Monday, March 30, 2009

Madonna Deserves Cheers Not Jeers for Casting Light on Africa’s Orphan Misery

Earl Ofari Hutchinson
First an outfit called Save the Children UK butted in and denounced Madonna for adopting Malawi orphan David Banda in 2006. Now another bunch has jumped into the adoption fray and branded her a”bully” for her plans to adopt another Malawi orphan. The Human Rights Consultative Committee pretty much rehashed the same tired complaint as Save the Children UK did three years back and that’s that Madonna is using her wealth and star power to end around Malawi’s adoption procedures.

Madonna ignored Save the Children UK in 2006 with their silly bellyache and she’ll likely do the same with the Consultative Committee. The figures tell the grim tale of why she should. According to UN estimates half of the 1 million Malwaian children with one or no parents are orphaned by AIDS. More than 13 percent of Malawi’s 13 million are poor, dirt poor, and not surprisingly the majority of them are women.

Malawi is hardly an aberration. More than 12 million children have lost one parent or are orphans in African nations. And given the still rampant disease, warfare and poverty that plague many of these countries, the number of orphans or near-orphans will soar to nearly 20 million next year. Apart from a string of cramped, desperately under-funded and in many cases unsafe orphanages in sub-Saharan Africa, many of these children are doomed to live out their childhood years in a caretaker existence.

That’s only the start of Africa’s orphan misery. Africa's orphans are still mostly unwanted anywhere else in the world, and that includes the United States. In 2005, more than 20,000 immigrant visas were issued to orphan children whom Americans adopted from other nations. Ethiopia, with a paltry 441 orphans taken in by Americans, was the only African country that cracked the top-10 list. Liberia and Nigeria were the only other African nations among the top-20 nations, with 182 and 82orphans taken in by Americans.

Madonna has raised millions through her Raise Malawi Organization to fight poverty and disease in the country. She’s made plans to build a school for young women there, and done more than any other celebrity too raise attention to the plight of Malawian orphans and women. Madonna could easily have been like the legion of air head stars whose idea of helping the poor is an annual photo-op mug shoot at a high profile, star studded, red carpet gala. Instead she put her money and name behind tackling one of the world’s toughest problems and that’s providing a better life for Africa’s dispossessed children. For that she’s piteously ragged on, sniped at, and backbitten, by every media chasing hound, and a handful of sanctimonious orphan relief groups. Why?

One reason for that is loudly and publicly stated. The other is unstated, and more contemptible.

Human rights and child protection groups claim that Madonna tossed her money and celebrity weight around to bend Malawi's adoption laws and fast-track the adoption, and that the adoption is another celebrity publicity stunt. Both are falsehoods. She observed the rules in 2006 with the adoption of Banda, and Malawi's courts have granted her an interim adoption order. She also kicked in a lot of dollars to boost orphanage services in the country. As one of the world's best-known superstars, with legions of paparazzi jumping at the chance to record her every cough, Madonna hardly needs to snatch an African child to grab some camera action.

The unstated, and more contemptible, reason that certain groups and individuals are upset about the adoption is the archaic notion that a white person, especially a wealthy white celebrity, is culturally clueless when it comes to raising a black child. Or worse, that they'll whitewash the child's black identity and tout white values (whatever they are).

What makes this notion even more dumb is that the crisis is not just one in which African babies are shunned in America -- African-American orphans are too. There are more than a half-million children in foster care homes in America. Nearly 40 percent of them are African-Americans. They stay in foster care homes on average a year longer than white children.

There is absolutely no hard evidence that the race of the adopting parent has much to do with whether an adopted child matures into a healthy, emotionally secure adult. The key is that the home must be loving, nurturing and financially stable. There is also little evidence that black children raised by white parents suffer permanent racial or cultural identity amnesia. Race and racism are still alive enough and in enough places in American society to insure that black children can't and won't forget that they're black. We need look no further than the man who sits behind the desk in the Oval office for proof of that.

Madonna did a huge service by using her star power not to exploit but to cast light on Malawi and Africa's orphan misery. You go Madonna.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard in Los Angeles on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and streamed nationally on

Thursday, March 26, 2009

An Apology for Profiling Ryan Moats (and any other Black) is never enough

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Maybe Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle forgot this:

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 2.131,

“A peace officer may not engage in racial profiling. Law enforcement-initiated action based on an individual's race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than on the individual's behavior or on information identifying the individual as having engaged in criminal activity.”

