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Egypt What You Should Know

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

This article first appeared in Jack and Jill Politics on January 28, 2011 by Jill Tubman.  It is an account of what is happening in Egypt and what and why you should know.  The opinions expressed are those of Jill Tubman and Jack and Jill Politics. I appreciate her willingness to share with other bloggers.

Egypt: What You Should Know & Why You Should Care

28 Jan 2011 Author: Jill Tubman

Are you following what’s happening in Egypt? I have followed the events over the past few days and am hopeful for the people of Egypt. I agree with our Prez and the Secretary of State that the people have the right to express themselves peacefully including via social media and that this is an opportunity for the government there to respond. Above, watch Egypt’s Tiananmen Square moment where a young man stands up to a tank at 1:30min. The force of his will to protect others and his silent call on those in the tank to stop hurting people is palpable. The tank even backed up for a moment in response.

Obviously, Obama and Clinton have to walk a narrow tightrope — Mubarak has been an important ally in the region. It would be super-unhelpful if he was replaced by an Iran-style regime hostile to America. We’ve invested a lot of money in Egypt — it’s one of our top recipients of foreign aid. So that’s your hard-earned money at stake right now, fyi. The current Obama administration strategy appears to be playing both sides – a dangerous, delicate dance to be sure.

Yet Hosni Mubarak is an old-school strongman and dictator, 30 long years runnin’. Egypt is a democracy in name only. He’s led that country with an iron fist for decades. Our money hasn’t really gone into making Egyptians’ lives better but goes into the pockets of the wealthy and well-connected. Much like China, Egypt’s leadership has maintained the support of the military’s top brass by giving them business interests and making them rich.

There’s a huge young population and a lot of unemployment. There are a couple of catalysts at work. One is clearly the successful overthrow of the Tunisian government by its people using social media to organize opposition. That’s given people in the region hope that they can take destiny into their own hands and stand up to a government that doesn’t serve its interests.

Another catalyst is a case of police brutality and corruption to which a lot of African-Americans can likely relate. Please allow me to introduce you toKhaled Said – from the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook page dedicated to him:

Khaled Said, a 28-year-old Egyptian from the coastal city of Alexandria, Egypt, was tortured to death at the hands of two police officers. Several eye witnesses described how Khaled was taken by the two policemen into the entrance of a residential building where he was brutally punched and kicked. The two policemen banged his head against the wall, the staircase and the entrance steps. Despite his calls for mercy and asking them why they are doing this to him, they continued their torture until he died according to many eye witnesses.

Khaled has become the symbol for many Egyptians who dream to see their country free of brutality, torture and ill treatment. Many young Egyptians are now fed up with the inhuman treatment they face on a daily basis in streets, police stations and everywhere. Egyptians want to see an end to all violence committed by any Egyptian Policeman. Egyptians are aspiring to the day when Egypt has its freedom and dignity back, the day when the current 30 years long emergency martial law ends and when Egyptians can freely elect their true representatives.

According to Associated Press, Khaled was killed after he posted a video on the Internet of officers sharing the spoils from a drug bust among themselves. After Khaled was killed, the Police authorities refused to investigate in Khaled’s death saying that he died because he swallowed a pack of Marijuana. When many Egyptians started to ask questions, the Police issued few statements saying that Khaled was a drug user (as if it is ok to murder and torture to death all drug addicts! And everyone who knew khaled reject these claims completely). Another official statement said that Khaled “is an army deserter” (which was also proved to be false accusation afterwards and his army service report is now published showing that he has fully completed this service). The authorities then refused any further investigation. After pressure mounted, and the European Union representatives in Egypt asked for an impartial investigation, the Egyptian authorities finally decided to question and arrest the two Policemen and they were charged with two counts: “using excessive force” and “unjustified arrest” of Khaled Said.. No one was charged with murder!

If you click through to the site, you’ll see the before photo of a young man in his prime and the gruesome aftermath post-police. Made me think instantly of Emmett Till. Much like the recent Oscar Grantcase here, the police and the government’s customary coverup of their own crime was thwarted by citizens’ new ability to take pictures and video that show the crime in action. African-Americans have taken to the streets in cases of police brutality with similar emotion — it’s a common experience to feel oppressed by those who are supposed to protect you.

