by Angela Winters

As I mentioned earlier in the month, the reason most of my recent posts have been brief was because I decided to participate in the National Assembly Election registration and polling of Iraq Ex-pats in America. The opportunity seemed interesting and different and I was eager to get experience in a "first". I believe a lot of decisions Bush has made about Iraq were wrong, but I don't argue with getting rid of Saddam and his regime. Democracy and freedom is worth rooting for and with so many young men and women (American and Iraqi) dying for this, I felt this was the least I could do.

The program, run by the International Organization for Migration and the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq is similar to many of the Out-Of-Country voting projects they perform, with the exception of some of the security issues. The registration and polling took place in 14 countries. In America there were five centers: Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and Nashville.

This type of event should have been put together at least a year ahead of time, but it was more like a few weeks. That was pretty apparent to all of us who participated from day one. There wer a lot of unanswered questions, updates, corrections and decisions left up in the air.

Training for registration and polling was for three days and was one of those types of situations where open-ended questions left answers to more questions and so on and so on. Despite that, we learned what we needed to learn and began to develop relationships with each other. I was happy to see so many Iraqis and especially Kurdish citizens involved. There were people from Africa, other parts of the Middle and East and Americans who were either familiar with Arabic culture or very excited about the democracy process.

We weren't told of the location until a couple of days after training. So we headed out to New Carrollton, Maryland and began registration. There were 15 different stations set up to register the expected 20,000 people. No need to get into the details, the process took a lot of fine tuning but the experience was overall a good one. As Americans, we take so many things for granted but the right to vote should never be one of those things. Countless people came from Boston, Connecticut, New York and even Florida to register, knowing they would have to come back yet again the next week to vote. We heard stories about relatives killed, gassed or tortured by Saddam and how this opportunity, was for those people. There was a sense that this was going to be the first step in having some say in their lives and not living in the constant fear that tyrannical dictatorships create.

It was interesting to witness the tension between some of the Kurdish workers and the Iraqi workers which comes from decades of conflict. There is still a lot of anger there, but it never superseded the combined hope and belief that things would be better for everyone now. We even almost had an arranged marriage at our station. I learned a little Arabic and Kurdish and found a way to get used to the security and media folks that came through every five minutes.

Only 2,000 people showed up and we were all disappointed by that. What was even more disappointing was that about 60% of the workers were let go per IOM's request. Since we only received 10% of the expected people, there was no need for all of the workers and the IOM would be able to save several thousands of dollars across the country by letting those people go. We were all making $102 a day working from 6 or 7am until 5 or 7pm with many of us staying later to help close out and keep the numbers straight. It was painful because all of the work we had put into the registration was for the election and those people wouldn't be able to participate. They were very disappointed, as were the IOM representatives who had to break the news.

When polling time came around, the 15 stations were converted to two. Besides having to get up at 5am, it was an even better experience, because this was it. The flow was pretty light on Friday, but Saturday and Sunday were packed, despite the bad weather on Sunday morning. People were so excited for this opportunity, they could barely wait in line. Old men were crying and little kids were dressed in Kurdish or Iraqi cultural outfits. The press was manic and driving us a little crazy because they kept wanting to break the rules. There were so many compelling human interest stories I can see how they might get carried away. Groups of Kurdish men and women were dancing in the parking lot outside of the hotel and exclaiming their joy out loud as they pushed their oversized ballots into the ballot box.

There was one tense moment when a man in station two began yelling something about Saddam in Arabic very angrily. After a second, we realized he was just overwhelmed that this was the end of Saddam's reign and everyone relaxed. There were also some hot moments in my section, as passions about the election, who to vote for and the process sort of boiled over.

When it was all over, after reconciling all the numbers, taking the security measures and delivering the ballots to be held and monitored before counting began this morning, we all went out for a big party at a Moroccan bar in Adams Morgan and had a good time. We were grateful it was over because it was a lot of hard work, but also sad that we were going our separate ways. Some of us knew we would probably never see each other again, but for many of us we've made lifelong friends that we will be seeing again next weekend and hopefully from now on.

Most importantly, we knew we had played a small role in advancing democracy and freedom and beginning to heal the wounds that Saddam caused. For myself, I gained a few friends and an understanding of the Arab culture, the Muslim religion and how the human spirit is really stronger than anything else. I know that sounds sappy, but it's true. People, including myself, like to roll their eyes when they hear others wax poetic about the enduring power of freedom and democracy, but it's true.

It will be an experience I cherish for a long time and has made me think more about politics and democracy as a direction for my life. Don't get scared; I'm not running for office, but I plan to get more involved in the process so I can give a better witness to the reality that exist beyond the spin and the partisan perspectives.

