"The First Black President ... Spoke First as a Black American," ran the banner headline of Sunday's Washington Post.
But why, when the fires of anger over the Zimmerman verdict were dying down, did he go into that pressroom and stir them up?
"A week of protests outside the White House, pressure building on him inside the White House, pushed him to that podium," said Tavis Smiley on "Meet the Press." Black leaders demanded Obama come out of hiding and stand in solidarity with the aggrieved and outraged.
Belatedly and meekly, Obama complied.
"Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," said Obama.
But which Trayvon?
The one walking home with Skittles and tea? Or the one who sucker-punched Zimmerman, decked him, piled on, pummeled him martial arts style, hammered his head on the sidewalk, ignored his screams for help and got shot by the guy he was assaulting?
For that is the story Zimmerman told, Sanford police believed, the lone eyewitness confirmed, the defense argued, the prosecution could not shake and the jury believed. Not guilty, on all counts.
If Obama thinks the verdict was justified, why did he not urge that the demonstrations, marches, vandalism and violence cease?
If he agrees Zimmerman got away with murder — "an atrocity," Al Sharpton said of the verdict — why did Obama hide behind this mush: "Once the jury's spoken, that's how the system works."
The president sent his "thoughts and prayers" to Trayvon's family.
To George Zimmerman, painted as a racist monster for 16 months, hiding in fear of his life, his Peruvian mother and family under threat — not a word of compassion from the president.
Obama moved swiftly off the trial and into a rambling discourse on the black experience and racial profiling.
But why? The jury said Trayvon was not profiled.
What is Obama up to? Answer. A law professor, he knows this case, based on evidence and testimony, was open and shut. And he knows Eric Holder is not going to file any hate-crime civil rights charges. Because Holder and Obama know they would be seen as caving to Sharpton & Co., they would get stuffed in court, and the nation would react with outrage to a double-jeopardy, murder-charge, racial prosecution of this persecuted man whose innocence was established in a court of law.
So Obama swiftly changed the subject.
"There are very few African-American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me ... before I was a senator."
"There are very few African-Americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off."
"That happens often," said Obama. Undeniably. But why do black males awaken such apprehensions and fears? Is it their color?
Well, 13 percent of our population is black. Half of that — say, 6 plus percent — is male. Of that 6 percent, one in six — just 1 percent of the U.S. population — consists of black males age 18 to 29.
Of all black males 18 to 29, writes Ron Unz in "Race and Crime in America," 28 percent are in jail or prison, or on probation.
The "liberal Sentencing Project organization," says Unz, estimates that "one-third of all black men are already convicted criminals by their 20s, and the fraction would surely be far higher for those living in urban areas."
Twenty years ago in Chicago, where black kids are gunned down daily, Jesse Jackson was quoted, "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."
That's the same apprehension, Mr. President, those women feel on that elevator.
Obama traced the "violence ... in poor black neighborhoods" to "poverty and ... a very difficult history".
But slavery and segregation were far closer in time to the black America of the 1950s, and poverty was far greater. Yet we never saw crime and incarceration rates like we see today in Black America.
As Unz writes, El Paso, Texas, and Atlanta are cities of equal size and poverty rates. Yet Atlanta has 10 times the crime. Oakland and Santa Ana, Calif., are equal in size and poverty numbers. Yet Oakland "has several times the rate of crime." Why?
Why are white folks nervous about strange young black men in the neighborhood? Perhaps because they commit interracial muggings, robberies and rapes at 35 times the rate of whites.
As newspapers avoid the issue of black racism and rarely give the stats on interracial crime, Obama dwelt lovingly on the indignities of racial profiling — without really addressing the root cause.
It was an uncourageous commentary. Weak as Kool-Aid, said Tavis.
But Obama was where he likes to be, leading from behind — this time behind Al Sharpton.
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 09:01
Much has been written about adulterous politicians and the public's apparent willingness to look past their infidelity. This lumps very different kinds of cheating into one neat sin, equally applicable to all sneaks. But just as "theft" covers everything from armed bank robbery to lifting a bag of chips, cheating on one's spouse may entail a wide range of misdeeds and gray areas.
