Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Workplace violence

In response to recent egregious examples of workplace violence, a renewed discussion has arisen among Human Resource, Personnel and AA/EEO executives about how they ought to be dealing with disguntled or disaffected employees in the workplace.

David Abel and Jack Nicas for the Boston Globe reported:

A truck driver caught stealing beer from the distributor where he worked killed eight co-workers before turning a gun on himself yesterday morning after company officials told him to resign or face being fired, employees and authorities said.

The man, identified as Omar Thornton by police, went on the deadly rampage at Hartford Distributors, where he had worked for two years. He also wounded two people.

In less than a day, two somewhat competing narratives, drawn from news accounts and Internet postings, have emerged to shape interpretations of this tragedy:

1. Thornton was a disgruntled psychopath who reacted violently after losing his job for good cause.

The scenario of a disgruntled, rank-and-file worker suddenly “going postal” after losing a job due to alleged misconduct has become strongly identified with concerns about workplace violence. News reports about the Connecticut killings frequently referred to past workplace killings that, at least on the surface, appeared to be similar.

Fears of dismissed employees reacting violently have fueled attention to the question of how to terminate people in a way that minimizes these risks. They have led to practices that, in my judgment, can increase the risk of angry and perhaps violent responses, such as “exit parades” whereby workers are escorted out of the premises by security personnel, sometimes in view of their co-workers.

2. Thornton was a victim of racial discrimination whose concerns were ignored by his employer.

According to the Globe:

Thornton, 34, who was black, had complained of racial harassment and said he found a picture of a noose and a racial epithet written on a bathroom wall, the mother of his girlfriend told the Associated Press.

But union officials said Thornton never filed a complaint of racism.

Some are seizing upon this piece of the story to paint another interpretation of events: Thornton was a victim of a hostile workplace that ignored concerns about racial harassment, and he finally snapped after he lost his job.

It is difficult to know whether the “disgruntled psychopath” or the “victim pushed over the edge” story is more accurate than the other. It’s also possible that elements of both are true. In any event, we should be cautious about lumping stories of workplace violence and aggression into easy categories because there is usually alot of blame to go around.

OHSHA reported that after they updated 2005/2006 data, the total number of fatal work injuries in 2005 was revised to 5,734, an increase of 32 fatalities from the preliminary count of 5,702 reported in August 2006.

In addition, the updates led to changes in the classification of worker, job, and case circumstances for some fatalities. Among the changes resulting from the updates were the following:

Fatal work injuries to men increased by 28 to a revised total of 5,328 workplace fatalities. Fatalities to women in the workplace were revised up to 406, but this total still represents a series low for women workers.

Fatalities to workers aged 55 years and older were revised up 12 from 1,499 to 1,511.

The number of fatalities to foreign-born workers was revised up 22 to 1,035.

The revised number of fatal occupational injuries incurred by Hispanic or Latino workers increased by 6 to 923, though the fatality rate for Hispanic or Latino workers remained unchanged.

Fatalities related to transportation activities increased by 13 (from 2,480 to 2,493) in the revised data, most of which were attributable to highway incidents (9 of the 13 cases). Fatalities involving truck drivers increased by 5 (from 831 to 836).

The largest increases in new cases by State were in California, which rose from 453 to 465, and in Louisiana, which reported an increase from 106 to 111 cases.

Fatal workplace injuries attributable to hurricanes were revised up 3 to a final count of 32 fatal work injuries. These statistics do not look at causation, however. And most NYS agencies are reactive as opposed to proactive.

Therefore, proactive prevention policies with teeth include a viable, effective and prompt means of redressing grievances against managers by rank and file. Not the system currently in place in New York State for example, where co-opted Personnel administrators doing the bidding of their handlers, deliberately drag their feet on processing grievances, which segues into another pernicious problem that is often under reported.

Little has been said about unfair labor-management practices by employers and even corrupt labor unions whom are supposed to protect rank and file members from improper practices that unfairly impact them from retaliation, overwork, underpay or poor working conditions.

So, if a grievance is not "settled," and does manage to rise to a tier 3 grievance, the union often neglects to "pick it up." That is neither fair nor judicious but, unfortunately, the rule and not the exception with how corrupt union officials quell dissent among rank and file.

It is easy to cast a "fired" worker as a malcontent, bad worker, thief, racist, and ne're-do-well after they have been killed by the police, taken their own lives, or have been tried, convicted and imprisoned.

And admittedly their violent behavior is not socially acceptable because innocent people, many of whom are from the rank and file, often get killed as a direct consequent of these extreme, last resort, attempts to resolve grievances.

Working for the State of New York off and on for the last 10 years, I can say emphatically that cronyism and favoritism rule. The Inspector General whose office, ostensibly has oversight, is itself is highly politicized and, as such, compromised. NYS OIG comes out a few times during the year with a well publicized case of a grade 9 stealing "time." Once is a blue moon, they will famously announce a high ranking state official usually at the end of their career, who has been "referred" to their respective agency for one impropriety or the other.

But you rarely see high ranking administrators in the middle or beginning of their careers taken to task for their illegal excesses on a routine basis. I personally know several who work other jobs while on state time. One is the same administrator who would conspire to hinder me from obtaining a transfer because I am not in the loop with these inept, corrupt, bungling and politically connected managerial/confidential employees.

Another major problem is Civil Service who promulgates rules governing merit system examinations. In New York State after grade 29, most if not all M/C positions are filled non-competitively, which means those vacancies are filled at the discretion of upper management. There are no "tests," and a wholly subjective evaluation of "education and experience."

So, you have many instances where notoriously unqualified managers lacking advanced educational credentials, demonstrable competencies, skill sets and, more importantly, temperments are being pressed into service in highly sensitive, critical roles in these agencies.

The end result is the Peter Principle ("in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence") gone wild. There is absolutely no accountability because these incompetents portentuously masquerading as senior and executive managers are more concerned with covering their fat asses, than getting off of them to actually walk out into the offices, visit the programs, and talk to rank and file, instead of conspiring with middle-management to oppress them.

Back when we still had large institutional campuses, these managers could expect to become victims of workplace violence. They would often come out after a hard day spouting racist or other insulting comments, nitpicking and harassing, and generally oppressing subordinates to find their cars "keyed," tires slashed, or windshields broken.

The possibility of knowing that damage to their property or even assault to their person could result from their unrestrained conduct often served as an effective barrier against heavyhanded, unchecked managerial policies that in several, recent highly publicized cases resulted in people getting shot and killed.

Although I am not a pacifist, I would never advocate violence against anyone except in the event where one's life, the lives of one's family, or larger society is at imminent risk of harm.

However, I do feel that not everyone has the same internal controls enabling them to deal with frustration by venal, arrogant, incompetant and, often, racist managers.

The managers in question are invariably unresponsive. When confronted by their own lack of responsiveness, often stonewall, circle wagons, and when his or her refusal to redress an issue is referred to oversight, or executive management as a last gap measure, outright dissemble, or close ranks.

It is this type of flagrant injustice, fostered by politics, stupidity, cronyism and favoritism, which fuels workplace violence, not the converse where a disguntled worker is dismissively characterised as a malcontent, bad worker, thief, racist, and ne're-do-well.

Maybe if workers return to these old effective institutional labor-management practices, executive management, oversight agencies, and the unions would get out of bed long enough to address these persistent issues bringing integrity and, even more importantly, accountability back into the merit system as a consequence.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Academic narcissism...or elitist exclusivity?

I have long been an avid proponent of both lifelong as well as distance learning, which has been nurtured indeed fostered by enrollment at Empire State College where I was graduated with an associates in arts (1997), and bachelor of science (1999).

It was simultaneously an exhilarating and liberating experience. The most memorable part of that experience stemmed from my relationship with my mentor, Dr. Rudy Cain. Cain undoubtedly helped shepherd me through an arduous process. I will never forget him once telling me that “you need a credential” then assigning readings.

Those readings would inform my perspective while resulting in reports that were grounded in critical analysis. These exercises taught me not only about the material in question but how to deconstruct it. Like persons graduating from prestigious schools such as the Ivy League universities, I am very proud of my affiliation with Empire State College, because it is the first successful American distance learning institute in America. It was founded in 1971 under the aegis of Dr. James Hall. But it was not the first “open university” in these United States.

