That the budget nightmare currently plaguing the School District of Philadelphia was fully predictable does not make it any less devastating.
Long before he took office, then-candidate Corbett made no secret of his intention to slash public education, which has long been the Republican Party’s prime example of taxpayer-funded waste. Corbett cited as his hero neighboring freshman governor Chris Christie, who at that time was engaged in his own power struggle with schools, teachers and public employees in general.
In fact, when the new crop of GOP governors and state legislators sailed into office on the Red Tide of 2010, they all made pretty much the same moves: Vilify public employees, slash education and crush collective bargaining. From Wisconsin to Ohio to New Jersey, they’ve kept their promises — all while managing to keep millionaires and big corporations safe from taxes and regulations.
They told us what they would do if we allowed them to take office — then they did it. For that, the blame does not fall upon them, or even upon those who voted for them.
Blame falls upon those in the opposing party who, hearing those campaign promises and understanding the horrific consequences, stood by and watched it happen. If you’re a Democrat who failed to vote in the last election, that includes you.
And don’t give me the same old tired excuses, so hackneyed and shop worn the rest of us can recite them by heart: “It doesn’t matter if I vote. Those politicians are going to do what they want to do anyway.” Or: “It’s all a scam, and they’re all corrupt, so what difference does it make?” And my favorite, which will become especially frightening next November: “[insert candidate] is going to win anyway, so my one vote isn’t going to make a difference.”
These are self-fulfilling prophecies. If you don’t vote, then yes, the other side will win, and yes, they’re going to turn you upside down and shake you until the change falls from your pockets. They’re going to reward their friends and punish their enemies, and hammer an agenda you naively thought they’d never get away with.
So when Gov. Corbett announced the state’s newest budget this week, you had to have some idea of what to expect. It’s a lot like last year’s budget, with an extra kick to the ribs of poor people.
The slow dismantling of public education is not a new agenda item. It’s just that the GOP has been previously thwarted in their efforts by vigilant advocates —– whose voices are drowned out now that they’re outnumbered.
That too, is partly our own fault. We allowed the GOP to gain the high ground on the thorny issue of public education finances, which is the basis of their subsequent slash-and-burn budgets.
We stood idly by while cronies, insiders, political patrons and friends-of-friends benefited from contracts and services on the school district’s dime. We knew they were shady, and we knew they were essentially stealing money from classrooms and programs in desperate need. We cringed, but said nothing, whenever someone was caught with their hand in the cookie jar — even remaining silent while they inevitably produced crocodile tears and phony cries of “What about the children?” to silence critics.
Well, the chickens have come home to roost, and the fact is that those adults who have been gaming the system for personal profit for years don’t care any more about the children than the current crop of right wing hatchet men who are determined to gut public education. The school district was a cash cow, and we looked the other way while they milked her dry.
Believe it or not, though, there is still some good that may come out of all this.
Remember the look of sadness on those children’s faces when we tell them there’s no after school programs. Remember how art, music, sports and extracurricular activities enriched your own educational experience as you watch those programs wither and die.
Then use this as an example of what happens when we get complacent. This is our payback for not organizing well enough, for not getting out the vote when we should have, and for not sounding the alarm loud enough when we realized they were going to close more schools and build more prisons.
This coming November, and in the next statewide election, ask yourself whether public education is worth it, and vote accordingly. Do nothing, and…
Well, we’ve seen what happens when we do nothing.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
As the Republican National Convention moved into full swing, the Obama campaign swung through Pennsylvania this week — in a three-day bus tour — contrasting President Barack Obama to his challengers Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
The bus, bulging with dignitaries — some of whom had ridden just a few blocks down Broad Street from the Union League at Broad and Sansom Street — rolled into town, the final stop on a statewide tour that started Monday in Erie.
Participants in the tour, dubbed, “Romney Economics Wrong for the Middle Class,” pummeled Romney and Ryan on their proposed economic policies.
“They do want to take America back,” Mayor Michael Nutter said, riffing on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s convention speech. “Back to the failed economic policies that got us here in the first place.”
The tour, which travelled through Pittsburgh, Johnstown, State College and Scranton, among others, provided a diversion for Democrats during the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., which has dominated the airways and news cycles all week, with numerous party bigwigs from Gov. Chris Christie to vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan criticizing the president for everything.
In his convention speech Wednesday night Ryan blasted the president and his economic policies.
“President Obama is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record, and then calls that the record,” said Ryan. “But we are four years into this presidency. The issue is not the economy as Barack Obama inherited it, not the economy as he envisions it, but this economy as we are living it.”
The city’s Democratic establishment hastened to disagree, charging that Republican policies would destroy the middle class.
“It’s Robin Hood in reverse,” said City Council Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr., referring to Romney’s time as head of Bain Capital. “He steals from the poor to give to his rich friends. He would do the same thing in the White House.”
And though Philadelphia politicians made up the bulk of the group, two legislators from Massachusetts — who had travelled the length of Pennsylvania — spoke about Romney’s tenure as governor of their state.
“Romney economics didn’t work then, and it won’t work now,” said Massachusetts state Rep. Jeffery Sanchez, telling reporters that while Romney was governor of the state, 40,000 jobs were lost and the state fell to 47th in job creation.
“What has Mitt Romney ever built but million dollar bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands?” he asked.
