by Jenée Desmond-Harris, The Root
(The Root) — When we spoke to Tavis Smiley back in September, right in the midst of widespread hand-wringing about his and Cornel West’s election-season criticism of President Obama’s treatment of the issue of poverty, he made a promise: Regardless of which candidate won the election, Smiley said, he’d challenge the nation’s new leader to make a White House Conference on the Eradication of Poverty in America not just on high on his second-term agenda, but the very first item on his January, 21, 2013 agenda.
Four months later, Smiley is doing just that. He’s planning Washington, D.C. event designed to encouraging the president to give a major policy address on poverty, and then to hold the long-awaited conference on the issue, bringing together conservative and liberal experts to create a national plan to cut poverty in half in ten years and eradicate it in 25.
“During the campaign, poverty was written about everywhere but the candidates gave lip service to it at best,” Smiley told The Root. “So here we are, just days before inauguration, rising the issue again.”
He’s asked the members of the public to sign a letter pushing the issue, which he says couldn’t be more timely (“What kind of economic policy do you really have when you’re teetering on cliffs and bumping up against ceilings?” Smiley asks). Plus, in his view, with inauguration falling on late civil rights leader and anti-poverty activist Martin Luther King’s birthday, to ignore the issue would be an abomination.
Smiley’s “Vision for a New America: A Future Without Poverty” nationally televised symposium will take place at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium on January 17, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.
Allen West: The Tea Party congressman didn’t just wear out his welcome with us, he also alienated voters in his own district despite spending $18 million on his re-election campaign. Apparently hurling insults at your fellow lawmakers and the president of the United States doesn’t pay off.
by Joy-Ann Reid, theGrio
The House of Representatives cast its votes for speaker on Thursday, and while John Boehner won his gavel back (barely — Boehner needed at least 218 votes to be returned to the speakership, and got 220), he wasn’t the only candidate to get votes. Before the final vote was gaveled in, the Ohio congressman had to face an embarrassing opening flurry of Republican votes for someone else.
So who else got votes on the House floor?
– Allen West got two votes for speaker: He may have been defeated after jumping House districts and finding that not even a more Republican district was interested in two more years of West’s Tea Party antics, including red-baiting in the U.S. House of Representatives; but the former Army lieutenant colonel still has fans. In fact, in the House, he has two big ones in the GOP: Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia. Both put the ex-congressman’s name into nomination.
– Rep. John Lewis got one, too: Georgia Congressman John Barrow, who serves that state’s 12th congressional district, placed the civil rights legend’s name into nomination for speaker instead of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The four-term congressman is a member of the dwindling House “Blue Dog” moderate caucus.
– And Colin Powell got a vote for himself: Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper, a Democrat, voted for Gen. Powell, who served as George Bush’s secretary of state after being national security adviser and before that, Bill Clinton’s Joint Chiefs of Staff chair. The vote came after both Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Rep. Mike McIntrye (D-NC) voted for Congressman Cooper.
Turns out you don’t have to actually be in Congress to be speaker. It’s one of the many quirks of the U.S. Constitution. You don’t actually have to be a current member of the House (see Allen West) or even a former congressman at all (a la Collin Powell). Who knew?
Boehner’s deputy, Rep. Eric Cantor, got three votes (and no, he didn’t cast one for himself). Those were cast by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM), and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL).
So in the end, it was Boehner, 220, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, 192, Cantor, 3 and West, 3.
And the 113th Congress? Off to an… interesting start.
Damon Young lists the aggravating online behaviors and trends that should have been left back in 2012
2013 marks the 15th full year that I’ve been “aware of” and engaged with the internet. In that time, I’ve detected many different types of consistent internet behavior, and I’m old enough to be annoyed by more than a few of them. As we enter the new year, here are 10 uber-annoying online habits, behaviors that I hope we can leave behind in 2013.
1. Leaving Comments to Say You Don’t Care About an Article: To the geniuses who feel that the best way to prove they don’t care about a subject is to click on an article about it, read the article, log in to leave a comment, and write, edit, and rewrite a 100 word long paragraph explaining exactly why they don’t care about the subject…we know you care.
2. Asking Social Media Instead of Asking Google: The folks who ask social media questions that could be answered by Google are the baby birds of the internet. It’s not enough to find food for them. They expect you to break it down, chew it, and spit it into their mouths.
