Thursday, April 27, 2017

Commentary

Our economy is driven by three fundamental factors, the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. The word economics comes from two phrases, that in short, mean “the management or administration of household resources or things essential to daily life.” Where there’s a surplus, life is good. Where there’s a deficit, life can be tough.

On a secular level the economy is about things essential to survival. At the spiritual level the essential truth of Christian faith life is a belief and trust in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I call it “Resurrectionomics” because where there is a surplus of faith in the resurrection, life is full and wonderful. But where there’s a deficit, there’s a crisis of confidence in all things important to us.

The resurrection made right a relationship that went wrong at our own hands. Without that relationship, our faith economy falters. The collapse shows up in how we react to the actions of the powers that be.

These White House centered reality TV Show antics shake the nation’s confidence in itself and the stability of the world around us. The domino effect is undeniable. The dangerous banter between the United States and the world’s other Megalomaniac in North Korea are cause for real concern. The saber rattling threatens our world and personal stability. It heightens insecurities and gives us another reason to worry beyond trying to make it in the world. Now Americans most comfortable with being productive in life must think about the survival of the world as they know it.

Are we there because we don’t understand the power of the resurrection? Are we there because we’ve never considered how it is written into the DNA of nature, how it makes hope possible and overcoming inevitable.

Sometimes I wonder, have we forgotten that the Christ of the Resurrection has been making a habit of flipping trump cards throughout history? Maybe the time has come to see how he flips this one. After all slavery was flipped; Jim Crow was flipped; segregation was flipped; and those who opposed women’s rights have been flipped. It was all done in the construct of a Divine Economy. By sheer nature and power the resurrected one always turns the total of the sum of death and dying into the substance of eternal life.

When was the last time China had to say let cooler heads prevail; let’s not let things go too far. Isn’t it amazing where the resurrection spirit shows up?

Resurrectionomics even plays a roll in the political sphere. Those who lost in previous elections because they did not vote, voted in protest or unintentionally bought into the Russia’s manipulation scheme don’t have to accept a political death of sorts. Their coming back to life may already be in the works. It may have a scheduled day and time about a year from now. Who knows, maybe that Resurrection will take place on Election Day November 6, 2018. On that day 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 34 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs. 39 state and territorial governorships are contested. What a great getting up morning November 7 next year could become should a right thinking majority rise from the death of a political mistake to halt a deadly anti-democracy agenda.

Resurrectionomics is the personal production, distribution and consumption of a faith that applies the gift of salvation and the power of God to everything in our lives. It is the engine that drives our conviction that nothing can separate us from His love, neither life, nor death, nor kings or principalities, nor rulers of the darkness can prevent us from living life and life more abundantly. It’s all because of that third day morning, isn’t it?

Dennis Edwards is the Interim-Pastor of Richmond’s Historic 4th Baptist Church. He is an Emmy Award Winning Investigative Television Journalist, a graduate of Virginia Union University and its Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology.

I’ve been feeling “some type of way” lately. My guess is you may feel the same.

Some type of way about a President who seems to want to shoot first and think later. Whose selective righteous indignation was reportedly moved by pictures of a man who tragically lost his 2 baby girls in Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad’s nerve gas chemical weapons attack against his own innocent people.

But first I should probably explain what feeling “some kind of way” means. The phrase is neither new nor novel. You’ve heard it before, maybe even used it a time of two.

Rapper Richie Homie Quan made it famous in a cut about raw emotion, candor, clarity and attitude. Once we get beyond his language, Quan shows us a series of examples that define “some type of way” in the context of justifiable anger at the injustice of police shootings of Black men, the constant green-eyed irritation of those wrapped up in ever evolving neighborhood jealousy, as well as the nagging confusion that comes from needlessly intense personal relationships with the opposite sex.

Feeling “some type of way” is about all of that and more. It’s about intense emotion, disgust, depression, anger, fear, love and joy.

