Monday, June 29, 2009

The Firefighters Win their Suit

Firefighter Frank Ricci

In a 5-to-4 decision, made along ideological lines, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the white firefighters in their racial discrimination case. This is a direct reversal of Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor's previous decision and is sure to be an extended topic of discussion during her upcoming confirmation hearings.

I've always been wary of the way the city of New Haven handled the results of its now infamous firefighter promotion test. It never made sense to me. When test results came back, and no black firefighters had scores high enough for immediate promotion, New Haven decided to throw out the results of the test on the grounds that the test itself may have been discriminatory and that the black firefighters might sue the city for discrimination. New Haven was not being altruistic in its concerns about "racial fairness."

Click to read.

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Bernie Madoff Gets 150 years in Prison

I guess crime doesn’t pay.  Bernard Madoff, the billionaire who bilked investors out of billions of dollars the largest Ponzi Scheme in American history was just sentenced to 150 years in prison.


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Saturday, June 27, 2009

ACLU To Deal with Michigan’s Expulsion of Black Children

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Schools are not using enough discretion under Michigan's zero-tolerance expulsion law and are disproportionately kicking out black students who ultimately end up behind bars, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The study by the ACLU of Michigan was released Wednesday. It identifies a school-to-prison pipeline it says has been created by suspension policies, cultural stereotypes, referrals to law enforcement for school fights and factors such as not requiring expelled students to get an alternative education.

Michigan's 1995 zero-tolerance law requires an expulsion for possessing any "dangerous weapon," and the ACLU says it is broader than required by federal law. The ACLU wants state law to be eased so only firearms possession is subject to mandatory expulsion.

The ACLU's report says students were disciplined for bringing a toy gun, novelty lighter and eyebrow archer to school.


Click to read.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Supreme Court Rules that DNA Testing is Not a Right for Criminal Defendants

William Osborne

By Leland C. Abraham, Esq.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, turned down an Alaska man’s request for DNA testing. Many have argued that the Supreme Court committed a grave disservice to the cause of justice.

William Osborne was convicted of raping and nearly killing a prostitute in Anchorage, Alaska in 1993. The DNA testing at the time concluded that Osborne could have been among the 15-16% of the African-American community who could have committed the crime. This level of uncertainty is likely not to have held up in a modern court case. More unnerving is that his lawyer is reported to have advised him against seeking a better DNA test.

In the decision, the justices did not reject Osborne’s claim on the merits of his case, but rather they rejected it because they stated that it was not their jobs. Herein lies a problem with how the Supreme Court is interpreted. The function of the Supreme Court is not to make the laws, but it is to interpret the law. Thus, because the Supreme Court is not a rule-making body, it does not have the authority to declare that an inmate has a Constitutional right to DNA testing, no matter how grave the injustice. In response to this case, Chief Justice John Roberts stated, “The elected governments of the States are actively confronting the challenges DNA technology poses. . . . To suddenly constitutionalize this area would short-circuit what looks to be a prompt and considered legislative response.” The rule making authority has been left to legislatures.

What makes this case so unique is that the denial of DNA testing is usually premised on the fact that DNA testing is so expensive. Generally, DNA tests costs thousands of dollars to conduct and the state usually does not have an abundance of money to expend on every request for a DNA test. However, that is not the case for Mr. Osborne. The reports are that he offered to pay for his own test, so money would not have been a factor for the Alaska Courts to consider. This may just be an Alaskan practice. Although DNA testing has freed over 240 inmates across the nation, Alaska has not granted a single DNA review for a convicted inmate according to the four dissenting justices. One of the dissenters, Justice John Stevens said, “When absolute proof of innocence is readily at hand, a State should not shrink from the possibility that error may have occurred.” Herein lies the confusion of the Court’s decision. While it is recognized that the Supreme Court does not have rule-making capabilities, it is a court of review. The statements by Justice Stevens clearly indicate an affront to Mr. Osborne’s right to Due Process. This alone would have given the Supreme Court jurisdiction to determine whether Mr. Osborne was denied Due Process of law by lacking proper access to the DNA technology. This would take the matter out of the state court jurisdiction and put it right where it should have been, the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court decided that it did not have authority to rule on the matter which appears to be a misinterpretation of the Supreme Court’s authority.

Most states provide for post-conviction DNA testing. In the few that do not, the inmate is out of luck in proving his innocence. In review of Alaska’s practice, Justice John Roberts acknowledged that most states had post-conviction access to DNA technology and because those states had it, he saw “nothing inadequate” concerning Alaska’s procedure. Alaska may not have cared that it subverted the Constitutional rights of an American citizen, but it is surprising that the US Supreme Court may have cared even less.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Black People and the Police: Should There Be Any Trust?