Following are five shades of gray, a kind of scoring system for judging the political import of a politician's extramarital affairs:
1. How they affect job performance. Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter were both caught visiting prostitutes. These transactions were fast and out of the office. They had minimal effect on the men's ability to do their work. That was not the case with former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who despite being his state's chief executive, disappeared for days to conduct a tryst in Argentina.
For the record, Democrat Spitzer is polling well in his quest to become New York City's comptroller, and Republican Vitter won another term. Sanford, meanwhile, was recently elected to Congress.
2. The cruelty factor. When straying husbands and wives are found out, they can often patch things up. But when "love" enters the affair, things get more painful for the spouse left out. This is no longer a case of a partner needing to meet an animal physical need. Something deeper is going on in the extramarital relationship and less so in the marriage. In terms of humiliation for a wife, Sanford's press conference declaring love for his mistress beats the band.
3. How weird the behavior is. New York Democrat Anthony Weiner had to leave Congress after he was found to have tweeted photos of his crotch to various and assorted women he didn't know. He didn't really commit adultery in the common carnal sense of the word. For strange, exhibitionist, narcissistic, easy-to-get-caught antics, however, Weiner set a high bar. He's also doing well in his race for New York City mayor. President Bill Clinton's oral sex in the Oval Office was another example of nutty risk-taking. He's now as popular as ever.
4. Hypocrisy. He who talks a socially conservative talk should walk a morally conservative walk. Should we finally give up on this, sinning Bible Belt politicians being so legion?
While campaigning, Sanford invoked "the God of second chances" and told family-values voters of plans to tie the knot with his Argentine lady. As of this writing, he remains a single man.
The hypocrisy is not limited to the politicians but includes electorates that say these things are very important to them. For many of Sanford's voters, a Republican affiliation may have trumped their strong belief in the sanctity of marriage. That's fine. Let's just say so.
5. The wife's response. Jenny Sanford divorced the guy. Wendy Vitter stood in silent agony during her husband's confessional press conference. Silda Spitzer is neither divorcing Eliot nor willing to campaign for him. All conventional reactions.
Things get more complicated for political wives who don't care what the old man is doing. For appearances, they should pretend they do. After Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, a Democratic candidate for president in 1987, was photographed frolicking with another woman, his wife compounded the mess by saying she didn't care. The Harts might have done better had they shown discomfort and vowed to work on the marriage.
Clearly, sexual hanky-panky, whatever shade of gray, no longer automatically kills a politician's chances. And while the nature of the betrayal does say things about the person's judgment and character, in the end, the voters are hiring the man, not marrying him.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
The word "help" is so uplifting, conveying our best humanitarian values. How odd, then, to see it used in this New York Times headline: "Banks' Lobbyists Help in Drafting Financial Bills."
I'll bet they did! We all know how altruistic, beneficent and kindhearted Wall Street lobbyists are — when it comes to helping themselves, that is. The article explains that a small army of high-dollar influence-peddlers are not merely asking our lawmakers to free big banks from pesky rules that limit their reckless greed, but instead the lobbyists are helping to write the laws themselves.
There's that word again. In this case, "helping to write" is a euphemism for "dictating" the language, turning the members of Congress into obedient stenographers.
For example, one key bill that zipped out of the House finance committee in May is essentially a do-it-yourself lawmaking product of Citigroup. In a concise 85 lines, it exempts big chunks of dangerously high-risk Wall Street speculation from any bothersome regulation. More than 70 of those 85 lines were penned by Citigroup lobbyists with "help" from other banks. The committee even copied two key paragraphs word for word from the language that Citigroup handed to the members.
This group of DIY bill-writers insists that nothing is amiss here — we're not trying to gut the Wall Street reform package passed just three years ago, they say, we're simply trying to reach "a compromise." I was born at night, but it wasn't last night! The 2010 reforms were a compromise, and the American people would like to see them made much tougher, not weaker.
Wall Street, of course, feels entitled to snake inside, assume the role of lawmaker and pervert the public will. As one lobbyist puts it, "We will provide input if we see a bill we have interest in." After all, they just want to help.
But why are our elected solons so willing to buddy up with such self-serving helpers? Here's one member of Congress who finds the whole relationship distressing: "It's appalling," said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., talking about the money that special interests stuff in the pockets of lawmakers. "It's disgusting ... and it opens the possibility of conflicts of interest and corruption," he added.
