Want to get arrested? If you’re black, ride through Hoover

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Photo courtesy of http://www.hooverpd.com

Ok, maybe that headline is a little misleading. If you’re black, you may drive through any town and get arrested, doesn’t have to be Hoover.

But for the sake of this meandering dialogue, USA Today has published a report using data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that proves, with evidence, that black people are arrested far more than other races.

Surprising? No. Interesting? Ehh, maybe a little.

According to the FBI, in 2012, Hoover’s arrest rate for black people per 1000 residents was 139. Non-blacks was about 33. That’s a fairly striking disparity.

So why now is this important? Frankly, contingent upon the hue of your pigmentation, it isn’t, specifically if you’re black. Getting pulled over – better yet arrested while driving as a black person – is almost a rite of passage in this country.

But because of what’s bubbling in Ferguson, Missouri, there is renewed focus on race, and how police officers treat black people.

Yet the most damning information emerging from this report is that of the over 3,500 police departments that had their arrest records examined, just 173 showed some form of racial equality when it comes to arrests.

Maybe that should be a war cry for a march, yes? “What do we want?” “Racial equality in arrest records!” “When do we want it!?” “Now!”

Not sexy or catchy, but it would certainly quell some fears. But, going back to Hoover, and Ferguson for that matter, these numbers are just that, numbers. We’ve become a nation obsessed with data, so we need a number to prove that our feelings of inequality are justified.

What should accompany this report on arrest disparities is one regarding differences in education, as well as variations in income. That may well explain why so many blacks are arrested compared to whites, errr, non-blacks.

Oh, and the imbedded racism that this country carries.

Besides the report, racism, and the unwritten rule about knowing where one shouldn’t drive while black, it’s likely not the grandest idea to ride through Hoover, at night, with a dark hue.

-JH

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Race to Watch: House District 30 Republican Primary

Incumbent Karen Castor-Dentel had a successful freshmen term in the Florida House. She was a strong advocate for education in the house as she filed five different bills with an education theme.

Castor-Dentel also raised a lot of money.

As of the latest filing period for the end of December, she raised almost $100,000 with $6,173 coming in January.

But the interesting portion of her race is listed on the other side of the political fence.

Republicans Jonathan Sturgill and Robert Cortes are battling for the chance to take down Castor-Dentel. So far, both men have raised a respectable amount of money; $66,235 for Cortes, $25,000 of that amount coming from a personal loan, and $36,717 for Sturgill.

According to Sturgill’s website, he operates Durable Safety Products, wants to “remove government barriers to private-sector job creation and run local and state governments with a business mentality.”

The narrative for Cortes is a little different as he is a city commissioner in Longwood, Florida. He’s held that post since 2009 and recently received the endorsement of every member of the commission along with Representatives Ritch Workman and former Representative Steve Precourt.

As of right now, it would seem that Cortes has a slight edge. He has more money and is a sitting city commissioner. That doesn’t discount Sturgill’s chances, just makes his hill a little tougher to climb.

Even with all of the money, endorsements and stature; which candidate will have enough to take-on the formidable Castor-Dentel?

She’s a sitting representative, has name recognition, money, and precocity. Castor-Dentel may now be considered a political veteran, and she’s savvy enough to use her experience as a lawmaker against her opponents.

Once the general election comes and she faces Strugill or Cortes, which one can convince voters that Castor-Dentel needs to be replaced after two short years in Tallahassee?

-JH

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Social Media Privacy Bill Making Its Way Through Florida Senate

The type of activity we have on social media will either keep us in the bread line or take us out of it. In essence, companies vet our social media activity when we apply for most jobs.

So that vulgar MEME you posted or that song on YouTube that you wanted everyone of your followers to hear may be the reason why your phone never rang after you had such an awesome interview.

To many, your personal and private time should remain as such, private. Unfortunately, its not, which is why companies judge your character based off of your social media footprint.

That’s why Senator Jeff Clemens is trying to give you a piece of your privacy back. SB 198 would prohibit “an employer from requesting access to a social media account of an employee or prospective employee.”

It would also disavow employers from “taking retaliatory personnel action” if an employee does not give access to his or her social media account.

While this bill will have its fair share of supporters, I’m also sure it will have a grand number of detractors.

The language embedded in the bill banning employers from taking retaliatory personnel action will be debated. Many organizations require their employees to refrain from posting inflammatory things about the company via social media. Costco Wholesale has this type of social media policy.

“Employees should be aware that statements posted electronically (such as online message boards or discussion groups) that damage the Company, defame any individual or damage any person’s reputation, or violate the policies outlines in the Costco Employee Agreement, may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.”

