Monday, March 31, 2008

How's the Kool-Aid?

by Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Princeton University

As much as I hate to admit it, you are right. At least partially.

I openly confess that, after Tuesday’s speech, I was momentarily swept up in Obama-rama. As I said to you publicly, I assumed that Obama would follow traditional political crisis-relief strategy by repudiating Jeremiah Wright, accepting no direct responsibility (but expressing regret that others were offended), and insisting that we move on to more important matters.

At the start of the speech, Obama seemed to be following that script by making unsettling remarks about “stalwart allies like Israel,” “the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam,” and the need for patriarchal family structures. But once he got his perfunctory centrist kowtowing out of the way, Obama delivered one of the most complex, sophisticated, and powerful speeches in recent political history.

Instead of merely assuaging white racial anxieties, Obama’s words forced the entire nation to come to terms with its demons. Although he unequivocally denounced Jeremiah Wright’s remarks, Obama refused to reduce him (or his own white grandmother) to a racist caricature. Also, through his evenhanded analysis of both structural inequality and individual responsibility, Obama raised the stakes for racial discourse in American politics.

So yes, I was definitely cheering for Obama on Tuesday. To be honest, I secretly root for him every time he wins a state or scores a political victory over Clinton or McCain. Still, despite my sentimental attachment to the brother, I have not drunk the Kool-Aid.
by Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell- Princeton University

To drink the Kool-Aid is to believe that Obama gave that speech out of moral exigency rather than political desperation. After all, Obama had painted himself into a corner by running a “race neutral” campaign that implicitly promised not to make whites uncomfortable about things like white skin privilege or systemic racism. Once Wright’s comments became public, Obama was forced to defend his own position. Although his response was far more principled and sincere than I could have imagined, I doubt that he would have made it if it weren’t his best political option. More significantly, I do not believe that he would compromise his own personal ambition in order to realize the grand racial vision that he articulated on Tuesday. So, while I give him mad props for his courageous address, I’m still not a supporter.

That said, I still haven’t decided how I’m going to vote in next month’s Pennsylvania primary. My gut tells me to sit the election out and vote for Nader in November. But as we’ve learned from this controversy, anything can happen in a month.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Boycotting the NCAA: Why It is necessary

By Dr. Boyce Watkins

Last year, I engaged in a short campaign on CNN, CBS Sports, ESPN and the LA Times to highlight major problems with “big time” college athletics. It is not my goal to anger anyone, but rather, to share what I have seen in my 15 years teaching at universities with major athletics programs. As a finance professor, I find the financial problems of the NCAA to be borderline criminal. As an educator, I find the educational mission of the NCAA to be fraudulent. As a black man who has seen what the NCAA does to the black community, I find myself simply offended.

The NCAA is in possession of an 11-year, $6 Billion Dollar contract for the rights to air March Madness. This does not include hundreds of millions of dollars earned each year from bowl games, regular season games, merchandizing agreements and concessions. Coaches earn as much as $4 Million dollars per year, while the players and their families, many of whom come from poverty, earn almost nothing. Coaches are allowed to jump from job to job, going to the highest bidder, while players who transfer lose a year of eligibility. Coaches and administrators earn millions from excessive commercialization of player images, while a player is not allowed to earn a penny from his/her own image. This does not include the fact that many institutions will praise and promote a winning coach with low graduation rates and quickly fire coaches with low winning percentages and high graduation rates.

I have witnessed students being taken out of class for an entire week to play in a nationally-televised football or basketball game, with academics (and the fact that the student’s grade has been jeopardized) becoming an afterthought. Players are treated like professional athletes, not students, and a weak performance on the field will cause them to lose their scholarship. Any institution operating as a government-sanctioned cartel, riddled with hypocrisy, disproportionate and exploitative compensation schemes, and glaring disregard for educational values should be scrutinized more carefully. Earning money is a wonderful thing, but I am not sure why coaches and administrators are allowed to earn billions each year from the labor of players with mothers who can’t pay the rent. I know how much tuition costs, and it is miniscule compared to the amount of money players generate for their coaches and universities. I say pay the players a fair salary, let them negotiate their own contracts and shoe deals, and then allow them to pay their own tuition.

If you believe in fairness for these young men and women, I hope you will consider joining our coalition to boycott the NCAA and March Madness. If you love sports like me, then feel free to watch a game or two. Just keep your views to a minimum and avoid watching the commercials. This may sound silly, but it is my effort to begin the process of helping us understand this complicated problem, and to hopefully have some impact on the bottom-line of the NCAA.

I am not trying to “raise hell” with these statements. I am simply asking for fairness. One star player (whose coach received millions in bonuses) saw his brother shot and killed in a housing project because his mother was too poor to move to a better neighborhood. Another player took money from a booster to help his family pay the rent, and then saw his scholarship taken away. I saw a player’s mother forced to beg her church to help her get to the Final Four to see her son play, while the coach’s family received first class accommodations. What is ironic is that even raising money from the church would have been an NCAA violation, causing her son to lose his scholarship.

If you don’t agree with me, I understand. But as a professor, financial expert and a human being, I cannot remain silent on such an injustice. Some don’t feel the athletes deserve anything better than what they already get. We all must agree that basketball games don’t happen without basketball players, so if a game earns millions in revenue, then the basketball player (and his/her family) is more deserving of this revenue than the coach. If that doesn’t make sense, then I’m sorry.