By Elliot Millner, J.D.

In the past several weeks, there have been numerous incidents involving the police and Black people, that have resulted in serious injury and death on both sides. This includes several recent incidents in Oakland, California; in Seattle, a 15-year old girl brutally beaten for being mouthy and kicking a shoe; an off-duty Black New York police officer being gunned down by a white officer; and other incidents in places around the country.

These are some of the most recent and extreme examples of a problem that, in one form or another, spans the length of U.S. history. The reality is that police forces, in varying forms, have been traditionally used as a tool to preserve and promote white supremacy, and to keep Blacks (particularly those in impoverished communities) "in their place". The idea of "protecting and serving" as it relates to policing, had as its root and initial goal the same objective as most other laws and statutes enacted in this country: To protect the interests of property-owning white males. There are few areas in the United States(if any) where the police in some form or fashion have not actively participated in violating the rights of Black people, utilizing any methods deemed necessary, including murder. Although some things have changed, it is naive (to say the least) to think that the legacy upon which the idea of policing was built in this country(white supremacy and Black oppression) has been erased from its method of operation.

Very often there is only outrage shown when an extreme incident takes place(such as some of those stated earlier). However, despite a spike in the number of documented and observable incidents of police brutality(thanks to youtube and various other sites), the reaction of many to these acts of brutality has become more indifference than anger. The increased ease with which we can see a person being beaten or harassed by police seems to have desensitized many of us to the injustice involved. This is extremely unfortunate for all of us, but particular for those Black people who live in neighborhoods oversaturated with police officers, which increases their likelihood of becoming the next youtube sensation(for all the wrong reasons).

Like most things, the issue of police misconduct as it relates to Black people does not operate in a vacuum, and it is not one-sided. Are there criminals in Black communities? Absolutely, just like there are in almost all communities. Do they need to be held accountable for their actions? Yes they do(we can debate what type of accountability and how harsh, but that's another issue altogether). Do the majority of police officers go out with the conscious goal of harassing Black people and/or brutalizing them? I'll say no to that one(although far too many seem to have that mindset). However, the next question is the one that most avoid and refuse to ask or seek an answer to(especially those who believe the fantasy that we live in a "post-racial" society): Is the American method of policing(not necessarily individual police officers) white supremacist/racist at its root, and in need of a complete restructuring? I say yes, and history(including the very recent past) bears witness to this.

I realize that many of us were raised to respect authority. That is all fine and good. However, it is imperative that police, given their position, show respect to the citizens in the communities that they serve. In many instances they do, but there are far too many situations where they don't, particularly in predominately Black communities. Also, the fact that most of the officers patrolling these communities do not live there only serves to increase the likelihood that they will be uncaring and disrespectful to the residents that they come in contact with.

We can no longer afford to have the attitude of "I'm just glad its not me" when it comes to acts of police misconduct. At the same time, it is not productive to simply scream "F*#@ the Police!" either. Furthermore, those of use who have moved to Suburbia or other areas where these issues are not so prevalent cannot rationalize the misconduct that takes place and the lack of accountability on the part of the police by following the lead of some and attempting to blame or criminalize entire communities of people. It is almost comical to see one of these "Well, if you're not doing anything wrong you don't have anything to worry about" people suddenly turn into Huey Newton when they are wrongly profiled, or are laying face down with a gun to their head for no valid reason.

One key result of regular negative interactions with police forces is the distrust and disdain for the police that is common amongst Black people, which results in incidents like the recent Oakland beating, where people who need to be held accountable may not be. The fear of testifying or "snitchin" is directly linked to the idea that the police cannot be trusted to protect a person when it counts, which is often the case.

The police are one part of a criminal justice system that is still demonstrably unjust in its dealings with Black people. This is not about hating individual police officers(My sister, whom I love dearly, is in law enforcement), it is about a way of doing things that is resulting in the absolute destruction of an entire segment of the Black population. 1 in 3 Black males between the ages of 20 and 29 is under some form of correctional supervision or control. (For more detailed statistics, check out, and

Police misconduct is not the only reason that every Black male in America is going to prison. There are aspects of this problem that we can and should deal with ourselves, in our communities. Although there are extreme problems in the criminal justice system, there are also problems in Black communities that contribute to this path of destruction (that will be another post). However, a large part of the problem is the disparate way in which the criminal justice system has and does treat Black people.

We must start at the most basic level first. Knowing what our rights are when interacting with the police is imperative. Document/report any negative interaction you have with a police officer(this can include contacting city council, mayor's office, or other representative, and even the press). Utilize the internet to spread the word or concern about a particular incident, including petitions if the situation calls for it.

