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George Curry

Paul Ryan: The Most Conservative Congressman Picked for VP in 100 Years

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By George E. Curry

NNPA Columnist

After studying the records of vice presidential candidates for more than a century, Nate Silver wrote in Saturday’s New York Times that Paul Ryan, the person Mitt Romney selected to be his vice presidential running mate, is “as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann, the controversial congresswoman of Minnesota…Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900. He is also more conservative than any Democratic nominee was liberal, meaning that he is the furthest from the center.” As chairman of the House Budget Committee, the Wisconsin Republican has served as the chief architect of the GOP’s budget priorities. Detailed analysis of Ryan’s budget plan show him to be what Jesse Jackson often called on the presidential campaign trail in 1984: a “Reverse Robin Hood” – one who likes to take from the poor to give to the rich.

That’s exactly the point documented by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “…These regressive new tax cuts would come on top of the Bush tax cuts, which also were costly and provided disproportionate gains to the highest-income households. Combined, the Bush and Ryan tax cuts would provide an annual windfall of nearly $400,000 apiece, on average, to people with incomes over $1 million.”

It added, “By combining large budget cuts (and tax increases) that disproportionately harm lower-income Americans with big tax cuts that disproportionately help those at the top of the income scale, the Ryan budget would significantly worsen inequality and increase poverty and hardship (and reduce opportunity as well, through deep cuts in programs such as Pell Grants to help low-income students afford college).”

Even William Gale, who served as a senior staff economist for the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush, agrees. “At a time when our country faces a daunting fiscal challenge, Ryan asks nothing of the wealthiest Americans. His budget proposal would simultaneously cut tax rates for the rich and corporations while slashing programs for the poor and elderly: he would shift many federal low-income assistance programs to state governments and would transform Medicare into a premium support system that will shift health care costs to seniors if health care inflation cannot be controlled,” said Gale, now co-director of the Tax Policy Center.

A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of Ryan’s 2013 budget plan found that it “would get at least 62 percent of its $5.3 trillion in nondefense budget cuts over ten years (relative to a continuation of current policies) from programs that serve people of limited means.”

It explained, “Ryan’s cuts from programs benefiting low-income earners include “$2.4 trillion in reductions from Medicaid and other health care for people with low or moderate incomes” and “$134 billion in cuts to SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.” In addition, Ryan would cut at least $463 billion from “mandatory programs serving low-income Americans (other than Medicaid and SNAP)” and “at least $291 billion in cuts in low-income discretionary programs.”

Like his running mate, Ryan favors repealing President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act. And what he proposes as a cure for America’s ailing health care system is worse than the illness.

“Ryan budget would divide our health system into a distinct two tiers: those who could afford the care they need would get it; many others would not,” said Edwin Park, vice president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Referring to Ryan, the former White House official said, “He would convert Medicare into a voucher to buy private insurance or traditional Medicare, and cap Medicare financing for the vouchers at levels that wouldn’t keep pace with health costs. By 2050, the Congressional Budget Office says, federal funding for a 67-year-old beneficiary’s health costs would be 35 percent to 42 percent lower than under current law. With vouchers growing more inadequate over time, beneficiaries would face much higher premiums and cost-sharing. Some would become uninsured; others would forgo care they couldn’t afford.”

And the problem with Medicare and Medicaid would not stop there under Ryan’s plan. “He would turn Medicaid into a block grant program and give states less financing each year,” Park said. “States would get one-third less by 2022, which led the C.B.O. to conclude that unless states spent substantially more of their own money on Medicaid, they’d have to make substantial cuts to eligibility, benefits and/or provider payments. When Ryan proposed a similar system last year, the Urban Institute estimated states would cut 14 million to 27 million beneficiaries by 2021.”

In an effort to shore up his conservative base, Mitt Romney has selected a running mate clearly out of step with the American public.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Clarence Thomas Worse than a Member of the KKK

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By George Curry
NNPA Columnist

As the nation eagerly awaited the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, all eyes were focused on Anthony M. Kennedy, a staunch conservative who occasionally supplies the lone swing vote that tilts the court’s narrow 5-4 rulings in one direction or the other.

But this time, to the surprise of arch-conservatives who had championed his cause, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. sided with the liberal bloc on the Supreme Court, giving President Obama an unexpected clear victory in his signature legislative accomplishment. What was not surprising was that Clarence Thomas would not step into the role filled by Roberts. He is widely regarded as the most conservative member of a conservative-dominated Supreme Court. Thomas is far more conservative that Hugo Black, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who served on the court from 1937-1971.

