Emergency Medicine Physician at University Medical Center
Director of Research, Diversity, Latino Health Scholars Program
Valentine’s Day makes us think about love, and although
there are many kinds of love, certainly sexual love is one of the most
important. We know from experience that
great sex can hold a relationship together for just so long if sex is the only
thing the couple has in common. A great
relationship needs love, respect and good sex if it is going to endure.
As a physician and a mother, I feel very strongly that
discussions of sex with our children need to include the concepts of love and
respect. We should begin early to teach
respect for our bodies and the bodies of others. Children need to understand from a very early
age that their body belongs to them and that NO ONE should touch their body
unless they want that person to touch them and NO ONE should touch their body
in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
They should also understand that they need to show the same respect for
If we teach this concept very early to toddlers as they
learn to play with others without hitting, pushing or biting, we can carry this
lesson over when they begin to show curiosity about sex. Children need to have an open dialog with
their parents. They need to know that
they can talk to us about ANYTHING, and that we want them to tell us if someone
makes them uncomfortable, and that we will believe them and protect them.
This is especially true for people of color, whose
history includes the indignities of slavery, of being fondled and raped without
regard to our personal wishes because we were considered the property of
others. Women of color tend to be more
comfortable in our bodies and more comfortable with our sexuality. This sometimes leads others to think that
they can get comfortable with us as well and touch us as they see fit, even
when it is not what we desire or they are not who we desire. We must insure that our children understand
that their body is their own property, to give or not give, to share or not
share, as they decide.
Being touched when and by whom we want to be touched
feels good, and these feelings start in infancy, when we convey to our babies
that they are lovable, and that it is a pleasure to be close to them. This builds self-esteem and the kind of
self-respect that eventually leads to healthy relationships in adolescence and
adulthood. Little ones are curious about
the world around them and begin to ask questions as soon as they can talk.
The key to questions about sex is that CHILDREN ASK
EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT TO KNOW AND WE SHOULD ANSWER ONLY WHAT THEY ASK. So, a question about “Where do babies come
from?” should not lead to a 10 minute explanation of sexual intercourse. The answer is: “From a special place inside
the mother’s body that is called the uterus.”
(I am a firm believer in using anatomically correct language, even with
children. Babies do not grow in the
stomach. That explanation has led to
many girls thinking they can get pregnant from accidentally swallowing a fruit
When the child wants more information, they will ask “How
does the baby get in there?” or “How does the baby get out?” Again, simple answers would be “The father
puts a seed into the mother’s body” and “The baby gets out through a special
opening between the mother’s legs called the vagina.” When the child is ready to know more, her
curiosity will lead her to ask you more.
She will eventually ask you how the father puts the seed inside, and a
simple anatomical explanation, accompanied by love and respect are the way to
go. “When a man and a woman love each
other, they want to be as close as they can be, and the man puts his penis into
the woman’s vagina, and a seed called sperm comes out and causes a baby to grow
in her uterus.”
Talking to kids
about sex makes some parents uncomfortable but giving a simple answer to just
what the child asks makes it easier for parent and child. Children really don’t want to know more than
they are asking, and they ask what they are ready to know. Your children’s pediatrician or a mother’s
gynecologist can help parents with these discussions. If the doctor is uncomfortable with these
topics, well, you need to find a doctor who is not! And I will be talking more to you about
discussing sex with your child in upcoming columns.
Why You Won’t Talk About Sexual Issues With Your Partner
by David Ludden Ph.D.
Finding the courage to push your relationship forward.
Conflict is inevitable in relationships. You’d like to save more money for the future, but your partner would like the two of you to get more enjoyment out of life now. You think your partner is too strict with the kids, but your partner thinks you’re too lenient. You think you already do more than your fair share of the work around the house, but your partner thinks you don’t do enough. Or else, they’d rather you did different chores from the ones you’re used to doing.
Couples frequently have fights about issues like these, and often they can find solutions to these disagreements. At the very least, when they talk their problems out, they have a better understanding of their partner’s preferences. But there’s one area of conflict that too many couples avoid discussing at all costs, namely differences in sexual desire.
Plenty of research shows that couples who have open conversations about sexual issues are also more satisfied with their relationships. However, too many people would rather put up with an unhappy sex life than have that dreaded conversation. Why are so many people afraid to communicate their sexual needs to their partner? This is the question that Canadian psychologist Uzma Rehman and her colleagues explored in a recent study of conflict communication in couples.
Conflict communication is always difficult, largely because we’re motivated to avoid negative emotions. Tempers get raised, and feelings get hurt. Just as we avoid going to the dentist despite a toothache, we avoid talking with our partner about sensitive issues. So we let problems fester.
With non-sexual problems in the relationship, we tend to reach a tipping point after which we let it all come out. Arguments can be healthy for a relationship, especially when the discussion remains focused on the issue at hand and doesn’t devolve into slinging insults and pushing each other’s buttons.
But even couples who are reasonably good at resolving other types of conflict get stuck when it comes to discussing sexual problems in the relationship. Instead of communicating our preferences and inquiring about our partner’s, we rely on cultural scripts that tell us how the sex act is supposed to play out. Despite our urge for a break from the routine, we keep our fantasies to ourselves. No wonder our sex lives get stale after years of marriage.
Past research has shown that couples avoid conflict communication, because they perceive it as threatening in three different ways:
Threat to relationship. People fear the conflict discussion will irreparably damage the relationship. In other words, they value their relationships even when they’re not happy ones. So they’d rather say nothing than risk a conflict that might improve it, but might also tear it apart.
Threat to partner. People fear the conflict discussion will hurt their partner’s feelings. That is to say, they care about their partner’s welfare even when they’re not happy with the way their relationship with them is going. Again, they’d rather muddle through than make their partner feel uncomfortable, even at a chance of making things better.