What makes me feel “some kind of way” about what the President has done and is doing has everything to do with what could be another layer of deception. Another possibly selfish attempt to manipulate a public that’s becoming increasingly suspicious of his tangled web of Russian connections.

Is it possible the attack on Assad could be the most sinister of all manipulations? Clearly the emotions of rage and anger are understandable at many levels, even laudable. But what could be considered a declaration of war, without consulting Congress or anybody else for that matter, has me feeling some kind of way about what’s really behind this volley of 59 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles and the pile of rubble that used to be a Syrian Air Field.

I’m not convinced this move is rage at all. I’m trying to figure out how there can be so much compassion for people President Donald Trump doesn’t apparently want to allow into this country. With the Trump Administration there appears to be a need to interpreting things in opposites, contradictions that always have his best interest at heart.

Right now his best interest may be in distancing himself from Russian President Vladimir Putin. There’s no better way to do that than to attack Putin’s ally and friend Assad, then demand Putin sever ties with him. He has to know that’s not gonna happen. Has to know he’s not in a reality TV show where drama is only an amplified reaction to a minor event. Or does he?

The world stage is not about drama. It’s about power and national interests. Leaders like Putin and Assad are not to be trifled with unless you’re ready to go to “the mattresses.” (War) Or, unless they are complicit.

It’s hard not to notice this air field is pretty remote, the comparative damage wasn’t really that severe nor was the loss of life. “Russian forces were notified before hand.” “U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian and Syrian personnel located at the airfield.”

What a neat, tidy yet deadly fire works display this turned out to be. Almost too tidy. Putin did what dictators do. He warned of reprisals and talked about damaged relationships. But exactly where does all of that take us? What does it tell us about the “Leader of the Free World” who makes this kind of move without a clear and identifiable strategy for dealing with Assad, his government or their civil war?

The United Nations doesn’t seem to quite know what to do with itself or how to respond.

I guess the world is feeling “some type of way” too.

Dennis Edwards is the Interim-Pastor of Richmond’s Historic 4th Baptist Church. He is an Emmy Award Winning Investigative Television Journalist, a graduate of Virginia Union University and its Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology.

(TriceEdneyWire.com)
If I had to speculate about a common thread that weaves its way through the lives of most of my friends and acquaintances, I’d have to say that filtering through the blizzard of information that inundates us daily is our greatest challenge. 

“Trump tweeted this …” or “Congress ignored that …” or “Korea launched that …” or “No agreement could be reached …” are among the many and varied refrains frequently heard from the media.  The truth is that when considering the daily deluge of information it’s difficult to prioritize or determine which issues are worthy of our attention and concern. So is life in the era of Trump.

I am, however, certain of two things: 1. There’re some issues far more important than Trump and the conduct of his minions; and, 2. There’s nothing more important than the care and nurturing of our children – our next generation.  In the midst of all the confusion surrounding Presidential conduct, Cabinet selections, Health Care and the myriad of events that cascade upon us, we must stop and ask ourselves an immediate question, “What is happening to our children and where have they gone?”

Far from being isolated to Washington DC, my current location, Black children and other children of color are going missing at a rate that can only be described as alarming.  Admittedly, from my perspective, to have any child missing is an alarming event, but the Metro DC area has been plagued with a surge of missing children in the past weeks and months.  This is unacceptable under any circumstance, but the lack of attention and coverage by the media makes this bad matter even worse.

The lack of media focus on matters critical to communities of color is hardly new.  I surmise that to be the reason I have not seen appropriate media attention, commensurate with my concern about African-American and Latina girls/young women, given their growing number of missing.

Of course, many will, and have already argued that many of those labeled as missing are merely runaways.  Most certainly, there is data that gives partial support to this reasoning, but we cannot ere with a false assurance that this explanation is supportive of the fact of a general trend.  Few overtly condone slavery of any kind, sex slavery specifically or human trafficking in any form, but by failing to acknowledge their possibility we do poor respective communities and any possible victims incalculable harm.