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by Angela Winters

Alton Maddox writes an editorial about Dr. Condi Rice and Barack Obama for the African American newspaper, The Amsterdam News. The article, titled Looking Black and talking white, is in my opinion unfairly critical. After viewing the recent hearings on the hill for Dr. Rice's confirmation, he criticizes Rice and Obama for not representing the black experience in the way that men and women like Fannie Lou Hamer, Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., Malcolm X, Harry and Harriette Moore, Medgar Evers and Rev. George Lee have.

What does that mean? Not every black person is going to be like these people and not every black person should? And who says that these people represent the only true black experience? Who says that their sacrifice is the only standard by which sacrifice can be measured? We have to move beyond the days of determining one's commitment to their race based on how they sound when they speak or how much their acts and deeds mimic those of others that came before. We all contribute in different ways because we are all different people. There shouldn't be any "black" way to talk, think, sacrifice or anything else.

Black America Web has just completed its STATE OF BLACK AMERICA series. The topics are incredibly relevant and most of the articles are really good. Worth reading:

Part One: Whither Black People?
Part Two: Our Financial Insecurity
Part Three: Education Matters
Part Four: Health As Wealth
Part Five: Our Empathy Deficit
Part Six: The Leadership Drought
Part Seven: Seeking Solutions
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by Angela Winters

A lot was made about President Bush's meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus yesterday because it was the first since 2001, which the CBC never let us forget. It's safe to bet that the meeting was not as warm and fuzzy as his meeting with black Republicans the day before.

The Caucus, made up of 43 African American members of Congress, presented the President with an eight-page, nine-point agenda of priorities which Bush agreed Doesn't sound too cozy to me. The meeting was in private, but the agenda is said to contain requests for increased spending on education, healthcare improvements and guarantees on Social Security among others. It also included a request to promote Affirmative Action. Good luck with that.

I know it's bad to sound so pessimistic, because I genuinely believe this is a start. The problem is that many in the CBC have decided that Bush is not on the side of black people no matter what he says or does and many in the Bush Administration have decided that the CBC has no intention of working with the President and is only looking to use this moment as a fuel for their fire against him.

Making sure that almost every picture included Senator Obama, (the press is still so in love) the media pretty much had the same take. You really have to find the editorials to get any color. lawmakers ask Bush to adopt agenda
Black America Web: Black Democrats on Meeting with Bush: The Ball is in His Court
FREEP: Time to act, Black Caucus tells Bush
Washington Times: President, black caucus meet
The New York Times: Black Caucus Urges Bush to Combat Race Gap
VOA News:Bush Seeks Support From African-Americans
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by Angela Winters

Very little press was given to Bush's meeting with Kwesi Mfume, the outgoing head of the NAACP earlier this month, but considerable play is being given to Bush's more recent and upcoming meetings with black groups and leaders.

Star-Telegram: Bush, black leaders meet Black Caucus, Bush To Discuss Key Issues
The Washington Times: Bush reaches out to blacks
HoustonChronicle: Bush makes Social Security pitch to black leaders
The New York Times: President Discusses Issues With Black Leaders
AJC: Bush to meet with Black Caucus today

Yesterday, he met with leaders to discuss privatizing Social Security. The President believes that his plan is a plus for African Americans, because we (especially males) tend to live shorter lives than whites, so we end up paying out more than we get back. I'm in favor of reforming social security, but shouldn't a greater emphasis be put on reforming the reasons why blacks live shorter lives than whites? Healthcare, crime, poverty, etc. I was a little disturbed by Scott McClellan's comments.

"I mean, you talk about the African American community, I mean, that's one segment where African American males have a -- have had a shorter life span than other sectors of America. And this will enable them to build a nest egg of their own and be able to pass that nest egg on to their survivors. And so I think you should look at it from that perspective, as well."

It's a little like he's saying, "hey, they die sooner, so this is cool for them," as if this is just a reality the White House is willing to accept.

Today, The President meets with the Congressional Black Caucus and is hopeful that he can start a fresh relationship with the organization now that it has a new leader, Mel Watts from NC at the helm. Of course you have the skeptics who say its all about publicity pictures and posturing on both sides, with neither having any real intention of building a bridge.

I prefer to be more optimistic because regardless of what side of the political aisle you find yourself on, communication lines have to be open. I've been disappointed with both sides in this situation. Many black organizations never gave Bush a chance because of their anger over Florida in 2000 and the Administration ignored that anger for too long. I think the ultimate responsibility lies with the President because, well, he's the President. He's the leader of the free world and that means he has to take responsibility for his relationships, especially those within his border.

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by Angela Winters

Senator Hillary Clinton gave a speech on the abortion issue in New York yesterday that was a clear sign of Presidential aspirations. The speech was covered by The New York Times, among others, and focused on her appeal to and praise of pro-life groups. It was met with some skepticism, because she's always been very critical of pro-life efforts, but I think the message is more important than the messenger here. Like the Senator, I believe that there is a common ground here. I know it sounds crazy and impossible, but it really isn't.

