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June 24, 2009

Voting Rights Act: Clarence Thomas Puts On His White Robe

Earlier this week, by an 8 to 1 vote, the high court decided that the time wasn’t quite right to discard a provision of the act that requires most Deep South states and more than 12,000 municipalities to seek permission from the Justice Department before changing polling places or times or reshaping electoral districts or any number of other things that could make it tough for blacks and other minorities to vote. Of course, the court narrowed the act a bit by lifting the pre-clearance provision for the Texas water district that brought the lawsuit and by allowing municipalities that have a clean record to ask for a bailout.

A surprisingly unified court found a compromise that allowed it to sidestep questions about whether the key provision of the law is constitutional, therefore avoiding a divisive showdown with Congress, which just three years ago found that the 1965 act was still needed. 

The court’s eight white justices – even Scalia – decided not to gut the act that made it possible for blacks across the South to vote without having to recite the Constitution word for word or without having to guess how many bubbles were in a bar of soap as a prerequisite to vote.

Only Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s lone African-American, found the provision unconstitutional.

According to Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas Black voters no longer need voting protection.  According to Thomas, the South has changed enough so that the Voting Rights Act was no longer needed. He said, “The violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this court to uphold it no longer remains.”

Clarence Thomas is a complete ass because things have not changed that damn much; if he read the newspaper on election day he would know what continues to happen!  Of course black voters no longer encounter Ku Klux Klansmen or racists armed with guns at polling stations or are asked ridiculous qualifying questions as they did during the Jim Crow days but today there are more subtle things being done that will disenfranchise blacks and other minorities from voting. 

In the 2008 general elections blacks in Georgia (where Thomas is from) and other Southern states would show up to vote to the polling place listed on their voter registration cards to find that the polling station had been recently moved to a neighborhood that is five miles away – making it impossible for them to get to the polls before closing since many were working class and they had to work and take public transportation. There were many polling stations that opened in black and minority neighborhoods but had no machines or had broken machines plus a plethora of unbelievable voter disfranchisement scenarios. This was just 7 months ago!!!

A look at the electoral map shows that the above scenarios aren’t born of paranoia, but of reality. Currently the Republican Party – a party that built its ranks by playing to the fears of Southern whites – has largely been isolated to the Southern region of the United States. John McCain carried states such as Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. Those states have every reason to fear huge turnouts of black and minority voters since that could most probably upset the outcome in certain political contests and further loosen the Republicans’ hold on the south.

Myers Anderson, Clarence Thomas’ grandfather who raised him often said to Thomas, “Don’t shame me. And don’t shame our race.”

There is no way of knowing what Myers Anderson would think of his grandson’s performance as a Supreme Court Justice.  Anderson, whom Thomas called “Daddy” died two days before his 76th birthday in 1983 while Thomas was still chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Would Myers Anderson, a black man who struggled mightily to do for himself and who, according to Thomas, routinely put up his property as bond to bail student protesters out of jail, take pride in his grandson’s service on the high court?

Would “Daddy” be able to reconcile the steadfast support that he gave the local NAACP chapter in Savannah, Georgia with his grandson’s votes on race and civil rights-voting issues, which Thomas’ black critics have characterized as traitorous?

How would “Daddy” feel if he could hear people of color say the man he helped raise from childhood should be ashamed of himself for having dishonored the seat Thurgood Marshall held?

Shame on Clarence Thomas.  His vote against the Voting Rights Act that allowed his grandfather “Daddy” to vote will forever be his legacy.  Shame on Thomas.

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June 4, 2009

President Obama in Cairo, Egypt: Time For A “New beginning between the United States and Muslims”

Egypt Obama

This morning at 6:10 am EST President Obama made brilliant history yet again and Americans should be proud because we made progress with Muslims worldwide today.

After years of American and Middle East tension where we mutually viewed each other in a not so friendly manner, today the Egypt state broadcasting service was beaming uplifting scenes of the American and Egyptian flags flying side by side and Obama’s smiling face superimposed over graphics of the Pyramids and local landmarks. An image of the Egyptian and American flags woven together in a yin and yang fashion was kept on the screen of Egypt State TV throughout the morning.  That by itself is absolutely incredible!

