should hear consistent chants from the black community about the fact that black male unemployment is as high as 50% in some urban areas, keeping these men from being able to provide for a family. Anyone who loves any black man anywhere should tell Attorney General Holder that we must stop supporting the prison industrial complex and simultaneously create paths for ex-convicts to re-enter into society.

If you have a black son, brother, father, or husband, you should want to fight against the fact that black boys are nearly five times more likely to be placed in special education than white kids, severely impacting their graduation rates. An uneducated, unemployed man in the criminal justice system is not going to make a good husband; not every black man in these circumstances is consciously choosing to end up this way.

Whether we like it or not, we are in this boat together, and most of us are guilty of the blame game on some level. Perhaps it's time to stop blaming each other and find the real cause of these very real problems. To slightly modify the words of Steve Harvey, "Act like a lady, but fight for your man." The black family needs support from us all.

Israel: Iran 3 Years Away From Nuclear Bomb

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 VOA News An Israeli minister claims technical issues are delaying Iran's ambitions of building nuclear weapons.

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israel Radio Wednesday that Iran's efforts have been delayed longer than Israeli intelligence previously believed. He added that Tehran could possibly produce nuclear weapons within the next three years.

Yaalon — a former military chief of staff — did not elaborate on Iran's technical difficulties or what the new assessment was based on.

Iran denies its nuclear program is
for anything but peaceful use.
Tehran has blamed Israel and the United States for the abduction and killing of several top nuclear scientists.
Israeli officials have been backing U.S.-led efforts to impose sanctions on Iran to prevent the government from moving ahead with its disputed nuclear program.

Israel says other options — including the use of military force — should be considered when dealing with Tehran.

The United Nations Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to cooperate over international demands on the nuclear issue.

Posted by MsMarti

China Says Booming Economy Fueling Military Might

BEIJING - China's booming economy will underpin the modernization of its military - a process Beijing wants to carry out without foreign help, the country's defense minister said in reports on Dec. 29.

"In the coming five years, our military will push forward preparations for military conflict in every strategic direction," Liang Guanglie said in an interview carried by several state newspapers.
We may be living in peaceful times, but we can never forget war, never send the horses south or put the bayonets and guns away."

Liang said China's military would continue to advance its capability to fight and win high-tech wars, while also boosting its conventional arsenal.

But the defense minister - who in 10 days will receive U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates for talks in Beijing - said the 2.3-million-strong People's Liberation Army would not look abroad to improve its weaponry.

"We will stand on our own feet to solve the problem and develop our equipment. The modernization of the Chinese military cannot depend on others, and cannot be bought," Liang said.

China's massive annual military spending has aroused concern among its neighbors. Japan this month labeled its rival's military build-up a global "concern", citing its increased assertiveness in the East and South China Seas.

U.S. military officials and strategists meanwhile see Beijing as a potential threat to Washington's once unrivaled dominance of the Pacific.

China has repeatedly insisted its military growth does not pose any threat.

Liang said China was currently beefing up its navy, air force and strategic missile forces, while decreasing its ground forces.

"In the next five years, our economy and society will develop faster, boosting comprehensive national power," Liang said.

"We will take the opportunity and speed up modernization of the military."

Gates will come to Beijing from January 9-12 amid a spike in tensions in Northeast Asia, after North Korea's deadly shelling of a South Korean island in November.

The South has staged a series of military exercises, including one with the United States, since the shelling that killed four people, including two civilians, on the island in the Yellow Sea.

Gates' visit to China - North Korea's main ally - will come a year after Beijing ended military relations with Washington in protest against a multibillion-dollar U.S. arms package for rival Taiwan.

The two nations have since resumed low-level military contacts at a technical level. Gates' visit comes at the invitation of Liang.

Moscow - Russian Oil Tycoon Sentenced to 13.5 Years

Moscow, Russia - A judge has sentenced jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky to 13.5 years in prison following a trial seen as payback for his defiance of Vladimir Putin’s power.

Judge Viktor Danilkin on Thursday handed down the sentence after convicting Mr. Khodorkovsky of stealing oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds.

Mr. Khodorkovsky who is Jewish, is in the final year of an eight-year prison sentence. His lawyers say the new sentence is counted from his 2003 arrest and includes his previous term in jail.

Mr. Putin is seen as the driving force behind the trial of Khodorkovsky, who challenged him during his presidency.

Mr. Putin, eyeing a return to the presidency in 2012, appears unwilling to risk the possibility that a freed Mr. Khodorkovsky could help lead his political foes.

Grappling with the Katsav verdict

December 30, 2010 - 4:48 PM by David

Does today’s conviction of former president Moshe Katsav on two counts of rape as well sexual harrassment and committing indecent acts show Israel in a positive or negative light?

After all it’s not everyday that a leading public figure is found by judges to be a criminal, guilty of heinous acts. It doesn’t cast a glowing light on the state of our leaders, the neanderthal views toward women by a certain segment of Katsav’s generation of males, or our ability to suss out the bad apples in the barrel.

On the other hand, Katsav’s conviction is a testament to Israel’s vibrant democratic process, in which even the most powerful in the land are not above the law. Most reactions to Thursday’s court findings commented on this dichotomy.

While calling it “a sad day for Israel,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also said that “the court today delivered two clear messages, one being that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law and the second the right of every woman to be in control of her own body,”

The state prosecutor Ronit Amiel also referred to the sadness surrounding the event but asserted that the verdict represented a “badge of honor for Israeli democracy.”

And Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch said at a swearing-in ceremony for new judges that the verdict “demonstrates the value of equality before the law.”

Speaking at the same ceremony, President Shimon Peres said: “There are not two States of israel. There is only one State of Israel. There are not two justice systems in Israel. There is only one justice system. There are not two types of citizens in Israel. There is only one type of citizen, and all are equal before the law.”

And the Katsav case is not the only example of the good, bad and ugly of Israeli society. Since 2008, courts have indicted former PM Ehud Olmert for fraud, sentenced former finance minister Avraham Hirschson to five years imprisonment for theft and money laundering, and convicted former health minister Shlomo Benizri of taking bribes.

While we Israelis feel the bile and nausea over the realization that our former president committed depraved acts in the very halls which represent the country’s independence, we can also stand tall amid the legal process that brought him to justice. It was indeed, the worst and the best of days.

Iconic Marine Sets Career on Fire

Wednesday, December 29, 2010 — Why, the casual visitor might ask, has it been so long since we’ve posted here?

Well, we’ve been waiting for something as juicy as this, that’s why: videotape of Geico Insurance spokesperson R. Lee Ermey setting his career on fire in front of a live audience. We discovered this while perusing Reddit just now. We should have been wrapping up our latest outrage, which is due at the printer’s in less than 19 hours. What can we say? We’re bad.

Here’s a link to the original post at Windy City Watch, or just click on the picture above for the full video.

Or, to avoid a couple of minutes of extraneous music, just click on the arrow below for the audio of Ermey’s rant. The red meat portion of it starts at about 1:03 and goes to 2:00. We left his intro about Toys for Tots in there for context.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Or, you could take advantage of our fetish for transcription, and just read what Ermey said starting at the 1:03 point:
“… it’s time for Tots for Tots …
“I got to tell you folks, we’re having a big problem this year.
“The economy really sucks.

“Now, I hate to point fingers at anybody but the present administration probably had a lot to do with that.
“And the way I see it they’re not going to quit doing it until they bring this country to its knees. So I think we should all rise up, and we should stop this administration from what they’re doing because they’re destroying this country.

“They’re driving us into bankruptcy so that they can impose socialism on us, and that’s exactly what they’re doing and I’m sick and damned tired of it and I know you are too.

“But I know that the Marine Corps is going to be here forever — this administration won’t. Semper Fi. God bless you all. Hoorah.”

Sisters Parole Depends On Sharing A Kidney by Ron Hogan

In 1994, Jamie and Gladys Scott made headlines when the two women were given life sentences for armed robbery and assault charges.  The two women were convicted of luring two men into an ambush where three men jumped out, knocked them on the head with a shotgun, and took their wallets.  The grand take of the robbery was $11.  Since then, the women have spent the last 16 years in prison, but are looking to be freed by Mississippi governor Haley Barbour on one condition, and it’s a doozy:  Gladys Scott has to give a kidney to her sister Jamie Scott if the two women want to be paroled.

Interestingly enough, the kidney idea wasn’t the idea of Governor Barbour, who has been known to get creative with parole requests and has a history of controversial pardons.  The idea was the idea of 36-year-old Gladys, whose sister (38-year-old Jamie) requires dialysis treatments as a result of kidney failure.  So, when she petitioned for early release (the two were up for parole in 2014 anyway), she mentioned that she wanted to give her sister a kidney.  That set the wheels in motion, and it looks as though giving the gift of life and urine to her sister might be enough to get both women out of jail.

Feds target Christine O’Donnell in campaign finance investigation

o'donnell campaign financie investigationWednesday, December 29th, 2010 By Thomas Hart

Christine O’Donnell, the failed 2010 Republican candidate for the Delaware Senate seat, is in the national spotlight again. A federal campaign finance investigation has opened a criminal probe into the O’Donnell campaign. O’Donnell is suspected of spending campaign money for personal use.

The O'Donnell Senate campaign, which raised $7.3 million but lost the election, is the subject of a federal criminal probe. Image: CC

O’Donnell campaign faces multiple investigations

The federal campaign finance investigation into Republican Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell’s Senate bid comes after complaints were filed during her campaign. Two FBI agents in Delaware and two federal prosecutors were reported to be working on the O’Donnell case. The O’Donnell campaign already faces a Federal Elections Commission complaint filed by her own party during the Delaware Senate Republican primary. Her campaign is accused of illegally collaborating with the Tea Party Express on paid political ads and other communications.

The O’Donnell criminal probe

Christine O’Donnell’s campaign raised a Delaware state record $7.3 million, but she was soundly defeated by Democrat Chris Coons, who now sits in Vice President Joe Biden’s former Senate seat. During the campaign she was accused by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington of spending campaign funds for such personal expenses as gas and rent. The FEC could go after monetary damages against O’Donnell or her campaign committee. If it is determined that she willfully violated federal elections law, the Justice Department could pursue fines or jail time.

Christine O’Donnell’s money problems

During the O’Donnell for Senate campaign a former aide said she had been living off campaign donations for years and called her “a complete fraud.” Before O’Donnell’s 2010 campaign garnered national attention, she had run for the Delaware Senate seat in obscurity twice before. The failed candidate has compiled a dubious financial history. She was sued by Farleigh Dickinson University in 1994 for failing to pay $4,000 in tuition. In 2008 she was sued for mortgage default. Earlier this year, the IRS filed a lien against O’Donnell for more than $11,000 in unpaid federal income tax.


Delaware Online
The Atlantic
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