I hope you’ll join me in this effort.

With complete respect and sincerity,

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Syracuse University


Q&A On the NCAA:

1) If the athletes don’t like the system, then why don’t they just do something else?

The problem is that the NCAA is allowed to operate as a Cartel. Effectively, this implies that all of the schools exist under the same umbrella and make price-fixing agreements that keep players from having any other options. North Carolina, Duke, The University of Kentucky and other NCAA schools all agree that none of them are allowed to pay the players for their services (other than the scholarship). This sort of operating behavior is illegal in nearly every other industry, because the source of labor then has no bargaining power. Going to the NBA is not an option for most of the players, so there isn’t much else they can do.

2) What are you asking for in all this? Some sort of special treatment for athletes?

No. I am simply asking that they have a free market. Many rules are put in place alleging to “protect” the athletes. The problem is that many exploitative regimes throughout history have used protection as a cover for self-interest (i.e. The War on Terror and the Patriot Act). The truth is that many restrictions placed on players exist to simply control the athlete and to ensure that the administrators don’t have to share the revenue. Schools should never be “forced” to pay the players. I am saying that we should not force schools to allow multi-million dollar players’ families to remain in poverty. Just let the market work, the same way it does in the rest of America. If a player has no value, then he/she will not be paid. But if the school can earn $15 million dollars from a player’s ability, then his family should get some of that money, not just the coach and the administrators. Remember: When money comes in the door…..SOMEONE IS ALWAYS GETTING PAID. I believe that the person doing the work should get a substantial percentage of the revenue generated from that work. It’s really that simple.

3) Are you against the NCAA making money?

Absolutely not! I am a Finance Professor and a Capitalist. I appreciate good business when I see it. I think that the NCAA should simply make a choice: either go completely professional or completely amateur. You can’t operate as a professional organization while signing billion dollar TV deals and then become a non-profit amateur organization when it comes time to reward the players who are actually doing the work. I am in favor of the NCAA either paying everyone according to the fair market value they can negotiate, or NOT PAYING ANYONE. Non-payment, a more socialist model that the NCAA claims to promote, would imply that no coach earns more than (say) $70,000 per year. Every coach with low graduation rates would be fired, and players would not be allowed to miss class to play in a game. In other words, the players would come to college to actually get an education, not to simply play sports.

4) Isn’t a scholarship fair compensation?

Quite simply, the answer is no. I say this as both a financial expert and an educator who places a high value on learning. Many universities earn more money from one nationally-televised basketball game than it costs to pay tuition for every player on the team for an entire year. I would personally rather see the players allowed to negotiate their own contracts and then pay their tuition afterward. If one were to offer a coach and his family free tuition rather than their seven figure salary, they would be outraged.

5) It’s too complicated to find a way to pay college athletes, it just won’t work.

This argument was put forth by NCAA President Myles Brand, who I was on a CBS sports special with last year (along with “Coach K” from Duke, Billy Packer and others who earn millions of dollars from the labor of college athletes). My problem with this argument is that things work when we want them to work. Schools always find a way around the technicalities when it comes time to pay a coach $4 million dollars per year. They find ways to make sure that the tournaments occur, that vendors are paid, complicated TV deals are signed and merchandizing agreements are worked out. If it were a priority, they could surely find a way to be fair to the athletes. If they can’t, then simply drop all the restrictions on compensation and let the market do its work.

Some argue that paying athletes would destroy the purity and integrity of college sports. Actually, it is this glaring hypocrisy that continues to destroy the integrity of collegiate athletics. Allowing coaches and players to have the same rights to negotiation would allow the system to make more sense.

6) Which athletes should be paid anyway?

Athletes should be paid like the rest of us: If what you do earns money, then you have the right to negotiate (without oppressive restrictions) for your share. When Tom Cruise makes a film, he gets paid quite well. He doesn’t get the money because he’s a nice guy, he gets paid because he is generating revenue for someone else. That’s how capitalism works. So, any athlete in a revenue-generating sport should be allowed to negotiate with his/her school. If the athlete is not worth the money he/she is asking for, then the school won’t pay it. The same occurs when you try to get a job: if they offer you $45,000 and you are worth $70,000, you negotiate with the company across the street. It would be illegal for all firms in your industry to come together and agree to only pay you $25,000 per year. But that is what happens in the NCAA, where all the schools agree to non-payment of athletes. This should be outlawed.

7) What are the possible solutions to this problem?

This is a big problem and a big system, it’s going to take work. But I have some thoughts on possible solutions to the NCAA puzzle:

- The IRS and Congress must get involved: The Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives began proceedings last year that questioned the non-profit status of the NCAA and argued that they should not be considered an amateur organization. In their letter, it was stated that “Corporate sponsorships, multimillion dollar television deals, highly paid coaches with no academic duties, and the dedication of inordinate amounts of time by athletes to training lead many to believe that major college football and men's basketball more closely resemble professional sports than amateur sports.”

I argue that challenging the NCAA’s financial situation might get their attention and inject some fairness into the system.

- Teach athletes and former athletes to work together: Most of the people exploited by the system don’t realize they’ve been cheated until after it’s over. I argue that former athletes and others who are aware of how the system works should explain this to young athletes, who are sometimes so blinded by their own “shine” that they can’t see what’s going on. Athletes coming together and considering a boycott of the NCAA tournament would send a strong message to the league. That is my dream, but the reign of terror the NCAA has over the athletes makes a boycott situation difficult to imagine. Any player thinking of rebelling is likely to be punished quite heavily.

