July 18, 2019
By Lauren Victoria Burke
NNPA Newswire Contributor
On July 16, the U.S. House voted 240-187 to condemn the racist language of Donald Trump in a series of twitter communications over the weekend. All 235 Democrats voted yes. On July 13, President Trump began a targeted series of racist vitriol on social media aimed at four female Congresswomen of color in the U.S. House.
A roll call vote on the House floor rebuking a President is very rare.
Only four Republicans, Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Susan Brooks (R-IN) and one independent, who recently left the Republican party, Rep. Justin Amash (I-IN), voted in favor.
The President responded on twitter midday, writing, "Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body! The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game. Republicans should not show ‘weakness’ and fall into their trap.”
“I know racism when I see it. I know racism when I feel it, and at the highest level of government, there is no room for racism. It sows the seeds of violence and destroys the hopes and dreams of people. The world is watching; they are shocked and dismayed because it seems we have lost our way, as a nation, as a proud, great people. We are one Congress, and we are here to serve one house – the American house, the American people,” said civil rights legend and Georgia Congressman John Lewis on the House floor during debate.
Debate grew heated as Republicans attempted to bring up a measure to condemn Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) which failed. Democrats moved forward as they defended not only their colleagues but immigrant communities President Trump often vilifies.
“Some of us have been victims of the stain, the pain, the hurt of racism. In the 50s and during the 60s, segregationists told us to go back when we protested for our rights. They told ministers, priests, rabbis, and nuns to go back. The told innocent, little children seeking just equal education to go back,” Rep. Lewis added.
“Like the vast majority of Americans, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with the childish rancor of our public discourse. Our inability to conduct ourselves in a civil and respectable fashion has paralyzed the most powerful government in the history of the world, and for what? A 10-second soundbite on primetime news and a few thousand twitter followers?” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), who presided over part of the debate over the resolution condemning Trump’s words.
Shortly after debate ended and the measure condemning the President passed, Rep. Al Green (D-TX) started a debate clock that will expire on Thursday that will cue up another floor vote on the question of impeachment. Even though Rep. Green’s similar measures have failed in the past, he has gained votes each time he has tried.
July 18, 2019
By Mark Hedin
Ethnic Media Services
California is looking for new commissioners to draw its redistricting maps — the maps that define who votes for California’s representatives in Congress, its state Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization members. The deadline is coming up fast to apply for the job, which pays up to $300 per day.
The initial application form takes five minutes to fill out. It’s due by Aug. 9 for the first round of the application process. Find it here: shapecaliforniasfuture.auditor.ca.gov.
“This is your chance to shape California’s future by drawing fair district boundaries that serve the best interests of all of the people of California,” said Kathay Feng, national redistricting director for Common Cause, the nonprofit that led the way in creating the commission, the nation’s first, in 2009.
“It’s so important. Teachers, small business people, demographers, people who have served in a local planning commission,” Feng said, would all be good candidates for the work, most of which will be done in the first half of 2021. The $300 per diem pay is for any six or more hours spent in a 24-hour period doing the panel’s work.
Applications opened in June, but so far, the pool of applicants does not reflect California’s diversity, according to both Feng and Stan Forbes, the current commission chairman. Two-thirds of the applicants have been white and two-thirds have been male. “That is not California,” Forbes said.
“We know from last time that the reasons the commission was so good was there was good diversity in the applicant pool,” Feng said. “Our hope is that between now and Aug. 9, people will take a look at the application and put their hats in the ring.”
Serving on the commission,” Forbes noted, “is one of the most rewarding things someone could possibly do. It’s taking power away from the politicians and giving it back to the people.
”When’s the last time the public had an impact?”
The work will begin in earnest in early 2021, once the data collected in the 2020 census is in. The commission will take the total number of people in the state who were counted in the census, and try to divide them equally and fairly into the number of congressional seats California has – currently 53, but subject to change according to census data showing geographic shifts in population dispersal nationwide. The 435 seats in the House of Representatives are divided evenly among the states according to their population.
Current projections are that the state may lose one or two congressional seats once the census has retabulated the number of people in the country based on the data it will gather in 2020.
The commission will also create 40 districts for the state’s 40 state senators, 80 state Assembly districts and four Board of Equalization districts. The Board of Equalization is the state agency tasked with tax administration and fee collection and handles appeals of decisions made by the state Franchise Tax Board.
The proposed new maps will be submitted to the secretary of state for certification by the end of July 2021, a process Forbes described as a “pro-forma” review to ensure they meet legal criteria.