In 1883 a correspondence school based at Cornell University was established, but was poorly managed and, as such, never got off the ground. ESC has been doing “distance education” so well with an innovative pedagogy, cutting edge technology, and state-of-the-art instructional systems, it has become an international model for effective, evidence based delivery of distance learning degree programs. ESC's program is one upon which other colleges and universities such as Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey and Charter Oak State College in Connecticut have modeled their own offerings.

Distance learning has become a mature, peer reviewed and, as such, accepted vehicle for non-traditional students to “get a credential.” But some critics in academia have been vocal opponents of extending this model to doctoral programs. Except for well known problems with unaccredited “diploma mills” cropping up in states with liberal chartering provisions, those objections make little sense unless we look at them from an exclusivity prospective.

It simply takes a long time to obtain a doctoral degree as it well ought to being the highest academic credential university faculty can confer. These programs have a notoriously high drop-out rate, which is an issue of concern in many countries, including the USA (where students need between six and nine years to complete a doctorate depending on the subject and also on the institution).

Doctoral programs take the longest in the humanities, while doctoral students in the life sciences compete their programs more rapidly. In Canada, the average time for completion of a doctorate is more than five years in all subjects (an average of 5 years and 10 months across all disciplines), with students in the humanities and social sciences requiring more than 6 years.

When I was accepted to Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine's Psy.D program after being graduated from SUNY Buffalo State in 2005 with a master of science in multidisciplinary studies, a straight A average, and a thesis, I thought I had it made until I peeked behind the curtain to speak with the wizard.

The program was 7 years in duration. It cost $20,000/year. At the end of the grueling process, if one persevered, did not become destitute, challenge egotistical instructors most of whom were barely out of graduate school themselves, while others had never published anything of import in peer reviewed journals, and fulfilled a curriculum heavy on make work, I could hope to earn between $70k to $90k in private practice, little more in academia, and slightly more than that in federal or state service.

The math just did not add up. I would be roughly $150k in debt, middle aged, only to have an earned doctorate, which is not worth $150k in student loans, to show for it. Why was an expensive 3 year professional program structured to be extended to 7? If you look at the compensation packages for full time faculty most of whom are tenured or on tenure track, a full professor at PCOM earns $150,000 in the School of Psychology.

Consequently, there is an economic incentive to extend a three year program to seven years. That incentive is an exorbitant compensation package to faculty. There is no empirical peer reviewed data suggesting PCOM Psy.D graduates perform any better or worst then their peers at local area colleges and universities on The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).

The experience was so negative, encountering obstructionism, racism, egotism, and elitism by trained psychologists who - simply put - ought to know better, it turned me off from pursing a career in psychology altogether. I am still interested in human behavior. And I am now enrolled in the DLitt et Phil program in anthropology at the renown University of South Africa, which is a premier international "distance learning" institute in Pretoria, which also offers "brick and mortar" undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

The "research-only" doctoral model is more traditionally found in the oldest European, Asia and African universities, then in the market driven, overly structured, paternalistic and lengthy PhD programs found in American and Canadian universities. Although there is a clear trend in Europe to give doctoral education more structure, e.g. in the form of graduate schools or doctoral programs, the traditional ‘professor-pupil’ model is still widespread.

The problems with the professor-pupil model are well known: there is a high degree of personal dependence on the supervisor, a frequent lack of quality in supervision, high drop-out rates and often there is an overly long period before the degree is completed.

In Europe, the time-to-degree varies considerably depending on the subject and on how the doctoral education and training takes place. In short, whether it is within the framework of a program or school or if it follows the traditional professor-pupil model. Like most subjective assessments it comes down the two people involved.

The professor-pupil model has served me extremely well while at Empire State and to a lesser degree when I attended graduate school at Buffalo State. It is extremely difficult for me to sit through a 1, 2, or 3 hour lecture with an egoistic instructor droning on interminably neglecting to provide audio-visual aids to illustrate his or her material utterly oblivious student engagement.

When I became a part time adjunct professor at Camden County College, I immediately ordered a series of DVDs from PBS with which to provoke debate, spark enthusiasm, and instill a sense of excitement in my students. It worked. Classes were full every semester.

The academy now is replete with people simply wanting to successfully navigate the doctoral process, which is strictly prescribed. Take this research course, that methodology course, this statistic course, that seminar, a few advanced subject area courses, some independent readings, a comprehensive examination, which no longer includes a foreign language, compile, write and present your research and after an average of 10 years if you are lucky, you will be awarded a bona fide PhD.

Those idealistic students foolish enough to have endured this grueling process at a university other than those in the top echelon of academia in North America now portentously lay claim to the mantle of elitism. These fledgling academicians believe narcissistically there are no other avenues with which to obtain an earned doctorate except though the North American model of exclusivity.

This exclusivity permeates not only academia, but its very institutions; important funding sources like the National Institutes of Health, US Department of Education, and even some private foundations. That presumption has never been based on fact, however. Original research is defined by Wikipedia (retrieved September 2010 “What is Original Research? Original research is considered a primary source. Thomas G. Carpenter Library University of North Florida”) as “research that is not exclusively based on a summary, review or synthesis of earlier publications on the subject of research. This material is of a primary source character. The purpose of the original research is to produce new knowledge, rather than to present the existing knowledge in a new form (e.g., summarized or classified).”

Few approved dissertations at even the best universities in America accomplish that singular, all important objective and actually “produce new knowledge.” And I have actually taken the time to ready many. I know my doctoral “thesis” will produce "new knowledge" shaped as it is by rigorous adherence to the scientific method, careful oversight by a brilliant supervisor, and motivated by a burning desire to demonstrate that knowledge is not an abstraction, which can be relegated to the Ivory Tower, but can be of practical use in resolving pernicious issues with which society is confronted.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Velma Hart, Us Black Folk

Despite numerous high profile legislative successes to cap his first two years in office, President Obama has been dogged by negative reporting, which many pundits attribute to a puny White House communications office effort.

In short, President Obama has been getting hammered by the right wing media, which dominates political discourse in these United States. Former White Communications Director Ellen Moran stepped down to take a role as Chief of Staff for the Secretary of Commerce. Her departure could not have come any sooner because by all objective measures, she has done a piss poor job of getting Obama's victories in print, radio or on television.

Daniel Pfeiffer returned to a role he held during Obama's campaign. He has his work cut out for him with mid-term elections looming like a dark cloud over this administration. But there may be a silver lining in that cloud if Pfeiffer launches an all out media blitz championing Obama's accomplishments while cleverly using sound bites conservative talk show hosts wielded like a smoking gun in a collective effort to diminish Obama's record.

One that immediately comes to mind is turning Velma Hart's, Aunt Jemima masquerading as an accomplished successful black woman, critique around, when she stood up on national television saying,

"I am one of your middle class Americans and, quite frankly, I'm exhausted... I'm exhausted of defending you. I'm exhausted of defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for. And I'm deeply disappointed with where we are right now.

I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I am one of those people and I'm waiting sir. I'm waiting. I don't feel it yet. And I thought, while it wouldn't be in great measure, I would feel it in some small measure... And quite frankly Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly: Is this my new reality?"

Pfeiffer can accomplish this public relations coup de grâce by spinning it truthfully to say if not for Obama's policies, you would not be in the middle class but cleaning someone's nasty ass.

Levity aside, I do not agree with Obama when he says in response to veiled criticism by black progressives that he needs to do more for blacks folks that a rising tide lifts all boats. I agree with Boyce Watkins, the new marquee black scholar on the block, who writes in response to Ms. Hart notoriety, "if the first black president doesn't help us to overcome [economic] inequality, is his victory anything more than symbolic?"

Behind Closed Doors: Have Black Journalists Become Casualties Of The Information War?

Corporate control of the media has become a problem of great import as of late – especially in the wake of the recent terrorist activity on American shores. Reactionary members of the Bush administration – i.e., Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, his boss, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and Vice President Richard Cheney - have taken a page from the Gulf War by effectively closing out the mainstream media in general and black press in particular. These men especially have always held extreme right wing views and seem to be the ideological brain swell of the Bush presidency; driving many of the excessive, some would argue, fascistic policies of this administration.

