kstreetfriend

kstreetfriend.blogspot.com examines current issues and in digest form communicate information for dialogue, discourse and advocacy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

 

Mayflower Compact Coalition (Wangstas Fo' Shizzle My Nizzle)...



RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman today attended the unveiling of the 21st Century Mayflower Compact at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C.. The nine-point agenda includes support for school choice and private Social Security accounts. The Coalition is advised in part by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s consulting firm.

African Americans often reach different and surprising conclusions on social issues that the casual (Caucasian) observer just won’t understand. For example, Black folks still want to see Michael Jackson find happiness. His high-pitched voice and soulful delivery is the soundtrack of generations and has a permanent place in the Black community’s psyche, no matter the plastic surgery, skin bleaching and alleged child molestation charges. Possibly, it’s the “he’s still Black” phenomenon that African Americans well understand. They want Michael Jackson’s name cleared. In short, they want him to make good music and just leave the damn kids alone.

Likewise, Blacks see Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance Program, popularly known as Social Security, as an entitlement forced into place during a period when “bigots” wanted to run things. And against the odds, a well respected Franklin Roosevelt was able to established needed protection for the public from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment. As its original name suggest, African Americans believe the insurance program was created to do much more than provide an old age benefit.

Wangstas (whites and uh oh oreos) are extremely white people who attempt to be “gangsta” (cool with Black people) in order to “pimp out.” They dress, speak and act for all practical purposes as an African American aside from the fact that they are not. Normally they are hated by the fam for being fake.

The White House and its oreos who support overhauling Social Security have launched a highly targeted campaign to convince Black people that President Bush’s plan to create private investment accounts will have special benefits for them. The ghetto fab element about the GOP message to African Americans: “The shorter life expectancy of Black males means Social Security in its current form is not a favorable deal.”

Proponents of privatizing social security who claim no group has as much at stake in the debate over reform as African Americans, in fact, are right. Black families of workers who become disabled or die are much more likely than their Caucasian counterparts to be dependent on the grip available from disability and/or survivor benefits. Blacks make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 23 percent of African American children receive survivor benefits, and 18 percent of the community are disability beneficiaries.

Although the wangstas are making a special effort to appeal to the strizzeet with the 21st Century Mayflower Compact, the “lower life expectancies” illusion appears to reached every one except the African American senior. Their attempt to focus on a very narrow element of the system (current program based on longevity is unfair) is misplaced and doesn’t gain cool points. What the oreos fail to realize is their attempt to be “down” for da brothas... is just “gosh-darn” obnoxious (using their vernacular) and another clue identifying the new face of segregation.

“A’ight?”

Social Security is an insurance program that protects workers and their families against the income loss that occurs when a worker retires, becomes disabled, or dies. All workers will eventually either grow too old to compete in the labor market, become disabled, or die. President Roosevelt created the program to insure all workers and their families against these universal risks, while spreading the costs and benefits of that insurance protection among the entire workforce.

It is a “pay as you go” program, which means the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) payroll tax paid by today’s workers are not set aside to pay their own benefits down the road, but rather go to pay the benefits of current recipients. The tax is progressive. The low-wage workers receive a greater percentage of pre-retirement earnings from the program than higher-wage workers. And, in the 1980's, Congress passed reforms to raise extra tax revenues above and beyond the current need and set up a trust fund to hold a reserve.

As was the case when the program was established, higher-wage workers still oppose the social nature of the program. They argue low rates of return as a reason to switch from the current “pay-as-you-go” system to one in which individual workers claim their own contribution and decide where and how to invest it. In short, rather than sharing the risk across the entire workforce to ensure that all workers and their families are protected from old age, disability, and death, higher-wage workers want to enable opportunity to reap gains from private investment without having to help protect lower-wage workers from their disproportionate risks.