Both sides want what is best for women and both sides want to end the need for abortions. I recently wrote about this issue at Pop and Politics, pushing a different approach to the abortion issue. There is unrivaled power in the unity of women with a cause. If both sides could come together on this issue and focus on what we have in common, solving the problem would be an afterthought.

The is what ABC New's The Note Had To Say Clinton's Speech:
"How breathless should we be about Patrick D. (Non O'Gilfoil) Healy's article on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's soothing remarks about abortion yesterday in Albany?
Well, Neera Tanden, Sen. Clinton's L.D., told Healy the focus of the speech "was to make sure that she still communicated that she was pro-choice - she doesn't want to undermine that - but she also thinks we can have some common ground among all sides and make abortion rare." And Tony Perkins certainly dismissed it as, essentially, pandering.

If everyone expects Sen. Clinton to "moderate" her views, will everything she says be interpreted as an act of deliberate viewpoint moderation. Perhaps that's not the fairest way to judge a politician — even/especially Hillary Clinton.If the Times plans to front every story in which the Senator restates her past centrist-y views on things ("justified" by "context"), then Tim Russert is going to have to get up many amornin' to have Katie ask him about it. And the Drudge siren will get worn out.

The meat of what Senator Clinton said is par the course for pro-choice centrists and even for liberal Democrats these days. And her record, which includes support for parental notification (with judicial bypass) in some circumstances, and support for a partial birth ban if it included a health exception, reflects her remarks.

"'We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women,' Mrs. Clinton told the annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State. 'The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place.'"

"She called on abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion campaigners to form a broad alliance to support sexual education - including abstinence counseling - family planning, and morning-after emergency contraception for victims of sexual assault as ways to reduce unintended pregnancies," Healy writes.

"'There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate - we should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved,' Mrs. Clinton said."

Concludes Healy: "Mrs. Clinton's remarks were generally well received, though the audience was silent during most of her overtures to anti-abortion groups. Afterward, leaders of those groups were skeptical, given Mrs. Clinton's outspoken support for abortion rights over the years."

A Sister Soulja moment, this was not."

Others commenting on the speech:
L.A. Times: Sen. Clinton Notes Rise in Abortion Rates
BBC NEWS: Hillary attacks Bush on abortion
UPI: Sen. Clinton seeks abortion common ground
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by Angela Winters

Our similar childhood experiences consist mostly of guilt trips set upon us by our parents to get us to obey them without question. One of those experiences is turning our nose up at food or leaving our plate with a few morsels uneaten and hearing,
"There are poor children in INSERT THIRD WORLD COUNTRY HERE starving!"

We felt guilty as children even though we couldn't quite grasp the concept of someone going hungry. My image was something similar to how I felt if I went to three or four in the afternoon without eating anything; starved out of my mind. As I got older, I not only began to understand the real crisis of poverty but how frighteningly widespread it was. It's ungodly to think of the suffering of children living, and mostly dying, in poverty; especially if they are dying because crooked governments intercept the aid intended for them.

Poverty isn't really IN right now, so it doesn't make the news much. Most people turn away from the infomercials, but hopefully a The New millennium Project, a United Nations initiative headed by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University emphasizing several concrete steps to enhance the well-being and economic capacities of the world's poorest people, will bring it back to the news. Some newspapers are picking it up, more foreign than American.

Depending on who you read, the criticism will exist that the UN can't do anything anymore; at least anything of substance. I'm a critic of the UN on a lot of topics, specifically some of the countries they allow to join despite their obvious and deliberate injustices to others; particularly women. Despite this, the effort is there and I support them.

Here are the links.

The New York Times Editorial: A Proposal to End Poverty
The Sun News: Poverty solutions within reach Stage Set to Tame Third World Poverty
MSNBC:The Poor Problem
Columbia Spectator Online: Millennium Goals at Five
Courier Journal: U.N. plan combines realism and idealism
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by Angela Winters

Ward Connelly, one of the most outspoken blacks against affirmative action and architect of the program that banned AA from the University of California school system is fleeing the California coop. He's leaving the Board of Regents for the UC system after 12 years. Needless to say, some black folks are happy to see him go. I don't know the man but he always rubbed me the wrong way. It seemed as if his opposition to Affirmative Action was more on a personal issue that he was taking out on the policy than any true belief that, on its merits, the idea is just wrong. There are a number of African Americans speaking out against set-asides in the school systems and workplace that make their point with more logic and common sense than anger. He just always seemed like he was just so mad.

Reagan Democrats, Clinton Republicans and now Gingrich Democrats. The NY Times has an article on this new segment of the political powerbase that see the opportunities in social security reform that the right saw in Lady Hillary's healthcare reform way back when. They smell blood and they're ready to pounce, but isn't their time better spent focusing on their own problems?

