Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It Keeps Going, and Going...

Interesting news on the alternative fuel/vehicle front from today's Houston Chronicle:

Exxon Mobil Corp. believes it has found an answer to a problem that has bedeviled the auto industry in recent years: using rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, like those found in cell phones and laptops, to power cars and trucks.

This weekend, at a conference in Anaheim, Calif., Exxon Mobil will unveil a super-thin plastic sheeting the company says can improve the power, safety and reliability of lithium-ion batteries for use in automobiles.

Exxon Mobil considers the film a breakthrough because it allows battery makers to build smaller and cheaper battery systems — removing key obstacles that have kept automakers from building hybrid and electric vehicles on a wide scale.

The theory thus follows that if you can make smaller, more efficient batteries, then the automakers can produce a wider range of affordable hybrid vehicles for the market, lessening our dependence on fossil fuels and reducing the impact of gas-powered vehicles on the environment.

But we all know the real question for us is: How will
these new vehicles look with some 20" rims?

And are the trunks spacious enough for a booming system?

Because just getting great gas mileage can't be the issue, can it? If it is, why do I still see so many gas guzzling SUV's all over the road, especially in the hood?

Just a question y'all.

R.I.P. Sean Taylor

I was thinking of doing a post on the Sean Taylor murder but have decided that's a needless duplication of effort when other Afrosphere Bloggers have it covered much better than I would do. So just go here, or here.

Our condolences to the families of this and other senseless tragedies going on in our communities.

Monday, November 26, 2007


From The Insite:

Leader of the “Black Mafia Family” (BMF) pleaded guilty today to running a large scale drug organization and money laundering...

Demetrius Flenory, 39, originally of Detroit... ...admitted that from 1990 through 2005, he was the leader of a criminal enterprise involving the large scale distribution of controlled substances, mainly cocaine. Further, Flenory admitted to obtaining millions of dollars in cash from the sale of cocaine. He used the illegal proceeds of his drug trafficking to purchase real estate, vehicles and jewelry.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Flenory faces a sentence of 30 years to life in prison. In addition, Flenory agreed to a money judgment in the amount of $270,000,000. A sentencing hearing was not set by Judge Cohn.

If I were him and making that kind of money, I'm pretty sure I would have left the business long before now.

But on another level, my man obviously had to have some business sense to amass that type of fortune, and it just makes me wonder what might have been if these talents had been put to use in a legitimate enterprise.

Or maybe the rules are a little bit different in his type of business enterprise and the skills are not transferable.

Your thoughts?

Jackson Five Reuniting

They're gonna make a (another) fortune.

Jermaine Jackson says he and his brothers are plotting a reunion tour, with brother Michael set to play a part. The bass guitarist and singer told BBC 6 Music that "sometime in 2008," fans can expect a full scale reunion of the group that scored big in the 1970's with "ABC," "I Want You Back" and "Never Can Say Goodbye.

I guess I'll start saving my money because my daughter loves their music just as much today as I did when I was a kid. So, will you be there?

What In the Hay is Food Irradiation?

It's me ya girl Boo, and today my topic of discussion will be

"Food Irradiation"

Have you ever heard of this term before? Most likely not, but it's weird because it's a common thing that happens to a small part of our food supply, such as herbs and spices. So let me stop rambling and just tell you what it is.

Food irradiation is the process of exposing foods to ionizing radiation; gamma rays, electron beams, or X-rays; to kill bacteria, parasites, insects, or fungi that can cause spoilage.
Well that sounds good, but the major question here is can this in any way be harmful to humans. In my opinion: Yes

Irradiated foods have caused a host of health problems in laboratory animals (and even people in a few studies), such as chromosomal damage, immune and reproductive problems, kidney damage, tumors, internal bleeding, low birth weight, and nutritional muscular dystrophy.

This process can also kill beneficial microorganisms such as the yeast & mold that help keep botulism at bay, as well as spawn mutant forms of E. coli, Salmonella, and other harmful bacteria, making them more difficult to kill.