8) There are other problems in the world, why are you spending your time on this one?

I agree that it’s hard to get someone to feel sorry for a player on national television. But I’ve witnessed many horror stories about players who are punished for doing the right thing. For example, there have been cases of players not having enough food and losing their scholarship because someone gave them a bag of groceries. If a player takes money from a booster to help a homeless relative, they are then punished. When a player like Reggie Bush used his fame to help his family get a home, he was demonized and penalized. Simultaneously, his coach and university earned millions from the fact that Reggie was the most highly recognized professional athlete in America. This doesn’t make much sense, given that coaches can take money from nearly anyone who offers it to them. I fight for many issues of injustice, and this happens to be the one that we are attacking right now. We must fight one battle at a time, and I hope that my passion for this effort is understood.

If you don’t agree with me, I respect that. But if you do, please join me in this effort.

Thursday, March 27, 2008





Along with the ability to inspire, a president should have the intelligence to see the big picture, the maturity to handle power, and the class to ensure that his or her own personal needs remain secondary to that of the people. This election process has given us an excellent opportunity to assess those qualities in both candidates, and while Hillary Clinton has demonstrated that she is an exceptionally intelligent woman, she's also demonstrated that she leaves much to be desired in the area of maturity and class. If we've learned nothing else about Hillary during these primaries, we've learned that nothing is more important to her than becoming President of the United States–not the nation, not the people, and certainly not the Democratic Party. Hillary has shown that she is more than willing to throw the entire Democratic Party under the bus–along with the Senate, Congress, and the Supreme Court--if it means she'll end up sitting in the Oval Office.

Hillary's behavior has been so radically single-minded during these primaries that it sounds like I'm indulging in hyperbole, but the facts will bear me out. Essentially, Senator Obama has won the primaries–he's won more states, he's won the popular vote, and he has an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates. If Hillary won all of the remaining primaries, she'd still fall short of Obama's lead. Hillary knows that quite well, and she also knows that the longer she slings mud at Obama, the greater the chances the Democratic Party, along with many of its elected officials, will go down in defeat. So the classy thing for her to do would be to swallow her pride and encourage her supporters to get behind Senator Obama's candidacy with all of the enthusiasm that they've brought to her campaign. But instead, she's endorsed the Republican candidate as more qualified to be president than Obama, and she continues to sling mud in the vain hope that she can hurt Obama so badly that his candidacy will lose all viability. She's calculated that if she hurts Obama badly enough, even if the party doesn't nominate her by default, Obama will lose the general election. That way, since there won't be a Democratic incumbent in the race, she'll still be young enough to run in 2012.

That's not only a cynically self-centered agenda, but it's exactly the kind of selfish immaturity that we currently have running the country with George Bush–and it's also the kind of politics that we're so desperately trying to get away from. In addition to that, her Bosnian chronicle demonstrates that she's willing to lie to the American people without cause or provocation. Is that the kind of person we want heading the Democratic Party? And after already being embarrassed by first, her husband, then Bush, is that the kind of flawed character that we want representing America before the world?

Hillary claims that Obama lacks the experience to be president, but ask yourself, do you think if the situation was completely reversed that Obama would continue to throw mud on Hillary, or try to tear the party apart in an attempt to destroy her chances of winning the election? Absolutely not. That's the difference between old-style, selfish immaturity, and a young man who wants to bring change to the body politic–a change that gives priority to the American people, over personal ambition.

But there's an upside to this situation. The fact is, Hillary can't destroy the party alone–in order for her to pull it off, she needs the backing of both, her supporters, and the super-delegates. So Democrats have a decision to make–do they genuinely want to see change, or are they going to sit back and allow Hillary to bring the Republican Party back from the dead?

There are a number of people in the Clinton camp who would love to support Obama–they've been touched by his passion, his enthusiasm, and his dedication to what we can become as a nation–but they remain loyal to Hillary due to past ties and favors that the Clintons did for them while Bill was in office–favors that we now know came with strings. While the loyalty of these supporters is understandable, there are times when loyalty can be taken too far, and this is one of those times. At this point Hillary is asking her supporters for more than their support of her viable campaign for the presidency, she's already lost that campaign. Now she's asking them to support her attempt to not only hold the Democratic Party hostage, but possibly destroying it, and their own careers, if the Democrats refuse to cater to her unreasonable demand to be its nominee. That is far too much to ask of anyone–after all, how would they face their constituencies thereafter?

Thus, at this point Hillary's supporters who hold political office should be asking themselves whether or not they've exhausted any obligation they may have owed the Clintons. They should also begin to consider the obligations they have to the Democratic Party, the American people, and indeed, themselves. The should consider at what point their loyalty to the Clintons begin to have a negative impact on the people they represent. When Rep. John Lewis and Gov. Bill Richardson asked themselves that question, they came to the conclusion, that time had come.

The Democratic Party has the good fortune of having one of the most gifted, honorable, and dynamic voices in a generation willing to carry its banner. While the Clintons claim he's inexperienced and can't win in the general election, he's managed to handle everything that both a senator and a former president, with a combined experience of over seventy years, can throw at him, and without even breaking a sweat. And for all intent and purposes, he's now legitimately won the primaries–and he did it while running a campaign of dignity, respect, and with his head held high. So are we now really prepared to sit back and watch this impressive young man be dragged through the mud by a meanspirited, vindictive, relic of the past, based solely on her sense of entitlement? If we do, we don't deserve the presidency–in fact, it will signal the time for a third party.