Is that too broad of a policy and does it encroach upon an employee’s right to privacy? Venting on Facebook or Twitter after a rather stressful day at work may be cathartic for some, but what if the comments skew too negative or paint an organization in a bad light?

Will the company have no ability to discipline for a potential inflammatory act?

SB 198 is on the committee agenda for Commerce and Tourism for February 17th at 4pm.

The full text of the Social Media Privacy bill is located here.

-JH

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What We Can Learn From King, Hoover, and Snowden

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Photo courtesy of http://www.wisn.com

As we continue to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is important that we slow down to recognize how his life parallels to where we are now.

Last year, Americans were semi-rocked with booming revelations that we were possibly being spied upon by the National Security Agency. When the spying documents were leaked to varied media outlets by former NSA employee Edward Snowden, a lot of black Americans simply shrugged their shoulders.

Not because it wasn’t a big deal or that they didn’t care, well some of them probably didn’t care, but I believe it was due to the fact that many African-Americans have been subjected to some form of government scrutiny at some point during their lives.

While I can attest and empathize with that sentiment, I still believe that black Americans, in fact all Americans, should stand and pay attention to what the NSA is doing with your personal data.

Here’s an example. In August of last year, the Washington Post reported that the NSA was giving data to the DEA and that a massive cover-up was taking place. The DEA would receive “tips” from the NSA that would allow the DEA to potentially establish probable cause for the arrest of a potential suspect.

Because the DEA may have been given the information illegally, the DEA has to create a faux story as to how probable cause was established.

Does that give you the shivers?

The United States government is no stranger to infiltrating the personal lives of Americans and potentially fabricating stories to create a negative narrative: See Dr. King.

In a new book by journalist Betty Medsger titled “The Burglary: the Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI,” Medsger details the former FBI chief’s obsession with Dr. King.

Hoover, with the permission of then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, tapped King’s phone and bugged everything from his home to his hotel rooms to prove that he was a communist.

He wasn’t able to corroborate the communist story, but Hoover and the FBI did hear of King’s extra marital affairs. With that information in hand, Hoover attempted to use it to break the civil right’s leader’s personal life.

Hoover’s dissonance to King is why more black Americans should pay attention to the happenings of the NSA.

Last week President Obama gave a major speech about privacy and the NSA. He talked of reforming some of the agencies collecting practices as well as other things.

Some of the reforms he suggested were put forth by a presidential task force on changing the NSA, and some of them will need Congressional approval before they are able to move forward.

We try to learn something new about King’s life each year that we celebrate his birth. We play his speeches, march in parades with his name, attend lunches and dinners in his honor, and recite the same tired lines from his “I Have a Dream” speech.

But what are we truly learning? What lessons have we received from viewing his life and how he was treated? Sure, black folk have a shaky history with the government, but does that mean that excuses can be made as to why we fail to pay attention to what’s being done us?

J. Edgar Hoover was the caution, Edward Snowden is the warning, who or what will represent the final blow?

-JH

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The Congressional Millionaires Club

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Photo courtesy of lovemmclub.com

Political season has officially arrived. That cold weather that dipped into Florida earlier this week that forced you to cover your plants with those old colored fitted sheets, that brisk puff of cold air was actually the emptied souls left behind from political seasons past.

It had nothing to do with the so-called “polar vortex,” so don’t believe the weatherman.

Tis the season to go knocking, right? When those politicians, and want-to-be politicians, come knocking at your door asking for your vote, and they tell you that D.C. is broken, tell them to kick rocks.

According to a new report issued by the Center for Responsive Politics, just about half of all members of Congress are millionaires. Those same lawmakers who claim to represent the least of the; those same men and women who either want less government for the good of the country or a little more for the good of the country are delivering that message from an ivory tower.

Take the sometimes pompous chair of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa. He recently said that the testimony that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave to the committee was false. That has little to do with his ability to connect with voters and more to do with his disdain for the Affordable Care Act, but I digress.

Superficially, wouldn’t Issa’s words sound better if his political affiliation was different and he wasn’t reportedly worth almost $600 million?

For any member of Congress, that’s a lot of dough. Doesn’t take away from Issa’s ability to govern or look after his constituents, just shows that there may be a disconnect.

“Washington D.C. is broken” is the narrative that we’ve heard for a long time now. President Barack Obama was swept into office promising to change the culture in D.C. because the politicians there were so out-of-touch.

So what does this financial report prove?

I’ll give you a hint. Last year, Speaker of the House John Boehner said that “when you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it.”