The Street, a great website for financial advice, has their version of Michael Powell leaving the FCC in this article. Seems like this writer believed junior was fighting battles a little above his head. He's had a hard four years, something else he and Daddy have in common. Howard Stern should have a little laugh today.

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by Angela Winters

Wired news has one of the many articles on how blogs are changing the way people get information. Adam Penenberg is telling all those naysayers to get used to it.

Ketchum Public Relations admits to errors in judgment in this NY Times article regarding their payment of Armstrong Williams, a controversy that still seems to have a little steam.

With gay marriage clearly no longer a threat, conservatives have set their sights on their next target that must be destroyed if we are to save our values; Spongebob Squarepants. This NY Times article touches on how the appeal of the very, very popular cartoon character to adult gay men is disturbing certain segments of the community.

In this LA Times article touches on President Bush's relationship with black pastors and how his faith-based initiative, stand on gay marriage and push on traditional Christian values has made him some new buddies.

Jack Kelly's Post Gazette article talks about racism by Democrats and how black conservatives just can't get their props.

Political Centrists are holding a meetup via the popular in Boston of all places.
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by Angela Winters

Now that the crazy man in the red van with the non-existent tanks of gas mad about his child support is out of the way and we now know the courts have decided Bush can say all the prayers he wants, everyone can look forward to tommorrow night's inaugural. If you're from Texas, your big state bash is tonight. I guess the perks of being the choosen one's home state means you don't have to wait.

A lot of murmuring has been going on since the $40 million price tag for the inauguration was made public, especially considering certain conditions around the world caused by this crazy weather. Yeah, it's a lot of money, but (sorry to repeat the Administration's talking points) we're at war and it's the first post 9/11 inauguration.

It would have been in better taste to scale down some of the pomp and circumstance, but I think we all know those involved won't be having that. So the Republicans will party hearty and Dems will be eating pints of chocolate chocolate chip icecream while watching tapes of inauguration 1993 and 1997.

Some Senators intend to filibuster to push Condi Rice's confirmation to 7p.m. in the evening, and I'm sure Republicans are taking it personally. Although it does play into the spoiler, there are several Democratic Senators who have something to say about this nomination and the position is powerful enough that their voices should be heard. In the end, I can't imagine Republicans care that much. They get their Secretary of State and their parties.

CNN: Pomp, pageantry, tight security at inauguration
ABC News: Loophole Allows Inaugural Spending Binge
Reuters: U.S. Firms Pay For Bush Bash World News Article
Bloomborg: Justices Refuse To Block Prayers at Inauguration
Washington Post: It's Not My Party, And I'll Fly if I Want To
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by Angela Winters

It's 7:15pm as I write and Condi is currently being grilled by Senator John Kerry. A recent article I wrote for Savvy Insider Magazine titled "The Democratic Party's Problem with Race" focused on the racially charged insults Dr. Rice received after Bush announced her nomination for Sec of State.

My friends came down hard on me because those I pinpointed as the culprits are not and were never spokespersons for the Democratic party. They were right, but I still stand by my statement that Democratic leaders should have stood up to those who did attack her on radio, in print and especially in those ugly cartoons.

Unfortunately, I haven't been home to watch the hearings, but I've seen the much circulated pictures of her and Senator Obama conversing before her testimony began. I've also been able to get a quick read on what others are saying and here it is:

ABC News Online: Rice pledges to focus on democracy
MSNBC:Rice, Obama meet at historic crossroads
Arab News Saudi Arabia: Rice Vows to Work for Middle East Peace Washington Post: Rice Pledges to Mend Ties With Allies
The New York Times: Rice Pledges to Mend Ties as Confirmation Hearings Begin
ABC News: Rice Links Iraq Withdrawal to Security facing questions at confirmation hearing
Washington Times: Rice set to face tough queries at hearing
San Jose Mercury: Boxer, Rice spar at confirmation hearing
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by Angela Winters

This entire week I'll be in New Carrollton helping to register Iraqis to vote in the upcoming election all day, so I won't have time for posts. Instead, I'll just link to interesting topics.

Today is of course the holiday of the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Most of the articles out there are run-of-the-mill pieces that touch on the same things we hear every year. Others shed a new light or create more questions on where he would stand on issues today such as gay marriage, black economics, rap music and where his legacy fits into pop culture. I tried to pick some interesting ones.

The Sun Sentinel: King's words claimed by many
The New York Times: How the British Inspired Dr. King's Dream
The Black Commentator: Dr. King Was Not a" Dreamer"
VOA News:Martin Luther King Jr. Celebrated in Hometown Church
WorldNetDaily: Dr. King and the Dream today, Jesse Lee Petersen King's Economic Legacy
ABC News: Americans Mark Martin Luther King Day
IAMRJ: Martin Luther King's Inspiring Imperfection
Chi Sun Times: King's family on opposing sides in gay rights debate
PopMatters:The Long Shadow of the Dream
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by Angela Winters

Michael Cottman of Black America Web has written an article on Claude Allen, President Bush's new domestic policy advisor and how African American groups such as the NAACP and the Urban League are hoping that he will be a bridge between black causes and President Bush but are very suspect about his very conservative politics.