The arrival of the bus was the culmination of several events in Philadelphia this week as the Obama campaign continued to hammer at the Romney–Ryan ticket.
A number of smaller but related events were held throughout the week, singling out specific topics for attack. For example, on Tuesday, actress Tatyana Ali, former star of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, appeared with Councilwoman Marian Tasco to urge women to vote for Obama.
Ali, the daughter of immigrants, dismissed remarks Ann Romney made at the convention talking about the struggles she and her husband had early in their marriage.
“I don’t think they have any idea what it takes to pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” Ali said.
Pennsylvania is a key state in the November 6 contest. Most polls show Obama leading Romney but it’s too early to tell if the convention will provide the usual upswing in poll numbers for the Romney ticket.
Christie, in his convention speech, dismissed the polls, saying Republicans would reverse the numbers.
“Real leaders don’t follow polls. Real leaders change polls,” he said. “That’s what we need to do now. Change polls through the power of our principles.”
The Republicans have outpaced Obama and the Democrats in the last three months of fund-raising. Since June, Obama has raised $75 million while the Republicans have hauled in more than $101 million.
Normally diverging on just about every issue, there’s one topic President Barack Obama and conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh agree on: the Republican Party may implode if Obama wins reelection.
There was Limbaugh in September, sweating profusely and predicting the end of the world immediately following an Obama victory. But, he didn’t stop there, lambasting GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney for “not running a conservative campaign.”
And it wasn’t just Romney. “There's gonna be a new Republican Party if that happens,” growled the red-faced commentator. Limbaugh believes that the “new GOP” is “… gonna be led by Tea Party people.”
“There's no ‘if’ about this. It's gonna be ugly, it's gonna be gut wrenching, but it will happen.”
Two months later, while battling for re-election, President Obama chimed in on the subject, momentarily digressing from his campaign speech. "The question’s going to be: How do Republicans react post-election? Because there’s going to be a war going on inside that party. It just hasn’t broken up. It’s been unified in its opposition to me."
Each statement, and the tension in between, seems to validate the other on the surface. Limbaugh may have been channeling Tea Party rank-and-file frustration at the time, a need to openly whine about a deliberate and carefully orchestrated isolation game played by “Establishment Republicans” during their convention in Tampa, Fla. Many Tea Party faithful were telling the Tribune at the time that they knew what was up, didn’t appreciate it and would find some way to make those responsible pay. Many pointed to “country club” GOP icons like Crossroads GPS Super PAC king Karl Rove as a culprit. Rove, not mincing words over his clear distaste for upstarts like Sarah Palin — and others like Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin who wore down the GOP brand, seemed impervious to the threats while raising loads of money.
Yet, other GOP insiders are clearly trembling at the thought of a party in disarray, unlike anything seen since its founding in 1854. At that time, it was a fragmented coalition of Whigs, Democrats, Free Soilers and Know Nothings.
Some predict a similar situation in the event President Obama, a reviled and supremely hated target of the ideological right, gets his second term.
“There are a number of Republicans who are not and have not been happy with the Republican Party for a while,” said Timothy F. Johnson, founder of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, and a former vice chair of the North Carolina Republican Party. Talking to the Tribune, Johnson predicted an implosion within the party when either candidate wins the White House. “[Black Republican conservatives] are tired of having to speak for candidates who are unwilling to go into our communities or speak directly to the citizens. And while the overall objective of this election cycles is to remove President Obama from office, repeal Obamacare and get the economy back on track, regardless of who is elected there will be a revolt.”
Of course, it’s not just Black Republicans. Polls have remained tight for some time, and Republican strategists seem to have a nervous edge about them. Early voting returns favor the president, prompting Romney to recalibrate. Worried about a loss of advantage in critical battleground states like Ohio and Florida, Team Romney shifts to battle Team Obama on its left flank, engaging in an expanded map strategy as resources are being dumped into last minute campaign ad barrages in light blue states like Pennsylvania and Minnesota.
Many experts agree that there is a rising fear among poll-number crunching Republicans that Obama could win. A recent endorsement of the president from the traditionally right-leaning and pro-big business magazine The Economist jarred many conservatives into disbelief. That was in the wake of a surprise endorsement from former-Republican-turned-centrist-independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who suddenly became an Obama fan after what was perceived as an effective federal emergency response to Superstorm Sandy’s devastation.
And there was widespread disbelief from partisans on both sides of the aisle when an emotional New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie openly bear-hugged the president in multiple press conferences and interviews for his “personal attention” to the Sandy destruction on the Jersey shore. That was only days following a loud Christie on the pro-Romney trail blasting Obama as clueless and inept.
Still, Republican strategist and Potomac Strategy Group CEO Matt Mackowiak appears cautious on the GOP-implosion scenario. While conventional wisdom will blame conservatives, “the loss will not be seen as a rebuke to conservatism,” Mackowiak says, “but rather to a moderate candidate.”
“Party elders will seek to solve the immigration issue within the party, to ensure we not continue to lose such a large percentage of the growing Hispanic population. More broadly, the effect of a grand bargain, which could include tax increases, will threaten to split the party, but also potentially allow space for a true conservative candidate to be our nominee in 2016,” Mackowiak adds.