Allowing high-wage workers (who are more likely to live long enough to retire) opportunity to opt out of the general risk pool and devote all their money to retirement without having to cover the risk of those who may become disabled or die, is da fo’ shizzle identifying the republican party’s desire to return to a segregated society.

Roosevelt’s benefit formula currently in place intentionally helps low income earners. Lifetime earnings directly factor into the formula. And, thirty-five percent of Black workers born between 1931 and 1940 had lifetime earnings that fell into the bottom fifth of earnings received by workers born in these years. African Americans’ median earnings (working-age in jobs covered by Social Security in 2002) were about $21,200, compared to $28,400 for all working-age people.

HNIC, President Bush, does acknowledge the difficulty Blacks will have in accumulating enough savings in their individual accounts to provide for a secure retirement once the progressivity of the current system is eliminated. However, he has only suggested allowing lower-income workers to place higher portions of their income into the uncertainties of investment accounts (creating even more risk).

Yes! Private accounts would be passed on to children or other heirs. But, what the HNIC and his oreos doesn’t explain is lower-income workers would be forced to buy an annuity large enough (when combined with their traditional Social Security benefit) to ensure that they would at least have a poverty level income for retirement.

Yo’ playa... da new private Social Security account fizzle sucks!

Friday, March 11, 2005

 

Brian Nichols, Bart Ross, Perceived Unfairness (Courts Under Attack)...



Taking a life is wrong!

Fighting the justice system outside of its contour isn’t rational. Freedom has provided civil liberties when used correctly removes insurmountable barriers such as segregation, discrimination and the like. Although many Americans have formed certain perceptions about the judiciary that represents an overall lack of trust, one must prove their argument within the structure provided and advocate change through civilized conduct. There are many methods of mentally or physically withdrawing from a hostile situation. The most common, attribute racist behavior to ignorance and chose to educate as a response to discrimination, which can give a sense of empowerment.

A spate of violence in the judicial system has many uneasy and on edge. Security at federal, state, and local courts across the country has been increased in the wake of the shooting of three people in Atlanta (Judge Rowland Barnes, his court reporter and a Fulton County deputy) today and last week’s killings of U.S. District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow’s husband and mother in Chicago.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, courthouses today are already secured by electronic surveillance systems, armed security officers, and metal detectors and scanning devices at every public entrance. In short, Judges are often the target of threats from defendants or litigants. They worry that their addresses and other personal information are easily accessible using the Internet and public records. And, there are trials that have the potential for additional security concerns.

In Chicago, police concluded that 57-year-old Bart Ross, a Poland immigrant, harbored a grudge against Judge Lefkow because she dismissed his malpractice lawsuit. In Atlanta, observers say a second rape trial was going badly for 34-year-old Brian Nichols, an African-American. It was his second trial in as many weeks. The first ended in a mistrial after a jury was unable to reach a verdict (8 to 4 in favor of acquittal).

Public confidence plays a significant role in the ability of courts to perform their function effectively. Courts must rely for enforcement of their decisions on retaining sufficient respect from individual citizens so that the vast majority will comply voluntarily. Perceptions influence, even shape, behavior. Both Bart Ross and Brian Nichols appear to have expressed a concern about possible unfairness. Note, more than one-third of all Georgians see African Americans as receiving worst treatment than others by the court system. See “Essay: Race and the Georgia Courts: Implications of the Georgia Public Trust and Confidence Survey for Batson v. Kentucky and its Progeny,” 37 Ga. L. Rev. 1021.

In fact, there are twenty years of surveys (1978 to 1998), that identify positive and negative images of the judiciary recurred with varying degrees of force-fulness across the nation. See David B. Rottman’s, “On Public Trusts and Confidence: Does Experience with the Courts Promote or Diminish It?” Negative images centered on perceived inaccessibility, unfairness in the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, and lack of concern about the problems of ordinary people. There is also a concern that the courts are biased in favor of the wealthy and corporations - political considerations exerted an undue influence on the judiciary.

