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Newt Gingrich, Glib Opportunist

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By Eugene Robinson, Special Columnist
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American –

Can we please bury the notion that Newt Gingrich is some kind of deep thinker? His intellect may be as broad as the sea, but it's about as deep as a birdbath.

I'm not saying the Republican presidential front-runner is unacquainted with ideas. Quite the contrary: Ideas rain through his brain like confetti, escaping at random as definitive pronouncements about this or that. But they are other people's ideas, and Gingrich doesn't bother to curate them into anything resembling a consistent philosophy.

The week's most vivid example of Gingrich's intellectual promiscuity sent principled conservatives into apoplexy. Mitt Romney, his chief opponent for the GOP nomination, had called on Gingrich to return the $1.6 million in consulting fees he received from housing giant Freddie Mac. Gingrich replied that he would "be glad to listen" if Romney would first "give back all the money he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees" during his time as head of the investment firm Bain Capital.

If this were a column about Gingrich's hypocrisy, the point would be that he has been scorchingly critical of Freddie Mac while at the same time accepting tons of the firm's money. But this is about his shallowness – and the fact that in blasting Romney he adopted the ideas and rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street.

Republicans are supposed to believe that "bankrupting companies and laying off employees" is something to celebrate, not bemoan, because this is seen as the way capitalism works. Even in the heat of a campaign, no one who has thought deeply about economics and adopted the conservative viewpoint – which Gingrich wants us to believe he has done – could possibly commit such heresy.

Gingrich doesn't just borrow ideas from the protesters he once advised to "get a job, right after you take a bath." He's as indiscriminate as a vacuum cleaner, except for a bias toward the highfalutin and trendy.

Take his solution for making the federal government so efficient that we could save $500 billion a year: a management system called Lean Six Sigma. There's no way Gingrich could resist such a shiny bauble of jargon.

I won't argue with the corporate executives who say that Lean Six Sigma works wonders for their firms. But is a technique developed by Motorola to reduce the number of defects in its electronic gear really applicable to government? There's no reason to think it would be, unless you somehow restructured government to introduce competition and a genuine, not simulated, profit motive.

Another example is Gingrich's bizarre claim last year that "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior" was the key to understanding President Obama. Aside from being one of the stranger, least comprehensible utterances by a prominent American politician in recent memory, it was also completely unoriginal. Gingrich was citing and endorsing a hallucinatory piece in Forbes by Dinesh D'Souza. It was merely the idea du jour.

Gingrich finds it hard to watch an intellectual fad pass by without becoming infatuated. Do you remember Second Life, the digital realm? In 2007, he told us it was "an example of how we can rethink learning" and potentially "one of the great breakthroughs of the next 10 years." I know Second Life still exists, but have you heard a lot about it recently? Has it changed your world?

Gingrich didn't originate the idea of solving the health insurance problem through an individual mandate, but he supported it – before bitterly opposing it. Nor was he saying anything new last week when he made the offensive claim that Palestinians are an "invented people." His xenophobic views about the alleged threat to the United States from Islam and Sharia law are in conflict with earlier statements praising immigration and the melting pot as great American strengths. But for Gingrich, the word contradiction has no meaning. His discourse knows no past and no future, just the glib opportunism of now.

Eugene Robinson's email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com.

New Generation of African American Women Political Leaders Emerging

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“Fearlessness is what it takes for a woman to run for elective office, especially a black woman.”
Dayo Olopade, journalist, writing in The Root

(NNPA) Only 30 African American women have served in the United States Congress since Shirley Chisholm became the first in 1969. Today, of the 100 largest cities in America, only one has an African American woman mayor. But the impact that African American women have had as political leaders has far exceeded their numbers. In addition to New York Congresswoman Chisholm, our nation has been greatly improved by the service of women like Representative Barbara Jordan of Texas, Senator Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois, and Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio. Today, a new generation of Black women leaders is picking up the gauntlet and making their voices heard. Let me introduce you to just three of them.

On December 6th, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was sworn-in for a full-term as Baltimore’s 49th Mayor, becoming only the second African American woman mayor in the City’s history. Rawlings-Blake had served as City Council President since 2007, before her appointment in February, 2010 to finish the uncompleted term of the previous mayor. In 1995, at the age of 25, she became the youngest person ever elected to the City Council. Recently, the National Congress of Black Women named Rawlings-Blake a Shirley Chisholm Memorial Award Trailblazer. In her inauguration speech she outlined an ambitious agenda for a city that is struggling to attract both jobs and citizens in these tough economic times. She said, “Our number-one goal in the next ten years must be to grow Baltimore—strengthen our neighborhoods, create new jobs, and attract new people”

In November of 2010, Kamala Harris won a hotly contested state-wide election to become the first woman and the first African American Attorney General in California history. Prior to the election, she spent virtually her entire career as a courtroom prosecutor. In 2003 she became the first woman District Attorney in San Francisco. She is a recognized expert in criminal justice reform and is currently a leading voice in the national fight to require mortgage lenders to restructure underwater loans for homeowners facing foreclosure.