Former DEA special agent Mike Levin, host and executive producer of The Expert Witness Show, which airs on NYC’s WBAI FM 99.5 every Tuesday evening at 7:00 PM, has had former high-ranking CIA officials on his show.

These men have boasted on air how they have conscripted the fourth estate. All of this information comes straight from the mouths of these former government officials and is archived for review on Levine’s web site at Reporters requesting information from Pentagon, State or Justice sources are often given sanitized releases prepared entirely by the press offices of those agencies. These releases are printed or aired virtually unexpurgated by the media.

Most of the recent legislation advanced by the Bush administration under the guise of promoting national security or stimulating the economy would never past the smell test in peacetime.

However, these demagogues have succeeded in scaring the wits out of an already frightened American public. The proposed (15) fifteen year, retroactive tax break to corporations; a ($200,000,000) two hundred billion dollar contract to Lockheed Martin; a national identity card; an Anti-Terrorism bill with legislation to suspend the constitutional rights of those who run afoul of its draconian provisions. All of these initiatives will have definite negative, long-term ramifications for not only the black community but also every dark skinned immigrant in the United States.

Nevertheless, except for a few African American conservatives, or Negro apologists depending on which side of the PC equation one stands, spinning the Bush administration’s version of this information for major media outlets, there has not been any of the deep, insightful analysis one would expect from minority journalists. It is as though black reporters have not been able to effectively access the breaking news conferences where this high profile information is being released.

Wayne Gillman, News Director, of New York City’s Inner City Broadcasting, which operates the popular Urban Adult Contemporary radio stations 107.5 FM WBLS and equally well regarded Caribbean oriented 1190 AM WLIB relies almost exclusively on the associated press [AP] for news releases.

The accuracy of his reporting has gotten so bad that during last week’s Sharp Talk Show, the Reverend Al Sharpton’s segment which airs regularly at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM on 1190 AM WLIB, Alton Maddox, Sharpton’s co-host, had to clarify misinformation being written by the very wire new service in question relative to an alleged $37,000 payment that Maddox supposedly had made to Steven Pagones.

Pagones was a former Westchester County assistant district attorney who Maddox, C. Vernon Mason, and Al Sharpton had implicated the infamous Tawana Brawley abduction and rape. Pagones brought a defamation suit against all three activists and prevailed. Although Mason and Sharpton had in fact paid their portion of the judgment, Maddox has refused to pay any part of his.

Last week, however, Maddox was ordered by a White Plains court to show up with what he claimed was only a bond. On another show, Politics Live which is hosted by Mark Riley, that aired the very next day on 1190 AM WLIB, Alton Maddox explained to Riley that he in fact did not offer the $37,000 in settlement of the outstanding judgment against him but that the money was indeed to pay a contempt bond to prevent from going to jail. An embarrassed Wayne Gillman who had reported exactly what AP wrote rushed back on air in the middle of Riley’s show to apologize to an angry Maddox.

This situation was probably a combination of Gillman’s own slovenly reporting, and his inability to get to timely, primary source material for on-air reports. Nevertheless, this type of problem is one that has its genesis in an administration that has succeeded in all but suspending the Bill of Rights; the constitutional protection that affords us freedom of speech.

Ironically, another proposal being bandied about is a blatantly unconstitutional bar to the release of information that the executive branch unilaterally deems not in the interest of the public domain. It is an outrageous proposition that has gone under the wire with nary a critical analysis by the mainstream more or less the black press.

The argument being made by many black media owners, however, is that the black community does not support their service. The demise of the very well written Emerge magazine that had been headed up by George Curry is a case in point.

Consequently, black owned radio, print and TV companies are forced to make economic decisions that often adversely impact or at the least severely compromise their news gathering functions. With deeply discounted inventories, they are unable to sustain the first class operations of a Reuters, UPI, Bloomberg, or AP.

Moreover, the national press corp is practically devoid of dark skinned reporters. The ones who are allowed in are rounded ignored when they attempt to ask the tough questions that the President or his press secretary would rather not answer.

The corporate welfare package that the Bush administration is currently touting will cost the country close to $1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion dollars) in the form of reduced entitlements, student aid, and higher consumption taxes. The $200,000,000 (two hundred billion dollar) contract to Lockheed Martin will be paid for with monies that were earmarked for extended unemployment benefits to workers adversely impacted by the fallout from both the WTC and Pentagon disasters, respectively. The Anti-Terrorism bill speaks for itself.

The black press has allowed itself to be closed out of the most historically significant period in modern American times. The war effort and resulting legislation is something that directly and negatively impacts black America. Broadcasters, reporters, editors and producers ought to be challenging their media corporations or bosses to allow them to get in on the fight because if we lose this one, we stand to lose over fifty years of hard fought civil and human rights.


Behind the Bushes

The Bush administration’s startling revelation released yesterday by the White House Press office in the person of Bush spokesman Ari Flesher admitting that the CIA provided the president with daily briefings, which included information foretelling the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center as well as the Pentagon, is a dramatic departure from past positions.

In the past, the administration’s official stance was that it had absolutely no knowledge of the voluminous intelligence known months ago by the alternative press clearly indicating that radical, fundamentalist Islamic fractions planned a “fatwa” or decree against the US. It persuasively illustrates that knowledge is empowering and why the government is assiduous in its efforts to deliberately keep its naïve denizens blissfully ignorant.

The Bush administration did not release this information of its own volition. It did so in response to the mounting pressure heaped upon it by scathing, thorough, and relentless reporting by a courageous independent media; a media unfettered by the single-minded pursuit of profits and the promotion of a fascistic agenda.

It is a free press determined to present the flip side of what really occurred on September 11th and, more importantly, why it occurred. Publically elected officials save for Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia), Maxine Waters (D-California), and Barbara Lee (D-California) all ought to be preparing for a heaping portion of crow.

What is especially incensing about this revelation is that the Congressional Black Caucus all marched lockstep without nary a word in face of the outrageous liberties, a wholesale rescission of the Bill of Rights, taken by the Bush administration all in the name of national security.

The administration in the persons of Donald Rumsfield, Dick Cheney, John Ascroft, Paul Wolfowitz used 9-11 to promote an agenda reeking of the new world order that conspiracy theorists so love to denounce vociferously. However, where there is smoke, there is fire.
Each one of these officials as well as National Security advisor Condelezza Rice and President Bush all have close ties to the energy and petroleum industry.

It is incredible that except for a blurb or two that may have been buried deep within the recesses of the New York Times (“all the news that is fit to print”) describing those ties, no exhaustive, investigative report has been undertaken by anyone in the so-called mainstream media.

The reason is that money talks, and bullshit walks. The energy and petroleum lobby is able to throw millions of dollars at our publically elected officials in the form of fund raisers, honorariums, campaign contributions and less legitimate means to turn a blind eye to its overwhelming influence on the executive branch; a branch of government virtually overrun with oil, gas, and energy executives; namely Cheney, Rumfield, and Rice (who sits on the board of a number of energy related multi-national corporations).

That may be a major reason that Secretary of State Colin Powell is having such a difficult time in exercising his mandate. US Foreign policy has been co-opted by the powerful, influential energy lobby and, as a consequence, is being run out of corporate boardrooms in Houston, Dallas, and to a lesser degree Los Angeles and New York.

Companies like the famously failed Enron wanting to increase its market share for a selfish American consumer hell bent on driving enormous gas guzzling SUVs, some like the Ford Excursion or Chevy Suburban that are rapidly approaching Charter bus size, just around the block to pick up a sack of burgers from White Castle need to aggressively expand its oil and gas drilling exploration simply to keep up with demand.

Various environmental groups and Native American tribes put up a vigorous fight to preserve Alaskan national refuge from the invasive, destructive exploration necessary to find and drill for “black gold.” To satisfy an insatiable American public and avaricious corporate raiders determined to engorge themselves on increasingly growing profits, the need for the vast oil field found in the region erroneously known as the middle east have taken on an increased significance.

We see a foreign policy being driven solely by these concerns, where young undereducated minority men and women are being put in harm’s way, indeed being used as canon fodder for massive, rich, influential multinational conglomerates seeking to increase their bottom line.