After the ordeal straight out of Hell that Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats went through the chief may have had a memory lapse. Moats who is African-American gets word that his wife’s mother is near death at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, Texas (a Dallas suburb). He and his wife rush to the hospital to be at her side in her final hours. But Dallas police officer Robert Powell (white) has other ideas. He corrals Moats, his wife and another female passenger in the medical center parking lot and in what can only be described as a surreal scene, pulls his gun on them, waves it around at Moats, his wife, and orders them to stand down. He then turns two tone deaf ears to Moats’s frantic efforts to explain that his mother-in-law is inside dying. Instead he mouths off at him. Moats won’t say it he’s got too much class for that, but no matter how profusely the Dallas chief apologizes, which to his credit he did, Moats and his wife were racially profiled.

The bone head stop of Moat’s did more than give Dallas police a black eye and cause city official to scramble for damage control. It also cast suspicion on just how serious police agencies are in wiping out racial profiling. They all swear to the heavens that their officers don’t profile. They have to; they’ve taken to much heat for it. In fact, the Texas statute that forbids racial profiling mandates that all Texas police departments file annual stats on motorist stops—by race. Dallas patted itself on the back in a city report in 2008 for seriously addressing all areas of concern about racial profiling and evaluating department procedures to insure that it doesn’t happen. But the Moats stop proves that what the department puts on paper and what happens in the streets means it still has a long way to go to achieve its stated goal of providing “public service that is effective and fair.”

Powell in his weak kneed half hearted defense, wailed that he thought he was following procedure, and just doing his job. In a twisted way he’s probably right, and that’s even more reason to doubt that Dallas and indeed other departments are really doing all they say they are to root out racial profiling.

Even by the jaded and dumb action of far too many cops who still think good law enforcement is pulling every twenty something young black male that they eyeball on the streets over, Moats’s ordeal was extreme.

Moats should slap the Dallas and its police department with Mt. Everest dollar size lawsuit. That won’t bring back his mother-in-law or erase the pain of knowing that the moments he spent being hectored by Powell were moments that he should have been at his mother-in-law’s bedside. But Dallas still must pay, and pay dearly for that. An apology for what he went through is simply not enough.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard weekly in Los Angeles on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and nationally on

Monday, March 23, 2009

Oakland Police Massacre Casts Ugly Glare on Ex-Felon Desperation

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

A general consensus is that it was a deadly mix of panic, rage, and frustration that caused Lovelle Mixon to snap. His shocking murderous rampage left 4 Oakland police officers dead and a city and police agencies in deep soul search abut what went so terribly wrong. Though Mixon’s killing spree is a horrible aberration, his plight as an unemployed, ex-felon isn’t. There are tens of thousands like him on America’s streets.

In 2007, the National Institute of Justice found that 60 percent of ex-felon offenders remain unemployed a year after their release. Other studies have shown that upwards of thirty percent of felon releases live in homeless shelters because of their inability to find housing; and those are the lucky ones. Many camp out on the streets.

A significant number of them suffer from drug, alcohol and mental health challenges, and lack education or any marketable skills. More than seventy percent of all U.S. prisoners are literate at only the two lowest grade levels. Nearly 60 % of violent felons are repeat offenders. They are menace to themselves and as the nation saw with Mixon, to others. In some cases, they can be set off by any real or perceived slight, insult, or simply lash out from bitter rage. Mixon was one and he made four Oakland police officers victims and left a terrible trail of grieving and distraught families and a shell-shocked city and police department.

The answer to the Mixons’ isn’t easy and simple. The need is strike a fine and delicate balance between public safety and ex-felon rehabilitation. A big obstacle to making ex-felons law abiding, productive citizens is still the inability of many ex-felons to find jobs. City officials in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Chicago, New York, and Atlanta have been repeatedly challenged to take action to end employer discrimination against ex-felons. The demand has been to restrict what employers can and can’t ask on job applications.

In a revealing study in 2003 and duplicated again several years later Northwestern University professor Devah Pager hired groups of African American and white young men with identical resumes and experience to pose as job applicants. Some were told to say they had a drug felony. The study found that a check when they checked the felony conviction box on applications it reduced the white applicants' chance of an interview by 50 %. For black applicants' their chance of landing the job was reduced by two-thirds.