Allen is the first black in the role of domestic policy advisor and was previously Deputy Director for the Department of Health and Human Services, so maybe he can bridge the healthcare gap that became apparent when Dick Cheney made clear that he wasn't aware of how severely AIDS was affecting black women.

Despite what some black leaders think, conservatism is not necessarily an enemy of black people and it doesn't mean Allen will reject what he understands about the needs of his community. He's obviously very bright, accomplished and talented with a Duke Law degree to add to his mantle, and if he slips a little common sense in there, being black can only be to the advantage of all African Americans.

There is some caution in the community because of his former relationship with Jesse Helms the former North Carolina senator who is viewed by many blacks to be...Let's just say we weren't too crazy about him. Helms filibuster to oppose the passing of Martin Luther King Jr's birthday as a holiday pretty much solidified my viewpoint of the man. Allen has been open about his undying respect for Helms so it isn't a stretch to believe that he agrees with his 'politics'. I think it's safe to be cautious, but not to write him off. The NAACP is very skeptical and the Urban League appears to be more open, but both groups know that there is an opportunity here and are smart enough to give it a chance.

President Appoints Domestic Advisor
Abortion Opponent to Serve as Bush's Domestic Policy Advisor
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by Angela Winters

Every year on September 29th, baby mamas and baby daddies all over America will be getting married. At least that's what New York relationship advisor and author, Maryann Reid, hopes to start this September.

To promote her book titled, "Mary Your Baby Daddy," coming out this fall, Reid is sponsoring a free mass wedding in Brooklyn, NY where several celebrity VIPs and others will watch ten black couples with children getting married.

Baby Mama or Baby Daddy has become sort of a phrase of humor among black folks when in reality there is nothing funny about it. Black children are already born with a disadvantage in this country, but a strong family foundation can help them overcome those adversities. With over 70% of our children coming into this world without that, there's not much surprise as to how many of them turn out.

Daddy's matter. As much as we'd like to believe that loving, strong black mothers can do what needs to be done, they can't. This is not a tirade on absent black fathers, but the fact is both mothers and fathers aren't doing their children any justice by viewing their commitment to each other as trendy or optional.

At the foundation of any child is the trust that their parents, both parents, are committed to them no matter how difficult that commitment might be on them. How can they feel that commitment if their parents can't even commit to each other. Especially considering a commitment to a child is much more demanding and binding than to another adult. A kid has to think, wasn't I worth even that?

Divorce happens and miserable marriages can be worse on children than a divorce, but there is a symbolism in knowing that your parents put forth an effort to create the best environment possible for you and marriage is that symbol. It's not just God's will, although that should be enough; it's a system and institution that has proven SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME to be better for children emotionally, mentally, socially and economically.

It's kind of sad that marriage among black people needs to be made into an event and I can't say it isn't a little uncomfortable that the event is part of a book promotion. However, anything that brings the focus back to traditional family values and the strength of support it brings to our children can only do more good than harm.

No, Reid isn't a psychologist but she doesn't claim to be. She doesn't claim to know the answers or the reasons why the black family has fallen apart over the last 40 years. She's an author who has made a name for herself tapping into the vibe of young, black, single females which may give her some insight that could be helpful.

Next question is how to deal with the fact that in too many cases there are more than one Baby Mamas for each Baby Daddy. Which one gets the husband? What if the man in question isn't worth marrying, of which the fact that he has so many children with so many women he was never married to might be an indication.

Black America Web: Marry your Baby's Daddy Day
New York Daily News:Marrying moms, dads need apply
Blogging Baby:Marry your Baby's Daddy Day
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by Angela Winters

Congressman Harold Ford (9-TN) is no stranger to the news. He's a magnet for the television cameras and his strong communication skills make him a good speaker and representative for the Democratic party. It has been mentioned ad nauseum that he is a Presidential prospect and we've known that he's running for Senate in 2006 for, what, four or five years now? He's been a newsmaking figure since stepping onto the stage in 1996, when he took over his father's seat. He's young (34), privileged (St. Albans, Penn, Michigan, etc.) and for some black people, that disqualifies him from knowing anything about...well, anything.

There's a pecking order on Capitol Hill and Ford has ruffled feathers by forgetting that at times. He has this crazy idea that if you have something to say, you say it or if you want something, you go after it. He got his hand slapped in 2002 when he went out for Leader of House against Congresswoman Pelosi of California and continues to get flack for speaking out against his party and its members with a little too much enthusiasm. Overall, he does much more good for the party than most of its other members and for that, they have to appreciate him.

