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Obama Should Not Play 'Global Cop'

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(NNPA) The central issue that should concern us when it comes to the chemical weapons crisis in Syria is not the identity of the perpetrator but which international body responds to such a crisis. What we are looking at in the current situation is the Obama administration (following from its predecessors) ignoring international law when it fails to suit their strategic objectives. Instead, again like its predecessors, the administration has decided to follow the law of the ‘star chamber,’—a body that sees itself above the law, is unaccountable, and believes itself capable of making and implementing any decision it deems appropriate—that is, the law of the self-appointed, akin to vigilante ‘justice.’

In some respects, the issues at stake are simple and clear. International law instructs us that a nation can use military means when it has been attacked or when facing imminent attack. There are no exceptions outside of agreed upon international actions through institutions such as the United Nations. Every argument made by the Obama administration fails this test. It suggests that the gravity of the killings in the chemical weapons attack in Syria should lead us to ignore international law in the name of taking a stand against a cruel action. This argument is simply flawed.

There are cruel actions, in fact, criminal violations of international law that take place on a regular basis across this planet. In Palestine, there is an open ignoring of international law when it comes to the so-called separation (apartheid) wall established by the Israelis, not to mention the illegal Israeli settlements on occupied land.

No cruise missiles have hit Israel.

There is, in other words, a selective approach by the administration when it comes to the question of at what moment military means are appropriate in response to violations of international human rights law. In the current situation, the administration is simply dead wrong.

There have been many progressives who have engaged in a debate as to whether the chemical attack was carried out by Assad’s forces or the rebels. While I think that it is quite probable that it was carried out by Assad’s forces, especially in light of the sorts of military activities in which it has engaged, that is not the central discussion to have right now. The central point at this moment is that it is not up to the U.S.A. to play global ‘cop’. It is up to international bodies to investigate the situation and recommend action.

Should the U.S. wish to play a constructive role, it should take the advice that so many have been offering: work with the Russians and other stakeholders to achieve a political settlement of the Syrian civil war. Naked aggression in violation of international law brings us no closer to a constructive resolution of this chemical weapons incident, or the Syrian civil war itself.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Rapper Macklemore Acknowledges 'White Privilege'

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(NNPA) Is Hip Hop losing its color? Recently Rapper Macklemore recognized that it is White privilege that catapulted him to success. In a Rolling Stone cover interview, Macklemore, born Ben Haggerty, said, “If your gonna be a white dude and do this shit, I think you have to take some level of accountability. You have to acknowledge where the art came from, where it is today, how you’re benefiting from it. At the very least, just bringing up those points and acknowledging that, yes, I understand my privilege, I understand how it works for me in society, and how it works for me in 2013 with the success with the success that The Heist has had.”

He goes on to say, “We made a great album, but do I think we benefited from being white and the media grabbing on to something. A song like ‘Thrift Shop’was safe enough for the kids. It was like, ‘This is music that my mom likes and that I can like as a teenager,’ and even though I’m cussing my a– off in the song, the fact I’m a white guy, parents feel safe. They let their six-year-olds listen to it. I mean it’s just… it’s different. And would that success have been the same if I would have been a black dude? I think the answer is no.”

Why would he need White privilege to be successful in a Black art form? Macklemore says we have to recognize where the art form came from. We know it came from Black and Brown people out of New York and they got their swag from the blues and the blues from slave hymns leading back to Africa. But in 2013, is White privilege selling Hip Hop records?

Let’s first analyze the quality of African-American rappers who are signed by major record labels. Most of these artists fit a stereotype and offer no level of empowerment to the art form or the culture itself. We hear rappers with destructive messages and lack logical thought. In an interview with Hardknock TV, Hip Hop Veteran Scarface vents, “There is no f—— way that you can tell me that it’s not a conspiracy against Blacks in Hip Hop. You make us look dumb. You brainwash a generation of Hip Hoppers with this f—— crud and then when these other rappers come out, splitting it down the middle, these other rappers’ s— sound like ‘Wow!’ ya’ll look great!” ’Ya’ll look stupid!’ … Then (MFs) start going over here and pretty soon, Hip Hop is White now.”

Vulgarity aside, in so many ways, that’s true. The reality is White executives control what we hear on the airwaves. By only allowing artists who are willing to destroy their culture to be heard, you eliminate the fear of White children following behind the buffoonery. When you take the logic out of the music it becomes hard to believe.