To counter employer discrimination against ex-felons, nearly a dozen states and counties and cities have enacted laws in recent years to sharply limit what employers can ask applicants about criminal records. But that reform effort has stirred fierce resistance from employer groups. Washington D.C. is a near textbook example of that. Nearly 3,000 former prisoners are released and return to the District each year. Most fit the standard ex-felon profile. They are poor, with limited or education, and job skills, and come from broken or dysfunctional homes. Researchers again found that the single biggest thing that pushed them back to the streets, crime, violence and inevitably repeat incarceration was their failure to find work.

In 2007, the D.C. city council passed a measure that would have banned discrimination in employment as well as housing and education against ex-felons. It was vetoed by then Mayor Anthony A. Williams. The heat on Williams came from business groups who claimed that they’d be sued by rejected applicants.

Similar legislation has been kicking around in Congress since 2005. It hasn’t fared much better. The bill called the Second Chance Act is a relatively mild measure to pump about $100 million to local and state agencies for education, job and skills training, counseling, and family unification programs to stem the high rate of recidivism among ex-felons.

President Obama has often spoken of the need to unhinge the revolving door of felon release and reincarceration. He backs the Second Chance legislation. But with the economy and the financial crisis dominating the White House and Congressional agendas the likelihood that ex-felon aid will get immediate attention is slim.

In the meantime, the ranks of the felon underclass will continue to balloon. At last count, there were an estimated 12 million people in the U.S. with felony convictions. That’s nearly 10 percent of working-age population. And with jails bulging and states desperately trying to figure out how to cut jail costs and increasingly resorting to early release, more ex-felons will be on the streets. The current estimate is that more than 600,000 offenders are now being released from prisons yearly.

Mixon unfortunately was one of them. And others like him are ticking time bombs that endanger themselves and others. Oakland tragically showed that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard in Los Angeles on KTYM 1460 AM and nationally on

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AIG’s Minority Racket

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

AIG ignited the national firestorm of rage with its shell out of $160 to $600 million in tainted bonuses to its tainted executives. But what has gotten almost no attention is a big reason that AIG had to stiff the government and everyone else. That’s the role that the company played in the subprime loan racket; a racket that hurt and still hurts tens of thousands of would be black and Latino homeowners.
The lender’s bait and switch tactics, the deliberately garbled contracts, deceptive and faulty lending, questionable accounting practices, and charged hidden fees, all with the connivance of sleepy-eyed see-no-evil oversight of federal regulators, are well known and documented. Their snake oil loan peddling wreaked havoc with thousands of mostly poor, strapped homeowners. A disproportionate number of them were Latinos and African-Americans.
Enter AIG. It saw a, treasure trove of fast buck riches in the subprime business. AIG dumped $33 billion into bonds and securities that were tied directly to subprime loans. This was nearly four times more than the next insurer, the German-based Allianz SE, had invested in the subprime loans. In fact, AIG was the only US based life insurer that had more than 3 percent of their general account assets in debts tied to subprime loans.
In early 2007 things started to unravel. AIG reported a first quarter loss of more than $2 billion in its subprime mortgage bonds. This set off the first warning bell that AIG could implode. Bond traders openly worried that AIG’s subprime securities losses could drag the market down. They had good reason to worry.
AIG is first and foremost an insurer. And in addition to its plunging bond and security holdings, the company also insured restructured subprime home bonds. The assumption by the subrprime bond holders was that the bonds would lose only a fraction of their value. But by then subprime defaults had piled up to a ten year high and the subprime lending market, that was all of it stocks, bonds and insurance, had badly frayed.

AIG’s stock had plunged 60 percent within the year. The top rating agencies, Moody's and Standard and Poor's, concerned over AIG’s continuing losses on subprime and other mortgage-backed securities, downgraded their credit rating. They demanded that company pay billions to creditors in order to bump back up their ratings. That was billions that AIG by then didn’t have.

