Corruption case a blow to GOP diversity
Written by CNN
NEW YORK STATE SEN. MALCOLM SMITH, D-QUEENS (AP Photo/Tim Roske, File)
by Errol Louis
(CNN) -- This is no way to run a party.
The details of the scandal sweeping the New York Republican Party are tawdry, sad and infuriating -- and a wake-up call to a national party that is urgently seeking to make inroads among black, Latino, and young voters.
Barely two weeks after RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and New York state Republican Chairman Ed Cox held a press conference at a Black church in Brooklyn to launch the party's ambitious, $10 million diversity campaign, FBI agents arrested Malcolm Smith, a longtime Black state legislator.
According to federal prosecutors, Smith spent months organizing cash bribes to two top city Republican officials in exchange for a slot on the ballot in this fall's Republican primary for mayor. Unfortunately for Smith, a real estate tycoon he enlisted to make cash payments was, in fact, an undercover FBI agent, according to federal prosecutors.
The criminal complaint against Smith and five others -- including a Republican City Council member and the chairman and vice chairman of two Republican county organizations -- details mind-boggling details of recorded conversations and alleged handovers of envelopes stuffed with money.
All the scheming, say prosecutors, was done in the hope that Smith might secure the Republican nomination and somehow win the race for mayor in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-to-1. Smith will get his day in court, along with the five other men and women named -- but the damage to the party is incalculable.
In a 100-page plan of action, Priebus and the RNC laid out a pilot project to build support among Black urban voters, and specifically declared that "big-city mayoral races provide our best 2013 opportunities for these projects." New York can probably be crossed off that list, and the fallout will be felt in other cities as the case unfolds.
And that's a shame. Republican leaders are right to make their case to young, urban, Black and Latino voters, and should be grooming candidates from all communities. America's two-party system can't function properly if the parties are racially divided.
The flirtation with the Republican Party by Smith, a lifelong Democrat -- if done honestly -- might have started a new conversation within Black circles about the cost and wisdom of always supporting Democratic candidates and policies. It has long been noticed that Black communities contain their share of church-going social conservatives; the GOP theory is that intelligent outreach to those voters could tilt close contests to Republicans.
That's not likely to happen now. Smith's troubles -- and the arrest of Republican leaders accused of taking money to advance Smith's cross-party ambitions -- will supply ammunition to conservative party leaders who are skeptical about the new diversity strategy.
The scandal also weakens the argument, popular among national Republicans, that big-city Democratic political machines are corrupt and wasteful. In New York, at least, the shoe is on the other foot, with GOP party leaders in the nation's biggest city hauled from their homes in handcuffs and facing up to 40 years in prison or more.
It now falls to New York's Republican chairman, Ed Cox, to straighten out this mess. Cox knows his way around a scandal: As the son-in-law of the late President Richard Nixon, he had a ringside seat as the Watergate debacle unfolded.
Cox must do whatever it takes to chase any crooked characters out of his party -- and try, against the odds, to continue Priebus' outreach strategy. Doing so will be a challenge, because the next black or Latino Republican candidate will face the question: Are you another Malcolm Smith?
Editor's note: Errol Louis is the host of "Inside City Hall," a nightly political show on NY1, a New York City all-news channel.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 18:48
Judge to retire after sending racist Obama email
Written by Associated Press
RETIRING--U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull, Montana’s chief federal judge, will retire following an investigation into an email he forwarded that included a racist joke involving President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Billings Gazette, John Warner)
by Matt Voltz
Associated Press Writer
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana federal judge will retire following an investigation into an email he forwarded that included a racist joke involving President Barack Obama.
U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull had previously announced he would step down as chief circuit judge and take a reduced caseload, but he informed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that he now intends to fully retire May 3.
The appellate court posted a statement by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski on its website Tuesday announcing Cebull had submitted the retirement letter.
The March 29 letter comes after the appellate court's Judicial Council issued a March 15 order on the investigation into the February 2012 email, but appellate court spokesman David Madden could not say whether Cebull resigned because of the order.
"The misconduct process is confidential. I am not privy to what the order said nor do I know what Judge Cebull's motivations were," Madden said in Wednesday email.
The council's order will remain confidential during an appeal period, which concludes May 17, Madden said. The council will make an announcement after Cebull's retirement takes effect, he said, but added that he was unable to answer when the order or the letter will be released to the public.
A Cebull aide directed calls for comment to Clerk of Court Tyler Gilman, who said Wednesday that Cebull would not have any comment other than the court's statement.
He declined to release the resignation letter or describe what it said.
Cebull wrote a letter of apology to Obama and filed a complaint against himself after The Great Falls Tribune published the contents of the email, which included a joke about bestiality and the president's mother.
The Billings judge forwarded the email from his chambers to six other people on Feb. 20, 2012, the newspaper reported.
Two other groups also demanded an investigation, with one, the Montana Human Rights Network, starting an online petition calling for Cebull's resignation.
Kim Abbott, the network's co-director, said Wednesday she was pleased with the announcement but hopes to see the results of the investigation.