It’s difficult for some white people in America to fully understand or be empathetic since this is often outside their own experience. You often hear — why are they destroying their own neighborhood or it’s just one case, what’s the big deal? Let me try and explain: the outrage essentially comes from a visceral, instinctive reaction to the violation of Rousseau’s Social Contract in which individuals agree to obey certain social norms and rules and even pool resources in the form of taxes in exchange for social services and increased safety.

When it becomes clear to a given population of citizens that an individual can do everything right and obey every rule and yet have their life destroyed by the very people who are supposed to protect them and whose salaries they pay…when a people have no hope for a better life, for education, for work…when it appears that no one cares and there is no redress –> this is when people erupt with rage and feel they have nothing to lose. This is when people take to the streets to push back against the society they believe to be pushing down on them.

Many people are wondering what will happen in Egypt. It’s too early to tell. Yet my prediction is that even if Mubarak stays on, change will come to Egypt as a result of this. The best parallel is China in fact. Many people including me were disappointed when the crackdown in Tiananmen Square came in 1989 and appeared initially successful in crushing a populist push for greater freedom. Yet, 20 years later, it’s clear that the government has been forced to make significant changes in order to maintain power. Some of the societal shifts those protestors wanted have come to pass — but not democracy just yet.

So my belief is that change gon’ come, no matter what and I’d urge the White House and the State Dept to be on the right side of history here. As a major donor nation, we have a lot of say and a lot of stake in what happens there. Martin Luther King said it best: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. African-Americans can surely be sympathetic to a people unwilling to accept bullying, corruption in their communities and a lack of opportunities and supportive of a people willing to march for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in their own land. Meanwhile, our own struggle here against police brutality, repression, injustice and racial profiling goes on. Our voices on social media and our own cameras will continue to be our “weapons” in the fight for peace.

A Tale Of Two Second Chances

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Everyone deserves a second chance.  I believe everyone deserves a second, third, fourth, fifth and however many chances, it may take to get it right. The “it” is life. We all mess up somewhere along the way. Some of us mess up more than others. Michael Vick spent 21 months in jail before being offered a second chance to quarter back for the Philadelphia Eagles. This week, Michael Vick received news of another second chance.  He received his first endorsement deal, since returning to the NFL, from sports gear company, Unequal Technologies.  The president, Rob Vito, stated he believes “that people can repent and deserve a second chance.”

 Another person, “Golden Voice” Ted Williams, the homeless man and former radio announcer received a second chance at life too.  Mr. Williams had been homeless for 17 years, living on the streets, drinking alcohol and using crack cocaine, by his own words.  Instantly, his luck changed when someone taped him and his announcer’s voice on the street.  Job offers came in and success seemed imminent. While Ted Williams still has his great announcer’s voice, he also still has his substance abuse demons.  Dr. Phil offered him a fully paid inpatient rehab stint for his alcohol and drug dependency, use and/or abuse at a Texas facility.  Dr. Phil saw that without curing these demons, life’s second chance for Ted Williams might not really materialize. Mr. Williams did go to rehab in Texas for 2 weeks but prematurely checked out this week.  His mother pleads for his return. 

I believe in second chances.  And we all get second chances at doing something better than before. What we do with our second chances in life is up to us.  One thing is for sure. We all need support and help from others with our second chances at life. What second chances have you messed up or used wisely?

Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political commentator.  She also writes for the Huffington Post. She frequently appears on air on NBC, CBS Washington, DC affiliates, the Michael Eric Dyson show and in the Washington Post, Black Enterprise, Wall Street Journal and other publications. She holds a Juris Doctorate degree from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.

The Morning After the State of the Union Address

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

President Obama’s State of the Union address was inspiring and visionary.  He spoke of using our time as the “Sputnik” moment to become the best that we can become as a nation.  Rep. Steve Israel ( D. NY), chairman of the DCCC, stated the President’s speech reminded him of Pres. John Kennedy. President Obama spoke of improving education, energy, cutting costs in government, improving infrastructure to roads and Internet and ending the Afghanistan war.  Rep. Israel spoke the morning after about President Obama being “pitch perfect” on energy. This year, both parties made attempts to put party aside and sit together. In the words of Senator Barbara Mikulski (D.MD), they came in two by two like Noah’s ark.  The mood was somber and respectful this year.  The speech comes on the hills of the Arizona shootings and killings. An empty chair was placed for Rep. Giffords. 

