- Created on 19 October 2013
I am no longer surprised that Professor West is at it again, attacking the president. An article titled, “Cornel West and the Fight to Save the Black Prophetic Tradition,” lays out a blistering list of charges against the president. My intent is to examine the charges, then challenge Dr. West on both his assumptions and his conclusions.
- The main charge is that there is an unseen effort by the White House to silence those who would continue the fight to save the black prophetic tradition. Chief among those to be silenced are Cornel West and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
- Supporting the main charge is another that the White House uses surrogates such as Al Sharpton and Steve Harvey to attack Dr. West, who describes himself as the most prominent of those under attack.
- The silencing effort is intended to hide the fact that the president is the ideological heir of Booker T. Washington, an accomodationist who counseled blacks to adjust and submit to white tyranny.
- He accuses the president of being the face of an empire that is responsible for heinous crimes, even crimes against humanity. He describes how Obama has overseen the eradication of civil liberties, the expansion of imperial wars and the mass incarceration of people of color.
- Although he does not accuse the president of being directly responsible for it, Dr. West implies that the “emaciation” of the black press, the consolidation of the media, the exclusion of Dr. West from the broadcast media and the absence of the subject of the black prophetic tradition in public schools all occurred on the president's watch and thus, by implication, is a charge against the president.
Dr. West describes the black prophetic tradition as the major roadblock to American fascism. Again, by implication, the president supports both imperialism and white supremacy by his unseen efforts to suppress those who would carry on the tradition.
Now, that is a heavy load to lay on the president. One of the problems we have is that the main charge is “unseen.” Consequently, we have to take Dr. West's word for the fact that the White House is, in fact, orchestrating the effort to silence Dr. West and others.
One way to go at judging the validity and ultimate value of his message is by examining the underlying premises of his position; that the black prophetic tradition does act as a block to fascism, that president Obama knows this to be true, does attempt to suppress its practitioners, does act as the face of imperialism with all of the abhorrent outcomes that this entails and does, in fact, act as heir to Booker T. Washington in admonishing black people to adjust and submit.
I can agree that the leaders and martyrs of the black prophetic tradition named were certainly effective at drawing attention to the tyranny of the white majority. At a propitious time in history and with the proven strategy of non-violence, Dr. King was astoundingly successful at awakening the sleeping conscience of the nation and the world. The fascism practiced daily by the most ordinary white citizen against the completely helpless black people was too much for the nation to see without reacting in horror. But, notice that the practices were open, violent and wanton. At the same time, there was no effort to make the practices visible until the television cameras saw Dr. King. This revealed to the whole world the stark difference between what the US wanted to present to the world and the reality that the world could see. By contrast, I have seen no such impact from Dr. West's efforts.
I would think that President Obama is quite well aware of the black prophetic tradition and most certainly with Dr. West's loudly proclaimed assertion that Dr. West is the most prominent of the current practitioners. But, the president does not have to waste his time or concern on "suppressing" them. The networks have no problem choosing those to whom they give air time. The people who are on network shows are overwhelmingly, even nauseatingly Republican, imperialist, white supremacy sympathizers.
Is the president an imperialist? If he were not, he would not be president. The US has been on an imperialist path since WWII. No candidate for the office would have the necessary support to make the run if that person did not show by enthusiastic word and deed that the imperialist path was acceptable and necessary. By the way, one does not have to agree to understand the nature of political reality. Lastly, to accuse the president of being an heir to Booker T. Washington, accomodationist, is an ad hominem attack, the lazy way of attacking and most unworthy of a renowned scholar.
Now, we are left with the question, "Why does Dr. West spend so much energy and personal capital attacking the president?" Even though he says it is not personal, there is evidence that it is. An article, again written by Chris Hedges, that makes the personal hurt painfully clear is available at the following link, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_obama_deception_why_cornel_west_went_ballistic_20110516. The article tells us that Dr. West, at the time a true believer, worked 65 campaign events for the candidate. In the words of the author, Dr. West, "now nurses, like many others who placed their faith in Obama, the anguish of the deceived, the manipulated and the betrayed." The only surprise is that the scholar allowed himself to be devastated by a politician. After all, if the president were not a politician, he would not have been elected...twice.