Black, a former U.S. Senator from Alabama (he once filibustered an anti-lynching bill) joined the KKK in the early 1920s. In fact, during the 1926 election, he gave speeches at KKK meetings throughout the state. Black later acknowledged that joining the Klan was a mistake and became one of the most liberal members of the Supreme Court, strongly backing the principle of “one man, one vote” and using the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to forbid racial discrimination. No such luck with Clarence Thomas. In every major case involving affirmative action – including Texas v. Hopwood, Adarand v. Pena and Grutter v. Bollinger – Thomas voted against the interests of African Americans. What makes that so strange is that Thomas has benefited from affirmative action throughout his adult life. In their excellent book, Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas, Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher, two colleagues at the Washington Post, write: “Every Thomas employer, from [Former Missouri Sen. John] Danforth, who gave him his first job, to President George H.W. Bush, who nominated him to the Supreme Court, chose Thomas at least partly because he is black. Race is a central fact of his meteoric rise, and Thomas has alternately denied it and resented it – all the way to the top.”

To characterize Thomas’ behavior as resentment is an understatement. The late U.S. Appeals Court Judge Leon Higginbotham observed, “I have often pondered how is it that Justice Thomas, an African-American, could be so insensitive to the plight of the powerless. Why is he no different, or probably worse, than many of the most conservative Supreme Court justices of the century? I can only think of one Supreme Court justice during the century who was worse than Justice Clarence Thomas: James McReynolds, a White supremacist who referred to Blacks as ‘ni@#*$s.’”

Though arguably the worst, Thomas is by no means the only African American who votes against the interests of his community.

Alabama Congressman Artur Davis was soundly defeated two years ago in his bid to win statewide office. Under the delusion that he could become the first Black governor of Alabama, Davis fervently attacked local Black leaders and was the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote against the Affordable Care Act.

Longtime Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders challenged Davis tactics. “Some Whites use race to consolidate White voters during election and some Blacks use race to consolidate Black voters,” Sanders wrote in his newsletter, Senate Sketches. “But this time, there is a new context: a technically well qualified Black person is running for Governor of Alabama in the Democratic Primary against a technically well qualified White. There is also a new twist: a Black person is attempting to use the race of other Blacks to consolidate Whites behind him. It’s a new context with new twists in an age old saga.”

The saga did not end well for Davis, who has since joined the Republican Party. In his primary contest against Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who is White, Davis lost 10 of the 12 counties that made up his congressional district, some by as much as 70 percent. He even lost his own polling place in Birmingham.

And let’s not forget Edolphus Towns, the Democratic Congressman from Brooklyn. Though Towns did not vote for a civil contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder, he took a more cowardly approach by voting present. We should not be surprised. This is the same person who supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in 2008. Before that, he backed Republican Rudy Giuliani for mayor over Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messenger. Fortunately, Towns is not seeking re-election.

When I look at Clarence Thomas, Artur Davis, Edolphus Towns and others we should hold in contempt, I think back to what Thurgood Marshall said about Clarence Thomas: “There’s no difference between a white snake and a black snake. They’ll both bite.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Rodney King Symbolized Police Brutality

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Columnist

Rodney King would be the first to tell you that he was no Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X. His lifelong bout with alcohol and drugs – battles that he always seemed to lose – and frequent run-ins with police did not qualify him for icon status. Yet, that’s what he achieved in 1991 at the age of 27 because of one video clip. It was graphic footage filmed by a bystander showing at least four Los Angeles policemen savagely kicking and beating King with police batons, landing at least 50 blows as the unarmed King was sprawled on the ground or struggling to stand up. In the video, the officers were seen teeing off on King as though they were holding baseball bats or golf clubs. Several other officers stood around, doing nothing to halt the repeated assault on the helpless King.

More than any other event, the brutal beating of Rodney King, an unemployed construction worker, forced America to see what many did not want to believe existed – police officers, hiding behind a badge and a gun, brutalizing citizens who pose no immediate threat to them or the public. King was found dead early Sunday morning at the bottom of his swimming pool at his home in Rialto, Calif. No foul play was suspected.

His entry into the national spotlight has its roots in an incident that took place in 1989. King robbed a grocery store in Monterey Park, Calif. He took $200 and was sentenced to two years in prison. On the night of March 2, 1991, following hours of drinking with friends, King was spotted speeding in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. When cops tried to pull him over, he tried to elude them by driving even faster, up to 100 miles per hour, fearing that he would go back to jail for violating his parole.

After a high-speed chase joined by other officers, King was cornered and ordered out of his vehicle. The two passengers accompanying him, Bryant Allen and Freddie Helms, immediately complied with the order to exit the car and lie face down on the ground. King delayed his exit and when he emerged, he acted strangely, waving at police helicopters that had been part of the chase and giggling uncontrollably.

