Category: Prime Politics Written by Vince Keenan
Two weeks ago, Detroit City Council released its first set of four discussion draft maps for council districts. All maps must be compact contiguous and roughly equal population. The city’s first proposed options, took abstract cuts through the city horizontally and vertically. These first maps wrapped boundaries around precinct lines rather than natural separations cutting many neighborhoods apart in order to fit.
Detroit doesn’t need boots that don’t fit, we need sturdy broken-in workboots so we can tackle the job at hand. When Data Driven Detroit (D3) released its neighborhood based map on Friday, it started gaining momentum almost immediately at public forums. Without fliers, or posters, or being displayed on the big screen, the D3 map was mentioned more than any other. The Data Driven Detroit map looks familiar - like Detroit.
The move from district government to all at-large council ninety-four years ago was a hopeful step toward addressing the problems of 1918. Almost one hundred years later we find ourselves taking another hopeful step toward a better future by moving to the hybrid system that combines the strengths of the at-large and district systems. It is an exciting time that is full of potential to re-organize and update our democratic infrastructure and start fresh. It isn’t a silver bullet, but it is a new hope.
The 1918 all at-large system of council was designed for a rapidly growing city. We were moving up, expanding in both population and revenue fueled by the seemingly unstoppable automotive industry. Today we face a different reality – we are having trouble maintaining our population. While we expanded from the center, we lost population in more of a checkerboard pattern, some neighborhoods remain strong and some have been hit hard. Today, we have to rely on each other to make neighborhoods work. We need a government that supports that local effort.
Every day we see evidence of a simple Detroit truth: it will be a long while before central city government is able to do better for our neighborhoods than we can ourselves. That’s not to say we shouldn’t want or expect city government to do its job and support the common good, it’s just to say we shouldn’t hold our collective breath. We need to do what we can to support neighborhoods that are working now.
The D3 district map supports neighborhoods. It adds legislative heft to areas of the city that are working together to keep it together. Imagine a City Council table where Councilmembers represent the unique neighborhood perspectives. Southwest has a voice, Northwest, the Eastside, the Westside, each with their own disctinct issues, each with their own solutions. Council becomes the forum where all the voices of the city come together to work for the common good. Rather than focusing on what downtown has or doesn’t, the D3 map focuses on neighborhoods that are already working together and builds off that strength. It uses freeways, railroads and industrial space as much as possible to avoid slicing neighborhoods in half. We need to tell council that neighborhoods matter to us, not precincts. The D3 map feels right, but council is having a hard time finding a way to discuss it.
We have some very good people trying very hard to fix the city inside city government, but we know that the problems still exist when we elected officials ignore public consensus. The conversation is stifled because Council can’t figure out how to get the neighborhood map to the table. The D3 map is compact, contiguous, roughly equal population, and meets Voting Rights Act requirements. In fact the D3 map does is more complaint that the City maps. Then the city said it needed to match the precincts and D3 was still able to create a neighborhood-based map that matches up with precincts. So what is the holdup? The D3 precinct-based map has jumped through the hoops and should be on the table. Council must not hide behind procedures to ignore constituent feedback. This is not the time to say we’ve run out of time to carefully consider the D3 map. This is not the time to worry about there being too many maps. This is the time to get it right. This is the time for districts that fit.
Council is set to make its final decision Friday, Feb. 17. Let your Council know that we need the best possible districts to help the effort to re-build our city from our neighborhoods up.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 16:00
Category: Prime Politics Written by Stacy Swimp
President Obama stood before America and gave his third State of the Union address. Whereas Dr. Martin L. King once proclaimed, “I have a Dream,” President Obama expressed that he has an “imagination.” While the President is “imagining,” America is having a nightmare, reeling from his anti-free-enterprise and anti-family policies.
Obama began his speech boasting, “For the first time in nine years, there are no more Americans fighting in Iraq.” He highlighted that, in the military, personnel don’t obsess over differences. Instead, he added, they “focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could do if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach.”
The President said creating new American jobs “should begin with the tax code.” He stated that “companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense and everyone knows it.”
He is correct in this assessment. The U.S. corporate tax rate on new investment ranks among the highest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at 34.6 percent. The U.S. corporate tax rate exceeds that of France (34.0 percent), India (33.6 percent), Russia (31.9 percent) and Japan (29.5 percent). Argentina, Chad, Brazil, and Uzbekistan are the only countries with higher corporate tax rates than America.
