Saturday, November 19, 2011

White Men Can Play - The Jordy Nelson Story by Gregory Gee

What’s wrong with stereotyping someone or something? Is it a form of racial profiling? Does it limit our thinking about possibilities and potential of ourselves and others?

We all form opinions based on looks or attributes commonly associated with a group of people or situations.

For example, here are some popular culture stereotypes:

If you're black, chances are you have rhythm; and if you’re a black youth, chances are you’re into hip hop. If you're white, chances are you do not see Malcolm X as a great American. If you’re an Asian student, chances are you’re a good student and if you're Latino chances are that you are illegal.

These stereotypes are far too often the definitive way we see each other and far too often we draw false read conclusions - to our detriment - by solely relying on our preconceived notions.

Case and point from a story from the Press Gazette:

Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, who is white, has become one of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets and believes his skin color has been somewhat of an asset.

Other Packers receivers joke that Nelson is the beneficiary of being the only white receiver on the team, suggesting opposing defensive backs don't think of Nelson as a big a threat.

Nelson tells the Green Bay Press Gazette that he's used this racial bias to his advantage. "Honestly, I think it is (a factor)," Nelson said. "As receivers, we've talked about it. I know (cornerbacks coach) Joe Whitt tells me all the time, when all the rookies come in, he gives them the heads up, 'Don't let him fool ya.' That's fine with me."

Packers teammate Greg Jennings, who is black, believes Nelson isn't like other white pass catchers who've played in the NFL. "It's easy for someone to say, 'Oh yeah, he’s like one of those other white receivers,'" Jennings said. "He's not. I'm sorry. He's not. He knows how I feel about it. Maybe I'm a little biased because he is a teammate, but from watching him day one to right now, totally different player."

Among the top 15 NFL wide receivers in yardage, only New England Patriots star Wes Welker, the league leader in receptions and yards, is white.

We are human, hence we all have tendencies to form ideas and opinions without having the full scope of the picture. But for our society to grow, we should always strive to “judge” based on facts and with what we learn from facing the individual/situation and not only on what we think we know.

If black defensive backs think they “know” Nelson because he is white, then apparently they have not watched enough tape to know that this receiver can do damage.

I may be wishing for a Star Trekian/Utopian society - where we are all equal and racial bias is considered an embarrassing chapter in our history. However, realistically speaking, I’m only suggesting that in order to get to a better society we need to be honest with ourselves about our own misconceptions based on stereotyping.

Stereotypes cannot be shattered unless the individual acknowledges they exist and a conscious effort will be made not to let racism/biases box our minds.

For more on debunking stereotypes, read:

Drug abuse is less likely with black and Asian kids, says study


Three black teens become chess masters

Friday, November 18, 2011

Scalia and Thomas dine with healthcare law challengers as court takes case

Imagine you were on the eve of a bitter civil trial against a huge corporation with deep pockets and the presiding judge is dining, partying and fundraising with the attorneys defending said corporation.

You would be correct to yell at the top of your lungs, this is a foul breach of ethics.

You would be in the scope of your rights to bring charges of Judicial Misconduct to any judicial governing body.

To be more precise, this would be a gross conflict of interest and it would contaminate the judge's ability to convey impartiality.

Apparently, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Anton Scalia believe they are beyond reproach...

The day the Supreme Court gathered behind closed doors to consider the politically divisive question of whether it would hear a challenge to President Obama’s healthcare law, two of its justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, were feted at a dinner sponsored by the law firm that will argue the case before the high court.

The lawyer who will stand before the court and argue that the law should be thrown out is likely to be Paul Clement, who served as U.S. solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration.

Clement’s law firm, Bancroft PLLC, was one of almost two dozen firms that helped sponsor the annual dinner of the Federalist Society, a longstanding group dedicated to advocating conservative legal principles. Another firm that sponsored the dinner, Jones Day, represents one of the trade associations that challenged the law, the National Federation of Independent Business.

Another sponsor was pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc, which has an enormous financial stake in the outcome of the litigation. The dinner was held at a Washington hotel hours after the court's conference over the case. In attendance was, among others, Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican and an avowed opponent of the healthcare law.

The featured guests at the dinner? Scalia and Thomas.