In reality, there is a delusional segment of the population (possibly brainwashed by years of "tough on crime" propaganda) that will find a way to justify any act of police brutality, no matter how despicable. For everyone else, it is imperative to make it known ,through words and action, that this is a serious issue (even if this means addressing President Obama's continued silence on the matter). As stated before, many lives are at stake. You don't want to be the next face on that youtube screen.

People: Chris Brown gets probation, labor for Rihanna assault

By Tony HicksContra Costa Times
Posted: 06/22/2009 04:06:32 PM PDT

Chris Brown pleaded guilty Monday to count of felony assault on pop star Rihanna.
Brown entered his plea before a preliminary hearing was scheduled to start in Los Angeles on Monday. Rihanna had been on standby to testify.

After Brown left the courtroom, Rihanna was addressed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg, who explained to the Barbados-born singer that she had issued a stay-away order, requiring Brown and Rihanna stay at least 50 yards from each, except at industry events when the distance is reduced to 10 yards.

Brown's lawyer, Mark Geragos, said the plea deal includes five years of supervised probation and six months of community labor. Brown will be formally sentenced on Aug. 5.

Schnegg accepted Brown's plea, but specified the community service must entail hard labor, citing Caltrains cleaning or graffiti removal as an example. She said Brown likely will be allowed to do his community service in his home state of Virginia. He'll also be required to attend domestic violence classes.

Lawyers for Brown, 20, and Rihanna, 21, refused to discuss the status of the pair's relationship. Brown was arrested Feb. 8, after police say he hit and threatened Rihanna after leaving a pre-Grammy party in Los Angeles.

Supreme Court narrows but preserves Voting Rights Act

The justices leave Section 5 safeguards intact while allowing municipalities with a clean record to 'bail out.' Clarence Thomas dissents, saying he would strike down the provision.

By David G. Savage June 23, 2009

Reporting from Washington -- The historic Voting Rights Act -- the 1965 law that ended a century of racial discrimination at the ballot box and gave blacks a political voice across the South -- survived a strong challenge at the Supreme Court on Monday as justices pulled back from a widely anticipated decision to strike down a key part of the law as outdated and unfair to today's South.Instead, the justices agreed to narrow the law's impact by allowing municipalities with a clean record to seek an exemption.

Though the court sided with the Texas water district that brought the case, its 8-1 decision preserved the core of the Voting Rights Act, including its special scrutiny for any changes in election rules by Southern states.The ruling also protected the Roberts court from charges of conservative "judicial activism" in its refusal to tamper with an act of Congress, a often sensitive procedure fraught with political risk.Monday's decision, considered among the most important of the term, came as a surprise and a relief to civil rights advocates.

"This is a Pyrrhic victory for those who were behind bringing this case," said Jon Greenbaum, legal director for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "We are glad that . . . the Voting Rights Act remains intact to protect the rights of voters."Civil rights lawyers and liberal activists were prepared to denounce Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the court's conservatives had they struck down one of the landmark laws of the civil rights era.Three years ago, Congress by overwhelming majorities in the Senate and House extended the law for an additional 25 years. President George W. Bush signed the bill extending the law.

But in January, the court voted to hear a broad challenge. Civil rights advocates were astonished during the oral argument in April when the court's most conservative justices derided the law and signaled they were inclined to throw it out.Without question, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is an unusual provision. Its effect has been to keep the South under special scrutiny from Washington because of its history of racism.

The law requires most states in the South and more than 12,000 municipalities to "pre-clear" with the Justice Department any changes in their voting and election procedures. These can range from the location of polling places to the shape of electoral districts in the state legislatures. Its original aim was to prevent county officials from adopting schemes such as shifting the hours and places for voter registration to keep blacks off the voter rolls.It has had an enormous impact in its nearly 45-year history, opening the polls to millions of black voters.

"This law has an extremely important symbolic effect even today," said Paul Hancock, who was a veteran Justice Department lawyer and defender of the Voting Rights Act. It forces states and counties to think twice before making changes that would have an unfair impact on black voters and candidates, he said.

To read more, follow link below:,0,5494880.story

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why Obama’s Overhaul is a good idea

Obama's financial regulatory reform risky but necessary

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Finance Professor Syracuse University

I have a friend who broke both of his legs climbing a dangerous mountain in Southeast Asia. This friend has nearly died 8 times, been chased by bears, and has had food poisoning too many times to count. After his latest injury, we presumed that he would understand that taking such risk simply doesn't pay. But he rebuffed our intervention, stating that the risk is what makes his life worth living. My friend seems to believe that pursuing and living the dream might be worth enduring the occasional nightmare.