The American people are as guilty as anyone in the administration, though, because no one wants to ask the hard questions for fear of upsetting the apple cart. However, we all know that there are finite natural resources in the world. We use the vast bulk of those limited resources here in the United States.

Nevertheless, we are more concerned with preserving our lifestyles then we are with the sheer havoc that we are reeking over the entire globe to simply maintain this incredibly consumptive, indulgent existence.

But we do not want to admit to it. We want to be lied to. Our leaders just accommodate us. That is why no real reform will come from the current, strident rallying cry for “hearings” in the wake of this latest “unbelievable” revelation.

These cries are just palliatives spouted by career politicians who are loathe to bite the hand that feeds them while enabling us to continue living a collective delusion; an illusion that we are a fair, democratic, and just society.

In the end, though, alternate energy vehicles many that have been on the drawing board for as long as 40 years, will still give way to inefficient 5 mile per gallon behemoths that your children and mine will wind up fighting and dying for in some godforsaken two-city country with an unpronounceable name in the Middle East.


Onus of Operators

Although it is true that unless an owner operator finds a lucrative niche market, he will not even earn what a union driver nets at say ABF, UPS, USPS, Roadway, Yellow, or New Penn per year @ close to $30/hour or $70,000/year, whose drivers are all represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, or even a good non-union local driver (I used to take home $800/week, drove less than 1,000 miles/week, and was home every night), but still have all of the responsibilities of an independent business person.

Because of the country's current economic climate, some of those union drivers have recently experienced give-backs ranging from $1.90 or more per hour. The Master Freight Agreement, which governs salaries, benefits, and union member working conditions, is generous to a fault. But it can also be used as a broad barometer of what a good owner operator ought to be grossing on a monthly basis.

After all what are you in business for if not to make money? To simply drive a "large car?" The most important component of a successful operation is to manage expenses by factoring all fixed costs against what a load is paying. One way of doing it is to know what your truck averages per mile in terms of fuel consumption, which is typically 6-9 miles/gallon, divide that by your average cost of fuel per gallon, and add .15/mile for maintenance (because it is not a matter of if the truck breaks down, it is a matter of when it breaks down). That number is your fixed cost. If you take your fixed cost and subtract it from what a given load is paying, you can easily employ this formula routinely to determine if you are running profitably, or at a loss and make adjustments.

Partnering with reputable trucking companies leasing owner operators, or finding a good broker, which is near impossible, will save you a tremendous headache because many chores associated with running your business efficiently - i.e., finding loads, backhauls, scheduling maintenance, inspection et cetera and getting you back around the way on a regular basis - will now be done in collaboration with a trucking company who needs to also make money, knows how to do it well, and has an incentive to keep you loaded, moving and happy.

Brokers are really unnecessary middlemen. Because every load they broker takes a percentage of the revenue from that load off the top, which cuts directly into your profits, diminishing your bottom line. I would avoid them like the plague, use them sparingly, or only in an emergency after you did your due diligence to determine if they run a legitimate operation. There are several websites that rates brokers for a small fee. The investment may just save you major problems down the road.

If you seriously want to be an owner operator, why not go for your own operating authority enabling you to bid directly with vendors, those wicked brokers, and even large, established trucking companies for freight? Unless you are hauling Class 1 Explosives, you only need 750k insurance policy, which you can obtain at very competitive rates through trade associations.

Although you would be paid net 30 days like any other business, you should have increased your gross monthly revenue by anywhere from 30% to 50% as a result of having your own "authority." Successful owner operators have to act like businessman if they want to "take home" 100k per year, and not just gross it - along with the inevitable headaches of footing the bill for exorbitant fuel prices, expensive repairs, and high road taxes.

If you want to be a successful owner operator, join organizations like OOIDA, which offers substantial discount on insurance, maintenance, legal and accounting services. Another source of steady, reliable, freight is around either the airports, or ports. Because of the security associated with these facilities, you now have to undergo a thorough background check called a risk assessment analysis by Homeland Security. If you are successful as 90% of the drivers undergoing this process are, you can obtain a port card and/or TWIC enabling you to get in and out of these facilities.

The side streets surrounding these places usually abound with freight forwarders, small privately owned trucking companies, or direct agents for air and ship lines, which offer pretty good deals where owner operators can average $1,000 to $2,000/week after expenses doing picks ups and deliveries within a 100 to 500 mile radius of the agent's location and, if you have a family, are typically home daily. Heavy haul is also very lucrative as is chemicals and Less-than-Truckload (LTL) freight. All require considerable experience, however, because of liability issues, and are also labor intensive irrespective of unfavorable weather conditions. Defense contractors also offer another potential source of high revenue loads. Contracting with one is not simply a matter of faxing over your operating authority and insurance policy information, however. Defense contractors are required by federal law to have prospective drivers obtain additional security clearances, which are involved, time consuming and intrusive for most owner operators to successfully navigate.

Another problem that causes too many owner operators to fail is buying too much truck: a large car with all the bells and whistles and large monthly payments to boot. Unless you have a 5 to 10 year, $250k to $1 million annual contract, you do not need, nor can you afford a $60k to $120k tractor. So, resist the urge.
Instead buy a good, clean, high powered, used owner operator or, preferably, fleet maintained tractor no more than 5-10 years old. Have the truck thoroughly inspected by a reputable technician to ensure that no major repair is imminent. Make sure the dealer services and inspects it before you pull off the lot, and provides you with the records; wash, have it detailed, put in a nice entertainment system, a good CB radio, invest in a wireless card for your laptop, an invertor, AVP, and call it a day. When it is time to have the motor overhauled, consider replacing it altogether with a more powerful, energy efficient one from any of the major engine - i.e., Cat, Cummins, or Detroit - manufacturers. All have really impressive product line-ups with horsepower ratings from 300-625 and significantly improved fuel mileage standards.

In short, not every driver is going to become a $130k/year union man. There just are not that many of those jobs to go around. Plus some drivers prefer the freedom of the open road. But what binds us all together is the need to make money for our families, have a little fun doing it, if not total enjoyment by our career choice, while moving our economy as well as the country forward.

DAC Darn Record

Many potential drivers have asked questions regarding past criminal convictions relative to employment opportunities in the trucking industry. Federal law has gotten stricter regarding hazardous materials endorsement. But other than that, the old rule still basically applies: No DWI/DUI, transportation related felonies, or homicide, rape, weapon or drug offenses. All other convictions are up in the air, and decided by the recruiter, company HR representative, on a case by case basis, which is usually dictated by company culture and hiring policy. Many companies will not hire a driver with a felony no matter what. Most of these companies are not worth driving for anyway. So, they are not hurting your prospects for a driving career.

The Federal Trade Commission promulgates the minimum standards through the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when a background check is done by a third party known commonly as a credit report agency (“CRA”). The FCRA does not apply to employers that conduct their own background checks. It also does not apply to background checks for positions that pay more than $75,000/year. The most commonly used CRA in the trucking industry is DAC Services.

DAC Services has, over the last few years, undergone changes in both ownership and name. DAC Services was acquired, some time back, by USIS (US Investigations Services). USIS then spun it off to its current home at HireRight. Both USIS and HireRight are subsidiaries of Altegrity, which was formed in July 2009 as a holding company for USIS, HireRight, and Explore. Although DAC Services is now known as DAC Trucking Solutions, and operated by HireRight, DAC, still, is a Consumer Reporting Agency located in Tulsa, OK that supplies reports about prospective drivers to its subscribers.

According to the old DAC / USIS web site they "...continually assess industry needs and ensure that (their) product and service offerings meet compliance requirements and address issues such as negligent hiring, cargo theft and personnel security."

The new HireRight web site lets prospective subscribers know that a trucking company enlisting the services of DAC Trucking Solutions gets "...our expertise and unique solutions for the trucking market (that) have made HireRight DAC Trucking Solutions one of the most widely used offerings in the transportation market. When you select us for your screening and compliance needs, you join more than 20,000 other transportation companies in working with the background screening provider endorsed by the American Trucking Association (ATA) and a host of regional associations across the U.S."