As long as we cannot overlook the rapid growth of a sex slavery/human trafficking industry in our nation, we cannot afford to deny the possibility that any of our missing children have fallen victim to this burgeoning criminal enterprise.  What we do know is:

• The U.S. State Department estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year.
• Of the estimated $150 Billion world-wide income from human trafficking, an estimated $99 B is attributable world-wide to sex trafficking and, arguably, $9.5 B are earned in the US annually.
• 80 percent of human trafficking involves sexual exploitation; 19 percent involves forced labor.
• 80 percent of those trafficked are female and half are children.
• Trafficking is characterized by exploitation that includes forced prostitution, involuntary servitude and the creation of pornography or commercial sexual exploitation.
• The US Department of Health & Human Services estimates that between 240,000 and 325,000 American children and youth are at risk for sex trafficking each year.
• The average age of teens entering the US sex trade is 12 – 14.

The facts related to sex slavery and human trafficking are far too wide-ranging to discuss in a brief column, but the mere chance that any of our children could be trapped in that cycle of despair requires our thorough investigation of the circumstances of those who go missing.

Dr. E. Faye Williams is National President of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc.  202/678-6788.  www.nationalcongressbw.org

(TriceEdneyWire.com)
“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
– Mahatma Ghandi

Some people look at a budget proposal and see numbers.  At the National Urban League, we look at a budget proposal and see people.

The Trump Administration’s preliminary federal budget proposal – the so-called “skinny budget” –  is a massive transfer of resources from vital services and fundamental social protections into unrequested and unnecessary military spending.  It represents a conscious decision to abandon children and other vulnerable Americans to sickness, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance and unemployment, while fattening the coffers of defense contractors.

The Americans who will be abandoned are not simply numbers on a ledger. They are the thousands of Americans aged 55 and older who have found stable, sustaining jobs through the National Urban League’s Urban Seniors Jobs Program.  They are the college-age youths, at risk or entangled in the judicial system, whose lives have been transformed by the education, mentoring, counseling and job training they found in the National Urban League’s Urban Youth Empowerment Program.

They are the tens of thousands of families who have realized the American Dream of homeownership via the National Urban League’s housing counseling and foreclosure prevention programs.
They are the middle school and high school students getting a new glimpse of their own educational and professional potential from the role models in National Urban League’s Project Ready Mentor program.

The budget proposal doesn’t cut dollars. It cuts jobs. It cuts educations. It cuts homeownership. It cuts the only hope of a better life for many young people and families.

We have called the “skinny budget” a jobs killer and a dreams killer, but it also would be a literal killer. Without the vital assistance of the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, people will surely die in the winter cold. Those who can’t afford to pay their heating bills resort to unsafe methods like a kitchen stove or a kerosene heater, leaving them vulnerable to death by toxic fumes or house fires.

Abandoning biomedical research means more Americans will die of otherwise curable diseases. Gutting the Environmental Protection Agency means smog, ozone, and mercury will trigger worsening asthma attacks, especially in young children, along with heart and lung ailments, and lead to premature death. Abandoning Violence Against Women programs mean more women will be stalked, harassed, battered and, yes, killed.

The “skinny budget” is an act of crippling cruelty, a short-sighted plunder of resources to benefit the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Stopping this disaster is a matter of national urgency, one to which the National Urban League and the Urban League Movement is wholeheartedly committed. We urge all Americans to let their Congressional representatives know  we won’t stand by while American ideals are abandoned.

By Marc H. Morial

The first time I heard the phrase was in grade school. It’s one of those statements in and out of time. A kind of spiritual truth with eternal implications. “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” It’s actually a quote from a play called “Marmion” by Sir Walter Scott. The words are spoken by a character reflecting on a love triangle and how complicated life gets when folks resort to lying.

Like an echo from a distant past the thought dances in my mind whenever I see or hear good journalism about investigations into President Trump’s real or perceived Russian connection.
The question is and will always be what did Candidate and now President Trump know and when.