“Parties that lose back-to-back presidential elections often go through a period of change,” says former 2008 Obama co-chair and Colorado Senate President Peter Groff, who believes it won’t be as bad for the GOP as it seems. “The Democrats went more moderate after losing twice to Ronald Reagan and built the Democratic Leadership Council and ‘created’ Bill Clinton and leaned more left after going down twice to George W. Bush. So it makes perfect sense that the GOP will look inward after back-to-back wins by President Obama.”
“I don't buy the fact the party will be ‘ripped apart’ by the internal conversation, political parties are living entities and morph and change to better reflect their principals in modern times,” said Groff.
Washington Times columnist Jeneba Ghatt rejects the notion of an implosion, but definitely sees a need for change within the GOP in terms of demographics. “I’ve been under the presumption that if Barack Obama is re-elected, the Establishment Republicans would perhaps regain the reigns of their party, having realized that pandering to the extreme is a losing game.”
Laverne Williams, 65, has seen a lot of crime in Camden in her day.
Gunshot wounds, muggings, rapes, burglaries. In Camden, such assaults on the sensibilities of residents are not unusual.
Yet Williams, born and raised in Camden, said last week that the worst crime would be to let the Camden County government take over the Camden City police department as state and county officials have pushed to do in recent weeks.
City and county officials, however, contend that unless control of the department is put in the hands of the county, patrolling the streets of Camden will be too expensive and crime and violence will continue to increase.
“Camden has been named the most dangerous city in the nation year after year,” said Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. in explaining the necessity for the takeover. “The status quo can no longer be tolerated.”
The bulk of Camden’s budget, in this predominantly Black and Hispanic 9-square-mile city of 80,000, is designated for police and public safety. Each year, the price tag on those items continues to swell, even after a state takeover of the city. And each year, Camden’s annual deficit has grown as well.
According to Cappelli, the new policing system would be a regional plan that would begin primarily by policing Camden, and would expand to other county municipalities on a voluntary basis. Similar regional plans have been implemented in other states, such as Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.
He said 30 years ago Camden County’s 911 went to a regional system and most municipalities have since joined.
But the battle over whether to convert to such a system continues to be waged, with residents such as Williams viewing the move as a political maneuver that will bring in more outsiders to fill Camden jobs.
Several weeks ago, citizens such as Eulisis Delgado, Vance Bowman, Larry Gilliams, Mary Cortes and Robert Davis — known as the Camden Five — tried to “Save the Camden Police Department” by attempting to use a petition drive to put an ordinance in place to block a county takeover.
The drive aimed to prohibit the disbanding of the city police department for a county-wide police department.
The Camden Five managed to obtain close to 5,000 signatures in a first failed drive, but the petition list was thrown out on a technicality.
The same group came back within three days, managing to obtain 2,800 signatures, with enough clout to get an ordinance on the Council agenda for May 8.
But that ordinance was withdrawn by Council after a last minute drive by Mayor Dana Redd and City Council President Frank Moran to block the petition drive through a temporary restraining order obtained through the Camden County Superior Court, which set a hearing date of June 11 for the issue to be discussed.
In the June 11 hearing, the courts will decide whether to fully block the ordinance, or schedule a referendum on July 11 to let voters decide up or down on the issue of the police takeover.
Williams, a longtime activist, told City Council last week that the worst crime would have been to “negate the will of the people,” take the city’s police department away from the residents, and put the department under the operation of the county.
“We’re losing our police department,” Williams said during Camden’s Council meeting last week. “For what? It’s the politicians. I’m sick and tired of it.”
Williams was referring to the fact that Mayor Redd and Councilman Moran have sided with the county in its bid to take over the city police.
Redd and Moran have said they are aligned with county and New Jersey Governor. Chris Christie in what they say is a bid to help “streamline” government to make it more efficient and save costs.
Those opposed, like FOP president John Williamson, say the reorganization and takeover of the Camden police department is nothing more than “union-busting” and that it would be bad for the public because experienced officers would be replaced with inexperienced ones on the streets.
The plan would disband the current department and call back potentially 49 percent of the current force. Hiring less than half of the original force would avoid the provisions of an expired contract, county officials said.
The effort to take over Camden’s police department began after police unions and the city failed to agree on negotiations and compromises in this impoverished city, which depends on the state to fill 70 percent of its budget.
The impasse contributed to the layoff of 168 officers — nearly half the department — in January of 2011. Some were rehired, but 80 to 90 officers have left the force for retirement and other reasons.
The plan would begin as a metro division that would police only Camden, thereby raising the number of officers on the street from the current 280 to around 400.
Camden regularly ranks among the nation’s highest-crime cities.
The plan, which has been under study for several months, could reduce costs while keeping salaries at current levels and making the department more effective.
Under an agreement with the state announced last August, the county has until Sept. 30 to submit a plan to the state Department of Community Affairs for reorganization.
Some officials say crime may be edging up as a result of layoffs already in place.
Camden County prosecutor Warren W. Faulk, in previous published reports, has said it is hard to pinpoint a cause and effect.
“We can’t make a direct connection between the layoffs and that increase,” Faulk said, “but those assaults give you the impression they feel emboldened that there is not a police officer around the corner, or within earshot.”
The layoffs of nearly half the department in Camden took place at a time when some said residents were beginning to feel safer. In the last two years, Camden recorded fewer than 40 murders, significantly less than the 54 murders of 2008, when the city was ranked the most dangerous in America, according to a widely quoted survey.