The current financial crisis is certainly the worst of economic nightmares. Job losses have been enormous and the stock market has shrunk faster than Lindsay Lohan's dress size. A report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last week reported that in May jobless rates were higher in all 50 states and in the District of Columbiathan they were a year ago.

The Black community has had a double dose of economic drama, as our unemployment rate is nearly double that of White Americans, standing at 14.9% according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Black urban centers such as Detroit have been hit especially hard.

Click to read.

Your Black News - Study: 1 in 4 South African Men Admit to Rape

South Africans received a horrifying measure of just how bad their country's rape crisis is with the release this week of a study in which more than a quarter of men admitted to having raped, and 46% of those said that they had raped more than once.

The study, conducted by South Africa's Medical Research Council, reveals a deeply rooted culture of violence against women, in which men rape in order to feel powerful, and do so with impunity, believing that their superiority entitles them to vent their frustrations on women and children. The men most likely to rape, the researchers found, were not the poorest, but those who had attained some level of education and income.

Click to read.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Legal Issues in the Salon Beat Down

by Dr Boyce Watkins

OK, don't lie. You know that when you heard about the woman being beaten in the beauty salon in Oakland, you clicked on the link faster than Eminem's neck snapped when he had Bruno's behind in his face. You were curious, yet disturbed by the incident, as was nearly everyone else in America.

But one thing that black attorneys such as Christopher Metzler noticed during this incident were the legal implications of attacking someone in public, in broad daylight, videotaping the incident and then bragging about it on the radio. Now that the Oakland Police Department has taken notice, the women responsible for the attack are going to have some serious problems.

Click to read.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Solutions to Community Protection


Many of us have read about the traumatic beating of a woman in broad daylight in an Oakland beauty salon.  The woman chose not to testify, in part because she feared retaliation from her attackers.  The protection of witnesses is a serious issue and solutions are necessary.  Elliot Milner, an attorney, had this to say:

“This is a complicated issue, and there is no easy solution. Most police departments only provide protection in the most extreme cases, and this is usually a very rare occurrence. I am a proponent of self-help. I'm not speaking about vigilante justice, simply saying that if people in urban(and any other) communities want to make sure that their neighbors who speak out against those who commit crimes are not harmed, then it is necessary for people in the community to take the initiative to let it be known that they will not tolerate harm being done to innocent citizens who simply seek to have those doing wrong held accountable.

I completely understand that is easier said than done. However, community intervention is a must. The police(in Oakland or any other city/town) are not going to protect you. Even if they have the desire to, most police departments do not have the funding or personnel to accomplish that. In several cities, groups of men in urban communities have taken to policing the streets of their neighborhoods. It is imperative that people in the community show that they are not afraid and will not be imprisoned in their own homes, as is the case in some neighborhoods. Also, participating in dialogue with individuals who may be "in the street" or committing crimes is a must. The more you isolate a person or group of people, the more likely they are to react negatively to you.”

Friday, June 19, 2009

Troy Davis: Life/Death Around the Corner...

" I have faced execution and the torment of saying goodbye to my family three times in the last two years and I may experience that trauma yet again; I would not wish this on my worst enemy and to know I am innocent only compounds the injustice I am facing."- Troy Davis, from Georgia's death row, on facing a fourth possible execution date.

For those who are unaware, Troy Davis has been on Georgia's death row for about 18 years, after being convicted of murdering police officer Mark McPhail(Mr. Davis has maintained his innocence from the very beginning).

It would take pages to give all of the details of Troy Davis' case, however I will say that there was no physical evidence found(including a murder weapon) connecting Troy Davis to the killing of Officer McPhail; he was convicted largely on the basis of inconsistent and often contradictory eyewitness testimony. The vast majority of those prosecution eyewitnesses have since recanted or changed their testimony implicating Mr. Davis, and one of those who hasn't is Sylvester Coles, the main alternative suspect presented by the defense during Troy Davis' trial. In addition, there have been multiple allegations of police coercion and the usage of unethical interrogation techniques.

(For additional information on Troy Davis' case, or to get information on how to act, check out and

Troy Davis' ordeal has been going on for nearly two decades now, and is nearing its end, one way or the other. He has had numerous appeals denied(most recently in April 2009), habeas corpus petitions denied, stays of execution granted and expired, and also had one request for clemency denied by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles(the same board that would decide any future request for clemency regarding Troy Davis).

As absurd as it sounds, relative to many others on death row, Troy Davis is 'lucky'. He is lucky in the sense that his case has drawn national and international attention, from a broad range of activists and celebrities. He has lawyers and organizations working around the clock to save his life, and draw attention to the injustices present in his particular case, and also to those injustices present in the application of the death penalty in the United States in general(particularly in cases involving Black defendants and white victims, such as this).