Irradiation can destroy vitamins, nutrients and essential fatty acids, as well as corrupt the flavor, texture and other physical properties of some foods that create the aromas that tell us when food has good bad (like that certain fast food hamburger that never smells bad even when left out for a week, you know which one I'm talking about).

So if you're thinking about the perfect holiday gift, please first consider spending your dollars within the community.

Next I would say purchase your loved one a few bottles of their favorite
non-irradiated seasoning. The flavors are so good, you'll never cook with the old stuff again, and of course, or course, or course they are safe! The only problem I've ever seen is

1. They are a bit pricey, and
2. They are generally only sold in stores such as Whole Foods or other expensive specialty stores.

But for my Holiday gift from me to you, I will purchase these spices for you at wholesale prices, just the way I purchase them through my co-op.

I'm not making any money off of this, I just want to expose & give my community a healthy choice. If your interested, plz let me know, and I'll give you the link to pick your own spices.

The order deadline will be in a couple of weeks.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Six Or A Half-Dozen?

Alright y'all, newsflash. I'm tired of the national political campaign.


Yep, a year ahead of the elections, I'm already sick and tired of the campaign and the campaigners.

Why you ask?

Well, mainly because the issues that are important to me just don't seem to be the positions being carved out by the candidates of both major political parties. The war in Iraq dominates the discourse, and it is a major issue. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. The issues that most affect us like voting rights, healthcare, persistent poverty, unequal justice, racism, gun violence, etc., etc., are basically absent from the platforms of both major parties and I don't expect that to change.

There is one constant however in American politics. With the electorate so closely divided, national elections pretty much hinge upon one side turning out the Black vote, and the other side suppressing it. To our disadvantage, we've seen this process play out in myriad fashion over the past few cycles with every trick in the book used to accomplish both goals.

But it's nothing new.

Now instead of counting as 3/5 of a person who's votes are cast by the slave master, we have voting machines that seemingly only count Republican votes. Instead of poll taxes we have broad-brushed disqualifications, a la Florida 2000. Instead of night riders intimidating voters to not show up at the polls, we have voter intimidation at the polls themselves. And instead of a "Southern Strategy" to convince racists to switch party affiliations, opposing candidates concede while voters are still standing in line, obviating the need for such subtle tactics.

I'm a registered Independent but my votes pretty much lean Democrat, and I'm really beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, the Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same coin that have the exact same political goals in mind, but disagree on who controls the process (aka, the money)? Needless to say, listening to the debates, and watching this political show play out once again has me rolling my eyes in disgust at the supposed "issues" being debated. In other words, the more things change the more they stay the same.

That said, I will take the time to go vote for whatever stuffed suit or (skirt) the Democrats put forth, despite their lousy track record of actually acknowledging the issues and concerns of our community.


Well, it's like your cell phone service. All of the companies make big promises to get you to sign up, and the service is good for a few months, but then you start to realize that all of the reasons you switched from your last carrier are happening again with the new company. The only thing you can do is wait out the contract, and switch again. Same principal applies, and in this case the alternative is four more years like the past 8.

And like my prior cell phone provider, I wouldn't wish that on anybody.

Get A (Second) Life

The real and cyber worlds collide.

Dutch police are claiming a first - the first real-life arrest for a virtual burglary.

Dutch police have arrested a teenager for stealing 4,000 euros worth of virtual furniture from an online, virtual-world hotel...

Habbo Hotel is, like the better-known Second Life, an online fantasy world. Once a hangout for uber-cool web designers, it's now inhabited by a mostly young teenage clientele, who socialise and play games in the lobbies, lounges and pools, and spend real money on virtual furniture, which they use to furnish their Habbo Hotel rooms.

Habbo currency can be bought via a credit card or premium telephone services, and furniture can cost up to $5 an item. Individually it's not much, but 90 per cent of the hotel's $60m annual revenue is earned by the sale of virtual goods.

$60 million in annual revenue? You've got to be kidding, right? I'm definitely in the wrong business. But apparently it's not just burglary. China, virtual property theft led to extreme, offline violence after gamer Qiu Chengwei lent a friend a valuable virtual weapon. The sword - a powerful 'dragon sabre' - is much prized in the geeky fantasy game Legends of Mir 3. When Chengwei discovered the man had sold it on eBay for £460, he found and slayed the thief using a real sword. Chengwei is currently serving a real life sentence.