Threat to self. People fear the conflict discussion will make them vulnerable. If they reveal too much about themselves, they worry that their partner will disapprove of them or try to make them feel shame. We need our partner’s approval, and the fear of losing it is a major reason why people avoid talking about sensitive issues in the first place.
In their study, Rehman and colleagues asked people in committed relationships to imagine themselves in a conflict situation with their partner. The scenario involved either a non-sexual issue about sharing housework or a sexual issue about the frequency of intimacy. Afterward, the partners responded to a questionnaire that measured sense of threat to relationship, partner, and self. On the one hand, the results showed that sexual conflicts are similar to non-sexual conflicts, in that all three types of perceived threat were high. On the other hand, sexual arguments resulted in even higher levels of perceived threat to self than did non-sexual confrontations. article continues after advertisement
In short, this study showed that the main reason why people avoid talking with their partners about sexual issues is because they view such a discussion as threatening to themselves. Based on responses in this study and others, we can point to some reasons why couples stay away from discussions about intimacy issues.
First, in North American culture, sex is viewed as an embarrassing topic of conversation, so we avoid talking about it altogether. Or else we relieve the uneasiness by turning sexual discussions into jokes. Even within committed relationships, we tend to view sex as naughty and not to be talked about.
Second, sexual education is woefully inadequate in the United States. Many Americans are simply ignorant about sexual anatomy — both their own and their partner’s. Although we have cultural scripts about how the sexual act is supposed to work, few of us understand the full breadth of sexual activities that humans engage in. So we have neither the concepts to understand our sexual urges nor the vocabulary to communicate them to our partner.
Because of our embarrassment and ignorance when it comes to sexual matters, we feel especially vulnerable revealing our secret fantasies to our partners. Since we think our desires are weird, we assume our partner will feel the same about them. Furthermore, our urges seem to arise from our innermost core, and we feel we have no control over them. When we dare to reveal secret fantasies only to have them rebuked, we feel that our partner has rejected us as we truly are. So we’d rather keep up the pretense instead. article continues after advertisement
People who have the courage to discuss intimacy issues with their partners are generally happier in their relationships. But learning to overcome a lifetime of embarrassment about sex and developing a proper sexual vocabulary takes effort. There’s plenty of self-help here on the pages ofPsychology Today and elsewhere on the internet or in your local bookstore. Couples therapy can also be effective at resolving intimacy issues.
Conflict is inevitable in relationships, and issues of intimacy are among the hardest of all to confront. And yet, conflict itself isn’t a sign that the relationship is in trouble. On the contrary, if both partners approach the discussion with a desire to resolve the issue, the relationship will be strengthened as a result.
Democrats search while Trump Triumphs
By Kenneth Cooper
On Biden without Barack:
So, you’re in Gotham, and word on the street is that The Joker is on the loose, tearing up the town. You run to the roof and throw up the bat signal. But Alfred calls. “I’m sorry,” he says, “Batman is out of town, but I can send over Robin instead.” You look up at the signal, shining bright in the sky, calling for what was once illustrious. “Nah, that’s okay,” you say, and hang up the phone. “I’ll just lock my doors instead.”
In a presidential election, to beat a star, you have to be a
star or become one of equal or greater magnitude. Trump is a star, and the
Democrats have done a great job of fielding a group of would-be VPs and cabinet
members, but they have yet to field or develop a star.
On the one-dimensionality of Warren and Sanders:
In particular, it’s the corners of the mouths and cheekbones. They seem incapable of an upward turn, slouching always towards the chin and ground- subjected to a gravitational tug of perpetual proportions. Here Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders speak, and the effect is a guttural monotone. In other words, put them in front of a camera or a microphone, and they can project an endless number of frowns, but not one smile. “Hey, Bernie, why you screaming at me?” – Michael J. Fox last week at a campaign rally.
Uncle Joe and Da Billionaire
Apparently, Joe Biden’s campaign strategy is to bomb interviews, tank the early caucus and primary, then wait for black people to bail him out, starting in South Carolina. Possibly, former Mayor Bloomberg will eventually stop frisking around and unveil the reparational ramifications of his would-be presidency: On day one of my presidency, I’ll free all those black people I once helped throw in jail.
In politics, you can’t win on
How low Trump will go to defeat Pete Buttigieg?
Fall 2020, campaign rally, Trump at the podium railing, crowd
in full swoon: Believe me, he looks them over and says, “Nobody’s a bigger fan of
Mayor Pete’s marriage than me. But many people are saying that’s not milk on
his chin and mustache.”
A word from Rush Limbaugh
“They’re sitting there and they’re looking at Mayor Pete
— a 37-year-old gay guy, mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the
debate stage. And they’re saying, okay, how’s this going to look, a 37-year-old
gay guy kissing his husband onstage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump? What’s going
to happen there?” – Trump allies take aim at Buttigieg’s sexuality, a
possible sign of things to come – Washington Post 2/13/2020
Meanwhile Trump takes a vindication lap.
In one month he was acquitted, gave the Medal of Freedom to
Rush Limbaugh, drove Nancy Pelosi to rip up the State of The Union speech, got
to point his finger at two of his accusers and say, “You’re fired,” got Roger
Stone’s sentence recommendation reduced, and declared the Coronavirus dead come
April. The Darkside hasn’t rolled that hard since Darth Vader chopped Luke
Skywalker’s arm off in The Empire Strikes Back.
Yes, we’re “stuck in Trumpland watching subtlety decayin’” – “Veins”
by Earl Sweatshirt
So, to be clear, Michael Bloomberg is a Republican turned
Democrat, Bernie Sanders is an Independent turned Democratic Socialist,
Elizabeth Warren is a Cherokee turned white woman, and Joe Biden can’t eloquently
turn a phrase? No wonder the DNC is still holding debates on Friday nights. Last
election, you could say it was to hide Hillary’s less than charming personality.