Evidence is building with the Washington Post’s reporting of a secret meeting arranged by the Arab Emirates in January between Blackwater Founder Erik Prince, a $250,000 contributor to Trump’s Presidential Campaign, “and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin.” The meeting was apparently “part of an effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Trump” The information reportedly comes from unnamed U. S. European and Arab officials.

The meeting appears to have taken place 9 days before Trump’s inauguration somewhere “in the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. Apparently the purpose was to get Russia to “curtail its relationship with Iran.” In return the report indicates possible concessions of U.S. Sanctions.

Connecting these dots has led to the FBI “scrutinizing the Seychelles meeting as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s Presidential election” as well as ties between Trump and close associates of Putin. The President’s spokesperson Sean Spicer says the administration isn’t aware of the 2 day meeting. His continuing attempts to call this “fake news” ring more hollow every day.

The secrecy behind such meetings and the fact the Obama Administration was not notified adds to a deceptive tone surrounding so many alleged connections. Adding this behavior to a growing list of contacts between close associates of both leaders raises a “preponderance” of circumstantial evidence that’s tangling the Trump administration deeper in a web of suspicion as each day passes.

The administration’s defensive reaction to legitimate questions places the President’s credibility further under a thickening cloud of suspicion. Reportedly, the meetings were dropped, abandoned leaving more questions than answers. Questions like: Why would a U.S. Presidential Administration go to such back channel lengths to foster a relationship with a historic Communist adversary?

The absence of common sense is startling. The sloppy efforts at making contact leaves the impression they either didn’t care about Intelligence surveillance or didn’t know it was taking place. Either way the country has good reason to question the common sense and judgement of anybody involved.
This thought is mind boggling. There’s no way the Former National Security Advisor to the President should not know his conversations with high ranking Russian Diplomats were being recorded.

The only thing to conclude from this kind of tangled web of insanity is that Trump never really expected to win. Could it be, because of that erroneous conclusion, the Trump campaign decided to try and make money by strengthening ties with the Putin Government? The inconvenience may be that he won. Could it be that detail has brought to light all kinds of connections that were never supposed to see the light of day?

This tangled web Trump has gotten himself caught in is purely self imposed. Had he not “first practiced to deceive” the public, intelligence agencies, congress and everybody else he might get the benefit of the doubt.

But growing suspicion and doubt is about all that’s left for a President whose deceptive self promotion continues to tangle him in the worst growing web of controversy since Watergate.

Dennis Edwards is the Interim-Pastor of Richmond’s Historic 4th Baptist Church. He is an Emmy Award Winning Investigative Television Journalist, a graduate of Virginia Union University and its Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology.

(TriceEdneyWire.com) 

There are few surprises in Washington, DC politics.  We’ve been reduced to exhausting ourselves determining when this Administration is being hyperbolic, using “alternative facts” or attempting to use “facts” – without adding “alternative” to their assertions.

Has any other president been so disrespectful to his (co-equal) Judiciary when he doesn’t like its decisions?  Has there ever been a President, like Trump, with animus toward his predecessor that inspires his manufacture of lies that smear the man and the office, and, in the process, diminish his own credibility?

Despite inheriting the best government in 17 years, Trump continues his reckless and undignified behaviors that are beneath those of Presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush and, of course, President Obama.  Whether or not those Presidents liked each other, they had/have enough class to respect their predecessors and successors.  What can be done with a president who, in less than 60 days, has brought so much shame to the office, our nation, and likely, many who voted for him?

Should we have concerns about the proposed Trump budget recently submitted to Congress?  Contrasted against a 14% reduction for the State Department, does his $54 Billion increase in our defense budget indicate a predilection for war?

His new (disproportionate) budget for increased defense spending and homeland security suggests his preference for war over world stability through efforts for negotiated peace and justice.  The slashing of State Department funds prevents seasoned diplomats from performing their international mission of winning friends or influencing adversaries instead of resorting to war.  His budget appears to spring from the paranoid pages of Steve Bannon’s ultra-nationalistic playbook.