Then a $14 million deficit in the Police Department’s budget, combined with failed union negotiations, led to the layoffs, which left Camden with 204 police officers, its smallest department since 1949.
Forced to restructure the department after the layoffs, Chief Thomson demoted many of his senior officers to patrol duty. As other cities reckon with budget deficits and mounting pension costs, he says he believes his counterparts in other cities will find themselves working under the same constraints as he now does.
Local NAACP head Kelly Francis and former councilman Ali Sloan El, two of those spearheading the drive, argue that the move is merely an effort to tighten county machine control over the city.
“It’s all about power and control,” said Francis.
The police department has been under state control. Nonetheless, problems in the department have persisted.
According to Francis, “There are no figures [for the takeover]. No plans. The only plan is that they have to lay off 51 percent of the current officers to negate control of the union. It’s union busting. That way the contract will be null and void.”
John Williamson, president of Camden’s Fraternal Order of Police, the city’s largest police union, said no one on the current force has less than 12 years of experience.
“You’re going to take 12 years of experience in dealing with what we deal with and totally eliminate it to bring a new police force in,” Williamson said. “To me that’s turning Camden into an occupied territory.”
According to Francis, “The other 36 municipalities want no part of it.”
Though officials could not be reached before press time, officials in those other municipalities, according to recent reports, fear they will be left holding the bag in Camden, paying to police Camden while the number of officers patrolling their towns would shrink. County officials deny that would happen.
Some unwelcome news radiating from the long July 4th holiday involved a Philly teen shooting two other teens near the Parkway festivities and New Jersey’s governor shooting off his mouth — again.
Last Wednesday evening teen shooter, Nafis Scott, 16, of Germantown, reportedly got into a tiff in Center City resulting in his [allegedly] shooting a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old, both in the legs.
Scott fled the shooting but while fleeing Scott [allegedly] fired at pursuing police who shot him, taking him to a hospital under arrest.
A day later, N.J. Governor Chris Christie, while on a Jersey shore vacation, reacted angrily to a man criticizing his controversial educational policies with yet another angry-toned outburst that landed as a video on national television.
Christie’s latest verbal assault came days after he called a reporter an “idiot” for asking a question Christie didn’t like, a more than a week after Republican Christie called Democratic legislators “liars” and four months after Christie verbally drop-kicked an Iraq War vet for questioning a controversial college realignment plan Christie endorsed.
Christie is the same political bully who relishes receipt of conservative praise for his verbal beating-downs on female teachers who raise legitimate questions about his falsehood-filled postures on public education.
Typical of perversions rampant in today’s society this latest temper tantrum from Christie drew ever-more cheers in circles that routinely applaud his indignant political style while Scott rightfully received condemnation as out-of-control needing incarceration.
Yes, these perversions result in the bombastic N.J. Brawler and the [alleged] teen shooter eliciting different societal responses despite both exhibiting the same symptom: individuals unable to control themselves unleashing a hair-trigger contempt against anyone perceived as challenging them.
While there is no comparison between shooting someone with a gun and someone shooting off their mouth, there is no denying some impact on impressionable youth from seeing political officials like Christie exult in piggish behaviors.
Politicians, particularly conservatives like Christie, love to lecture teens (especially non-whites) about the need for talking things out instead of resorting to confrontations.
Yet, those same politicians see no duplicity in their publicly engaging in confrontations that ooze lack of civility — confrontations contributing to teens acting in similar ways.
American politicians love to act tough, particularly against the powerless and poor.
For the past three decades too many American politicians have fallen over each other in their rush to be tough by enacting stiff punishment for teens under the charge of holding kids strictly accountable for their actions.
That strict accountability standard interestingly is not applied to corporations that commit crimes, even crimes causing deaths.
America, for example, was the only nation on earth to sentence juveniles to life-without-parole prison terms for involvement in fatal offenses (even remote involvement) until late last month.
A few weeks ago the U.S. Supreme Court ended the outrage in over two dozen states and the federal system of burying teens in prison when it ruled that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment.
Given the pervasive race bias in America’s criminal justice system it’s not surprising that most of the 2,500-plus teen lifers in the U.S. are African-American.
In Pennsylvania — the state with the largest teen-lifer population — 70 percent of the juvenile lifers are African-American and nine percent are Hispanic.
The teens who politicians hold strictly accountable cannot even reason rationally according to scientific evidence about juvenile brain development now recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court that utilized that evidence when recently outlawing juvenile mandatory life without parole and previously outlawing juvenile life for non-homicides and the death penalty for juveniles.
Contrast this hard-line on teen crime with the soft-peddle given crimes committed by corporations.
Now when corporations want to overwhelm the electoral process with their enormous money conservatives want corporations legally considered as ‘persons.’
However, when corporations commit crimes those same conservatives contend real persons responsible for that corporate misconduct should not face personal responsibility for crimes.
Such soft-peddling on corporate crimes further perverts America’s bedrock principle of equal justice under law — the phrase written above the entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
This month federal authorities fined pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline a record $3 billion for breaking U.S. laws against promoting unapproved uses of certain drugs yet no executive behind that misconduct faced criminal prosecution.
Those highly paid Glaxo execs who escaped prison cells for their misconduct certainly received lavish bonuses from the $27.9 billion in combined corporate profits on three of the drugs at the center of the record fine.