President Obama’s solution appears to be more of the same — big government. He does not want to reform the U.S. Tax Code. Instead, he wants to dictate the free market and have government decide who wins and who loses, by offering tax breaks and incentives to “some” businesses, rather than making America “safe for business” for all corporations.
Our current U.S. corporate tax system is detrimental to economic growth. One study suggests: “The aim of corporate tax reforms should be to create a system that has a competitive rate and is neutral between different business activities. A sharp reduction to the federal corporate rate of 10 percentage points or more combined with tax base reforms would help generate higher growth and ultimately more jobs”.
In effect, government should not be involved with business creationism, except to provide a business friendly economic climate, devoid of governmental intrusion or favoritism.
Jerome Hudson, a spokesperson for Project 21, a National Speaker’s Bureau of Black Conservatives, keenly observed that the President’s health care plan was suspiciously missing from the speech.
“Obama also failed to celebrate his signature legislative victory: Obama Care. After the year it took to pass it, so “we could find out what’s in it,” you’d think the President would’ve been touting his sweeping reform.Guess again. Why? Because Mr. Obama knows that 60 percent of Americans oppose the law...”
It should also be noted that the President’s individual mandate shall price hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers out of full-time employment. The mandate requires businesses to provide health benefits to full-time employees. Small businesses, in particular, simply cannot remain functional under such a mandate.
Black Americans ought to be outraged after this speech. President Obama claims to advocate for the creation of new construction jobs, though he supports union subsidies which discriminate against Black Americans.
The Davis-Bacon Act or “prevailing wages,” was passed by Congress in 1931 with the intent of favoring White workers who belonged to White-only unions over non-unionized Black workers.
The Davis Bacon Act continues to have discriminatory effects today by favoring disproportionately White, skilled and unionized construction workers over disproportionately Black, unskilled and non-unionized construction workers.
The President attempted to ingratiate himself to Americans by uttering the ideals of his vivid imagination. The truth is that far too many American families, as a direct consequence of his economic policies, are living a nightmare.
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 February 2012 18:13
Category: Prime Politics Written by Frederick Cosby
A growing number of current and former congressional Republicans may have found someone they dislike even more than President Barack Obama: Newt Gingrich.
As the former House Speaker has risen to the top of the Republican presidential field, more and more GOP lawmakers past and present are all but shouting from the rooftops about what a dangerously bad idea it would be to have Gingrich as the Republican standard bearer or president of the United States.
They think that Gingrich – who recently suggested the America’s child labor laws should be changed so poor children could work in their schools as janitors – is brilliant, but they also make no bones about saying he is an erratic personality who carries more baggage than a Boeing 747.
They cringe at the memory of the thrice-married, twice-divorced Gingrich’s tumultuous tenure in the 1990s as speaker of the House. They remember him as an undisciplined, ego-centric know-it-all and a rules-don’t-apply-to-me leader. They recall that things got so bad that just four years after Gingrich led Republicans to control of the House for the first time in 40 years, some rank-and-file GOP House members - and even Gingrich’s own leadership team - mounted an unsuccessful attempt to try to oust him.
In an extraordinary violation of the late President Ronald Reagan’s so-called 11th Commandment against Republicans criticizing fellow Republicans, many GOP lawmakers are warning that the personality traits and bad habits seen in Speaker Gingrich would likely resurface in spades in President Gingrich.
Gingrich’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination offered their own unsparing critique of the ex-speaker during a televised debate Saturday night.
“If you cheat on your wife, you’ll cheat on your business partner,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry said.
“Character issues do count,” former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania added. “I would not say it’s a disqualifier, but certainly it’s a factor ... trust is everything.”
Gingrich called his past “a real issue” and acknowledged that “I’ve made mistakes at times.”
“I’ve had to go to God for forgiveness,” he added.
But many current and former members of Congress aren’t in a forgiving mood when it comes to Gingrich’s candidacy.
“He’s a guy of 1,000 ideas and the attention span of a one-year-old,” Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina told The Hill newspaper in April. “His discipline and his attention to any individual thing is not his strong suit.”
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who served in the House with Gingrich, has perhaps been the most vocal of the anti-Gingrich Republicans. Over the span of two Sundays, Coburn has appeared on weekend news shows and unequivocally stated that Gingrich doesn’t have what it takes in temperament or talent to be president.
“There’s all types of leaders,” Coburn said on “Fox News Sunday” last week. “Leaders that instill confidence. Leaders that are somewhat abrupt and brisk. Leaders that have one standard for the people that they’re leading and a different standard for themselves. I just found his leadership lacking, and I’m not going to go into greater detail than that.”
But others have. Several point to Gingrich’s ethical problems.
He was the first speaker ever to be reprimanded by the full House and paid a record $300,000 fine for misleading a House Ethics Committee investigation. He also lead the charge for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment for having an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky while Gingrich himself was having an affair with a congressional aide who is now his third wife.
Detractors talk about how they tired of having to publicly defend Gingrich over controversial statements or actions, like when he said in 1995 that poor treatment he receiving during a flight aboard Air Force One helped forced a shutdown of the federal government later that year.
“Newt Gingrich was a disaster as speaker,” Rep. Peter King told McClatchy Newspapers. “Everything was self-centered. There was a lack of intellectual discipline.”
A painting of a smiling Gingrich with one hand outstretched and a copy of his “Contract with America” in the other adorns the Speaker’s Lobby outside the chamber of the House of Representatives. But there is little adoration for Gingrich among Republicans on Capitol Hill.
As of last week, Gingrich had only eight endorsements from current Republican members of Congress. Four of the eight came from House members from his home state of Georgia. Only two of the eight came from Republicans who were in the House when Gingrich was speaker.
By contrast, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Gingrich’s main rival for the Republican presidential nomination, has more than 50 congressional endorsements. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a Tea Party favorite who’s obviously supporting the presidential bid of his father, Rep. Ron Paul, has blasted both Romney and Gingrich as wrong for the Republican Party.
But the younger Paul offered a more damning take on Gingrich’s candidacy in an opinion-editorial piece in The Des Moines Register recently.
“What worries me is that the voters are being sold a bill of goods in Gingrich,” Paul wrote.
He reminded readers that Gingrich, through one of his companies, received more than $1.6 million from Freddie Mac and took the money while he was criticizing the troubled mortgage giant.
“He is part of the Washington establishment I was sent to fight,” Paul wrote. “He has been wrong on many of the major issues of the day, and he was taken money from those who helped cause the housing crisis and create millions of foreclosures.”
The elder Paul (R-Tex.) delivered a punch of his own last week when his campaign aired a television ad that amplified Paul’s assertion that Gingrich is guilty of “serial hypocrisy.”
Needless to say, Romney’s campaign is downright giddy by all the GOP Gingrich-bashing. It helps shift the conversation, at least for now, about Republican perceptions that Romney isn’t a true conservative, that he flip-flops on key issues and that he’s the godfather of Obama’s health care law because he implemented a similar plan when he was Massachusetts governor.
Romney’s campaign put on an email press release on Friday with a collection of some of the more caustic quotes about Gingrich from people within his own party.
Gingrich still leads Romney in polls in Iowa, which holds its first-in-the-nation caucus Jan. 3.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 December 2011 13:39
Category: Prime Politics Written by Julian Carmona
The Internet is an expansive collection of networks, utilized by many people all over the world. Though parts of the Internet have proven to be relatively shady, lawless, and impossible to regulate, as a whole, it has mainly been beneficial to all its users. And because of this, few have tampered with the regulation and general availability of the Internet, at least, successfully.
There are some entities that would have the Internet not be so free and boundless as it is. But due to the difficulty of effectively shutting down even a piece of the Internet, these entities resort to only blocking or censoring the parts that they wish restrict from their people. China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and much of the Middle East are examples of countries where Internet censorship has been imposed by their governments.
Recently, a bill has been introduced to Congress, the ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA). The bill’s purpose is stated as, “To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes.”
To accomplish this, the bill would grant the government, after a successful lawsuit is filed, the power to block access and cutoff financial transactions from the website of the defending party (a “foreign infringing site”). Granted, there is a clearly stated criterion for what is considered a “foreign infringing site”, but the biggest concern here is that this bill would allow the government to have the ability to block access to any website from US citizens. This idea alone is enough to have sparked a tremendous opposition against the passing of this bill.
There are other important arguments too, such as the liabilities and policy imposed by the bill that would hinder the growth of a portion of Internet economy. Another argument against the bill is that it would bypass due process when exposing US sites to liability. A government the likes of the United States’ which was founded on the ideal of freedom, should not be granted the power to censor information from it’s people.
Though the idea of the government gaining such power over the Internet is quite an unpopular one, the actual purpose of the bill isn’t as worrying. The bill’s purpose is to target and halt any illegal business conducted by foreign infringing entities; online pirates who have, for the sake of escaping the jurisdiction of US law enforcement, fled to other countries with more lenient Internet copyright regulations.
Search engines and Internet service providers would be used to locate the foreign infringing sites and after having any advertising companies cease business with the foreign infringing sites, funding for them would be cut. Considering much of what is stated in the bill, it can be said that it brings forth an effective, albeit unpopular and unethical, means of accomplishing what its title dictates.
As stated before, many concerns regarding the passing of this bill stem from the fact that it would grant the government an uncomfortable amount of control over what can and cannot be accessed on the Internet.
But another issue with SOPA is that it undermines and, in some cases, goes against some laws that have already been established. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was passed in October 1998, really set the standard for copyright law on the Internet.
According to 17 U.S.C. § 512 stated within DMCA, service providers on the Internet are not liable for the actions or content produced by their users. These service providers also don’t need to conduct any action in response to their users breaking copyright laws aside from notifying the party whose copyright is being infringed.
The SOPA states that upon receiving the copy of the suit from the Attorney General (AG), against the foreign infringing site, they must do everything within their power to halt access to the foreign infringing site from their subscribers, even if it means blocking access to the site completely. If service providers do not comply with this, an action for injunctive relief may be presented AG.
SOPA’s haphazardly constructed definition for a website “dedicated to theft of U.S. property,” allows for sites that just barely meet the mark of facilitating or enabling a user’s infringement to be incorrectly labeled as “dedicated to theft of U.S. property.”
Erickson states that, “A site can also be declared to be “dedicated to theft of U.S. property” if it takes “deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability” that the site has been used for infringing activities.
This is true whether or not the “failure to act” would itself violate existing law. And because rightsholders will say that there is a “high probability” that social networking and user-generated content sites are used for infringement by some users, this provision would effectively force those site operators to actively monitor their users’ activities.
This is flatly inconsistent with the DMCA’s provision stating that service providers do not have to monitor user activities.
It is clear that much of the bill’s inner workings are problematic in terms of running parallel with current laws regarding copyrights and in terms of general clarity. But the greatest issue that would arise from the passing of this bill is the power that would be granted to the government, the ability to ultimately censor the Internet. Though the thought of the government censoring the Internet seems extreme, the possibility is there. The bill would not let the government block access to any website, only one’s that meet certain criteria. But to put the government in that position where it has any Internet censorship capabilities at all would just be irresponsible.
The mere thought of the United States government having the ability to censor information from US citizens sounds not only ludicrous, it is downright unconstitutional.
Most of the concerns about SOPA’s potential censorship issues have sprouted from the fact that the criteria for parties that could be targeted is very broad. Under the bill’s definition for a site “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property”, websites that allow their users to post information would be liable if even one of their users posts something that infringes on someone’s copyright. This being the case, similar websites may no longer wish to be held accountable for such a vast amount of user’s actions, so they might start restricting what can be posted. Something like this could cause many of a website’s users to stop using the site. So with a very predictable case like this, the bill could easily cause the decay of business, job-creation, and innovation for many websites like Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.
A solution that could be considered to making this bill work better and be more popular would be to allow all current laws that the bill would change to remain the same. Another thing would be to alter the problematic definitions that I have stated before into a form that would not have such a broad range of targets.
In the case of the governments power to censor websites, that power would never be granted; the fund cuts utilizing the advertising companies would remain the primary means of shutting down foreign infringing site.
There are quite a few things that are unacceptable about this bill that make it generally unpopular. The unnecessary changes it makes to current laws that work fine, the awkward writing of some very important definitions stated within the bill, and for the bill to hold websites liable for even just one of their users’ conduct. But perhaps the most important concern with the bill, if it were passed, it would give the government the capacity to censor foreign infringing sites. To say that this could change over time to allow for more broad criteria for legally “justified” censorship is definitely a possibility.
Julian Carmona is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan and a contributing writer to the Michigan Chronicle.
Last Updated on Monday, 09 January 2012 11:52
Category: Prime Politics Written by Patrick Keating, Chronicle Staff Writer
“The State of the Black/Jewish Socioeconomic Alliance” is the theme for the inaugural launching of the Black/Jewish Forum on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 7 p.m. at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills. Several leaders in Southeast Michigan are expected to participate.
The forum was conceived by two men who touted their friendship and the closeness of their families as the catalyst for what is to become an important ongoing event in metro Detroit — to revisit the historical ties between Blacks and Jews and looking ahead into the future. Arthur Horwitz, publisher of the Detroit Jewish News, and Bankole Thompson, senior editor of the Michigan Chronicle, over the last three years have developed a close friendship that has been extended to their families, resulting in family visits.
“Black/Jewish relations are part of America’s dream and America’s soul. We share common pain and common triumphs, and nowhere is that bond celebrated more keenly than at Temple Beth El, Michigan’s oldest Jewish congregation.” — Rabbi Daniel B. Syme, Temple Beth E.
The Black/Jewish Forum, according to Horwitz and Thompson, is critical to bringing two communities together with longstanding socioeconomic and political ties. “Over the past three or four years, Bankole and I have gotten to know each other very well as friends and as people who care about the future of Detroit and the Detroit metro area,” Horwitz said.
The two have had several opportunities to collaborate, ranging from being on panels together to writing articles that touch on both communities.
For example, in June of this year, the influential Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) in New York, the national public affairs arm of the organized American Jewish community founded in 1944, invited Horwitz and Thompson to serve as keynote speakers at the opening dinner of the JCPA conference in Detroit.
“Blacks and Jews in America once formed an important relationship in furthering the cause of a more just society. Not that it was perfect and there were certainly differences but, in all honesty, our two communities were as strong as any two could be in fighting against oppression and economic injustice. What is surprising is that today we continue to pursue similar goals and yet do very little together,” said JCPA CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow.
Gutow said our challenge in the years ahead is to find those common threads and reestablish the connectiveness that allowed our communities to be the strong forces they once were in fighting poverty and achieving civil rights. “Any Black/Jewish forum should look for ways to work together to better America and to find the common ground that we both once stood upon,” Gutow said. Horwitz said not only did he and Thompson get to know and understand each other, but the two realized they shared a passion for Detroit and the region. For the past few years, whenever he and Thompson go out for lunch every two to three weeks, their conversations center around looking for ways to bring “the historically strong, but currently not so strong” Black/Jewish alliance closer together.
“It was really through those conversations, through getting to know each other, through getting to know our families that Bankole came up with the concept of a Black/ Jewish Forum,” Hortwitz said. “But not something that would be sterile. Not something that would be one and done. Not something that would be from organization to organization, or institution to institution. But, rather, we both felt the real power in re-energizing the Black/Jewish alliance.”
The forum, he pointed out, would create “ways people could engage each other on a personal level, their families, and understand and identify the shared interests they have, of which there are many.”
Thompson agreed that the forum shouldn’t be another “feel good” town hall meeting or panel discussion. Instead, the Black/Jewish Forum will be a continuous conversation on issues that will be held three times a year, every four months, with leaders and up-and-coming leaders from both communities.
“We plan to matchmake the guests that are coming to the forum,” he said, adding that leaders in the two communities will be paired with other leaders in similar roles. “Part of our vision here is to not only make this forum a national model showing that metro Detroit is more than the unflattering image that’s out there, but also a very important conversation platform for leaders locally, nationally and internationally,” Thompson said.
“Arthur and I recognize that we cannot change the world overnight, but we can contribute in our own way to making our community a better place for our children.” Horwitz expects forum participants to not only engage with each other and develop unique friendships, but also identify common areas of interest and work to build on them to create socioeconomic transformation. Thompson agrees.
“We realize there have been conversations and efforts in the past to strongly link the Jewish and African American communities,” he said. “The Black/Jewish Forum is an addition to what existed. Formalizing this past relationship into a permanent forum enhances the collaboration.” The concept of the Black/Jewish Forum instantly caught the attention and piqued the interest of many leaders in Southeast Michigan who have vowed to attend the inaugural launching.
“The response has been great. In fact, most of the people coming have been asking what role they can play. Some have said they are honored to be part of this event,” Thompson said. “If anything is going to be changed, it will be by those who are called to serve.”
Rabbi Daniel B. Syme of Temple Beth El applauded the effort and the spirit behind the October event, saying, “Black/Jewish relations are part of America’s dream and America’s soul. We share common pain and common triumphs, and nowhere is that bond celebrated more keenly than at Temple Beth El, Michigan’s oldest Jewish congregation.” “Temple Beth El has been, and will always be, in the forefront of struggles to achieve Tikkun Olam – healing our world. And one day, all the hands that reach ours in hope will touch in blessing.”
Horwitz wants the forum to be the standard bearer for partnerships that have at the core of their mission bettering the lives of people in African American and Jewish communities in Southeast Michigan and beyond.
“Ultimately, what we hope we’re doing is modeling behavior, because this is a region that we know is very diverse and very segregated,” Horwitz said. “What we’re hoping is that what we do here and the success we hope to have will show other groups in and around Detroit, that there are opportunities to link, to partner, to find and share a common agenda that’s good for them individually, good for their respective communities, and good for Detroit and the region overall.”
Last Updated on Monday, 03 October 2011 16:38
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