I wonder if this is a harbinger of things to come. Are there any Second Lifer's (or other virtual reality gamers) out there in the Afrosphere? I'd really like to hear more about their appeal, and it would be interesting to know how many cyberworld inhabitants are adults rather than teenagers.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Yeah. Why AREN"T The Studios Promoting This Movie?

Gina over at What About Our Daughters is "SURPRISE" leading the way once again:

"Apparently Hollywood can only find money to promote a Denzel movie when he plays a violent heroin trafficker. Everybody who saw "American Gangster" had better go see "The Great Debaters" TWICE! If for no other reason than the Black folks in the movie are in college."

Enough said, we'll be there on Christmas night and you should be too. And don't forget to tell your friends about it.

Please... Deliver Us From Eva

I usually write about food and health related stuff, but after reading this Francis Holland piece that I found to be insensitive, I stumbled on this truly beautiful piece of spoken word and felt compelled to post it here. It really sums up the way I feel about the whole thing.

Please watch A Black Woman's Smile, by Ty-Gray El.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Holiday Cookies

Hi Guys.

You didn't think I would leave you for the holidays without giving you one of my favorite recipes well did you? Well this is truly a favorite cookie recipe for myself (and not just because I use oatmeal) but it's also a favorite for my family as well. If you follow the recipe to the letter they will come out perfect every time.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 c.coconut oil (not the cheap stuff)
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. oatmeal
1-3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
12 oz. pkg. chocolate chips
1/2 c. pecans
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Cream butter and sugars in large bowl with electric mixer.
  • Add eggs and vanilla. Beat to combine.
  • Grind oatmeal to a powder in processor. Combine with flour, salt, baking powder and soda. dd dry
  • ingredients to creamed mixture and beat slowly, just to mix. Stir in chocolate chips
  • and pecans. Batter will be stiff, and using ice cream scoop, shape into balls about the size of golf balls.
  • Drop on sheet 2" apart.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes.
  • Let cool 1 to 2 minutes
Note: the cookies will be a bit lighter in color then the traditional chocolate chip cookies so don't over bake.

*****Okay now for all you people who would like one of "MY" favorite recipes, well you can't have it! No just joking.

My Cookies


About 2 cups of cashews
1/3 cup of coconut flakes
4-5 non dry dates (soft)
About 7 pecan halves
  • Mix all of these ingredients in a food processor until items are still a bit chunky and not quite a puree
  • Taste it to determine if a dash a cinnamon or more or less of an item should be added
What makes this recipe so unique is you have to continue to taste your ingredients until you have reached your desired taste. The down side is these cookies require that you use a food dehydrator, but I suppose you could very quickly bake these cookies to dry them out a little bit.

Good Luck :-)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Unintended Consequences

Back on Veteran's Day I said:

...with all of the brain injuries resulting from this particular war, I can't help but wonder whether adequate mental (or any) healthcare will be the defining issue for this generation of veterans

Well as it turns out, the defining issue seems to already be upon us, as the suicide rates of veterans, especially young ones, is well above the national average.

At least 6256 US veterans committed suicide in 2005 - an average of 17 a day - they said, with veterans overall more than twice as likely to take their own lives as the rest of the general population. That figure rose to 22.9 to 31.9 suicides per 100,000 among veterans aged 20 to 24 - almost four times the non-veteran average for the age group.

Of course, this news isn't really being reported in the American press, but you can read about it in Australia. Found the link and excerpt via BartCop.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's Cheaper To Keep Her

As if you needed more proof of the wisdom of those words, from the Cleveland Leader:

Basketball superstar Michael Jordan and his wife of 17 years separated last year, and now the divorce is nearly finalized. Jordan is now a part of one of the most expensive celebrity divorces of all time, handing over $168 million to his lovely ex-wife Juanita Jordan.

In addition to the $168 mil, Juanita will also get their seven-acre estate in Chicago, as well as custody of their three kids.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Could've Just Asked Me

Well, it's confirmed, Black folks aren't feeling to great about the way things are going in this country.


