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Archive for July, 2010

Rep. Charles Rangel- A Scape Goat By Republicans

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Timing is everything in life.  Timing couldn’t get any worse for Rep. Charles Rangel (D. NY).  The timing of an ethics hearing before the mid term election is music to Republicans’ ears and much to the dismay of Democrats. Rangel is charged by the House Ethics committee with committing ethical violations allegedly consisting of failing to disclose income and assets, failing to pay taxes  on a Dominican Republican house and using his official Congressional stationary to solicit funds for a center named in his honor. He has served 40 years in Congress.

Despite the fact that the allegations are personal in nature, a trial will be anything but personal. House minority leader John Boehner of Ohio says “this isn’t really about Charlie”.  A truer statement could not be made.  It’s about the mid term elections. It’s about the embarrassment of a trial for the Democratic members of Congress. It’s about Republicans attacking  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ( D. CA) for her failure to clean up Congress. It’s about Republicans trying to tie Rangel’s ethics problems to the White House, as if the White House has anything to do with his troubles. It’s about Democrats, Pelosi, the White House and very lastly Charlie Rangel.

A plea deal is in every one’s best interest except Republicans. Therein, lies the problem with Congressman Rangel in reaching a deal. His timing is really off on this one. Rangel, so far, admits no wrong doing.  His lawyers have apparently tried to broker a deal.  As of this writing, no settlement  has been reached. At least one Republican must vote in favor of a deal.

Democrats kept mostly quiet concerning Rangel’s debacle.  Now, with a hearing looming large on Thursday,  at least several Democrats have called for him to do anything to avoid a trial. I’m sure that’s the unspoken sentiment of almost every Democrat up for re-election in September.  Yet, I doubt if any of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus will call for Rangel’s resignation.  Congressman Rangel is a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus (“CBC”).  That is not the reason for their withholding any rush to judgment. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus know and understand the importance of a fair trial and that one is innocent until proven guilty. These days many forget the fundamentals of the law. If Congressman Rangel wants and can cut a deal, that’s fine.   If not, he should be afforded a fair ethics trial regardless of the timing.  Rep. Rangel  should not be made a scape goat by Republicans. Unfortunately, his timing is way off to prevent that from happening.  If no deal is reached, a full ethics trial is surely to take place in September, same time as the elections.

Debbie Hines blogs on race, law and politics.  Click on Res Ipsa Loquitur for Best of Legalspeaks.

 

Sherrod, Shenanigans and Sheer Madness

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

In a court of law, witnesses are sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. To knowingly lie under oath is a crime called perjury. If Andrew Breitbart were in a court of law, he could be convicted of perjury if he knowingly misrepresented the facts of the Shirley Sherrod tape. Obviously, his acts did not occur in a court room nor was he under oath. Yet, we rely on journalists to tell the truth or at least to be accurate in their reporting. This past week of listening to the Sherrod tape, reading and seeing the incident unfold was like sheer madness. Did Andrew Breitbart intentionally and knowingly mislead the public?

Andrew Breitbart, according to E-mails released by the Huffington Post last week sought out information to attack the NAACP for its stance on the Tea Party. He apparently revels in antagonistic journalism. This led him to the now infamous Sherrod misleading words on tape at an NAACP event in Georgia. We now know the words left out of the tape reflect Ms. Sherrod’s true intention to help and not hinder the white farmer save his farm. Breitbart, a self proclaimed antagonist, used the brief blurp of the Sherrod NAACP tape as an attack on the NAACP for its assault on the Tea Party. The intended agenda was to show the NAACP is racist. Accepting the bait, the NAACP denounced Shirley Sherrod as a racist. It later retracted its statement. The White House also accepted the story as true and became embroiled in the controversy. The White House also apologized. The US Department of Agriculture fired and then offered her a job again. It was like playing follow the leader. The leader was Breitbart.