3. Outrage Trolling: I’d believe you were really that “outraged” about that song that rapper made about light-skinned Black women if you weren’t just as “angry” yesterday about that article about hair you read on that blog yesterday or if you weren’t just as “furious” the day before that about that statement some politician made about grapefruit. And, I’d still be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt if this “anger” about subjects you really don’t give a damn about didn’t seem to provide you with so much joy.
4. Announcing that you’re “leaving” Facebook or Twitter or Linkedin or Tumblr or the Dungeons and Dragons Cheat Code Message Board or…:We get it: just leaving without an announcement won’t provide you the real reason for said announcement: to give yourself an opportunity to explain why you’re leaving when people inevitability ask you why you’re leaving. However, we don’t care. Goodbye!
5. Amateur “Twerk” Videos : Admittedly, these videos of very acrobatic young women with legions of time on their hands dancing in their kitchens were very, um, cool to look at when I was younger, but watching them now does nothing but prompt questions such as “Why does it look like you haven’t washed a dish since 2003?” and “Why is the cat sleeping on the bread?”
6. Internet Threats Spawned by Internet Beef: You’re sitting in a cubicle farm in an office building in Albany, New York. He’s in a moldy basement apartment located under a Starbucks in Austin, Texas. Why are you two threatening to smack each other the next time you see each other on the streets?
7. Hipsters Performing Genre-Switching Remakes of Hip-Hop Songs: It was kind of cute and cool the first time I saw those three White chicks sing an acoustic version of “Gin and Juice.” It was even still cute and cool the 21st time I saw something like that. But, after the 121st time, I think it’s safe to say that the thrill is gone. Irony schmirony. Get your LOLz elsewhere.
8. The Willie Lynch Letter: Stop quoting it every time a new reality show is debuted on Vh1 and repeat after me: The Willie Lynch letter is a hoax. The Willie Lynch letter is a hoax. The Willie Lynch letter is a hoax. The Willie Lynch letter is a hoax. The Willie Lynch letter is a hoax.
9. Referring to Yourself as “the Black ***fill in the blank***”: The most annoying part of this habit is that it always seems to be the same five or six White people whose names are dropped (ie: the Black Carrie Bradshaw, the Black Charlie Sheen, the Black Bill Gates, etc). I wouldn’t mind it as much if there were some Black Bea Arthurs, Black Bruce Springsteens or Black King Henry VIIIs thrown around as well. If you’re not gonna be creative, at least be creative.
10. Commenting on Articles You Haven’t Read: The granddaddy of them all, people crafting opinions and leaving passionate comments on articles after only skimming the title is perhaps the most annoying internet behavior of all. Nevermind the fact that the article may actually contain a compelling argument that could make you reconsider your opinion, the title said something you disagree (or agree) with, and you use this as an opportunity to remind everyone you skipped reading comprehension in high school. When writers and publications share stories via social media, they aren’t inviting you to a hearty discussion about what you ASSume the article is about…they want you to read it and then leave a comment. In that order, always and forever, amen.
Business leader says Fiscal Cliff Still Exists for Blacks
by Barry Cooper, The NorthStar News & Analysis
Last-minute legislation by Congress at year’s end helped the United States avoid a so-called “fiscal cliff,” but African-Americans remain in financial peril, according to Robert L. Johnson, chairman of The RLJ Companies and founder of Black Entertainment Television. Johnson, in a news release intended to put pressure on President Barack Obama, cited a Dec. 14, 2012, article in the Washington Post that noted that the black unemployment rate is twice the rate of whites.
Johnson wants Obama to pass what Johnson calls “The RLJ Rule” to accelerate the hiring of African-Americans. In his press release, Johnson wrote:
“The RLJ Rule (1) encourages companies to voluntarily implement a plan to interview a minimum of two qualified minority candidates for every job opening at the vice president level and above; and, (2) companies would interview at least two qualified minority-owned firms for vendor supplier/services contracts before awarding a new company contract to a vendor. The RLJ Rule is an adaptation of the National Football League’s (NFL) Rooney Rule , which afforded minority candidates seeking head-coaching or general manager positions within the League to be considered before a final hiring decision.”