Compared to the multitude of nameless, faceless(and disproportionately Black and poor) people occupying death rows across the U.S., Troy Davis has a chance at life, however slim. He is the newest face of the anti-death penalty movement, and the most recent example of a Black man being sentenced to death for the murder of a white person(in this case also a police officer) under very questionable circumstances.

It is often difficult for people to get outraged regarding someone convicted of murder and sentenced to death row. Regardless of whether a person is pro or anti-death penalty, the reality is that many of the people on death row are guilty of murder, sometimes involving extreme mitigating factors, such as the murder of a child, or torture, even cannibalism. That is not the issue here. Even though there is significant evidence raising doubt as to whether Troy Davis murdered Officer McPhail, the ultimate issue is about the fairness of the process and equality of treatment, and in my view there is more than sufficient evidence showing that Troy Davis had the deck stacked against him, as is often the case for Black and poor defendants.

Act in some way to help Troy Davis, whether it be writing a letter or spreading the word. However, do not forget those others who do not have the same publicity. This issue is bigger than Troy Davis, and it is important for us to address anything involving the unjust treatment of a Black person(regardless of where they may reside), especially when it involves the ultimate penalty.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Michael Eric Dyson and Barack Obama: Their Awkward Conversation

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

When I heard the controversial and heated comments about President Obama that were made by my respected colleague Michael Eric Dyson, I felt like a 2nd grader running outside to see the fight between two middle school kids. Both Barack and Michael are men I've grown to appreciate, and I love them for their strengths as well as their imperfections. Michael was the reason I became a public scholar during graduate school, as I would watch the words flow out of him like an MC in the booth dropping his hottest album. The man is good, damn good.

Barack Obama needs to listen to the words of Michael Eric Dyson. In fact, he should give Dyson as much, or more respect than he gives me or any other black public intellectual in America. Dr. Dyson, no matter how you perceive his critique of President Obama, represents a form of insight that you are not going to find in politics, the pulpit or anywhere else. At the same time, I will confess that his words may also come from an impure place that lies within the darkest part of our souls. In other words, Dyson, Tavis, Barack, Jesse and every other ambitious man in America is always going to be tempted by the "Demon of Playerhaterology". Men are naturally competitive, and no man likes to be disrespected. Obama, as a condition for his employment, is often asked to disrespect other leaders across America who represent the essence of meaningful black thought. That's going to create a long list of enemies.

Click to read more.

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Lady Drama: Rihanna Getting Sued

See the latest from Lady Drama:
Talk about Love Thy Neighbor..... Rihanna Gets Sued By her Neighbors!

Seems like Rihanna may not be as well liked by her neighbors as she is by the rest of the world, According to sources Rihanna is being sued by her neighbor for trespassing issues with Rihanna's guests that she had which disturbed their peace lol! Read the details below:
We just got hold of a lawsuit filed against Rihanna today.
Moeller is suing over some property, claiming Rihanna has been trampling all over his property.
Moeller is a professor of design and media art at UCLA. Moeller has created spaces for the W Hotel in Hollywood.
Here’s what happened. Rihanna rents a home owned by Stephen Yacobian, whose house is next door to Moeller’s. Moeller gave Yacobian an easement — the right to drive cars on a portion of Moeller’s property.
But two years ago, Yacobian renovated the property and the easement wasn’t really being used. To make matters a lot worse, since Rihanna moved in she’s been allowing cars to drive on Moeller’s lawn to get to her driveway… and the suit claims sometimes the cars just sit there on the lawn.
So Moeller wants the easement eliminated. As for Rihanna, Moeller is suing her for allowing people and cars to trespass on his property.

Very minor issue that I'm sure will be resolved by the time I hit publish on this entry!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Black Legal News: Inmates Handcuffed While Giving Birth

Former Chicago inmates Simone Jackson and Danielle Bryant are seeking to file a class action lawsuit against the Cook County Sheriff's Department. Both claim they were forced to give birth while shackled and handcuffed to the hospital bed.

Jackson said, "It's dehumanizing. It's degrading. It's immoral." Jackson and three other former Cook County inmates described how they felt when they gave birth while imprisoned.

"I couldn't have family there," Bryant said. "Nobody to support me, help me. The nurses were in and out. All I had was the police officer."

Jackson and Bryant were being held on theft charges when they went into labor and were transferred to Chicago's Stroger Hospital to give birth.

Bryant's restraints were removed right before the actual birth. But Jackson says her restraints never came off.

"It is not even feasible to run when you are actually going to have a baby," Jackson said. "There is no way to do that."

