Hidden Racism of Charter Schools

There was an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today, "Some St. Louis charter schools worry their popularity threatens diversity". The article stated, "A few of the city’s charter schools are becoming so popular that they’re struggling to stay accessible to low-income families." On the surface, this may seem like some innocent accident, but it may have been part of the design.

The easiest way to hold back or control a group is people is to control their education. Just as Southern slave owners understood that denying slaves an education reduced the capacity of slaves to think, substandard education reduces the capacity to do for yourself and increases reliance upon others. See our Educational Oppression page.

The St. Louis Public School System has and will continue to decline. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I taught in the St. Louis Public Schools. Even then, you could see the games being played with the desegregation program.

Many of the best and brightest black students were being taken out of the city system and the county was transferring some of its poorly performing or trouble maker white students into the city system. Hundreds of millions of city school dollars ended up going to county schools which helped pay for modern facilities and amenities. The obvious results were declining enrollment, older facilities in disrepair and lower student performance which opened the door for charter schools.

Charter schools stripped, even more, dollars from the public school system and were not accountable in the same ways as public schools since they were considered independent even though they were funded with public education funds.

Below you will find excerpts and links to three different sources that make a pretty good argument for the racist nature whether planned or unintentional.

The Racist History of the Charter School Movement

The now-popular idea of offering public education dollars to private entrepreneurs has historical roots in white resistance to school desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The desired outcome was few or, better yet, no black students in white schools. In Prince Edward County, Virginia, one of the five cases decided in Brown, segregationist whites sought to outwit integration by directing taxpayer funds to segregated private schools.

Two years before a federal court set a final desegregation deadline for fall 1959, local newspaper publisher J. Barrye Wall shared white county leaders’ strategy of resistance with Congressman Watkins Abbitt: “We are working [on] a scheme in which we will abandon public schools, sell the buildings to our corporation, reopen as privately operated schools with tuition grants from [Virginia] and P.E. county as the basic financial program,” he wrote. “Those wishing to go to integrated schools can take their tuition grants and operate their own schools. To hell with 'em.”  

Attorney David Mays, who advised high-ranking Virginia politicians on school strategy, reasoned, “Negroes could be let in [to white schools] and then chased out by setting high academic standards they could not maintain, by hazing if necessary, by economic pressures in some cases, etc. This should leave few Negroes in the white schools. The federal courts can easily force Negroes into our white schools, but they can’t possibly administer them and listen to the merits of thousands of bellyaches.” 

NAACP Sounds the Alarm on Charter Schools, Warns of Racist Discipline Policies, Segregation, Lack of Oversight and Accountability

The NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, recently passed a resolution at their national convention in Cincinnati calling for a ban on privately managed charter schools.  The resolution said the following:

* “Charter schools have contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system.”

* “Weak oversight of charter schools puts students and communities at risk of harm, public funds at risk of being wasted, and further erodes local control of public education.”

* “[R]esearchers have warned that charter school expansions in low-income communities mirror predatory lending practices that led to the sub-prime mortgage disaster, putting schools and communities impacted by these practices at great risk of loss and harm…”

Understanding the “New” Racism through an Urban Charter School

In 2005, a research paper, published by Beth Hatt-Echeverria, a White female assistant professor of Education at Illinois State University and Ji-Yeon Jo, a Korean female independent researcher, discuss a subtle form of racism based uncovered by research conduct at Eagles Landing Charter School. Excerpts from their findings are below.

“There is a charming story by Dr. Seuss…In a society of beings called Sneetches, there were plain and star bellied speeches. The star-bellied Sneetches were the ‘best’ and dominated the plain-bellied folks. Recognizing the injustice of the situation, the oppressed Sneetches decided to paint stars on their own bellies. Now there was equality! But not for long. The original star-bellied Sneetches had their stars painfully removed and claimed, of course, that plain bellies were now marks of superiority. Power structures do not crumble easily.”

Even though there has always been racism in American history, it has not always been the same racism. Political and cultural struggles over power shape the contours and dimensions of racism in any era”. The “contours and dimensions of racism” change as if dancing with civil rights to ensure that White privilege remains the lead dancer. As legislation and policies occur to provide opportunities for people of color, Whiteness shifts to make certain White privilege remains dominant. Giroux (1999) claims that the new shape of racism is a White, conservative backlash to racial minority rights and changing demographics of U.S. cities such as increases in the U.S. Latino population.

As race became paramount in shaping U.S. politics and everyday life from the 1980’s on, racial prejudice in its overt forms was considered a taboo. While the old racism maintained some cachet among the more vulgar, right-wing conservatives, a new racist discourse emerged in the United States. The new racism was coded in the language of ‘welfare reform,’ ‘neighborhood schools,’ ‘toughness on crime,’ and ‘illegitimate births.’ Cleverly designed to mobilize White fears while relieving Whites of any semblance of social responsibility and commitment, the new racism served to rewrite the politics of Whiteness as a ‘besieged’ racial identity.

One of the ways that racism transforms and shifts to maintain White privilege is through the (re)defining of Whiteness as what is “moral” and “normal” in such a way that Whites, especially the upper middle class, benefit.

Eagles Landing Charter School arose from a group of White parents and White educators being frustrated with the local school system. All of the original Board members were parents and teachers connected to one local middle school. A key characteristic of the middle school was that over the past five years it had become more racially integrated. Students of color were beginning to become a majority in the school.

The following statements seemed to be the mantra of the original board members: Class sizes are too large. Too much violence. Too many drugs. Teachers should be allowed more voice. These statements are similar to Giroux’s (1999) description of the new racism as involving coded language that addresses issues of race indirectly by discussions of “Toughness on Crime,” “Welfare Reform,” and “Illegitimate Births.” When interviewing White students, teachers, and parents, the majority of them mentioned some form of the statements above as an explanation as to why they were going to the charter school. Additionally, many of them had left the previously mentioned middle school. On the contrary, many of the African-American students chose to attend the charter school because it was located close to their homes.

Initially, Echeverria and Jo saw the school positively, but then they both felt like the school was almost too perfect. The school staff had maintained some control concerning the student interviews. However, a group of Black students wanted to speak to the researchers without any school staff present. 

For these Black students, the school was not only a very negative experience but it was directly influencing their school achievement. They were experiencing differential treatment, lower expectations by teachers, and alienation. It was the hidden transcript that encouraged us to ask how the ideals and realities were so different in the school and how the teachers and administration constructed their “innocence” in contributing to the experiences of the Black students.


Additional articles:

Charter Schools Propping Up the School-to-Prison Pipeline – US News& World Reports

In Missouri, Race Complicates a Transfer to Better Schools – New York Times

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America – Seattle Education

School types: The difference between public, private, magnet, charter, and more

Public, Private, Charter, Magnet – What's the Difference?

How 8 Men Have Become Richer Than Half of the Entire World’s Population

A while ago, Court.rchp.com commented on the Educational Oppression page how through misinformation and miseducation the richest 85 people in the world held as much wealth as the poorest half; now a tenth of that number controls the wealth. For a few to be rich, many must be poor.

Recently, Court.rchp.com mentioned how billionaires have overthrown the U.S. Government with firing a single shot.