An old DAC press release describes the report categories as follows: "In addition to transportation-specific services, DAC provides criminal records, motor vehicle records, social security number verifications, credit reports, drug/alcohol test histories and workers' compensation and injury reports." The new HireRight DAC Trucking Solutions has expanded on that list but the most important report, the report most requested by subscribers, is the DAC Employment History File which will include information such as number of accidents, reason for quitting or being terminated, rehire eligibility, type of driving, trailer types pulled, commodities hauled, et cetera.

What DAC Does

DAC Trucking Solutions assembles reports with information obtained from various sources including, but not limited to, a driver's previous employers. One thing to keep in mind is that the more often you change employers, the higher the likelihood that misinformation may end up on your report. Human error can occur at DAC, just like at any other credit reporting agency, and employers may not always provide objective interpretations of events. DAC is not required to verify the information supplied by employers unless or until a report is disputed by the driver.

How HireRight DAC Trucking Solutions Affects You

You can run but you can't hide! As a matter of fact hiding from, or ignoring, your DAC report can be one of the most damaging things you can do to your career. One insurance company report indicates that over 85% of the 200 largest carriers utilize DAC reports in their hiring decisions. Another report places the total number of carriers subscribing to DAC Services at more than 6000. Chances are good your name is in their database and chances are equally good that a prospective employer will be requesting a DAC report before any other pre-employment action. Another thing to consider is the possibility that, beside potential employers, potential creditors may have access to your DAC information. One thing mortgage lenders and other credit providers look for are indications of responsibility and stability or a lack thereof. Just like credit reports, you absolutely, positively, must know what is on your record. It's true that you're not the one responsible for providing information to DAC and you're not the one responsible for compiling the information into a report but you are responsible for maintaining the accuracy of your report. The only person that can or will effect a positive change in negative information is you.

Although I have had misinformation entered in my DAC report, which almost resulted in a disqualification, I personally found the company to be eminently responsive, relatively easy to get a hold of a customer service representative, or manager to clear up, dispute or clarify adverse information. This is not the experience of the vast majority of drivers who through no fault of their own have run afoul of DAC Services. More importantly, I am also formally educated and, consequently, know how to write effectively and access resources. They are aware of that, and less likely to try and battle with me over an entry that is not benefiting either me or them. But as I told one prospective driver back channel, at the end of the day, it always comes down to what state you are trying to get hired in. UPS may not offer a driver with a ten, twenty or thirty year old conviction a job in Virginia but may offer that same driver one in New York, because different states have different laws governing the disclosure of criminal history records. I have taken the liberty of compiling a short list. Make an intelligent decision.

Its Deregulation Stupid

Often as we navigate skillfully around preoccupied four wheelers pulling stunts on the big road, we hear uninformed chatter on our CBs relative to how our country, the trucking industry, and our way of life is going to hell in a handbasket. Some drivers unfairly lay blame for this situation squarely at the foot of our current President.

But a great deal of the criticism of the Obama administration is simply misguided, motivated by racism, and, consequently, wholly inaccurate. Motor carrier deregulation was a part of a sweeping reduction in price and entry controls and collective vendor price fixing in United States transportation, which begun in the1970s with initiatives by the Richard Nixon Administration, carried out through the Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter Administrations; and, followed up on in the 1980s, collectively seen as trucking deregulation.

Most of the problem stems from young, inexperienced, and unsophisticated drivers from the Deep South where there is little well paying work, or immigrants willing to pull all nighters for minimum wage. Not knowing their worth, they ignorantly conspire with venal corporate trucking companies engaged in a race to the bottom relative to driver wages and owner operator revenue percentage by taking virtually anything offered.

I recently had a fleet owner tell me with a straight face that he "starts" his drivers off with .21/mile, and if they show productivity in 5 years, he boosts it up by a half cent. Although that is slavery by any objective measure, there are drivers out there stupid enough to take it, or the guy would not still be in business! There is no conceivable way an average over-the-road company driver should not be grossing 100k/year given the sheer toil, disruption to his home life, and work on the road requires, period.

When I started in the industry as a young, wild kid finding his way in life, I worked for any number of household carriers commonly known as moving companies. I will never forget a conversation I had with one driver in the 80s where he bragged about making over 300k the year prior subcontracting for a moving company as an owner operator. This was in 1980! I still distinctly remember the brand new COE Pete with the 290 Cummins he was sporting.

Michael H. Belzer, a former long-haul trucker who now teaches industrial relations at Wayne State University, argues persuasively in his seminal book "Sweatshop on Wheels: Winners and Losers in Trucking Deregulation," (Oxford University Press, 2000) that drivers are fully responsible for allowing companies, vendors and brokers to take avantage of them in the manner they have driving - pun intended - wages down relentlessly while increasing productivity on the bowed backs of hardworking men and women just wanting to provide for their families.

US News & World Report asked the question, "low pay in the trucking industry making the nation's roads unsafe [?] With the U.S. economy booming and the demand for drivers mounting, why haven't working conditions for truckers improved?"

The Washington Post echoed that sentiment writing "conditions are so poor and the pay system so unfair that long-haul companies compete with the fast-food industry - e.g., Burger King - for workers. Most long-haul carriers experience 100% annual driver turnover!"

Hervy's - the Crazy Trucker, and owner of "Life As A Trucker" - own Atlanta Constitution wrote "The cabs of 18-wheelers have become the sweatshops of the new millennium, with some truckers toiling up to 80 hours per week for what amounts to barely more than the minimum wage."

In the years following deregulation in 1980, median truck driver earnings have dropped 45% and most over-the-road drivers earn less than half of pre-regulation wages. Work weeks average more than eighty hours. Today, America's long-haul truckers are working harder and earning less than at any time during the last four decades.

I have walked alway from too many companies wanting me to switch out multiple trailers after running all day while only paying mileage. Switching out trailers, shifting axles, doing paperwork, fueling and inspecting your equipment is work. Any work you do in any other profession you are fully compensated. Only in trucking are you supposed to switch out trailers, shift axles, do paperwork, fuel and inspect your equipment on your own dime. But we often hear misguided drivers justifying their own indentured servitude by saying "be glad you got a job." Huh? There was once a group of people in this country who toiled day and night, 21-14 hours per day, under the most brutal conditions imaginable. I do not believe them to be synomous to truckers.

I not only work to support my family but to earn enough to live comfortably in that little house with the white picket fence; not out on the road for so long that I drive past my house because I forgot where it is; or, walk past my kids because I did not recognize them, or bring home $250 after being on the road for 3 weeks; and, being forced to take advances just to eat an overpriced, bad meal in a choke and puke run by a chain congomerate preying on tired, overworked, lonely and hungry drivers employing lot lizards masquarading as waitresses.

Steven Robert Zellers makes similar arguments in his irreverant, zany but prescient book entitled "The Truth about Trucking" (Wordwizard Publishing, 2006). Zellers writes painfully about how he came home unexpectively after 5 weeks out only to find his beloved wife clasped in the buck with an abnormally well endowed neighbor.

Sweatshops on Wheels, however, raises crucial questions about the legacy of trucking deregulation in America and casts provocative new light on the issue of government deregulation in general. It is a must read for any person considering trucking as a career. Because you will be competing not with the best and the brightest but the worst and the stupidest. If you do not believe me, just turn on channel 19 for a few minutes.

It is up to the few professionals left standing in our beloved industry to lead reform efforts, making shippers and vendors pay for detention time (a article I plan on tackling next), hourly for any work done off-the-road, and demanding higher wages or settlement agreements and, most importantly, lower fuel prices. It can be done if we wield our considerable power as truckers collectively and not necessary shut the country down, but organize efforts to show the petro-chemical companies, shippers, vendors or end-users, and trucking companies that we mean business.

Racial Defiling: It only happens to the other guy. . .

It was a beautiful, warm and sunny, Wednesday afternoon on March 21st. I was traveling Eastbound in Jackson, Mississippi on I-20 at approximately seventy miles per hour in a tractor owned by my trucking company, Shipman Trucking & Transport, and a fully loaded trailer owned by Mystic Express. We were down a driver and I decided to go out myself. I have held a valid Class A commercial driver's license almost since the CDL Act of 1986 called for a single, federally administered commercial driver's license for all professional drivers; it was supposed to reduce fraud and increase accountability for bad drivers.