Breitbart claims it was not his intention to get Sherrod fired. Yet, if you fire a gun into a crowd of people to shoot someone, others are bound to be hurt in the process. This was not the first time that Breitbart fired into the crowd. He attempted to bring down ACORN by another misleading tape showing ACORN members taking applications from an alleged prostitute and pimp and allegedly giving illegal advice. Later, ACORN was cleared by prosecutors. The ACORN tape, like the Sherrod one, was severely edited to meet a specific agenda.

Andrew Breitbart’s work reminds me of Jayson Blair, the black journalist for the New York Times who plagiarized many of his stories during 2002-2003. He was fired and his career as a journalist was over. Blair did not hurt anyone in the process of his plagiarism other than the paper for whom he worked. Why shouldn’t the same thing happen to Breitbart. His career as a reliable source of news should be over for unreliable reporting of facts. There is no real difference between Andrew Breitbart and Jayson Blair, The only difference is Breitbart is white and a blogger. Blair is black and was a journalist for the New York Times. Their method of reporting is the same.

What Andrew Breitbart fans is the fire of racism. Racism is like a fire. It can spread without warning when fear is brought into the equation. That’s why Andrew Breitbart, is dangerous. There’s a lesson for everyone here from the White House, NAACP, down to everyone watching or reading reports on air or in print. Don’t believe everything you read or see in the media. The other lesson is improving race relations is as important as fixing the economy, getting jobs and having health care. Just like thread and a garment, race runs through every fabric of our society. In the words of Shirley Sherrod, “we’ve got to get beyond this {racial division}” “Let’s work together.”

Debbie Hines blogs on law, race, women and politics.

Please click on res ipsa loquitur for the Best of Legalspeaks.

Tea Party Teachable Lesson: Racism 101

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

What do the Tea Party, NAACP,  New Black Panther Party, Shirley Sherrod and Attorney General Eric Holder have in common?  They all teach us about racism. Racism is something you can see, sense, feel and hear.  Yet, it’s hard to quite put into words.  A precise definition is difficult to come by.  The law forbids racial discrimination, yet it’s difficult to sometimes show facts that prove it. That’s why race discrimination cases are difficult to win in court.  What feels and smacks of racism to many African Americans is often disregarded by some whites as a misunderstanding.  Even when something appears blatantly racist to African Americans, there’s still room for debate among whites. But, racism goes both ways.  Contrary to what New Black Panther leader Malik Shabazz says, blacks can be racist too.  Shabazz says blacks cannot be racist due to their past slavery injustices. That’s like saying that Jews, Native Americans and other ethnicities cannot be racist because of past injustices committed against them. No one’s history makes them immune from racism. One thing is clear about racism. Racism is like an addiction. Many who have it are in denial, just like an addiction.

This past week the National Tea Party Federation recognized the writings of Mark Williams as racist and repugnant. In appealing to his Tea Partiers, Williams clearly crossed into the land of racism with his mock letter to President Abraham Lincoln.  Yet, this was not the first time that a Tea Partier crossed that line.  This was the first time the Tea Party Federation took a stand against racist remarks among its followers.  I applaud their efforts to disassociate from Williams’ remarks. Yet, I wonder what took them so long. Why hasn’t the most well known Tea Partier, Sarah Palin, come forward to join in a meaningful discussion on racist acts in the Tea Party?

In the past, there have been equally offensive or even worse racist acts committed by Tea Partiers. Yet, leaders turned their heads the other way or acted as if they were not responsible for the acts of fellow Tea Partiers.   The Tea Party’s recent comparison of President Obama to Hitler and Lenin shows they are not only racist but ignorant of history. It’s also a slap in the face to Jews whose 6 million relatives were killed by Hitler and the Nazi regime. Where is the similarity of Nazi’s and Hitler to President Obama? The only purpose is to inflame and incite anger. That’s the results of racism.