Speaking in the ancient seat of Islamic learning and culture and quoting from the Quran for emphasis, President Obama called for a ‘new beginning between the United States and Muslims’, and said together, we can confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East. ‘This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,’ Obama said

By President Obama making his much anticipated speech in the Grand Hall of Cairo University in downtown Cairo instead of heading to the Sinai beach resorts where diplomatic gatherings are often held, he told the people of Egypt that he was serious about connecting on a personal level. And when he peppered his speech with words from the Koran, and balanced support for Israel but with a strong call for a Palestinian state, the deal was closed. Home run!!!

American European Activists Demostrate for Peace in Gaza

President Obama was blunt about the United States “unbreakable bonds” with Israel but promptly stated that Palestinian was “suffering” since Israel’s founding in 1948 and that there was a real and immediate need to curb Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and establish a secure Palestinian state.

President Obama acknowledged the negative stereotypes of Islam that took root in America after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but also said that Muslim nations need to fix their own exaggerated views of the United States as a country bent on dominating them.

The history of the relationship between America and Muslim communities is deep and complex. 

Thomas Jefferson taught himself Arabic using his own Quran kept in his personal library, and had the first known presidential Iftaar (the evening meal for breaking the daily fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan) by breaking fast with the Tunisian Ambassador at sunset.   

President Dwight Eisenhower attended the dedication ceremony of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 1957. 

President Bill Clinton issued the first presidential greeting for Ramadan.  Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting in which participating Muslims do not eat or drink anything from true dawn until sunset. Fasting is meant to teach patience, sacrifice and humility. President Clinton appointed the first Muslim American ambassador, M. Osman Siddique, to Fiji, and sent the first presidential Eid al-Adha greeting to Muslims.  Eid al-Adha or the “Festival of Sacrifice” is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God. 

One year after President George W. Bush placed the Holy Quran in the White House library in 2005, Representative Keith Ellison took the oath of office on the same Quran owned by Thomas Jefferson two hundred years before.

With his speech in Cairo, President Obama laid another marker, addressing America’s relationship with the Muslims around the world right in the heart of the Middle East.  Past years and decades have deepened the rift in our relationship with Muslims worldwide but particularly in the Middle East and our President have now created a new start by opening up a serious, honest dialogue hoping to find areas of common interest and new ways of communication in areas where we don’t agree. 

By continuing unprecedented outreach to Muslim communities, the President is strengthening national security and opening up new opportunities to address some of the problems that have been problematic over recent years.

Well done President Obama!

President Obama’s Cairo speech:

Cairo Palestinian boys in Gaza Strip Rafah watch President Obama Cairo U  Palestinian boys in Gaza Strip town of Rafah watch President Obama speak at Cairo University.

May 13, 2009

President Obama: Commencement Speaker At Arizona State University

Arizona State University

In response to President Barack Obama’s challenge for the United States to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020, Arizona State University (“ASU”) is increasing its student accessibility by expanding its financial aid program to more Arizona families. ASU will honor President Obama by renaming its scholarship program at its commencement ceremony today, May 13.  The program will be now be known as the President Barack Obama Scholars Program.  Some of the new Barack Obama Scholars will be introduced at graduation.

ASU has expanded qualifying family income level for scholars program to $60,000, increasing the number of students receiving funding for tuition, fees, books, and room and board from 500 to more than 1,600 students!

President Obama is ASU’s commencement speaker and will address his largest crowd in the U.S. since his inauguration.  About 71,000 people are expected to brave long lines in 99-degree heat to attend the open-air ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium.

Alice Cooper  Crews spent the past few days building the stage and setting up signs for the big event.  There will be mariachi music, Native American performances and marching bands. Rock icon Alice Cooper will be the opening act.

But for graduates Obama’s speech remains the major draw. Arizona native Alex Linden, 22, an English major, said she’s looking forward to hearing a message of hope.