Ford has had a contentious relationship with liberals, especially black liberals, who believe his centrist stand is really a cover for a wannabe Republican and his his stand on privatizing social security in particular is an example of that. There seems to be a little bit of confusion as to where he stands on the issue and he's tried to clarify this, but somewhere at sometime, he was labeled as a supporter of Bush's plan to privatize and can't seem to shake that.

He is a supporter of some form of privatization as indicated by his statements through Social Security Why he's criticized for wanting reform of a program that is clearly in crisis is unclear, but in this partisan political atmosphere, considering his history of supporting the President on too many issue to make the Left comfortable, all he has to do is suggest reform and his stand is interpreted as Pro-Bush.

The The Black Commentator, who to be honest has had an issue with Ford for a long, long time, has a scathing report that was picked up by a lot of sites. Black Point Man for the Right: Rep. Harold Ford, Jr.

Josh Marshall of the famous Talking Points Memo blog has had a little fun with the issue.

The issue has a lot of controversy attached to it, because there is such a great divide among age groups, economics classes and for some, race.
USATODAY:Age gap may be trouble for Bush
SignOnSanDiego:Cuts in future Social Security benefits loom for younger workers with investment accounts

Ford is incredibly ambitious so you know he's on alert for any criticism. He was quick to give a response.
Press Release: Harold Ford's Office
WHNT-TV:Harold Ford, Jr. not in favor of president's SS reform plan

Ford loves the camera and his ambition can rub you the wrong way at times, but in general, I find his practical and intelligent approach to issues much more realistic and tangible than the ideologists of his fellow Representatives. I've written about privatizing social security and made it clear that I think it's an idea worth discussing. Like most young people, I want as much power as I can have when planning for my future and I'm willing to accept the consequences if that planning turns on me.

That's not the case for a lot of people and their concerns are clear and very legitimate, but I'm not sure directing their opposition through attacking Ford is the answer. Something has to be done and you can't save those most in need of social security by slapping the hands of anyone who tries to change it.

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by Angela Winters

If you aren't satisfied with the millions of opinions on Armstrong Williams and the controversy over the Bush Administration paying him to promote the "No Child Left Behind" program, here's yet another.

Townhall: Armstrong Williams' Apology
Black America Web: Pundit Payola Scandal Costs Williams His Column, Show and More
The Nation: Capital Games
CNN: Transcript of Williams on Crossfire
La Shawn Barber's Corner:Armstrong Williams: The Wrong Side
Pop and Politics: This Negro For Rent
USATODAY: Armstrong Williams case was isolated incident

Having been bogged down in Iraqi Out-Of-Country voting work for the past few days (we'll discuss later), I've been out of the mix so I'm a few days late on this issue, but it's worth a look.

I don't think anyone who is a reasonably intelligent can say that this isn't disturbing. I'm not sure when people began to hold Williams to the standards of a real journalist, but that may have something to do with why people seem so upset. Williams is not a journalist, he's a political pundit for the Right. He's been on TV and radio, in the papers and on the internet for some years now and has consistently given his opinions in favor of President Bush and his programs, policies, opinions, etc. He's not supposed to be objective.

As a centrist commentator, I don't have a lot of patience for party-line commentators who would have you believe they are being objective and it just so happens that when you look at the facts and get past the B-S, the truth seems to always fall in line with the Right or Left depending on which side of the punditry you fall. It's insulting the intelligence of the readers, listeners and viewers.

I'm sure Williams, as with every other Bush policy, genuinely agrees with No Child Left Behind, and has probably promoted the program for a long time before the payments were made, but it does put a taint on it. Yes, he says it's an advertisement and not an infomercial kind of deal, but Williams is too smart not to know that it would hurt his credibility and the appearance of compromise will bring into question everything he says. Besides, it has a icky factor to it that is so obvious you've got to believe if those players involved didn't feel it, you question them even more.

Would it have been different if he said outright on television, radio or in his columns that he had been paid prior to giving his opinion but made it clear this was how he felt even before? Not really. People would have stopped at the money and it would have tainted every word that followed. Is it any different that there is no law against a commentator (not a journalist) taking money to pimp a certain idea that fits in with his agenda? No. That's like saying there was nothing wrong with coveting thy neighbor's ass because the ten commandments weren't written yet.

The Left-leaning black press is having a field day and Williams had to know he handed this to them on a platter. Those who love to believe that every black proponent of the Right and its values is either a puppet being used by racist Republicans to spew their hatred of blacks out of a black mouth so it won't be criticized as much or a self-hating, Uncle-Tom with no real values and morals.

Is that going too far? Of course it is, but that's politics and when you make these types of choices you open yourself up to this atmosphere of blowing everything out of proportion and being suspected of making a deal with the devil after every mistake.

