Letter To African American Adolescents: Time

Ray Blount


I am an African American male and recent high school graduate.

Throughout the duration of my high school career, I gained a great deal of knowledge as to what the key factors are that drag us to the depths of society.  Whether derived from a cultural and or social setting, habits and ideas such as “saggin” and broken English are extracting the beauty and power which our race possesses.

Despite the endless efforts we’ve taken to plead our case that “we’re grown,” the situation remains the same. However, nothing beats a failure but a try.  Still, many of us African American youth are unable to muster up the energy to try and give even an ounce effort toward acting as adults would. In a nutshell, this is sheer nonsense, stupidity and lunacy. 

Everyone ought to take a deep breath and analyze themselves, from time to time.  Whenever anyone is among the public and or body of people, their aim is to appear tried and true.  Your image alone can write a book about you.  Most will declare they do not care about their image, but if you do not care, you do not care about yourself.

About five years ago, I sat in a meeting where the speaker spoke on “saggin”.  The speaker broke down how the word spelled backwards reads, “niggas”.  When I took the time to analyze this, it served as a revelation to me because at that time, I was doing it every day.

It makes me cringe to even think I was a part of that, but this discovery is what was necessary to mold me into the man I am today.  My mother told me that my mouth can get me in trouble, but I address the unaddressed – it’s in my blood. Anytime you have the audacity to “sag” your pants, you’re missing something and that something is order.  Additionally, when you care about yourself, you will not allow yourself to be viewed by the world as useless or just another statistic.  Often times, I stare in dismay because this is MY race behaving this way.

Another question: Since when have males begun dying their hair with colors of the rainbow? You’re a male, but this is a feminine approach in building a persona.  If everyone on Earth can be categorized as women, it goes without saying this would bring imbalance.  Men should reflect strength as leaders of families and their communities.  As a man, you don’t ever want to be known as “soft” or “weak,” and I’m not speaking on how many one-armed push-ups you can do.  You don’t want to be taken as a joke when it comes to your strength in standing for what you believe in and what is right.  When a male dyes his hair this symbolizes a lack of strength.

Verbiage is essential in communication, regardless of the language.  If you cannot communicate, you are simply unheard. Some of us can speak proper English, and some can’t.  However, some of those who can speak proper English are not speaking at all.  They’d rather mumble and or utter sounds instead of pronouncing words correctly.  If you didn’t know better, you would swear they were humming.  You could classify this as ignorance, but they are fully educated on how to speak grammatically correct; therefore, that makes this idiocy.  It also shows a lack of intelligence.  Open your mouth and speak.

The genre of music accepted and loved by African American youths of today is Hip Hop/Rap. Due to the evolution of this art form, the sound and value of this music has transformed into a platform stressing murder is perfectly fine.  We are killing ourselves.  Some of us males hear this music and feel the need to act it out, which causes multiple problems including death.  And you wonder where so many criminal cases come from?  We must break away from negativity and prove our endowed worth.

Though it may seem as if African American males are the main source of the problem in our community, there are some females who engage in these exact same activities. Luckily, there are some ladies who do not, and strive to steer clear from this way of life.   Still when it comes to looking for a male companion, I have seen some of the most beautiful and intelligent women settle for less. 

The standard for what is considered “ok” or reasonable in terms of a mate is at an all-time low for African American women.  People should want the best out of life, not just the bare minimum, and that relates to everything including your significant other.  Why should a woman want a man who can barely speak English and wears his pants around his ankles?  Some young women are not only attached to men like this but are excited by them because they do not know any better.  They don’t know what a real man is. They must be introduced to how a real man behaves.

In conclusion, we, African American adolescents can be so much better if we just try.  I understand some are accustomed to this way of life and thinking, but we have to break through these barriers. We are the future, but as of right now, tomorrow would be a sad place to be if these behaviors continue. 

Just take life one day at a time.  We can take the dark clouds of shame and hopelessness and turn them into rays of sunshine for a better future.  It is my hope that we start to change things for the better which is why I have written this letter to you.

Ray Blount is a social critic and aspiring entrepreneur.  He may be reached at raytovenworks@gmail.com 

Has Adele given her Grammy to Beyonce?

Adele won five Grammys in total – although she appears to have broken one already

Adele has apparently turned down the Grammy award for best album, saying Beyonce deserved it more.

The pop star was given the night’s top honour for her multi-million selling record 25, but told the audience, “I can’t possibly accept this award”.

“I’m very humbled and I’m very grateful, but Beyonce is the artist of my life”.

Adele’s victory over Beyonce is certain to boost complaints that the Grammys habitually overlook black artists.

Several artists, including Frank Ocean and Kanye West, chose to skip this year’s ceremony on that basis.

Ocean even declined to submit his critically-acclaimed album, Blonde, for consideration, saying the Grammys did not “seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down”.

Two years ago, West rushed onto the stage in protest when Beck’s Morning Phase beat Beyonce’s last LP in the best album race.

However, Adele’s 25 was by far the biggest-seller on this year’s shortlist; outselling Beyonce’s Lemonade by a factor of 10 to 1.

Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper was one of the night’s other big winners

It is unclear if Adele will officially reject her award. If she does, it would only be the second time in history that has happened.

The last was in 1990, when Sinead O’Connor turned down best alternative album for I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got, claiming the ceremony was too “commercialised”.

Main winners

Whatever the outcome, Adele remains one of the night’s biggest winners.

She won five prizes in all, including three of the top four: Best album, song of the year and record of the year – the latter two both rewarding her 2015 comeback single, Hello.

Chicago’s Chance The Rapper also took three prizes, including best rap album for his self-released record Coloring Book.

“I know people think independence means you do it by yourself, but independence means freedom,” he said as he picked up best new act at the start of the ceremony.