This election though, it’s to hide the whole field apparently, and prove that
it’s not a losing strategy unless it fails twice.
After the Iowa caucus counting debacle, it’s the party
responsible for the broken app versus the party responsible for the broken
presidency. One can’t guarantee a fair
counting of democracy and the other can’t guarantee a president that will be
accountable to it. And on that note, that’s all folks, as the great Bugs
Bunny would say.
You have a
happy time of celebrating this day we honor the presidency.
You Can Eat Healthy Delicious Meals
by Kara Johnson
one month into 2020. How are you doing with your goal to eat healthier? It’s
ok. I’d like to share a few tips to help you stay on
track. Can you say meal prepping? Well today, I have full proof advice from
two, top personal chefs. A large part of your success is about developing new
habits. Habit is the key word when it comes to maintaining the consistency that
leads to success. Instead of falling into habits, now it’s
time to create good habits on purpose. We have fun and easy ways to make these
guidelines part of your new, healthier lifestyle!
There are 3 KEY components to meal prepping:
Devise a menu conducive to your dietary needs
and preferences. This component requires a written menu, menu ingredients and
places to purchase food items. Food containers that separate menu items into
proportions for your diet are also important. Make sure you have everything you
need in advance. If you are anything like most people these days, life is crazy
busy. Planning ahead to order online for curb-side grocery pick up at local
stores or delivery to your doorstep will make the planning part of the process
.Now that all ingredients, seasonings and
containers are on deck, the prep can begin. This component includes chopping
all vegetables, poultry, marinating meat/seafood and cleaning all cooking tools
and pots to prepare for cooking. Prepping one day prior helps to keep the
process organized and consistent.
With adequate planning and prepping complete,
the final component is to cook and separate portions for daily meals for the
week in meal prep containers. To maintain the quality of your meals, store in a
refrigerator and consume cooked food within 7 days. After a week, discard food
that is left, wash containers and repeat all components for the following week.
planning meals for health-conscious clients, I keep it fun by making sure the
meals are seasonal, farm to table, and locally purchased. Keep the sodium
content to a minimum, and use the ingredients that have the least cholesterol.
I often overlap light ingredients like seafood which can be used in more than
one dish that week. For example, crabs and shrimp are used in salads and
seafood boils in the summer and in gumbo and stuffing in the winter. A sexy
plate presentation is also important and can make a dish more appealing to a
There you have it. This is everything you need to know to organize your meals for the week. Get into the habit of planning ahead. Not only will your meals be good for you, but with a few extra steps, you can turn any meal into a memorable dining experience.
I know you hear it all the time from the old folks; New Orleans ain’t what it
was. The soul is there, but the body is broken. The city doesn’t take care of
itself, and a sure ain’t taking care of its people. Sure, the city government maintains
of all the main streets. Every thoroughfare that tourists might ride down, the
French Quarter, the Garden District, all of that has been spit shined to a
mirror sheen. But the second you step off the beaten path, and go to the places
where People Actually Live, you can still see the same devastation from some
fourteen years ago. A gilded city, with all the water damage beneath the
surface appeal, just out of sight of the rest of the world. Pisses me off every
time I come back.
If you take a little wiki walk, you’ll find that New Orleans, as
of the moment I’m writing this, has a population of something like 391,006.
That’s a dramatic drop from the estimated population when Katrina hit, which
was in the neighborhood of 484,674 people. And that’s after 14 years of
survivors deciding whether or not they wanted to come back at all. But it’s not
about the numbers, not really. I can look at the city with my eyes and see
what’s happening. The lifeblood of New Orleans lies in the hearts and minds of
its natives, and when people decide to leave, it’s tempting to say that they
take part of the city’s soul with them.
The older folks call it the Brain Drain of New Orleans. Folks that
were blown away not coming back. Folks born in the city leaving for good. And
as time goes on, more and more great minds and great hands are trickling out of
the city, like rain in a storm drain. And, you know, for a long time, I thought
the same way.
But I’ve had years to think about this and through frequent
revisits to the city, while wandering the streets I have changed my perspective.
Nowadays, I see New Orleans as a tree that got blown down in a storm. When it
fell, it scattered its seeds all over the place. I’m one of those seeds. Many
seeds like me have had to make this choice since we got scattered across the
country by hurricane winds. Do we set down roots where we land, or do we pick
ourselves up and head home to salvage what’s left? It’s a hard choice to make;
many of us are still trying to decide, even after all this time.
It’s going to be hard to hear this, but I keep on coming back. And then I have
to leave. Because every day I spend at home, I feel myself getting angry.
There’s a fight in me, a fight for the city itself, a fire that lights up
whenever I step off a plane and step into that familiar southern heat. I never
have anywhere to put that fire, so it just burns me out, exhausts me. For the
longest time, I didn’t understand it. It went beyond just the desire to bring
the New Orleans of my childhood back, or the need to go down to City Hall and
scream at the people that get rich by mismanaging the city that is here in the
present. That fire in me, it’s hope; the need to push forward. New Orleans: The
City seems broken, yes, but the soul of the city is simply fractured. And
fractures can be repaired. Every single of one of us New Orleans Natives is a
representative of New Orleans itself. An avatar; a little piece of the soul of
the city. We can’t remove this part of ourselves; we’re all those seeds from
that same tree. We carry the slang, the culture, the sensibilities of the city,
wherever we go. None of us struggle the same, but we all struggle. We’ve all
got our stories, right? Mine is just another one of those, and I’d like to tell
it to you. So, if you’ve drifted far like me, or you’ve put down your roots
right in the same spot that you came from, we’re far from different.