Translation is that he and the majority of his Republican colleagues do not support an increase.

Now I understand that the argument against or for an increase in the minimum wage isn’t simple, but hearing that those who oppose it make at least $900,000 a year is a little sickening.

This all just means that the gap between the haves and the have nots has turned into a gulf.

Oh, and one of the richest members of Congress resides in Florida. Vernon Buchanan is a Republican who represents Florida’s 16th is potentially worth a cool $235 million.

Good luck finding him at the local Winn-Dixie picking through the good grapes.

-JH

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Why Santa’s Color Matters to Fox News

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Photo courtesy of Foxnewsinsider.com/Anchor Megyn Kelly

The legend of Fox News grew a little more today after a video clip surfaced of host Megyn Kelly claiming that both Santa and Jesus are white men. Kelly underlined her point about Jesus by claiming that his hue is a “verifiable fact” and that Santa “just is white.”

In a pseudo-intellectual manner, Kelly dryly talks about the story and said that she’s only debating this “because someone wrote about it, kids.”

Without debating the invalid historical context of Kelly’s assertion about Jesus and Santa, I simply want to discuss her dismissal of the original debate, which is simply skin color.

By the way, this story of Kelly talking about Santa and Jesus being white men started when Kelly mentioned Aisha Harris’s article on Slate.com about changing the perception of Santa Claus.

How this turned into an idea of dogma is a little perplexing, but we’ve arrived here, so no turning back now.

Harris slightly defends her article in another piece on Slate.com titled “What Fox News Doesn’t Understand About Santa Claus” where she basically says what most, at least I hope most, people are thinking: Santa isn’t real; therefore our perception of him isn’t either.

But this argument about Jesus and Santa is the step-child of the “race themed” movie discussion from a few weeks ago. When the movie “Best Man Holiday” was released and it performed better than expectations, USA Today promptly called it a race themed movie. That moniker means that when movies with an all-black cast do well at the box office, it’s because they are only themed toward the color of the folks who star in the movie.

I guess it’s the same for Santa and Jesus, no? Santa only gives good gifts to white kids and the colored babies are left with the throw-a-ways. And Jesus will only turn water into wine for grown white people. For the rest of us, we’ll just get a few shock bottles of Fireball whiskey and Thunderbird.

For people of Megyn Kelly’s ilk, certain things are just as they are and need not be changed. James Bond, as noted by Ms. Harris, has to be a white man because he’s, well because he’s always been a white man.

The host of Jeopardy? Well it’s been hosted by a white man for my entire life, why change now?

This frame of mind speaks to the lack of Caucasian imagination. The first 43 presidents where white men and the head of Yale’s famed  “Skull and Bones” is probably still a white man. Power in this country has always been wielded by white men, and to imagine a world ruled by anyone other than a Caucasian is scary for some.

For little minority babies, seeing people in power who look like them is vastly important.

Maybe for Megyn Kelly, her fear isn’t that of a black Santa crawling down her chimney covered in soot or an olive-skinned Jesus with wide-lens sunglasses and leather jogging pants. It’s the loss of power associated with the change in demographics in America.

-JH

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Student Loan Giant Sallie Mae in Hot Water

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Photo courtesy of Huffington Post/Sallie Mae

If not for student loans and Pell Grants, I’m really not sure how I would have attained my college degree. The monetary aid I received was genuine to me; it provided an avenue so that I may earn a higher education.

Yet the other side of that is this: 13 percent of students who began to pay back their student loans in 2009 defaulted within three years. There is either a money management problem going on in America or a lot of these students aren’t being properly educated on the services available to them.

Well, that and that dog on Sallie Mae. Through the fantastic electronic mail service Yahoo, I still receive e-mail updates from Ms. Mae about “lowering my payments” or simply “viewing my account.” I’m sure that when I open one of those e-mails one day there will be a message with letters cut-out from a magazine asking for the money that’s owed to them.

At any rate, disposing of my student loan horror stories, there is some news that everyone should know about.

According to the Huffington Post, Sallie Mae is being investigated for “violating borrowers’ rights.” In one of the accusations, the debt giant may have violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This law protects active-duty military from way to aggressive debt collectors from garnishing checks or collecting funds in an un-fair manner.

In addition to its practices against military members, Sallie Mae’s discrimination extended unto civilians as Sallie Mae “incorrectly calculated borrowers’ incomes” and did not properly adjust accounts.

While Sallie Mae hasn’t been officially charged with any wrong doing, the findings against the company are disturbing. As of this moment, the federal government will not punish Sallie Mae and has chosen to renew its contract with the debt organization.

-JH

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