Bruno Mars at the Grammys

Bruno Mars paid tribute to rock legend Prince during the show

Rock icon David Bowie won in each of the five categories he was nominated for, including best alternative album, for Blackstar, and best rock performance, for the album’s title track.

And Beyonce wasn’t left completely empty-handed: She took home best urban contemporary album and best music video, for the politically-charged Formation.

The star, who is pregnant with twins, also gave an ambitious and logistically complex performance of the songs Love Drought and Sandcastles, themed around the ideas of rebirth, regeneration and healing.

Dressed in flowing, golden Egyptian robes and an elaborate headdress, she dedicated the performance to motherhood, proudly displaying her baby bump as she sang.


Beyonce’s performance was the most ambitiously-staged moment of the night

But while Beyonce’s performance was flawless – others were marred by technical issues.

Lady Gaga duetted with Metallica on the song Moth To The Flame, but singer James Hetfield was inaudible throughout the first verse. He later sang cheek-to-cheek with Gaga, sharing her microphone, but angrily threw his guitar offstage at the end of the performance.

Adele also went off-key during a tribute to George Michael, and tearfully asked if the song could be started again (it was, and she received a standing ovation for her troubles).

Respects were paid to Sir George Martin, Leonard Cohen and other musicians we lost in 2016, while Bruno Mars honoured Prince by playing the star’s trademark cloud guitar in a pitch-perfect rendition of Let’s Go Crazy.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

This student did her dissertation on Beyonce

Student Molly Inglis and Queen Bey

Image caption Student Molly Inglis and Queen Bey

What is “Beyonce feminism”? The question has been the subject of many a tweet, blog and chat down the pub.

But it’s also the basis of a sociology dissertation, written by a student from the University of Warwick.

For the past year, 20-year-old Molly Inglis has been analysing 10,000 words’ worth of Beyonce lyrics and now she’s submitted a 66-page essay to her tutors.

“She promotes very sex-positive messages,” Molly tells Newsbeat.

The most interesting thing Molly found out from her study, was how Beyonce views women and sex, and how the last few years have seen the singer embrace feminism in her own way.

As a result, the student decided to focus on the artist’s last two albums for her thesis: Beyonce (2013) and Lemonade (2016).

“[Beyonce is] encouraging women to be sexual to take control of things in the bedroom and also to have sex for themselves, for their own pleasure,” she says.

Molly with a friend at the Warwick University Spring Ball

Fans have long associated Queen Bey with empowering women and girls: from her days in Destiny’s Child to her song Flawless, which quotes the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

And while the song Formation, from Lemonade, was widely interpreted as a protest about the treatment of the black community at the hands of the police, and the Black Lives Matter movement, Molly says the singer was also speaking directly to women:

“I really liked the lyric; ‘Now ladies let’s get in formation’,” Molly says.

“I believe it had a double meaning to it.

“It’s asking women to coordinate together, but also to get information – to get this knowledge about what’s going on, and to protest against it.”

If she was actually to read it, that would just make my life

Molly Inglis

Many fans believe the song Hold Up from the same album was about Beyonce and her husband Jay Z.

The jury’s still out, according to Molly, who says she thinks “it could just be her narrating a character”.

But after analysing her last two albums, the student says Beyonce does sing a lot about the pros and cons of marriage.


Molly’s supervisor was a bit surprised at her dissertation topic, but the student says it just proves how relevant sociology is to everyday life.

And it’s no surprise that she rejects the criticism of the multi-Grammy award winner.

“The criticism Beyonce gets for embracing feminism comes because she’s a black artist,” says Molly.

“White artists who do the same thing don’t get criticised in the same way.

“I think her embracing feminism is a really good thing, because it moves feminism from academic texts to more accessible ways of understanding it.”

Molly says she’s tempted to get in touch and tell the singer that she was the subject of her dissertation.

“If she was actually to read it, that would just make my life.”

Molly Inglis

Find us on Instagram at BBCNewsbeat and follow us on Snapchat, search for bbc_newsbeat

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

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Study: 16 children hospitalized with gunshot wounds each day

(CNN) – Dr. Alicia Silver, pleased that her young son liked his new glow-in-the-dark dinosaur T-shirt, thought he might want to wear it to school, but her kindergartner objected. When she asked why, his answer broke her heart.

He told his mother they have active shooter drills at school in which the children have to hide in the dark, and “I wouldn’t want the bad people to see me.”

Silver is an attending physician and assistant professor of pediatrics in Children’s Hospital at Montefiore/Albert Einstein College of Medicine Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine. When she realized that this threat of violence was an ever-present reality for her son, she said, she wanted to look closer at the issue of children injured by guns.

It’s well-known that the United States leads the world in mass shootings, so drills like those at her son’s school have become more common, but mass shootings are relatively rare compared with the number of Americans shot in incidents that don’t make headlines.

Someone is shot in America every 4 minutes and 44 seconds, or about 111,000 people every year, research has showed. Silver wanted to know how many of those victims were children. She took a closer look at the most recent data available, from the 2012 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Kids’ Inpatient Database, which tracks hospital stays for children.

“The numbers are horrifying,” said Silver said, who is giving a presentation about the numbers at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco this week.

She found that roughly 16 children a day, or an estimated 5,862 a year, were hospitalized due to firearm injuries in 2012. However, she believes that the total number of children who are shot is much higher. The data don’t include children who die in the emergency room or before they get to the hospital, nor does it include those who are treated and released.

Those numbers were down about 20% from a study of 2009 data. That sounds like good news, but “I think most people would agree one child being shot is too many,” Silver said.

She was especially struck that the majority of the children under 15 hospitalized with gunshot wounds were unintentionally injured and said these accidents could easily have been prevented if the guns had been locked up. An estimated one out of three US homes with children has a gun, and about 1.7 million US children live in homes with unlocked and loaded guns.