So, naturally, he promptly joined the disgusting system that has turned our Capitol into a wide-open bazaar for buying and selling legislative favors.
"It's unfortunately the world we live in," the Connecticut Democrat shrugged. Even though Himes is only in his third term, he's become an aggressive trader in this bazaar, heading up fundraising for his fellow Democrats in the U.S. House.
Why him? One, as a member of the committee that oversees Wall Street, he can attract campaign cash like honey attracts flies — especially when big banks are lobbying furiously to get exemptions from legislation that restricts some of their destructive profiteering. Two, Himes has proven to be a trusted ally of the wheeler-dealer bankers, supporting their dereg bills. And three, he is one of them, having been made a millionaire as a Goldman Sachs banker.
Republicans are totally in Wall Street's pocket, but Democrats are sinking into it, too. With the admirable exception of Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and a handful of other Dems who stood with consumers, most Democrats on the committee joined every Republican member in May to do the bank lobby's bidding.
Six days later, Himes' fundraising operation arranged for the seven freshmen Democrats on the committee, each of whom had stood with the bankers, to trek up to the heights of Wall Street for a personal bonding session with the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. Thus are forged the ties that bind.
Hey, Democrats, don't just deplore this corrupt system, stand with us to overthrow it. To learn how, go to PublicCampaign.org.
(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
We had 99 residential home sales in June in the 12 towns covered by this Lakes Region real estate market report. That's pretty good! The average sales price came in at $329,928 with a median price point of $203,000. Once again, 50 percent of the sales were at or below $200,000. Last June there were 92 transactions with an average sales price of $251,218. For the first six months of 2013 there have been 447 sales at an average of $279,082 compared to 412 sales in the first half of 2012 at a slightly higher averages sales price of $291,352. That's an 8 percent increase in total sales while the average price is down a little over 4 percent.
The dog days of summer are upon us with seemingly unrelenting high temperatures and humidity. If you are out looking for a new home, probably one of the most noticeable and welcoming features upon entering the front door is if there is air conditioning. On days like we have had this past week a.c. becomes a huge selling feature. That refreshing cold blast of air that greets you wasn't always as common as it is today.
You might not know it but the father of modern air conditioning was a man named Willis Carrier, or Willie to his friends. Despite the urban legend, air conditioning was not invented by LL Kool J. You might recognize the name Carrier as it is still one of the major manufacturers of a.c. units today. I think Willie also had something to do with Carrier pigeons, but that's another story. Anyway, Willie was able to perfect the production of cold air by compressing gases, somehow inexplicably changing the heat generated in the process to ice cold air. It seems like only air conditioning repair technicians understand this process and thus a whole service industry was created to fix a.c. units that invariably break down on the hottest day of the year. Here is a little history lesson on keeping cool.
Man has always sought relief from the heat. In prehistoric times, the cavemen got out of the sweltering heat of the mid day sun by heading down to their cave. Everyone knows that getting below ground into some dark hole is a cool place to be. The Neanderthal's gift to modern civilization, the man cave, is still a very cool place to go especially if it is in the basement. No a.c. is necessary down there, just a wide screen and a big old stuffed chair. Of course, an off shoot of the air conditioning technology, the kegerator, is a highly desirable component of staying cool in a man cave and something that adds immeasurable value to any home.
Way back in the second century, the Chinese invented a seven bladed, rotary, hand cranked fan which produced cool breezes for the members of the royal palace. In ancient Rome, the Emperor had mountains of snow trucked in (by donkey cart) from the high mountaintops and placed in his courtyard to keep things cool. That's not very cost effective way to do things but their government was not that much different than ours and, well, we know what happened there.
Air conditioning was kind of lost in the dark ages. Probably the coolest place back then was in the dungeons, but I suspect no one went there seeking comfort from a blistering heat wave. Visitors to the dungeons might have stayed cool for a while but then lost their heads over something entirely different.
For centuries, people have sought relief from the summer heat by going to cooler places like the mountains and the seacoast to take a dip in the water. The summer heat is actually responsible for the tourism industry here in the Lakes Region and elsewhere. Who doesn't have fond memories of lying awake in bed in a small rustic cabin on a sweltering summer evening listening to the frogs chirp and praying for a breeze? These days vacationers may be awake at night listening to a noisy a.c. unit but at least they are cool.