Eric L. Wattree

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Monday, March 24, 2008




The American media has become absolutely fixated on Rev. Jeremiah Wright. How could he say what he did about America? Why didn't Senator Obama storm out of the church in protest? And how can Barack Obama be the man he claims to be and embrace such a man? These are all questions that might have also been asked of another man and his supporters over two thousand years ago, and today just as then, the answer is short and sweet–because the man speaks the truth.

The controversy over Rev. Wright's sermon says much more about America's blind spot than it does about either Rev. Wright, or Sen. Obama. Because while the words were indeed ugly, the truth therein was as pure as virgin snow. Thus, the problem is not with Rev. Wright or Sen. Obama, the problem is with America's inability to handle the truth, and as long as that continues to be the case, America is doomed to be led by demagogues whose claim on leadership will be based on lies, and the very worst in an otherwise great nation.

The fact is, Obama didn't renounce Rev. Wright or leave his church in protest because he knew that there was nowhere he could go in the Black community to find a credible ministry that wasn't preaching the very same sermon at some point in time. We must remember that the snippet of Rev. Wright's sermon that we heard played and re-played ad nauseam by the media was taken from over thirty years of sermons–and even then, it was taken out of context. Not once did I hear the media play the part of the sermon where Rev. Wright declared that he'd been taught to "love the hell out of my enemy!" And that was the thrust–the intent, if you will–of his sermon. It was not his intent to preach hatred of America, his intent was to preach the truth, and to love the hell right out the those who specialize in bringing the very worse out in the American people. So, the media didn't just take Rev. Wright's words out of context, it took the role of the Black church out of context as well.

Black preachers are not just spiritual advisers, they're also therapists. For the most part, Black people don't have the resources to engage private therapists to work out the frustrations attendant to a daily barrage injustice, so Black preachers provide that service. The next time you watch the endless loops of Rev. Wright's sermon, look at the people in the background, and the young man who comes up to bow his approval. Rev. Wright is giving his congregation the opportunity to vent the frustration of injustice. White people who find themselves concerned over Rev. Wright's words should ask themselves, where do you think all of that passion and frustration would go if Rev. Wright, and Black preachers across this land, wasn't providing their people a vehicle for releasing that passion and pent-up frustration? Instead of demanding that this man be renounced, he and his Christian colleagues should be given awards as renowned public servants.

And further, it is indeed ironic that this man would be called un-American. Black people have been called a lot of things over the centuries, but unpatriotic has never been among them. We must never forget that it was a Black man, Crispus Attucks, who was the very first person to die for this country. And from that moment to this, regardless to what Black people have endured at the hands of White America, we've been the very first to respond, with a willingness to lay our lives on the line against any threat to the American ideal. But it is the phrase "American ideal" that separates Rev. Wright from Bush, Cheney, and the Limbaughs of this world. When Rev. Wright said "God damn America", he was clearly speaking of American policy, not the American ideal–and since he has paid his dues as an American in full, he had every right to do so.

One Rev. Jeremiah Wright is worth more to America than a boatload of armchair patriots like Bush, Cheney, and the Rush Limbaughs of the world. While these armchair patriots take pride in going around wearing American flags in their lapels, and declaring how much they love America to all who will listen, where were they when America needed them to place their lives on the line? I'll tell you where they were–George Bush used his father's influence to maneuver his way into the Texas National Guard in order to assure that other Americans would go Vietnam, and in many cases die in his place, and even then he went AWOL; Dick Cheney managed to get five (5) military deferments, indicating that "I had other priorities"; and Rush Limbaugh managed to avoid fighting for this country by claiming a boil on his ass. Now these so-called "super-patriots" are pointing their finger at Rev. Wright as un-American for speaking the truth–this man who not only answered this nation call in the Navy, but served as a United States Marine as well. There's something very wrong with that picture.

Rev. Wright's sermon was designed to wake a sleeping giant, the American ideal. He was pointing out to America that we're suffering from a serious blind spot. He wanted to open America's eyes to the fact that the most unconscionable act of terrorism in the history of mankind was when the United States dropped not one, but two atomic bombs on the women and children of the Japan. In that case, we attempted to justify it by saying it saved countless American lives, but by using that argument we also argue that the lives of American combatants are more valuable than Japanese women and children–thus terrorism is justified when American lives are involved. We're embracing that very argument even now in Iraq. The American people can be blinded to that fact through the thick fog of patriotism, but the rest of the world doesn't suffer from our laundered point of view. They see our actions then, and now, for what it is--terrorism.

The good Rev. Wright's sermon was right out of the Bible. John 8:32: "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." And the truth is, the only difference between Arab terrorism and American terrorism is that we've got a much more efficient delivery system. Open your eyes America. True, Al Qaeda killed three thousand Americans, but in response, we've killed over a million people who's done absolutely nothing to us.

Let us think about that as we condemn Jeremiah.