In older children, the background changes. Most of those between 15 and 19 were shot in an intentional assault, according to Silver’s research. This age group makes up the largest number of victims, more than 83%.

The demographics show another divide. The vast majority of children hospitalized for gunshots, 87.6%, were male. African-Americans and the poor also bear the brunt: Over half of the children who had been hospitalized were African-American, and more than half lived in a ZIP code that the government considered an impoverished area.

These injuries cost $130 million in hospital bills in 2012, an average of $22,644 per stay. Most of the children were hospitalized for six days due to the severity of their injuries, and most needed extensive followup treatment once they were released. In addition to physical therapy, many need mental health care.

Dr. John Leventhal, author of the study on the 2009 data, thinks that if there were indeed 20% fewer children shot in 2012, it could be a significant finding. However, he cautions that three years of data is too little time to detect a trend. “You can’t get too excited about a decrease yet,” he said.

The numbers mirror other data showing decreases in fatalities from gun violence for all ages.

Leventhal, a professor of pediatrics and clinical professor of nursing and medical director at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital Child Abuse Program, said Silver’s research is important for an additional reason: It indicates the importance of the data on why children are hospitalized. He has also used the numbers to show trends in child abuse, and they has helped him show an increase in the number of children accidentally poisoned by opioids.

Data on all these topics are published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. President Donald Trump’s budget proposed eliminating it and merging it with the National Institutes of Health, which would itself face a huge budget cut if the Trump proposal went through.

“This is really important information that gives us important insight into what is happening with child health in the United States, and this study shows us another reason why we need to keep it,” Leventhal said.

Both Leventhal and Silver also cited a lack of funding in the United States gun research. Silver conducted the new research on her own time using her own funds.

“We need to invest more in this kind of research to prevent these kinds of injuries,” Silver said.

In the meantime, Silver says she will reach out to parents at her hospital in the Bronx to try to help them better understand the importance of gun safety. Some studies showed that the number of accidents declines after doctors talk to parents about safe gun storage.

“If we can talk to parents about it in the context like how we tell parents to use outlet covers and turn pot handles away so they are not reachable, that could help,” Silver said. “Maybe if we normalize gun safety more, more children will be made safe.”

Jeff Sessions’ Department of Injustice

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about immigration, in Washington, DC, March 27, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about immigration, in Washington, DC, March 27, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

Motivated by his deep-seated biases and those of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pursuing a draconian agenda on voting rights, immigration, crime, policing, the drug war, federal sentencing and the privatization of prisons.

Sessions, now head of the Department of Justice, which is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act, once called the act “intrusive.” In 2013, after the Supreme Court issued a decision in Shelby County v. Holder that struck down the section of the act that established a formula for preclearance of jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination, Sessions called it “a good day for the South.”

Sessions and Trump tout the existence of what the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School calls a “phantom crime wave.” While this administration scaremongers about high crime rates, in reality, national crime and murder rates are at a near-historic low: 50 percent less than they were at their peak in 1991.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

Trump’s campaign mantra was “law and order,” a euphemism for tolerating excessive force by police officers, often against people of color. Trump speaks of “American carnage” in the cities and a “war” on the police. His bogus rhetoric is aimed at Black Lives Matter, which arose in response to increasing numbers of police shootings, particularly of nonwhites.

The president depicts police reform measures as “anti-law enforcement” and Sessions is fully on board with this framing. In 2015, when he was a senator, Sessions said that police reform movements endanger public safety and hinder police work.

Sessions opposes consent decrees, which are court-enforced agreements aimed at eliminating racial profiling and excessive force by police in agencies that demonstrate “a pattern or practice” of violating civil rights. Sessions says the federal government should not be “dictating to local police how to do their jobs” (except when it comes to immigration enforcement, that is).

Amnesty International warns that Trump and Sessions’ “law and order” rhetoric could lead to higher levels of mass incarceration, long sentences and prolonged solitary confinement.

Voting Rights in Peril

Sessions has reversed the Obama Justice Department’s practice of challenging voter identification laws, which erect obstacles to minority voters. Sessions directed his Justice Department to intervene in favor of states that enact measures to discriminatorily restrict ballot access.

In February, Sessions’ Justice Department asked a federal district court to dismiss the Obama Justice Department’s claim that the 2011 Texas voter ID law was passed with an intent to discriminate against minorities. But in April, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos concluded that intentional discrimination against minority voters constituted “at least one of the substantial or motivating factors behind passage” of Texas’ voter ID law.

Sessions’ racist agenda is already animating his attack on the most basic guarantee in a democracy — the right to vote.

Racist Immigration Policies

Trump and Sessions are not disappointing the white nationalists who favor using immigration policy as a wedge to further their “alt-right” program.

Kevin de León, President pro Tempore of the California State Senate, noted, “It has become abundantly clear” that Sessions and Trump “are basing their law enforcement policies on principles of white supremacy — not American values.”

From January to mid-March of this year, immigration arrests have increased by 33 percent. Since Trump’s inauguration, the number of arrests of immigrants with no criminal records has doubled. Roughly half of the 675 arrested in early February raids had either driving convictions or no criminal record at all, according to data obtained by The Washington Post.

Sessions drastically increased penalties for illegal reentry into the United States and ordered immigration officials to charge undocumented immigrants with higher-penalty crimes.

Although Sessions’ heavy-handed actions are based on Trump’s spurious claim that immigrants disproportionately murder and rape US citizens, studies have shown that immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than citizens.

Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are arresting immigrants who come to the courthouse. This egregious practice motivated California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to complain in a letter to the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security that ICE agents “appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests.”

Terrorizing immigrants with frightful measures discourages immigrant witnesses from reporting crimes, and discourages victims from seeking legal measures and services that are meant to protect their own safety and well-being.