Research and advocacy group Oxfam International released a new report on Monday that outlines the latest developments in global economic inequality. Unfortunately, the results validate previous concerns that these massive imbalances would only accelerate. The number of people who control more wealth than the poorest 50% went from 62 to 8 in just one year. With half the world’s net worth now in such few hands, it should be easier than ever to bring awareness to this ongoing trend — but finding a solution is far more complicated.

Oxfam used Forbes’ list of billionaires and new information from Credit Suisse to reach their conclusion. The eight individuals named are Bill Gates; Amancio Ortega, founder of fashion house Inditex; Warren Buffett; Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu; Jeff Bezos; Mark Zuckerberg; Oracle’s Larry Ellison; and Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.

Although many people with resources like these have made tremendous contributions to society, the question of how obligated they are to contribute to the common good still remains. After all, their fortunes have the potential to completely reshape the world for the better, but the problem arises when government dictates how much should be taxed and where that money will go. The public sector’s track record of wasting and mismanaging funds is unmatched and can only be rationalized by the economically illiterate. In an ideal world, bureaucrats would be fiscally responsible and impervious to corruption, but reality is never so utopian.

The rapid consolidation of wealth by so few showcases who the current government policies have benefited most. Artificially low interest rates and money printing, which have sent stock markets soaring for nearly eight years, have only helped solidify the elite’s hold on the financial world. They can borrow money for next to nothing and buy up huge stakes in companies, all while enjoying profits courtesy of the Federal Reserve’s stimulus programs.

Government regulations may stem from good intentions, but they can easily create a dragnet that ends up targeting those they were intended to helpWhile normal people are losing their jobs, seeing rent skyrocket and health care costs explode, the State has been propping up those it really serves.

In the report, Oxfam vaguely lays the blame at the feet of corporations:

Businesses are the lifeblood of a market economy, and when they work to the benefit of everyone they are vital to building fair and prosperous societies. But when corporations increasingly work for the rich, the benefits of economic growth are denied to those who need them most. In pursuit of delivering high returns to those at the top, corporations are driven to squeeze their workers and producers ever harder – and to avoid paying taxes which would benefit everyone, and the poorest people in particular.”

Since the financial crisis began, the 1% has been scapegoated continuously, but complaining about an abstract hierarchy won’t help the millions of people living on less than $2 a day. If substantial changes are going to be made, the focus needs to be on finding hard evidence of tax evasion and unethical business practices on an individual level rather than demonizing anyone with substantial wealth. Verifiable information is what sways public opinion, just like the Panama Papers did by taking the first step in exposing some of the world’s richest people for utilizing tax havens and loopholes to avoid being held responsible. Instead of indiscriminately blaming all those who have achieved success, reports like this could act as a blueprint to help put names and faces to those anonymous adversaries who have avoided accountability.

In this age of information, the opportunity to seek individual justice lays with every journalist and activist. When people group others into left-right, rich-poor, or privileged-oppressed, for example, the uniqueness of each individual experience is lost. The inequality seen across the planet is heartbreaking, and any person with a shred of empathy should want to help. Unfortunately, the solution is rarely State intervention. The tool used to remedy this situation must come from grassroots origins. As government’s management of resources demonstrates, there is no other viable alternative. By inspiring others to take action voluntarily, we can build a foundation that doesn’t rely on the threat of violence and use of force for progress.


Republished with permission under license from  Shaun Bradley and theAntiMedia.org

As Trump Takes Power, Politicians Around the US Move to Make Protesting Illegal

Indiana passed a bill on Wednesday that authorizes police officers to shut down highway protesting “by any means necessary.” S.B. 285, as it is known, obliges a public official to dispatch all available officers within 15 minutes of discovering any assembly of 10 or more people who are obstructing vehicle traffic.

The bill then authorizes the responding officers to clear roads “by any means necessary.”

Critics are calling it the “Block Traffic and You Die” bill, an apt name for a bill that has co-opted the phrase “any means necessary,” used famously in speech delivered by Malcolm X during the Civil Rights movement, turning it into a threat against government dissent (with no apparent awareness of the irony).

S.B. 285 is among a collection of increasingly hostile ‘anti-obstruction’ laws that have been quietly submitted in states around the nation over the past few months. A report by The Intercept published Wednesday tracked five such anti-protest laws introduced by Republican lawmakers in different states, four of which are currently pending.

One of the most disturbing among them is House Bill N. 1203, a bill introduced earlier this month by North Dakota lawmaker Keith Kempenich in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests. The bill would exempt motorists who hit demonstrators with their cars from any liability in cases where the victims were “obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway.” This twisted take on protest criminalization comes short of condoning manslaughter as a viable means of crowd control.

Also this month, Minnesota State Representative Kathy Lohmer led the effort on submitting H.F. 322, a bill that would re-classify obstructing highway traffic from a misdemeanor to a “gross misdemeanor” and would authorize government units to sue protesters for “public safety response costs related to unlawful assemblies.”

The proposed legislation is strikingly reminiscent of Washington State Senator Eric Ericksen’s proposal to punish protesters as ‘economic terrorists,’ which Anti-Media first reported on in November.

All of the proposed laws share a common trait in that they were all adopted in response to a major protest event in that state. H.F. 322 was submitted shortly after a judge dismissed the riot charges against protesters who took to the St. Paul Interstate last July in a demonstration against the police shooting of Philando Castille. Ericksen’s “economic terrorism” bill announcement came just days after anti-fracking protesters blocked railroad tracks in Olympia, Washington. DAPL protests inspired both the Indiana and North Dakota bills.

These retroactive responses on behalf of Republican state lawmakers are also seen as preemptive strikes against the threat of increased protests during the Trump presidency.

As ACLU staff attorney Lee Rowland expressed in an interview with The Intercept, these so-called ‘obstruction bills’ are but thinly disguised efforts to squash any government dissent.

“A law that would allow the state to charge a protester $10,000 for stepping in the wrong place, or encourage a driver to get away with manslaughter because the victim was protesting, is about one thing: chilling protest,” Rowland said.

Growing tension between government officials and protesters is expected to come to a culmination on Inauguration Day in D.C., where there will already be many barriers in place to limit demonstrations.

First and foremost is the Federal Grounds and Buildings Improvement Act of 2011, known as H.R 347.

H.R.-347 is a revision of a 1971 federal trespassing law that made it a crime to “willfully and knowingly” remain in an area under Secret Security protection. H.R. 347 removes the word “willingly,” a legal technicality that effectively lowers the bar on the mental state required to be found guilty under the law.

As explained by the American Civil Liberties Union:

“Under the original language of the law, you had to act ‘willfully and knowingly’ when committing the crime. In short, you had to know your conduct was illegal. Under H.R. 347, you will simply need to act ‘knowingly,’ which here would mean that you know you’re in a restricted area, but not necessarily that you’re committing a crime.”

Under current federal law, protesting in proximity to an elected official under the protection of the Secret Service, which includes President Trump, is a crime punishable by fine and up to ten years in jail.

Protesting during Trump’s inauguration comes with additional complications as the National Park Service reserves a large portion of the inaugural parade route along Pennsylvania Ave and in Freedom Plaza for ticket sales under the exclusive discretion of Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC). This means the PIC can refuse to allow protesters along the route.