During the health care bill debate, Rep. Emanuel Cleavers ( D. Mo) a black member of Congress was spat on by a Tea Party protestor.  Rep. John Lewis (D.Ga) was called the N word  by a Tea Partier.  Few things are more racist than a white person calling a black man  the “N” word. These acts were so despicable that they cried out for repudiation by the Tea Party.  Instead, the leaders of the Tea Party remained silent. Last summer, former Colorado Congressman  Tom Tancredo stated during a Tea Party rally that civics tests should be a requirement and prerequisite for the right to vote. This smacks clear of racism. History tells us that civics tests and literacy tests were outlawed as a condition for African Americans to vote with the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Presumably, Tea Partiers are unaware of the Voting Rights Act.

Many do not believe the Tea Party is racist.  NAACP President Ben Jealous, rebukes the Tea Party’s repulsive acts yet falls short of calling them racist. Instead, he calls on the Tea Party to go further in repudiating racist acts. Ironically, Jealous called Shirley Sherrod,  the recently fired African American US Agriculture department employee, a racist for her misquoted out of context race remarks.  He had no problem with throwing Sherrod under the bus. Jealous later  retracted his comments. Vice President Joe Biden says the Tea Party is not racist. Vice President Biden says some of the Tea Party members express racist views. Well, I was always taught that you are known by the company you keep. In other words, if the shoe fits, wear it. Right now the Tea Party wears the racist shoe quite well. Is the Tea Party racist? To say the Tea Party is not racist is like saying the Klu Klux  Klan had racist elements but was not racist and then  cite members such as  former Sen. Robert Byrd ( D. W. Va).  The KKK was a racist organization too.

Attorney General Eric Holder had it right last year.  He said we are a nation of cowards when it comes to race issues.  We prefer beer summits than actual conversations about race issues.  However painful the conversation, we must have it.

What do you think?

Debbie Hines blogs on race, law, politics and women.

Click on res ipsa loquitur  for the Best of Legalspeaks blogs.

What Do Women Want? Power, Please

Friday, July 16th, 2010

by Mary Liepold, Editor in Chief, Peace X Peace

A long time ago, when I was young and foolish, I heard a pretty woman say, “Oh, I’m not political.” I thought that sounded rather sweet, so I tried it out the next time the subject of politics came up in a group.

The woman next to me was (relatively) old and wise. She said. “Politics is about who has power. Power shapes what happens in the world, and to whom. Do you mean you don’t care?”

I did care, of course. It’s just that I was used to thinking at the level of stories rather than systems. Chaucer’s 14th century Wife of Bath and the even-older Arthurian legends both recount stories of a knight’s quest to find out what women want. The answer, in both versions: To choose for themselves. Women, like men, want the power to shape their own lives. If they’ve evolved even a little, they want that for others too.

Self-determination is the groundspring ideal of democracy. We here in the United States believe that democracy is the best form of government. Our nation even wages wars to force other nations into the democratic mold. Some of us find that as undemocratic as it is unpeaceful, but that’s a conversation for another day. Right now, we have good news to share.

UN Women: New This Month!
On Friday, July 2, after years of debate and pressure by women and women’s advocates, the UN General Assembly created a single, more powerful new agency to represent the women of the world: the UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, or UN Women. This agency consolidates the four older women’s agencies:

The US$500-million budget of the new agency, though it’s less than the US spends on one day in its two wars, will more than double the combined budgets of these four programs. Its work will be framed by the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which marked its 30th anniversary in 2009. Its shape will emerge over the next few weeks and months. An Undersecretary General will be chosen to head it.

I asked several women who I admire for their take on the new agency.

>“I have been through a cycle of responses to the news about the new gender architecture at the UN,” says Peace X Peace Executive Director Molly Mayfield Barbee. “Years ago, when it was first being promoted in international women’s advocacy circles, I was thrilled to hear that there could be a UN agency for women with status approximately equal to UNICEF’s. What a breakthrough that would be! My hopes flagged a bit as colleagues lamented the added layers of bureaucracy and red tape they felt sure would come with the new architecture. Today, I’m keeping an open mind. The Secretary General is a man I respect very much. I would like to believe that with his commitment, and the hard work of so many women’s advocates in the UN and other international organizations, this new agency will be a source of consolidated and focused power for women and for addressing women’s issues. It’s up to all of us to make the best of it.”

Founder Patricia Smith Melton adds: “Women are the transformative power. Supporting women is the most direct way to heal communities, create viable incomes, and build peaceful cultures. UN Women could become the most effective arm of the UN for substantive social good.”

Deborah Hines, JD

Peace X Peace member Debbie Hines, a Washington, DC attorney, added this comment:

“As an African American woman living in the US, I am greatly moved by the injustices occurring against women in parts of Africa, Afghanistan and other places in the world. Women are victims of violence for no other reason other than they’re women. UN Women is one step in the right direction, towards a more just world for women.  It will take many more steps in the process.  It is too early to judge the impact UN Women will have in eradicating injustices against women, yet we all must do more to alert the world about violence, rape and murder against women. The funding of UN Women is critical in this process.”

Now, as the Huairou Commission reminds us, is time for us to ask ourselves how we can keep grassroots women at the core of its agenda. What styles of leadership, formal structures, and methods of operation will that require? How will the new organization work with existing networks? How will it combine the benefits of centralized and decentralized operation?

GEAR (Gender Equality Architecture Reform) the network of over 300 women’s, human rights, and social justice groups that advocated tirelessly for four years for this new UN entity, is now turning its attention to ensuring that UN Women has the human and financial resources and the input it needs to succeed.

The resolution confirming UN Women’s existence explicitly states that the new entity must have increased operational presence at the country level, including engagement with women’s groups and other civil society organizations.

That means YOU!

The GEAR Campaign’s global, regional, and national networks will be contacting UN representatives at all levels to make sure they connect with organizations on the ground during the transition process.

If you or your organization would like to get involved with this process, contact the GEAR Campaign at gearcampaign@gmail.com. For the GEAR Campaign in Anglophone Africa, contact FEMNET at advocacy@femnet.or.ke. For the Campaign in Latin America, contact feim@feim.org.ar.

The Status Quo: Not Even Halfway to Parity
In round numbers―the kind I remember best―women now head governments in 10% of UN member countries (15), and hold 20% of elected appointments at lower levels. Only 28 countries (again, roughly 20%) have achieved the 30% target for women in decision-making positions set in the early 1990s. These figures come from the website for UN Women.

The US ranks 85th worldwide in the proportion of women who hold elected office, with our figures falling close to the global averages. According to Jennifer Lawless, Executive Director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University here in DC, women make up 25% of statewide officials and state legislators and 17% of the US Congress. Of the 100 largest US cities, 11 (just under 10%) have men as mayors. Out of 50 states, 6 (just over 10%) have women governors.

Considering that there were only three female heads of state worldwide in 1975―and that women are making their way three times faster in government than in business, according to Deloitte Forbes―this is progress to celebrate. Considering that we’re half the human race, it’s short shrift. The challenges UN Women note include negative stereotypes both genders hold about women’s leadership roles (in US studies, men are 66% more likely than women to deem themselves qualified for public office), lack of commitment by political parties, inadequate funding and training for women candidates and officials, and high levels of violence and intimidation against women in public office. In Rwanda, where quotas and women’s activism led to the world’s highest proportion of women in office, now 56%, acting head of state Agathe Uwilingiyimana was assassinated in 1994.

Indira Gandhi, image credit BollywoodSargam

For some, the policies of another assassinated woman leader, India’s Indira Gandhi, are evidence that women in office don’t always advance other women or promote peace with justice. Some cite Britain’s Margaret Thatcher (nicknamed “Iron Mags”) to the same effect. Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, whose state made world news for its harsh policy toward immigrants, is a contemporary example.

We all agree that sustainable peace requires women’s perspectives and expertise. That’s a Peace X Peace Principle―the first, in fact. Our expertise is needed at least as much in governance as in other areas. As citizens under the social contract, we willingly cede some part of our autonomy to our governments, as well as some of our wealth in the form of taxes. Right now, many governments use our mandate and our resources to make war their top priority. (Our own recently passed the trillion-dollar mark for its two wars.) Will those choices shift when the gender balance shifts? I’m eager to find out. Aren’t you?

Please think about the questions below and discuss them with friends online and in person. Share your answers, further questions, and new ideas in the Comments section.

Questions to Consider

  • Does electing women automatically translate to more peace and justice in a given country or the world?
  • Are quotas for women office-holders the key to better representation?
  • Polls show most people believe women are less prone to political corruption. What do you think? (Here’s a fascinating discussion on the topic: http://www.u4.no/helpdesk/helpdesk/queries/query98.cfm.)
  • Do you think women are as qualified to lead as men?
  • What are your hopes for UN Women?
  • Does your country have quotas? Does it make a difference?
  • Do you yourself want to run for political office? Why or why not?

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A Tribute to Faye Wattleton

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Women’s rights activist Faye Wattleton was born on July 8, 1943. I had the pleasure of meeting her when she served as President of Planned Parenthood. She spoke during the Annual Meeting of the YWCA of Baltimore, where I served as a board member. Her mere presence is awe inspiring. Ms. Wattleton served as the youngest and first African American president of Planned Parenthood for 15 years ( 1978 – 1992). Trained as a nurse, she saw the consequences of poor health care. In stepping forward to help effectuate a change in health care, Ms. Wattleton became one of the nation’s most effective advocates for women’s health care. Under her leadership, Planned Parenthood grew to become the 7th largest non profit in America with a $500 million budget to advance women’s reproductive rights.

Ms. Wattleton served as the president of the Center for Advancement of Women
( “CFAW”) for another 15 years from 1995-2010. CFAW conducts research and analysis on women’s attitudes and opinions to influence public opinion and policies necessary to advancing women in society. As of July 2, 2010, Ms. Wattleton stepped down as President of CFAW. Business Week named her one of the best managers of the non profit sector in the country.

Through Faye Wattleton’s steadfast leadership in advancing women’s rights, health care and other causes, women have made significant strides. We’ve come a long way but there’s still so much more work to be done.

Happy Birthday Faye Wattleton!

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Michael Steele, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh: A Common Thread

Monday, July 5th, 2010

I am no defender of Republican Party chairman Michael Steele.  His statements last week that the Afghanistan war was “of Obama’s choosing” is false, absurd and asinine. After all, former president George W. Bush declared war on Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. Many Republican leaders from Senators John McCain (R.AZ) and Lindsey Graham ( R. SC) and Joseph Lieberman ( I. Conn) and a host of others are questioning Steele’s ability to lead the Republican Party.  Some call for his resignation. Yet, I have to wonder how much of the call for resignation and outrage at his false remarks is partly due to Steele’s race. Yes, I’m invoking the race card here.

There’s no difference between the false statements made by Michael Steele from those made by Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh and Palin have made so many false, inflammatory and outrageously absurd statements that it would be easier to contain the BP Gulf oil spill than to name them all. So why is there a double standard for Michael Steele. Is it because he’s chair of the Republican Party, African American or both. I surmise the answer is a result of both factors.  Why else would Republican Party leaders allow Limbaugh and Palin to continue on their course or discourse of falsehoods, lies and fabrications without admonishment. Again, I’m not defending Michael  Steele’s comments. I am saying by Republican standards that the punishment of removal from office doesn’t fit  the crime. That is unless you’re black.

What do you think?

Debbie Hines blogs on race, law, politics and gender.

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