“President Barack Obama giving my commencement speech seems like the perfect cap to my ASU experience,” Linden said. “I expect his speech, in typical Obama style, to be riveting and full of the ability to spark excitement and a sense of accomplishment.”

Having a sitting president speak at commencement posed significant logistical hurdles for ASU. The frenzy for tickets began as soon as the college announced its speaker in March. Ads for graduation tickets have even appeared on Craigslist and eBay.

April 21, 2009

Road Safety: Aggressive Driving Serious Concern

driving-too-fast1  

When I lived in New York City because I didn’t have to drive much I didn’t really give a hoot about drivers’ aggressive behavior. Now that I have to drive amongst some of the youngest least experienced drivers and some of the oldest inept drivers I pay A LOT of attention to road safety.

According to a survey and analysis research released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, they interviewed of 2,509 adults and found that most motorists in the USA — 78% — call aggressive driving a serious concern yet nearly half admit speeding on major highways in the past 30 days.  Drivers also confessed to recently speeding on residential streetswhich is a HUGE pet peeve of mine — speeding up to beat yellow lights, honking at other drivers and tailgating. 

The automobile club says this reflects the “do as I say, not as I do” attitude of American drivers.

Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the foundation said that vehicular crashes kill someone every 13 minutes and that aggressive driving is a factor in 56% of all fatal crashes. 

Aggressive driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says, occurs when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.” These often include speeding, tailgating, improperly changing lanes, failing to yield the right of way, improper passing and running red lights.

Amanda Cooke, 21, a computer teacher in Running Springs, Calif., says she used to drive so aggressively that her boyfriend was afraid to ride with her. “I’d cut people off to get into the lane I wanted to get in,” she says. “I’d tailgate them if they were going too slow or blink my lights if it was night.” Cooke says she stopped driving that way after crashing into another driver. “I didn’t think it was as risky as it was,” she says.

avoid-texting-while-driving  Driving while speaking on cell phones and driving while texting is not mentioned in this report but I see folks swerving from lane to lane while talking or texting every minute I’m driving, which is very dangerous.

Folks, I bring this to your attention to remind you to be less aggressive and more focused on the road when driving.

texting-rip 

Drive safely!

March 30, 2009

Washington Bans Dishwashing Liquids

dishwashing-liquidIn an effort to improve water quality in Washington waters, the state is reducing one of the most common causes of pollution:  phosphorus in household products.

There are over 260 bodies of water polluted because of nutrients like phosphorus in Washington State.  Phosphorus is a common ingredient in household detergents and fertilizers, where it is often described as “phosphate.” It is used in many industrial processes. Phosphorus also occurs naturally in soil and human and animal wastes.

In water, phosphorus behaves as a fertilizer, accelerating plant and algae growth. When those plants and algae die in the water, bacteria consume oxygen that is dissolved in the water. When this happens, less oxygen is available for fish and aquatic life that need oxygen to survive. Excess phosphorus in drinking water is difficult to remove, and also can require an increase in treatment chemicals which adds cost.

Industry and wastewater treatment plants account for about fifty percent of the phosphorus contributed to Washington waters. The other half comes from a variety of “nonpoint” sources which are hard to trace such as such as storm-water runoff, septic tanks and agriculture.

When we reduce our use of phosphorus-based products we can considerably improve this pollution problem. The best way to protect our water sources is to avoid putting phosphorus into it to begin with.

There are alternatives to phosphorus-containing detergents that can be just as effective at food removal and spot reduction as phosphorus-containing soaps – Palmolive has a phosphorus free version.  Ask your supermarket(s) about phosphorus free products.

Even if your state isn’t regulating phosphorus in its water systems (as yet) we all need to start protecting our lakes and ground water. I believe that regulators should also ban phosphorus from our laundry detergents.

March 24, 2009

Buying Your First Home In 2009? Claim $8K In Tax Credit!!!

house-on-money  Now is the time to purchase your first home!

Last month, President Obama signed into legislation a $789 billion economic stimulus package that included something very important: an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers!