By March, the Los Angeles Police Department had seen a 25 percent drop in the number of Latinos reporting sexual assault and a 10 percent decrease in Latinos’ reports of domestic violence. By early April, there was a 42.8 percent drop in the number of Latinos who reported rapes to the Houston Police Department. And a health care center in Los Angeles reported a 20 percent decrease in food stamp enrollments and a 54 percent drop in enrollments for Medicaid.

The Trump administration has been arresting — even deporting — “Dreamers” who relied on Barack Obama’s assurances they would be protected if they came out of the shadows and provided their personal information to ICE. Dreamer Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez is a registrant in Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and was the first DACA recipient to be deported. Bojorquez, who is now in Mexico, is suing the US federal government.

On January 25, 2017, Trump signed an executive order to halt federal funding to municipal governments that don’t facilitate federal immigration enforcement. Trump’s order is aimed at “sanctuary cities” that protect immigrants from deportation.

In March, Sessions threatened officials in nine jurisdictions with losing their 2016 grants if they failed to certify by June 30 that they were in compliance with a law that forbids local authorities from forcing officials to withhold information about immigration status from federal authorities.

But the majority of sanctuary policies do not cover information sharing. Most address how to handle “detainers,” where federal immigration officials request that state or local authorities continue to detain people who are eligible for release. Courts have said jurisdictions cannot be forced to honor those detainers.

Trump’s January 25 order is blocked, for now. US District Judge William H. Orrick III issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that forbids the federal government from withholding funds from municipal governments that don’t fully cooperate with immigration agents.

Orrick also ruled the federal government can’t legally force counties to hold undocumented people beyond their release dates. The judge concluded Trump’s order likely violates due process, the separation of powers doctrine, and the 10th Amendment, which prevents federal interference with state and local self-government. Only Congress can limit spending, Orrick wrote.

This is Trump’s third executive order halted by federal courts. His first and second Muslim bans are now pending in the 9th and 4th Circuit Courts of Appeals.

Giving Police Free Reign

Sessions walks in lockstep with Trump on his “law-and-order” agenda. In an op-ed published in USA Today on April 17, Sessions decried a “plague of violence,” claiming, “Violent crime is surging in American cities.” In fact, crime is at or near an all-time low in many parts of the United States.

The implicit message in Sessions’ op-ed was that people of color, particularly African Americans, are a threat to white America. Indeed Trump’s election largely reflected a backlash against having a Black man in the “White” House.

“Images of feral, criminal black people carry great weight in the political imaginations of white voters, especially those who supported Donald Trump,” Chauncey de Vega wrote in Salon. “As such the truth is sacrificed for the twin purposes of political expediency and serving America’s longtime obsession with ‘black crime’.”

In his op-ed, Sessions suggested, “To combat this wave of violence and protect our communities, we need proactive policing.” Moreover, he claimed in an interview on the conservative Howie Carr radio show that consent decrees “push back against [officers] being on the street in a proactive way” because they “reduce morale.” He wrote in his op-ed that consent decrees may amount to “harmful federal intrusion” and said cities under consent decrees have “seen too often big crime increases.”

Sessions has rolled back Obama-era oversight of local police and authorized a review of 14 active consent decrees between city police departments and the federal government.

In fact, many police departments welcome consent decrees. Seattle saw a 60 percent reduction in the use of moderate to severe police force, according to Merrick J. Bobb, who monitored Seattle’s 2011 consent decree. Bobb wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Expanded community confidence appears to be inspiring more cooperation with the police in solving crime and addressing neighborhood problems.” Under Seattle’s consent decree, Bobb noted, “police are not being placed at any higher risk nor are they less able or willing to use force to defend themselves than in the past.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told HuffPost his city is not “less safe because of consent decrees.”

The crime rate in Newark, New Jersey, is the lowest in 50 years. Peter Harvey, who monitored Newark’s consent decree, said, “In virtually every city that has had a consent decree, shootings have gone down, killings have gone down, judgments against the city have been reduced, and morale in the police department has been raised and morale in the community has been raised.”

Why aren’t consent decrees meeting with intensive pushback from city officials? “Because you’re not inviting the police not to patrol,” Harvey said in an interview with HuffPost, “you’re not inviting the police not to enforce the law, you’re inviting the police to follow constitutional mandates.”

We can also expect to see increased militarization of the police under the Trump administration, with more surplus military equipment provided to local law enforcement. That includes drones, body armor, assault vehicles and high-powered weapons. Turning cities into war zones will only exacerbate tensions.

Regressive Drug Policy

The Obama administration directed federal prosecutors to make violent and serious crime a top priority and avoid charging harsh “mandatory minimum” penalties in certain low-level drug cases. Mandatory minimum sentences remove discretion from judges to tailor sentences to the individual and fuel mass incarceration that disproportionately targets people of color.

Eric Holder, Obama’s attorney general, gave states, many of which have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational purposes, some leeway to set marijuana policy. He also directed federal prosecutors to reduce charges in low-level nonviolent drug cases. As a result, the federal rate of imprisonment has fallen by 9.5 percent since 2007, according to the Brennan Center.

In 2016, Sessions declared, “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” warning of a “very real danger” posed by the drug. It’s “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.” We may see Sessions prioritize enforcement of federal marijuana laws, to the chagrin of millions of people across the country who voted for legalization in their states.

More Repressive Federal Sentencing

Last year, leading Republicans, including Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) spearheaded a bipartisan attempt to pass a bill that would have reduced mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent and drug offenses. Then-Senator Sessions, who led opposition to the bill, called it a “criminal leniency bill.” Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prevented the bill from coming to a vote in order to avoid a split in the party.

