Friday, January 14, 2011

Pentagon: Martin Luther King Jr. Would've Supported Our Wars

Martin Luther King Jr. hated the Vietnam War and spent the last year of his life vociferously arguing against it. But according to the Pentagon's top lawyer, King would've liked America's current wars! How does he know? Well, he doesn't.

Defense Department general counsel Jeh Johnson is an African-American who graduated from Martin Luther King Jr.'s alma mater, Morehouse College, and went to school with his son, Martin Luther King III. Maybe it's this background that allows him to use the slain civil rights icon's legacy to promote America's current wars:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2011 – If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, would he understand why the United States is at war?
In the final year of his life, King became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, Johnson told a packed auditorium. However, he added, today's wars are not out of line with the iconic Nobel Peace Prize winner's teachings.
"I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation's military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack," he said.
Well, he believes it's true! Trying arguing against that.
It's doubtful, but suppose Martin Luther King Jr. would've liked our post-9/11 policy of endless wars everywhere that no one back home understands or has much ability to change. You'd still be allowed to disagree with him! And that's why there's no need for the Pentagon to bully the public with Martin Luther King Jr.'s ghost.

Martin Luther King Jr., by the way, was able to "recognize that we live in a complicated world" in the 1950s and '60s, too. He wasn't infallible. But he made his choices.
[Image of Jeh Johnson via AP]

Send an email to Jim Newell, the author of this post, at

Breaking News: New RNC chair Reince Priebus

Voting is finished at the RNC winter meeting and the new chairman is Reince Priebus.

Reince Priebus is currently chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party. He was also a former ally of Michael Steele, serving on his kitchen cabinet in the past but now appearing to be critical of RNC's leadership by declaring that he would run a tight ship, keeping expenses low and regaining the confidence of donors. His endorsements have come from Committeemen Alec Poitevint of Georgia and Henry Barbour of Mississippi as well as Illinois Republican Chairman Pat Brady.

Now it's time to get to work and bring the party together to elect Republicans and win against the Democrats. Thank you to former Chairman Michael Steele for his leadership and tireless energy the past two years.

Memphis And Pregnant: One School, 90 Girls Expecting

“As Memphis City Schools leaders discuss the best way to deal with the crisis at Frayser High School, one young student is dealing with parenthood. The Action News 5 Investigators recently discovered 90 girls who attend Frayser High School are now pregnant or have already had a baby this school year.
“Frayser is in Memphis City School Board member Stephanie Gatewood’s district. She said a former principal of the school first sounded the alarm about the issue about a year ago. “Noting that our young ladies absolutely did not get pregnant in the hallways of our schools,” said Gatewood. “So while everything that happens in our communities, it just spills over into our schools. Now we as a community have to deal with them.”
“Roughly 20 percent of the female student population at Frayser High is already experiencing the trials of parenthood.”

First Look At Chris Evans In His Full Captain America Costume

This week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly includes an exclusive first look at Chris Evans in his full Captain America suit in this summer’s Captain America: The First Avenger.

It looks strikingly different than the classic Captain America costume — bold colors, flimsy material, a mask with weird little wings — that’s definitely by design. “You can’t really take him seriously in his flag pajamas,” director Joe Johnston told EW in last year’s exclusive first look cover story on the film.

So instead, the hero’s main uniform was designed to resemble a tricked-out airman’s jumpsuit, the “A” on the helmet and star on the chest modest in size, the colors muted.
The film hits theaters July 22.

Singer Etta James Is Suffering

Written by MrsGrapevine 2
etta Singer Etta James Is SufferingSinger Etta James is suffering from leukemia and dementia while relatives fight over her estate. James is unable to care for herself, and her health has gone down considerably since fighting an addiction to pain pills last year. Please keep the singer in your prayers.

