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Archive for July, 2009

NFL- Do The Right Thing

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to “reinstate” Michael Vick left me perplexed and puzzled. Goodell said the intent was to”do the right thing” by Vick.  Was the NFL really doing the right thing or pandering to the animal rights groups?

Michael Vick was indefinitely suspended from the NFL 2 years ago.  He served 2 years in a federal prison for his illegal gambling and dog fighting operation.  Upon release, he had 2 months home confinement. He now is on 3 years probation.  If he doesn’t walk a straight and narrow line and violates his probation terms, he will serve more time. So why does the NFL need to extract an additional pound of flesh from Vick?

The Commissioner’s decision to “reinstate” Vick has additional terms. He won’t be eligible to play in regular games until game 6. Goodell wants to monitor Vick  until then before fully deciding his fate. Michael Vick must adhere to and provide a written plan to the Commissioner outlining his housing, finances, counseling and work with the Humane Society. As a former prosecutor, I fail to see the need for any terms other than the court imposed ones.

Who is the NFL trying to fool? Its terms are not meant to “do the right thing” by Vick. The terms are meant to politically pander to the animal rights groups and any anti Vick fans. The NFL chose to engage in a paternalistic, patronizing and pathetic show.  They want to show Michael Vick who’s the boss.

By contrast, Martha Stewart served time in federal jail  for lying and obstruction of justice. Like Vick, she was placed on home confinement with a monitoring ankle bracelet. Upon her release, she returned to her profession as a TV show host.  Martha doesn’t play sports. She does appear before millions on   TV like Vick. Unlike Vick, the TV network did not mandate additional terms and conditions for her to appear and perform.

Everyone deserves a second chance after serving time and paying their debt  to society.  Michael Vick has paid his debt to society. The NFL lacked the balls to do the right thing and immediately fully reinstate him.

Wake Up Everybody- We Are Not Post Racial

Friday, July 24th, 2009

I never understood those who said we were living in a post racial society after the election of President Obama. Racism is so deeply rooted in our society. No one act or election is going to eradicate  racism over night.  For those of you who thought we had entered a post racial zone,  the Henry Louis Gates incident should tell you otherwise.  If you’re African American living in America, you likely think it was racism. If you’re white, you may think the officer  acted wrong but not racist.  Then there’s President Obama who’s trying to act like Rodney King with  his can’t we all get along statements. President Obama has invited everyone to the White House for beer and pizza.  The President carefully backed away from the issue once he saw it was a political landmine.

The fact of the matter is there was no real reason for the officer to arrest Professor Gates at his own house after producing his identification.  The reason for the arrest was a result of inherent racism. Just because the officer did not use the “N” word does not mean it’s not racism. Racism today is not the same experience as prior generations. Jim Crow and segregation are gone. We can live where we want to live.  Yet that does not mean that African Americans are not subject to racism in the process.  The Boston area is not known to be racially friendly among African Americans and minorities.

We should be using this time to discuss race in America. Race issues and relations are  equally as important as health care, the economy, the war and everything else going on in our world.  Race issues are not a distraction to these issues. Race issues encompass all these other issues. Until we understand and begin to recognize racism, we will not be anywhere near a post racial society.

Teddy Pendergras once sang a song saying “wake up everybody, no more sleeping in bed, no more backward thinking, time for thinking ahead”.  For those  who thought we were living in a post racial world, wake up.  For those who do not believe the Gates incident was a form of racism,  you need to wake up too.

Michael Vick Deserves to Be Reinstated

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

There’s no reason why Michael Vick should not be reinstated to play in the NFL.  Michael Vick completed his prison term. He’s re-entered society. He’s paid whatever debt he owes to society. And he should be allowed to be reinstated.  He had amazing talent before his prison term.  Whether he still has the gift remains to be seen.  He deserves the opportunity to show whether or not his skills remain.

I don’t see how the NFL can deny Vick reinstatement without being hypocritical and judgmental. Of course, they’ve been both. What does it say about the NFL to deny him a second chance?   It says your debt is not paid by your prison term if your job is professional football.  The NFL needs to just get over it and reinstate Michael Vick.

The NACCP Celebrates Its Centennial

Friday, July 17th, 2009

This week the NAACP held its centennial celebration. The NAACP was formed in 1909 and is still standing 100 years later. The question is whether the NAACP is relevant today. After all, we have elected an African American President. The U.S. Attorney General is African American. Both spoke at the convention. Some think we are in a post racial world. Those who doubt the NAACP’s relevancy needed  to be in attendance. I was fortunate to be able to attend and witness first hand the reasons why the NAACP is still relevant today. The NAACP amply made out the case for its existence today citing facts, figures and issues.

 

Every viable organization that withstands the test of time must change to remain relevant. As times change, some issues change, some remain and others evolve. President Obama said the barriers of the past are not the same as today. We no longer face Jim Crow or lynching.  Yet, we must still eradicate prejudice and discrimination. The NAACP must now stand for advancement of civil rights and human rights. We need only to look at the state of our economy, criminal justice system, housing foreclosure crisis, health issues and discrimination in these areas, to understand the continued need for this organization.

 

In the area of economics, Blacks still earn $.75 for every dollar earned by a white male. Predatory lending and sub-prime mortgage schemes have been shown statistically to target Blacks and Hispanics. Minorities have lost their homes through illegal means with little redress. 1.6 million homes are in foreclosure.  The federal government is assisting some homeowners. Government help is too little and too slow. Bankruptcy and other laws were changed overnight to help banks, auto and other industries. The federal government has failed to significantly change laws to to prevent foreclosure and the economic loss of wealth by minorities.