Hip Hop was an outlet where Black millionaires were created and at its height the artist made money and branched off into other industries. Black artists and executives met the demand, populated record labels and began heading branches, choosing new records to break, new artists to bring in and new methods of marketing. This left the White executive out in the cold and labels began to go under because they couldn’t contain the money that Hip Hop was, making and commanding.

A young Black man who degrades women, talks about selling and doing drugs, killing people and throwing money around is never going to be a role model for White America. But for a young Black man who doesn’t know what type of opportunities that are afforded to him, it’s a way of life. It’s easier to convince young white children that this is not a person to aspire to be like.

In the meantime, white rappers are ushered in with messages that are appealing, non-threatening and vulgar free. I admit it is somewhat amusing to see a White person spit rhymes. But we must remember as we cheer them on, we are cheering ourselves out.

Look at Justin Timberlake, a pop artist, who crossed over into Hip Hop to broaden his appeal and now reigns as the King of Pop. How about Miley Cyrus who is trying to use a bad girl image to promote herself. Twerking a dance made famous by Blacks now is a household conversation because she did it. Kellogg’s has even introduced Buzz the Bee with his own Honey Nut Cherrios Hip Hop Video ‘It Must be the Honey.’ So while Hip Hop is on the decline for Black artists, sales are up for people who want to utilize the power to convince, influence and promote messages.

We need to take a page out of Tyler Perry’s book and use our earnings to build our own distribution companies. If we continue to rely on others races to fund our success, we will always rise to the top and end up where we started from – the bottom.

Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at jineea@gmail.com or Tweet her @flygirlladyjay

New Football Season, Same Offensive Names

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I cannot let a football season open without raising the question of the names of sports teams generally and the Washington “Redskins” in particular. I continue to be absolutely amazed at the resistance on the part of team owners to changing the names of these teams, but also the tolerance by so many fans of these racist names.

I have to pick on the Washington Redskins both because I was once a fan of the team and also because I live in the D.C.-area and have watched this situation close-up. As I raised in a column a few months ago, a poll was released this spring that indicated that most fans wanted to leave the name of the team as it is, despite the fact that it insults Native Americans. For some this was seen as the end of the discussion because it appeared to vindicate the position taken by the team’s owners.

Let’s flip the script for a moment and consider the problem from a different vantage point. It would be worth looking at polls that were taken in the South during the early 1960s to ascertain the level of White support for the continuation of Jim Crow segregation. The mere fact that a majority of people favor or do not favor something does not automatically settle an argument. Rather, it serves as a barometer, telling us about where people stand today but it does not necessarily tell us anything about the morally correct position.

It is unclear why it needs repeating—especially to African Americans—that the preponderance of opinion among Native American indicates that terms, such as “redskins,” are racially offensive. This is not about intent any more than a White person calling one of us a “nigger” should be judged based on intent. The word is so patently offensive that, used by someone of another racial or ethnic group against us, it serves as an act of aggression. Someone can stand before us and tell us that they love us, but were they to name a team the “Kansas City Niggers,” there would not be enough love and sincerity in the world to override our objections.

So, why is it any different for Native Americans? Why do we have to keep going through this silly argument when the morally correct position is clear? Why should it matter whether the team will need to create a new image? That should not concern us any more than we would have been concerned about the work involved in removing “Negro Only” or “White Only” signs from public institutions 40 years ago. It is what needed to be done 40 years ago and it is, today, about what must be done.

Send a note to the Washington Redskins owners. Ask them about the last time that they permitted someone to use terms like “nigger” in the offices of the Washington Redskins. If such terms are objectionable, why do they think that “redskins” is any different?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Economic Mobility Linked to Strong Middle Class Communities

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(NNPA) Since the onset of the foreclosure crisis, research reports from esteemed universities and policy institutes have documented what went wrong. A new report offers us a different perspective, one that views the creation of a strong middle class as the solution for strong economic growth.

Middle-Out Mobility, published by the Center for American Progress (CAP), relates how high inequality harms the growth of prosperity. It reaches these conclusions after analyzing recent research by Alan Krueger, former chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers; Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of California-Berkeley, the Pew Economic Mobility Project and others.

“Economic growth depends on ensuring that we can make full use of a precious national resource: the American workforce. That means we must cultivate individuals’ talents and make sure that every person can realize their full potential. This is not merely a moral matter, it is an economic imperative: When one person is held back, all Americans are held back,” the report states.

