Thursday, November 25, 2010



A book review

In the face of overwhelming racially disparate statistics, the 1954 US Supreme Court reversed the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson decision in rendering Brown v. Board of Education. By concluding that "separate is inherently unequal," the high court legally erased hundreds of years of the time honored American tradition of segregation based on race. OR DID THEY?

In THE NEW JIM CROW: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander rips the blindfold from the face of Lady Justice and exposes her uneven scales negatively weighted against the lives, fortunes and futures of black Americans. Alexander provides stunning and disturbing examples of law enforcement run amok with the aid and comfort of all three branches of government, without regard to the "separate and unequal" rise in the prison population based primarily on the so-called WAR ON DRUGS.

Huge financial incentives have caused police departments to divert manpower and resources away from serious, violent crime toward arresting and incarcerating non-serious, non-violent drug users in predominately non-white neighborhoods. And the incentives don't stop there. The overall construction and privatization of prisons have been a constant money making venture even in today's poor economic times.

Ms. Alexander clearly articulates the total disenfranchisement of those labeled "felons" for minor drug possession, their isolation in predominately white, prison dependent communities, the trauma inflicted on their families, and the persistent doors slammed in their face upon returning to society - all while the drug use of their white counterparts is ignored or often charged as minor misdemeanors.

In reading THE NEW JIM CROW, it becomes painfully clear that a racial caste system has been allowed to proliferate, in the name of the law, as the US Supreme Court has virtually rubber stamped the infliction of racial biases by prosecutors. The high court has ruled that the overwhelming statistical evidence of arrests, felony prosecutions, unfavorable plea offers and incarcerations directed toward non-white suspects, as opposed to white lawbreakers of similar drug crimes, is not germain to the process and not a consideration upon appeal. Alexander describes those decisions as "absurd." I would characterize them as insane.

The so-called WAR ON DRUGS in America is not being waged by law enforcement as an altruistic endeavor to seriously rid our society or save it from the scourge of illegal drugs. Possessors of marijuana have received harsher prison sentences than murderers, rapists, and armed robbers. This war has been used to mitigate and marginalize the few decades of freedom and liberty that black people in America have fought and died for. And anyone who doubts this conclusion, or finds it absurd or insane, is invited to read THE NEW JIM CROW and make their case. Michelle Alexander has certainly made hers.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"ZERO"ing in on the MOSQUE

Exactly how close is too close? Dust and ash from the Sept. 11th destruction of the World Trade Center towers travelled well north of the target. Should the Islamic center on West Broadway, located just a few blocks north of the proposed Park Place center location, be forced to pack up and move - or is it far enough away?

The alleged thoughtful and considerate opponents of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque claim to recognize the rights of the buyer, seller and builder to construct the facility at the agreed upon site. That should be the end of it. But those highly vocal detractors have used excuses ranging from "provocative" to "insensitive" to voice their opposition to the building of the mosque at that location. However, to prevent Muslims from building this particular mosque by using excuses like insulting, insensitive and provocative is an insult in and of itself.

Major League Baseball, the National Football League and a plethora of high schools and colleges have team names and images of this country's indigenous natives that are so crass that it would cause the comically fictional Indians of F TROOP to start another Little Big Horn. Provocative and insensitive are terms rarely considered when we celebrate each Oct. 12th to commemorate Christopher Columbus who began the decimation of those natives from the time of his arrival in the New World up until the time that Americans were encouraged to "Go west, young man!" And at any given baseball time you might see the Atlanta Braves on national television with their fans collectively bellowing Hollywood's version of an Indian war-chant as a means of rallying their home team.

Provocative, insulting and insensitive are also hardly ever used to describe the states that continue to fly the Confederate flag. The proponents of the rebel flag insist that it is not a symbol of slavery but a show of pride in the southern way of life. Yet the confederacy fought the Civil War under that flag precisely to preserve the enslavement of dark-skinned peoples, the rape of those women, the sale of their own children, the lynching of black folks without trial, the all out assaults and burning of black enclaves, and the general denial of the most basic human rights. That was the southern way of life under the Confederate flag - proffered under the guise of Christianity.

Those of our rights that have not yet been usurped by fiat or force should be cherished and respected even when their exercise may cause us some emotional discomfort. This is America. It is not Eden or the wonderful Wizard's Land of Oz. At times we have all experienced, as well as rendered, insults and insensitivity. Just one of America's great debates is that the education and rearing of our children is not preparing them for the real world and how sorrow and disappointments are a part of life. And that one's ability to forge ahead despite the pitfalls of everyday life is a sign of strength and character, or lack thereof. Sadly, far too many of America's children are not getting the message. Sadder still, we cannot teach them what we have yet to learn.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Is there a whole lot of difference between Tim Donaghy's crime and the actions of the New York Knicks over the past two seasons? Having lost my love and enjoyment of the game of basketball over the years, these more recent unseemly events will make it almost impossible for the game to win me back. While the disgraced former referee, Donaghy, was being convicted of betting on and fixing NBA games, the Knickerbockers' management braintrust spent two years shuffling personnel in and out, with seemingly no regard for team cohesion or playoff aspirations, while clearing salary cap space for the 2010 free agent market.