To corporations, such fines (even large fines) amount to chump-change falling far short of profits from the misconduct.
Further, those fines get passed along as increased costs to consumers and taxpayers stuck with cleaning up messes from corporate misconduct.
Remember, corporations that often engage in misconduct, the large law firms that defend corporations and the lobbyists who convince politicians to protect corporate interests routinely permit gross employment discrimination within their ranks.
And that discrimination contributes to 14.4 percent Black unemployment rate for June 2012 — a rate nearly double America’s unemployment rate for whites.
Black teen unemployment last month reached nearly 40 percent according to federal figures without either party on Capitol Hill voicing alarm.
Problems with America’s young will persist as long as corporations and politicians like N.J.’s Christie engender applause for petulant behavior.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Fellowship Program.
Too many U.S. citizens dismiss Black History Month as if it were graffiti defacing America’s vaulted wall of greatness soiling this nation stature of championing equal opportunity for all.
For too many, the annual February celebration of Black History Month is unnecessary…a nuisance that needs elimination…especially since the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first non-white President which many consider America’s giant step into a ‘post-racial’ era.
However, recent remarks by Republicans from NJ Governor Chris Christie to that party’s presidential contenders graphically dramatize both willful ignorance and callous indifference that actually amplifies the need for more not less illumination about Black History.
Those remarks evidence disturbing yet widespread misunderstandings about the real history of America and the experiences of all races now inhabiting this land snatched away from its original inhabitants: Native Americans.
NJ’s caustic conservative governor Christie, when recently proclaiming his desire for a public referendum on same sex marriage instead of legislative implementation, claimed civil rights activists in America’s once apartheid South would have favored public referendums to gain their legal rights instead of public protests.
Black leaders in NJ and across America quickly checked Christie’s flawed history pointing out that [white] public sentiment in pre-1970s America generally opposed equal rights for non-whites and racist violence across the South stopped blacks from voting thus blocking their participation in any referendums on their rights.
Gov. Christie “obviously has little understanding of American history and the depths to which our nation went to preserve white supremacy,” stated Walter Fields in a recent commentary.
Fields, the former political director for the NJ NAACP, called upon Christie to act honorably by making a “real commitment toward teaching African-American history in New Jersey public schools.”
NJ, the last northern state to outlaw slavery and a state that didn’t get a black prosecutor in its city with the state’s largest black population until 1986, was America’s first state to implement statewide enforcement of non-discrimination in public accommodations.
That NJ law – approved in 1949 by the state legislature not public referendum – enabled Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then a seminary student, to file his first lawsuit against race discrimination.
King filed that lawsuit in 1950 after a gun waving bigot chased King and three companions from the bar he owned in Maple Shade, NJ – a suburb of Philadelphia.
GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich, employing Chris Christie-like bluster, has sought to boost his sputtering campaign by appealing to potential white voters through tarring blacks.
Gingrich, while campaigning in Iowa, oozed slime about blacks wanting food stamps more than jobs. Gingrich exploited that factually inaccurate food stamp assertion while campaigning in South Carolina – a state where the Confederate flag still flies on the state Capitol grounds.
Iowa is a state with a 12.6-percent poverty rate and a state where blacks comprise just five percent of the population.
Given the fact that simple math calculations show Iowa with more poor whites than blacks of all income levels Gingrich tagging poverty as a black problem is not a mistake but calculated race-baiting by a malicious man who styles himself a scholar because he holds a PhD.
Given the fact that many politicians and powerful business leaders have historically manipulated raw racism to divert focus from economic inequities the perplexing issue that arises again-&-again is why do so many whites constantly fall for this Okie-Doke?
During the 1890s for example, when many poor whites began seeing similarities with blacks in their common impoverishment, America’s rulers ramped up legalized Jim Crow segregation convincing whites that petty privileges like separate toilets and water fountains improved their lives more than better pay and working conditions.
One year before the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned legalized segregation in the infamous 1896 separate-but-equal Plessy ruling that same all-white/all-male court issued its equally infamous In Re Debs ruling that undermined the ability of workers to form unions – a ruling impacting whites more than blacks.
During the past 40-years middle class, low income and poor whites have gravitated to the Republican Party seduced by often overt appeals to subliminal racism and that tantalizing siren-song of unlimited upward mobility in American society – mobility that conservatives falsely proclaimed minorities sought to marginalize through efforts to undo institutional racism like affirmative action.
The reality overlooked by many whites during that 40-year span was the GOP intensifying its actions of enriching the rich with tax breaks, deregulation and other special benefits bestowed by government manipulations.
Federal census figures show that salaries for average male workers in America rose by just $165 between 1972 and 2010 – during a time when GOP ‘trickle-down economics’ facilitated an enormous flow of wealth up to the top-rungs of America’s economic ladder.
Enrichment schemes pushed by the Republican Party giving special breaks to America’s financial sector facilitated the ability of GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney to amass his personal fortune in excess of $200-million by heading a firm that killed jobs through closing companies and selling off assets.
Many of those voting Republican in the 2010 anti-Obama uprising didn’t bargain on niggardly, mean-spirited mistreatment from the likes of Pa Gov. Corbett (gutting public education funding) and Wisconsin Gov. Walker (attacking union rights).