Johnson said he met with President Obama a year ago to discuss his concerns about black unemployment. The meeting took place at the White House, Johnson said, and was attended by a number of black business owners and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. It was part of an effort to encourage Obama, as the nation’s first African-American president, to create a program that would appeal directly to black men and women.
“We as Black Americans are facing a fiscal cliff of our own in the disparity of unemployment,” Johnson said. “In my lifetime, Black unemployment has always been twice that of White Americans. This is an unjustified disparity that must not be allowed to continue unless we are willing to accept once again a nation that is economically separate and unequal.”
In his press release, Johnson cited several passages from the Washington Post story:
• The African American jobless rate is about twice that of whites, a disparity that has barely budged since the government began tracking the data in 1972. In last week’s jobs report, the black unemployment rate was 13.2 percent, while the white rate stood at 6.8 percent.
• Discrimination has long been seen as the primary reason for this disparity, which is evident among workers from engineers to laborers. But fresh research has led scholars to conclude that African Americans also suffer in the labor market because they have weaker social networks than other groups.
• The racial gap in the unemployment rate defies educational attainment and occupational endeavor. African Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree had a 7.1 percent jobless rate in 2011, while the white rate was 3.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
• Similarly, black workers with only a high school education had a jobless rate of 15.5 percent, while similarly educated white workers had an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent.
• Black workers in computer and mathematical occupations — which job-training officials say are hard to fill — had an 8.1 percent jobless rate last year, while for whites the rate was 4.1 percent.
• Among construction workers, who were hard hit by the recession, the black jobless rate was 30.4 percent, compared with 15.3 percent for whites.
Johnson’s push for an RLJ rule has been endorsed, Johnson says, by the Congressional Black Caucus; the National Urban League led by Marc Morial, and the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc. led by Ron Busby. Whether President Obama will act on the suggestion or support similar legislation is debatable. Since taking office, the president has adopted a “rising tide lifts all boats” approach, meaning he feels that as the country improves overall, then so will the lives of African-Americans. But Johnson and others say they will continue to press Obama to address the needs of African-Americans directly, especially on unemployment.
The end — or temporary end — of the fiscal crisis did help some blacks by keeping unemployment benefits in place for more than 2 million Americans. However, Johnson points out that permanent, well-paying jobs are more important for blacks than are unemployment benefits, which are temporary.
Johnson said in his news release: “The RLJ Rule, if embraced by all U.S. companies large and small, can point the way as President Obama noted in his 2011 remarks at Osawatomie, Kansas, that ‘In America we are greater together – when everyone engages in fair play and everybody gets a fair shot and everybody does their fair share… everyone in America gets a fair shot at success.’”
“If companies voluntarily implement the RLJ Rule they can further their commitment to reduce the employment disparity among African Americans, and in doing so, we can demonstrate the fact that talented African-Americans, if given the opportunity, can succeed at the highest levels, and we will close the employment gap between Black and White Americans.”
With the “fiscal cliff” crisis barely over, Obama faces new battles in Congress over raising the country’s $16.4 trillion borrowing limit, as well as more than $100 billion in automatic spending cuts for the military and domestic programs which were delayed by two months under the compromise.
Lawmakers promise to replace those across-the-board cuts with more targeted steps that could take longer to implement.
Obama – speaking from Hawaii, where he is on vacation with his family – said he is willing to consider more spending cuts and tax increases to reduce the deficit.
But he said he “will not compromise” over his insistence that Congress lift the federal debt ceiling. The nation’s credit rating was downgraded the last time lawmakers threatened inaction on the debt ceiling, in 2011.
“Our families and our businesses cannot afford that dangerous game again,” Obama said.
If elected officials from both parties “focus on the interests of our country above the interests of party, I’m convinced we can cut spending and raise revenue in a manner that reduces our deficit and protects the middle class,” Obama said.
In the Republican address, Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan said that as attention again turns to the debt limit, “we must identify responsible ways to tackle Washington’s wasteful spending.”
Americans know that “when you have no more money in your account and your credit cards are maxed out, then the spending must stop,” Camp said.
It is my Desire to be free. To go to see my people on the eastern shore.
My mistress wont let me.
You will please let me know if we are free. And what I can do.