How must we respond to a demagogue who would convince us that free and independent news sources are a threat?  How do we react to Trump’s insistence that any news opposing his worldview is invalid?  Why should we accept his Orwellian model of democracy?  I assume that he fears our being informed about the waste of time and money building his fence.  In his ravings about the threat from our neighbors, he makes no mention of home-grown terrorists who attack us with little restriction.

As we creep incrementally toward control by “Big Brother,” Trump’s budget proposes to cut federal funding for public broadcasting, the arts and sciences.  His budget slashes funds from the Environmental Protection Agency where all staff work hard to cleanse our environment pollution incidental to our techno-industrial lifestyle.  Since one of the Administration’s first acts was lifting restrictions against dumping mining waste in America’s waters, under Trump’s EPA, our will to fix Flint’s (MI) drinking water and other pollution hotspots is questioned.

Without regard for the sick and/or elderly who are dependent upon it for survival, this budget eliminates the “Meals on Wheels” program.  Mr. Trump’s placement of millionaire and billionaire cronies in control of agencies vital to our well-being requires us to do more with fewer dollars – while they ravage programs that have protected the least of God’s children.  Without compassion, they propose to implement tax-relief for the millionaire/billionaire class on the backs of the indigent.

This budget makes severe cuts to the arts, the sciences and programs for the poor who are already struggling for survival.  It plays havoc with programs and community assistance that have decreased hunger, health challenges, unemployment, and the violence incidental to poverty.  I predict this budget is a preview to future, more drastic cuts.  So, WHAT SHALL WE DO?

WAITING IS NOT THE ANSWER!  Call leaders at every level to stop the Trump agenda.  Get on picket lines.  Write letters to editors.  Work with like-minded groups.  Pray. The Bible tells us, “Ask and it shall be given. Seek and you will find.  Knock and doors shall be open to you.”

DOING NOTHING IS NOT THE ANSWER!!!

Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq. is National President of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc.  (202) 678-6788.  www.nationalcongressbw.org 

(TriceEdneyWire.com)
“All the progress that we’ve made in controlling costs and improving how health care is delivered, progress that’s helped hold growth in the price of health care to the slowest rate in 50 years – all that goes away.  That’s what repeal means.  It would be bad for everybody.  And the majority of Americans, even if they don’t know that they’re benefitting from Obamacare, don’t want to see these benefits and protections taken away from their families now that they have them.”
– President Barack Obama

It’s no exaggeration to say the Affordable Care Act of 2010 was one of the most significant pieces of legislation in modern American history, particularly in regard to its impact on communities of color.

Before the ACA, nearly a quarter of African-Americans were uninsured. That rate has been slashed in half. Nearly 8 million now have access to no-deductible preventative care. The ACA’s expansion of Medicaid was critical for African-Americans, who make up nearly one-in-five enrollees. And the investment of billions of dollars in community health centers, which disproportionately serve Black neighborhoods, has helped to narrow health disparities.

Dismantling the ACA, as Congress and the President seek to do with the introduction of the American Health Care Act, would be nothing short of a disaster for communities of color and Americans over 50.  It’s a windfall for the wealthiest Americans, wrenched from the poor, the sick and the struggling. In short, it’s un-American.

More than 24 million Americans could be uninsured by 2026, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The White House’s own internal estimate places that number even higher, at 26 million.

The ACA is not perfect, but the American Health Care Act does not seek to address its imperfections. Its primary feature is a massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. Premiums for older customers will skyrocket to unaffordable levels, forcing many of them to forego insurance. It further removes the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to purchase insurance, and the employer mandate requiring large employers to provide insurance to employees.

Weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions would hit communities of color particularly hard, because African-Americans have disproportionately higher rates of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes and face higher rates of HIV and cancer.

Particularly devastating to America’s most vulnerable citizens would be the gutting of Medicaid.  CBO estimates 14 million fewer people would be enrolled in Medicaid compared to current law. Cutting and capping funding to the states will lead many of the 31 that adopted the Medicaid expansion to drop it, leaving millions uninsured, and to restrict coverage for those who do remain enrolled. Uncoupling funding for Medicaid from its actual cost will lead to a downward spiral that leaves low-income Americans even more vulnerable.