Expanding information about Black History facts will not cure America’s deep-seated ‘race problems’ but reducing such information will surely make those problems worse.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — New Jersey officials say a wide-ranging effort to improve Atlantic City is starting to pay off, from new private investment in non-casino attractions to a $20 million advertising campaign that's beginning to change negative perceptions about the seaside gambling resort.
Speakers at an Assembly panel hearing Wednesday said the state's efforts to improve public safety, cleanliness and economic development in Atlantic City are bearing fruit more than a year after Gov. Chris Christie's administration adopted a plan to rescue the struggling resort.
"Our key audience — fun seekers — is starting to associate Atlantic City with more amenities," said Jeff Guaracino, chief strategy officer with the Atlantic City Alliance, the casino-funded marketing arm of the resort. Three months after the "Do AC" advertising campaign was launched, research showed audiences in New York and Baltimore had better perceptions of Atlantic City, viewing it as "less run-down" and more appealing as a vacation site, he said.
John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, cited new private investment like the $35 million Margaritaville development at Resorts Casino Hotel, and a new Bass Pro Shops outlet approved Tuesday for the city's shopping district. The agency recently opened a new parking garage in the mall area, spent several million dollars on equipment for a light and sound show at Boardwalk Hall, and plans to lease vacant lots for community arts projects.
Tourism district employees, in their almost-visible-from-Mars neon yellow shirts and jackets, can be found throughout the Boardwalk and Atlantic Avenue areas, picking up garbage, cleaning sidewalks and giving directions to tourists.
And the region's golf courses announced a new joint marketing effort on Wednesday, aimed at competing with other, better-known golf markets.
The success or failure of these efforts will go a long way toward determining whether New Jersey eventually allows casino gambling in other parts of the state. Christie says the reforms need a few years to succeed.
Israel Posner, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton College, said efforts to change Atlantic City's image are in their infancy, but show promise.
"The Atlantic City Alliance is in the early phase of re-educating regional markets that Atlantic City is about much more than gaming," he said. "Ironically, the more casino gaming spreads like weeds, the more Atlantic City stands out as a unique destination because of its concentration of entertainment amenities and seaside location.
"The key strategic challenge that remains is enhancing Atlantic City's value as an entertainment destination in the dense and relatively high net worth mid-Atlantic market," Posner said. "In my opinion, continued focus on public relations, targeted advertising and image building will bear fruit."
The city still has significant challenges, including an escalating homicide rate (15 killings so far this year, surpassing the total for all of last year) and pockets of poverty in residential areas not far from the casinos.
"If we want to get people to visit, we need to continue to do all we can do to create an enjoyable experience," Palmieri said. "We've been meeting with some success in a tough environment. This has been a tough four to five years for the nation. I like to think we're well-positioned."
Atlantic City has lost 6 million annual visitors since 2006 as neighboring states add casinos.
"We need more new visitors, and our current visitors to come back more frequently," Guaracino said. -- (AP)
NEWARK, N.J. — In a smoky stairwell, with embers falling from the ceiling and his neighbor slung over his shoulder, Cory Booker called it his "proverbial come to Jesus moment."
The mayor of New Jersey's largest city was carrying out a constituent he had rushed into a burning home to save, first pushing aside security detail who tried to hold him back by his belt. He didn't feel like a hero: "I felt terror," he told reporters on Friday, speaking with a burned, bandaged right hand.
The 42-year-old mayor, who has dug out snowbound residents in a blizzard, lived in a rundown housing project to make a point and tagged along on police patrols to lecture drug dealers, took on a new status Friday: the politician who can do almost anything.
Thousands took to Twitter, calling Booker Superman and inviting him to solve the North Korean missile crisis or run for president. The governor called it a "brave move" and the fire director said the mayor was one of the most heroic men he'd ever met.
Booker, standing in front of the boarded-up home Friday, said, "I did what any neighbor would do — help a neighbor."
He ended up with second-degree burns and smoke inhalation after he brought out Zina Hodge, 47, from her smoky bedroom in the home next to his in a rough neighborhood of brick homes, storefront churches and small bodegas. He was coughing heavily after the rescue late Thursday.
Booker rushed into the burning home shortly after returning from taping a television appearance on Thursday, after Hodge's mother screamed that her daughter was trapped. Following her faint calls of; "I'm here, I'm here. Help! I'm here," Booker lifted her from her bed and carried her on his shoulders through the burning kitchen, where flames had rolled over the roof and back down the wall.
He nearly panicked in the stairwell, where Newark Det. Alex Rodriguez was helping him bring Hodge out. He couldn't see through the smoke.
"That was the moment I had a conversation with God," Booker said. "I really didn't think we were going to get out of there."
Hodge was listed in serious condition Friday in the intensive-care unit of the burn center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. Fire officials said she had suffered second-degree burns to her back and neck and smoke inhalation.
Hodge's mother, Jacqualine Williams, called the second-term mayor "a super mayor" who should become president.
Booker — a former All-American football player at Stanford — downplayed his actions and said he's no hero.
"I didn't feel bravery, I felt terror," he said. "I couldn't breathe. It was a moment I felt very religious, let me put it that way."
Even critics of the mayor, some who refer to him as "Story Booker" for what they call a history of courting publicity to boost his national image while ignoring problems in the impoverished city, offered grudging praise.
"I commend the mayor for what he's done, but the people in this city need jobs," said Joanne Miller, who lives in Booker's neighborhood. "That's the real kind of hero we need in this city."