There were no Rep. Joe Wilson’s ( R. SC) “you lie” moments to President Obama. And there were no shout outs by President Obama to the Supreme Court justices for its decision of Citizens United.   But, Mr. Obama missed this moment to speak truth to things that needed to be spoken.  As Senator Barbara Mikulski (D. MD) noted, there was no mention of gun control, health care for mental health and women. She stressed that women and children cannot be thrown under the health care bus in cutting measures.  President Obama mentioned community action groups in his cutting measures. Measures to help the least of those among us, the poor, cannot be placed on the cutting block. While the President’s speech was visionary on where we need to go, it still left out some key components.  He failed to discuss the urgency of helping those needing the most immediate help.  Ironically, 2 Republicans, Senator Roy Blunt (R. Mo) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy ( R. CA) agreed. Rep. McCarthy stated during a Politico interview that “everything should be about jobs.”  While Obama’s long term investment of our country is necessary, what people want and need right now is most important. 

So what was missing in President Obama’s speech?  What we didn’t hear was any reference to unemployment. We still have high unemployment and over a million people who have been out of work for over 99 weeks.  Blacks have the highest unemployment rates which is still soaring above 16%. No mention of their pain and plan for the future was mentioned.  Foreclosures are still occurring at rapid rates. People are losing their homes daily.  Again, the African American community is affected in the worst way. The middle class is becoming “  the new poor”.  And if we lose our middle class, we become no better than a third world country.  And what about the poor?  The least of those among us still need the most help. Truly, I hope the Obama administration is not going to cut from their programs, despite what socialist terms the Republicans may call them.

Actions speak louder than words. But, I would still have loved for President Obama to mention unemployment, urgency of jobs now, 99ers, foreclosures and the poor. 

Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political commentator.  She also writes for the Huffington Post. She frequently appears on air on NBC, CBS Washington, DC affiliates, the Michael Eric Dyson show and in the Washington Post, Black Enterprise, Wall Street Journal and other publications. She holds a Juris Doctorate degree from George Washington University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Happy Anniversary Roe v. Wade

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Each January marks the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, giving women the right to choose an abortion. Every year, both Pro Choice and Pro Life groups gather in Washington, DC, to support their respective views. This year was no different. Pro Choice groups such as National Organization for Women and NARAL- Pro Choice America gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court to acknowledge the historic anniversary of a woman’s right to choose.  It has now been 38 years since the historic and landmark Supreme Court decision.  In recent times, many Pro Life groups have argued that abortion is resulting in black genocide. That is not true but hype. Abortion gives a woman a right to choose and it is the choice that makes America a democracy.  Yet, the Supreme Court is further eroding away women’s rights issues with its recent decisions. But today, we can still applaud a woman’s right to choose as the law of the land, as decided in 1973. And today, we can applaud that there are 3 women Supreme Court justices.

Happy Anniversary Roe v. Wade.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and politcal and legal commentator. She holds a Juris Doctorate degree from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.  She also writes for the Huffington Post, the Women’s Media Center and other outlets.

When Are Jobs Coming To America?

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Many American jobs have gone overseas through outsourcing   to China, India and  other countries.  The New York Times and recent CBS News polls show that most Americans think jobs are the number one priority for the new Congress. At a recently televised 3 hour segment by Tavis Smiley on America’s Next Chapter,   the top concern facing our country, according to the online discussion, is Jobs, Jobs and Jobs. It’s that simple.   Many online persons spoke about jobs being the number one priority for people in this country but yet expressed concern that our politicians are not focused on jobs. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post recently asked how do  we create jobs when we manufacture nothing except lies.  Arianna Huffington spoke of her daughter’s college friends who face an uncertain future due to the lack of jobs for college graduates. And I know of recent college graduates, law school graduates and post graduates who have degrees and six figure college debts to prove it, but cannot find jobs.  The issue of jobs among everyday Americans transcends progressives, centrists, and Right Wing conservatives.