Eric L. Wattree



The Reverend Jeremiah Wright is an outstanding church leader whom I have heard speak a number of times. He has served for decades as a profound voice for justice and inclusion in our society. He has been a vocal critic of the racism, sexism and homophobia which still tarnish the American dream. To evaluate his dynamic ministry on the basis of two or three sound bites does a grave injustice to Dr. Wright, the members of his congregation, and the African-American church which has been the spiritual refuge of a people that has suffered from discrimination, disadvantage, and violence. Dr. Wright, a member of an integrated denomination, has been an agent of racial reconciliation while proclaiming perceptions and truths uncomfortable for some white people to hear. Those of us who are white Americans would do well to listen carefully to Dr. Wright rather than to use a few of his quotes to polarize. This is a critical time in America's history as we seek to repent of our racism. No matter which candidates prevail, let us use this time to listen again to one another and not to distort one another's truth.

Dean J. Snyder, Senior Minister

Foundry United Methodist ChurchMarch 19, 2008

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Pass Me A Rock--It's Lunchtime In The County Jail



Why is it that we have to pay Ben Bernanke millions of dollars to bring in a truckload of Ph.D.s just to tell us that we're hurtin'? And even then he won't give us a definitive answer-- "Ah, Well, it's beginning to look like we just might be edging, or, tiptoeing, as it were, towards the outer fringes of an exceedingly mild recession--a teeny-weeny one I assure you--but we can't be absolutely certain of that at this time." Who is he trying to lie to, certainly not the American public. People are starving while he’s hedging–they’re outside the hall throwing rocks at the police so they can go to jail in time for lunch.

But seriously, have you ever wondered why all of these so-called experts, with all their advanced degrees are always nine months to a year behind the people when it comes to seeing the obvious? Bush’s entire fiscal policy is a fraud. I have yet to taken a minute of economics, but I pointed out over a year ago that any policy based on trying to sell Gucci bags in a homeless shelter had to be conjured up by Dr. Seuss. Actually, Supply-side economics was formulated during the Reagan administration by U.S.C. economist, Art Laffer, but believe me, we couldn’t have done any worse if we had, in fact, followed Dr. Suess.

The Laffer curve was more a scam than a viable fiscal policy. The policy is based on the premise that if we give Gucci a big enough tax break, he’ll hire more people to make his handbags. Then the newly hired people will spend the money they earn and stimulate the economy. It sounds good, but they failed to take one small, but very important thing into account–if Gucci is required to sell his bags in a homeless shelter, where are the people in the shelter going to get the money to purchase his bags initially? If the people in the shelter don’t have the money to buy his handbags initially, Gucci’s not going to hire anyone on speculation, regardless to how big a tax break you give him. Why should he–he can’t even get rid of the bags that he already has on hand. So he’s going to take his new tax windfall and buy him a Ferrari–that’s what happened during the Reagan administration, and that’s what’s happening now. The only way to get Gucci to hire more people to make more handbags is to put more money in the hands of the people in the homeless shelter–then, they'll have the money to spend on Gucci's bags. Although we call it "supply and demand", demand comes first, then supply. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that-but of course, I'd never accuse our president of being a brain surgeon.

Granted, I'm not an economist, but it seems to me that what we're dealing with here are two economies. We have one economy that applies to the investor class, and another economy that applies to the labor class (labor, meaning anyone who depends on a job for a living, regardless of whether they're blue collar, or in management).

When the United States had a thriving industrial economy, one class complimented the other. Labor was well paid, so they were able to purchased goods. That allowed the companies that sold the goods to prosper, to the benefit of the investor class. But now in a global market, in order to both remain competitive with countries that pay their workers just above slave wages, and also sustain their greed, the investor class have to squeeze every penny, and concession, out of the labor class to achieve their profit margin. So in essence, whenever Bush announces that the economy is thriving, he's not talking about the American economy as a whole--he's actually telling the investor class that he's successfully squeezing the American worker to the limit. You see, since they have a global market now, they no longer have to worry about the American worker making enough money to purchase their goods--they can sell them overseas. So now the American worker is no longer a partner, he's simply a field hand.

That dichotomy in our economics also explains why our politicians can't seem to get a handle on illegal immigration. As I pointed out, in order for American business to compete in a world with countries that produce goods with workers who work for just above slave labor, America must respond in kind. That is the purpose of illegal immigration--it's being used to undermine the middle class in this country. Having a viable middle class has become cost prohibitive in this country. We're being told that illegal immigrants are only being used to do the jobs that American workers don't want, but that's not true. Illegal workers are being used as electrical workers, in construction, as truck drivers, upholsters, mechanics, etc. In the process, they're placing undue strain on our healthcare, and educational systems, driving up the cost of goods and housing, and having a negative impact on our entire social infrastructure.

Thus, we need to have a national referendum on how to address the illegal worker issue in this country. We need to take it out of the hands of the politicians, and follow the will of the American people. Then we've got to make up our minds what we want to do. If we're going to grant illegal immigrants immunity, then, let's do it. But if it's the general consensus of the American people to send them home, then we've got to be serious about that as well, by passing laws with teeth-- laws that make it unattractive for illegal workers to come here in the first place, or stay, depending on the results of the referendum--then follow the laws to the letter.
We've got to stop fooling around with this issue. The longer we straddle the fence, the more people we're going to have to deal with, and the more convinced they're going to become that they have a right to stay. If we sit on our hands until they start to think of the United States as home, we're going to have a revolution on our hands if we try to change course--and if you think we have a lot of illegal immigrants now, just wait until their children start having babies.