 

Pay day loans are still legal and target minorities. The average interest rate for these loans is between 400 to 600% or higher. In comparison, blacks who sharecropped were only charged 40%. These loans target the most vulnerable and cause them even greater economic peril.

In the Gulf coast area, $420 million in funds were given to rebuild areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. None of the monies were spent on rebuilding any poor or lower income housing in New Orleans. The NAACP and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights has filed a lawsuit for the improper use of federal funds. New Orleans is being built as a city for the haves and not the have nots.

 

The Voting Rights Act was passed over 40 years ago to prevent voter fraud and injustice in the electoral process aimed at African Americans. Yet, 40 years later, the African American vote is still being suppressed. Recently, the Supreme Court heard and decided to leave the Voting Rights Act in place. This is in spite of our last election.

 

The criminal justice system is still flawed and racially biased. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports police racial profiling of minorities is still alive and well. Disparity in sentences in the criminal justice system between blacks and whites still exists. The disparity of the death penalty sentences between whites and blacks is alarming. NAACP President Ben Jealous promises to work towards complete abolishment of the death penalty. It appears to be his life’s calling.

 

So is the NAACP still relevant today? It is just as relevant today as it was 100 years ago. Today we face different challenges in human rights and civil rights. The challenge for the NAACP is to fight the fight in different ways. Having an African American President and Attorney General is no reason to sit idly by and wait for change to come. The NAACP must aggressively attack the issues of today on the executive, judicial and legislative levels. It needs to broaden its base and build even greater coalitions. The challenges remain and the fight continues.

 

Happy 100th Birthday NAACP!

 

Judging Judge Sotomayor Fairly

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

The Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings on Judge Sotomayor begin this week.  Senators will inquire if Judge Sotomayor can be a fair and impartial judge.  Republicans will grill her on quotas, racial bias and gun control. Democrats just want her to be fair and rule liberally. So what does it mean to be fair and impartial? 

Judges are asked to set aside their own personal views and rule solely on the law as applied to the particular facts of a case.  Yet, must a judge truly forget and set aside  his or her own ethnic background, race, religion, gender, family background to rule fairly? We start life with a clean slate.  From then on, we learn what it means to be male or female, black, white, Asian or Latino, rich or poor, educated or non-educated, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim.

The Senators cannot seriously expect Judge Sotomayor or any judge to truly set aside everything that makes us who we are.  We are the sum total of all our parts  This includes race, religion, gender, familial background and ethnicity.

The Republicans do not really care if Judge Sotomayor will be fair as long as she sides in favor of their issues. Ditto for the Democrats. And that’s what the confirmation hearings really boil down to.  So the hypocrisy of saying the Senators want to determine her fairness should be loooked at with suspicion and skepticism.

As a trial lawyer, I oftentimes inquire of colleagues their opinion of a particular judge. Judges do come in all shapes, sizes and opinions. There are judges who are known to harbor criminal defense bias, prosecutorial bias, pro plaintiff views, anti discrimination bias, pro defense views and the list goes on.  Rarely do we hear a colleague say a judge rules fairly. In those instances, I know I have a good judge and will get a fair trial.

I disagree with former Justice Sandra O’Connor who said recently that the make up of the bench does not matter. The make up of the Supreme Court matters greatly.  It is very important that the make up of the bench reflect the diversity of our society. It is only then that the judging will begin to be fair.

I want Judge Sotomayor to bring to the Supreme Court bench all the richness this Latina woman has to offer.  I want her to bring her female perspective, her Hispanic heritage, her Catholic background, her first generation American pride, her intellect and her Ivy League education. I want her to bring it all. And I think that in doing so, she will be first and foremost  a fair judge.

Michael Jackson: A Funeral Fit For a King?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Why is Michael Jackson’s funeral being broadcast worldwide?  He was not a head of state, a president, prince, king or queen. Princess Diana at her death was no longer royalty. She was divorced from Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.  By the time of her death, she was only “the People’s Princess”, a title lacking in substance. Yet, her funeral was broadcast all over the world with millions watching.  Is there any difference between Michael Jackson and Princess Diana.

In this country, we have a long and warped fascination with royalty. We treated President Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy as the royalty we never had.  We referred to them as Camelot,  a reference from the legendary King Arthur days.  Before President Kennedy, we were star struck by American actress, Grace Kelly who married the King of Monaco. Even before then, we were fascinated by the royal marriage of Wallis Simpson to Prince Edward.  He was forced to give up  his heir to the British throne by marrying an Ameircan divorcee. In recent times, we reverred Princess Diana.

Princess Diana at her death was highly loved and regarded worldwide. Yes, her funeral was broadcast worldwide on every mjaor station. She was no longer a princess. She had become an icon.  People loved her for her humane acts and services.  Yet, most loved her for how she made them feel. At  her death, no one spoke about her tumultous marriage to Prince Charles, his adultery, her adultery, her obsession with weight, her insecurity and sometimes fragile emotional and mental state. Those topics were off limits.

This brings me back to the question. Why is Michael Jackson’s funeral being broadcast worldwide. Michael Jackson was music royalty. Music is healing for the soul. His music healed millions. He is being celebrated for the way he made us feel. In his own words, he really turned us on.  The media had no choice but to air his memorial in this fashion. Just as they had no choice but to air Princess Diana’s  in the same way.

Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, deserved the same respect by the media afforded Princess Diana. Talk of his child molestation charges for which he was acquitted had no place in the media this week.

Michael Jackson made millions worldwide feel good about themselves through his music. He really turned us on.  That’s why he has a funeral fit for a king.