As mayor, Booker has been known to ride along with police on late-night patrols, once even chasing down a robbery suspect. The Peabody award-winning Sundance Channel series "Brick City" documented his efforts to decrease the city's crime rate and tackle ongoing financial problems. Profiles have appeared in Time magazine and Esquire. He's even shoveled out resident's cars during a blizzard that snarled his city and the rest of the Northeast in 2010.
As a city councilman, he spent months living in a trailer parked on some of the city's most drug-infested corners, and publicly fasted for 10 days outside a violent housing project. He lived in another tenement for years to call attention to blight; it has since been shut down.
Booker, who has attracted names like Oprah Winfrey and the $100 million donation to schools of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, has brushed off rumors that he has his eye on higher office. But he set up a federal political action committee, fueling speculation that he might run for governor or the U.S. Senate.
When the mayor arrived at his neighborhood on Thursday, two members of his security detail had already taken several members of the family from the home; Williams was screaming that her daughter was still inside.
The officers tried to keep him from going, but Booker, who is 6-foot-3, and a former All-American tight end from Stanford, was no match for Rodriguez, who is trained to protect him, not fight him.
"It wasn't easy trying to hold him by the belt," Rodriguez, who is considerably shorter and slimmer than Booker. "He was insisting, 'If I don't go in there, this lady is going to die.'"
Rodriguez helped Booker take Hodge down the smoky stairwell and out. Then, "we both just collapsed," the mayor said.
"I had my proverbial come-to-Jesus moment in my life," he said.
Hodge and the mayor were apparently burned as embers fell from the apartment ceiling while Booker was carrying her. The officials said the fire likely started in the kitchen.
A prolific social media user, Booker tweeted late Thursday and early Friday that he was fine and thanked his followers for their well-wishes. "I will b ok," he wrote.
The Twitter-sphere was blowing up Friday with thousands of tweets from Booker's million-plus Twitter followers about the rescue. Hundreds of tweets were being posted every few minutes throughout the day Friday on (hash)CoryBookerStories, one of several new hashtags created to celebrate Booker's heroics. Even Gov. Chris Christie tweeted, wishing Booker a speedy recovery and adding; "Brave move, Mr. Mayor."
Booker himself tweeted that he seen the hashtag, but cautioned: "Grateful to (hash)CoryBookerStories 4 bringing smiles, fire safety, however, is a serious matter," and linked to tips on the U.S. Fire Administration's website.
"I really feel thankful to God," he said on Friday. "I feel a sense of gratitude today, to God, that I'm here." -- (AP)
Words have a way of coming back to haunt Mitt Romney, especially when he says them in front of television cameras.
As the nation braced itself for Hurricane Sandy to slam into the East Coast, Romney's campaign was busily issuing denials to clean up an impression left by last year's "severely conservative" Romney long before he recently was replaced by Moderate Mitt.
No, Team Romney insisted, their candidate does not really want to abolish the Federal Emergency Management Agency, even if his words make him sound like he does.
Confusing? Hey, we're talking about the newly restored Moderate Mitt, the candidate whose beliefs are like Chicago's weather: If you don't like 'em, just wait a few minutes.
The words in question were spoken at a June 2011Republican primary debate in New Hampshire. When the former Massachusetts governor was asked by moderator John King of CNN whether he agreed with those who believe management of emergencies should be returned to the states, Romney not only agreed but went even further. He would turn over as many functions as possible to private, profit-driven companies.
"Absolutely," Romney said. "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."
Odd sentiments, perhaps, for the moderate one-term governor who fathered Massachusetts' state-run health insurance plan. But not for the rebranded "severely conservative" Mitt. He's the Romney who won the Republican presidential nomination and passionately plans to "repeal Obamacare," the national health insurance plan that President Barack Obama based on Romneycare.
The Huffington Post resurrected and highlighted video of that old sound bite under the headline "Mitt Romney in GOP Debate: Shut Down Federal Disaster Agency, Send Responsibility to the States." Team Romney immediately issued a clarifying statement. No, Romney would not abolish FEMA, the campaign assures us, although he still would not mind transferring an undisclosed amount of its functions -- and, presumably, expenses -- to the states.
"Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions," Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement to Politico. "As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA."
Is that spin of hurricane proportions or what? The campaign's description of FEMA sounds comfortably close to what FEMA already does. Moderate Mitt seems almost to have forgotten the right-wing-sounding Mitt from the primaries, a forgetfulness that President Obama lampoons as "Romnesia."
But it also is a description of FEMA functions that sounds uncomfortably close to the buck-passing agency that was nowhere to be seen for several days in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as thousands of homeless New Orleans residents begged for help on live television.
As Hurricane Sandy roared up the East Coast, Romney might also like to forget his praise of the cost-cutting budget proposed by his own running mate, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal Washington think tank, found that Ryan's proposed cuts in funding for non-defense discretionary programs like FEMA's disaster relief would be three times as deep as the widely dreaded 7.3 percent across-the-board cuts scheduled under sequestration, the automatic spending cuts ordered by the Budget Control Act that ended the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis.
I don't know how Romney handled disasters during his single term as governor, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie gave high praise to President Obama's response after Hurricane Sandy. After the storm left over 2.4 million people without power in his state, Christie said on NBC's "Today Show" that he had spoken with Obama several times and the federal response "has been great."