I write to you for advice.
Please send me word this week. Or as soon as possible, and oblidge.
My heart breaks — and breaks again — every time I read Annie’s letter. I do not know her age. Or how she dressed. Or what she saw outside her window each morning.
But my soul tells me that by the time the enslaved woman mustered the courage to dispatch this missive, she had spent every waking moment for a very long time yearning for liberty. Her envelope traveled just 70 miles from Bel Air, Md., to Washington, D.C., but her anguish endures through the ages.
By the spring of 1864, Annie believed she was entitled to freedom. But in truth, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation applied only to those secessionist Southern states “in rebellion.” As a slave-holding border state loyal to the Union, Maryland was not affected by the document. Annie and its other 87,000 enslaved residents remained in limbo.
But the Proclamation had made freedom inevitable. The signals had been mounting for months. On April 16, 1862, word traveled that the District of Columbia’s 3,100 slaves had been freed by Congress — and their owners compensated by the federal government. That July, Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act, which permitted the Union Army to enlist black soldiers and forbade the capture of runaway slaves. On Sept. 22, 1862, Lincoln signed the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Throughout 1863 and 1864, black families in Maryland simply had begun to walk away from the masters who owned them, making Annie’s desperation all the more acute.
Now, 150 years later, as we commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, I can’t help thinking of Annie and all our ancestors. I reflect on how they agitated for their own freedom through protest, revolt, escape, prayer and petition. I am reminded that this observance is about not only the stroke of Lincoln’s pen but also the vision of Harriet Tubman, the appeal of abolitionist David Walker and the genius of Frederick Douglass.
This year I’ll spend most of New Year’s Day at the National Archives — where Annie Davis’ letter is housed — watching families waiting in line to see the original five-page Emancipation Proclamation.
I’ll be wondering what became of Annie and how she developed her fighting spirit. Was she motivated to write her letter because she’d somehow heard that the U.S. Senate had passed its version of the 13th Amendment just 17 days earlier? Was she ever reunited with her people on the Eastern Shore? Could she possibly be the same Annie Davis who appears in the 1870 census in Easton, Md.?
I’ll wonder … and I’ll be grateful to Annie and all the ancestors whose “desire to be free” was stronger than any force they faced.
Author and journalist A’Lelia Bundles (aleliabundles.com) is the chair and president of the board of directors of the Foundation for the National Archives.
The U.S. unemployment rate in December held steady at 7.8%, the government reported, but with more budget battles ahead, employers still have little certainty about which way the economy will go. (Steven Senne / Associated Press)
by Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times
The December jobs report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the economy remained in low gear, with private employers continuing to add jobs just slightly faster than the number of new workers seeking them. That’s about the same as it has been since the summer of 2012. In fact, the total number of jobs created last year — 1.84 million — was the same as in 2011.
At this rate, it will take seven years for the U.S. economy to get back to the robust employment rates seen before the 2008-2009 recession. President Christie will have already started campaigning for re-election by then.
There were nuggets of encouraging data within the jobs report, such as the gains in manufacturing and construction, the growth in wages and hours worked, and the growth in the labor force. Some pundits also said they were impressed that job growth, while slow, held up in spite of the threat posed by the possibility of across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts on Jan. 1.
In fact, the retail jobs numbers were surprisingly lame, reflecting the dip in consumer confidence caused by the looming “fiscal cliff.” There’s also plenty of evidence that the uncertainty about tax rates kept many employers from investing and expanding over the last quarter of 2012.
So now that Congress and President Obama have struck a deal, the economy should really take off, right? Consumer confidence will rise, companies will start putting their cash stockpiles to work instead of just sitting on them?
That’s what Alan B. Krueger, the Obama administration’s top economist, implied in his assessment of the December report.
“With the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act earlier this week, more than 98% of Americans and 97% of small businesses now have certainty that their income taxes will not rise,” Krueger wrote. “Additionally, unemployment insurance was extended for two million Americans who are searching for a job, and companies will continue to receive tax credits for the research that they do and continue to have tax incentives to accelerate investment in their businesses. By allowing income tax cuts for the top 2% of earners to expire, this legislation further reduces the deficit by $737 billion over the next decade.”