An activist group called Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (Answer) has been engaged in a  legal battle with the National Park Service since 2005, arguing the privatization of the Inauguration is an attempt to “sanitize” the streets of dissent.

While the National Park Service has been controversially setting aside tickets for the PIC since 1980, the issue garnered more attention this year when it was discovered that the sidewalk in front of the Trump International Hotel, a significant site for protesters, would be a part of PIC’s ticket-only area.

Adding another level of bureaucracy, the Washington Post reported the hotel and plaza in front are actually under the control of Trump’s real estate agency, meaning protesters would have to literally ‘ask permission’ to remain in the space.

As the week comes to an end, it becomes apparent that dissent is being criminalized not only nationwide but on multiple fronts. Increased regulations are appearing that limit the public spaces that can be lawfully occupied in protest. Meanwhile, legislation is also being introduced to increase the negative consequences for newly unlawful protests. Should more states follow suit with Indiana, demonstrators will soon find themselves paradoxically protesting for their right to protest at all.


Republished with permission under license from Sarah Cronin and theAntiMedia.org


See related "Protester Rights"

‘Dark Day’: President Donald Trump Delivers Grim Speech as Protests Swell

by Nadia Prupis

Pledge to end 'American carnage' stirs fears among opponents who recall campaign built on xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia

President Donald J. Trump has taken the oath of office, delivering a blunt speech rife with his signature autocratic declarations, promising to "make America great again" as tense protests swelled around Capitol Hill.

Watch the video of the speech, a full transcript is included near the bottom of this page.

"Today's inauguration is an incredibly dark day for our country," Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive PAC Democracy for America, said in response to Trump's speech Friday. "The only thing more empty than the National Mall today during his poorly attended inaugural address were the platitudes Donald Trump made about bringing the country together."

"In fact, after putting forward a cabinet filled to the brim with self-dealing billionaires, bigots, and bullies, it's clear that Donald Trump is establishing the most corrupt, corporate, and bigoted administration in generations," Chamberlain said.

Protests were well underway by the time Trump was sworn in, with massive groups in the streets throughout Washington, D.C., chanting and wielding signs, blockading entrances to the inauguration, and at times clashing with armed police who sprayed tear gas with abandon.

"This is our right to stand here," said one protester, Mica Reel, who took part in an inaugural entrance blockade, the New York Times reported.

Another, Ramah Kudaimi, who sits on the board of the Washington Peace Center and helped organize one of the day's actions, said, "It's important from Day One of Trump's administration that we make clear that we are going to be disrupting his agenda. When communities are under attack, we are going to fight back."

In a vacuous speech that contrasted with former President Barack Obama's years of poignant addresses, Trump said, "Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come."

"America will start winning again, winning like never before," he said. "We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams."

These pledges, along with references to "American carnage" wrought by "crime and drugs and gangs," stirred fears among the president's opponents who called attention to a campaign built on xenophobia, racism, and Islamophobia—and a cabinet that belies his promise to "drain the swamp" of special interests.

CREDO political director Murshed Zaheed said, "Today's inauguration of a man who scapegoats Muslims and immigrants, demeans women, and openly advocates discrimination is not a cause for celebration or bipartisan camaraderie….In the coming weeks and months it will take firm opposition and dedicated resistance from Democrats in Congress to minimize the damage Trump is able to inflict on our communities and our democracy."

Demand Progress policy director Daniel Schuman said, "Donald Trump is unpresidential. He is an authoritarian who will stifle our free press, restore torture, expand mass surveillance, fill government with cronies, and use bully tactics to silence private citizens. Donald Trump will violate the Constitution on Day One and has given every indication of his intent to undermine our constitutional rights and privileges."

Progressive leaders praised Democratic lawmakers who boycotted the inauguration.

"By standing up to Trump, these courageous members of Congress are standing for the American people and our way of life," Schuman said.

Jo Comerford, campaign director at MoveOn.org, added, "Democrats boycotting today's inauguration are standing on the right side of history. Donald Trump is a threat to our nation."


Republished with permission under license from CommonDreams.


Full Transcript of Trump's Inaugural Address

——————————————————————————–

"Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans and people of the world, thank you.

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people.

Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.

Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power.

And we are grateful to President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition.

They have been magnificent.

Thank you.

Today's ceremony, however, has a very special meaning because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.

For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have bore the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment.

It belongs to you.

It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.

This is your day.

This is your celebration.

And this, the United States of America, is your country.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves.

These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists.

Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.

An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.

And the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation, and their pain is our pain.

Their dreams are our dreams, and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny.

The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.

For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own. And we've spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.

We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.

The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. But that is the past, and now we are looking only to the future.

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.

From this day forward, it's going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

We will bring back our jobs.

We will bring back our borders.

We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams.

We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation.

We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.

We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example.

We will shine for everyone to follow.

We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.

When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.

The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.

Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.

A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions. It's time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.

We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms and we all salute the same great American flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator.

So to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together we will make America strong again, we will make America wealthy again, we will make America proud again, we will make America safe again.

And, yes, together we will make America great again.

Thank you.

God bless you.

And God bless America."

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. VS. DONALD TRUMP

WAR OF WORDS

Martin Luther King Day is celebrated to honor one of history’s most noble of activists. Dr. King’s ideas were revolutionary during a time of continued oppression and divide. As an accomplished orator, he stirred emotion while motivating a generation to demand change. And, with those demands, changes came.

President, Barrack Obama, a product of Dr. King's dream, has demonstrated through words and actions the spirit of Dr. King. Even though the republican majority in congress put up barriers and tried to prevent most of President Obama's initiatives, the first Black President of the United States did a remarkable job and we will miss him!

President Elect Donald Trump will be sworn into office as the first billionaire President in only four days from now. Trump’s hateful rhetoric is often defended as just being “anti-pc” or “calling it as it is” or him being “honest.” So, let’s compare those words with those of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who is unquestionably a beloved American icon.

How does Mr. Trump measure up?

On Personal Wealth…

On Justice. . .

On The Military. . .

On Health. . .

On Race. . .

Well, that played out exactly as we expected. Hopefully, President Trump will have an epiphany, and realize that as President, his words can inspire or can have the destructive force of weapons. Please in the future, choose your words wisely President Elect Trump.


Republished with edits and permission under license from IF YOU ONLY NEWS


See our post from last years MLK Day, "MLK Day and St. Louis' First Murder of the Year".

Police Depicted as Animals in Art

Art does not exist only to entertain, but also to challenge one to think, to provoke, even to disturb, in a constant search for truth. –  Barbara Streisand

David Pulphus, a North St. Louis resident and recent graduate of Cardinal Ritter College Prep, is the 2016 winner of the U.S. Congressional Art Competition from Missouri's 1st Congressional District.

Pulphus' winning painting "Untitled #1" has stirred a national debate about art, censorship, and first amendment rights after police groups urged its removal for depicting cops as pigs.

David Pulphus painting
David Pulphus painting "Untitled #1"

Each year Members of the U.S. House of Representatives select one high school student from their districts as a winner. The artists' pictures usually hang in the halls of Congress for a almost full year – an incredible honor.