The trip originated in North Brunswick, New Jersey with stop and a pickup in Chicago, Illinois, a delivery in Fort Worth, Texas and a backhaul in Tyler, Texas. I had just taken a nice, hot shower and eaten a small breakfast in Louisiana; routing myself to drive through Mississippi, Alabama - states I had never really spent any time in - before heading North back home.

I was making excellent time when I noticed that I was being tracked by a marked what I thought was a Mississippi State police unit. The driver kept pulling up, then slowing down, but it was apparent that he was setting up to fire his strobes and pull me over. There was nothing to be concerned about or so I though. All of my paperwork was in order: I had the bills of lading as well as manifest for the load, my CDL was valid, Hours of Service reports or logs were up-to-date and current and, more importantly, I was legit.

I had just past the turn off for I-55 when he stopped me. It was not the State Police, though, but a marked Mississippi Public Service Commission vehicle operated by a heavy set, six foot inch, thirty something year old African American officer whose name I later learned was Ronnie White; a black man with an uncanny resemblance to Al Roker. I dismounted and walked around my truck to meet him; the officer seemed very affable - disarmingly so. Affecting a simple country boy demeanor. It did not ring true, though, and immediately raised my hypersensitive New Yorker suspicions.

White asked me what I was hauling, where my paperwork was, and if I would allow him to search my truck all in the same breath. It would have been a virtuoso performance save that I did not play out my role to his satisfaction. I told Mr. White that under no circumstances would I allow a consensual search of my tractor. But that he could inspect my truck all he wanted. He asked me why I would not allow this search, and I responded because it is my constitutionally protected right under the 4th amendment of the US Constitution.

He then called the company I was leased to and spoke to Nancy, the accounts payable clerk, who told him that she could not authorize a search of my truck precisely because it was my truck. And "isn't it his right not to allow this search?"

Mr. White responded by saying a simple "okay," walked back to his cruiser, while I admired the Mississippi greenery. A short time later, he honked his horn, summoning me to the car. We started talking and he again broached the subject of a consensual search of my tractor/trailer. By this time another unidentified officer pulled up in a late model black Chevy Camaro with a blue strobe affixed to the windshield. He was also African American, approximately thirty something years old with a baldhead, dark shades, and a semi-automatic sidearm that he made a big show of exposing over his cheap windbreaker as he walked over to White and I. He asked me why I would not allow the search as White handed him my CDL [commercial driver license], and I regurgitated the same spiel I had given to White.

This guy was demonstrably less pleasant than White and simply walked away with a "take him over there," which I assume meant anywhere but where he was running what I later learned was an unauthorized background check on yours truly. White later confirmed this by asking why didn't you tell me you had been "arrested" before? I told him that I did not re-call him asking the question, and even if he did, it was immaterial to the pretense under which he stopped me. I am a legitimate businessperson, college graduate, graduate student, minister, and decorated volunteer EMT [Emergency Medical Technician] who, was actively involved in the recovery effort at the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York. I had identified myself and, as a result, did not have anything to prove to anyone relative to "youthful excesses" committed well over twenty years ago - especially to this man.

By this time, however, another person pulled up this time with a dog. I laughed because I could not believe that these people honestly thought I was stupid enough to be running drugs through Mississippi in a commercial motor vehicle. The guy who brought the animal claimed after a perfunctory, what I observed was a coercive inspection, the dog "hit" on the trailer. He asked me if I "smoked marijuana." I laughed and told him no, and that I had no idea of why the dog "hit" on the trailer but again repeated that if they wanted to search the truck, then follow the law and put me "out-of-service," impound the vehicle, and search it 'til their heart's content.

Instead this officer and his supervisor, who he said authorized this action, subverted the law, blatantly lied, claiming that I "refused an inspection," arrested and incarcerated me in the Raymond Detention Center in Hinds County, Mississippi, where I was photographed, fingerprinted and treated like a common criminal: unable to make a telephone call because the 'phones are programmed improperly for only local calls. That means that persons arrested living outside Hinds County area code cannot even contact people to let them know where they are. It was an incredible situation: one that illustrates how backwards this area of the country still is.

To say that this type of malfeasance is unacceptable would be an understatement, moreover. In the years I have been in the trucking business, I have never had a law enforcement officer moronically claim that he needed to enter the cab of my truck to conduct an inspection. It is an insult to the collective intelligence of truck drivers coerced into waiving their constitutionally protected rights against unlawful search and seizure.

And as the Hinds County sheriff deputies all stated to a person, White and his superior were angered by my knowledge of the law and wanted to punish me. These two MPSC officers did so by abusing their substantial authority and falsely arresting me. These farm hands masquerading as law enforcement officials violated the very canon of ethics upon which they have been sworn to uphold in their irresponsible zeal to make the "big bust." However, they picked the absolute wrong driver to play out this malfeasance on.

I stated in an unanswered letter to Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore's office that this matter can be easily investigated. All one need do is call the company we were leased to at the time, and ask to speak with Nancy, the accounts payable clerk; she was the person who took the call White made from a cellular handset mounted on the dash of his cruiser. The billing records from White's cellular telephone provider will bear out the fact that he did indeed make this call - if he acts in character and tries to deny it. He did not ask if he could "inspect" but if he could "search" my tractor, which is a legally important distinction.

Nancy told him that I was a "good guy," a "minister and wouldn't have anything to hide. . . but he probably just doesn't want anyone in his truck." Those recommendations did little to dissuade White from recklessly pursuing this matter.

More importantly, though, the trailer, presumably the only area of the vehicle they claimed the search dog "hit" on, was never searched - irrespective of the fact that Bill Ward, the tow company owner, called the MPSC office and asked when they would be down to conduct this search because he wanted to leave and go home. By the next day, when cooler heads prevailed and I was released from detention and driven to pick up this tractor, it still had not been searched. A fact that farther lends credence to my allegation that White simply wanted to search the cab of my truck and would and in fact did use all means at his disposal to accomplish this flagrant violation of my constitutionally protected rights against unlawful search and seizure.

The fictitious charges White filed with the Hinds County District Attorney's office are simply a transparent attempt to justify the arrest and, consequently, cover his protuberant derriere. . . We have written to virtually every agency responsible for enforcing civil rights in these United States. To date, we are still awaiting a formal response from US Assistant Attorney General Ralph F. Boyd, Jr. who heads up the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division; Senator Hillary Clinton, Rev. Al Sharpton, the Mississippi American Civil Liberties Union in the person of executive director Gail Chadwick, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore, and Kwesi Mfume of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

If this can happen to a published writer, activist, ordained minister, and legitimate businessperson with nary a blip on the national radar screen, then what happens to the thousands of other less prominent African Americans, Hispanics, Arabs that this is happening to with increasing frequency under the guise of national security? Those who claim to have taken up the challenge of articulating our collective outrage at racial profiling only seem to be interested in sound bites and getting their mugs plastered in as many newspapers and magazines as possible while doing as little as possible. . .

This farmhand wrote me up for three (3) misdemeanors in Hinds County to cover his own misfeasance as well as over zealousness, I do not have unlimited resources and cannot go into debt to fight them. But I will continue to write and agitate to ensure that officials involved in the decision to falsely arrest me are relegated to share cropping for the rest of their natural lives. I will not allow my character to be besmirched by phony allegations of criminality. It is an old Jim Crow tactic borne of the black code that has no place in present day America. And I urge all like-minded progressives to join in this struggle.

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Cynthia McKinney Is 'Our' Hero

On April 12th Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia) released a press statement critical of the Bush administration's actions in responding to 9-11. It raised serious concerns about the United States government's foreknowledge of the brutal terrorist attacks on both the World Trade Center in New York City as well as the Pentagon in Washington, DC. McKinney argued, "The need for an investigation of the events surrounding September 11[th] is as obvious as is the need for an investigation of the Enron debacle. The press release from McKinney's office further stated "news reports from Der Spiegal to the London Observer, from the Los Angeles Times to MSNBC to CNN, indicate that many warnings were received by the [US] Administration."

There is considerable evidence that key players in the US intelligence as well as federal law enforcement community deliberately turned a deaf ear to persistent rumors that Mohammad Atta, who had been previously identified as a member of an extremist, fundamentalist group, was involved in a plot to bomb the twin towers.