Shortly after the invention of electricity, the electric fan was invented by Schulyer Wheeler in 1886 at the age of 22. His middle name was Skaats. (That's true, look it up.) He obviously had too much time on his hands, but it was an all important step toward the development of the a.c. unit itself. Everyone knows you gotta have a fan inside that thing to get the cold air out.
The first attempts at building air conditioning systems utilized toxic and flammable gases like propane and ammonia as the refrigerant. Unfortunately, when the machine malfunctioned and leaked, the escaping gases were fatal to the heretofore cool occupants of the building. This was the origin of the phrase "Guns don't kill people, Air Conditioners do" was ever used.
Even the unionized Fan Workers of America could not halt the steady march toward being cool 24/7. Willie Carrier's invention of the first modern air conditioner in 1902 is his contribution to modern society and will never be forgotten as long as there are air conditioning repairmen. LL Kool J's contribution to society; not so much. The first window air conditioner was invented by Robert Sherman of Lynn, Massachusetts in 1945. Who said nothing good ever came out of Lynn?
So, if you are selling a home and have air conditioning make sure it is cranked up for each showing. If you don't have a.c. and this weather doesn't improve, go buy a window unit and be cool. Either that or try selling your home in December. Your choice...
Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 7/17/13. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.
Last Updated on Friday, 19 July 2013 06:09
Crenshaw was one of the hot spots 21 years ago when Los Angeles exploded after the acquittal of the white police officers who had been captured on tape beating Rodney King. For years, the broad thoroughfare was lined with empty buildings. But things have been changing in one of the last African-American neighborhoods in the city. Back in 2006, an African-American investor led a major renovation of the "mall." It now includes a Wal-Mart where area residents both shop and work.
So why riot and loot your neighborhood retailer?
That is, of course, precisely what happened this past Sunday night, when the Los Angeles Police Department, suited out for "riots" and "mass arrests," broke up not so much a riot but a crowd of looters protesting the acquittal of George Zimmerman?
I ask again: Why does damaging a store that serves the African-American community, in a mall whose primary investor is African-American, whose very purpose was to provide both retail and employment opportunities in the African-American community, why does doing that in Los Angeles serve the cause of social justice for African-Americans?
I can understand the frustration many feel with the Florida verdict. As a law professor, I can explain to you why it is understandable and even entirely predictable that the jury would have "reasonable" doubt about who started a fight when only one of the participants is alive to tell his story (albeit without taking the stand and facing cross-examination). I can try to convince you that it is not the job of the criminal justice system to solve the social ills of our society, real and deep though they are, and that when jurors try to do that, they often do more harm than good. Even if you disagree, why destroy a store that serves the very community that is understandably feeling injured?
I have no doubt that something went very wrong the night Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. An unarmed kid should not be killed on the way home from buying candy. He should not be killed even if he was obnoxious and aggressive; and he certainly should not be killed because the man who pulled the trigger was afraid of other young men in hoodies, even if that fear was — at least judged statistically — painfully rational.
I heard some commentators trying to explain how it was that race had nothing to do with the verdict. Maybe they believe that. I'm certainly not accusing any of the jurors of acquitting Zimmerman because he is white and Martin was black. I have to assume, and I think we all should, that they did their best to look only at the evidence presented to them, without regard to race, and analyze whether the elements of self-defense had been met.
But let's be serious: Would George Zimmerman have had the same reaction to a white kid in a Lacoste golf shirt? Would any of us?
The problem isn't George Zimmerman and it certainly isn't the Crenshaw Wal-mart.
It's that young black men are way too likely to be criminals. Not because they are young and black. We are talking about a correlation, not a causal connection.
The African-American attorney general appointed by the African-American president can give all the speeches in the world criticizing state self-defense laws, but the real problem with those laws is that they become the avenues through which our tragic fears are translated.
Rev. Jesse Jackson admitted more than a decade ago to feeling relieved when he turned to find that the footsteps behind him were not those of young black men. Tragic relief.
If this administration wants to do something to get race out of the criminal justice system, then they are going to have to start at pre-school, and do it. Break the correlation between being young and male and black and in trouble with the law. Break that, and you don't need to loot the local Wal-Mart's. Don't break it, and the looting will confirm — and not undermine — a tragic verdict.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 July 2013 09:45