This credit is a far cry from the one passed last summer.

Last summer Congress passed a $7,500 tax credit for first-time home buyers that sounded good at first glance. However, a closer look at the details revealed that buyers actually had to pay the tax credit back. It really was just a zero interest loan. Just 111 people in the whole country applied for the program.

But this new program is making it a real deal to purchase a first home. The tax credit does not have to be repaid and is for 10 percent (up to $8,000) of the price of the home.

A “first-time home buyer” is anyone who has not owned a principal residence for the last three years. Even if you’ve owned a vacation home, but not a principal residence, within the last three years you can still qualify for the credit. So if the last date you owned a home was three years ago from today, you could buy a home and qualify.

An important part of the program that everyone needs to understand is that to qualify, you have to buy the home before Dec 1, 2009. It’s retroactive to Jan. 1, so if you bought your first home any time after the first of the year you can still qualify.

There are income limits, though. Single people who buy their first home cannot make more than $75,000 to qualify for a full credit. And if you are married, you cannot have a household adjusted gross income of more than $150,000. If you make more than that, you may still be eligible for reduced credits.

There is a requirement that buyers must live in the new home for at least three years. If it is sold within three years the credit must be returned to the government. Exceptions will be made in certain cases such as death or divorce.

So, how does someone take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit? If you buy a new home between January 1 and December 1, 2009, you claim the credit when you file your 2008 taxes (before April 15 this year so you can get your money back now!) or when you file your 2009 taxes early next year.

Now is the time to purchase a home.  An $8,000 tax credit coupled with the lowest interest rates in 30 years, joined by an unusually large inventory of homes from which to choose, offered by sellers who have lowered their prices well below what they were worth just two years ago.

This perfect storm won’t last long; the buyer’s market window will be closing before the end of 2009. It’s time to buy.

For more information, including guidance for people who bought their first homes in 2008, visit IRS.gov.

To learn more about the overall implementation of the Recovery Act, visit Recovery.gov.

March 21, 2009

A Garden Grows At The White House

flotus-garden-2    First lady Michelle Obama broke ground on a new garden near the fountain on the South Lawn that will supply the White House kitchen with fresh herbs and vegetables for meals.

flotus-garden-3-students-bancroft She was joined by students from Bancroft Elementary School in the District of Columbia. The children will stay involved with the project including planting herbs, vegetables and fruits in the coming weeks and harvesting the crops later in the year.

flotus-garden-1  “We’re going to get a big one in our back yard, the South Lawn,” she promised the volunteers.

Such a White House garden has been a dream of noted California chef Alice Waters, considered a leader in the movement to encourage consumption of locally grown, organic food. She has been appealing for change through the taste buds since the 1960s.

She organized a series of fundraising dinners in Washington before President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January that served foods purchased from local producers at an area farmer’s market to show how it can be done.

Reached Thursday at her Berkeley, Calif., restaurant, Chez Panisse, Waters said she was thrilled by the news.

“It just tells you that this country cares about people’s good health and about the care of the land,” she said. To have this sort of ‘victory garden’, this message goes out that everyone can grow a garden and have free food.”

Victory gardens were vegetable gardens planted during the world wars with encouragement from the government to make sure there was enough food for civilians and the troops. Waters says her family had such a garden.

Waters has been lobbying for a vegetable garden at the White House since 1992. Recent White Houses have grown some herbs and have practiced limited container gardening on the mansion’s roof to supply it with tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables. The new garden will be the first on the White House grounds in many decades, Waters said.

She said Michelle Obama always has been receptive to the idea.

“She talks about food in connection with children, and it’s a beautiful thing,” Waters said.

Waters also has pushed the administration to adopt her Edible Schoolyard project in which children plant their own produce to eat in the school cafeteria. Most public schools are serving too much processed food that is contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic which can lead to chronic health issues, she argues.

Alice Waters on 60 Minutes:

 

 

Original post:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090319/ap_on_go_pr_wh/white_house_garden

 

daffodils

 Happy Spring!

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