Dr. West's "anguish" likely intensified to the point of fury when the president did not invite him to the inauguration. The fury has been too evident ever since.
- Created on 18 October 2013
CHICAGO (AP) — Our food was a little less safe, our workplaces a little more dangerous. The risk of getting sick was a bit higher, our kids' homework tougher to complete.
The federal government shutdown may have seemed like a frustrating squabble in far-off Washington, but it crept into our lives in small, subtle ways — from missed vegetable inspections to inaccessible federal websites.
The "feds" always are there in the background, setting the standards by which we live, providing funds to research cures for our kids' illnesses, watching over our food supply and work environment.
So how did the shutdown alter our daily routines? Here's a look at a day in the life of the 2013 government shutdown.
That sausage patty on your breakfast plate was safe as ever because meat inspectors — like FBI agents — are considered "essential" and remained at work. But federal workers who inspect just about everything else on your plate — from fresh berries to scrambled eggs — were furloughed.
The Food and Drug Administration, which in fiscal year 2012 conducted more than 21,000 inspections or contracted state agencies to conduct them, put off scores of other inspections at processing plants, dairies and other large food facilities. In all, 976 of the FDA's 1,602 inspectors were sent home.
About 200 planned inspections a week were put off, in addition to more than 8,700 inspections the federal government contracts state officials to perform, according to FDA spokesman Steven Immergut. That included unexpected inspections that keep food processors on their toes.
It worried Yadira Avila, a 34-year-old mother of two buying fruit and vegetables at a Chicago market.
"It's crazy because they (the FDA) sometimes find the bacteria," she said.
The FDA also stopped doing follow-ups on problems it previously detected at, for example, a seafood importer near Los Angeles and a dairy farm in Colorado.
And what about the food that made it to your plate? The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which furloughed 9,000 of its 13,000 workers, said the shutdown slowed its response to an outbreak of salmonella in chicken that sickened people in 18 states.
At a warehouse, factory or other worksite, a young minority exposed to racial slurs by his boss had one fewer place to turn for help. Federal officials who oversee compliance with discrimination laws and labor practices weren't working, except in emergencies.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was not issuing right-to-sue letters, so people could not take discrimination cases into federal court, said Peter Siegelman, an expert in workplace discrimination at the University of Connecticut's law school.
Workplaces weren't inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. One result? Employees could operate dangerous equipment even if not trained or old enough to do so.
"The afternoon before the shutdown we got a complaint of a restaurant where a ... 14-year-old was operating a vertical dough mixer," said James Yochim, assistant director of the U.S. Department of Labor's wage and hour division office in Springfield, Ill. "We (were) not able to get out there and conduct an investigation."
Yochim's office also put on hold an investigation at another restaurant of children reportedly using a meat slicer.
Getting around was largely unaffected. Air traffic controllers were on the job, flights still taking off. Trains operated by local agencies delivered millions of commuters to their jobs.
But if something went wrong, such as the mysterious case of a Chicago "ghost train," people were left in the dark.
On the last day of September, an empty Chicago Transit Authority train somehow rumbled down the tracks and crashed into another train, injuring a few dozen passengers. The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched investigators, and they kept working when the shutdown started the next day because they were "essential." But the agency furloughed others whose job is to explain to the public what happened.
So millions of commuters used the transit lines without knowing more about what caused the crash.
The CDC slashed staffing at quarantine stations at 20 airports and entry points, raising chances travelers could enter the country carrying diseases like measles undetected.
In the first week of the shutdown, the number of illnesses detected dropped by 50 percent, CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said. "Are people suddenly a lot healthier?" she wondered.
Children learned the meaning of shutdown when they got home and booted up computers to do homework. From the U.S. Census bureau site to NASA maps, they were greeted by alerts that said government sites were down "due to the shutdown."