The reason it’s important for all California communities to be represented on the redistricting commission is to ensure that the unique concerns of every community are heard.
“We all have different issues,” Forbes said.
For instance, during one of dozens of community meetings held up and down the state in the first commission’s work in 2011, the people of Marysville, in Yuba County, told the commission that they needed better political representation. They were stuck in the same congressional district as the agriculturally focused Central Valley, and felt their very different political concerns — about fire prevention, watershed protections and recreational activities — were being ignored.
So, Forbes said, “We drew a district that represents the foothills.”
Similarly, the commission adjusted plans to create a district in Napa Valley, known worldwide for its wine industry, to include its warehouses, and, along the Interstate-710 corridor near Long Beach, created a district that linked the shared interests of a populace impacted by the diesel pollution emanating from port operations there.
Similar considerations were made to not dilute the voice of other communities of interest, Forbes said, such as Koreans in Hollywood, South Asians in Fremont, Vietnamese in Orange County and the gay community in San Jose.
Ethnicity factors into redistricting considerations in other ways, too. Per the Voting Rights Act, Forbes said, the redistricting process can’t pack all people of a group into one district, or distribute them thinly across so many districts that their voices are drowned out.
California’s Citizen Redistricting Committee is the nation’s first, but there are efforts under way in smaller California jurisdictions and in states across the country to create similar bulwarks against the abuses of gerrymandering. In California, the cities of Long Beach, Santa Barbara and San Mateo all passed laws to create a citizen commission, Feng said, and encouraged people to participate in those, too.
In other locales in California, the debate is ongoing about how to fairly divide smaller communities into political districts, for instance, for city council elections. Farther afield, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, now chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, recently was critical of the Supreme Court’s decision in Rucho v. Common Cause not to intervene in state redistricting programs, no matter how partisan they may be.
Until California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission was created, thanks to two initiatives voters approved in 2008 and 2010, the redistricting process in California, Forbes said, was designed to protect incumbent politicians.
So, between 2000 and 2010, there were 265 elections in California for a seat in the House of Representatives, but only once was an incumbent voted out (Richard Pombo, who represented parts of the San Joaquin Valley from 1993 until he was replaced in 2006 by Democrat Jerry McNerny and became a lobbyist for mining and water management interests).
But in 2018 alone, seven congressional seats were flipped, although not by wide margins.
Another positive development in California toward getting communities fairly represented in census data and all that flows from it, Forbes said, is that prisoners will no longer be considered residents of the communities, typically rural, in which they’re incarcerated, but instead will be linked to their hometowns.
“We’re the gold standard,” Forbes said. In his travels across the country, in connection with Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, for discussions in other states of similar redistricting reform efforts, “progressives and moderates are in awe of California.”
At an event recently, he said, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to have his picture taken with ME.”
July 11, 2019
By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Correspondent
It’s likely that identifying as a Republican today isn’t as easy as it once was, particularly with President Donald Trump’s policies that have included separating children from parents; the administration’s escalating racial rhetoric; and a special counsel report that strongly suggests the nation’s commander-in-chief committed crimes that may not just end with obstruction of justice.
And, as tough as it is for White GOP members to identify with the party (See: Michigan Rep. Justin Amash’s declaring his independence this month and leaving the party) African American Republicans may have an even more difficult task of letting people know where they stand.
In fact, prominent Republicans like South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Telly Lovelace, who once was responsible for African American outreach, press strategy and field engagement for the Republican National Committee, nixed requests by the NNPA Newswire to detail life as a Black Republican.
We also reached out to others without success including Herman Caine, Condoleezza Rice, Dr. Ben Carson, and Armstrong Williams.
Perhaps they weren’t able to articulate what former RNC Chair Michael Steele could – “I mean, you know, people don’t ask Democrats that question when they had their crazy left-wingers out there,” Steele said.
“But, you know in any political climate there are underlying arguments for being reasonable and in my view, which is why I remain a Republican, is that despite Donald Trump, there’s still a balance and there’s still underlying arguments for Republicanism that are still valid,” Steele said.
“The principles are still valid,” he said before offering a reminder of what he told a Washington Post reporter in 2018.
“You invite me over to a nice dinner and I come to your home. And during the course of that evening, I start breaking your china. I start slicing your drapes, tearing up your carpet, putting holes in your walls.
“So, at that point, do you leave, or do you kick my ass out? You’re going to kick me out. That’s where I am. I’m not leaving. This is my house.
“I know I gotta repair the drapes and patch up the holes in the walls and replace the carpet. But your ass will be gone and that’s the goal,” Steele said.