Rapper G-Dep Pleads Not Guilty To Murder After Confessing

NEW YORK-Rapper G-Dep, real name, Trevell Coleman has pleaded not guilty to murder in an Manhattan courtroom yesterday. Coleman had previously confessed to the murder of John Henkel in 1993. AllHipHop reports:
According to his lawyer Anthony Ricco, the not-guilty plea was a procedural step, so that G-Dep’s confession to police could be scrutinized, because he was most likely under the influence of drugs at the time admitted to the murder.
His lawyer stated that G-Dep’s drug of choice over the years was PCP, a powerful hallucinogenic.

Breaking News: Justin Bieber treated at hospital for breathing problems and released

(TNJ Celebrity News) – Teen sensation Justin Bieber was taken to the hospital yesterday while shooting scenes for his upcoming appearance on CSI. His rep confirmed the hospital visit to Life & Style magazine, but was tight-lipped on the reason. The magazine reports that a source close to the singer said he was having trouble breathing due to an allergic reaction, just as cast and crew began to wrap up on set around 7 p.m. “He’s fine now and back on set,” the rep said. Bieber will hopefully be feeling much better by Sunday when he’s scheduled to be a presenter at the Golden Globes.

The UAW Deputizes Itself to become “Human Rights” Police

By Adam Bitely
Somehow, somewhere in its nearly 76 year history, the United Auto Workers (UAW) became a “human rights” policeman. With their newly declared calling to find violators of human rights, the UAW is setting its gaze upon car manufacturers that primarily operate in America’s South.

Of course, to the UAW, a human rights violation would be to not allow the union to shanghai the paychecks of the employees they claim to defend. We’re not exactly sure if this would be a violation that the United Nations Human Rights Council would recognize, but we would not be surprised if it were.

Speaking on Wednesday, Bob King the President of the UAW, announced that it would be aggressively moving forward on organizing workers at Honda, BMW, Toyota, and Hyundai, among others. Seeking to come off as a benevolent representative of the typical “disenfranchised employee”, he informed the automakers that he seeks to be a friend and not a foe.

But all hope of King and the UAW being a friend to the auto companies was lost when he described at the Automotive News World Congress what he would do to those that did not allow the UAW to hold a secret ballot election at their factories.
Get full story here.

Huge Palin Fan

ALG Editor's Note: William Warren's award-winning cartoons published at are a free service of ALG News Bureau. They may be reused and redistributed free of charge.
Get permalink here.

Rep. Phil Gingrey on Medical Malpractice Reform

Video by Frank McCaffrey
Get permalink here.

Liberal Blame Diminishes the Victims

By David Bozeman

Amazing how most liberals possess the uncanny ability to be both audacious and boringly predictable at the same time. Surely once the character of the alleged Tucson shooter became apparent, no reasonable spectator would see fit to blame the Tea Party, ObamaCare opponents, Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. Jared Loughner is clearly a whack-job with no connection to the aforementioned groups and leaders or any segment whatsoever of the American right.

But that didn't stop the usual suspects. Most famously Paul Krugman and numerous other columnists and pundits have detailed the 'lies' spread by Palin and others over death panels and the threats Congresswoman Giffords had reportedly received for her support of the health-care reform bill. Would it sound bizarre to admit that some conservatives, upon reading the headline that a member of Congress had been shot, prayed that the victim wasn't a Democrat? We know how they're going to react, because we know them better than they know themselves.

Conservatives should be hoarse by now from shouting that the alleged shooter was not one of us, such is the sorry state of political discourse. I was just asked that if the congresswoman had been a conservative Republican, wouldn't the right be reacting in much the same way? Yes, one would have to concede some amount of political posturing, but it is the left that truly relishes tragedy.
Get full story here.

What Was Missing From the Oil Spill Commission's Report

Earlier this week, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released their final report on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. For those of us who had been following the story, there was nothing new in the report – BP, Halliburton, and Transocean cut corners on safety measures; They received warnings from crew that there were numerous problems; And that the whole disaster should make us take a good hard look at offshore drilling. I’m a little sensitive about this subject because I am a lifelong Gulf Coast resident. While most people only read about the disaster or saw clips on the news, I was living through it, watching tar balls roll up on the beaches I’ve played on since I was an infant.