So if we truly want to stop illegal immigration, we have to stop playing games, and trying to be politically correct. We have to start passing tough laws, and strictly enforcing those laws: Fines of twenty thousand dollars per offense for anyone who hire or house illegal immigrants, and the seizure of assets for any offense thereafter; a year in jail on first offense for anyone caught in the U.S. illegally, and a felony on any offense thereafter; make it impossible to enroll a child in school without proof of citizenship; withhold all social services (with the exception of emergency medical services) and then pass a law saying that any child born of an illegal parent is also illegal, even if that child is born within the United States. Laws such as those would take away any incentive for anyone to cross the border illegally. That would contribute to our security as well, because then, we can assume that anyone trying to cross into the United States illegally is doing it with malevolent intent.

That may sound strange coming from me, because anyone who has read my writings regularly know that I've agonized over this issue for sometime, and I've flip-flopped on it at least once before. In fact, about six months ago I wrote an article in support of illegal immigrants, indicating that they are the indigenous people of this land. But I have a policy of going wherever the facts lead, and while I desperately wanted to arrive at a rosy scenario regarding illegal immigration, the facts refused to cooperate, and only portrayed an image of social devastation.

The consequences of having millions of people flooding across our borders into the U.S. will have a devastating impact on our children and grandchildren. Therefore, in my opinion, we should assist illegal immigrants in addressing their grievances with their own governments in the same way that the Black community has done in the United States. While my heart sincerely bleeds for the plight of illegal immigrants, I simply cannot give them priority over my own grandchildren. That would go beyond being compassionate--it would be stupid. It would also play right into the hands of globalists who are trying to corral labor in such a way that it undermines the American middle class.

But we shouldn't take our anger out on the illegal immigrant--they're only pawns in this scenario. We should reserve our anger for the corporatists who are pushing those pawns. We should press our government to pressure Mexico and other countries of origin to address the plight of their poor. That should be one of our top national priorities. We shouldn't elect any politician who isn't committed to that initiative, and vote out any politician who waffles on it. We must also direct our anger, our dollars, and our votes, against any corporation, and all politicians, who contribute to conditions that force people to leave their home in order to feed their families. We must pin these politicians down, and let them know that we know what's going on, and if they don't fix it, we're going to see to it that they lose their jobs long before we lose ours.

We must also take immediate steps to see to it that American corporations don't think they can follow Dick Cheney's Halliburton to Dubai, and then think they're going to sell their goods in the United States. We need a worker's Bill of Rights that says, if you want to ship your jobs overseas, you can sell your goods over there as well. If you're an American company, you must be headquartered in America, pay your fair share of taxes in America, and use American workers. If you're not willing to do that, we'll find someone who is.

Of course, they're going to call us protectionists--but as Miles Davis said, so what.

Eric L. Wattree

Friday, March 14, 2008

David Paterson Becomes the First Black Governor of New York

After the scandal that rocked New York, a black man is now the governor. David Paterson is now the new governor of New York, after Elliot Spitzer resigned. Spitzer, a self-proclaimed crusader against corruption, was found to have solicited the services of a prostitution ring.

Patterson would become both the first African-American governor of New York State and also the first governor to be legally blind.

David Paterson was born in Brooklyn New York. His father, Basil Paterson, was the first non-white Secretary of State of New York and the first African-American vice chair of the National Democratic Party.

Paterson earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and attended law school at Hofstra University.

David Paterson began his career in public service representing Harlem in the New York Senate. In 2002, Paterson became the minority leader of the senate, being the first African-American leader in New York State History.

Paterson was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2006, becoming the first African-American to ever hold such a post. He is also an adjunct professor at the School for International and Public Affairs and Columbia University.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Why Universities are Fundamentally Racist

By: Dr. Boyce Watkins

I recently spoke at my undergraduate alma mater, The University of Kentucky. Coming back home was an amazing experience, as I could literally look at every corner, street, building and sidewalk on the campus and have a powerful memory of being in that particular spot. It could be the place where I first kissed my girlfriend, stood fuming over a bad grade, played football with my friends, had a car accident or drank a milkshake. I consider that university to be my home.

The energy in the auditorium was off the chain, as the house was totally packed. I actually never realized how much an educated black man can scare some people, as I had been labeled a “Dangerous Negro” by local media. The students came ready for war, and I was ready to guide them down the war path. I didn’t want them filled with hate. I just wanted them to have understanding, purpose and direction.

I started with the undeniable facts. I asked the students how many of them have had more than one black professor. Two hands went in the air, with both students being African-American studies majors. The fact that there were hundreds of people in the room, yet only a couple of them have had more than one black professor (after taking several years of classes, half the room was filled with college graduates) made my point immediately and clearly. There was honestly not much else to say.

Is it not the right of students of color to have faculty (especially tenured faculty, not just soon-to-be-fired adjuncts and assistants) who look like them? Is it the presumed destiny of these students to feel that they are not worthy of the same rights as white students, who are more likely to have mentors, associates and individuals with a common cultural background and disposition? I never had a black professor in my class until I became one, and I took far more classes in my life than I care to admit. When I did meet one black professor (the only black professor in a business school faculty of 90), he became my mentor, changed my career path and became one of my best friends. To this day, he is, to my knowledge, the only black professor tenured in the 140 year history of the entire University of Kentucky School of Business. That’s a damn shame. The bigger shame is that this is actually the norm.