Me and you, we ARE New Orleans.
As long as we live, and continue to grow, New Orleans will do the
That idea, that’s where I’d like to start this whole thing, whatever it is. My
name is Jordan Rock, and at the age of 12, Hurricane Katrina came and blew my
life apart. I am a seed on the wind, searching for a place to put down roots. In
my heart and in my mind, I carry the soul of New Orleans, no matter where I go.
And, with any luck, you’ll hear from me again.
See you soon.
Empathy’s most ardent promoters have most keenly felt its absence.
Kenneth Bancroft Clark, 1914-2005
Source: Chicago Urban League Records, University of Illinois at Chicago Library
Senator Amy Klobuchar’s pitch for empathy in her closing remarks in the New Hampshire debate may have helped catapult her into third place in that state’s primary. She said that she can supply the empathy absent in the White House: “If you have trouble stretching your paycheck to pay for that rent, I know you, and I will fight for you.”
Klobuchar’s promise of empathy is not surprising coming from the first female senator from Minnesota. In recent years, U.S. Senator Cory Booker and President Barack Obama repeatedly invoked the importance of empathy. Advocating for empathy is indeed not limited to any one demographic, but there is a rich history of black intellectuals and civil rights leaders doing so. Some of empathy’s fiercest promoters are those who have keenly felt its absence.
In 1964, James Baldwin bemoaned the fact that most whites failed to achieve the most basic form of empathy for blacks: to grasp their humanity. Basic empathy entailed the recognition that “in talking to a black man, he is talking to another man like himself.” Martin Luther King Jr., grieved the lack of empathy of white moderates while sitting in a Birmingham jail: “I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race.”
Social psychologist and civil rights activist Kenneth B. Clark championed empathy over the span of decades. Clark was the first African-American psychologist to graduate from Columbia University in 1940, and two years later he began teaching at The City College of New York. He helped write the social science statement documenting the psychological damage of segregation appended to the 1954 Supreme Court decision to desegregate schools. He and his wife, psychologist Mamie Clark, conducted a series of studies that found that black children in segregated schools preferred playing with white rather than black dolls. The Clarks founded the Northside Treatment Center and Harlem Youth Opportunities to provide psychological and educational services for Harlem youth, in addition to the Metropolitan Applied Research Center to study school desegregation and civil rights.
Clark first called for empathy in a 1965 New York Times opinion piece, “Delusions of the White Liberal.” He explained that liberals were often harder to deal with than bigots, due to their guilt, conflicting loyalties, and acquiescence in the flagrant system of racial injustice. What they lacked, Clark declared, was empathy. Empathy was neither sentimentality nor pity, both of which emanated from a superior position. Empathy instead constituted the basis for mutual understanding that crossed racial lines, rooted in the underlying similarity of the human condition.
But how could this type of empathy be achieved? As a psychologist, Clark was attuned to the mechanisms of defense, repression, and inner resistance that made it difficult for a white person to move beyond their racial bias. Whites, he declared, had to dispense with “the fantasy of aristocracy or superiority,” and the white liberal in particular with “the fantasy of purity,” or the idea of being free of prejudice. In short, the white liberal had to “reconcile his affirmation of racial justice with his visceral racism.” article continues after advertisement
Whites therefore had to work to “transcend the barriers of their own minds” and to listen with their hearts. Only then would it be possible, Clark imagined, to “respond insofar as he is able with a pure kind of empathy that is raceless, that accepts and understands the frailties and anxieties and weaknesses that all men share, the common predicament of mankind.”
Clark’s calls for empathy became more insistent as American politics shifted toward conservatism. In 1979 he scribbled in a lecture draft, “The only thing that will save us is a universal increase in empathy.”  He thought that those with political power lacked empathy, evidenced by their support of the brutal inequalities in American society. Clark even suggested that world leaders might be given a psychoactive pill to enhance their empathic qualities and inspire them to just political action. He believed that competitive, anxiety-prone American culture rewarded the rampant pursuit of one’s own interest. It was therefore imperative for educators to strengthen “man’s empathic capacity.”
Clark placed his hope in the unique human capacity to respond to suffering with intelligence, social sensitivity, and the recognition that despite cultural and racial differences, something was shared. He called this psycho-political foundation for equal rights ”empathic reason.” Empathic reason is the anti-racist (and, I would add, anti-sexist) capacity to feel and to recognize the principle of the equality of all.
Today we are witnessing the unbearable cost of empathy’s absence in national politics. Klobuchar’s statement on empathy promises that her knowledge and recognition of the daily struggles of Americans will shape her policies. To restore empathy to our political discourse is our first challenge, but then we must translate empathy’s moral vision into a workable political agenda.
By CC Campbell-Rock
As the machinations of a rogue, out of control Donald J.
Trump, Sr. drags on, media pundits are rushing to report on the distracting
abominations that Trump throws at them for coverage, like the paper towels he
tossed to grieving, devastating Puerto Ricans in the wake of Hurricane Marie.
Flying under the radar and getting less coverage, is the fact that Trump is
destroying the U.S. Constitution and tearing up the safety net that undergirds
the lives of everyday Americans.
While Trump continued to abuse the office of President last
week by retributively punishing purple heart recipient Lieutenant Colonel Alexander
S. Vindman, his twin brother Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, and EU Ambassador Gordon
Sondland, two of whom he fired last week for telling the truth and one for no
good reason, major corporate news outlet are failing to adequately report on Trump’s
ongoing attempts to rob the American people of hard-earned benefits and
Rachel Maddow, Joy Ann Reid and Ari Melber on MSNBC and The
New York Times and Washington Post investigative journalists deserve much
credit for breaking such stories, but too many media outlets are ignoring
Trump’s destruction of the rule of law, his attempts to destroy the lives of
ordinary Americans, and his grifting of taxpayers’ dollars.