They conducted a study and found out what your average brother or sister on any street could have told them for free. I mean, Sometimes, you just don't need
an expensive survey.

Anyway, I'm sure other Afrosphere bloggers are all over this, but just in case you hadn't heard:

From MSNBC: Growing numbers of blacks say they’re worse off than five years ago and don’t expect their lives to improve, a study released Tuesday shows. Black pessimism about racial progress in America, according to the study, is the worst it’s been in more than two decades. The survey by the Pew Research Center, a Washington-based research organization, paints a mixed picture of race relations following Hurricane Katrina and the Jena Six case…

…It found that just one in five blacks, or 20 percent, said things were better off for blacks compared with five years ago; that is the smallest percentage since 1983, when 20 percent also made that claim. In-between, the percentage of blacks who said things had gotten better had grown, only to drop back to 20 percent. Another 29 percent of blacks said things had gotten worse as opposed to staying the same, the largest number since 32 percent made that claim in 1990.

In addition, fewer than half of all blacks, or 44 percent, said they expected their prospects to brighten in the future. That’s down from 57 percent in 1986, during the height of the Reagan administration when the Justice Department actively sought to curtail affirmative action in favor of race-neutral policies.

Before anyone starts looking for the nearest bridge to jump off of, wait, because there's an opposing point of view, according to the same survey.

Whites have a different view about black progress, according to the survey. Whites were nearly twice as likely as blacks to see black gains in the past five years. A majority of whites polled, or 56 percent, also said they believed prospects for blacks would improve in the future.

Well, this is one time where I have to agree with the majority population. With the benign neglect displayed during Hurricane Katrina, blatant disregard of safety concerns in our cities, inadequate funding for education and any other programs not involving war or prison building, and the unequal justice dispensed upon our communities, I have to believe that things can't help but to get better.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Negros? Please. Introducing...

Well, I told y'all a few months ago that we would be bringing more voices into the There... Already mix and here, three months later, my man is finally checking in.

Now, I'm not going to talk about his severe case of C.P.T., but I will mention again that this brother has the pulse of the technology scene, and how it affects us and our world. We're definitely looking forward to his work, and hope you do to. So may I please introduce to you...

The Buzz onTechnology

I want to begin by thanking DP, the brains of this outfit. For some reason he thinks that I might be able to add something of value. It is truly a humbling feeling to participate at some level in this pioneering effort of the 21st century version of the Freedmen’s Press.

I was reminded recently of a comment made by the late Rev. E. V. Hill. Rev. Hill said that he was a Negro not an African-American. He was proud to be a Negro and wanted no part of being an African-American. His thesis was grounded on the fact that Negros were builders and African-Americans were dismantlers, for it was Negros that built schools and African-Americans who were allowing them to close; it was Negros that built banks and African-Americans that allowed them to close and it was Negros that built communities and African-Americans that allowed them to turn into ghettos. It sounds harsh but it sure is the truth.

As I reflect on the glorious and unique road African-Americans have traveled since the African Diaspora, I am somewhat reticent in my jubilation with regard to where we stand in this Information Age. In fact, it seems as though African-Americans are currently experiencing an entirely new Diaspora with a far more devious and devastating goal.

My goal is not to talk about technology for technology sake but to present topics regarding its impact on our communities. Technology is being thrust upon us at a rapid pace. In fact, it is being presented in such a lightning speed manner that most of us are at a point where we now have to decide what technology we need to know. I am convinced that this has caused us to spend more time than necessary on some irrelevant issues. By the way, has bridging the digital divide become the war on poverty? Or is it further evidence that the war on poverty is far from over?

I am a product of the generation of African-American youth who entertained and educated ourselves using little to no technology. However, as I look at our children today, I am concerned about the impact technology has had on their critical thinking abilities. Has technology caused our children to become lazy thinkers and low achievers?

Since surfing the information highway has yielded little result for us, perhaps we should change our mindset from being technology users to using technology to rebuild our communities.

Oh yeah, I forgot building requires Negroes.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Veterans Day

To all you vets out there, Happy Veterans Day.