I will be blunt and make the politically suicidal statement that many faculty across America might be afraid to make: the hiring and tenure of black faculty is simply not a priority for most predominantly white universities. We are invited in droves to dribble basketballs, but not asked to contribute intellectually to the same campuses that earn collective billions from black youth whose mother’s can’t even pay the rent. We are asked to sweep the floor and win football games, but are declined the opportunity to make critical decisions or drive campus policy. Rather than giving results when it comes to the hiring and promotion of black faculty, we are given the same old excuses. Universities have taken little personal responsibility as it pertains to dealing with the residual impact of their clearly racist historical foundations. Their predecessors didn’t want us there, and by having such allegiance to the traditions of racists, many universities are merely continuing the dirty work their academic forefathers began.

The excuses universities use for not hiring or tenuring black professors usually fit (but are not limited to) a few neat categories. While Business Schools are the worst when it comes to diversity, there is evidence that many of these arguments also apply across campus:

1) “We can’t find black professors, they don’t exist”. That’s a flat out lie. They do exist. I know a lot of them. They go to the best schools, do great work, and then apply for jobs, only to be told that they aren’t qualified for the position. Most of them don’t get a chance to be interviewed, even by academic departments that have not hired or tenured a person of color in over 120 years. I have many friends RIGHT NOW who are highly qualified to teach at the top universities, but they aren’t getting a second look when they send in their applications.

2) “The ones who apply for hiring or tenure are just not qualified. Therefore, we can’t quite justify giving keeping them here.” – There is not a more insulting statement in the world, nor one that is more indicative of the mentality that embraces white supremacy. The idea that there is a job that hundreds of people have done, mostly white men, in which THERE IS NOT A PERSON OF COLOR ON EARTH QUALIFIED TO DO THAT JOB implies that you’ve not come to terms of the shear insanity of such a conclusion. Given America’s history of racism and exclusion, it is far more likely that this history of exclusion plays a powerful role in the fact that many people are being systematically shut out of these opportunities. The environment was built by racists to promote and support the success of one ethnic group over another (take a look at an old picture of your own campus from, say, 1950….see any black folks in that picture?).

Even when racism leaves the hearts and minds of the individuals affiliated with that institution, their commitment to the standards created and embraced by the institution (developed on an undeniably racist foundation) allow racial inequality to fester and have an impact on the hiring and promotion processes of that university. Many of the power brokers at predominantly white universities were hired during a time when the “No negroes allowed” sign was in full view. They were mentored by individuals who obtained their powerful influence during periods of clear racial exclusion. Years later, young black scholars “play the game” like Parker Brothers, only to find themselves feeling like black defendants in the court of law, being criticized, scrutinized and “haterologized” by individuals who just don’t see the significance of any work they’ve done in the black community. When black scholars bring something different and powerful to the table, they are rejected. When they try to morph themselves into white men and bring the same weak junk to the table, most are rejected. Who you are is not good enough and most of us are not good enough at trying to be somebody else. In the end, your experience as a black faculty member is no different from that of a black boy in the public school system being told by his suburban teacher that he should be in special education, needs to take Ridlin and has a behavioral disorder. As a rapper might say, “Ain’t a damn thang changed.”

This leads to the another important question: “Who is deciding if an applicant is qualified?” If a group/committee created and sustained by a historically racist institution is making decisions on who is qualified and who is not, then their criteria for choosing those who are most qualified is again likely to support the advancement of one group over another. That’s like forcing Garth Brooks to perform in the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and then judging his talent based on the audience’s reaction. Even if the voting is fair, and the individuals want to be fair-minded, the reality is that the system is not fair at all and the outcomes are simply unreliable.

Now, the third standard excuse:

3) “We made offers to them, but they won’t take the job” – Easy racist tactic: offer the minority candidate an embarrassing lowball salary and then let them walk away. That’s what the Yankees did to Joe Torre- they made an offer, but the offer was so insulting that they knew he would not take it. That’s like urinating on your girlfriend’s $3 engagement ring and then saying “B*&^%, will you marry me?” What’s interesting is that when most major universities, who’ve sold the soul of their academic integrity to collegiate athletics, want a hot shot basketball coach, they pay as much as $4 million dollars per year to make it happen. In other words, they find a way to get what they want.

I once saw two pictures, side by side, in the law school of my alma mater. One was a picture of the faculty, the other a picture of the janitorial staff. The first picture was 100% white, the other 100% black. What is most telling about the picture is that scores of faculty walked past that picture every single day and never noticed anything wrong. Deep down, they thought this was the way things were supposed to be.

The source of this injustice is the same reason that many black scholars were once told by high school teachers that they were not qualified for college. It is the same reason that black men and women are dying in the prison systems. All the while, “geniuses” like George W. Bush are being funneled to the top of major corporations, Harvard Business School, Yale University and the White House. The same is true of academia, where individuals wear crowns composed of discriminatory entitlement and arrogantly sprinkle scorn on those of color who've been exposed to fundamentally and ridiculously flawed assessments. Not me homeboy, I'm not that brotha. Until I have senior faculty of color fairly evaluating my academic credentials, I have ruled any such assessment to be flawed and unreliable.