Increasing Privatized Prisons

Obama and Holder were winding down the use of private prisons. The Brennan Center reports that private penitentiaries have a number of problems, including: “higher rates of assault against other inmates and staff; inmates inappropriately housed in solitary confinement units due to overcrowding when those units should have been used for disciplinary or administrative reasons; many more contraband issues; and almost ten times more security lockdowns.”

Nevertheless, candidate Trump, who called our prison system “a disaster,” said, “I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons.” Sessions has reversed the Obama-era policy of phasing out the use of private prisons.

An Ill-Equipped Attorney General

After Trump nominated Sessions for attorney general, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Illinois) stated, “No senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants and people of color than Sen. Sessions.”

Indeed, no one is worse equipped to lead the Department of Justice. Sessions’ racism is prominently on display in every action he has taken during his short tenure in Trump’s cabinet.

It is critical that “we the people” continue to resist, in every way we can, the Trump-Sessions pattern and practice of injustice.

Police uncover no evidence of racism in San Diego shootings

No evidence has been found that a deadly shooting rampage at a pool party with mostly black victims was racially-motivated, San Diego police said. Assistant Chief Brian Ahearn said investigators have interviewed party guests and family members, associates … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

Lester: Jack Franks getting police protection after comments on blog

Former state Rep. Jack Franks has been getting police protection for the last six weeks after reading what he describes as “death threats” on a local blog.

Franks, a Marengo Democrat who chairs the majority-Republican McHenry County Board, tells me a McHenry County sheriff’s patrol car has been watching his house as well as county board meetings after a March 23 exchange on the McHenry County Blog. Blogger Cal Skinner quoted comments made at a county board meeting alluding to 23 board members as chickens dealing with two weasels — the two Democrats, one of whom is Franks.

A commenter using the alias LTResident suggested the weasels be shot, and another using the alias Kaatu Barrada Nikto said, “I know a fellow who specializes in terminating weasels of all kinds” for “very reasonable” prices of $5,000, or $10,000 “if you need it to look like an accident.”

Franks says he’s worried about his family’s safety. He’s had his kids stay away at college and his wife has visited relatives out of state, he said.

Skinner, of Lakewood, a longtime foe of Franks, has not removed the posts and did not respond to my request for comment.

Franks says Skinner has a responsibility to tell police the identities of the commenters. McHenry County sheriff’s officials say they’ve turned the investigation over to Illinois State Police.

Republican state Rep. Steve Andersson of Geneva spoke at Harvard about his work to reduce court fees.

Republican state Rep. Steve Andersson of Geneva spoke at Harvard about his work to reduce court fees. – Courtesy of Steve Andersson

Political reality at Harvard

Republican state Rep. Steve Andersson was addressing a Harvard Law School conference about reducing court fees, but instead of talking theory the Geneva Republican “got down and dirty” with a lesson on politics.

Andersson explained to the group why lawmakers in danger of losing their seats in the next election might not vote for a bill even if they agree with it.

“Good theory is step one, but step two is how you have to do it — the sausage-making process,” Andersson says.

Andersson was invited to speak at the event April 20 after he participated on an Illinois task force that concluded in a June 2016 report that court fees are bloated with surcharges to pay for programs and services. A DUI offender in McHenry County, for example, might have been fined $150 by the judge but charged a total of $1,625 in court assessments.

Andersson and Democratic state Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook are sponsoring a bill to set fees based on a defendant’s ability to pay.

Twitter fire for Walsh

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh faces heat for comments he made on Twitter after comedian Jimmy Kimmel, whose newborn son recently underwent open-heart surgery, made a plea for keeping health care available to those who have pre-existing conditions or live in low-income households.

“Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care,” Walsh said on Twitter.

Many — including actress Alyssa Milano — pointed out Walsh claimed he didn’t have enough money to make child support payments after he left Congress in 2013.

Compost at the curb

The city of Highwood, the first town in the state to add food scrap composting into its garbage service contract, will this month begin requiring residents to separate food scraps from other household garbage put out at the curb. The aim, officials say, is to keep waste that can be composted out of landfills.

Collaborating at Marmion

Marmion Military Academy students are collaborating with engineers at Fortune 500 company Parker Hannifin to develop a part that will help find oil in deep water basins around the world, I’m told by school officials. It’s one of more than a dozen group projects in the works at the all-boys school in Aurora, where students partner with companies including Rok Werk Systems Inc. and the Federal Aviation Administration. The school’s Computational Prototyping and Research Center, which began as a group of local businesses, has grown to a consortium of about 30 business partners that focuses on teaching how to tackle real-world problems in science, technology, engineering and math.

Republican state Rep. Tom Morrison of Palatine says he was quoting the Rev. Jesse Jackson in some controversial comments drawing parallels between slavery and abortion.

  Republican state Rep. Tom Morrison of Palatine says he was quoting the Rev. Jesse Jackson in some controversial comments drawing parallels between slavery and abortion. – Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

Morrison on abortion, slavery

Republican state Rep. Tom Morrison of Palatine sent me a heartfelt email after I wrote about a legislative debate in which he compared unborn children to former slave Dred Scott, who in 1857 was declared by the U.S. Supreme Court to not be a citizen. State Rep. Christian Mitchell, a Chicago Democrat, called the comment the most “ignorant and possibly racist” thing he’d heard in the House chamber.

Morrison, in his note, says he was quoting from a letter by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who “mentions abortions and slavery parallels in this piece, and many African-American leaders still do correctly maintain that state and federal laws over our history have consistently recognized or granted rights to fellow humans. If Rep. Mitchell believes that my remarks were ‘racist’ and ‘ignorant,’ well then, Rev. Jackson’s position was, too.”

It should be noted that Jackson was in Springfield that day to support the bill to expand taxpayer funding of abortion to state employees and those on Medicaid. It has been sent to the Senate, where it’s expected to pass.

What Will Kill Neoliberalism?