If McKinney or her staff had engaged in the thoughtful but time consuming investigative process necessary to lend credence to her charges, they would have come across a number of articles written by courageous independent writers myself included that provided substantial factual evidence supporting her claims.

One piece in particular written by Tom Flacco and entitled Profits of Death 1: Insider Trading and 9-11 "revealed that the A.B. Brown (Alex Brown) investment arm of the banking giant Deutschebank/A.B. Brown had been headed until 1998 by the man who is now the Executive Director of the Central Intelligence Agency - A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard. In fact, Krongard is but one name in a long history of CIA interconnections to stock trading and the world's financial markets."

Unfortunately, McKinney like her colleague from the 35th District of California, Maxine Waters (D-California) who raised similar concerns in the wake of allegations that the Central Intelligence Agency was directly involved in the importation of drugs into the US generally and her district particularly, McKinney took the path of the least resistance.

Consequently, the serious allegations she raised against powerful players in the Bush administration, without providing substantial evidence supporting her position, enabled her detractors to dismiss her allegations out-of-hand. By unfairly labeling McKinney unpatriotic, a conspiracy theorist, and member of an extreme left wing lunatic fringe, has caused her to lose substantial "credibility" with her herd-like colleagues in the Congress.

On Sunday, April 21st Black Entertainment Television's Lead Story hosted by Amy Holmes aired a segment where McKinney was roundly criticized by not only House Negro-in-Residence Armstrong Williams, who a shameless tout for conservative - read that: white - reactionary interests and a disingenuous apologist for racist American policy without an original thought to his credit, but also by moderate writer for Savoy magazine, Jack White, and National Public Radio's All Things Considered producer Brenda Wilson.

The dismantling of McKinney was an incredible display of collective ignorance by persons charged with the mission to bring us factual, objective information; information culled not only from the mainstream, co-opted, I mean, corporate media but from alternate sources as well. Government has long had it hand deep in the pocket of corporate media.

Mike Levin, the host and executive producer of The Expert Witness Show, which airs on NYC's WBAI 99.5 FM at 7:00 PM on Tuesdays once had a retired CIA operative brag on air that the agency had co-opted the corporate media in these United States.

In short, he claimed that virtually all of the major players would publish unedited releases written by bureaucrats in his as well as other US Intelligence agencies. The watered down, heavily censored reports we have been receiving from the likes of the Hearst corporation, Tribune, Knight Ridder, United News & Media, Dow Jones & Company on the Israelis-Palestinian conflict is a glaring contemporaneous case-in-point.

So it stands to reason that we ought to be extremely critical of information we read in those reactionary rags; papers published primarily to promote the Bush administrations' fascistic agenda. And ironically those publications were the very reference sources these black barely intellectuals cited in their mindless lockstep attacks on McKinney.

Moreover, to the point at hand, the airspace over the Eastern seaboard of the continental United States is the most heavily monitored, regulated and, more importantly, restricted airspace than anywhere else in the country! And with good reason. Old eastern seaboard cites housing the nation's Capital, three Federal Reserves, banking and finance centers of the country if not world.

We are supposed to believe that air traffic controllers in not one but seven different FAA Air Traffic Control Command Center regions two of which have ARO or Airport Reservation Office status - i.e., JFK in NYC as well as Regan in Washington, DC - meaning that they are specifically designated to process high density traffic requests all dropped the proverbial ball simultaneously.

Sources in the administration would have us think that these highly-trained Federal Aviation Administration workers most of whom are equally highly paid (with average annual salaries of approximately one hundred and twenty five thousand dollars), high-ranking, reserve non-commissioned officers in the US military, undergo through extensive federal background checks and hold high-level security clearances as a result, allowed three fully loaded passenger jets to wander hundreds of miles off course violating restricted airspace and slam into the twin towers in NYC, and the Pentagon in Washington, DC without sounding any alarm.

That is simply not believable. It is so unbelievable, moreover, that it raised more questions than non-existant investigations have answered; questions that no one in the Congress has had the courage to ask accept for Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia).

The fact of the matter is that these planes were tracked and fighter jets from east coast based US Air Force fighter wings were scrambled to intercept them. There is credible evidence to suggest that the downing of American Airlines Flight 11 - the plane that allegedly crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania - a rural community approximately 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh - was not the result of heroism on the parts of the passengers on board the plane but the deliberate shooting by one of those fighter jets.

This persistent rumor has been floating about in the alternate press since it was revealed that the co-pilot was an African American reserve Air Force officer and pilot.

Famed essayist and writer Gore Vidal was featured on a two hour special public affairs segment hosted by Matthew Finch, public affairs director, at NYC's Pacifica station WBAI 99.5 FM on Tuesday, April 23rd. Vidal has a piece coming out in which he claims that five FBI special agents have brought suit against their supervisor for refusing to accept evidence that foretold of the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

We could neither prove nor disprove this information during our research for this piece. However, it is this type of investigative reporting, fact checking, and research that makes for the compelling, factual, and critical information that is no longer available to us through the so-called mainstream media. It is frightening and speaks to McKinney's point, that "The need for an investigation of the events surrounding September 11 is as obvious as is the need for an investigation of the Enron debacle."

Instead of being castigated and ridiculed by her colleagues in the congress and other black leaders - most of whom are too busy greedily feeding at the slop trough of public largess to do the important work they were elected to do - she ought to be lionized for exhibiting the courage to raise questions about a troubling aspect of the negligence demonstrated by several investigatory as well as oversight agencies in the US government.

The public's lack of skepticism relative to obvious unanswered conflicts surrounding 9-11 brings to mind another era and another figure in history: Roman Emperor Tiberius Gracchus, a famed war hero who upon assuming the throne was told by the Senate that his decrees would be passed without deliberations. Tiberius responded "so quick are they to become slaves. . ."

We presume that the government has our collective interests at heart when the historic record clearly contradicts that supposition. So quick are we, as black folks or people who ought to know better, to become slaves. . .

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The Spook Who Sat Behind The Door: A Modern Day Tale

Tyrone Powers, a former African American FBI special agent announced on NYC's urban contemporary radio station 98.7 KISS FM's May 19, 2002 airing of the Open Line show, hosted by news director and morning personality Bob Slade, that he had credible evidence strongly suggesting the Bush administration did in fact allow the September 11th attacks to further a hidden agenda.

Dr. Powers says that the administration miscalculated, though, and "didn't believe that [an attack] would be on this scale." Powers, author of critically acclaimed autobiography, "Eyes To My Soul: The Rise and Decline of a Black FBI Agent" is director of the Institute of Criminal Justice/Legal Studies and Public Service, and an assistant professor of law Enforcement and Criminal Justice at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland. Powers stated that "arrogant" US intelligence agencies underestimated the resolve of the terrorists.

They have the American people duped into believing that the fundamentalist Islamic lunatic fringe who carried out the attacks here in America are uneducated "fanatics." Powers says, though, that most of the terrorist leadership was comprised of highly educated, extremely "patient" ideologues with "legitimate" grievances against the United States -many having been educated right here in the US and hold degrees in "engineering" among other disciplines critical to the end that these radical factions seek.

Like Pearl Harbor, the US government needed a substantive excuse to enter World War Two and end German hegemony over Europe generally and England particularly. German domination over Europe grew rapidly into an expansionist policy once Italy and Japan join forces to rule the earth - or so we were led to believe.

The revisionists would have us believe that those altruistic objectives were the sole motivation for Franklin Roosevelt wanting to enter WWII and help his close friend an colleague British Prime Minister Winston Churchill whose country was under siege by a relentless German war machine.

Roosevelt was an extremely savvy politician, though, and knew that the relatively widespread anti-Semitism evident in the United States during the 1940's would effectively disrupt those objectives. So an environment had to be created causing an anticipated furor enabling the Roosevelt administration to declare war against this "axis of evil."

Does this scenario sound familiar? It ought to because Powers argues persuasively that the Bush administration has taken a page from history in its endeavor to maintain control over rapidly dwindling oil reserves in the world generally and in the middle east particularly. American culture is by nature duplicitous and hypocritical. We do not like to hear the truth, and when we are compelled to confront it, we simply refuse to concede to it.