The report also reviewed whether race was a factor in limiting the relationship between the middle class and mobility. Their findings suggest that racial inequities, both social and economic, still persist. Regions with large African-American populations were found to be linked to smaller increases in mobility than in other areas.

“The size of the middle class is a powerful predictor of mobility, yet its reach is limited by our nation’s troubling legacy of racial inequity.”

The report also states that while 97 percent of Americans believe that every person should have an equal opportunity to get ahead in life, children born to low-income parents tend to become lower-income adults. Metro areas with small or few middle class communities also tend to have higher amounts of poverty. Conversely, children of affluent parents tend to remain affluent.

But in metro areas with a strong middle class, better access to quality schools leads to improved test scores, more civic and religious engagement and the enhanced ability for greater mobility among low-income students.

Noting how tremendous economic growth was shared by an expanding middle class from the late 1940s to the early 1970s, CAP identifies another important gap: incomes. While American productivity continued to grow, wages did not. As a result, nearly all of the income gains from the last 40 years have benefitted the nation’s richest 10 percent.

This mismatch of high productivity against stagnant wages is at the center of America’s hopes for future prosperity, according to the report. It is also the basis for the CAP report to refute “supply-side” or “trickle-down” economic theories that promote giving tax cuts to the wealthy as the way to generate economic prosperity and opportunity for all.

“If supply-side theory were right, then we should expect regions with higher taxes to have lower economic mobility. But there is simply no evidence of any such relationship; to the contrary, there is a small positive correlation. In regions with higher state income tax levels, low-income children were slightly more mobile than in regions with lower state tax levels.”

The report concluded, “Giving tax breaks and other benefits to the wealthy will only perpetuate the current era of diminished mobility; to reignite opportunity, policymakers must grow and strengthen a vibrant middle class.”

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Why I’m Joining StudentsFirst

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By Jovan Agee

As a parent and proud Californian, I am passionate about education. There are few causes more righteous than ensuring that all students are acquiring the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in life.

That’s why I am proud to be joining StudentsFirst California as the organization’s State Director, beginning this week.

It’s no secret that education policy discussions are often polarized—and it’s not surprising, given how much is at stake. But amidst the conflict and the name-calling, we should not forget the fundamental belief upon which we all agree: California needs an education system that serves all kids—no matter the color of their skin, where they live, or how much money they have.

If we can have honest conversations about where we have fallen short, I believe we can work together to implement reforms that can make a real difference for kids.

I’ve experienced firsthand how providing a proper education for your kids isn’t as simple as it seems. My wife and I spent years struggling to find the right school for my youngest son. He has bounced between a traditional public school, a private school, and a charter school; it was so difficult to find the right fit.

My wife and I are well-educated and involved parents, and we still had trouble. It’s scary to think about what would have happened if we didn’t have the time or information to make those crucial decisions about my son’s education.

It shouldn’t be that difficult to find a learning environment for a child where he or she can excel. Yet here in California, 65 percent of black third graders – kids who are already a fourth of the way through their public school career – can’t read at grade level. By the time these students are juniors in high school, only 32 percent of them will be proficient or above in English-Language Arts. The dropout rate among African American students is 22 percent; that means that, in a first-grade classroom of 32 black children, seven of them won’t walk across the stage come graduation day.

That’s simply unacceptable. And we have to work together to help fix that.

Some people may find it strange that I am working for StudentsFirst, given my professional background. I have spent the last decade working for the United Domestic Workers/American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 3930—a prominent union that is part of the AFL-CIO. Since some of StudentsFirst’s detractors claim that we are anti-union, it may appear that I have “switched sides.”

I don’t see it that way. As State Director, I will make efforts to work with teachers’ unions, associations representing administrators and school boards. But to be clear: I firmly believe that, at times, what is best for the student may conflict with what ultimately is best for these organizations.

The problem is that we rarely have conversations about what that means for our kids. Especially in education, we frequently resort to oversimplification and name-calling. Instead of talking seriously about how to ensure that our system serves all students, the rhetoric turns to personal attacks and useless competitions. Charter schools versus traditional public schools. Reformers versus unions.

When organizations have to focus on defending themselves against spurious accusations and correcting misinformation, there is little time to have the conversations that truly matter. And our students are paying the price.

I look forward to working with Californians across the state to build the education system our students deserve. Before we do that, we need to promise to take a step back, honestly assess where we are falling short, and pledge that we will work together to take action.

Who’s with me?

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