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Left populism can technically end neoliberalism. But can right-wing populism?

One should hope that right-wing populism doesn’t become organized enough to end the neoliberal order. Public control is not a cogent ideology on the right. That leaves room for privatization—a main pillar of neoliberalism—to continue to grow. Only if right-wing nationalism turns into radical authoritarian nationalism (read: fascism) will its relationship with corporate power turn into an end to the neoliberal order. In the United States, this would mean: 1) the delegitimization of Congress and the judicial branch, 2) the increased criminalization of activists and political opponents, and 3) the nationalization of major industries.

Right-wing nationalism seems to be crafted to win electoral victories at the intersection of protectionist and xenophobic sentiments. Its current manifestation, designed to win over rural nativist voters, appears to be at odds with the pro-free-trade policies of neoliberalism. However, the lines between far-right nationalism and the mainstream right are blurring, especially when it comes to privatization and the role of government. In the United States, Trump’s agenda looks more like crony capitalism than a consistent turn from neoliberal norms. His administration seems either unwilling or incapable of taking a heavy-handed approach to industry.

As with many of his business ventures, we’ve already seen Trump-style nationalism fail in his nascent administration. The White House caved to elite Republican interests with the attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and with Trump’s decision to stack high-level economic-policy roles with members of the financial elite. Trump’s proclaimed nationalist ideology seems to be a rhetorical device rather than a consistent governing principle. It’s possible that the same might be true for other right-wing nationalists. France’s Marine Le Pen has cozied up, though admittedly inconsistently, to business interests; she has also toned down her rhetoric, especially on immigration, over the years in order to win centrist voters. Meanwhile, Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders notably lost to a more mainstream candidate in March’s general elections. Yet the radical right is more organized in Europe than in the United States. We may not see the same level of compromise and incompetence as in the Trump administration. Moves toward moderation may only be anomalous and strategic rather than a sign of a failing movement.

So what does all of this mean for the future of neoliberalism, particularly in the American context? I believe there are two futures in which neoliberalism’s end is possible. In the first, the left decides to stop playing defense and organizes with the resources needed to build sustained power, breaking down the policies that perpetuate American neoliberalism. This means enacting policies like universal health care and free college, and ousting the private-prison industry from the justice system. In the second future, a set of political leaders who have been emboldened by Trump’s campaign strategy gain office through mostly republican means. They could concentrate power in the executive in an organized manner, nationalize industries, and criminalize communities who don’t support their jingoistic vision. We should hope for the first future, as unlikely as it seems in this political moment. We’ve already seen the second in 20th-century Europe and Latin America. We cannot live that context again.

Paul Mason

Take the State

I wrote in Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future that if we 
didn’t ditch neoliberalism, globalization would fall apart—but I had no idea that it would happen so quickly. In hindsight, the problem is that you can put an economy on life support, but not an ideology.

After the 2008 financial crisis, quantitative easing and state support for banks kept the patient alive. As the Bank of England governor Mark Carney said last year at the G20 summit in Shanghai, central banks have even more ammunition to draw on should they need it—for example, the extreme option of “helicopter money,” in which they credit every bank account with, say, $20,000. So they can stave off complete stagnation for a long time. But patchwork measures cannot kick-start a new era of dynamism for capitalism, much less faith in its goodness.

The human brain demands coherence—and a certain amount of optimism. The neoliberal story became incoherent the moment the state had to take dramatic steps to support a failing financial market. The form of recovery stimulated by quantitative easing boosted the asset wealth of the rich but not the income of the average worker—and rising costs for health care, education, and pension provision across the developed world meant that many people experienced the “recovery” as a household recession.

So they began looking for answers, and the right had an easy one: Ditch globalization, free trade, and relatively free migration rules, as well as acceptance of the undocumented migrants who keep the economy working. That’s how we get to Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Viktor Orbán, the Law and Justice party in Poland, and UKIP in Britain. Each of them has promised to make their country “great again”—by diverting growth toward it and migrants and refugees away.

For 30 years, neoliberalism taught national elites that they were better off collaborating in the creation of a positive-sum game: Everybody wins, ultimately, even if your factory moves to China. That was the rationale.

Economic nationalism is logical if you believe that stagnation will last a long time, creating a zero-sum or even a negative-sum game. But the projects of economic nationalism will fail. This is not because economic nationalism has always been a losing strategy: Adolf Hitler practically abolished German unemployment within five years, and Franklin Roosevelt triggered a spectacular recovery and reindustrialization with the New Deal. But these were programs of another era, in which business models were primarily national and monopolies operated in the sphere of one big nation and its colonies; where the state was heavily enmeshed in the national economy; and where global trade was puny and economic migration low compared to now.

To try a repeat of autarky in the 21st century will trigger dislocation on a large scale. Some countries will win: It’s even feasible that, although led by an imbecile, the United States could win. However, “winning” in this context means bankrupting other countries. Given the complexity and fragility of the globalized system, the cities of the losing nations would resemble New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

In the long term, for the left, the transition to a system beyond capitalism must be based on the possibility of a low-work, high-abundance society. This is the essence of the postcapitalism project that I proposed: automate work, replace wages with a basic income and heavy state provision of services, and enforce competition among the rent-seeking monopolies in order to force the price of their goods so low that people can survive scarce and precarious work.

As Manuel Castells’s research group in Barcelona has found, as the market staggers, more and more people actually begin to adopt nonmarket survival tactics, mechanisms, and institutions like informal lending, co-ops, time banks, and alternative currencies. And that’s the basis for an economic counterpower to big capital and high finance.

But in the short term, a whole generation of the left that reveled in aimlessness and horizontality needs to split the difference between that and effective, organized politics. Call it “diagonality,” if you want: Without ceasing to care about the 100 small causes that have animated us in the past, the one big cause that needs to animate us in the future is a systemic project of transition beyond capitalism. For now, that project has to be pursued at the level of big cities, regions, states, and alliances of states—that is, at scale.