Nearly every feature of the AHCA benefits the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Because its Universal Health Care Tax is based on age, instead of income, it redistributes subsidies  from the poor and middle-class Americans to the wealthy. Low-income workers who can’t afford the maximum contribution to Health Savings Accounts, designed to cover high deductibles receive fewer benefits and likely won’t be able to save enough to cover their costs. The proposal also includes a tax cut for insurance company executives making over $500,000.

The architects of this un-American proposal have demonstrated breathtaking callousness in response to criticism. Suggesting people choose between a smartphone and healthcare is not merely absurd but ignores the reality of the working poor. Even under the ACA, annual premiums are easily 10 times the cost of a phone.  Most working poor rely exclusively on their phones not only for communication but for crucial access to the internet.

If you’re sick, you can be forced into a more expensive, less-secure plan. If you’re poor, you may lose coverage entirely. If you’re a senior citizen, you could be paying thousands more for medication.

The American Health Care Plan is un-American, un-Healthy, and un-Caring. Let’s abandon this travesty and work on improving the Affordable Care Act.

By Marc H. Morial

I wonder as I wander as each day goes by! What does it take for Americans to see we’re being manipulated into distrusting the most credible sources of news and information in modern history?

These are not heady days. This covert attempt at trying to convince a frightened nation it can’t trust the world’s best news organization’s reporting on the actions of the most sophisticated intelligence agencies in the world bottoms out so far beneath reason you can’t help but laugh at it’s “Keystone Cop” persona. The President’s propensity to label things “fake news” ought to be an insult to the intellect of the American public. This thing has gotten so intense even the most skeptical conservative soul has to say “what the ..”

In previous columns we’ve talked about the historically deceptive origins of the Republican Party’s assault on media credibility going back to the Civil Rights Movement and Watergate. Now comes President Donald Trump with Media Bashing 2.0 (The Rise of Insanity).

My latest last straw is the alleged leaking of Trump’s 2005 Tax Returns. What a pathetic attempt at trying to divert attention away from his failing effort to call Obama Care a disaster. Congress isn’t helping with its feeble attempt at rushing through replacement legislation that does so much more harm than good. There are those who rightly question whether Trump leaked the tax returns himself.

Yet if this is Trump’s way to change the subject he’s woefully misjudged the moment and its effect. I’ve a sense his attempt is actually having a boomerang impact. It’s causing every legitimate news organization to closely consider his income in light of any possible Russian connection.

Broadcast and Print Journalists are pointing out how questions about Trump’s tax returns have only grown more fascinating as more serious inquires surface about his campaign and business ties to Russia. F.B.I. Director, James B. Comey publicly confirms an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and whether associates of the president were in contact with Moscow.

Add to that official collective, bi-partisan and institutional denial of his baseless claim against Former President Barack Obama. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee he has “no information” to support President Trump’s allegation that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower phones.

Still Trump’s White House doubles down on a bold-faced lie that, more than anything else, utterly destroys any credibility he might possess. The attack on President Obama may be the one mistake that ripples through and shakes loose the moors of Trump’s Presidency.

Consider the mechanics of a twisted mindset. The President ignores all the facts disproving his claim, lays his special brand of insanity at the feet of the British Prime Minister, while accusing her country’s Intelligence agency of participating in the alleged phone tap and then has the nerve to tell her we have something in common because they did the same thing to you.

The tragedy in all of this is Trump has no idea how un-presidential he looks. He has no clue how much his credibility is diminished every time he speaks. Were he not the leader of the free world no rational person would take him seriously.

But I wonder as I wander, what will it take for us to realize we have to take him seriously? That he plans to do everything he says. We only fool ourselves when we think he won’t.