AIG was clearly on a non stop down hill roller coaster ride, and many banks and lenders, were heading to perdition with them. AIG briefly flirted with the notion of filing for subprime mortgage lenders bankruptcy.
But there was a better deal to be had courtesy of a panicked then President Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. They shoved out tens of billions in cash in what turned out to be only the first installment of cash to save AIG’s hide.
We may never know the full extent of the financial damage that AIG caused in the subprime market. Nor how manyprospective minority homeowners suffered losses both financial and personal from the company’s greed. United for a Fair Economy, a public advocacy research group, in an in-depth study on sub prime lending estimates that the tab for minorities for the dubious blending practices runs to more than $200 billion in lost equity and income during the years AIG and the subprime bank lenders ran amok. The group called the home losses the most massive loss of wealth for African Americans in U.S. history.
The ultimate tragedy is that many blacks who were enticed by the lenders through their web of lies and deceit into taking the risky sub prime loans didn’t really need them. Data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act found that about 40 percent of the black subprime borrowers could have qualified for cheaper mainstream mortgages.
But that was the last thing that the subprime lenders, let alone AIG wanted. This would have taken a big bite out of their fantasy level profits. In the end those profits turned out to be a smoke and mirrors illusion just as the subprime illusion was.
AIG happily aided and abetted the banks and lenders in their decade long fast and loose play with the lending rules. Taxpayers are, of course, paying and paying dearly for AIG’s greed and malfeasance. But thousands of black and Latino hoped to be homeowners are also paying for that greed. AIG’s minority racket is yet another sorry chapter in the AIG saga.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is How Obama Won (Middle Passage Press, January 2009).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Norris’s Nutty War on President Obama

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Chuck Norris claims that thousands of right wing cell groups exist and will rebel against the U.S. government. It’s tempting to laugh away his vow to wage war against President Obama as either the crackpot ravings of a washed up Z grade martial arts actor. Or as a cheap promotional stunt to get his mug back in front of the cameras. Norris’s bellicose rants against Obama are nothing new and they have gotten wide play in a shrill horde of on line blogs and websites, including the popular right wing sounding board WorldNet Norris will culminate his holy war against Obama with a big recruiting pitch in a live telecast scheduled appropriately for Friday the 13th (March). He’ll call on thousands to “surround” Obama and the dark forces that seek to subvert God, country, and liberty.
Unfortunately, Norris will have plenty of recruits. Two weeks before he bellowed his anti-Obama tripe, the Southern Poverty Law Center once more sounded its own warning that hate groups are on the rise. There are now nearly a thousand of them, and they’re in just about every state. They aren't just the catalogue of usual suspects--- neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis, skinheads, Klansman, Aryan nation and Skinheads that exclusively roam around the Deep South. They’re all over. California leads the pack with nearly 100 identifiable groups. The Center fingered several dozen websites from the explicit site to groups with flag draped names like the sovereign citizen’s movement.
Then there’s the legion of sites that busily spewed anti-Obama venom before the election and haven’t missed a beat since. A Clockwork Obama

The majority of the hate groups and the wacky anti-Obama websites are like Norris just hot air talk and delusional conspiracy stuff. They all hotly deny that they advocate violence. Yet, the number of hate crimes according to FBI statistics, and that’s real violent crimes, edged up to over 7000 in 2007. The number of these crimes has been fairly consistent since the FBI began compiling hate crime statistics more than a decade ago. They’re just the tip of the hate iceberg. Experts say the number of hate crimes could be ten times higher since most hate crimes go unreported.
But even that in itself might not be cause for alarm since most of the hate groups are well known, tracked, and when their members commit crimes are hit hard with federal prosecutions. It certainly would not be enough to give much credence to Norris’s crackpot call. That is if times were better. But when jobs and homes are lost, and there’s fear and uncertainty that things could get worse, the ruthless search for scapegoats—illegal immigrants, gays, Jews, blacks, and a history making president—are on with a vengeance. It takes little imagination to see that this could set off one emotionally unscrewed, gun culture obsessed looney. The murderous rampage by Alabama shooter Michael McLendon who was hell bent on wiping out a whole town was ample proof of that.
Norris, and the legion of other right side gassers and bloggers, mask their bigot tinged appeals to the mob with the usual wink and nod patriotic sounding code words, slogans, and phrases. In his WorldNetDaily columns, Norris tosses out gems such as the “second American revolution,” “new government,” the authority of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence,” “threat to religious freedom,” and “protect and save free enterprise” in his call for a citizen rising against President Obama.
The acidic dripping slogans just happen to be the same ones that stir the deep fury, hatred and resentment among a handful of the loose hinged malcontents and hate mongers. As has been amply documented, the thick list of fringe and hate groups as well as the hordes of unbalanced violence prone individuals running free in America can fill a telephone book. The long history of hate violence in America further is more than enough to raise the antenna on the danger of violence against prominent political figures.