Racial inequality took 400 years to build, but for some reason, people are asinine enough to think it should take just 20 years to fix it. America has spent centuries constructing institutionalized racism, but no time deconstructing and rebuilding in a spirit of fairness. Even the most brilliant of us are duped into the same traps of racial bias, lame excuses, and efforts to invalidate the messenger that were used by racists 100 years ago. I fully expect that those most infected with the disease of racism will find some way to discredit what I am saying, to excuse the clear imbalance around them and to engage in some process of thought that inevitably concludes the inferiority of black scholars. What is most sad is that such behavior is quite predictable.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of “What if George Bush were a Black Man?” He is also the founder of For more information, please visit

Does Hillary Clinton Deserve the Democratic Nomination? No!


Blank statement: Hillary Clinton does not deserve the Democratic Nomination for president--in fact, based on what these primaries have revealed of her character, she doesn't even deserve her seat in the senate. While Hillary has long since switched to the Democrat Party, recent weeks have clearly demonstrated that her Republican inclination towards cutthroat politics, shallow character and deceit remains firmly in tact. Compelling evidence of that is the CBS News report indicating that Hillary said, both she and Senator John McCain offer the experience to respond to a crisis, while Barack Obama only offers rhetoric. Specifically, the report quoted her as saying, "He's [John McCain's] never been the president, but he will put forth his lifetime of experience. I will put forth my lifetime of experience. Senator Obama will put forth a speech he made in 2002." That is the most mean-spirited and irresponsible remark that one Democrat can make about another prior to a national election. With that statement she has essentially--no, in fact-- endorsed Republican, John McCain over Barack Obama if she fails to get the Democratic nomination.

That statement, along with her subsequent behavior clearly demonstrates that Hillary Clinton has embarked upon a scorched Earth campaign against both Barack Obama and the Democratic Party as a whole, and it is also now clear that her every move is designed to hold the very viability of the Democratic Party hostage against nominating anyone but herself.

Further evidence of that is in spite of her claim during the last debate that she is "so honored to be here with Senator Obama" and that she represents change, throughout the run up to the Texas/Ohio primaries she has engaged in the Karl Rovian politics of mudslinging ("to see what will stick"), the politics of fear, and an attempt to ridicule Senator Obama's strengths, even though she certainly realizes that if Obama is the nominee her attacks will make it more difficult for him to be elected in November. In fact, that is her plan--to sling so much mud on Obama that he won't be able to mount a viable campaign against the Republican nominee.

In my article, Will the Real Hillary Please Stand Up?, I pointed out that "Even Bill Clinton has acknowledged that if Hillary doesn't get a win in Texas, she won't get the presidential nomination. So in the next two weeks her character, and the kind of experience she brings to the table will be on display. If she's truly committed to change, and what's in the best interest of the United States, we'll see a lady engaged in a valiant, yet, clean fight for the nomination. But if the "experience" she so often speaks of is of the old-style, me-first, America-be-damned kind of politics of the past, we're going to see a lot of lying, desperate mudslinging, and win-at-any-cost kind of tactics."

I also pointed out in that same article that "Hillary is right in one respect, however--experience can be impressive, as we saw in the Texas debate--and she certainly has it. But Hillary has the wrong kind of experience--she's experienced in the old ways of voter manipulation. During the debate we saw a chameleon at work--first we saw the cordial Hillary, but she felt she needed to set herself apart; then she became presidential Hillary, but Obama easily matched her sober, no nonsense veneer; then she went into attack dog Hillary, only to quickly change tactics after being booed; towards the end, she finally settled on Saint Hillary, to confer love upon her opponent. It took her the entire debate, but being the "experienced" politician that she is, she finally stumbled on just the right tone of manipulation. I have a feeling we're going to see a lot more of that in the future, so I just wanted to give you a playbook so you can keep up with which Hillary is on display."

No, I'm not clairvoyant, it's just that Hillary is so self-serving that she's predictable. You see, Hillary is so far behind Obama in the number of delegates necessary to secure the nomination that she'd have to win all of the remaining primaries by over 20 points just to catch up. In short, she can no longer win the nomination--the only way she can get it is to steal it. Thus, she's calculated that the only way she can become the nominee is through hook, crook, and deceit. So she's calculated that she must threaten to destroy the Democratic Party's chances of winning the November election in order to secure her community property rights--the office of the presidency. That's right, she sees it as her entitlement.

So, even though all of the democratic candidates agreed beforehand not to campaign, or seat, the delegates in Florida and Michigan due to the states' violation of a prohibition against holding their primaries before February 5, now Hillary is demanding that the 366 delegates be seated, and with good reason. In spite of the fact that all of the democratic candidates, including Hillary, agreed that those delegates wouldn't be counted, when all of the other candidates took their names off the ballot, Hillary allow her name to remain on, and since she was the only Democratic name on the ballot, technically, she won the primary. Now that she's hopelessly behind Obama in delegates, she wants to change the rules of the game and count those delegates.

A fight over this issue would tear the Democratic Party apart and allow a republican victory in November. Hillary knows that, and she also knows that Obama is the people's choice for the Democratic nomination, but instead of taking the high road and simply bowing out gracefully, she's holding the Democratic Party hostage as she slings mud at Obama, so that later she can convince the superdelegates (the party bigwigs) that Obama is so muddied that he wouldn't be a viable candidate--never mind the fact she's the one who's throwing the mud.

So the real Hillary has finally stood up, and what do we find--vindictiveness, deceit, and self-service. Some would call that hardball politics. I call it a flaw in her character, that should preclude her from the Democratic nomination.

Eric L. Wattree