Click to read.

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Rev. Al Sharpton Being Sued by Hotel


Rev. Al Sharpton's non-profit civil rights group National Action Network is being sued by the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.

Southern hospitality only goes so far.

A grand Memphis hotel slapped theRev. Al Sharpton's group with an $88,000 suit charging the nonprofit didn't pay bills from its national convention.

The famed Peabody Hotel is suing the National Action Network for $70,300 and $17,000 in attorney's costs and other fees, stemming from the April 2008 conference.

A complaint filed by the hotel in Shelby County Circuit Court did not clarify whether the charges relate to an unpaid final tab or other charges, according to the Memphis Daily News. The contract between Peabody and the National Action Network included a clause that the group would be charged for space it booked but didn't use, the newspaper reported.

Click to read.

Read more on Your Black Politics

Black News: Congressman William Jefferson’s Trial Set to Start

Prosecutors say a Louisiana congressman was more than $60,000 in debt during the time he is accused of concocting a series of bribery schemes.

Opening statements started Tuesday in the trial of William Jefferson, a Democrat who represented parts of New Orleans. Federal agents found $90,000 in cash in his freezer, and he is charged with soliciting bribes, money laundering and other crimes.

Click to read.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Boyce Watkins Talks about America’s Financial and Retirement Crisis

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Finance Professor at Syracuse University

I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But then again, it must not bother me very much, since I am going to give you a big pile of bad news right now. Given that I earned a Masters Degree in the "morbid science" of statistics, I figured I would start the day by fulfilling my occupational expectation.

The first piece of bad news is that you are going to die. One day, your heart will stop beating and the 2.5 billion breaths you'll take during your lifetime will come to an end. Hopefully, it won't be painful, but I can't guarantee that. The truth is, however, that death might not be the worst part of it all.

The toughest news is that before you die, you are likely going to experience a long, slow period of physical and psychological decline called "old age". In conjunction with this decline, you are going to see your financial resources dwindle as quickly as the muscles in your body. Not only will the scale of your resources decline, but your expenses will likely mount as you go to one doctor's visit after another, all with the hope of delaying the inevitable. That period of life is called "retirement", and most Americans are not financially prepared for it.

Now that you are sufficiently depressed (there's no point in lying to you, I'm not very good at that), I will give you some facts to chew on. I also hope that in light of these realities, you will engage in something that the rest of America is not doing: preparing for retirement. While retirement planning has always been important in the past, it has never been more important than it is for you right now. The Perfect Economic Storm is coming, one in which all the scary clouds merge together into one big ball of fiscal devastation that can only be created by God himself. When your financial meteorologist (me) gives you that information, it's your decision to get your family prepared. Let's break down the components of the storm, shall we?


Click to read more.

Does Michelle Obama Look Like a Gorilla?

GOP activist Rusty DePass is in hot water over comments about First Lady Michelle Obama.

Would you accept the apology from Rusty DePass after he likened First Lady Michelle Obama to an escaped gorilla?

Yes. He seemed sincere and contrite.

No. His comments were racist and unforgivable, and his explanation didn't make any sense.

A prominent South Carolina Republican killed his Facebook page Sunday after being caught likening the First Lady to an escaped gorilla.

Commenting on a report posted to Facebook about a gorilla escape at a zoo in Columbia, S.C., Friday, longtime GOP activist Rusty DePass wrote, "I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors - probably harmless."

Busted by South Carolina political blogger Will Folks on his FITNEWS blog, DePass told WIS-TV in Columbia, "I am as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone. The comment was clearly in jest."

Then he added, "The comment was hers, not mine," claiming Michelle Obama made a recent remark about humans descending from apes. The Daily News could find no such comment.

"'Humor' like this is nothing new for South Carolina Republicans - even as the party claims to be focusing on 'outreach' efforts to minorities," said Folks, a former gubernatorial spokesman and widely read blogger. "The fact that Palmetto [State] Republicans don't get that this is a serious problem for them baffles us."

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dr. Wilmer Leon: Sotomayor and America’s Racial Hypocrisy

Wilmer Leon, Ph.D.

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III

Howard University

On Tuesday May 26th, President Obama nominated federal judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Before the President announced his selection he stated he was not just looking for someone with just “ivory tower learning”; he wanted “intellectual firepower” as well as a “common touch” and a “practical sense of how the world works”. He also used the word “empathy” several times. It did not take long for the critics to weigh in and challenge the nomination.

What is troubling about the criticism is that most of it is intentionally not directed at judge Sotomayor’s record as a jurist and opinions that she has rendered. Most of the criticism is deliberately based upon select statements made in speeches or lectures, as was the case with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. They have been contextualized in the most inflammatory way possible in order to scare white people.