Shekinah Monee, of Perfect Vision PR Company, said as a Republican in the current climate it’s often difficult when she discusses her views to fellow African Americans who don’t favor her party.
“My mother blames my boyfriend for my party change, although my views have never changed,” Monee told NNPA Newswire.
“I had to reevaluate my views and why I was with a [Democratic] party that did not support me. While I have always been conservative, I was told as a black woman I must be a Democrat. I attempted to become a Republican several times, but the Board of Election kept keeping me as a Democrat. I finally became a Republican in 2019,” Monee said.
“I think that the African American community truly needs to read and know their history. I think that a lot of people dislike a person and let it speak for the party,” she said.
“There is no consideration taken about the entire picture. Also, we must hold everyone to the same standards,” Monee continued.
Having worked in Republican politics for 15 years and being the head of the only black GOP political campaign consulting firm, Richard S. Holt said his experience shows that having an all-white administration makes many African Americans believe that the party is racist.
“My friends and family understand this narrative and how it works in terms of the politics of race,” Holt said.
“My father was very conservative and hated the Democrats who he saw as holding back black progress. As I grew up, I began to get a better understanding of his ideas,” said Holt, whose father was the first in his family to get a college degree and the first black chemist to graduate from his college,” he said.
“I was taught a very ‘up by the bootstraps’ idea that we had to be smarter, be wiser, and work harder than whites to get ahead,” Holt said.
“Once I read the book, ‘Conscience of a Conservative,’ in college back in 1999, I was sold on conservatism overall,” he said.
Holt did say he disagreed with the author’s ideas on the Civil Rights Act, but the overall philosophy of conservatism just made the most sense for the kind of America he wanted to live in.
Jonathan Farley, whose father is a native of Guyana who holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, and his mother who is Jamaican and holds a Ph.D. in American history, said he’s an independent who voted Republican in the 2018 midterm elections.
“I decided to do that because of the Democratic Party’s support for alternative lifestyle groups and the party’s support for women who make false allegations against men like the #MeToo movement,” Farley said.
Despite his conversion, Farley said he doesn’t believe African Americans as a whole will ever be convinced that the Republican party has the community’s best interest in mind.
“Republicans should make it clear that the Democratic party supports anti-Christian efforts like teaching kindergarteners about transsexuals and Republicans should stop taking the side of neo-Confederate groups and the party should publicly state that Confederate statues need to be removed,” Farley said.
July 11, 2019
By Lindsey Tanner
New research suggests legalizing recreational marijuana for U.S. adults in some states may have slightly reduced teens’ odds of using pot.
One reason may be that it’s harder and costlier for teens to buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries than from dealers, said lead author Mark Anderson, a health economist at Montana State University.
The researchers analyzed national youth health and behavior surveys from 1993 through 2017 that included questions about marijuana use. Responses from 1.4 million high school students were included.
Thirty-three states have passed medical marijuana laws and 11 have legalized recreational use — generally for ages 21 and up, many during the study years. The researchers looked at overall changes nationwide, but not at individual states.
There was no change linked with medical marijuana legislation but odds of teen use declined almost 10% after recreational marijuana laws were enacted.
The study was published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.
Previous research has found no effect on teen use from medical marijuana laws, and conflicting results from recreational marijuana laws. The new results echo a study showing a decline in teen use after sales of recreational pot began in 2014 in Washington state.
The results “should help to quell some concerns that use among teens will actually go up. This is an important piece when weighing the costs and benefits of legalization,” Anderson said.
But Linda Richter, director of policy research and analysis at the nonprofit Center on Addiction, questioned the new findings. The center is a drug use prevention and treatment advocacy group.
“It sort of defies logic to argue that more liberal recreational marijuana laws somehow help to dissuade young people from using the drug,” Richter said.
Other studies have found that, in states where use is legal, fewer teens think it is risky or harmful than the national average, she said. And teens in those states still have access to marijuana.
“There is plenty of research showing that the black market for marijuana is alive and well in states that have legalized recreational use,” Richter said.
About 20% of U.S. high school students use marijuana, unchanged since 2015 after an earlier decline, according to the 2017 version of the surveys used in the study. Rates ranged from 13% of 9th graders to 26% of high school seniors, according to the survey data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Repeated marijuana use during adolescence may lead to long-lasting changes in brain function,” authors of the new study wrote. In the short-term, it can cause impaired memory and attention problems lasting weeks. Frequent use starting in the early teens may lower IQ scores; some kids may be more vulnerable to pots’ effects because of genetics or other factors.