The report does point some fingers, but the pointing ends with companies like BP, Halliburton, and Transocean. That is the equivalent of blaming Ford if a drunk driver gets into a wreck. In that situation, you have a driver at fault, a bartender who didn’t take away someone’s keys – a collective group making poor decisions. In the Gulf oil disaster, the driver was Dick Cheney, and the bartender was Chris Oynes. Yet strangely enough, neither one of those people were mentioned once in the 382-page report.

To understand the full story, you have to understand the involvement of both Oynes and Cheney. Chris Oynes oversaw all oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico for the Minerals Management Service (MMS) for twelve years, meaning he personally oversaw the lease given to the Deepwater Horizon rig. It was during this time that Oynes made a name for himself in Republican politics by allowing oil companies to buy cheap leases to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without paying any taxes on their revenues. According to the resulting Congressional hearings on the matter, the oil companies claim that they repeatedly told Oynes that he needed to be charging taxes, but he refused. When asked by the Congressional committee about this, Oynes told them that he simply forgot to charge taxes. But his gifts to the oil industry didn’t end with the estimated $10 billion tax break. He also allowed the oil companies to fill out their own inspection reports in pencil. Oynes would then have his staff trace over in ink, giving the impression that they were actually doing their jobs.

In a normal scenario, this should have gotten Oynes booted out of the agency. But in 2007, Dick Cheney personally saw to it that Oynes receive a promotion to become the associate director for Offshore Energy and Minerals Management at MMS. Oynes was the perfect fit for Cheney, as Cheney himself had been working for years to dismantle regulations on the oil industry and allow them to write their own rules.

And this is where the plot thickens. During Dick Cheney’s secret energy task force meetings in 2001, he allowed oil industry executives to help draft legislation that would allow them to operate with almost no oversight (and the oversight that did occur came from cronies like Chris Oynes.) One of the most important rules that they wrote for themselves was that they didn’t have to include an acoustic switch on offshore oil rigs – a device that blows up and seals off a well permanently in the event of a blowout. According to attorney Mike Papantonio:

“An 'acoustic switch' would have prevented this catastrophe - it's a failsafe that shuts the flow of oil off at the source - they cost only about half a million dollars each, and are required in off-shore drilling platforms in most of the world...except for the United States. This was one of the new deregulations devised by Dick Cheney ..”

So here we have two of the biggest culprits in the BP oil spill saga, and yet not one of them were mentioned in the commission’s final report. This isn’t to say that the report won’t have a positive impact – It makes a very strong and compelling argument about the need for greater regulation and inspections of oil rigs in order to prevent future catastrophes. But it also claims that the oil industry is too important to the Gulf region (which really only means Louisiana and Texas) to shut down completely.

Overall, I’m unhappy with the report for omitting the underlying cause of the disaster, which would be 8 years of government deregulation and industry self-regulation permitted by an Executive Branch that was so deeply embedded in the oil industry that the two were indistinguishable.

Farron Cousins's Profile

Antonio Cromartie Drops F-Bomb On Tom Brady

Trash talk is nothing new in the NFL, especially during playoff time. However, NY Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie took the rivalry between Gang Green and the New England Patriots, who they play this weekend, to new heights.

“He’s an a–hole. f–k him,” Cromartie told a NY Daily News reporter when asked about New England’s Uggs-wearing Quarterback Tom Brady.

The Jets and Patriots have split their season meetings at 1 win a piece but the Patriots blew them out in their last meeting 45-3. The two teams square off in an AFC Divisional playoff game at Gillette stadium on January 16th.
Brady has responded to the taunts by saying that he’s been “called worse” but Cromartie kept the theater going a day later.