Bob Edgar, President and CEO of the Common Cause, responded to this appalling ethics violation by stating:

“This stunning breach of ethics and indifference to the code belies claims by several justices that the court abides by the same rules that apply to all other federal judges. The justices were wining and dining at a black-tie fundraiser with attorneys who have pending cases before the court. Their appearance and assistance in fundraising for this event undercuts any claims of impartiality, and is unacceptable.”source

This is not new territory for Scalia or Thomas. Thomas has been under-fire for both being too cozy with the Koch brothers and zealous Tea Party activism on the part of his wife before:

...the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and she has launched a tea-party-linked group that could test the traditional notions of political impartiality for the court.

In January, Virginia Thomas created Liberty Central Inc., a nonprofit lobbying group whose website will organize activism around a set of conservative "core principles," she said.

The group plans to issue score cards for Congress members and be involved in the November election, although Thomas would not specify how. She said it would accept donations from various sources -- including corporations -- as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court.

"I adore all the new citizen patriots who are rising up across this country," Thomas, who goes by Ginni, said on the panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "I have felt called to the front lines with you, with my fellow citizens, to preserve what made America great."

The move by Virginia Thomas, 52, into the front lines of politics stands in marked contrast to the rarefied culture of the nation's highest court, which normally prizes the appearance of nonpartisanship and a distance from the fisticuffs of the politics of the day.

Hopefully, the tide of overwhelming public disgust and backlash against Thomas and Scalia will pressure these Justices to recuse themselves from any and all litigation regarding the constitutionality of Health Care pending in front of the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What would Bill do?

In this current issue of Time, former president Bill Clinton discusses the state of the American economy with managing editor, Rick Stengel. Here are some excerpts of that insightful conversation: source

So what has happened to the economy and the U.S. over the past 30 years?

First of all, we face more and more intense competition from around the world, and at the same time we have adopted—­except in the eight years I served and the first two years President Obama was ­serving—this anti­government philosophy, which has mostly, as I point out, been an antitax and an anti­regulation philosophy, so that we have dramatically increased the national debt and our reliance on other countries to fund it. Now we are facing the retirement of the baby boomers and once again a dramatic increase in health care cost. So we have to figure out a way to put the country in the future business. We have to get ahold of the long-term debt problem, and we have to revitalize the private sector. And you can’t do it with an anti­government strategy. You have to have a smart government and a strong economy. That’s basically the argument of the book.

Could you briefly talk about some ways to create jobs that we’re not using now and why banks and corporations are sitting on so much cash?

Well, the banks have about $2.2 trillion in cash uncommitted to loans. And they need to hold somewhere between $160 billion and $200 billion of that because they have their own mortgages that are still uncertain. But they could loan in theory, at conservative ratios of 10-to-1, $20 trillion. Obviously, if that happened, the recession would be over in 15 seconds. Pepperdine, a conservative university, did a study showing that 40% of the small businesses said they would expand their operations and hire more people if they could get credit, and they can’t get credit. We’ve got to clean these bank books up. Once that happens, it will dramatically boost confidence. Right now, everybody’s frozen in place. And by far the biggest thing we could do is to have a more aggressive move on the home-mortgage problem. All the various players are reluctant to do it, but we need to do it.

What will make banks start spending cash?

You’ve got a lot of cash being held overseas. The last time it was brought back, President Bush made a good-faith effort to get it reinvested in the economy in 2005, and he let corporations bring it back at a tax rate of 5.25%. So what I think we should do now is say, You bring this money back while we’re debating the corporate tax reform for free if you can prove you increase net employment. For everybody you increase net employment on, you get that much credit for free. If you want to spend it on whatever you want, pay the long-term capital gains rate, 15%.

My take aways are:

1. Bill Clinton is brilliant at taking mountains of information and data and succinctly framing the main issue in easy to understand language.

2. He is essentially saying that bankers - bailed out by American taxpayers - could effectively end our job crisis and recession by loosing up credit. This is a drum that can not be beat to death; and this underscores the anger behind the Occupy Wall Street movement - the 1% is holding our country hostage.

The interview ended with a question that shined the light on the deep rooted hypocrisy of the GOP and Tea Party folks.

Speaking of policies, you balanced the budget and cut the size of the government. How come you’re not a hero of the Tea Party?

I thought I should’ve been their favorite politician. I think because I didn’t do it according to the ideology. I raised taxes and cut spending. I did it with a mix of policies that also left us money to invest in our future and in our quality of life. I think that’s really important. There are some things that the government has to do because the private sector does not have the capacity to advance the public interest in that way.
read more

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teens Justus Williams, Joshua Colas and James Black Jr. Earn Praise As Young Chess Masters

It rarely comes as a surprise for an African American to be the latest rising sports star, whether he's slam dunking on the court or scoring touchdowns on the field. But cornering a king on the chess board? That isn't so common.

