- Created on 02 October 2013
CNN host Don Lemon lays blame for the government shutdown squarely on the GOP.
The government shut down at midnight on Tuesday after Congress failed to reach a spending agreement.
"I am so mad this morning," Lemon said Tuesday on Tom Joyner's radio show. "As I've been watching lawmakers over the last few weeks debate the issues that led to the shutdown--you know what that is, health care--I felt helpless and I felt betrayed to say the least... One, because of the false narrative that both sides caused this shutdown. That's not true. It was caused by Republicans, mainly Tea Party Republicans."
He lamented the intricacies and unfairness of the country's health care system, and said the best way to avoid it altogether was to live a healthful lifestyle.
"Today, I am making a pledge to myself and to you, and I hope you join me, to do whatever is in your control, big or small, to make your health, your life better," Lemon said. His 30-day pledge includes eating better, getting a check-up, exercising and cutting out soda and juice as well as alcohol.
- Created on 30 September 2013
(CNN) -- As Washington hurtles toward a government shutdown, the go-to move for the uninformed is to blame both sides equally. Just say, "A pox on both their houses," and you can get through any neighborhood barbecue or TV talk show.
But what if you really want to know what's happening? There are three metrics you should track if you want to know who will come out ahead in a government shutdown:
Which side is more united?
One of President Clinton's laws of politics is: "Democrats want to fall in love, Republicans just want to fall in line." Which is what makes the GOP fratricide so interesting.
Savaging your colleagues, undermining your leaders, backbiting and backstabbing -- these are usually Democratic specialties. But not now. Credit the strong leadership of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with keeping a remarkably diverse Democratic Congress together. When you can keep a strong conservative like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on the same page with the powerfully progressive Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, you are definitely winning.
Meanwhile, the GOP, whose members range from conservative to ultraconservative, is at war with itself and its leaders. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas led the fight on the Senate floor to block consideration of the funding bill. But after a pointless 21-hour talkathon, the majority of his GOP colleagues rejected Cruz's strategy. Senate Republicans split badly and bitterly; 25 voted against Cruz while just 19 voted with him.
In the House, it is chaos. The Neanderthals are fighting the Cro-Magnons and the Homo erectus tough guys are fighting the australopithecines.
Which side is more mainstream?
A majority of voters don't like the Affordable Care Act -- although that's a bit misleading, because a percentage of them dislike it because they think it doesn't go far enough.
I like it -- in fact, I love it -- but that's not the point of this column. Obamacare clocks in at just 29% support in a recent CNBC poll. So you'd think that the Republicans' position of repealing the ACA would be more mainstream. But you'd be wrong.
That same CNBC poll shows that Americans oppose defunding Obamacare, with only a little more than one-third of voters saying they want it defunded. They want to mend it, not end it.
What's worse for the Republicans, when the question shifts to whether you support shutting down the government and/or defaulting on U.S. debt in order to kill Obamacare, the GOP position loses by a crushing 59 to 19 percentage points. When you're down to just 19% of your countrymen and -women supporting your crusade, it's time (as we say in Texas) to pee on the fire and call the dogs: The hunt's over.
That is, no doubt, why the House Republicans have retreated to their new position: delaying Obamacare for a year rather than outright defunding it. But health care delayed is health care denied, and it's a bit of a reach to demand a one-year delay in the president's top domestic priority in exchange for funding the government for 10 weeks.
Which side is more reasonable?
It is hard to seem reasonable when you are pursuing a strategy that even conservative Republicans like Sen. Richard Burr called "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of." Keep in mind this is from a man who represents North Carolina, where the Republicans proposed a law barring federal courts from interpreting the Constitution, and allowing the North Carolina Legislature to declare a state religion. (Which might have passed had they chosen the right religion for the Tarheel State: college basketball.)
And yet there is hope for the GOP here. Every time the president says "I will not negotiate on the debt ceiling" -- a phrase he utters even more often than "Just pass me the ball, Joe, I'm open!" -- he risks looking unreasonable.
As a matter of substance, I strongly agree with his position. But as a matter of rhetoric and positioning, he would be better served to state his position this way: "I will gladly listen to any idea to improve the Affordable Care Act, or reduce the deficit, or any other ideas my Republican friends might have. But first we have to avoid default. That means paying the bills that Congress has already incurred. Once we've done that we can negotiate on anything."
Same substantive position: Negotiations on policy come only after the nation avoids default. But this formulation emphasizes the president's willingness to be flexible on improving the ACA and other Obama priorities.
Of course, nothing is certain in life. But if I were a betting man, I'd bet on President Obama and the Democrats in this fight. As long as Republicans appear more divided, more extreme and more unreasonable, they are going to lose. And then they will look weak as well.