The Bush administration relied strongly on these pathologies when it deliberately ignored warnings from stand up agents in Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies and allowed what they only thought was going to be the "high jacking" of a single airliner.

They were prepared to "sacrifice" those citizens in the interest of national security. Powers claims that the Bush administration superciliously perceives itself to be the last world super power: an Empire and, by some misguided albeit self-serving divine right, has to sometimes make appalling decisions to further its imperialistic aims, which is the total, unequivocal domination of the world and, more tellingly, its mineral resources.

There is more than a little truth to this supposition. And Powers makes some very compelling arguments. The Enron debacle and this flagrant insult against the American people have definitive albeit tenuously proven ties that the mainstream media has conspicuously ignored. All concern oil, energy, and greed. Virtually all of the top management at Enron enjoyed an open door policy at the White House. Indeed, Vice president Dick Cheney has refused repeated requests from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to release material information regarding the nature of those frequent meetings with Enron executives. Meetings that took place in the nascent stages of the Bush administration when it was still formulating energy policy for the country.

"The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 created the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)." It began operating on February 24, 1975, with the appointment of its first Director, Alice M. Rivlin. CBO's mission is to provide the Congress with the objective, timely, nonpartisan analyses needed for economic and budget decisions and with the information and estimates required for the Congressional budget process. Compared with the missions of the Congress's other support agencies -the Congressional Research Service and the General Accounting Office - CBO's mandate is relatively narrow.

But its subject matter gives it a broad reach, reflecting the wide array of activities that the federal budget covers and the major role the budget plays in the U.S. economy."

In short, the CBO's mandate is to provide congressional oversight to matters involving budgetary decisions made by the executive branch in furtherance of our system of checks and balances; a system that the Vice president of the United States has deliberately attempted to thwart. A situation so unprecedented, that the Congressional Budget Office brought suit against a sitting US Vice President to compel him to release information relating to exactly what he discussed with those criminal managers of the failed Enron Corporation, which is a first in the history of this country. But we hear little about the status of this case in the mainstream media. Why? Because "laws are made by the rich to protect the interests of the rich."

What is believed was discussed at those meetings is the domination of the oil and mineral reserves, and how the US government could use its considerable resources - i.e., political, diplomatic and military - to further this agenda. That is why Cheney has been fighting tooth and nail to prevent those conversations from becoming public, citing executive privilege, which a tenuous legal concept that simply does not apply to a vice president in a largely ceremonial post but perhaps to a sitting president. Given "Dubya's" demonstrable stupidity, there ought not be any wonder that Cheney had the effrontery to make this preposterous argument because he honestly feels he is the wizard behind the curtain and, as a consequence, does in fact run the Bush administration. It has always been believed that the role of president was a figurehead post. Cheney lends credence to this belief by the arrogance with which he has responded to the CBO's legitimate requests.

The events of 9-11 are tied to a failed intelligence operation to try and co-opt oil reserves in the Middle East; an operation that has direct ties to the current administration. The alternative press has been relentless in its reporting on this subject but the information is slowly but surely being leaked by a "deep throat" in the Bush administration fed up with its chicanery and machinations throughout the world; machination that he feels will drag us into a conflagration from which there will be no return. It is important that the American people dig the heads out of the sand and begin to ask the hard questions that will bring accountability to this administration.


Friday, September 24, 2010

New York's KISS FM 98.7 is Quietly looking for Morning Drive Host

Since firing well known comedian DL Hughley late last month, New York's Adult Oriented Radio station 98.7 KISS FM, which is owned by Emmis Communications, has been quietly looking for a new morning drive host. Hughley was considered too offensive, irreverent and never really connected with the audience in spite of his brilliance as a comedian. His banter with co-host Jackie Reid sometimes made listeners wince in shame. One long time listener said, "it bordered on sexual harassment." Radio is a totally different world than stand-up comedy. Steve Harvey, who is marginally talented as a comedian and as an air on personality, has managed to successfully navigate that chasm on his nationally syndicated show, which is aired locally on Inner City Broadcasting’s flagship station WBLS 107.5. The best morning drive host KISS FM had was Ken "Spider" Webb followed by Comedian George Wallace and Jeff Fox. Their on air interaction was infectious, comical, and memorable. It was universally assumed by radio industry pros that DL Hughley was going to be a bad fit for KISS FM. He is a West Coast fixture with little understanding of the New York market who loves to “play the dozens.” So, he was doomed to failure. His former co-host Jackie Reid who has temporarily been pressed into service as host is skilled, attractive, and eminently easy to listen to. She has tons of experience, used to host BET News, co-host Tom Joyner, Al Sharpton, and Steve Harvey's shows like a journeyman giving both a crash course in broadcasting before PDs felt comfortable enough to allow them to go solo. Reid has appeared on or done numerous other shows. But she is not an on air personality. The heavy dose of music KISS FM now offers listeners with little or no kick-you-in-the-ass, and wake-me-up dialogue is not a sustainable format for a major market morning drive show. KISS FM is going to have to bite the bullet, and quickly hire a seasoned morning drive host, or go to another syndicated show. I would love to see Wendy William's old sidekick, Charlemagne Tha God, tapped to do the morning drive at KISS FM. He was unceremoniously canned by Philadelphia radio station 100.3 The Beat back in November after the station reported it wanted “change its format” although his numbers were through the roof. His firing came just days after he gave an exclusive interview with Rapper Beanie Sigel airing out his grievances with Rapper Jay-Z. Many people believe his termination was orchestrated by Jay-Z's camp. He is now on South Carolina's 92.5 The Box hosting a weirdly timed evening drive show. Although he is from the Palmetto State, a little young for KISS FM's demographic, he is very sharp, witty, knows the New York market, and listeners will love him in that spot if he can deftly switch gears from Hip Hop culture to Adult Oriented Radio. KISS are you listening? Stay tuned.

Open Letter To Ms. Bev Smith, The Queen of Night Talk Radio

Dear Ms. Bev,

Believing the LGBT community is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is one thing; actively advocating for a lifestyle that you claim erroneously is found in nature is quite another. Homosexuality is indeed found in nature but only as an aberration much like a mutation. There are few asexual organisms and virtually all are single celled. The few asexual insects can hardly be characterized as homosexual. The one aquatic vertebrate or fish example you cited "seahorse" is neither asexual nor homosexual as you misinformed your audience. The male seahorse is equipped with a brood pouch on the ventral, or front-facing, side. When mating, the female seahorse deposits up to 1,000 eggs in the male's pouch, which the male then internally fertilizes with his sperm. The male carries the eggs for about two months until they emerge, expelling fully-developed, miniature seahorses in the water. The father continues to protect the young until they are able to live on their own. There are no known mammals that engage in long term homosexual unions. Some primates do exhibit homosexual conduct, but only as "sex play" much like same sex experimentation observed in adolescent children, which brings me to my last and final point. Although anecdotal as I have no empirical data to support this hypothesis, I have long held to the belief that there are true homosexuals, people born attracted to members of their own sex. However, a significantly larger number - especially in our communities - more than likely have adopted this sexual preference due to inappropriate sexual debuts: a stepfather, boyfriend, or older relative molested the boy. I speak strictly about boys here because Lesbians have an even more complicated psychology, which I have no expertise to discuss. Nevertheless, I have heard too many biographical stories from Gay adult males including my former Pastor, Donnie McClurkin, who said they were introduced into homosexuality by an older male, a pederast. So, though it may be politically correct, chic even, to champion this lifestyle, except for a statistically minute percentage, most could benefit from gender confusion therapy. The LGBT and their well intentioned supporters abhor this approach, because it detracts from their larger agenda to acculturate society into believing that a very small percentage of persons (with the caveat excluding a statistically small percentage of that community who are truly homosexual) ought to dictate cultural norms. Gender confusion therapy is an effective evidenced based therapy, which has broad support in the medical community. The American College of Pediatricians (ACOP) says "that it is not uncommon for adolescents to experience transient confusion about their sexual orientation, and that most students will ultimately adopt a heterosexual orientation if not otherwise encouraged," which is not what the LGBT community wants. I love you, Ms. Bev. But you're widely listened to and, as such, have a responsibility to educate your audience me included based on actual fact irrespective of your personal beliefs...