However, the Architect of the U.S. Capitol (aoc.gov) announced he plans to remove the painting because he determined its content violated the guidelines of the art competition, even though it had hung on a Capitol wall for six months. See a slideshow of all 2016 Congressional Art winners.

Art is subjective

Just as "one man's junk is another man's treasure" and "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", so is art.

The two officers and the African-American man all appear to have animal-like facial features. The two officers have faces resembling a boar and a horse, the African-American man resembles a wolf or if you stretch your imagination a "black panther". The "wolf-man" depiction could be interpreted negatively as well. Is the predatory wolf attacking the prey who is defending himself? Depends on your point of view, because art is subjective.

An article in the St. Louis American provides the following description, “The painting portrays a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society”. 

When is art offensive?

Walt Disney's Zootopia depicts police officers as animals and even has one depicted as a pig, but I don't recall any public outcry. I'm certain countless number of police officers took their children to see this film without a second thought about Disney's "pig" cop. I guess the difference was this pig wasn't pointing a gun at a black man. Maybe it's not so much about "pigs" as it is about don't show cops behaving badly.

Officer Swinton from Walt Disney's Zootopia

The Zootopia Police Department, or ZPD, in the film is mostly run by heavy-weight mammals, such as buffalos, rhinos, elephants, hippos, and predators such as wolves, cheetahs, tigers, bears and lions, until it changed when Judy Hopps became the first rabbit on the police force. 

Political Correctness

When a powerful group within the majority population complains of negative depictions, the narrative changes. The depictions are labeled insensitive, disrespectful, malicious, anti-American, or unpatriotic, but never politically correct.

Police officers are a part of this country's most powerful institution. Police officers hold more power than any elected official including the president, they have been given the right to kill. Historically, police have policed themselves, so their actions have seldom resulted in the sort of scrutiny or penalties ordinary citizens face. 

When police organizations began propaganda efforts to play victims in response to groups such as Black Lives Matter, it would have been comical if not for the serious damage their propaganda produced. Countless unarmed, innocent Black people, who were truely powerless, have been harrassed, injured and killed by police. Because there was no justice, people spoke out in frustration.

When was the last time you heard about a police officer shot or murder where they didn't find a suspect? The police by contrast almost always get justice when they are wronged.

Instead of facing the reality that far too many unarmed people were being shot dead and mistreated by police, police unions created a false narrative that "Black Lives Matter" somehow meant no other lives mattered.

Black people have been complaining for generations about how we are depicted in art and media including the nightly news. Mascots such as the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and the Washington Redskins perpetuate negative stereotypes of Native American people and demean their native traditions and rituals.

However, when these slights are pointed out, individuals or groups are called whinners, accused of political correctness or playing the race card.

Many white people including cops act as if racism doesn't exist, but as anti-racism activist, Jane Elliot points out, white people know the truth they just don't want to admit it.


2016 Congressional Art Competition Winners' Slideshow

David Pulphus' painting, "Untitled #1" is shown at 13:53 in the video's timeline.


The Artist as Citizen

FEBRUARY 03, 1995, 1:00am

The following speech, the source of the quote at the top of this page, in support federal support for the arts was given by Barbra Streisand at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts on February 3, 1995:

I’ve stood up and performed in front of thousands of people — but let me tell you, this is much more frightening. Maybe it’s because this is The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and I’m neither a politician nor a professor. I like to think of myself as a perpetual student. Perhaps some of my anxiety has to do with the fact that I’ve been told that a future President of the United States might very well be in this audience. And if that’s true, I’m sure she will be the one to ask me the toughest questions. I’m saying that because I had a wonderful lunch with some of the students yesterday. Their knowledge, their enthusiasm, their optimism was truly inspiring.

I’m very honored to be invited here. This invitation has a special meaning for me because it involves my convictions and not just my career.

The subject of my talk is the artist as citizen. I guess I can call myself an artist, although after thirty years, the word still feels a bit pretentious. But I am, first and foremost, a citizen: a tax-paying, voting, concerned American citizen who happens to have opinions — a lot of them — which seems to bother some people. So I’m going to try to say something about those two roles.

This is an important moment to deal with this subject because so much of what the artist needs to flourish and survive is at risk now.

When I was asked to speak here a year ago, I was much more optimistic. We had seven women in the Senate, bringing the hope of full representation for more than half the population. And, we had a President who judged our ethnic, cultural and artistic diversity as a source of strength rather than weakness.

Then came the election of 1994, and suddenly the progress of the recent past seemed threatened by those who hunger for the “good old days” when women and minorities knew their place. In this resurgent reactionary mood, artists derided as the “cultural elite” are convenient objects of scorn; and those institutions which have given Americans access to artistic works — such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — are in danger of being abolished.

From my point of view, this is part of the profound conflict between those who would widen freedom and those who would narrow it; between those who defend tolerance and those who view it as a threat.

All great civilizations have supported the arts. However, the new Speaker of the House, citing the need to balance the budget, insists that the arts programs should be the first to go. But the government’s contribution to the NEA and PBS is actually quite meager. To put it in perspective, the entire budget of the NEA is equal to one F-22 fighter jet — a plane that some experts say may not even be necessary. And the Pentagon is planning to buy 442 of them. One less plane and we’ve got the whole arts budget. 72 billion dollars for those planes. Now that’s real money. On the other hand, PBS costs each taxpayer less than one dollar a year and National Public Radio costs them 29 cents.

So maybe it’s not about balancing the budget. Maybe it’s about shutting the minds and mouths of artists who might have something thought-provoking to say.

William Bennett, in calling recently for the elimination of the Arts agencies, charged that they were corrupt for supporting artists whose work undermines “mainstream American values.” Well, art does not exist only to entertain — but also to challenge one to think, to provoke, even to disturb, in a constant search for the truth. To deny artists, or any of us, for that matter, free expression and free thought — or worse, to force us to conform to some rigid notion of “mainstream American values” — is to weaken the very foundation of our democracy.

The far right is waging a war for the soul of America by making art a partisan issue. And by trying to cut these arts programs, which bring culture, education and joy into the lives of ordinary Americans, they are hurting the very people they claim to represent. (By the way, I also find it ironic that Newt Gingrich said that “the NEA and PBS are protected by a bunch of rich upper-class people.” Isn’t it a little hypocritical to lobby for tax cuts for these same rich upper class people, but resent them when they try to protect the arts?)

The persistent drumbeat of cynicism on the talk shows and in the new Congress reeks of disrespect for the arts and artists. But what else is new? Even Plato said that artists were nothing but troublemakers and he wanted to ban poets from his perfect Republic. In Victorian times there were signs requiring actors and dogs to eat in the kitchen. As recently as last year, artists who have spoken out politically have been derided as airheads, bubbleheads, and nitwits. And this is not just by someone like Rush Limbaugh, who has called people in my industry the “spaced-out Hollywood left.” This is also the rhetoric of respectable publications.

For example, the editor of The New Republic wrote of actors: “In general, they are an excruciating bunch of egomaniacs. They have little to say for themselves… and their politics are uniformly idiotic.” To me — this is all about jealousy. He specifically singled out Paul Newman, Whoopi Goldberg, and Tom Hanks as subjects for his wrath after last year’s Academy Awards.

What is the sin? Is it caring about your country? Why should the actor give up his role as citizen just because he’s in show business? For his role in the movie “Philadelphia,” Tom Hanks had to learn quite a bit about being a gay man with AIDS. Should he have remained silent on this issue? For 30 years, Paul Newman has been an outspoken defender of civil liberties and a major philanthropist. Would it be better if he just made money and played golf? Should Whoopi Goldberg retreat into her home and not do anything for the homeless? Or, is Robert Redford a bubblehead because he knows more about the environment than most members of Congress?

Imagine talking about the leaders of any other group in our society this way — say, leaders of the steelworkers union, agribusiness, or chief executives of the automobile industry. Imagine having this kind of contempt for an industry that is second only to aerospace in export earnings abroad. According to Business Week, Americans spent 340 billion dollars on entertainment in 1993. Maybe policy makers could learn something from an industry that makes billions while the government owes trillions.

The presumption is that people in my profession are too insulated, too free-thinking, too subversive. One can almost hear the question — are you now or have you ever been a member of the Screen Actors Guild? Never mind that the former president of our guild did become President of the United States. The Hollywood smear only seems to apply to liberals. With no special interest and serving no personal or financial agenda, artists make moral commitments to many issues that plague our society. Indeed, this participation often makes artists vulnerable professionally. They take the risk of offending part of their audience or their government. As the record of the Hollywood blacklist demonstrates, they can even pay the price of serving time in jail. having their works banned, or being prevented from practicing their craft.

Ironically, contempt for the artist as citizen is often expressed by those most eager to exploit the celebrity of the entertainer. Both journalists and politicians feed off the celebrity status of the successful artist. We can attract a crowd and raise astounding amounts of money for the politicians — and make good copy for the journalists. Which is precisely why we are courted — and resented — by both. I recall various leading newspapers and magazines trying to entice Hollywood celebrities to join their tables at the White House Correspondents dinner, only to trash them afterwards. You can just hear them thinking — you make money, you’re famous — you have to have political opinions too?

But we, as people, are more than what we do — as performers, professors or plumbers — we also are, we also should be — participants in the larger life of society.

In the old days of the dominant movie studios, an artist wasn’t allowed to express political opinions. But with the breakup of the studio system, creative people gained independence. And with the rise of the women’s, environmental and gay rights movements, there has been an increase in artists who support liberal causes. Why is that?

Well, most artists turn up on the humanist, compassionate side of public debate, because this is consistent with the work we do. The basic task of the artist is to explore the human condition. In order to do what we do well, the writer, the director, the actor has to inhabit other people’s psyches, understand other people’s problems. We have to walk in other people’s shoes and live in other people’s skins. This does tend to make us more sympathetic to politics that are more tolerant. In our work, in our preparation, and in our research, we are continuously trying to educate ourselves. And with learning comes compassion. Education is the enemy of bigotry and hate. It’s hard to hate someone you truly understand.

Our participation in politics is a natural outgrowth of what we do, and it can and should be a responsible use of celebrity. Since we do have the ability to raise issues, reach people, and influence opinion, as with Charlton Heston lobbying against gun control and, thank God, for the NEA, we do have a greater responsibility to be informed.

I’m not here to defend everything that comes out of the entertainment industry. A lot of junk is produced; gratuitously violent, sexist, exploitative and debasing of the human spirit. I don’t like it and I won’t defend it. This is a profit-driven industry that produces the best and the worst in its attempt to find a market. If you notice the far right rarely attacks the violent movies — in fact, their candidates campaign alongside some of the major practitioners of this so-called art form.

What disturbs them is often the best work of the mass media. They have attacked programming, beginning with “All in the Family,” because it dealt with the controversial issues of racism and sexism. They attacked “Murphy Brown,” which represents a thoughtful attempt to deal with the reality that Americans now lead lives which, for better or for worse, are very different than the lives of Ozzie and Harriet.

Art is the signature of a generation; artists have a way of defining the times. Marion Anderson, singing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial because, as a black woman, she was forbidden to sing at Constitution Hall, forced Americans to confront the outrageousness of segregation. Art can illuminate, enlighten, inspire. Art finds a way to be constructive. It becomes heat in cold places; it becomes light in dark places.

When there was chaos in the Sixties, Bob Dylan said it was like “Blowin’ in the Wind.” During the riots of the Sixties, when people tried to explain the inexplicable, Aretha Franklin sang, simply what was being asked for, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

Then there are the movies that spoke for their times. The movie version of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” brought the sad reality of the Depression home to those who wanted to ignore it. In the 1940s, a movie called “Gentleman’s Agreement” raised the issue of anti-semitism in America. “In the Heat of the Night” was named Best Picture of 1967, and is remembered for its unsparing look at the issue of race. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” focused on buying votes and favors — a problem we still haven’t solved. A generation ago, “Inherit the Wind” took on the Scopes trial and the subordination of science to one narrow religious view — and the movie is powerfully relevant today in light of the Christian Coalition’s efforts to reintroduce creationism into the public school curriculum.

Just last year, we saw a motion picture called “Schindler’s List” bring the subject of the Holocaust to millions of people around the world. Steven Spielberg rescued it from fading newsreels and recast it in black and white film, which makes it vivid and real — and yes, undeniable.

Moviemakers can be late to a subject, or afraid, but often they are brave and ahead of their time. Artists were criticized for their involvement in the civil rights struggle and their early opposition to the Vietnam War. In those cases at least, I would suggest that the painters and performers were wiser than most pundits and politicians.

I’m not suggesting that actors run the country; we’ve already tried that. But I am suggesting, for example, that on the issue of AIDS, I would rather have America listen to Elizabeth Taylor, who had the courage to sponsor the first major fund-raiser against this dreaded disease, than to Jesse Helms, who has consistently fought legislation that would fund AIDS research.

Our role as artist is more controversial now because there are those, claiming the absolute authority of religion, who detest much of our work as much as they detest most of our politics. Instead of rationally debating subjects like abortion or gay rights, they condemn as immoral those who favor choice and tolerance. They disown their own dark side and magnify everyone else’s until, at the extreme, doctors are murdered in the name of protecting life. I wonder, who is this God they invoke, who is so petty and mean? Is God really against gun control and food stamps for poor children?

All people need spiritual values in their lives. But we can’t reduce the quest for eternal meaning to a right wing political agenda. What is dangerous about the far right is not that it takes religion seriously — most of us do — but rather that it condemns all other spiritual choices — the Buddhist, the Jew, the Muslim, and many others who consider themselves to be good Christians. The wall of separation between church and state is needed precisely because religion, like art, is too important a part of the human experience to be choked by the hands of censors.

Artists have long felt the stranglehold of censorship by officially established religions. A sixteenth century Pope ordered loincloths painted on the figures in Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment”; nineteenth century clerics damned Walt Whitman. Tolstoy was viewed as a heretic; and today, Islamic extremists, sanctioned by governments, are still hunting down Salman Rushdie.

It’s interesting that Americans applaud artists in other parts of the world for speaking out, in China for example. It’s very often the artist who gives a voice to the voiceless by speaking up when no one else will. The playwright Vaclev Havel went to jail because of that. Now he’s the president of his country.

I know that I can speak more eloquently through my work than through any speech I might give. So, as an artist, I’ve chosen to make films about subjects and social issues I care about, whether it’s dealing with the inequality of women in “Yentl,” or producing a film about Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer, who was discharged from the army for telling the truth about her sexuality. Her story reminded me of a line from George Bernard Shaw’s “St. Joan” that said “He who tells too much truth shall surely be hanged.” Hopefully we won’t be hanged for trying to dispel some of the myths about gays and lesbians when the film airs next week on network TV.

I promised myself I wouldn’t get too partisan here. Some of my best customers are Republicans. When I sang in Washington DC, I asked the audience for a show of party allegiance, and a majority turned out to be Republican. I should have known; who else could afford those ticket prices?

Fortunately, there are reasonable Republicans. But I am worried about the direction in which the new Congress now seeks to take the country. I’m worried about the name calling, the stereotypical labeling. I want to believe that these people have good intentions, but I think it was dangerous when Newt Gingrich developed a strategy in the last campaign of pitting President Clinton against so-called “normal Americans.” Just last week, the Speaker attacked again when he said, and I quote: “I fully expect Hollywood to have almost no concept of either normal American behavior, in terms of healthy families, healthy structures, religious institutions, conservative politics, the free enterprise system.”

This from a politician who holds up a Hollywood movie, “Boy’s Town,” as his answer to welfare reform? And how can he say that Hollywood doesn’t know anything about free enterprise? And why just this past Wednesday — was he trying to round up Hollywood celebrities to promote his agenda? But most of all, I deeply resent the notion that one politician or political party owns the franchise on family values, personal responsibility, traditional values and religion.

We are all normal Americans, even with our problems and complexities, including people in my community. We were not born in movie studios. We come from every part of this country and most of us are self-made. We’ve worked hard to get where we are and we don’t forget where we came from, whether it’s Iowa, Cincinnati or Brooklyn.

This notion of “normal Americans” has a horrible historical echo. It presupposes that there are “abnormal” Americans who are responsible for all that is wrong. The new scapegoats are members of what Gingrich calls the “Counterculture McGoverniks.”

I did a concert for George McGovern in 1972, and I still think that he would have made a better President than Richard Nixon. I’m disappointed that I’ve read so little in defense of McGovern. Was McGovern countercultural? This son of a Republican Methodist minister has been married to the same woman for 51 years and flew 35 combat missions in World War II. Isn’t it odd that his patriotism be disputed by a person who never served in the military and whose own family history can hardly be called exemplary. But then again — no one should have to conform to some mythical concept of the ideal family — not even Mr. Gingrich.

I must admit that I’m confused by this man’s thinking. He proposes taking children away from poor mothers and placing them in orphanages. If that’s an example of mainstream culture, let me say I’m happy to be a member of the counterculture.

I’m also very proud to be a liberal. Why is that so terrible these days? The liberals were liberators — they fought slavery, fought for women to have the right to vote, fought against Hitler, Stalin, fought to end segregation, fought to end apartheid. Thanks to liberals we have Social Security, public education, consumer and environmental protection, Medicare and Medicaid, the minimum wage law, unemployment compensation. Liberals put an end to child labor and they even gave us the 5 day work week! What’s to be ashamed of? Such a record should be worn as a badge of honor!

Liberals have also always believed in public support for the arts. At the height of the Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration, which helped struggling artists. Willem deKooning, Jackson Pollack, and John Cage were among those who benefited from the support of the WPA.

Art was a way out for me. I represent a generation of kids who happened to benefit from government support of the arts in public schools. I was a member of the choral club at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn. Sadly, this current generation of young people does not have the same opportunities.

How can we accept a situation in which there are no longer orchestras, choruses, libraries or art classes to nourish our children? We need more support for the arts, not less — particularly to make this rich world available to young people whose vision is choked by a stark reality. How many children, who have no other outlet in their lives for their grief, have found solace in an instrument to play or a canvas to paint on? When you take into consideration the development of the human heart, soul and imagination, don’t the arts take on just as much importance as math or science?

What can I say: I have opinions. No one has to agree. I just like being involved. After many years of self-scrutiny, I’ve realized that the most satisfying feelings come from things outside myself. And I believe that people from any walk of life, when they stand up for their convictions, can do almost anything — stop wars, end injustices, and even defeat entrenched powers.

As the difference between the elections of 1992 and 1994 shows, the outcome is not pre-ordained; progress, whatever your definition of it, is not inevitable. I thought this current administration was doing a helluva good job: reducing the deficit by 700 billion dollars, creating 6 million jobs, downsizing government and passing a significant amount of important legislation. I’m not a policy wonk, but that’s the way I see it.

Most artists are not experts, but all of us are something more. As President Carter said in 1980, “In a few days, I will lay down my official responsibilities in this office, to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of President, the title of citizen.”

We also need to keep in mind some words spoken by the man for whom this school of government is named. President Kennedy said he valued so much what artists could give because they “knew the midnight as well as the high noon [and] understood the ordeal as well as the triumph of the human spirit.” He also said, “In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.”

By the way, President Kennedy was the first to suggest the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Well aware that art can be controversial, he concluded, “[the artist] must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role.”

But in 1995, I continue to believe it is an indispensable one — that artists, especially those who have had success, and have won popularity in their work, not only have the right, but the responsibility, to risk the unpopularity of being committed and active.

We receive so much from our country; we can and should give something back.

So, until women are treated equally with men, until gays and minorities are not discriminated against and until children have their full rights, artists must continue to speak out. I will be one of them. Sorry, Rush, Newt and Jesse, but the artist as citizen is here to stay.


Barbra Streisand's speech republished under fair use exemption for educational purposes. 

President Obama – Farewell, We Will Miss You!

President Obama gave his farewell speech today in Chicago, the video is below. After eight years of having a president that geniunely cared about people and didn't seem to have any hidden agendas, he will surely be missed, especially by his supporters. I suspect that after President Elect Trump has been in office for a while, even some of President Obama detractors will begin missing him as well. 

Prior to becoming president, Senator Barack Obama ran a near perfect campaign devoid of any major mistakes. While running for re-election, the worst thing many of his opponents and detractors could say about him was that he was too nice. 

President Barack Obama will leave office without ever having been marred by a single scandal or embarrassment during his eight years in the White House. He has achieved icon status and is a hero in the eyes of many. Obama set the bar pretty high for future presidents and his presidency will influence this country for decades because of the positive example he has provided to younger generations.

Below is a video of people expressing their favorite Obama moment and a short essay, with some edits, that my oldest son wrote last year concerning Obama's legacy.



Obama's Legacy

What do you think President Obama’s legacy will be in 50 years?  What will be seen as his main accomplishments? Failures?

When then Senator Obama was running for president, my father, mother, brother and I went downtown to hear him speak on the grounds of the St. Louis arch. It was a chilly morning and my family stopped for hot chocolate as we walked to the St. Louis River Front to hear his speech.

When we first arrived, there was a thin crowd, but by the time Obama appeared, I was amazed at the size of the crowd. News reports estimated 100,000 people attended that speech. There was an electricity in the air throughout a very diverse crowd. I remember seeing people in the crowd crying both black and white. I was a freshman in high school and I remember thinking, that it was too bad that I wasn't old enough to vote for the person who might become the first black President of the United States.