- Created on 27 September 2013
Photo credit: The Huffington Post
The controversial police tactic of stop and frisk isn't necessarily a form of racial profiling, said Republican candidate for New York City mayor Joe Lhota on HuffPost Live on Thursday afternoon.
Since 2004, New York Police Department cops have conducted more than 4.4 million stops though only about 12 percent led to an arrest or citation according to a professor who's researched the issue. Blacks and Hispanics -- especially young men -- make up roughly 87 percent of suspects stopped by police.
HuffPost LIve's Marc Lamont Hill asked Lhota if he considered stop and frisk to be a form of racial profiling.
"No. No, I don't," said Lhota, who was a deputy mayor in Rudy Giuliani's administration. "Some of it may be," suggesting some officers might misuse their authority.
Stop and frisk has emerged as one of the most divisive issues in city politics this year. A federal judge ruled that the NYPD has administered it in an unconstitutional manner and appointed a monitor to rein in the police force so that individual rights are not violated.
The City Council, meanwhile, overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg's veto on two bills aimed at reforming the questionable tactic. One law created a post in the police department for an inspector general, appointed by the mayor, to review potential abuses. The other law allows alleged victims of racial profiling to sue the police in state court.
Lhota's Democratic opponent, Bill de Blasio, endorsed both measures and also said he'd replace Commissioner Ray Kelly if he wins.
Lhota, however, has called the laws unnecessary, because racial profiling is already against the law while stop and frisk was upheld in a 1968 Supreme Court decision.
"There's no place in the city for racial profiling. Absolutely none," said Lhota. "It's a violation of federal law, state law and city law. And anybody who commits racial profiling should be disciplined in the most severe possible way."
However, Lhota believes that police should undergo additional training on how to properly utilize stop and frisk as a tool and the public should be educated about what cops are permitted to do.
"If somebody is walking down the street and happens to be black, that is not a reason to stop them," said Lhota. "If somebody is walking down the streets and their pants are hanging a little bit too low, that's not a reason for it."
- Created on 27 September 2013
(CNN) -- "I was suicidal in college," a Harry Potter-looking hipster recently told me. The young man's words stunned me. It wasn't his age or gender or style that took me by surprise. It was because he's black.
Even though suicide is the third leading cause of death for black males ages 10 to 24, I had no immediate image, no ready reference for a young black man hurting so bad he wanted to die or for a black man so sick he was driven to kill.
The recent mass shooting by Aaron Alexis at the Washington Navy Yard was horrific and tragic. It made me think about the interior lives of black men -- about how little anyone knows how black men feel when they're in agony or depression.
Black man in pain is a story rarely told.
Hip-hop is considered a safe and powerful space to tell black men's stories. Yet Eminem is the rapper best known for narratives about suicide, addiction and emotional pain.
See video of Navy Yard shooter Before he was the Navy yard shooter
It's easy to imagine someone who looks like Eminem, Kurt Cobain or Alexander McQueen as suffering from depression. But Lee Thompson Young? Not so much.
There's no quintessential cult movie -- a "Black Boy, Interrupted" so to speak -- where we see a black man who struggles with depression or distress. There are even fewer examples of black men seeking help. "The Bob Newhart Show," "M*A*S*H," "Frasier," "In Treatment" and "The Sopranos" are all shows involving men in or providing therapy. They are all white.
It's hard to believe what you've never seen.
The conventional narratives about black men tend to be narrow and depthless. They are often presented in two distinct and superficial ways -- as the criminal or as the incredible. Sometimes you'll see them behind bars or in the courtroom. Other times you'll see them in the limelight. Just turn on the TV and the black men you see are actual or fictional lawbreakers. Or they are superstars.
Aside from these two stereotypical identities, we know nearly nothing about the inner lives of black men. Are they complex? Are they unknowable, untouchable, undesirable or unworthy of help in our collective societal imagination?
It is clear that Aaron Alexis was very sick. He had a "pattern of misconduct" while he was at the Navy. His symptoms weren't a secret. He even went to a Veterans Affairs hospital seeking help for sleep-related issues.
There's been a lot of discussion about him slipping through the cracks and receiving security clearance, being able to enter the Naval Sea Systems Command building easily. But what concerns me is the fact that even though his behaviors raised eyebrows, he wasn't checked for mental illness.
Alexis massacred 12 people like a mad man. The surveillance video showing him armed with a shotgun prowling the building is chilling.
The question is: Can we as a society become more sensitive to black men who need help?
We can start with the book "Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting" by Terrie Williams, which provides an intimate and honest exploration of the interior lives of black men. We can also encourage the media to look more closely at black men and their emotional complexities. We have to be familiar with one another's pain. Knowledge can reduce ignorance and enlighten us.