Despite the sad reality facing our nation’s job market, there still is no sense of urgency on the part of our lawmakers to fix it. Our elected officials have not acted with the same sense of emergency as with the bank and automobile bail outs. They only appear concerned about keeping their own jobs. The Washington Post recently discovered that a huge surge of corporate special interest money is now going to our recently elected Republicans and committee leaders, to protect corporate interests. With the House Republicans in charge, who is protecting the American people’s number one request and need for jobs?

As citizens, we must generate a real sense of urgency to our elected officials.  We must move them from talk to action. Social media has led the way on other fronts.  Social media was used to raise millions during President Obama’s campaign. In 2011 and beyond, we need to use it to advocate for America’s job needs. An ongoing social media advocacy campaign is needed to get the urgency of the jobs issue across to our politicians.  As Americans, social justice advocates, civil rights advocates and everyday citizens, we must stay on the backs of Congress until jobs come back to America.  We cannot give up nor give in to those corporate interests who do not have our number one job interests at heart. The American people want and need jobs. Write your representative in Congress today and ask: When are the jobs coming to America? No, better yet, demand that jobs come back to America.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political commentator. She also writes for the Huffington Post. She holds a Juris Doctorate degree from George Washington University Law School. She holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a native of Baltimore, MD.

Digital Access is a Civil Rights Issue For Minorities

Friday, January 21st, 2011

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski  says closing the digital gap is one of the most important civil rights issues of our time. While many of us are busy online with the Internet throughout the day, a large percentage of African Americans and Latinos are being left behind without accessibility and affordability to broadband. It is estimated that only 56% of African Americans have broadband in their households and only 47% of Hispanics. This compares to 65% for white Americans households.  In all, a third of all Americans have not adopted broadband, according to FCC Chairman Genachowski. Combined with low income families without broadband, it translates to an estimated 100 million who are being left behind.  Today many jobs are posted only online while many government services are online.  Without access to online, many are required to still stand in line. In contrast, blacks are using cell phones at a much higher rate than whites, with 81% of African Americans owning a cell phone.  But, not many are completing job applications on a cell phone, using educational tools or conducting other necessary business. The access to digital is just one of many issues being tackled by Minority Media and Telecom Council’s  (MMTC”) Broadband and Social Justice Summit in Washington, DC this week.

Historically, many people of color were shut out of broadcasting for decades, while segregationists continued to provide only the information they wanted blacks to receive.  In the 21st century, digital equality is a social justice issue.  We must ensure digital equality for all persons. In addressing the keynote dinner speech, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. told the crowd that “closing the digital divide is as important as closing the education divide, closing the healthcare divide and closing the economic divide. Indeed, broadband is a tool that can be used to narrow these divisions and close the wealth gap.” As Rev. Jackson reminds us, we cannot close the broadband gap without closing the poverty wealth gap. Rep. Bobby Rush (D.IL) , affectionately known as the Godfather of the broadband movement , echoed the point that the digital divide is a civil rights issue. Congressman Rush said small businesses are drivers of economic growth. Digital access is a necessary component in that growth.  Closing the gap will require that the government, private sector, public interest groups and community groups work together.  Yet, in the words of Kelley Dunne, CEO of One Economy, bringing all Americans on line is not optional. It’s a moral and economic imperative. 

Breaking down the barriers will differ depending on the location. There is no one size fits all solution. There are pilot programs now in parts of North Carolina to assist in closing the digital divide.  Some historical black colleges and universities are adopting communities to assist with access to broadband.  Knowledge is power and key to success. Without access to broadband, minorities will lack the power to determine their own destiny.  Broadband provides jobs, educational tools and touches upon every aspect of our lives.  MMTC’s Broadband and Social Justice Summit will continue to work on innovative ways to develop policies to deliver America 100% broadband access, adoption and affordability .  Those attendees present at the Summit are commited to continuing to address the issues of affordability and access. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind.

Washington DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor,  political  and legal commentator. She also writes for the Huffington Post. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a native of Baltimore, MD.