Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Was Eddie Johnson Really Breaking the Law?

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Author and Finance Professor at Syracuse University

Eddie Johnson's actions are par for course in today's politics

7:58 AM on 08/31/2010

OPINION - But there is a deeper, more relevant question to be asked about the allegations against Eddie Johnson: Even if she broke the rules, is she clearly less ethical than other...


Was Congresswoman Eddie Johnson’s Behavior Out of the Question

Rep. Eddie Johnson's actions are par for course in today's politics

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

Eddie Bernice Johnson, a congresswoman out of Texas, has found her self in hot water after she admitted that she used her CBC scholarship money as a personal family college fund. Between the years 2005 and 2008, Johnson awarded between nine and 11 scholarships each year. On each occasion, three or four of the winners were either related to Johnson or her district director, Rod Givens. Rep. Johnson claims this was all done unintentionally.

This case concerned me, but while thinking it through, I had to go back to the fundamental question of whether or not this type of nepotism (assuming Johnson's actions were deliberate) is detrimental enough to label her a poor politician or a bad human being.

Johnson is not a bad person or a crook, at least not based on this incident. She's also not worthy of the same kind of congressional hoopla received by the Charlie Rangel or Maxine Waters investigations. Don't get me wrong, when you break the rules, you certainly should be held accountable, and it appears that Congresswoman Johnson understands that. The latest reports say that she has begun working out a deal where she will repay the funds that were misallocated. Perhaps that should put the issue to rest.

Click to read.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Computer Program Predicts Who Will Commit Crimes

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Scholarship in Action 

It is being reported that law enforcement officials in Washington DC plan to use a new computer program that claims to be able to predict which citizens are most likely to commit crime. The concept conjures up images of the Tom Cruise film, "Minority Report," in which agents were able to predict "pre-crime": Crime that hasn't happened yet, and is set to occur. But far from science fiction, this program is based on reality.
The program was developed by Richard Berk, a professor at The University of Pennsylvania. The first version of the program was used to predict future murders among parolees, but it is being argued that the software can be used for all kinds of crime.
"When a person goes on probation or parole they are supervised by an officer. The question that officer has to answer is 'what level of supervision do you provide?'" Berk told ABC News.
The program could have real implications, including determining the amount of a person's bail or how long they are to remain in a halfway house upon their release from prison. The program works by using a large database of crimes and other factors, including geographic location, age, prior offenses and the criminal record of the person being considered.

Click to read.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dr. Boyce: DEA To Hire Ebonics Translators to Understand Drug Dealers

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Scholarship in ActionSyracuse University 

The Associated Press is reporting that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is considering hiring translators to help agents understand the language of drug dealers. Apparently, the agents are having trouble interpreting the words and sentences being used by suspects during wiretaps. The agency reached out to some translation services companies to find someone to help them with the problem. No, this is not a joke.
"They saw a need for this in a couple of their investigations," Special Agent Michael Sanders said. "And when you see a need - it may not be needed now - but we want the contractors to provide us with nine people just in case."
Yes, this story is making me laugh as much as you are. When I heard that the DEA was considering such a move, I could almost appreciate their intentions, but I think they might be a bit misguided. The first thought that came to mind was whether or not they are presuming that drug dealers speak a dialect of English which matches that of the rest of urban black America? Sure, there are going to be similarities, but most of my urban friends don't understand drug dealers either. Dealers don't just sound like rappers, but actually structure a variation of language and sophisticated codes that nearly anyone would have trouble translating. Rather than hiring an ebonics expert to understand the lingo of drug dealers, they'd be better off hiring a former drug dealer.

Click to read.

Friday, August 20, 2010

James Clyburn Center Under Investigation for Funds Mismanagement

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Black Scholarship in Action, Syracuse University 

The James E. Clyburn University Transportation Center at South Carolina State University has been spending money for the past 12 years, but no one seems to know exactly where that money went. State Senator Robert Ford has recently called for an investigation into the center to find out details on how funds have been managed. Even Rep. Clyburn has become a critic of the center's management as of late.
The Post and Courier, a newspaper out of Charleston, SC has conducted its own investigation using an open records request. The newspaper has described the university's records as "a convoluted system of record-keeping, with no central control and records on the same subject located in different offices or buildings."
There was a consultant's report recently completed by the firm Elliott Davis which concluded that the university's system of grant management not only makes it difficult to track the money, it also makes it tough to find out whether the objectives of the grant were accomplished.

Click to read.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eric Holder Accused of “Dragging His Feet” on Prison Rape

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Black Scholarship in Action 

Community advocates recently accused Attorney General Eric Holder of "dragging his feet" on the issue of prison rape. The AG has been asked to set national standards to keep inmates from being subject to sexual abuse during their time in prison.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly 4.5 percent of all prison inmates report being victims of sexual assault during their time in prison. It is also reported to happen to roughly one out of every eight juveniles who are incarcerated.
Pat Nolan, Vice President of Prison Fellowship, argues that setting standards would be a good way to reduce the problem of prison rape. He mentions that increasing the lighting in the prisons, screening staffers and having independent supervision of facilities can make a tremendous difference.

Click to read.