In the end, it was a mistake and a very bad one, but not this breach of journalistic ethic or a sign of the media apocalypse. It's not something to be brushed over as much of the conservative media has and not something to be compared to Rathergate as much of the liberal media has. In a way, it's a good thing when this happens. Not for the person it happens to but for us the viewers to know these types of things are going on. Now, maybe more people will investigate the issues for themselves and not just take the word of a pundit or even a newsperson that all sides are being heard.

Williams submitted his own statement of apology in writing and went on several news programs to apology and promise this would never happen again. No matter what people say, this does make a difference. If he had avoided the question, refused to talk or just called his accusers partisan opportunist, all respect would have been lost. As it is, he'll still pay the price (as he obviously has in $$$) because he should. He did something that was very wrong and just saying your sorry doesn't mean you don't have to deal with the consequence. Is he sorry he did or sorry he got caught? There is no way to know, but I think it's pretty certain he won't do it again.

Williams was drilled on some networks and given a pass on others, but that was to be expected considering most news networks have their own agenda and that is what we should be more concerned about.

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by Angela Winters

The LA Times, among about two thousand others, followed the new Senator from Illinois around as he made his way to Capitol Hill. Personally, I don't see how the guy doesn't start attacking the press because they're acting like paparazzi with him. Faye Fiore wrote an interesting article about the Senator's first official day which included the normal problems of first days; phones don't work, no fax number, yada...

LA Times: He's the Hill's King for a Day, but Senate Has Other Plans

The article touches on his rock star status on The Hill and national stage despite, what...24 hours of national political experience. It's an interesting phenomenon to watch how the left, the right and especially the media seems to be head over heels in love with this one saving grace of the Democratic party.

There is danger at every possible angle here. It's kind of like when you get a new doll and it quickly becomes your favorite so you brush her hair so much that it falls out. The press needs to back off. Obama seems like a confident, intelligent guy and after reading his book it's clear he has the foundation that makes a great politician and voice for the people, but he's just a person. I'm sure he'll do some good things and probably a lot of great things, but this shoulder of responsibility is the best formula for jinxing a man seen in a long time.

It's clear that Washington has stomped on the most promising of promisers, but that doesn't have to happen to Obama. He has a sense of composure about himself that puts him above the dark alleys that unreasonable expectations can lead one down. Still, he's going to make mistakes and it will take time for him to actually get the power and influence that the media and many Americans seem to believe he already has.

Will hearts break when his first failure gets the monsoon of press it will likely receive? Will the papers who write of him as if he's the savior now began calling him a bust? Then he'll win another battle and they'll all wax poetic about his promise and see the road to Pennsylvania become clear again. Then he'll make a mistake get the idea.

Congress is a game and it's about paying your dues and waiting in line. There is more demand for power than supply and those who have it aren't giving it up because someone with a golden face shows up no matter how better prepared he is to handle it than they are. I'm sure some Democrats, although thankful that he kept 2004 from being the worst year in political history for their party, are jealous and resentful; especially those that have been around for a couple of terms and can't get press to save their lives. It's always entertaining to see the jockey for power when members of Congress hold their press conferences and compete for standing positions behind the one with seniority giving the speech. Their heads are held high as if screaming "I'm very important, you know that don't you?" You think they'll step aside?

There's murky waters up on that hill, but a smart man with a good partner and a good team with some Midwestern values and common sense (I'm from Chicago remember), should do just fine.

Here's what others are saying:
Indian Express: Obama gets a star's welcome to Washington
Chicago Sun Times: While Obama basks, Durbin rises
Chicago Tribune: Obama sworn in
Honolulu Star-Bulletin News:10 To Watch

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by Angela Winters

This NY Times editorial has a lot of criticism for Bush and his AG nominee, Gonzales. Seems that the rumblings, which have been there since the announcement, are getting louder on Gonzales. There are a lot of questions about his role in prisoner abuse and people are very concerned about his opinions on The Patriot Act. His hearings aren't going to be smooth, but I don't think anyone doubts he'll make it through.

Another commentary at Black America Web criticizes Bush's appointee to The Civil Rights Commission, Gerald Reynolds, who readily admits no connection or experience in the Civil Rights movement. Not a real slight considering the heart of that movement was over 40 years ago and being 41, no one could have expected him to play a central role in the major aspects of the organization like the woman he replaced. The writer doesn't like Reynold's view on Affirmative Action and is concerned that Reynolds doesn't buy into what is described as 'the realities of race'. Would an issue like Affirmative Action qualify as a civil rights issue or do government programs such as that not sit on the same status as, let's say...the right to vote or buy a house wherever you want? Attaining equal rights can be seen as different than attaining set asides with the purpose of creating equality.

The writer believes Reynolds dismissal of the movement puts blacks in peril. Is it possible for someone to really champion civil rights if they don't believe in all aspects of the movement? Some aspects of the movement are outdated, but is there a certain core belief and faith in the principles that needs to be there in order to maintain the commission's promise to all Americans, not just blacks? Liberals don't like the guy and conservatives do; big surprise. Time will tell which side is right.