"The email really called into question his ability to treat women and people of color fairly, so we're happy Montanans will get to appear before a different judge," Abbott said.
The complaints were referred to a special committee appointed by the appellate court to investigate whether Cebull's email constituted misconduct.
Kozinski's statement said the committee submitted a report to the Judicial Council in December after "a thorough and extensive investigation" that included interviews with witnesses and Cebull and going over related documents. The council issued its order based on that report.
The statement says the Judicial Council will not comment further until Cebull's retirement is effective.
Cebull stepped down as Montana's chief federal judge and took senior status March 18, which allowed another judge to be appointed while he continued working with a reduced caseload.
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus then formed a committee to replace Cebull and another judge taking senior status, with Baucus recently recommending that Obama appoint state District Judge Susan Watters of Billings to take Cebull's spot on the bench.
The new chief federal judge, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen, plans to meet with other judges to discuss how to handle the Cebull's cases, Gilman said.
Cebull was a Billings attorney for nearly 30 years before becoming a U.S. magistrate in Great Falls in 1998.
He became a district judge in 2001 and has served as chief judge of the District of Montana since 2008.
Cebull's notable cases include his block of reopening of the U.S. border to cattle in 2005, two years after the U.S. banned Canadian cattle and beef products over fears of mad-cow disease. The 9th Circuit overturned that decision.
Cebull also presided over a lawsuit filed by landowners against Exxon Mobil Corp. over the cleanup following last year's pipeline spill of 1,500 gallons into the Yellowstone River.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 18:59
'I Am A Man'...Decades after MLK death, Memphis jobs in spotlight
Written by Associated Press
FIGHTING AGAIN--Alvin Turner, the Rev. Leslie Moore, Elmore Nickleberry and Baxter Leach, from left, pose for a photo at the headquarters of Local 1733 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees on March 14, in Memphis, Tenn. The men participated in a sanitation workers strike in 1968 that drew the support of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in Memphis on April 4 of that year. The poster includes the strike's rallying cry, "I am a man." (AP Photos/Adrian Sainz)
by Adian Sainz
Associated Press Writer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Decades after Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to death here, some of the striking sanitation workers who marched with him are again fighting for their jobs.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 19:03
Ex-Atlanta schools leader fighting for legacy
Written by Associated Press
FORMER SCHOOLS CHIEF--- In this June 13, 2011 file photo, outgoing schools superintendent, Dr. Beverly Hall, center, arrives for her last Atlanta school board meeting at the Atlanta Public Schools headquarters in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton)
by Christina A. Cassidy
ATLANTA (AP) — When Beverly Hall first arrived in Atlanta as superintendent of the city's public school system, she cautioned she wouldn't be riding in on a white horse and that it would take time to fix the problems of low student performance.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 April 2013 18:57
This Week In Black History 4-3-13
Written by Courier Newsroom
Week of April 3 to April 9
1930—Ras Tafari is proclaimed Emperor of Ethiopia—one of the only African nations to successfully resist European colonization. He is renamed Haile Selassie. Blacks in many parts of the world view him as a god-like figure. Indeed, Jamaicans form a religion in his honor. They call themselves Rastafarians. Selassie could trace his ancestry as far back as the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of the Christian Bible.
1950—Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month, dies at age 74 in Washington, D.C.
1961—Comedian-actor Eddie Murphy is born in Brooklyn, N.Y.
1968—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his powerful and prophetic “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis, Tenn. Many felt he used the speech to predict his own death. He was assassinated the very next day—at 6:01 p.m., April 4, 1968.
1915—Muddy Waters is born McKinley Morganfield in Rolling Fork, Miss. Walters would go on to become one of the primary shapers of that genre of music known as the blues. Indeed, he was easily one of the most influential musicians of the first half of the 20th century.
1928—Poet Maya Angelou is born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Mo. Angelou now ranks as one of the greatest poets in America. But her talents have also been expressed as a playwright, author, producer, historian and civil rights activist.
1967—Civil rights legend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. formally announces his opposition to America’s war in Vietnam during a speech before the Overseas Press Club in New York City. The speech brought King even greater opposition from the federal government, especially then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. It also alienated some Black leaders who felt it was a mistake to mix domestic civil rights issues with foreign policy issues. But King charged that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
1968—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated while standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tenn., as he had embarked on a campaign to focus the Civil Rights Movement on economic and financial betterment issues for Blacks. Riots or urban rebellions broke out in over 100 U.S. cities. At least 50 people are killed as over 20,000 federal troops and 34,000 National Guardsmen are mobilized to put down the disturbances. The official finding was that a lone White gunman, James Earl Ray, was responsible for the assassination. However, suspicions remain until this day that the FBI, led by arch-conservative J. Edgar Hoover, was somehow involved in the killing.
1856—Booker T. Washington is born a slave in Hale’s Ford, Va. He would become one of the three or four most influential leaders in all of African-American history. He was one of the nation’s greatest educators, having founded the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. However, more progressive Black leaders became critical of him after he delivered the so-called “Atlanta Compromise” speech of 1895 in which he appeared to offer an acceptance and accommodation to American racism in exchange of greater vocational training of African-Americans.