Linda Koplin, a math teacher in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, asked her sixth-grade pupils to use a reliable online source to find the highest and lowest elevations.
"They were able to find all the elevations for the rest of the continents but they couldn't find information for their continent," Koplin said.
It was the same at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill., where social studies teacher Robin Forrest said government statistics are more important because of so much dubious information on the web.
"We try to steer our kids toward websites and databases that are legitimate, the same way we would college students," he said.
After hours is when the shutdown arrived at many people's homes.
Monique Howard's 5-year-old son, Carter, has the most trouble with his asthma at night, when his breathing is labored. Her family dreams of a cure, the kind doctors are hunting through federally funded research grants at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
During the shutdown, the doctors had to stop submitting grant applications to study childhood asthma and other diseases and disorders. Hospital officials said the shutdown could have delayed funding for nearly half a year.
"I have met some of these doctors who are close to breakthroughs, and if this sets us back five or six months, it just seems to me like a lot of these studies are going to be scrapped or they will have to restart them," Howard said. "It's just so frustrating as a parent."
There was a comedic effect, too. The shutdown might have saved raunchy entertainers from punishment for obscene or offensive language on late-night TV and radio.
The Federal Communications Commission investigates broadcast misbehavior only if viewers or listeners complain. During the shutdown, callers heard a voice with a familiar ring: "The FCC is closed."
- Created on 16 October 2013
(AP Photo / Phil Sears, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- Harry Belafonte sued the estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Tuesday over the fate of three documents he tried to sell at auction.
The lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan seeks unspecified damages and a court declaration Belafonte is the rightful owner.
The documents are an outline of a Vietnam War speech by King, notes to a speech King never got to deliver in Memphis, Tenn., and a condolence letter from President Lyndon B. Johnson to King's wife after the civil rights leader's 1968 assassination.
According to the lawsuit, Belafonte was preparing to auction the items in 2008 when the estate "astonishingly" blocked it.
The lawsuit cited the close relationship between Belafonte and King, saying the pair "worked on strategies and collaborated on issues that would transform American society" while they "forged a deep and enduring personal friendship." It said King and his widow, Coretta Scott King, gave Belafonte a number of items and it noted that Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006, mentioned Belafonte in her autobiography, saying "whenever we got into trouble or when tragedy struck, Harry has always come to our aid, his generous heart wide open."
Belafonte said he delivered the documents for auction to Sotheby's Inc. in early 2008 and the auction house has held them pending a resolution of the dispute between the estate and Belafonte.
The lawsuit said Belafonte had held the Vietnam War speech outline since 1967, when King left it behind after working on it in Belafonte's apartment. It said the Memphis speech notes were found in King's suit pocket after he was assassinated. According to the lawsuit, Coretta Scott King offered the notes to Belafonte but he suggested they instead be given to one of King's longest-serving confidants. When that man died in 1979, his widow delivered the notes to Belafonte, it said.
The letter from Johnson was given to Belafonte by Coretta Scott King about a decade ago after she admired the collection of historic documents on a wall of his home, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said King frequently gave drafts and copies of his speeches, correspondence and working papers to friends and fellow civil rights activists and that his estate has made a series of "disturbing and illegitimate challenges to Dr. King's gift-giving" in recent years.
Miles J. Alexander, a lawyer for the Atlanta-based King estate, said he had not yet seen the lawsuit.
"I have no comment I can make right now," he said.
- Created on 17 October 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) — A survey shows manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region slowed this month, further evidence that the 16-day partial government shutdown weighed on the economy.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia says its index of regional manufacturing activity slowed to 19.8 in October, down from a September reading of 22.3.
The slightly weaker reading followed a report Tuesday that factory growth in the New York region declined this month, according to the New York Fed's Empire State manufacturing index. The drop in activity in the New York region was also blamed in part on the shutdown.
The government reopened on Thursday. Federal workers are reporting back to work now that Congress passed a temporary spending bill and lifted the government's borrowing limit.