Sgt. Stacey Koon, the supervising officer, fired a Taser into King’s back, causing him to drop to his knees. Officer Laurence Powell hit King in the head, knocking him to ground, and continued striking King. Other officers moved in as well, pummeling King with their night sticks. After being struck 56 times and kicked a half-dozen times, King was handcuffed and dragged to the side of the road on his stomach to await the arrival of an ambulance. King later reported that he had suffered 11 skull fractures, permanent brain damage, kidney damage and broken bones and teeth. Four of the officers – Koon, Powell. Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno – were charged with excessive use of force. The trial was switched from Los Angeles to Simi Valley, a largely White community in Ventura County. On April 29, 1992, a jury that contained no African Americans acquitted three of the officers and was unable to reach a verdict on a fourth. Los Angeles exploded upon hearing the verdict. At the end of six days of unrest, there were 53 deaths, 2,383 injuries and property damage was nearly $1 billion. In an effort to end the violence, Rodney King appeared in public to utter his now famous, “Can we all get along?”

After the Los Angeles prosecutor failed to win a conviction against the four officers, the federal government obtained indictments charging the officers with violating the civil rights of King. Koon and Stacey were found guilty and sentenced to 32 months in prison; Wind and Briseno were acquitted. The city of Los Angeles settled a civil suit brought by Rodney King for $3.8 million. Later, it became clear that the Rodney King beating was not an aberration.

Feb. 4, 1999 – Amadou Diallo was killed by New York City police officers who claimed they thought he was reaching for a gun. Four officers were indicted for second-degree murder, but were acquitted.

Sept. 2, 2005 – Following Hurricane Katrina, Henry Glover was shot to death while near a strip mall shopping for baby clothing. Two cops were sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for shooting Glover, tossing his body into a car and setting it on fire.

Nov. 26, 2006 –Three unarmed Black men, including Sean Bell, were shot a total of 50 times by New York police officers. Bell, who had been celebrating at his bachelor’s party, died in the hail of bullets. Three officers charged with manslaughter were acquitted.

Jan. 1, 2009 – Oscar Grant was shot in the back by Officer Johannes Mehserle while on the ground at a train station in Oakland, Calif. The officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but served only 11 months in prison.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of cases similar to the ones above. Thanks to Rodney King, the public is not as quick to believe police officers who abuse their power and violate public trust. George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Florida is Again the Laughing Stock of America

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By George Curry
NNPA Columnist

When it comes to national elections, no state makes a bigger fool of itself than Florida. The Sunshine state was at the center of an 1876 controversy over the presidential election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel L. Tilden. By throwing out many votes cast by Blacks, Florida was able to give Hayes a one-vote margin in the Electoral College although Tilden had won the state’s popular vote by 260,000 votes. The case reached the Supreme Court where Florida’s chicanery was also upheld by a one-vote margin. A book on the election by Roy Morris Jr. was titled, Florida’s Voting Scandal in 1876: The Fraud of the Century.

The 2000 presidential contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush was the fraud of another century, featuring a governor, Jeb Bush, who was brother of the Republican nominee for president, and Florida’s Secretary of State Katherine Harris, with the responsibility of supervising state election procedures, serving as George W. Bush’s state co-chairman. There was widespread confusion leading up to Election Day. More than 54,000 people were purged from voting rolls supposedly because they were felons; 54 percent of the group was made up of African Americans. However, it was later determined that many of those denied access to the ballot were not convicted felons.

A lack of uniformed ballots also caused major problems and introduced unfamiliar terms such as “hanging chads” and “butterfly ballots.” The ballots were so confusing that in the Jacksonville area, home to significant numbers of African Americans, 27,000 ballots were thrown out because they showed votes had been cast for two presidential candidates. In Palm Beach, another hotbed of controversy, the presidential choices were spread over two pages, with voters being instructed to “vote on every page.”

Instead of shedding light on the confusion, the news media added to it. All of the major networks made the mistake of announcing the polls in Florida closed at 7 p.m., EST. That was true in the eastern section of the state. However, polls in the more conservative western counties were open for another hour because they operated on the central time zone. This confusion caused the networks to project at 7:48 p.m., EST, that Al Gore had carried the state. When the final numbers were tallied, however, Bush was declared the winner by 537 votes. Under Florida law, a statewide recount was automatic. And that set off another round of confusion, with Democrats trying to make sure their votes were counted in Democratic strongholds and Republicans guarding their favored territory. During the process, lawyers for Bush appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and on December 4, with George W. Bush leading by 154 votes, the court halted the recount process on a 5-4 vote, effectively awarding the state to George W. Bush. Although Gore won a plurality of the popular votes, Bush was awarded the state’s 25 electoral votes, enough to win the national election.