Click to read more on our Black Scholars Blog.


Did Mississippi Justice Fall Short for This Family?

The families of Jamie and Gladys Scott feel that they were victims of a wrongful incarceration in Mississippi.  They’ve written this letter asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the case.  Please feel free to copy this letter and send it in yourself.

For more information on this case, please visit:


Attorney General Eric Holder
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

The Honorable Attorney General Holder:

I am writing to request that you investigate the case of Jamie and Gladys Scott. The Scott Sisters were given double life terms each in October of 1994 for armed robbery in the state of Mississippi. No one was injured or murdered. One witness states that about 11 dollars was netted in the armed robbery. All witnesses and victims of this crime have testified that the Scott Sisters were not involved in the robbery. Witnesses testified that they were coerced and threatened to lie on the Scott Sisters. Three post trial affidavits also state that the sisters are innocent.

A 14 year old witness testified that he signed a statement which was prepared for him before he entered Deputy Sheriff Marvin Williams' Office. This statement was signed by the 14 year old without an attorney present. He was told that he would be released from the local jail the next morning if he signed it. He was not released.

This is an egregious wrongful conviction and the Scott Sisters have suffered now 14 years 8 months of double life terms each.
Jamie and Gladys Scott are housed in Pearl, Mississippi. Their ID numbers are Jamie Scott #19197 and Gladys Scott # 19142.


(Your Name)

Black People: Don’t Let Money Enslave You

Dr Boyce Watkins – Syracuse University: Black Scholars Coalition

I recall giving a speech at a university in Upstate New York. We were talking about wealth building for the Black community and how Black folks can remove themselves from the underbelly of American capitalism. I'd heard this school had a reputation for strong liberalism and I was looking forward to addressing the audience. A young white female in the back of the room raised her hand to ask me a question. She said "How can you support a system that enslaves people?"

The woman was clearly offended by my mere presence as a financial expert and apparent supporter of capitalism. I could immediately tell, that no matter what my answer was, she was going to hate me and wish death upon my children. She didn't realize that I am not just a Finance Professor, but also a closet socialist in many contexts. While I am not one who wants to live in a socialist society, I do understand that capitalism and socialism must balance one another in any society that alleges to embrace human compassion. 

Click to read.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dr Boyce Watkins: What the Wells Fargo Predatory Lending Suit Means to the Black Community

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

Tavis Smiley needs to have a conversation with one of his primary sponsors, Wells Fargo. This week, it was announced that Wells Fargo is being sued by the city of Baltimore for egregiously racist predatory lending practices in the black community. The company has been accused by some former loan officers of targeting subprime, low quality loans to black neighborhoods, leading to a dramatic economic collapse for the black community of Baltimore.

The statistical evidence is daunting. Half of all the properties foreclosed by Wells Fargo are vacant and 71% of those properties are in black neighborhoods. Wells Fargo's African American borrowers with incomes greater than $68,000 per year were 8 times more likely to hold subprime loans than white borrowers with the same income.

Click to read.

Why is Wells Fargo Being Accused of Discrimination?

Dr. Christopher Richardson

Dr. Christopher Richardson, one of the world’s leading experts on predatory lending and banking, comments on a recent report that Wells Fargo, one of the sponsors of the State of the Black Union event held every year, is being sued by several government agencies due to accusations of financially exploiting and deliberately misleading the Black community.  Dr. Richardson’s comments are below:

Click to read on African American Money.

Monday, June 8, 2009

New Book Says Obama Were Near Divorce

Barack and Michelle Obama's marriage was on the brink of collapse say's book

President Barack Obama whispers into First Lady Michelle Obama's ear during the White House Cinco de Mayo celebration this year Photo: PETE SOUZA/THE WHITE HOUSE

Their regular Friday "date nights" make the television news, and there was a stir recently when they caught Air Force One for a night at the theatre in Manhattan.

This weekend, in the aftermath of the D-Day celebrations, they are in Paris with their young daughters - having turned down an invitation for dinner with President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla in favour of a more intimate family event.


Click to read.

Child Support Gone Mad: 21 Kids, 11 Mothers: What Gives?

Desmond Hatchett is 29 years old and has 21 children with 11 different women. The Knoxville, TN native also works for minimum wage and can't support all of his kids. The state is only allowed to take 50% of his paycheck, which doesn't amount to very much for each child.

What do we make of Hatchett's decision? This is clearly a question for Financial Lovemaking.

Click to read.

U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Chrysler Sale to Fiat

Associated Press

June 8, 2009 @ 4:00 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (AP) - Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Monday delayed Chrysler's sale of most of its assets to a group led by Italy's Fiat, but didn't say how long the deal will remain on hold.