I’ve always believed that Satan won his greatest battle over humanity when he convinced mankind that he doesn’t exist. Trump has done something similar. He’s convinced many of us he’s just doing his own version of a “Presidential Reality TV” show. But the truth is he is everything and all he appears to be.

So I wonder in my wandering, What will it take for our nation to accept, to really understand, the threat to Democracy his brand of thinking represents?

Dennis Edwards is the Interim-Pastor of Richmond’s Historic 4th Baptist Church. He is an Emmy Award Winning Investigative Television Journalist, a graduate of Virginia Union University and its Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology.

At a time when common sense is all but common, the U.S. Supreme Court is demonstrating its highest use by effectively breaking up the ultimate back room injustice. In a 5 to 3 decision the majority ruled verdicts can be thrown out when evidence emerges that jury discussions were marred by racial or ethnic bias.

This decision effectively redefines a rule that jury deliberations are to be secret at all costs. It’s a kind of judicial take on the old slogan “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Well, that statement has never been true and what jurors say and do while deciding a verdict shouldn’t stay there either.

This decision is startlingly unique. For the first time, the nation’s highest court is specifically targeting racial and ethnic bias in jury deliberations. By so doing, it leaves intact other jury privacy protections.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy defines the ruling’s perimeters, “not every offhand comment indicating racial bias or hostility will justify” an investigation into jurors’ deliberations. For the inquiry to proceed, there must be a showing that one or more jurors made statements exhibiting overt racial bias that cast serious doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the jury’s deliberations and resulting verdict.”

This landmark decision comes out of “Pena Rodriguez vs Colorado (15-606). It’s about deliberations in his 2010 sexual assault trial. According to sworn statements from other jurors, a former law enforcement officer identified only as H.C. said, “I think he did it because he’s Mexican, and Mexican men take whatever they want.”

When the trial ended two other jurors submitted corroborating sworn statements. One recalled, “He said that where he used to patrol, nine times out of 10 Mexican men were guilty of being aggressive toward women and young girls,.”

Justice Kennedy argued statements like that “warranted an investigation by the trial judge into deliberations that are ordinarily secret.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan agreed.

Justice Samuel Alito Jr. was joined in dissent by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Clarence Thomas. Alito argued “the majority opinion was a well intentioned but ill-considered intrusion into jurors’ privacy.”

Privacy at what cost? Certainly we don’t want jurors to face reprisals or to be punished for their decisions. But we also don’t need them using the jury system to advance any personal agendas or to join the fight to “take back America.”

Disciples of these Trump Era mantras are growing more and more aggressive in their tactics. There are people out there who actually believe they have the right to take their country back by eliminating, taking out or putting away as many minorities and immigrants as possible, “by any means necessary.”

What I admire about the ruling is its undeniable clarity. Justice Kennedy leaves no doubt the justice system needs to root out racial bias. He writes “the progress that has already been made underlies the court’s insistence that blatant racial prejudice is antithetical to the functioning of the jury system and must be confronted in egregious cases.”
Unfortunately, Justice Alito writes off the majority opinion as “admirable but misguided.” Then goes on to explain “it seeks to remedy a flaw in the jury system, but as this court said some years ago, it is questionable whether our system of trial by jury can endure this attempt to perfect it.”

What a fascinating contradiction in thought. Alito actually agrees with the majority while opposing it only to infer the jury system should somehow be excused because it can’t handle a mandate to end racial bias.

What an artful demonstration of judicial gobbledygook, of the absence of common sense at the highest judicial level. I don’t know about you. But I can’t tell you how happy I am the majority (in this case) still maintains “it’s good sense and sound judgement in practical matters.”

Dennis Edwards is the Interim-Pastor of Richmond’s Historic 4th Baptist Church. He is an Emmy Award Winning Investigative Television Journalist, a graduate of Virginia Union University and its Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology.

(TriceEdneyWire.com)
When future generations read the history of the nation’s first Black President, I believe there will be greater acknowledgement of his administration’s significant accomplishments. For now, however, an undeniable strategic war is underway to dismantle the very progress President Obama achieved.