Nonetheless, improving public trust and confidence of the courts is fundamental and likely to be the best defense against the emotional reaction of losing a legal case. As early as 1988, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, William H. Rehnquist, detailed the extent, almost since the inception of our system of government, that the courts require the public’s trust and confidence. See “The Supreme Court: The First Hundred Years Were the Hardest,” 42 U. Miami L. Rev. 475, 477 (1988).

Justice Rehnquist provided the following example:

“When former Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, an appointee of President George Washington, fell ill in December 1800, president John Adams turned to John Jay asking him to return to that position (Jay having served as the first Chief Justice). But, John Jay refused the appointment writing ‘The Court, labored under a [judicial] system so defective that amongst its other problems, it did not possess the public confidence and respect which as the last resort of the justice of the nation, it should....’”

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in her address to the National Conference on Public Trust and Confidence in the Justice System (July 1999) has expressed a similar concern:

“[i]n the last analysis, it is the public we serve, and we do care what the public thinks of us.”

But, prior to a 1999 study sponsored by the National Center for State Courts and the Hearst Corporation, “How the Public Views the State Courts” there was no systematic body of evidence that could document the extent to which and the ways in which perceptions of the court differ across social groups.

The 1999 survey findings reveal stark differences in how minority groups view the judicial system. African Americans consistently display a more negative view of the courts and less trust and confidence in the judicial system than do White/Non-Hispanics or Hispanics. That is, as a general matter, blacks express low levels of confidence in the courts, lower than other groups.

Minority groups perceive themselves as treated worse by the judicial systems because: (1) court personnel aren’t helpful and courteous; (2) most juries are not representative of the community; (3) courts fail to make reasonable efforts to ensure that individuals have adequate attorney representation; (4) judges are generally dishonest in deciding cases; and (5) courts are just “out-of-touch” with what’s going on in their communities.

Interestingly, Caucasians appear to either not understand or discount the perceptions of minority group members about the fairness of the court process.

A perception that money (court costs) matters in the treatment one receives from the courts is also an important component of the court’s public image. Nearly all respondents (87 percent) believed that having a lawyer contributed “a lot” to the high cost of going to court. More than half the respondents believed that the slow pace of justice, the complexity of the law, and the expenditure of personal time (e.g. missing work) additionally contributed “a lot” to the cost of going to court. Most distressing, all of the groups said courts handle cases in a poor manner. Family relations cases and juvenile delinquency cases, in particular, are said to fare worst.

In Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that a government lawyer prosecuting an African American criminal defendant violates the Equal Protection Clause if the prosecutor uses peremptory challenges for the purposes of excluding African Americans from the jury. The decision was premised in part on a desire to bolster public confidence in the fairness of the court system.

The Batson principle has been extended in a series of subsequent decisions, so that the prohibition on racially discriminatory peremptory challenges now extends to all trial attorneys, regardless of the nature of the case or the identity of the client. See Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42 (1992); Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614 (1991); Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400 (1991). In Powers v. Ohio, the Court held a jury “acts as a vital check against the wrongful exercise of power by the State and its prosecutors,” and that racial discrimination in jury selection “damages both the fact and the perception of this guarantee.”

While Batson has not produced a general public consensus that all races receive equal treatment in the court system, that does not necessarily mean the decision has been completely ineffective, or that it is somehow fundamentally misguided. By striking at the use of racial stereotypes as the basis for peremptory challenges, one expected outcome of the Batson decision would be to increase the number of minorities serving on juries. Such an outcome could play a potentially significant role in improving public confidence in the court system. Data from the Georgia survey (Essay: Race and the Georgia Courts: Implications of the Georgia Public Trust and Confidence Survey for Batson v. Kentucky and its Progeny,” 37 Ga. L. Rev. 1021) suggests that, in certain respects, those who have served as jurors tend to have greater trust in the court system than other citizens, and this hold true when minority jurors are examined.

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