“I said what I had to say,” Cromartie said. “Why would I regret it? That’s my quote and that’s how I feel about it. In my opinion, it’s never going to change about Brady. I hate him. He hates me. He hates the Jets. Who cares?”

Are you not entertained?

Lawrence Taylor Avoids Jail Time But Pays A Heavy Price

Lawrence Taylor Avoids Jail Time But Pays A Heavy Price(HMG Celebrity News) – Former NFL star Lawrence Taylor, who inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999, pleaded guilty Thursday, to lesser charges of sexual misconduct and soliciting a prostitute in connection with his rape arrest last year and will avoid jail time. Taylor, 51, who led the New York Giants to Super Bowl titles in 1987 and 1991, was arrested May 6 of last year, accused of having sex with a 16-year-old Bronx runaway at a Rockland County hotel in May in exchange for $300.

“She told me she was 19,” Taylor said in court as he admitted having sex with a prostitute who turned out to be a 16-year-old Bronx runaway. Prosecutors pointed out that ignorance of a minor’s age is not a defense to third-degree rape. He will serve six years probation, and according to CBS news, he must also now register as a sex offender.

Michael Steele, Embattled RNC Chair, Fights for New Term

The Republican National Committee today will select a new chairman to shepherd the party as it tries to win back the White House and expand its ranks in Congress and among governors.Reince Priebus, the Wisconsin GOP chairman, has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Michael Steele, whose tenure has been marked by high spending, financial debt and verbal gaffes.

The RNC will play a crucial role in the 2012 presidential election, using its resources to help get out the vote and to complement the campaign of the party's standard bearer against President Obama.

Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor, made a surprise decision to run for a second term. While acknowledging his mistakes, Steele emphasized at a recent debate that "we won" in November and pointed to the GOP takeover of the House, victories in 10 governorships including key states such as Ohio, and wins in six Senate seats.

Even though the party took in more than $80 million before the November elections, it had to take out a $15 million loan. A debt payment of $5 million is due next month, according to the Associated Press.
A high-profile chairman who traveled a lot and made frequent TV appearances, Steele was criticized for some of his remarks, such as saying Afghanistan was a "war of Obama's choosing."Going into Friday's election, whip counts by National Journal's Hotline, The Washington Post and Politico showed Priebus had the broadest support of the committee's 168 members. On Thursday, Priebus picked up the endorsement of former White House chief of staff John Sununu, who will soon retire as New Hampshire GOP chairman.

Priebus, the RNC's former general counsel, played up his fundraising prowess and ballot box success in usually blue Wisconsin, which voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential election and Democrat John Kerry in 2004.

In 2010, Republicans won majorities in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature and also won the governor's race. The GOP now has 5-3 advantage in the state's congressional delegation.
Maria Cino, a former Bush administration official who had the support of House Speaker John Boehner; Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan GOP chairman; and Ann Wagner, a former RNC co-chairwoman, are also running for the job.

Stocks Move Lower After Bernanke Warns About Unemployment With Sears (SHLD) And Deere (DE) On The Move

Coming down the home stretch... Stocks tracked lower in afternoon trading after Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated at an event that though the economy should grow 3% to 4% in 2011, that will not be enough to bring down unemployment as quickly as policymakers hope. Heading into the final hour, all three indices are down less than half a percent. Bernanke did reiterate that the economy is headed in the right direction, but his caution regarding unemployment could lead to steeper losses on the market in the final hour. AGCO (AG) is down 6%. Alcoa (AA) and Sears (SHLD) are down 3%. Arch Coal (ACI) and Deere (DE) are up 3%. SAP AG (SAP) is up 6%. The Put/Call Volume Ratio is at 0.65 while the Put/Call Open Interest Ratio is at 0.91. [InvestorsKeyhole, various news and data sources]



Initial U.S. Jobless Claims Rose More Than Forecast to 445,000 Last Week

The number of first-time claims for unemployment insurance payments jumped in the first week of 2011 to the highest level since October as more Americans lined up to file following the holidays.

Initial jobless claims rose by 35,000 to 445,000, according to Labor Department data released today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey called for 410,000 filings. The average number of applications over the past four weeks, a less-volatile gauge, increased to 416,500.

Today’s figures follow a report last week showing the U.S. added fewer jobs than forecast in December, underscoring the concern of Federal Reserve policy makers about the labor market. Economic growth may need to accelerate further and encourage companies to ramp up the hiring necessary to reduce the unemployment rate.

“The underlying trend is still a slow decline in claims,” said Lindsey Piegza, an economist at FTN Financial in New York. “We’re taking steps in the right direction though it’s not enough to move the unemployment rate down precipitously.”

The Bloomberg median forecast was based on 46 economists’ projections that ranged from 380,000 to 420,000. The increase from the previous week was the biggest since July 17.

Stocks fell after the report, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropping 0.3 percent to 1,281.97 at 10:05 a.m. in New York. Treasuries were little changed with the yield on the benchmark 10-year note at 3.37 percent.

Producer Prices

Another report from the Labor Department showed prices paid to producers rose 1.1 percent in December, the most in 11 months and led by higher energy and food costs. Prices excluding food and fuel rose 0.2 percent, in line with forecasts.

The Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in November to the lowest level in 10 months as faster growth overseas and a weaker dollar boosted demand for American-made aircraft and industrial supplies like cotton. The gap shrank 0.3 percent to $38.3 billion, less than the $40.5 billion median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Exports climbed to the highest level in more than two years.

The first week of the year is “historically the highest week for claims,” before seasonal adjustment, because of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released. He said that the four-week average for claims was a more useful measure.

Before Adjustment

While the Labor Department adjusts for a large pickup in filings around the start of a year, actual applications for jobless benefits were even higher, he said.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell by 248,000 in the week ended Jan. 1 to 3.88 million, the lowest level since Oct. 25, 2008. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

Those who’ve use up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments increased by about 128,000 to 4.64 million in the week ended Dec. 25.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits fell to 3.1 percent in the week ended Jan. 1, from 3.3 percent the prior week, today’s report showed.

States, Territories

Thirty-four states and territories reported an increase in first-time unemployment claims for the week ended Jan. 1, while 19 had a decrease.

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke last week said the unemployment rate will probably fall slowly even with a pickup in U.S. growth this year.

At the pace of improvement projected by Fed officials, “it could take four to five more years for the job market to normalize fully,” Bernanke said Jan. 7 in testimony to the Senate Budget Committee.

The U.S. added 103,000 jobs in December, fewer than economists had forecast in a Bloomberg survey, according to Labor Department data released Jan. 7. The unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent, from 9.8 percent a month earlier, partly because fewer people were in the labor force.

Synovus Financial Corp., a Columbus, Georgia-based bank, on Jan. 10 said it plans to cut about another 850 positions this year to streamline operations and save money. The company eliminated 300 jobs in 2010.

Some companies are hiring. Ford Motor Co. said Jan. 10 it plans to hire more than 7,000 workers in the next two years, including engineers with expertise in battery-powered cars.

Ford will hire 4,000 factory workers and 750 engineers this year and add 2,500 hourly workers next year, Mark Truby, a company spokesman, said in an interview in Detroit.

posted by midnight rider

Knicks looking to trade for players to give Nuggets?