I believe President Obama will be viewed as one of America's great Presidents. His most obvious legacy is being the first African American President, which many people prior to his election didn't believe was possible. President Obama made good on his main campaign promises of health care and ending the Iraq war, he also:

  • Prevented another great depression,
  • provided the biggest middle class tax cut in history,
  • restored confidence and improved America's image abroad,
  • saved the auto industry,
  • expanded Stem cell research,
  • improved fuel efficiency standards,
  • captured Osama Bin Laden,
  • provided payment to cheated minority farmers thru the Claims Resolution Act,
  • ended don't ask – don't tell in the military,
  • reformed student loans,
  • reformed credit cards,
  • passed Wall Street reforms,
  • created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,
  • ended President Bush's Torture policies,
  • signed a new START Treaty with Russia,
  • increased support for veterans,
  • secured the border,
  • cracked down on predator practices of "for profit colleges,"
  • got almost every state to reformed education through the Race to the Top incentive program,
  • passed the Food Safety Modernization Act,
  • passed Fair Sentencing Act (making cocaine sentencing a little more fair),
  • appointed two highly qualified Supreme Court Justices,
  • Invested more in green energy than ever before,
  • improved school nutrition thru the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act,
  • expanded Hate Crimes Protections: Signed Hate Crimes Prevention Act,
  • expanded DOJ focus on ‘implicit’ or ‘unconscious’ bias, by police officers and departments
  • renewed relations with Cuba,
  • for more see: 400 Obama Accomplishments

Unfortunately, people have short memories, they have forgotten how bad the situation was when Senator Obama was elected President. The world economy was in danger of collapse because of bad bank investments. Much of the world had lost faith in the United States and the election of President Obama almost single handedly provided renewed faith in the United States. Obama even started working on solutions before he was inaugurated. Black people in this country who have for centuries been enslaved, oppression and denied opportunity had proof that hope and "change" had actually occurred.

President Obama's main failure was not providing better protection for home owners during the banking crisis. When he bailed out banks, he should have also bailed out home owners. Millions of people lost their homes because the banks who got bailed out with tax money only cared about greater profits.

People who thought President Obama was somehow going to wave a magic wand and make all their problems disappear had unreasonable expectations. Even though the President of the United States is considered the most powerful man in the world, his power has limits which can be checked by either the Congress or the Supreme Court.  

Over the past eight years of his presidency, President Obama has responded exceptionally to a number of crises including: the financial crisis and war he inherited, the nation's first Ebola cases, multiple mass shooting events. I was especially moved when he stated, "If I had a son, he would have looked liked Travon Martin" and when he sent his Attorney General, Eric Holder in response to the Ferguson Protest to access the situation and provide assurance that an investigation would occur. In fact, I was surprised to learn about all the work that the Attorney General was doing to reduce incidents of unfair policing even before Ferguson. Obama's $800 billion economic stimulus can only be compared to President Roosevelt's New Deal.

President Obama has provided an entire generation the image of a black president. My 16 year old brother and those younger than him, don't really remember any President other than Obama, so they will never see becoming President as an impossibility.


Black Men Still Predominant Victims Of Police Violence In 2016

by Lauren McCauley

Efforts by the Justice Department under President Barack Obama to improve accountability are likely to be dashed under Trump administration

Of the 1,091 killings, officers were charged with crimes in relation to 18 deaths from 2016. (Photo: FuseBoxRadio/cc/flickr)

Despite the protests, media scrutiny, and all around heightened national attention, young black men in 2016 continued to be the predominant victims of police violence in the United States.

According to year-end figures published Sunday by the Guardian database The Counted, "[b]lack males aged 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers last year," and were "killed at four times the rate of young white men."

Overall, the number police killings fell slightly—1,091 last year, according to the Guardian tally, from 1,146 in 2015—but the pattern of brutality has remained consistent. (see footnote)

Of those, "officers were charged with crimes in relation to 18 deaths from 2016, along with several others from the previous year," the report noted. "These charges included the arrests of officers involved in the high-profile killings of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Philando Castile near St Paul, Minnesota."

Following another troubling trend, many fatalities occurred when police were called in to help deescalate a conflict or situation.

"One in every five people killed by police in 2016 was mentally ill or in the midst of a mental health crisis when they were killed," the Guardian reported, and the same percentage of deaths "started with calls reporting domestic violence or some other domestic disturbance."

Further, almost 29 percent "developed from police trying to pull over a vehicle or approaching someone in public, including some potential suspects for crimes."

The newspaper notes that their total "is again more than twice the FBI's annual number of "justifiable homicides" by police, counted in recent years under a voluntary system allowing police to opt out of submitting details of fatal incidents."

With a dearth of public accountability for such incidents, media efforts like The Counted and one by the Washington Posthave attempted to fill that void. But, as the Guardian observed, efforts by the Justice Department under President Barack Obama to improve its system are likely to be dashed with the incoming Trump administration.

Particularly concerning for many is the president-elect's nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general, which both the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have vowed to fight.

An analysis published this week by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law highlighted Session's regressive stance on criminal justice reform as well as his deep skepticism of federal involvement in state and local affairs, including policing. "As Attorney General, he could end or significantly curtail these investigations," the Center noted.


This article was republished with permission under license from CommonDreams.


Footnote

Divide and Conquer – The State of Black Politics in St. Louis

Yesterday was the last day to declare candidacy for the March 7th primary election in the City of St. Louis. Unfortunately, it looks like the black political leadership in St. Louis, has fallen for the ancient strategy of divide and conquer and is about to throw away the chance to demonstrate it can take charge and bring about positive change.

Divide and conquer is a strategy of maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The strategy includes causing rivalries and division to prevent smaller groups from linking up to break up existing power structures.

St. Louis is a majority black city and there was a legitimate chance for a black candidate to become mayor resulting in a major power shift. Power is not centralized in the mayor's office. The charter of St. Louis provides the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (BOE&A) with the power to approve all City real estate purchases, appropriations, and the City's annual operating budget. The BOE&A consist of three citywide office holders:

  • Mayor
  • Comptroller
  • President of the Board of Alderman

If the City of St. Louis elects a black mayor, it would mark the first time in the city's history that the BOE&A was all black. An all black board doesn't guarantee it won't be business as usual, but there would be some added incentive for a collective black Board of Estimates and Apportionment to concentrate more on issues affecting black residents. In a city as racially segregated and polarized as St. Louis is, in the era of Trump, it would be a nice change of pace, especially considering the city just elected a black sheriff and its first black prosecutor, not to mention its black treasurer and license collector. 

One of the most refreshing aspects would be that a black mayor would have control of the police department and could direct resources where the most crime occurs. I would expect a black mayor to deploy additional economic resources and services rather than just increasing police presence. North St. Louis has never recovered from the unofficial implementation of the Team Four Plan.

Unfortunately, that change of pace may never happen. The democratic primary winner will most like become the next mayor of St. Louis. There are seven candidates, five of whom are black. 

  • Antonio French
  • Lewis Reed
  • Jeffrey L. Boyd
  • Tishaura O. Jones
  • Jimmie Matthews

All five black candidates enjoy at least some name recognition. Four of the candidates are viable and three are particularly strong. However, it is almost a mathematical certainty that these five candidates will dilute the black vote thereby assuring the strongest white democratic candidate (either Lyda Krewson or William “Bill” Haas) the mayor's office. 