The hardest thing for the old left to accept will be that this means using the existing, oppressive, imperfect state while simultaneously trying to democratize it. Street protests, mass resistance, strikes, and the occupation of squares are great ways to assemble the forces. But the arc of the story from 2011 to 2015—Occupy, the Indignados, and the Arab Spring—shows that we have to do more than simply create a counterpower: We need to take power and diffuse it at the same time.

Bryce Covert

The Crisis of Care

American parents are being crushed between
 trying to care for their families and working enough hours to survive financially. This problem plagues parents of both genders, up and down the income scale, and it is upending the way Americans view the capitalist system. This crisis of care is fostering solidarity among the millions of Americans who share this challenge, as well as support for solutions that will end the reign of neoliberalism.

Among low-income Americans, especially people of color, both parents have often worked outside the home to make ends meet. Nonetheless, the ideal has been, until very recently, a stay-at-home mother and a father working for pay outside the home. World War II undermined this idyll, pushing women into factories as men went to fight abroad. The gauzy 1950s dream of single-earner families masked the reality that women continued to pour into the workforce.

Today, women make up about half of the paid labor force in the United States, including more than 70 percent of women with children. This means that in about half of married heterosexual couples, both the husband and wife work. This has given women far more access to the public sphere and, with it, greater status and equality both inside and outside the home.

But it’s also meant a crunch for families. There is no longer a designated parent to stay home with the kids or care for aging relatives, and the workplace isn’t designed to help with that predicament. Instead, work is devouring people’s lives.

You can see this problem in the rising number of Americans who worry about their work/life balance. About half of parents of both genders say they struggle to reconcile these competing demands. Fathers are particularly freaked out: More than 45 percent feel they don’t spend enough time with their children, compared with less than a quarter of mothers (probably because more women reduce their paid work to care for children). As the baby-boomer generation ages, a growing elderly population threatens to trap even more working people in the predicament of caring for aging parents, raising young kids, and trying to make a living.

The result has been that more and more people are being forced to reckon with the fact that capitalism’s unquenchable thirst for labor makes a balanced life impossible. This, in turn, is fostering a greater sense of solidarity among them as workers struggling against the demands of corporate bosses. This growing crisis has already led to some policy-making. The expansion of overtime coverage by the Obama administration means that workers will either be better compensated for putting in long hours or have their schedules pared back to a more humane 40-hour work week (though it remains to be seen what will happen to the overtime expansion under President Trump). Legislation guaranteeing paid time off has swept city and state governments. These are policies that challenge the idea that we should give everything of ourselves to our jobs.

The crisis of care has also revived the notion that the public should deal with these shared problems collectively. While other developed countries have spent money to create government-funded solutions for child care over the past half-century, Americans have insisted child care remain a private crisis that each family has to solve alone. The United States provides all children age 6 to 18 with a public education, but for children under the age of 6, it offers basically nothing. Head Start is available to some low-income parents, and a smattering of places have started experimenting with universal preschool for children ages 3 and 4. Outside of that, parents are left to a pitiful private system that often doesn’t even offer them enough slots, let alone quality affordable care.

Americans have increasingly come to recognize that this situation is ridiculous and are throwing their support behind a government solution. Huge majorities support
spending more money on early-childhood programs. American parents haven’t yet gone on strike against capitalism’s endless demands on their time or the government’s failure to provide public support. But the crisis is reaching a boiling point, and it’s transforming our relationship to America’s neoliberal system.

William Darity Jr.

A Revolution of Managers

Marx’s classic law of motion for bourgeois 
society—the tendency of the rate of profit to fall—was the foundation for his prediction that capitalism would die under the stress of its own contradictions. But even Marx’s left-wing sympathizers, who see the dominant presence of corporate capital in all aspects of their lives, have argued that Marx’s prediction was wrong. It has become virtually a reflex to assert that modern societies all fall under the sway of “global capitalism,” and that a binary operates with two great social classes standing in fundamental opposition to each other: capital and labor.

Suppose, however, that Marx was correct in his expectation that capitalism, like other social modes of production before it, will wind down gradually, but wrong in his expectation that it would be succeeded by a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” a civilization without class stratification. Suppose, indeed, that the age of capitalism is actually reaching its conclusion—but one that doesn’t involve the ascension of the working class. Suppose, instead, that we consider the existence of a third great social class vying with the other two for social dominance: what was seen in the work of such disparate thinkers as James Burnham, Alvin Gouldner, Barbara Ehrenreich, and John Ehrenreich as the managerial class.

The managerial class comprises the intelligentsia and intellectuals, artists and artisans, as well as state bureaucrats—a credentialed or portfolio-rich cultural aristocracy. While the human agents of global capital are the corporate magnates, and the working class is the productive labor—labor that is directly utilized to generate profit—the managerial class engages comprehensively in a social-management function. The rise of the managerial class is the rise to dominance of unproductive labor—labor that can be socially valuable but is not a direct source of profit.

A surplus population under capitalism has a purpose: It exists as a reserve army of the unemployed, which can be mobilized rapidly in periods of economic expansion and as a source of downward pressure on the demands for compensation and safe work conditions made by the employed. Therefore, capital has little incentive to eliminate this surplus population. In contrast, the managerial class will view those identified as surplus people as truly superfluous. The social managers consider population generally as an object of control, reduction, and demographic administration, and whoever is assigned to the “surplus” category bears the weight of the arbitrary.