The Knicks could have three players on the All-Star team if a trade for Carmelo Anthony is completed before then. Donnie Walsh and his staff have been working to put together a lucrative package to offer the Nuggets and have talked with various other teams to assist in the deal. ESPN .com reported Thursday night that the Knicks have checked in with the Grizzlies about possibly including former lottery pick O.J. Mayo in a package to offer to Denver. An NBA source familiar with the Grizzlies ‘ plans said that despite what they have said publicly, Mayo is “way, way, way available” for a trade. They are down on Mayo, who recently got into a fight with teammate Tony Allen on the team plane. The Knicks have yet to make any formal offers for Anthony, nor have they engaged in serious negotiations with the Nuggets. The plan is to put together a formidable package – the Knicks also can offer Denver immediate cash relief with Kelenna Azubuike ‘s expiring contract, which will be insurance-paid after Game 41 – to compete with the Nets’ offer, which remains on the table. — Newsday

Yankees Sign RHP Rafael Soriano To Provisional 3Y/$35M Contract

Posted by MJ Recanati 
Well, so much for Brian Cashman saying that he wouldn’t give up the team’s first round draft pick, huh?  In a somewhat stunning — and in my opinion utterly idiotic  – decision, the Yankees have signed Rafael Soriano to a three year, $35 million dollar deal to set up Mariano Rivera.  The deal, apparently, has a provisional clause that gives Soriano the right to opt out in each of the first two years.  Presumably a good season by Soriano and he’ll seek to resume his closing duties on another team next year.  Perhaps this is the only saving grace here; the Yankees may well be rid of this absurdly wasteful contract in just one calendar year…

Perhaps this move means that the Yankees have reconsidered Joba Chamberlain’s future with the club.  Either he’s about to be traded or he’s about to be re-inserted into the rotation.  Only the former would satisfy me.  The latter…ugh, I’d rather not even think about it.

For those that deem me a blatant Cashman apologist, take heed and remember this post.  I hate this move and I simply don’t see the logic behind it.  This is the Nick Johnson decision multiplied seven-fold.  I just hope it doesn’t suck seven times as much too.

Update 9:57 p.m.: According to this Tweet from Tyler Kepner, the value of the contract depends on if Soriano exercises his options.  If he should opt out after the first year, he earns $11.5M.  If he should opt out after the second year, he earns $21.5M.  Obviously he earns the full $35M if he stays the full three years.
As I said above, the hope here is that Soriano is lights out in 2011 and can find a closer’s job on another team, saving the Yankees the unearned $23.5M portion of the contract.  Theoretically, the Yankees could offer Soriano arbitration and recoup the lost draft picks although precedent shows that Cashman likely won’t go that route.

USDA proposes new standards for school meals

The USDA announced today that it is starting the interminable rulemaking process for new nutrition standards for school breakfasts and lunches.

The new standards are designed to add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat milk to school meals.

These are food-based standards.  The lengthy Federal Register notice specifies the number and size of servings of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, and grains (table 3, page 2516).  This is a huge step forward and USDA deserves lots of support for doing this.

I am somewhat less enthusiastic about some of the other provisions, but perhaps they are the price to pay for progress:

Nutrient-based standards? The standards also are designed to limit levels of saturated fat, sodium, calories, and trans fats.  They specify a range of calories as well as maximum values for saturated fat and sodium (trans fats have to be zero).

Alas, the devil is in the details.

Nutrient-based standards force some questionable choices on menu planners.  This is evident from the menus comparing the old and new standards.  The old menus included “kids food”—food-like objects such as pizza sticks and breaded beef patties.

Happily, the new menus drop those and call for real foods.  Some of them—jicama, kiwi, and grape tomatoes, for example—are likely to seem exotic to kids accustomed to chicken fingers.  So far, so good.
But the foods are accompanied by strangely tasting miracles of food technology such as reduced-fat mayonnaise, low-fat salad dressings, and soft margarines.  Why?  To meet nutrient standards.
What about sugars? The standards don’t mention sugars except to say that if the others are followed, there isn’t much room allowed for sugary foods.  Canned fruits are to be low in sugar.  Use of highly fortified sugary foods is discouraged. 

Chocolate and other flavored milk? The new standards allow skim “flavored” milk (translation: sugar-sweetened).  Otherwise, says USDA, kids might not drink milk and will not get enough calcium.  Sigh.  Milk, as I keep saying, is not an essential nutrient.  Chocolate or strawberry milk is a dessert.  Chalk this one up to dairy lobbying.

The USDA based the new standards on the report released in October 2009 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM): School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children. It looks to me as though the USDA actually followed the IOM recommendations, a miracle in itself.

by Marion Nestle

Black Women, Mass Incarceration and the Market for Finding a Husband

In a very compelling article, The Economist magazine stepped away from its standard delivery of international political updates to dig deeply into the experience of the African American woman. In the article, economists analyze dating for black women as a market, where men and women enter the market to search for a suitable mate.

The author starts off with a simple example to help make his point. He says "IMAGINE that the world consists of 20 men and 20 women, all of them heterosexual and in search of a mate. Since the numbers are even, everyone can find a partner. But what happens if you take away one man?"

Then, citing the work of Tim Harford, an economist in England, the author says that because one out of the 20 women faces the possibility of never finding a husband, she tries harder to get a man, perhaps by dressing more seductively or doing things the other women might not do. She may even steal a man from someone else. This then affects what other women do to find and keep their own men, and also the behavior of the men themselves.

The example used by Harford describes, to some, the challenges that black women face in the age of mass incarceration. In the United States, one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 29 is in jail or prison. Not only are currently incarcerated men typically ineligible for women to date, many women avoid dating ex-convicts. In the US, those who've been formerly incarcerated have difficulty finding jobs, and some may have been infected with venereal disease as a result of prison rape or other forms of sexual activity resulting from their time in prison. Scientists have linked the spread of sexually transmitted disease within the black community back to prisons and jails.
The author says that the explosion in incarceration between 1970 and 2007 can be linked to the fact that the proportion of married African American women dropped from 62% to 33% over the same time period. Two scholars cited in the article, Kerwin Kofi Charles and Ming Ching, also argue that prison has played a huge role in the drop in marital rates for black women. Their analysis determined that a one percentage point increase in the incarceration rate resulted in a 2.4 percent decline in the proportion of black women who get married.

According to the analysis, less-educated black women suffer the most in the social asymmetry that has occurred over the last 40 years. As of 2007, the Pew Research Center says that only 11% of black women aged 30 - 44 without a high school diploma had a spouse with a job. But although less-educated women are getting the shortest end of the stick, things are not so easy for educated women either.

"I thought I was a catch," a black female doctor told The Economist. "It's like, what are you going to do extra, to get his attention?"

Nearly everyone has something to say about this imbalance between men and women in the African American community. Even the comedian Steve Harvey encourages women to "think like men" in order to get what they want. I personally don't find Harvey's approach to be appealing, since the last thing I'd want to date is a woman who thinks like a dude. Also, the implication that relationship warfare should be conquered with more warfare just leads to an even greater mess than the one we have today. Love should not be about war, winning or any kind of competition; that's why it's called "love" and not something else.

With that said, a few things can be done to help deal with the breakdown of black families in the age of mass incarceration. First, our own relationships should be analyzed and managed on a micro level. The deep-seated dysfunction of the African American family requires careful reflection on the things that keep us from loving one another properly. Reading books written by certified relationship experts who scientifically study this problem for a living can go a long way in helping all of us to understand the day-to-day decisions and care necessary to make our relationships work. Many black men and women suffer deep psychological scars from their own anger toward a parent who may not have done their job properly. When we bring this anger into our relationships, we can end up destroying one situation after another without even realizing what we're doing. As my friend Terrie Williams, author of 'Black Pain,' likes to say, "Hurt people, hurt people," and black folks are pretty good at hurting one another.

The second thing we must do is address the broader macro-political roots of this problem. The issue of mass incarceration of African American men affects us all, not just black men. These men are our sons, fathers, brothers and (for black women) potential husbands. We must all demand that our political leaders (starting with the Congressional Black Caucus, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder) find ways to acknowledge this problem and help us to create solutions to the fact that so many men are being sent away for decades without any hope of returning to their families in a healthy way. Even if draconian sentencing is not done away with, prisons can be a place of rehabilitation and opportunities to create a better life for the children you've left behind. Keeping these men out of the job market and making them political non-entities long after they've done their time speaks to a larger, more insidious effort to destroy the African American family either via apathy, racism or devious financial incentives.

This problem must be solved, and we must do whatever it takes to fix it. Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the "Never Going Back" initiative to challenge mass incarceration. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

The Fisher King, the Rolling Stones and What They Tell Us about an American Tragedy

By Richard A. Lee

In the opening scenes of the 1991 movie The Fisher King, a radio talk show host named Jack Lucas tells a caller that the clientele in a popular New York nightspot are repulsed by everything America stands for and that they “must be stopped before it’s too late.”

Later that night, the caller goes to the nightspot with a shotgun, kills seven people, and then turns the gun on himself. Lucas then becomes so devastated about the unintended consequences of his words that he attempts to take his own life.

The Fisher King is a work of fiction, but there are interesting parallels to the tragic events that unfolded in Arizona last weekend. There also are parallels in a movie that is not fiction – Gimme Shelter, a documentary about the Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour that includes a graphic scene in which a Hells Angel member kills a young man attending a free Stones’ concert at the Altamont Speedway in California.

At the time the film was made, the band was taking its bad boy image to a new level with songs such as “Sympathy for the Devil” and an album titled Their Satanic Majesties Request, so it seemed perfectly in character to have the Hells Angels provide security at Altamont.

But the film shows a different side of Jagger. His image changes from bad boy to that of a young man becoming increasingly troubled and visibly frightened by the real violence escalating in the crowd as he performs at Altamont.

What do these two old movies have to do with the shooting rampage that took place in Tuscon? In both films, deadly violence occurred after – not because of – words and actions from the films’ protagonists. The fictional Jack Lucas tells a caller to put a stop to something; the real-life Jagger creates a devilish persona that becomes part of his recordings and performances.

Both men are deeply impacted by the violence. This is where the parallel to last weekend’s events begins. We live in an era of polarization and sharp, sometimes bitter partisanship. As a nation, the violence in Arizona has caused us to think long and hard about the nature of political discourse in America.

This is not to suggest that the rhetoric and actions – of either the left or the right – are what led Jared Lee Loughner to open fire at U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s “Congress on Your Corner” meeting. From all indications, Loughner is a troubled young man, and it is unclear what ultimately prompted him to pull the trigger. As former President Clinton told the BBC: “No one intends to do anything that encourages this sort of behavior, but political rhetoric falls on the unhinged and the hinged alike.”

By and large, the American people are reacting to the violence much the same as Lucas and Jagger. We are saddened and troubled, and we see this as a wake-up call to re-examine the way we interact with each other, especially those with whom we disagree.

Unfortunately, those most responsible for lowering the level of political discourse in America have reacted differently. Politicians, pundits and commentators – from both the left and the right -- have responded by launching verbal attacks, assigning blame and defending their words and actions. Few if any appear to be having second thoughts about what they do.

This scenario is emblematic of a larger gap that exists in our nation – a growing gap between the citizenry and the men and women who run the country. Many years ago, in his 1925 book The Phantom Public, Walter Lippmann warned of the dangers of this gap when he observed: “The private citizen today has come to feel rather like a deaf spectator in the back row… He lives in a world which he cannot see, does not understand and is unable to direct.”

Last November, a number of successful Republican candidates ran on a platform of “taking back America.” Ironically, Barack Obama sounded a similar theme in his campaign for the presidency in 2008.

Both parties are right. We do need to take back America – not from Democrats or Republicans – but from a political establishment which is losing touch with the people it was elected to serve.

# # #

Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute. A former State House reporter and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media, politics and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies. Read more of Rich’s columns at richleeonline and follow him on Twitter