As eyebrow-raising as the terminations were, firing people is
what catapulted Trump to prominence. As host of a reality TV show, The
Apprentice, Trump set himself up as the judge, jury, and terminator of
contestants who competed to work at Trump Enterprises. Seemingly, the show is
the template for Trump’s White House operations.
The only surprise about Trump’s running the White House like
he runs Trump Enterprises—which has all the hallmarks of a conspiratorial mafia
cabal– where secrecy reigns and clandestine deals nets him pockets of cash—is
that he is using the American treasury as his personal piggy bank and cutting
back on ordinary Americans’ benefits to pay for his self-enrichment.
No one is naïve enough to believe that politicians don’t get
rich off lobbyists and others who buy access and favorable legislation. That’s
as American as apple pie.
But Americans do expect elected officials to, at the very
least, do the people’s work. Under Trump, none of that is happening. When
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell (who successfully led the obstruction of almost
all of President Obama’s policies, save Obamacare, thanks to three brave
Republicans) said the Republican-led Senate was coordinating the Impeachment trial
with the White House, he confirmed the concession of his party’s senatorial
powers to Trump. McConnell showed no
shame in orchestrating the Republicans’ wholesale conspiracy to acquit Trump of
impeachment charges, weeks before the Senate Impeachment trial started.
Trump not only refused to answer lawful Congressional
subpoenas, but he also refused to turn over documents or allow anyone from the
Administration to testify during the impeachment trial.
McConnell and the Republicans had no problem in acquitting
Trump for abuses of power that involved asking for foreign interference in the
U.S. electoral process; hollowing out
government departments by either leaving innumerable vacancies or firing those
who would not join him in criminal behaviors like ignoring lawful subpoenas;
arguing in court that Trump can’t be investigated or indicted, even if he
shoots someone on Fifth Avenue; caging and jailing migrant families on the
southern border; expanding Trump’s Muslim ban to include African countries;
trying to kill Obamacare and overturn Roe v Wade; opposing voting rights
legislation; fighting in the courts to take away healthcare from people with
preexisting conditions; cutting Medicaid benefits and Medicare coverage and food
stamps; making Secret Service agents pay $650 a night to stay at his resorts when
they are protecting him; charging the military exorbitant rates to stay at
Trump properties abroad; hosting foreign governments at the Trump International
Hotel in Washington, D.C. (which the federal government owns and leases to
Trump, who now wants to sell the lease to a foreign government, which is
The Republicans have also turned a blind eye to Trump’s
nepotism in hiring his own children and dispatching them across the globe on
money-wrangling missions. Jared Kushner, a senior advisor and Trump’s
son-in-law, got a billion-dollar bailout for his debt-ridden office tower at
666 Fifth Avenue, from a company whose second largest investor is Qatar.
Daughter Ivanka Trump, a senior advisor and Jared’s wife, got $100 million from
the Saudis to fund a women’s entrepreneur investment project, and no telling
what kind of money dealings Donald Jr. and Eric are swinging globally. All of them are protected by Secret Service
members, on the taxpayer’s dime.
But there’s more: Trump is fighting in the courts to keep his
tax returns secret and to keep the
government from discovering and charging him for violating the Constitution’s
Trump is also cheating American people out due process and
impartial justice by stacking the federal courts with hyper conservative,
partisan Republican judges. Thus far, he has appointed over 200 federal judges,
some with no judicial experience.
In New Orleans, which houses the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals, known for its racist rulings, Trump has appointed five federal judges
to the bench in just three short years. Of the 16 sitting judges, 11 are
we’re in trouble.
During an appearance on CNBC, Trump was asked if
restructuring entitlement programs would ever be on his plate. “At some point,
they will be,” Trump said last month, while attending the World Economic Forum
in Davos, Switzerland.
Obviously, the task of informing Americans (particularly
black Americans and other Americans of color) that their Constitutional rights
and hard-earned benefits are in jeopardy, is falling in the laps of grassroots organizations and the small
contingency of woke media analysts, who are crying out in the wilderness.
Marcela Howell, the founder and president of In Our Own
Voice: The National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda said the Trump
Administration’s Medicaid overhaul will have “severe and long-lasting
consequences” on those who need access to healthcare services, “especially
Black women and their families.”
“Trump has opened the
door for states to further limit access to health care and to purge people from
the Medicaid program. The states likely to do this are the red states where
health care disparities already endanger Black women’s lives. We know from
experience that Black maternal health improves with expanded access to care,
including Medicaid expansion.”
Howell urged voters to hold Trump and state elected
officials accountable for “any and all efforts to cut Medicaid.”
The article’s writer criticized mainstream’s media’s
coverage of Trump’s plan. “Trump’s support for entitlement cuts is a matter of
fact, not “perception.” To the extent that the “corporate media” failed to
accurately convey Trump’s position on entitlements this week, it did not do so
by unfairly interpreting his remarks on the subject, but by obscuring his
administration’s past and present actions on the issue.”
“The announcement came only a day after the rollout of the
Medicaid block grant plan, which states could employ to cap total spending on a
program that serves over 70 million Americans. Currently, Medicaid is open to
all who are eligible—37 states and D.C. have expanded eligibility for Medicaid
up to 138 percent of the poverty level, while the other 13 states have much
In December 2019, the Trump Administration wasted no time in
opposing an amendment to the Voting Rights Act that would protect voters of
color from the onslaught of voter suppression tactics employed by 23 states after
the Supreme Court struck down portions of the VRA in 2013.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019, (HR4) was sponsored
by U.S. Representative Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) and 229 co-sponsors and passed by
the democratic-led House by a 228-197 vote on December 6, 2019.
“The VRAA of 2019 responds to current conditions in voting
today by restoring the full protections of the original, bipartisan Voting
Rights Act of 1965, which was last reauthorized by Congress in 2006, but gutted
by the Supreme Court in 2013.
“Following the Shelby County decision four years ago,
several states passed sweeping voter suppression laws that disproportionately
prevent minorities, the elderly, and the youth from voting. The bill (VRAA) provides
the tools to address these discriminatory practices and seeks to protect all
Americans’ right to vote.
“The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 creates a new
coverage formula that applies to all states and hinges on a finding of repeated
voting rights violations in the preceding 25 years,” according to a fact sheet
on the legislation.
HR4 arrived in the Senate on December 9 and was immediately referred
to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s fair to assume that HR4 will die in the
Republican-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee given that Senator Lindsey
Graham, a Trump sycophant chairs that committee.
On December 19, the Trump Administration issued a statement
opposing the legislation:
“The Administration opposes
passage of H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019. H.R. 4 would amend the Voting Rights Act
(VRA) of 1965 by imposing a new coverage formula and transparency obligations
on States and local jurisdictions regarding their elections. These amendments raise serious policy concerns
because the Federal Government would be granted excessive control over State
and local election practices.”
In opposing HR4, Trump sent a message, primarily to the
southern states that rushed to pass voter suppression laws, that state’s rights
trump the Supremacy Clause of the United States and that states are free to continue
to enact voter suppression laws.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller warned Americans that the
Russians, “as we speak,” are interfering in the upcoming election. Remember
when Trump said, “Russia if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the
30,000 missing emails,” and openly invited Russia to interfere in the 2016
The day after Mueller’s testimony, Trump called Ukrainian
President Zelensky and said, “I want you to do us a favor, though,” setting his
inevitable impeachment in motion. Before he was acquitted by his sycophants in
the Senate, Trump was seen on national news confirming that the wanted Ukraine
to interfere in the election and said China should investigate the Bidens
too. At the time of this writing,
reports are that Trump’s personal lawyer Guiliani is still crisscrossing the
globe seeking dirt on the Bidens.
At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, as Benjamin
Franklin left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation, “A lady asked
Dr. Franklin, ‘Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy? A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep
it,” according to Dr. James McHenry, one
of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention.
And that is the major threat we are now facing. Will America
remain a democratic Republic or will Trump become a monarch. Trump showed his
hand and his deepest desire when he mused publicly, “Wouldn’t it be great if I
were president for life?”
Trump’s ongoing efforts to set himself up as a monarchial dictator,
like the dictators he most admires: Russia President Vladimir Putin (serving
his second six-year term), North Korea President Kim Jong-un, (North Korea is
an isolated state, ruled by the Kim family dynasty), China President Xi Jinping
(president for life), among others, is the gravest danger facing the United
States’ and its people.
Trump is up for reelection. Americans will have to decide
whether we will have a monarchy or a democratic Republic. We’ll know the answer
on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
Most serious urban violence is
concentrated among less than 1 percent of a city’s population. So why
are we still criminalizing whole areas?
An abandoned building in Providence, Rhode Island. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters
1982, George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson told a story about a
window, a story that changed the fates of entire neighborhoods for
decades. Writing in the March issue of
The Atlantic, Kelling and Wilson
that American policing needed to get back to the project of maintaining
order if America wanted communities be safe from harm. “Disorder and
crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental
sequence,” they argued. One broken window leads to scores of broken
windows; broken windows signal the breakdown of neighborhood social
control; neighborhoods become “vulnerable to criminal invasion,”
communities ridden with destruction, drug dealing, prostitution,
robbery, and ultimately, serious violence.
essence, Kelling and Wilson argued that latent danger loomed
everywhere, and everywhere people’s disorderly impulses needed to be
repressed, or else. Their “broken windows theory” didn’t stay
theoretical: Also known as order maintenance policing, this tactic
propelled an entire generation of policing practice that sought to crack
down on minor “quality-of-life” infractions as a way to stem violence.
by police in New York City, Los Angeles, and across the country, broken
windows policing led to the aggressive use of stops, summons, and
arrests in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods. More than 30 years later,
theevidence demonstrates that the broken windows paradigm does little to nothing to reduce serious crime but does tend to make people
reduce trust in and cooperation with police, and could
contribute to, in fact, producing and facilitating more violence.
While police departments often recognize that “
we can’t arrest our way out
of the problem,” the broken windows paradigm remains active throughout
policing. Perhaps most significantly, it still colors how the public
views violence and demands responses to it: both as a danger that
characterizes entire poor communities of color, and as a menace that
poses a constant threat.
This long-held view is, simply, wrong.
knowledge that we’ve gained since 1982 unequivocally tells us something
else: Serious violence is extremely concentrated in very particular
places and, most importantly, among very particular people. Dispelling
the notion of “dangerous neighborhoods,” extensive
on geographic concentration has consistently found that around half of
all crime complaints or incidents of gun violence concentrated at about 5
percent of street segments or blocks in a given city. Moving past
“violent communities,” sophisticated analysis of social networks have
demonstrated that homicides and shootings are strongly concentrated
within small social networks within cities—and that there is even
further concentration of violence within these social networks.
example: In Chicago, a city often used in the media and elsewhere as an
example of the worst of American urban violence, researchers
that a social network with only 6 percent of the city’s population
accounted for 70 percent of nonfatal gunshot victimizations. Violent
crime isn’t waiting to happen on any given block of a poorer
neighborhood, nor is it likely to arise from just anyone who happens to
live in one.
And, despite claims to the contrary about upticks in violence associated with the “
Ferguson Effect” or “
in street stops when police have opted to, or have been forced to,
change enforcement practices—massive levels of low-level enforcement
does not produce public safety. In fact, such policing can make communities less safe by
away from formal means of resolving disputes and towards private forms
of violence. So how can we explain the nature of serious urban violence?
American Society of Criminology’s annual conference, my colleagues and I at the
National Network for Safe Communities
at John Jay College presented evidence of what many in the violence
prevention field have known for a long time, but has yet to become the
public common sense. In our
study of serious violence
in over 20 cities, we found that less than 1 percent of a city’s
population—the share involved in what we call “street groups” (gangs,
sets, and crews)—is generally connected to over 50 percent of the city’s
shootings and homicides. We use “group” as a term inclusive of any
social network involved in violence, whether they are hierarchical,
formal gangs, or loose neighborhood crews. In city after city, the very
small number of people involved in these groups consistently perpetrated
and were victimized by the most serious violence.
To be clear: The number of group-involved people actually committing
homicides or shootings is still far smaller than the less-than-1-percent
of a city’s population in these groups.
National Network for Safe Communities/John Jay College
This held true even in areas considered chronically “dangerous,” like
parts of East Baltimore. There, the group member population totaled only
three quarters of a percentage point, even as they were connected to
58.43 percent of homicides. Shootings tend to be even more concentrated
than homicides. In Minneapolis, we found that 0.15 percent of the
population was determined to be involved in groups, but this population
was connected to 53.96 percent of shootings—a proportion over 350 times
higher than their population representation.
More than geography or social networks, this evidence offers the most
focused lens yet in to what violence really looks like in American
cities. Crucially, focusing on groups offers an explanation for
homicides and shootings in ways that other theories have not. Broken
windows theory posits that public disorder encourages lawlessness of all
sorts. But it’s not clear why exactly someone who has started breaking
the windows of abandoned cars—or someone simply observing petty acts of
vandalism—would conclude from this that it’s also acceptable to shoot
other human beings. While violence is concentrated in very particular
places, it’s not the places themselves that are committing homicides.
Rather, to understand violence, our research points again to the
context, norms, and dynamics of street groups. Street groups involved in
violence are generally composed of young men of color living in
communities with long histories of structural discrimination and
alienation from state institutions, particularly law enforcement. These
areas have generally suffered from both over-enforcement and
under-protection. Intrusive, broken-windows-style policing means mass
stop-and-frisk interactions, along with tickets and arrests for minor
offenses—but it doesn’t come with an equivalent investment in preventing
or solving offenses like homicide. Indeed, it often makes it
harder to do so, thanks to the cycle of mistrust between police and community members. The near-total impunity for
shootings in distressed communities signals that the state can’t or won’t actually protect people from the most significant harm.
Where that’s true, people feel the need to
and settle disputes through other means, including private violence.
Street groups offer the perception of safety, but tend to embed norms
and behaviors that produce violence and put group members at even more
norms include the use of violence to defend status and solve disputes, the presence of
gun carrying, and cycles of
retaliation. Being involved with a street group makes people
to be both a perpetrator and a victim of serious violence. It’s not a
surprise that groups are disproportionately connected to the total
violence in a city—violence is acted out by people within a context of
alienation from formal public safety systems and who face a very real
fear of victimization.
If we recognize how violence actually transpires in our cities, we can
reorient how we try to stop it. Less than 1 percent of the population
is involved in groups connected to half of homicides and shootings—but
there is, in fact, a far smaller number of people within those groups
directly involved in committing that violence. We should direct public
safety approaches at this tiny subset of the population, and recognize
the concentration of trauma and violence around them. For example,
street outreach, and focused deterrence strategies all focus resources
on the people at highest risk of being involved in violence. The
strategies that focus specifically on groups offer a more
and less damaging, approach to preventing violence than surveilling a
vast number of unknown perpetrators across entire areas of a city.
Changing public consciousness about the nature of violent crime is
crucial to undermining the appeal of the broken windows paradigm. The
notion that public disorder drives criminality can seem an intuitive
approach to public safety. But if people understand that most serious
violence circles specific interpersonal group dynamics in structurally
disadvantaged communities, order maintenance policing seems more like
what study after study shows it is: an unnecessary evil.
That doesn’t mean there’s no connection between the condition of the built environment and crime: Some kinds of
place-based interventions, such as cleaning and converting
for example, do appear to increase public safety. But those projects
don’t use arrests or stops to fix broken windows. Stopping violent crime
means addressing the risks and needs of those most likely to be
involved in it. Now that we have clear evidence of the extraordinary
concentration of that risk in American cities, we can and should follow
those facts, not a theory that’s only ever been just that.
Stephen Lurie is a writer and former research and policy advisor at the National Network for Safe Communities. He is based in Brooklyn.
To do important work, start by making invisible commitments.
By Ayse Birsel
If you’re finding it hard to make time for work that is important, you’re not alone. Recently I talked with Dorie Clark, the author of Stand Out, and Amy Edmondson, professor of leadership at Harvard Business School and author of The Fearless Organization, both of whom talked about the challenge of saying no in the short term for important work to emerge in the long term.
“What’s hard is to recognize the invisible commitments one should
make to thinking, reflecting, creating, investing in learning and growth
toward something more important, rather than lots of little things,”
Amy Edmondson on invisible commitments.Ayse Birsel
You know how easy and often wonderful it is to find yourself in
demand. It’s nice when people you’ve always wanted to work with ask for
your time, you’re invited to give keynotes, social media beckons for
your attention constantly, and email is a constant.
Clark says it’s easy to say yes to these things because they are
right in front of you and you know what they are. The conundrum is to
push away a tangible opportunity in the short term to make time for
something that is not yet real but has the potential to become important
in the long term. The trick is “saying no to more things and pruning
obligations to open space for things that are less defined and not quite
Dorie Clark on pruning obligations.Ayse Birsel
This reminds me of what Steve Jobs
advised Nike CEO Mark Parker: “Just get rid of the crappy stuff and
focus on the good stuff. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” Even
though Jobs meant it in the context of designing products, it’s a great
analogy for thinking about our work.
So, how do you know what to say no to? Here are five simple
considerations to prune your work to make space for the invisible
1. Say no to things, not people.
Think about what versus whom you’re saying no to.
There are some people who will inspire you, lift you up, help expand
your thinking to another level. Prune the obligations, not your people.
Say yes to them and to the opportunities, big or small, to hang out or
collaborate with them.
2. Say no to things someone else can do.
Delegate things that somebody else can do. Accepting that you cannot
and don’t need to be the master of everything is liberating. This is an
opportunity to collaborate with capable, talented people and to let them
3. Say no to all work, no fun.
Stop working nonstop. Boredom can lead to higher creativity. Take
time to be bored and to let your mind wander free of constant
distractions. Along those same lines, say yes to sleeping. You can and should literally sleep on things and let your unconscious do its work while you’re sleeping.
4. Say no to days crammed with meetings.
If you spend your days going from one meeting to another, block an
hour every day for a different kind of meeting I call the magic hour.
It’s an hour a day where you reflect, think creatively, and
problem-solve. Protect this time by making it a repeatable habit,
preferably the same time each day, when your brain is not tired, with no
email or social media. Even one hour spent on your growth project will
add up and pay off.
5. Say no to the negative voice in your head.
Don’t judge your work. The best way to get out of your mind, and be
less self-critical, is to get into work and produce something. Anything.
To do this, set a manageable and nonjudgmental goal, such as I will
write this many words or create this many sketches. The work adds up,
and some days are better than others.
by Jordan Rock
Let me start by saying I’m not entirely sure how I ended up here. My life has been needlessly complicated and full of drama, half of which I caused myself. No, I’m not going to step up to this mike and try and get over by saying this was destiny or all according to some master plan or any of that garbage. Instead, I’ll tell it to you like this; life is not a highway; it’s a catapult. You wake up inside the basket, and before you know it, you’re getting launched over the horizon with no parachute. That’s the only way I can explain how I went from being a shy 12-year-old kid watching the warm rain fall over New Orleans to a jaded 20-something watching the Portland Skyline as it gets drenched. That’s Portland, Oregon, for the record. How in the hell did I end up here? Well, we’ll get to that later.
My name is Jordan Rock, and in my short time on planet Earth, I’ve been a lot of things. Stage performer, fiction writer, public speaker, sketch artist, food service worker, film scholar, and most recently; animation student. More than any of those things, what I’ve always been, and commit to being is a Storyteller. Mostly, I prefer to write pieces of fiction, none of which is currently published. Don’t bother looking for my work, because, frankly, you won’t find it. To you, I’m a nobody, and for the moment, I’m fine with that assessment. It means that when I speak to you about matters that are important to me, you just have to take my word that I’m being serious and honest with you. Telling stories is my passion, and that’s what I intend to do over the course of this article and others. I want to tell you, in neat little pieces all about New Orleans, how I was taken away from it, and why I’m not there presently.
Actually, let me ask; who are You? If you’re reading this, I assume you’re a New Orleans native like me. And you like to read, probably half out of spite because folks don’t like to read any more. Probably you live in the city, or someone who does told you to take a look at this. That’s my best guess, anyway. I could be wrong; you could be someone that has no idea what I’m talking about. Either way, thanks for coming.
For the uninitiated, here’s a quick rundown. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina came barreling up the Gulf Coast and hit New Orleans head on. People were expecting a big blowout. Every once in a while, a major tropical storm hits New Orleans, it’s just a matter of course. The wind and the rain will come, and some trees will get blown down, maybe a window will get cracked, so tape ‘em up. You know the drill, storms come, and they go, and you just pick up the pieces and get back to your life. Nothing special.
That’s the sentiment I remember hearing from the grown-ups around me. I was 12 years old at the time, and I was full of anxiety about the storm. It was one of the few times that I paid attention to the news as a kid, trying to guess at how bad things would get. It wasn’t until two days before the hurricane hit landfall that my family made a decision about what to do. All of the news reports prophesized a calamity, and to me, at the time, seeing that massive swirling cloud on the weather report was like looking straight down the barrel of a gun. I don’t think anyone could have imagined how heavy the blow would be.
Let me take a second to talk to you about my city. Your city. Do you remember New Orleans? That’s a trick question; everybody knows the city a little bit differently. To me, New Orleans is good music and good food and art, some kind of art everywhere you look. I remember walking under the ancient oaks that lined the path to the New Orleans Museum of Art. I remember going to the sandwich shop on Magazine Street. Hummingbirds and owls and rats and roaches. The smell of hot sausage cooking and the sound of buck jumpers shuffling their way down cracked pavement. All sorts of music and stories, stories, stories.
I remember the warm rains in the summertime, the kind you could set your watch by. Bad streets and good people. The kindest, most jocular people on the planet Earth. That’s New Orleans. And now? Last time I came home, here’s what I saw; New Orleans is like a stained-glass window that got broken in a storm. It’s beautiful; you can see the light change color as it passes through the glass that’s still there, but you know the pieces are everywhere and nowhere, and what it was is beyond repair. I wouldn’t return to New Orleans properly until I was 15 years old. Exploring the devastated remains of my city then, as an angsty, cynical teenager hurt me in ways I have a hard time describing even now. Now, I know how cynical and tired that sounds, but I promise; I’m going somewhere with this. This piece is Part One of Two, after all, so tune in next time to hear the rest of my immediate thoughts on the matter.