1976—The infamous COINTELPRO documents are released. In response to an accidental discovery at a warehouse and a freedom of information lawsuit, the FBI is forced to release documents detailing an intensive and extensive campaign to disrupt and destroy civil rights and anti-war organizations and their leaders. Among the documents released was a letter dated August 25, 1967 which made clear that one of the campaign’s chief aims was “to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of Black nationalists …” But the FBI’s definition of “Black nationalist” was so broad that even moderate civil rights organizations and their leaders were targeted to be neutralized. For example, the letter characterized the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) as one of the organizations having “radical and violence prone leaders…” The leader of the SCLC was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
1990—Jazz great Sarah Vaughn dies. Vaughn was born in Newark, N.J., in 1924 and went on to become what many considered “the world’s greatest singing talent.” She was known as the “incomparable Sarah Vaughn.”
1798—One of the nation’s most famous and accomplished early Black pioneers, James Beckwourth, is born. The product of a White slave owner and a Black slave mother, Beckwourth acquired his freedom and became a successful fur trader. He would later become a scout for the Rocky Mount Fur Company. However, in 1824, he joined the Crow Indian nation and married a Crow woman. He would later move west where he discovered an important passage way through the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The passage was named “Beckwourth Pass,” after him.
1846—Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, first file suit claiming their freedom. The case would eventually lead to Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney’s infamous “Dred Scott Decision” in 1857. Scott had basically argued that by being taken from the slave state of Missouri and living in free states or territories for seven years he was in effect a free man. The case finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 7 to 2 decision written by 80-year-old Chief Justice Taney, himself a former slaver owner, Scott’s argument was rejected. In one of the most racist Supreme Court decisions ever issued, Justice Taney ruled that neither Blacks nor their descendants could be U.S. citizens and thus had no right to sue for their freedom in U.S. courts. Taney capped off the ruling by saying, “A Negro had no rights a White man was bound [required] to respect.”
1712—The New York City slave rebellion occurs. A group of 27 slaves began setting fires in the city and shooting Whites. At least a dozen Whites were killed before the state militia arrived to brutally put down the rebellion. Following the revolt, slave codes were toughened, 21 Blacks were executed and six committed suicide.
1872—William Monroe Trotter is born. Of all the Black leaders of the late 1800s and early 1900s, Trotter was the most militant. He used his Boston Guardian newspaper to pound away at racial injustice saying the newspaper was “propaganda against discrimination.” In 1905, he helped found the Niagara Movement, but then refused to join the resulting NAACP charging that it was too moderate and too White controlled. On Nov. 12, 1914 he made national headlines when he confronted President Woodrow Wilson in the White House over his failure to do anything to stop the lynching of Blacks. The confrontation led to a 45-minute argument, in which Wilson told Trotter he was offended by “the manner” in which he was talking to him. The New York Times denounced Trotter for showing “superabundant untactful belligerency.” But many Black leaders, including W.E.B. DuBois, praised him. Trotter was born on April 7, 1872 and died on April 7, 1934.
1915—Billie Holiday is born. She would go on to become the greatest blues and jazz singer of her era with songs like “The Man I Love” and “God Bless the Child Whose Got His Own.” She was born to a 13-year-old mother and began her working career as a small girl helping to clean up a Baltimore, Md., whorehouse—a house in which she was also raped. Holiday made money from her performances despite the fact that she never received any royalties from any of the 200 songs she recorded. Drug use was a factor in her premature death at 44.
1974—Hammering Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves breaks the homerun record of the legendary Babe Ruth when he hit his 715th homer during a game at Atlanta Stadium.
1990—Scientist Percy Julian, who developed drugs to combat glaucoma and methods to mass produce cortisone, is admitted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
1865—Black regiments lead assault upon and eventually captured a key Southern fort helping bring the Civil War to an end. The nine regiments led by General John Hawkins smashed through Confederate defenses at Forth Blakely, Ala. The 68th Division of USCT (United States Colored Troops) had some of the highest casualties of the Civil War.
1898—Paul Bustill Robeson is born in Princeton, N.J. Robeson would go on to become the greatest combination of entertainer and social activist in American history. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Rutgers University, while simultaneously being one of the school’s greatest football stars. After graduation he turned to entertainment—acting and singing on stage and in early movies. However, he was also an outspoken critic of American racism and imperialism, while being a strong proponent of socialism. This made him the target of a government disruption and destruction campaign. The campaign did not truly produce results until the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s. Concert halls were closed to Robeson, the media began to attack him unrelentingly, established Black leaders began to shun him and the government took his passport so he could not perform and earn money abroad. Nevertheless, he remained a symbol which would later inspire activist entertainers such as Ossie Davis and Harry Belafonte. Robeson died in Philadelphia on Jan. 23, 1976.
1939—Operatic star Marian Anderson performs for an estimated 65,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., after the Daughters of the American Revolution made a racist decision denying her the right to perform at Constitution Hall.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 06:12
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