Nice spin. The reality is that the deal didn’t eliminate the uncertainty about taxes. Instead of a “grand bargain” that charted a path for Washington out of the deficit wilderness, it merely created a new, higher tax bracket for individuals earning $400,000 and couples earning $450,000. All indications from congressional Democrats and the White House are that they will seek more tax revenue in future talks, possibly by eliminating some tax breaks for individuals and corporations.
Neither did the deal undo the across-the-board budget cuts that are slated to pull $109 billion out of the economy by Oct. 1. Instead, it merely delayed the start of those cuts by two months.
Clearly, the federal fiscal woes will remain a major source of uncertainty until Republicans and Democrats finally reach agreement on a long-term deficit-reduction plan. And while it’s impossible to quantify the effect of that uncertainty on the economy, there’s little question that it’s a drag on employment.
That’s not to say the deal reached this week provides no clarity. It signaled the end of a two-year, 2-percentage-point reduction in payroll taxes, which means less money in the pockets of all wage-earners. At the same time, by permanently extending the Bush-era tax rates for those earning less than $400,000 or $450,000, it set a new baseline for future tax discussions.
Yet by not addressing spending or the debt ceiling, the deal guaranteed that there will be angst aplenty in Washington in the coming months. That’s not likely to help shift the economy into a higher gear.
by Stephanie Humphrey, The Root
(The Root) — It’s a new year, and along with losing weight or saving money, technology should also be on your list of resolutions. There are some very simple things you can do this week to make sure you start 2013 off with good tech practices that will serve you well throughout the year.
Change your passwords: If you haven’t done it in the past three to six months, it’s time to change all of those passwords you use online. I know it’s a huge pain in the you-know-what, but it is critical to the security of your personal information. To help you keep track of all those passwords, consider using a password manager or storing them in a password vault.
Back up your data: If you’ve ever seen a frantic Facebook status from a friend saying that their phone was lost/stolen/broken and they’ve lost all of their contacts, then you should know how important it is to back up your data. Whether they’re on your smartphone or computer, making sure your music, photos and contacts are protected can spare you the agony of years of lost information. If you have an Apple device, make sure iCloud Backup is turned on. But anyone can invest in an external hard drive for their computer, or research online backup services to protect valuable data.
As you take stock of new changes and lofty goals you’d like to tackle this year, don’t forget about little things you can do as well. A few simple tech resolutions can prevent a lot of headaches later
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A PROCLAMATION
On December 31, 1862, our Nation marked the end of another year of civil war. At Shiloh and Seven Pines, Harpers Ferry and Antietam, brother had fought against brother.Sister had fought against sister. Blood and bitterness had deepened the divide that separated North from South, eroding the bonds of affection that once united 34 States under a single flag.Slavery still suspended the possibility of an America where life and liberty were the birthright of all, not the province of some.
Yet, even in those dark days, light persisted.Hope endured. As the weariness of an old year gave way to the promise of a new one, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation — courageously declaring that on January 1, 1863, “all persons held as slaves” in rebellious areas “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” He opened the Union Army and Navy to African Americans, giving new strength to liberty’s cause.And with that document, President
Lincoln lent new moral force to the war by making it a fight not
just to preserve, but also to empower.He sought to reunite our people not only in government, but also in freedom that knew no bounds of color or creed.Every battle became a battle for liberty itself. Every struggle became a struggle for equality.
Our 16th President also understood that while each of us is entitled to our individual rights and responsibilities, there
are certain things we cannot accomplish on our own.Only a Union could serve the hopes of every citizen, knocking down the barriers to opportunity and giving each of us the chance to pursue our highest aspirations.He knew that in these
United States, no dream could ever be beyond our reach when we affirm that individual liberty is served, not negated, by seeking the common good.
It is that spirit that made emancipation possible and codified it in our Constitution.It is that belief in what we can do together that moved millions to march for justice in the years that followed.And today, it is a legacy we choose not only to remember, but also to make our own.Let us begin this new year by renewing our bonds to one another and reinvesting
in the work that lies ahead, confident that we can keep driving
freedom’s progress in our time.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the
United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do
hereby proclaim January 1, 2013, as the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation and reaffirm the timeless principles it upheld.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of December, in the year of our Lord
two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the
United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
150 Anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation