Archive for April, 2010


In defense of tea party protests

Editor’s note: Roland S. Martin, a CNN political analyst, is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of “Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith,” and the new book, “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House.” He is a commentator for TV One Cable Network and host of a Sunday morning news show.

(CNN) — An angry bunch of Americans has taken to the streets to protest government spending and the direction of the nation, and judging by the massive media coverage, it’s as if we have been invaded by a foreign entity, marching on state capitals and Washington ready to lead a coup d’état against our elected officials.

The rise of the Tea Party is being chronicled as a threat to democracy, or a grassroots collective unlike anything we have seen in many years.

As Public Enemy wisely put it with their hit song in 1988, “Don’t Believe the Hype!”

First, let’s deal with the Tea Party haters. Please, shut up.

How can any liberal, progressive, moderate or conservative be mad about a group of Americans taking to the streets to protest the actions of the country? What they are engaged in is constitutional. The freedom to assemble, march, walk, scream and yell is right there in the document we all abide by.

Do I object to idiots holding up clearly racist signs, as well as the stupidity of images of President Obama as Hitler? Of course. That ignorance detracts from whatever commentary they are trying to make on the status of the nation.

When I debated Tea Party leader Mark Williams on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 show a few months ago, I was appalled when he was unwilling to say that if someone came to one of his rallies with a racist sign, he would tell them to take it down.

He tried to invoke the First Amendment, but he was clearly offering people comfort for such shenanigans.

But it’s clear that most of the folks attending Tea Party rallies are not bigots and homophobes. There are ignorant fools in all groups, and the Tea Party is no different.

If anyone wants to oppose the Tea Party for spreading misinformation, do that. But to assert that it’s wrong to take part in civic engagement is utterly silly. The best of this country came out of the action of those in the streets.

For those who oppose the Tea Party, you have every right to gather with those who agree with you and take to the streets. If they oppose the policies of President Obama, and you support them, demonstrate your support for his agenda. Don’t whine about someone else making noise. Men and women, stand up and be heard.

And if you want to oppose the Tea Party, do so on the facts.

It’s laughable when a Tea Partier laments taxes in the U.S. when, for the middle class, they are virtually at their lowest level in more than 50 years.

To suggest that 95 percent of Americans didn’t get a tax cut in President Obama’s first year is just dead wrong.

The reality is that the Tea Party is more aligned with Republicans. According to a CBS News/ New York Times poll released last week, 18 percent of Americans say they view themselves as a member of the Tea Party; 54 percent are Republicans; and 89 percent are white.

Sen. John McCain received 59 million votes to Obama’s 69 million votes. Those 59 million voters didn’t move to Canada or Mexico, so they are predisposed to oppose the president’s agenda.

So what we really have here is a group of people who are more likely than not to support GOP candidates nationwide. I don’t view the Tea Party as being some new entity that is drawing out disenfranchised voters who have long been absent from the process. They are no different in 2010 than what was in 1998: a group of disgruntled Americans operating outside of the traditional two-party apparatus and expressing their own self-interests.

I more than welcome the Tea Party folks. Protesting is America at its finest. But I’m also not fooled one bit by them.

They are a rowdy, loud and forceful bunch filled largely with Republicans who oppose the policies of the president. Nothing wrong with that. There were a bunch of rowdy, loud and forceful liberals and progressives taking to the streets to oppose the policies of President George W. Bush.

Folks, this isn’t a radical transformation of the nation shaping up. It’s the latest effort by citizens primarily in one party or professing one ideology to rise up and allow their voices to be heard.

And that’s a good thing.


Senate to tackle Wall Street reform

With a weekend push from President Obama and the SEC charges against Goldman Sachs in the background, Democrats plan to start debating the Wall Street reform bill in the Senate this week, even as Republicans continue to say they oppose the bill.

The president made reform the centerpiece of his weekly radio address to the nation.

“The consequences of this failure of responsibility — from Wall Street to Washington — are all around us: 8 million jobs lost, trillions in savings erased, countless dreams diminished or denied, ” Obama said. “I believe we have to do everything we can to ensure that no crisis like this ever happens again.”

Wall Street reform got additional impetus Friday when the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Goldman with defrauding investors on mortgage-backed securities. (The tale of Goldman’s fraud charges)

But, in a letter to Senate Democrats on Friday, 41 Senate Republicans said they “are united” in opposing the current bill that passed the Banking Committee last month, according to a letter penned by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The letter signals that Republicans have enough votes to delay the bill. However, their letter stopped short of vowing to block the bill from being debated. They said they wanted more say in creating a “bipartisan and inclusive approach.”

Democrats responded with a timeline pointing out all the different meetings and negotiations that have gone on between lawmakers and staffs of both parties over the past six months. They also point out that Banking panel chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and ranking member Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., continue to meet and negotiate differences.

“We can disagree over serious, substantive issues. We can have a real debate over the future of our country, but if this bill does not represent a bipartisan effort, I don’t know what does,” said Dodd. “I have been in extensive talks with my Republican colleagues for over a year, and I still am.”


Former Atlanta mayor to deliver graduation speech

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin will deliver the keynote address for the May 8 commencement at the University of West Georgia.

The university will hold two ceremonies — in the morning and afternoon — to accommodate the different colleges. Both will be held on campus in UWG’s Coliseum.

Franklin was elected mayor in 2002 and served two terms. She is currently a professor at Spelman College.


Eating disorder terminology said to hurt treatment

The term “eating disorder” often suggests losing a dangerous amount of weight.

But there are people engaging in harmful eating behaviors who haven’t lost much weight, or who gain some, and they are not getting the treatment they need, doctors say.

Some insurance companies will only cover treatment for eating disorders if the patient meets all of the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a guidebook for diagnosing mental illnesses, doctors say. Patients who don’t match all the symptoms, which include severe weight loss, are labeled “eating disorder not otherwise specified” (EDNOS) and sometimes don’t qualify for the level of care they need.

A new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found more than 60 percent of patients with EDNOS met medical criteria for hospitalization and were, on average, sicker than patients diagnosed with full-blown bulimia.

That means more than 60 percent of patients with EDNOS may have trouble getting care covered by an insurance company, said Dr. Rebecka Peebles of the Department of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine.

“The diagnosis provides no meaningful information regarding the nature of the problem or appropriate treatment approaches,” said Pamela Keel, professor of psychology at Florida State University, who was not involved in the study, in an e-mail.

Researchers looked at 1,310 children and adolescents aged 8 to 19 years.

As many as 10 million women and 1 million men in the United States suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Estimates put binge eating disorder, which currently falls under an EDNOS diagnosis, at an additional 25 million people.



Date set for British election

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has confirmed May 6 as the date of the UK’s long-awaited general election, triggering a fierce political battle for control of the country.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, Brown said he had met Queen Elizabeth earlier Tuesday to ask for parliament to be dissolved next week.

Brown’s announcement sounds the starting gun on a month of frenetic campaigning that is likely to be dominated by arguments over the state of the economy, public spending cuts and the size of the UK’s national deficit.

Brown said he was seeking a “clear and straightforward mandate” to carry on with the job of stabilizing and rebuilding an economy still reeling from the global financial crisis.

“Over the next few weeks I will go round the country — the length and breadth of our land — and I will take to the people a very straightforward and clear message: Britain is on the road to recovery and nothing we do should put that recovery at risk,” he said.

Profile: Can Brown’s ‘clunking fist’ prevail?

Brown, who spent the afternoon campaigning in the southern county of Kent, is facing the electorate as Labour Party leader for the first time since he became prime minister in 2007.

Although the center-left party has been in power for 13 years, its three previous election victories in 1997, 2001 and 2005 were won by Brown’s predecessor as leader, Tony Blair.

Polls ahead of the election campaign have consistently shown Labour trailing the center-right Conservative Party, led by David Cameron.

But the gap between the two has narrowed in recent weeks and the the Conservatives need a huge swing of more than 100 seats to win an overall majority in the 650-seat House of Commons.


Myth of the ‘gay lifestyle’ justifies bias

Editor’s note: LZ Granderson is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and, and has contributed to ESPN’s Sports Center, Outside the Lines and First Take. He is a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) award for online journalism as well as the 2008 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) winner for column writing.

(CNN) — On most mornings, my better half wakes up around 5:30, throws on some sweats and heads to the gym before work.

About a half hour later, I wake up my 13-year-old son, go downstairs to the kitchen to make his breakfast and pack his lunch. Once he’s out the door, I brew some coffee and get to work.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the “gay lifestyle” — run for your heterosexual lives.

I understand opponents of gay rights must highlight differences in order to maintain the “us against them” tension that’s paramount to their arguments. But this notion that sexual orientation comes with a different and pre-ordained way of life — as if we’re all ordering the No. 3 at a drive thru — only highlights how irrational groups such as Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and others like them are in this whole debate.

Pro-marriage organizations try to stop two consenting adults from marrying. Pro-family groups try to stop stable couples wanting children from adopting unloved orphans.

And somehow, me doing something like going to the grocery store threatens the very fabric of society, as Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern spewed. She says “the homosexual agenda is destroying this nation” and “homosexuality is more of a threat than terrorism.” I’m not sure what her idea of a gay lifestyle might be, but with a growing teenager, buying and cooking food dominates my day-to-day.

I don’t worship Barbra Streisand, I don’t watch any TV show with the word “Housewives” in its title and I love fishing, beer and Madonna. But more importantly, I’m just a father trying to keep my son away from drugs, get him into college and have a little money left over for retirement. I’m no sociologist but I’m pretty sure those concerns are not exclusive to gay people.

In one of the most pivotal scenes in the biopic “Milk,”Harvey Milk, played by Sean Penn, gathers a group of community organizers and activists to come up with strategies to combat a 1978 ballot initiative that sought to ban LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) teachers and their supporters from working in public schools in California. As the small crowd settles down, Milk quickly glances around the room and says ..

“If we’re going to convince the 90 percent to give a —- about us 10 percent, we have to let them know who we are …”

“What” we are — be it gay, straight, black, white — is simply window dressing. “Who” we are is where the substance is, where the person is, where our humanity is.

Too often, discussions about gay people and gay rights focus on sex, as if a person’s entire being is defined by his or her Hollywood crush.

This fixation has been the crux behind attempts to link gay men to pedophilia — from John Briggs, a state legislator from Orange County who introduced the proposed ban on gay teachers in California, to the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, whose recent attempts to excuse the church for its global scandal coverup by seemingly blaming homosexuality, is evil incarnate.

“The vast majority of the victims are post-pubescent,” Donohue recently said on “Larry King Live.” “That’s not pedophilia, buddy. That’s homosexuality.”

Actually, Bill, sexual predators whose victims are 13- to 17-years-old are called hebephiles — a la Joey Buttafuoco, Madeleine Martin and Heather Kennedy — not homosexuals. And that still doesn’t explain why the church opted to save face as opposed to, in the words of the infamous anti-gay figurehead Anita Bryant, “Save our children.”

Being gay doesn’t dictate how people live their lives any more than being straight does. There are gay people who go to church every Sunday and straight people who do not believe in God. There are single gay men who believe in the sanctity of marriage and married straight men who apparently do not — such as Gov. Mark Sanford, ex-Sen. John Edwards and Sen. John Ensign, to name a few.

The truth is the only thing all gay people have in common — you know, besides being gay — is that we face continuous rhetorical, social and legal attacks for simply existing, thus potentially making something as mundane as bringing a date to a work function a fight-or-flee situation.

And yet, even in the face of that discrimination, LGBT people all handle it differently.

Some of us live in the closet, some of us do drag every Wednesday night, some of us are Republicans hoping to be change agents within a conservative sect and some of us are apathetic Democrats too dumb to carry on a conversation about anything other than Lady Gaga.

In other words, we’re just as diverse, intolerant, upstanding and tragic as our straight counterparts and unless there is an annual meeting I don’t know about, the only item on the much talked-about gay agenda is an abbreviated passage from the Declaration of Independence — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

In 29 states, people can be fired simply for being gay regardless of their education, experience or job performance; servicemen and women can be dismissed from the military regardless of their qualifications, dedication and courage; and partners are unable to see their better halves in the hospital regardless of the love, commitment and life they share.

Wanting to be judged by the content of one’s character isn’t a special right, it’s a constitutional one guaranteed by the 14th and 15th amendments.

And yet, 145 years since the abolition of slavery, 90 years since women were allowed to vote and 20 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act, we’re still involved in McCarthy-like investigations, holding Briggs-like elections and taking opinion polls based solely upon “what” someone is as opposed to “who” they are.

It’s sad. We’re such a great nation, still full of great hope and promise and yet we keep being tripped up by ignorance, which leads to fear and then eventually hate. Being gay isn’t a choice, but being a bigot certainly is.