- Created on 14 October 2013
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The government shutdown is slowing the wheels of justice in federal courts by delaying civil cases, forcing prosecutors to operate with skeleton staffs and raising uncertainty about the system's immediate future if the stalemate continues past Thursday.
That's when federal courts officials expect the reserve funds they have been using since the Oct. 1 start of the shutdown will run out.
Criminal cases, which are required by law to go to a speedy trial, are still moving ahead, as are most bankruptcy cases and appeals. Civil cases and those in immigration court, however, are feeling the greatest impact from the shutdown.
"The Constitution tells us what we have to do and we can't control our workload. It walks in the door, whether we're funded or not funded," said U.S. District Court Chief Judge Loretta Preska in New York, who has put all civil cases except those already in trial on hold at the request of the U.S. Attorney there.
She said the nearly 450 district court employees that serve the New York metro area will report to work to keep criminal cases on track even if funds run out. Officials at courts based in San Francisco, Philadelphia and St. Louis, Mo., also say their employees will work.
Prosecutors, staff and experts from other federal agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency needed to help try civil cases have been furloughed. U.S. attorneys requested judges to temporarily set aside some cases, while a few districts have requested a blanket halt to all civil cases.
In Los Angeles, 51 federal prosecutors and nearly 50 staff working civil cases have been sent home, leaving the Justice Department to file stay requests as deadlines approach. Some requests have been granted, others denied, U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. said.
In Montana, U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter has requested stays in more than a dozen civil cases, with more to come.
Just over half of Cotter's staff has been furloughed, and while those who have been sent home are eligible for unemployment benefits, some of those who are working without a paycheck are considering borrowing money or dipping into retirement savings to make ends meet, he said.
"We all have bills, car payments, mortgages and medical payments to make," Cotter said.
Immigration court proceedings are largely shut down, too.
Rafael Sanchez has been waiting two years to make his case for a green card after he and his family from Bogota, Colombia, overstayed their U.S. tourist visa in 1997. Their New Hampshire court hearing scheduled for Wednesday (Oct. 9) was canceled because of the shutdown.
Sanchez's daughter Karina, a high school senior, is not sure how she'll be able to go to college. Without a green card, she won't qualify for financial aid.
Her father said that after coming from a country with so much corruption and violence, he doesn't understand why the leaders of this country of plenty can't work together. "At what point do the politicians think about how many lives are dependent on them?" he said.
Decisions on whether to delay civil cases vary district by district, and often, case by case.
— In New York, Preska issued an order stopping all civil cases, except civil forfeiture cases. An exception is the government's suit against Bank of America Corp. over high-risk mortgages sold before the financial crisis by Countrywide Financial, which the bank acquired in 2008.
— In Washington, the Justice Department was recently denied a request prompted by the shutdown to push back a November trial in its antitrust lawsuit aimed at blocking the merger of American Airlines and US Airways.
— In Pennsylvania, Justice Department attorneys have asked a judge to delay Geneva College's lawsuit challenging federal health care reform mandates that would require the Christian school to provide employee health insurance that covers forms of birth control it finds objectionable.
Attorneys for Geneva College say a delay is unfair unless the government also delays the reforms from taking effect Jan. 1.
If the shutdown goes on into the second half of October, juror reimbursement funds could run out — which would force courts to issue IOUs to jurors for their service. Courts may have to grapple with security issues: the U.S. Marshal service has been working without pay, but it's unclear how long that can continue, said Charlie Hall, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
Federal public defenders also are feeling the crunch, deferring an increasing number of cases to private attorneys — a practice that had already been in the rise due to cuts from the automatic budget cuts earlier this year.
But the fund to pay those attorneys ran out in September and the shutdown has made the situation worse, Hall said.
The courts' problems aren't bad news for everybody. In Montana, the environmental group Alliance for the Wild Rockies has seen three lawsuits delayed, including two challenging logging projects in national forests.
That suits alliance executive director Mike Garrity just fine. After all, if the courts can't operate, those forests won't be touched.
"Logging isn't occurring, so that is a good thing," he said.