This year, Florida officials are not waiting until the November elections to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for President Obama and other Democrats. Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order that, in effect, permanently disenfranchises ex-offenders. In addition, the state eliminated early voting on the Sunday before elections, a move to disrupt “Soul to the Polls” voting campaigns organized by churches. In 2008, 32.2 percent of those who voted early on that last Sunday were Black and 23.6 percent were Latino. To make it more difficult to organize voter registration drives, Scott signed a law requiring groups registering voters to pre-register with the state and turn in voter registration forms without 48 hours of collection.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled on a suit that challenged those provisions by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote and Florida Public Interest Research Group Educational Fund. The groups said such requirements infringed on their constitutional rights of free speech and association.

Judge Hinkle dismissed the state’s assertion that no constitutional rights were being violated. ‘’The assertion that the challenged provisions implicate no constitutional rights is plainly wrong,’’ he wrote in his decision. ‘’The plaintiffs wish to speak, encouraging others to register to votes, and some of the challenged provisions – for example, the requirement to disclose in advance the identity of an employee or volunteer who will do nothing more than speak – regulate pure speech. This is core First Amendment activity. ‘’Further, the plaintiff’s wish to speak and act collectively with others, implicating the First Amendment right to association. More importantly, the plaintiffs wish to assist others with the process of registering and thus, in due course, voting. Voting is a right protected by several constitutional provisions; state election codes thus are subject to constitutional scrutiny.’’ The U.S. Justice Department has also objected to Florida making it more difficult for citizens to vote.

Not surprisingly, Florida officials are appealing the court ruling and the Justice Department’s intervention.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Racist ‘Talk’ with White Children

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By George E. Curry

In the wake of the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., stories appeared in newspapers, on broadcast outlets and on the Internet about “the talk,” a candid conversation Black parents have at some point with their Black sons about surviving  in a society that devalues them as humans. In an April 5 article published in Taki magazine (takimag.com), National Review contributor John Derbyshire wrote, “Yes, talk about the talk is all over.” Under the headline, “The Talk: NonBlack Version,” he said, “There is a talk that nonBlack Americans have with their kids, too. My own kids, now 19 and 16, have had it in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen. If I were to assemble it into a single talk, it would look something like the following.” He then listed a series of clearly racist and undocumented comments. Among them: The default principle in everyday personal encounters is, that as a fellow citizen, with the same rights and obligations as yourself, any individual Black is entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to a nonBlack citizen. That is basic good manners and good citizenship. In some unusual circumstances, however—e.g., paragraph (10h) below—this default principle should be overridden by considerations of personal safety. In consideration of personal safety, Derbyshire advises: Avoid concentrations of Blacks not all known to you personally; Stay out of heavily Black neighborhoods;  If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with Blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot);  Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of Blacks;  If you are at some public event at which the number of Blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible; Do not settle in a district or municipality run by Black politicians;  Before voting for a Black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a White;  Do not act the Good Samaritan to Blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway and if accosted by a strange Black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving. As you go through life, however, you will experience an ever larger number of encounters with Black Americans. Assuming your encounters are random—for example, not restricted only to Black convicted murderers or to Black investment bankers—the Law of Large Numbers will inevitably kick in. You will observe that the means—the averages—of many traits are very different for Black and White Americans, as has been confirmed by methodical inquiries in the human sciences. Of most importance to your personal safety are the very different means for antisocial behavior, which you will see reflected in, for instance, school disciplinary measures, political corruption, and criminal convictions. These differences are magnified by the hostility many Blacks feel toward Whites. Thus, while Black-on-Black behavior is more antisocial in the average than is White-on-White behavior, average Black-on-White behavior is a degree more antisocial yet. A small cohort of Blacks—in my experience, around five percent—is ferociously hostile to Whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us. A much larger cohort of Blacks—around half—will go along passively if the five percent take leadership in some event. They will do this out of racial solidarity, the natural willingness of most human beings to be led, and a vague feeling that Whites have it coming.

The mean intelligence of Blacks is much lower than for Whites. The least intelligent ten percent of Whites have IQs below 81; forty percent of Blacks have IQs that low. Only one Black in six is more intelligent than the average White; five Whites out of six are more intelligent than the average Black…“Life is an IQ test.” There is a magnifying effect here, too, caused by affirmative action. In a pure meritocracy there would be very low proportions of Blacks in cognitively demanding jobs. Because of affirmative action, the proportions are higher. In government work, they are very high. Thus, in those encounters with strangers that involve cognitive engagement, ceteris paribus the Black stranger will be less intelligent than the White. In such encounters, therefore—for example, at a government office—you will, on average, be dealt with more competently by a White than by a Black.

Derbyshire ended his article by saying, “You don’t have to follow my version of the talk point for point; but if you are White or Asian and have kids, you owe it to them to give them some version of the talk. It will save them a lot of time and trouble spent figuring things out for themselves. It may save their lives.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

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