General market media have extensively reported on reforms or repeals of the Affordable Care Act, Wall Street reform and the future of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
It is equally important to share that a key Obama regulation that spoke to the future of fair housing is again under assault on Capitol Hill.

A 2015 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule finally delivered on the promises first made with the 1968 enactment of the Fair Housing Act. While the Act outlawed housing discrimination, it also included another important legal requirement. To advance the purposes of the Act, federal agencies and federal grantees were also to forge inclusive and diverse communities as a means to reverse America’s housing history of segregation and Jim Crow.

Known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), the HUD rule requires that cities, counties and states receiving funds for housing and community development engage in a planning process to help them take meaningful and deliberate actions to overcome historic segregation patterns, promote fair housing choice and create inclusive communities free from discrimination. Two HUD tools were shared to assist communities in the planning process, Data and Mapping and an Assessment of Fair Housing.

AFFH affects all public housing authorities and three other popular HUD programs: Community Development Block Grants CDBG), Emergency Solution Grants (ESG), and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA).

From its beginning, HUD’s AFFH rule was met with attack and multiple legislative attempts to repeal it. The latest attempt is The Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017. If enacted, it would nullify the HUD rule. The bill would also ban federal funds from being used for any federal database that contains geospatial information on community racial disparities and disparities in access to affordable housing.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill has already attracted 24 co-sponsors from 14 states. Half of the lawmakers’ support for the repeal comes from only four states: California, Florida, Tennessee and Texas. A companion bill was also introduced in the Senate with one co-sponsor.

Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, the bill lead sponsor in the lower chamber, shared in a prepared statement why he feels so strongly about appealing the rule.

“The AFFH rule marks President Obama’s most aggressive attempt yet to force his utopian ideology on American communities disguised under the banner of ‘fairness’. This overreaching mandate is an attempt to extort communities into giving up local zoning decisions and reengineer the makeup of our neighborhoods.”

For civil rights, housing and consumer advocates, the unique Black American experience was deliberately engineered – but from a different perspective: to deny housing opportunity, voting rights, economic mobility and even quality employment or education.

“AFFH is central to fulfilling the purposes of the Fair Housing Act,” said Wade Henderson, President and CEO on the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “It’s based on a simple and perfectly fair premise: if a city or locality seeks taxpayer funding for HUD projects, they should actively work to ensure that all taxpayers can enjoy the benefits without the prospect of unlawful discrimination. Indeed, the rule provides local jurisdictions with broad discretion to decide which issues to prioritize and address.”

“By attacking the AFFH rule, Rep. Gosar and other bill sponsors are seeking to re-codify housing discrimination into U.S. law,” noted Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, a social change strategy firm. “By disallowing the collection of federal data by place, race and other key demographics, the bill’s sponsors seek to prevent local governments from making their communities the best places to live by limiting their ability to use critical data and information to inform their community planning decisions.”

Until the 1968 Fair Housing Act, local zoning laws across the country supported segregation along with redlining Black communities to exclude borrowers from mortgage and home improvement loans along with a litany of bad real estate practices that denied opportunities to build family wealth. Omitting Black neighborhoods from multiple listing services, door-to-door block-busting that attempted to create a sense of fear from lost property values due to integration, and restricted covenants that explicitly excluded many minorities from ever buying property in designated areas — were all the kinds of tactics used to preserve segregated housing before the Fair Housing Act.

Fortunately, a growing coalition of progressive interests is conveying to Congress their firm intent to preserve HUD’s rule. Led by the National Fair Housing Alliance, to date more than 950 academicians, individuals and advocacy organizations spanning national, state, and local levels in civil rights, fair housing, affordable housing have joined the battle to preserve an essential component of the Fair Housing Act.

Speaking for the coalition working to preserve the AFFH rule Shanna L. Smith, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance said, “It reflects the strongly held American value that everyone deserves access to the opportunities they need to flourish, regardless of the color of their skin or the zip code in which they grow up.”

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

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