Ginsburg said in an order that the sale is "stayed pending further order," indicating that the delay may only be temporary.

Chrysler LLC has said the sale must close by June 15, or Fiat Group SpA has the option to walk away, leaving the Auburn Hills, Mich., automaker with little option but to liquidate.

Double-Digit Unemployment Poses Political Danger for Obama

by John Nichols, The Nation

America already has double-digit unemployment.

In fact, the real unemployment rate, as opposed to the official rate, is well over 15 percent.

That’s because the official unemployment rate — which as of Friday stood at at 9.4 percent, following another leap in jobless claims for May — is not, as economic John Williams has noted, “figured in the way that that the average person thinks of unemployment, meaning figured the way it was estimated back during the Great Depression.”

What happens when we include people who have stopped looking for work because they do not believe there are jobs to be found, along with part-time workers who would like to be working full time?

Then, we start looking not at the unsettling 10 percent figure but the far more frightening 20 percent number.

As economist Howard Rosen told NPR after official unemployment topped 8 percent in February: “Today we learned that there are 12.5 million people who are unemployed, and we have another 8.6 million people who are working part-time because they cannot find full-time jobs. Now, you’re talking about 20 million people in this country who are either unemployed or underemployed. I don’t want to freak out people, but the unemployed number, we start talking about 15, 16 percent.”

Since February, of course, the official unemployment rate has spiked dramatically, as has the real rate.

These are the numbers that make an urgent social and economic case for the additional stimulus that my wise colleagues and other concerned commentators are suggesting.

But it is the smaller official rate that makes the political case for both more stimulus and a radical rethink of the Obama administration’s ill-thought auto bankruptcy and bailout scheme.

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Fight to Stay Chrysler's Bankruptcy by Indiana Pension Funds

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Indiana pension funds and consumer groups asked the U.S. Supreme Court Sunday to stop the sale of bankrupt automaker Chrysler LLC to a group led by Italian carmaker Fiat SpA while they challenge the deal.

The separate requests, which moved the legal battle to the nation’s highest court, were filed after a U.S. appeals court in New York approved Chrysler’s sale to a group led by Fiat, a union-aligned trust and the U.S. and Canadian governments.

The Chrysler case could set a precedent for General Motors Corp (GMGMQ), which is using a similar quick sale strategy in its bankruptcy in New York.

The appeals court late Friday stayed the closing of the sale until Monday afternoon, giving the pension funds and other opponents time over the weekend to ask the Supreme Court to block the sale while they appeal.

The three state pension funds, which hold about $42 million of Chrysler’s $6.9 billion in secured loans, argued the sale unlawfully rewarded unsecured creditors such as the union ahead of secured lenders.


Excerpt from Indiana Pensioners’ Application for Stay:
The Indiana Pensioners are comprised of the Indiana State Police Pension Trust and the Indiana State Teachers Retirement Fund, pension funds that are fiduciaries for the investment of billions of dollars of retirement assets for approximately 100,000 Indiana civil servants, including police officers, school teachers and their families, and the Indiana Major Moves Construction Fund, an infrastructure construction fund, all of whom are holders of Chrysler First Lien Debt (as defined below). certain lenders party thereto (the “First Lien Lenders”). The First Lien Lenders are owed $6.9 billion (“First Lien Debt”), of which the Indiana Pensioners hold $100 million, all of which is secured by a first lien on substantially all of Chrysler’s assets (the “Collateral”).


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Man Allegedly Killed by Whites, Charges dropped

DALLAS - Murder charges were dropped at the prosecution's request Thursday in the dragging death of a black man, and the two white men who had been accused of killing him were released from jail.

Brandon McClelland

Click to read.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Street Justice: Philly Mob Beats Man for Allegedly Raping 11-Year Old Girl

DEMETRICE REYNOLDS said she had one wish for the thug who brutally raped her 11-year-old daughter: "I want him dead."

Her wish may as well have been broadcast across Kensington.

About a dozen neighborhood residents flew into a rage yesterday afternoon when they cornered Jose Carrasquillo, who police said they had linked through physical evidence to the heinous Monday-morning rape of Reynolds' daughter.

The justice-seeking mob rained fists, feet and wooden sticks upon Carrasquillo, 26, for several minutes until police intervened at Front and Clearfield streets.

When the dust cleared, Carrasquillo, whose last known address was Orkney Street near York, was in critical condition at a local hospital, and police officials were thanking the locals for helping them catch a man they had pursued feverishly but identified only as "a person of interest."

"Justice, community-style. It's a beautiful thing," said a resident who declined to be identified.

Click to read.