As Commissioner David Stern denounced Mr. Donaghy and offered law enforcement the league's cooperation to uphold "the integrity of the game" he should have answered to Knick fans who purchased top dollar seats at Madison Square Garden, and the rival ticket buyers nationwide, why a premier market team repeatedly puts a non-contending product on the court and how that affects the integrity of the game. As the Knicks played musical chairs with their player personnel and salary cap, the fans were led to believe that the multitude of trades and maneuvers were a legitimate effort to improve the team. However, between the players acquired and the players sent packing, not to mention Mike D'Antoni's "doghouse" coaching style, the whole effort to improve the team is a difficult pill to swallow. Though only the principles are privy to the negotiations that went on, reports of the Knicks' big pitch to the premier free agent with the biblical sobriquet was the opportunity for the already rich Lebron James to become a New York billionaire if he signed to play at America's basketball mecca. And if this negotiation centered more on fame and fortune rather than playoffs and potential championships, then the machinations of the last two seasons look ever more suspicious.

As reprehensible and damaging as Mr. Donaghy's illegal actions were to the game of pro-basketball, most sports reporters, writers and announcers were decidedly unprofessional in their attacks on him when he gave up that infamous 2002 Game 6 of the Western Conference playoff final between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers as one where the fix was in. While attacking Donaghy as a criminal trying to save his own skin, not one of them bothered to ask why Donaghy chose that one playoff game from all the other games over the years. I defy any reasonable basketball fan, reporter, writer, or sports announcer to replay the 2nd half of that particular Game 6 and come to the conclusion that it was just a case of bad refereeing. Coincidentally, it was that game that sent my love and enjoyment of the game on a downward spiral.

Having to watch almost every player rotate the ball 180 degrees or more between each bounce, or a 'palm up' 270 degree rotation of the ball bounced from one hand to the other described as a crossover dribble - all without 'palming' or 'carrying' being called - is bad enough. But watching Shaquille O'Neal turn the 2nd half of that Game 6 into a rugby match was excrutiatingly painful. Shaq's "backing in" - an offensive foul that is seldom ever called - was sending Kings Center, Vlade Divac, airborne when it wasn't sending him to the floor looking as though he had been hit with a left hook. And when Chris Webber volunteered to guard O'Neal, upset at Divac's inability to stop the massive Laker center, Shaq sent Webber on a few flights of his own. Backing in, or "backing down" a defender that has established position has allowed brawn to replace skill and talent. Wilt Chamberlain had that turnaround fade-away jumper and Wes Unseld developed the quick release and beat his opponent down the floor because they could not use their bulk to just muscle defenders out of the way. Daryl Dawkins spent an inordinate amount of time on the bench because of that very same "offensive" move. If backing in were a legitimate offensive move, Chocolate Thunder would be in the Hall of Fame.

Pro-basketball has become a high priced game of streetball. My disappointment with it can be summarized by paraphrasing the late great John Wooden - they need to enforce the rules. And if that Kings/Lakers Game 6 was not fixed, then those referees should not even be allowed to officiate a pee-wee midnight basketball game.

A FOOTNOTE: As the date for Lebron James' free agency closed in, media entities were repeatedly cashing in. It was the lead story on almost every television and radio sports show as well as many news programs. His pending decision was the kind of non-stop sensation that sponsors love to invest in. When persons such as NBA Commissioner David Stern and ring-challenged "analyst" Charles Barkley disparage Lebron, it exposes a widespread ignorance.

A lot of money has changed hands exploiting Lebron James' talent, name and image surrounding his free agency. For James to take a modicum of control to have some of the vast amount of funds, circulating at his expense, benefit something he cares about was wise, generous and charitable. And the attacks on Lebron James' character and judgment regarding his appearance on ESPN to announce "THE DECISION" have been short-sighted and idiotic.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The recent Arizona law aimed at its burgeoning problems has reawakened the subdued din regarding the American debate over illegal immigration. And while both sides of the argument over that state's particular law are engaged in trash talking and finger pointing, both sides also agree that the federal government's failure to protect the borders was the catalyst behind Arizona's controversial legislation.

The shooting of an Arizona law enforcement officer, suspected by a drug dealing illegal immigrant, and a successful lawsuit against John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York are two of the more recent acts focusing on the issue.

The shooting speaks for itself. But the lawsuit against John Jay College appears to be a severe case of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. A school employee was terminated for failing to produce a green card after repeated requests to do so. The employee had been hired after producing a valid social security card and drivers license. As it turns out the school was in violation of the law by demanding to see the green card. And though federal law requires all non-citizens to carry proof that they are in the country legally, prospective employees are not required to produce more than a valid drivers license and social security card. However, federal law also increased fines against employers found to have hired illegal immigrants. So how does an employer navigate the absurdity of this "Don't ask, don't tell" immigration policy without being fined and without being sued?

The major controversy surrounding the new Arizona law revolves around the fearful possibility of discrimination by Arizona law enforcement. While the law specifically mandates "probable cause" before asking for the necessary documents, opponents of the new law feel that history justifies their lack of faith and trust in law enforcement's ability to be non-abusive toward non-whites. The talking head conservatives and their allied political punditry supporting the move by Arizona are oblivious to the fears of any penchant for discriminatory abuse because the word "discrimination" is not in their vocabulary unless it is preceded with the word "reverse."

When obvious injustices, based on race, are perpetrated against blacks by government and/or law enforcement, their input is to castigate the likes of Rev. Al Sharpton as a rabble-rouser and troublemaker for pointing it out. But they will scream long and loud about "reverse discrimination" when an injustice befalls a white male seemingly based on the color of his skin. Discrimination is not a suffix! While repeatedly using the term reverse discrimination as it concerns whites, their action is to kill the messenger when the discrimination occurs against non-whites. And it is this behavior wherein they are psychologically giving tacit approval to discrimination based on race - as long as it never happens to white folks.