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by Angela Winters

On the great scale of things, the House flap over ethics rules doesn't seem to be very interesting, but it's a good thing that the news outlets have taken greater interest in this building story because it represents the worst about politics and the people have a right to know where their representatives stand on this issue and which representatives are leading the fight to change the rules in favor of their party.

Washington Post: GOP Abandons Ethics Changes
The New York Times: House G.O.P. Voids Rule It Adopted Shielding Leader
Reuters: DeLay, Republicans Reverse Indictment Rule Change

Maybe it was press attention, behind the scenes wrangling or just plain common sense that made the GOP decide against changing these rules, but they have. The papers report it was DeLay himself that urged Republicans to stop their efforts which were intended to protect him from losing his job if indicted by a Texas grand jury looking into campaign finance practices.

What is clear is that people in politics use politics to get what they want and keep the other side from doing the same. What is also clear is that people in power can abuse the system. What is less clear and most dangerous is what would happen to laws governing Congress in general if the House Republicans would have been successful in changing this law in their favor. The snowball effect can never be underestimated when it pertains to rules and laws governing powerful leaders.

This isn't over. While deciding against changing the law itself, Republicans agreed to ask the full House to approve a change where a Republican vote would be required before an ethics inquiry can begin in the case of a deadlock by the equally divided committee. The fact that this is still in the cue is what makes me believe it was something other than common sense that spurred on yesterday's closed door meeting.

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by Angela Winters

The 109th Congress, coming into session tomorrow, really has their work cut out for them. A lot of changes, a lot of challenges, some good news, a lot of bad news and fights just waiting to happen.

Their first order of business is dealing with Tsunami relief. We're at $350 million now and Japan has gone to $500 million and the total is reaching into the billions. Some are saying Congress will push the U.S.'s contribution into the billions and I think they'll get some push back on that. Considering what is coming in from other governments, not to mention the billions coming in from private and corporate donations, there is a point where people will begin to say, hey wait a minute. More people would choose to forgive these countries their debt which will be in the millions if not billions as well. The situation is painful and the strategy is more complicated than some think, but we'll do the right thing. That's who we are.

The Washington Post covers two topics deeply dividing the Congress, Social Security and possible Supreme Court vacancies. These are two issues where a lot of passion, power and inside politics play a role. We'll see some ugliness. That's not even including getting this spending under control, tort reform, a new energy bill and immigration reform.

Some changes with the Congressional Black Caucus will probably create some interesting new dynamics. Who knows for better or worse? From NPR: Rep. Melvin Watt, a North Carolina Democrat, is the new chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. His vice chairman will be Florida Rep. Corrine Brown. Mr. Watt, 59, said he looked forward to a new opportunity to work with the Bush administration, which, he noted, has refused to meet with the CBC. The November election added four new members to the caucus' exclusively Democratic membership: Reps. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Al Green of Texas, and Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. The additions boosted the membership from 39 to 43.

The New York Times offers a prelude to both side of the confirmation hearings for Bush's nominee for Attorney General, Gonzales. He will be facing some hard questions in his hearings. Not surprising. There are legitimate questions about his job performance such as his role in the Al Queada prisoner abuse and his views on red button issues such as The Patriot Act. Democrats are concerned about his close relationship with Bush making him appear like yet another YES man, so I'm sure they'll find a way to bring that up.

What is most embarassing is the what the AP reports about House Republican Leaders considering a change in House ethics rules that could make it harder to discipline lawmakers in the wake of the Tom DeLay situation. Maybe I'm missing something, but this seems shameless. They were more than happy with the rules when they applied to Democrats, but somehow they are unfair when used against Republicans? Of course each side claims that when the rules are used against them its partisan politics. If the rules worked then, they work now. It just seems so desperately partisan and bottom of the barrel.

Republicans in Congress are going to be duking it out with each other, the conservatives on one side and the moderates on the other. The moderates feel a real need to take control of the party, but the conservatives are beating their chest and have no intention of sharing the agenda. Washington Post: It's Her Party and She'll Cry If She Wants To

Denise Majette, who lost her surprising bid for the GA Senate and gave up her seat in Congress, which Cynthia McKinney won back, has moved on, taking a role as a part-time judge. It would be unfortunate if she stayed out of politics. Her defeat of McKinney was a strong statement and her decision to run for the Senate, although seemingly impossible from the start, showed some guts.

On a sad note, political pioneer Shirley Chisholm died at the age of 80. As the first black woman elected to Congress, she would have held a place in history on that alone, but she made her place by following her trademark, "Unbought and Unbossed". She caused a little trouble, which any woman worth her salt simply has to do. Plus she had big hair and who doesn't love that?
Yahoo News: Ex-Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm Dies
The New York Times:Obituaries
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