It is unfortunate that the four candidates who work in the same building everyday didn't get together and decide to rally behind one candidate so that a collaborative agenda could be achieved. Instead, an all chiefs and no Indians attitude will most likely result in none of the five candidates being elected. I suspect that a meeting was held between potential white candidates which may explain why police chief Dotson decided not to run.

Each of the candidates has every right to seek the office of mayor. However, every election cycle the candidates ask the voters to go to the polls and support them. In exchange for our support, it is expected that our elected officials will work in the best interest of those whom elected them to office.

These elected officials owed a duty to make certain their constituents best interests were protected. As a community, we have a special set of needs that have gone ignored far too long.

There was an excellent opportunity to build a coalition to ensure a mayor who would genuinely look out for our best interest would be elected. Instead, these candidates are now divided and have become adversaries in pursuit of an office that none of them stand much chance of winning. Even the St. Louis Post Dispatch warned how multiple candidates could dilute the black vote. Their loss will be a loss for us all. I expected our black political leaders to be smarter. "A house divided against itself cannot stand".

Billionaire President Equals Massive Military Industrial Complex Profits

In less than three weeks, President-Elect Trump will be sworn into office, on January 20, 2017. Billionaires used to be content by controlling power from behind the scenes, but not anymore. Billionaires have effectively overthrown the U.S. Government

According to Title 3 of the US Code, the US President "shall earn" a salary of  $400,000, along with a $50,000 annual expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment. In a tweet, Trump stated, "I won't take even one dollar. I'm totally giving up my salary if I become president," but later stated on "60 Minutes" that he would take a $1 salary because the law required him to.

Billionaires earn a tremendous amount money, some as much as $37 million dollars per day. So why does a billionaire who has a history and reputation for looking out for only himself suddenly decide to spend $66 million of his own money and give up his huge earning potential to become president? 

Trump hasn't even donated to his own foundation since 2008, which is currently under multiple investigations.

Common sense requires you to consider a profit motive especially considering the President-Elect is also the author of "The Art of the Deal". As President, Trump gains incredible bargaining power with bankers, governments, and others. Trump has an estimated billion dollar debt including $300 million with Deutsche Bank which he recently renegotiated. Deutsche is currently under investigation by the U.S. Attorney General’s Office over stock trades for Russian customers. As President, Trump will choose the next Attorney General, Trump would then be the the Attorney General's boss, a significant bargaining chip.

Defense Contractors – The Military Industrial Complex

In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower tried to warn the American public during his farewell speech to beware of the military-industrial complex. The "War Dogs" clip on our "War is a Racket" page mentions, "war is an economy; anybody who tells you otherwise is either in on or stupid". If profits are your motivation, there is not a greater engine for profits than war.

War disproportionate affects poor and minority populations. People with limited opportunities are drawn to the military more than any other segment of society. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed a chilling sentiment about war that could just as easy be expressed today; see the clip below from the documentary, "War Made Easy".

I have two draft-age sons. When Trump makes incendiary statements toward other nations, I am naturally concerned about future ramifications for my sons. Trump had a stellar education which included: The Kew-Forest School, New York Military Academy, Fordham University and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, so I have no reason to believe he doesn't understand that his statements have consequences. If he understands, those consequences are part of his stategy or end game.

Trump may be the sort of billionaire mentioned in chapter 2 of "None Dare Call it Conspiracy". Trump may even have a king complex, any chess player knows that all the other pieces on the board ultimate sacrifice themselves in defense of the king. I am not interested in my son's or the sons and daughters of others, being used as pawns to increase someone else's profits.

Nuclear Buildup

Trump has mentioned expanding the United States nuclear capacity. From a profit standpoint, nothing comes close to nuclear armaments.

 One-third of the Energy Department’s budget is allocated to nuclear weapons. The United States spends an average of $20 billion per year on its nuclear arsenal. The U.S. hasn't built a new warhead since 1990, however, many of the existing warheads are being refurbished at a cost of $2 – $20 million each depending on the type. Recently, the Pentagon said it needs $200 billion dollars to modernize it's U.S. nuclear weapons.

Imagine a scenario where the United States spends hundreds of billions, maybe even trillions to build up our nuclear capacity then later sign another non-proliferation agreement where we spend billions more decommissioning many of those weapons. Can you imagine a more profitable situation? There is no profit if nukes are used, but building and then destroying nukes – very profitable.

Trump once made the following statement about Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi: "I rented him a piece of land. He paid me more for one night than the land was worth for two years, and then I didn't let him use the land," Trump boasted. "That's what we should be doing. I don't want to use the word 'screwed', but I screwed him." 

Now imagine a defense contractor that made hundreds of billions in profits during Trump's tenure paying billions of dollars for real estate owned by Trump years from now. See the Huffington's Post "10 Well-Kept Secrets That All Billionaires Know".

Fake News

Independent journalist using cell phones equipped with a camera and video capability have transformed how people get information. Social media brought attention to incidents that major media probably may not have even noticed on its own. The killings of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, and others may have gone unnoticed if not but for cell phones and social media. 

Major media is controlled by members of the billionaire's boys club and those billionaires have lost some media influence and they want it back. Calling into question the reporting of independent journalists by labeling their product as "fake news" is an attempt to regain total control of the narrative.

Denzel Washington recently responded to a question concerning "fake news" by quoting Mark Twain, “If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're mis-informed.”

As we mentioned in our recent corporation post, there are five corporations that control most major media outlets. Major media originally questioned whether President Elect Trump and Russian President Putin were friends.  Then the narrative changed and suddenly there is talk of sanctions and retaliation against Russia

There is a long tradition of "fake news" from the mainstream media. Since the revolutionary war, the government has used propaganda, censored information and news under the guise of national security. The Declaration of Independence contained a compelling piece of propaganda, “All men are created equal,” which conveniently ignored slaves.

The Committee on Public Information was established during the first World War. During World War II there was an official office of censorship that the CIA reports even reprimanded the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

After Pearl Harbor, Americans had a strong sense of why the U.S. had entered the war, but by 1942, a poll showed 30% of the population had doubts. The Office of War Information began a propaganda campaign of "presenting the war in simple terms of good versus evil".

The top 50 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas contain more than a million people each, the next 50 largest contain at least half a million each and there are an additional 250 areas with at least 100,000 people. However, turn on the evening news and the same few stories are being reported by all the major networks. You would think that a country with 50 states and a population of more than 345 million people would have a number of diverse and interesting stories every day.

The real fake news story is major networks ignoring major stories that independent journalist seem to have no problem finding and reporting to same news as all the other networks. There are fake news stories in both mainstream and independent media. Use common sense and critical thinking to determine for yourself what is relevant and what is true.

Nothing would make me happier than for Trump to end up becoming a great president and for some of my assumptions and opinions to be wrong. I won't, however, hold my breath while we wait to find out. 


War Made Easy – How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us To Death

The full 2007 documentary that attempted to show the parallels between the Vietnam war and the war in Iraq and expose how the American government used the media as a propaganda tool.