Obama well knows the horrid violent history of America and the very real danger that violence poses to many Americans and especially a charismatic president who still energizes and excites millions and is determined to deliver on his promise of political change and implicitly racial change. The exact things that drives Norris nuts and many others that are nuts to cheer him.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is How Obama Won (Middle Passage Press, January 2009).

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Limbaugh Strawman

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

First President Barack Obama stroked talk show kingpin Rush Limbaugh’s ego by proclaiming him the pied piper of the GOP. Next Republican National Chair Michael Steele showed some moxie and publicly told Limbaugh that he was the shot caller in the GOP. That didn’t last. In the next breath, he publicly pleaded for forgiveness from Limbaugh for his momentary pique. Then top Obama advisor Rahm Emanuel jumped in and lathered Limbaugh with praise and scorn as the boss of the GOP. Obama and Emanuel had an ulterior motive. They propped up Limbaugh as their straw man to tar the GOP as an antique, discredited, and obstructionist bunch of sore losers who will stop at nothing to derail Obama’s policies. Steele is just simply running scared of Limbaugh.
But in either case, they have done what Limbaugh couldn’t do for himself and that’s to wildly inflate his importance as the GOP kingmaker. Limbaugh got the kind of promotion that ad companies spend millions on for nothing. But it’s still nothing but hot air. Limbaugh hasn’t stopped one Obama staff or cabinet appointment, prevented one policy directive, executive order, or a single piece of legislation. That includes Limbaugh’s favorite target Obama’s economic stimulus bill. Heck, Limbaugh couldn’t even stop his arch nemesis, Al Franken, from bagging the Minnesota senate seat. Franken’s the guy who outrageously wolf ticketed Limbaugh as the big fat idiot, and then turned the wolfing into a best selling book.
Limbaugh’s rambling, long winded, rant at the Conservative Political Action Conference, complete with his confusion over what the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence say, was the topper. The crowd which was heavily white and male, lapped up every Limbaugh inanity. A stroll through the convention hall showed that the crowd’s Cloud Nine divorce from political reality was almost laughable. Every anti in America—taxes, gay rights, gun control, and government, as well as touting their darling Sarah Palin—was on display there. This does a lot to further seal the GOP’s lot as a party that is stepping fast toward becoming a self-marginalized, mean spirited, faded political entity.

This isn't the first time that the Obama team created and then punched away at a GOP strawman target. When Republican rival John McCain plopped Sarah Palin on his ticket, a top Team Obama member reflexively hammered Palin. Obama quickly realized that it was a colossal mistake. He did the smart thing and simply congratulated her on being picked as McCain's VP candidate and then went back to talking about the issues. He knew not to make her the issue. But the lesson hasn’t stuck in the case of Limbaugh.

By making Limbaugh bigger than life in American politics, it gives steam to his inflammatory campaign of rumors, half truths, distortions, and flat out lies about Obama, liberals, and now Steele. Limbaugh’s aim with Steele is to further cow the GOP into line; the line that forms behind him.

At the start of his tenure as RNC chair, Steele had the good sense to know that kowtowing to Limbaugh was a prescription for even bigger disaster for the GOP. He resuscitated the old Bush line circa 2000, and talked about making the GOP a party of big tent diversity. Then like Bush he promptly forgot it.

That’s exactly what Limbaugh with his conservative white man’s litmus test for the GOP wants. But that flies in the face of what Obama’s election triumph showed. That is that the country's fast changing ethnic vote demographics looks nothing like it did a decade ago. Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American voters now make up nearly a quarter of the nation's electorate. College educated whites make up more than one-third of the vote. Limbaugh’s comfort zone voter demographic; white blue collar, heartland and deep South voters have shrunk to less than forty percent of the nation’s voters. Immigration, higher birth rates, and the youth trends will continue to swell the numbers of minority and youth voters. The white electorate overall will continue to decline.

It's not only the numbers that work against the GOP. It's also ideology. The Democrat's expanding core base of voters is more moderate, socially active, and pro government; the exact opposite of what Limbaugh rants for.
Obama, Emanuel, and Steele know this. The Democrats would not have won the White House and Steele would not have beat out a pack of mostly Limbaugh fawning contenders for the RNC top spot if that hadn’t been true.
Still, Limbaugh has one powerful tool to bully, badger and cajole the GOP and saber rattle Obama. That’s the airwaves. He’ll exploit it to the hilt. But that won’t make him the boss of the GOP let alone any real threat to Obama. It’ll just make him an inviting and convenient strawman.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is How Obama Won (Middle Passage Press, January 2009).