If Christie becomes a presidential candidate, as many people hope he will, I hope he remembers the practical lessons of governing a state in time a disaster. When people desperately need help from Washington, they don't want to hear about politics.
For politicians, it’s always about the next election.
It’s an interesting notion that New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who is often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, despite his denial of such aspirations, is more popular among Democrats than he is within his own party.
According to Public Policy Polling, Christie’s favorability is strong: 51 percent to 23 percent. He stands +29 with Democrats (52 percent to 23 percent), compared to +21 with Republicans (48 percent to 27 percent). But it’s among independents that Christie is most popular: 52 percent to 18 percent.
According to PPP, “Compared to a month ago, he’s up a net 12 points with Democrats and down a net 11 points with Republicans.”
The governor also currently holds a 73 percent approval rating from his own state’s registered voters — with 61 percent saying the state is moving in the right direction. Those giving rave reviews include 62 percent of Democrats and seven in 10 women.
According to pollster Tom Jensen, Christie’s change in popularity with members of both parties most likely stems from a nationally televised press conference where he slammed House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for delaying a vote on aid to recover from Hurricane Sandy.
“I think the change from last month is probably mostly about the Boehner stuff, but I think the longer term change is certainly all the positive national publicity he got for how he handled the hurricane — but also specifically how he dealt with (President Barack) Obama,” said Jensen to NewJersey.com.
Jensen said his organization will release a poll soon on the potential field for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. He said Christie does well among moderate Republicans, but has virtually no support from the tea party members.
Among all voters, Christie is more popular than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the National Rifle Association.
The automated telephone poll of 1,100 registered voters was conducted from Jan. 3 to Jan. 6 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Ever since Hurricane Sandy destroyed parts of New Jersey, and Christie welcomed the president with open arms in the latter days of a very contentious presidential race, he has been in what many see as the political doghouse with his own party. There are those who believe that his actions influenced the outcome of the presidential race.
In New Jersey, Christie’s crisis management of the storm, and his favorable praise of the president with words like “outstanding,” “incredibly supportive” and worthy of “great credit,” gave him a ton of credibility among voters in his state — and with Democrats and independents all over the county.
According to The New York Times, the tensions followed Christie to the annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association in Las Vegas in November of 2012. At a gathering where he had expected to be celebrated, the governor was repeatedly reminded of how deeply he had offended fellow Republicans.
His apparent eagerness to work closely with the president has put in jeopardy any hopes he may have to be a national candidate. A number of Republicans have wondered aloud if he is still a viable nominee.
“It hurt him a lot,” said Douglas E. Gross, a longtime Republican in Iowa who has overseen several presidential campaigns in the state, to The New York Times. “The presumption is that Republicans can’t count on him.”
Republican voters in Iowa, the first state to select presidential candidates, “don’t forget things like this,” Gross said.
With Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s loss still stinging the party, Christie’s conduct remains a topic of widespread discussion.
“People keep asking me why you were so nice to the president,” Governor-elect Pat McCrory of North Carolina told Christie when they encountered each other in Las Vegas. “I tell them you are doing your job.”
“That’s right,” Christie replied, patting him on the back.
The Romney campaign still believes that Christie’s expressions of admiration for the president, coupled with pervasive news coverage of the hurricane’s aftermath, raised President Obama’s standing at a critical moment in the campaign.
During a lengthy look at the campaign, Romney’s political advisers said that a large number of voters who were undecided until the end of the campaign cited the storm as a major factor in their decision for backing the president.
“Christie,” a Romney adviser said to The New York Times, “allowed Obama to be president, not a politician.”
In that sense, Christie has been a convenient scapegoat for a candidacy that fell short for many reasons — demographic, ideological and personal — and Romney’s campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, emphasized that Christie did “exactly what a governor should do” in a crisis.
Still, a resentment remains among top financial donors who contributed big to Romney, many of whom had considered Christie a very influential friend.
In interviews, several of the donors speculated that Christie was positioning himself as a softer, post-partisan figure in time for his re-election as governor next year.
Christie’s popularity has created a quagmire for the Republican faithful. Since the hurricane, he has become a political celebrity with the image of a regular guy.
Some party loyalists saw his behavior after the hurricane as an echo of his convention keynote address in August, when he trumpeted his own accomplishments — but made scant reference to Romney.
But the argument is rejected by those loyal to the governor. Republican Party booster Kenneth G. Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, told Christie to ignore carping party activists who he predicted would soon plead with him to seek higher office.
“I said, ‘Governor, if you lead a miraculous recovery of the state of New Jersey, that is all that is going to matter,’” said Langone to The New York Times. “They are going to be begging you to run, just like they begged Eisenhower.”
After the storm, Christie walked into a restaurant in Princeton, where he received a booming ovation.
Las Vegas was a little different, where Republican governors, past and present, offered a range of explanations for Christie’s warmth toward the president. After all, nothing can kill a political career like a botched response to a disaster.
“People here understand Chris Christie’s effusive personality,” said Haley Barbour, a former governor of Mississippi.
And Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa said, “There are some people that think maybe he could have handled it — been a little less gushing. But that’s his personality. He has got that New Jersey edge to him, you know, for good or bad.”
NewJersey.com and The New York Times contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is the senior writer for Real Times Media and the Michigan Chronicle. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com.