However, a trio of black teens have all become chess masters before turning 13, an achievement that's not only rare in their sport, but virtually unheard of in the black community.

Justus Williams, Joshua Colas and James Black Jr. are three black chess players that have obtained the difficult title of chess master at a very young age, The New York Times reports.

The trio, each of whom are from the New York City area, is part of only 13 chess masters under age 14 in the entire United States Chess Federation.

"I think of Justus, me and Josh as pioneers for African American kids who want to take up chess," Black told the news outlet.

The boys joined the honorable ranks in September 2010, when Williams, who is now 13, became the youngest black player to receive the title. Colas was just a few months younger than Williams when he became a master in December 2010, and James, 12, joined the two in July 2011.

"Masters don't happen every day, and African-American masters who are 12 never happen," said Maurice Ashley, the only black player to earn the highest title of grandmaster. "To have three young players do what they have done is something of an amazing curiosity. You normally wouldn't get something like that in any city of any race." read more

Monday, November 14, 2011

Drug abuse less likely among black, Asian kids, study says

Talk about a story that debunks a myth, read on...

DURHAM, N.C. — Black and Asian adolescents are much less likely to abuse or become dependent on drugs and alcohol than white kids, according to a Duke University-led study based on an unusually large sample of kids from all 50 states.

"There is certainly still a myth out there that black kids are more likely to have problems with drugs than white kids, and this documents as clearly as any study we're aware of that the rate of ... substance-related disorders among African-American youths is significantly lower," said Dr. Dan Blazer of Duke's psychiatry department and a senior author of the study.

The findings, based on analysis of confidential federal surveys of 72,561 adolescents ages 12 to 17 from 2005 through 2008, appear in the November issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

About 9 percent of the white kids in the study sample used substances in ways that indicated they had a disorder, meaning abuse or dependency. That's nearly twice the percentage of black kids with such disorders and nearly three times the rate for a group classified as Asian/Pacific Islander, which mainly included Asian kids. The prevalence of disorders was by far highest among Native Americans, at 15 percent.

Abuse was defined as substance use that caused at least one problem such as legal or relationship issues. Dependence meant meeting several criteria from a list that included inability to cut down, giving up other activities and continued use despite problems.

Across all racial and ethnic groups, 37 percent reported using drugs or alcohol in the past year and nearly 8 percent met the criteria for a substance abuse disorder.

Among kids who abused illegal drugs, marijuana was the most prevalent choice, followed by prescription opioids such as oxycodone. These have surpassed inhalants such as glue as a means of getting high.

It's widely known among substance abuse counselors and psychiatrists who work with Native Americans that problems vary greatly from one tribe to another, Blazer said. A shortcoming of the data is that it couldn't be broken down into smaller subsets, such as tribes, to make it easier to dig deeper into the questions raised by the study, he said.

Earlier studies, in some cases restricted to narrower slices of population or geography, had previously indicated that black kids were less likely to have drug problems than white adolescents, Blazer said. But the new study uses a particularly broad and representative sample, with large numbers surveyed in each racial and ethnic group.

So, what explains the disparity of drug arrests and drug incarceration between blacks and whites of the same demographics, given this data because:
1. there are 10's of millions more whites than blacks in this country; and
2. whites have a much higher rate of illegal drug use than blacks.

I'm not a math wiz, but the numbers don't add up - our jails should be filled with young whites instead of young blacks.

What explains this inequality of justice?
Is it race or is it class?

From my experience, growing up in a predominately white suburb, I believe it's mostly about class and assess to power (which may have underlining racial connections).

When Johnny or Becky from the burbs are arrested for drug usage or distribution, they are introduced to rehabs and counselling; and once they complete a treatment program their arrests records are expunged. This is because Johnny's and Becky's parents can afford to hire high powered lawyers who could pull strings.

On the other hand, when Ray-Ray and Tanisha from the block are popped, they more frequently go straight into our juvenile (and sometime adult) criminal system. Their offense is deemed to be more of a crime vs being a sickness that needs treatment. Generally speaking, Ray-Ray's and Tanisha's parents have less resources and municipal contacts.

You do the math.