Donna Edwards became the first African American woman to represent Maryland in the U.S. Congress in 2009. She represents Maryland’s 4th District which includes portions of Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties. A lawyer and long-time community activist, Edwards previously served as executive director of the Arca Foundation and co-founder and executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. It was there that she led the fight for the passage of the Violence Against Women Act which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

Andrea Dew Steele, founder of Emerge America, a non-profit devoted to training more women for elective office says, “We don’t feel as qualified as men; we’re not recruited in the same numbers; we feel turned off by the mechanics; we have persistent family barriers; and we don’t have the same networks as men.” Despite these obstacles, women like Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Kamala Harris and Donna Edwards are fearlessly breaking through.

Marc H. Morial is the President and CEO of the National Urban League.

Letters to the Editor

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Dear Hardy,

Kudos from the Mayor!

I recently heard that you were recognized as the Justus F. Craemer Newspaper Executive of the Year by the California Press Association for your outstanding editorial and journalist efforts for your newspaper.

A local newspaper being recognized for exceptional editorial achievements is noteworthy and a testament to your commitment to public access and the right of people to have accurate and relevant information that has real impacts on the community.

Congratulations on your achievement!

Ronald O. Loveridge
Mayor, City of Riverside

Dear Mr. Brown,

I was delighted to hear that you received the Justus F. Craemer California Newspaper Executive of the Year Award. I can’t think a more worthy recipient. I think the award not only brings honor to you and The Black Voice News, but to the city and county of Riverside.

This campus treasures its close association with a paper and its personnel that share our dedication to advancing access to higher education, and promoting a just and inclusive society. Your pursuit of excellence in journalism, improved educational opportunities for our youth and service to the community have brought you respect and recognition. I look forward to our continued association in these areas.

Congratulations on the award.

Timothy P. White
Chancellor, University of California, Riverside

Dear Hardy,

Congratulations on receiving the Justus F. Craemer Newspaper Executive of the Year Award! Well deserved!

Your editorials are not only well written, but you do not hesitate to address any community issue. Our community needs you.

Doug Rowand
United Way

Dear Mr. Brown,

All of us at Allen’s send our congratulations on your receiving the California Press Association Executive of the Year award. The committee could not have made a better choice.

Your attendance and talk were the highlight of the meeting.

I believe the independent newspapers hold the key to the future of the industry.

The Black Voice News stands out in a class of newspapers that is not easily matched.

Normally Riverside papers are read by our Los Angeles office. After meeting Cheryl last year I had the newspaper sent here to San Francisco so that selfishly I can read it also.

John N. McCombs
General Manager, Allen’s Press Clipping Bureau

Occupy the Dream

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(NNPA) The issue of income inequality in the United States demands our attention and social action. In particular in the African American community, the economic inequities are so real and institutionalized; we are more and more aware of how the devastating impact of income inequality continues cause a downward spiral of the quality of life African Americans and others who are entrapped in the deep mire of poverty, pain and hopelessness. The dream of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is just as relevant today as we move into 2012 as it was back in 1963 at the March on Washington.

Dr. King’s dream was the American dream of freedom, justice and equality for all. Yet we all should be reminded that by the beginning of 1968, Dr Martin Luther King Jr was very concerned and focused on the questions of poverty and systemic economic injustice. The Civil Rights Movement, with the historic coalition between the Black church, organized labor, liberal whites, Latinos, students and peace activists, and many others from a diversity of organizations, had reached a transformative stage in its evolution. The time had come to expose and challenge the diabolic connection between racial injustice and economic inequity.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) under Dr. King’s leadership boldly called for a “Poor People’s Campaign” to plan a massive “occupation” of Washington, DC in 1968 to challenge the prevailing and pervasive stranglehold of economic injustice not only for Black people, for all of “God’s children.” Rev. Andrew Young at that time was one of Dr. King’s most trusted assistants. With respect to the call for the Poor People’s Campaign, Young stated, “We intended to arouse the conscience of the nation around the issues of poverty as we had challenged the nation to reject segregation. We hoped the process of training and mobilization would empower poor people in a new social movement that transcended race.”

Today, in just a few months time since their initial demonstrations, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been successful in staging major non-violent civil disobedient protests from New York City to Los Angeles and throughout the United States around the issues of income inequality and economic injustice. But beyond the growing number and size of the Occupy Wall Street protests, their greatest accomplishment thus far has been the raising of awareness on a national level about the contradictions of present-day income inequities and injustice.