To the extent that identification of the surplus population is racialized, particular groups will be targets for social warehousing and extermination. The disproportionate overincarceration of black people in the United States—a form of social warehousing—is a direct expression of the managerial class’s preferences regarding who should be deemed of low necessity. The exterminative impulse is evident in the comparative devaluation of black lives that prompted resistance efforts like the Black Lives Matter movement. The potential for black superfluity in the managerial age is evident in prescient works like Sidney Willhelm’s Who Needs the Negro? (1970) and Samuel Yette’s The Choice (1971), both published almost 50 years ago.

The assault on “big” and invasive government constitutes an attack on the managerial class by both capital and the working class. Despite endorsing military spending, receiving lucrative government contracts, and enjoying the benefits of publicly provided infrastructure like roads, highways, and railways, corporate capital calls for small government. This is a strategic route to slashing social-welfare expenditures, with the goal of reducing the wage standard and eliminating all regulations on corporate predations. Despite benefiting from social-welfare expenditures, the working class gravitates to a new brand of populism that blends anticorporatism with anti-elitism (and anti-intellectualism), xenophobia, and a demand for a smaller and less intrusive state. Since “big” government constitutes the avenue for independent action on the part of the managerial class, an offensive of this type directly undermines the “new” class’s base of power.

But the managerial class also possesses another attribute that is both a strength and a weakness. Unlike capital and labor, whose agendas are driven to a large degree by the struggle over the character of a society structured for the pursuit of profit, the managerial class has no anchor for its ideological stance. In fact, it’s a social class that is wholly fluid ideologically. Some of its members align fully with the corporate establishment; indeed, the corporate magnates—especially investment bankers—look much the same as members of the managerial class in terms of educational credentials, cultural interests, and style. Other social managers take a more centrist posture harking back to their origins in the “middle class,” while still others position themselves as allies of the working class. And there are many variations on these themes.

Depending on where the ideological weight centers most heavily, the managerial class can take many directions. During the wars in southern Africa against Portuguese rule, Amílcar Cabral once observed that for the anticolonial revolution to succeed, “the petty bourgeoisie” would need to commit suicide as a social class, ceasing their efforts to pursue their particular interests and positioning themselves fully at the service of the working class. One might anticipate that the global managerial class will one day be confronted with the choice of committing suicide, in Cabral’s sense, as a class. But the question is: If such a step is taken, will they place themselves fully at the service of labor… or capital?

Peter Barnes

Universal Base Income

There is no single solution to economic
 inequality and insecurity in America, but there’s one that could go further than any other. It’s a universal base income, as distinct from a universal basic income.

A universal base income of a few hundred dollars a month is not the same as a universal basic income of, say, $1,000 a month. The latter, at least in some places, is enough to survive on; the former decidedly is not. And while the latter is the dream of many, it is far too expensive—and threatening to America’s work ethic—to be enacted anytime soon. If a universal basic income ever happens here, it will be because it was preceded for many years by a universal base income, gradually nudged upward like Social Security and the minimum wage. So let’s take a look at that.

A universal base income is both a springboard and a cushion for every participant in our fast-changing market economy—like giving everyone $200 for passing “Go” in a game of Monopoly. It supplements, but does not replace, labor income (which for the last 30 years has stagnated or declined), and it does so without judgment or stigma. It is grounded on the principle that, in a prosperous albeit volatile and increasingly unequal economy, everyone has a right to some cash flow they can count on.

In practical terms, a universal base income would be simple to administer. Eligible recipients (anyone with a valid Social Security number, which can include legal immigrants) would receive an equal amount of money every month, wired to their bank accounts or debit cards. The system would look and feel like Social Security, or a monthly version of the dividends that all Alaskans receive. People who don’t need the extra income would be enabled by a check-off option to donate it to any IRS-approved charity.

A universal base income, I should note, has nothing to do with automation, robots, or artificial intelligence. It has a lot to do with enhancing every American’s security, reducing their stress, and giving our poor and middle classes a leg to stand on—the very opposite of what our economy does now.

A universal base income would have other benefits as well. It is an answer—perhaps the answer—to long-term economic stagnation, a trickle-up form of Keynesianism that would stimulate our economy through increased household spending. Moreover, if funded by fees on unproductive activities like pollution and speculation, it would help solve two other deep problems of 21st-century capitalism: climate change and financial instability. And it wouldn’t need to replace or reduce spending on current programs that benefit the poor, a regressive trade-off that conservatives favor but most progressives oppose.

There are six large demographic groups (with some overlap) that could form the core of a movement for a universal base income: millennials (the first generation of Americans destined to earn less than their parents), low-wage and on-demand work­ers (the so-called precariat), women (who still earn less than men and aren’t paid at all for much of the work they do), African Americans (who suffer from past and present injustices), retired and near-retired workers (who can’t live on Social Security alone), and poor people of all colors. Environmentalists might also link arms with the cause if one of the revenue sources is a tax on pollution. It will, of course, be no simple feat to persuade these diverse groups that what they can’t achieve separately they may be able to achieve together. But it has happened before, and, in the post-Sanders era, it could happen again.

In the political realm, a universal base income would bring our nation together by affirming that we are all in the same economic boat. It would unite our desperate poor and our anxious middle class, young and old, women and men, white people and people of color. It would make millions of Americans less stressed, healthier, and perhaps even happier. And it could make many of us proud to be American.

Fourscore and two years ago, Franklin Roosevelt’s Committee on Economic Security produced the classic report that led to passage of the first Social Security Act. The report itself went beyond security for the aged. It proclaimed: “The one almost all-embracing measure of security is an assured income. A program of economic security, as we vision it, must have as its primary aim the assurance of an adequate income to each human being in childhood, youth, middle age, or old age—in sickness or in health.”

The committee added that, for reasons of political expediency, it was proposing only an assured income for the elderly, but it hoped that the rest of its vision would be implemented in the not-too-distant future. Much of it has been, but not all. A lifelong base income, along with health insurance for all, are the next pieces.