That is why I am so grateful for the vision and responsible outreach of Russell Simmons, Rev. Dr. Jamal Bryant, Zach McDaniels, Bishop John R. Bryant, Rev. Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., and many other Black clergy leaders from across America who have affirmed, “Occupy the Dream” as ecumenical coalition of church leaders who are joining with the brothers and sisters of the Occupy Wall Street movement to push for economic justice for all in the legacy of the dream of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We are part of the 99% who are challenging the 1% who increasingly control the wealth and future prosperity of the nation.

The Black church in America continues to be the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement and all successful movements for change in this nation in last 100 years have involved the presence and the visionary activism of the Black church. Now with the increasing poverty, disproportionately high home foreclosure rates and loss of property, unemployment, the lack of the best quality education for our children, absence of good health care delivery, discriminatory and unjust intergenerational incarceration, fiscal crisis for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); deterioration of our communities and business, and a growing sense of despair among millions of our youth, it is imperative that African Americans should not wait passively for someone else to speak out and take action for the economic recovery of Black America.

Occupy the Dream is the revitalization and revival of the spirit, consciousness and activism of the Black church community working in strategic coalitions with others to demand and acquire economic justice and equality. Thank God for the Occupy Wall Street movement and for reminding us of our challenges, responsibilities and opportunities today to make a big sustainable differences in the quality of life in our communities and for all people who cry out for a better way of life. On January 16, 2012, we will be calling on the Black church and other people who believe in freedom, justice and equality to come out and demonstrate with us in front of Federal Reserve Banks across the nation in both a symbolic and substantive visible protest against the growing massive income inequality in America.

Occupy the Dream is about building the “Beloved Community” that Dr. King envisioned. Dr King said it best, “Change do not roll on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we much straighten our backs and work for our freedom.” Yes, we must straighten our minds, backs, money, spirits and souls. We have to work for economic justice….. We have to work for the empowerment of all people. Occupy the Dream! Stop income inequality. The American Spring is coming in 2012. The freedom train is rolling…. Get on board today. Occupy the Dream.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is Senior Advisor for the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Education Online Services Corporation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN).

Child Poverty: A Moral Outrage and Wake Up Call

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“A country that does not stand for and protect its children – our seed corn for the future – does not stand for anything.” Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund

(NNPA) Last week the Census Bureau delivered disturbing news about how the Great Recession and its aftermath are affecting the most vulnerable among us – America’s school children. Out of a total of 3,142 counties in the United States, 653 saw significant increases in poverty among school-aged children from 2007-2010 – an increase of 20 percent. Nationally, 19.8 percent of school children are now living in poverty.

This poverty increase has hit large, urban school systems the hardest with 96 of the 100 biggest school districts reporting increases in the number of poor children. In Detroit, 47 percent of school children are poor. In New York, the poverty rate rose to 29 percent, up from 26.6 percent in 2007. This is a moral outrage. While the debate drags on in Washington about the right balance of spending cuts and taxes, a real and preventable tragedy is unfolding before our eyes. Through no fault of their own, millions more children whose parents have lost jobs, are in need of free school lunches, are going without health care and, as depicted in a recent “60 Minutes” segment, are homeless and even living in cars.

The new Census Bureau report comes on the heels of news in September that the number of poor people in America has risen to 46.2 million – that’s 15 percent of all citizens and the largest number in 52 years. Many previously middle class families are finding themselves standing in line at food banks and homeless shelters. And, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, one in three African American and Hispanic children are living in poverty. This should be a loud and urgent wake-up call to Congress and policy makers.

By the end of this year, only weeks away, if Congress fails to act, already struggling families face the end of the payroll tax cut. This would add about $1000 to a family’s tax bill. The extension of unemployment benefits is also in jeopardy. According to the non-partisan Center for Budget Policy and Priorities, unemployment benefits together with supports like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit are keeping 7 million people out of poverty.

Beth Davalos, who runs Families in Transition in Seminole County, Florida, was interviewed for the “60 Minutes” segment on children living in cars. She explained in stark terms the impact poverty is having on a kindergarten child she was trying to help: “That little 5-year-old was so troubled over where she would be sleeping, she was not thinking about 2 + 2.” The fact is, we should not even be talking about child poverty in the richest nation on earth. We have the means, we simply need to summon the will to end it. If we can find the money to bail out Wall Street and give tax breaks to the wealthy, surely we can find the resources to provide food, shelter, health care and a good education for our children.

Marc H. Morial is the President and CEO of the National Urban League.

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