I told y'all before that my Dad was a Red Ball Express driver during World War II, and came home with campaign medals from the North African and European Theater of Operations. Hundreds of thousands of Black men from his generation served overseas during the war, and after fighting for freedom over there, came home to find not so much of it here. These men formed the vanguard of the coming Civil Rights movement.

Which makes me wonder about today's generation of veterans, and what the unintended results of their overseas service will turn out to be.

During the last election cycle, a lot of vets ran for seats in Congress, mostly on the Democratic side. Forgive me for not looking up the results of those races at this exact moment, but I seem to recall that a fair number actually won. As far as unintended consequences go, that's not a bad one.

On the hand, with all of the brain injuries resulting from this particular war, I can't help but wonder whether adequate mental (or any) healthcare will be the defining issue for this generation of veterans.

I don't think this war will advance the cause of Civil Rights in this country, but maybe it will reinvigorate the War Powers Act and prevent some future (or current) president from committing the country to war based on any old reason they can trump up.

Or maybe it will accelerate the reform of the healthcare system so that everyone residing in this, the richest country on earth has a reasonable chance at receiving adequate healthcare service when they need it.

In my opinion, both would be very welcome unintended consequences for this most unwelcome of wars. I'd be curious to hear your opinions too.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Nooses... Again

From the Chronicle: Two Pearland High School students have been charged with disorderly conduct after a security guard saw them hanging a noose in the high school parking lot......Corey Ellis, 17, and a 16-year-old juvenile were arrested and handed over to school officials for further investigation ... (the) school district has a zero tolerance policy toward displays of any symbols that could imply threats or hate. If convicted, the teens could each face a fine of up to $500.

These copycat noose incidents are getting a little old, but what's worse are the defenders of this behavior.
As if anyone hanging a noose at this particular moment in time doesn't understand EXACTLY the message they're sending. While the article is still live, you should take a peek at the reader comments underneath. for those who don't have time, here's the abridged version:
  • Boys will be boys
  • This is all Jesse and Al's fault (and the media)
  • Black people need to get over it already
  • My ancestors were hung by nooses too
  • They didn't know it would be this serious
  • Yada, yada, yada
You get the drift. And Pearland is a suburb of Houston by the way.

It's WHAT For Dinner?

We’ve talked about it here before, and recently Prometheus 6 and The Field Negro posted about the obesity crisis in this country, particularly among us. Eating too much junk and not eating healthy enough are causes, but I'm not totally convinced that the main reason for this dramatic rise in size was cited. And while obesity is a big enough issue in itself, I’d like to add another reason to watch what we eat, which is the affect the food itself is having on our health.

A couple of years ago when the government first "officially" told us about Mad Cow Disease and the Avian Bird Flu you saw good old Americans running in droves out of the meat sections and into the bean aisles of the super market to find their protein supply.

Did this really happen? Absolutely not.

In fact, American eating habits haven’t changed at all, neither has how what we’re eating is produced. In fact does anyone even know what I'm talking about, or the definition of Mad Cow’s Disease? No? Has anyone ever stopped to think about the number of ground up cows there are in one of your fast food burgers? Well, let’s take a closer look, (and trust me it's worth your read).

Mad Cow disease is caused by infectious proteins, and because of the unique structure, they’re basically invulnerable and can survive temperatures hot enough to melt lead. However the leading theory as to how cows received this disease in the first place is that they were fed diseased sheep infected with a sheep spongiform encephalopathy called scrapie.

This begs the question of, “well aren’t cow’s vegetarians?” The answer is yes, and if left uninterrupted they would consume a primarily vegetarian diet, and the animals would naturally be leaner. They would never consume any animal-by-products, nitrates, antibiotics or be stuffed to the gills in huge feed lots prior to slaughter. But feeding these animals a natural diet costs big business about 30% more, and by packing them together into huge feedlots, they tend to plump up rather quickly, producing more product for the market. The down side with the animals packed so tightly is if one becomes ill or diseased, then it’s extremely easy for the illness to spread, which is one of the reasons why the animals receive antibiotics.

Did you know that animals are often given 8 times the amount of antibiotics that humans are given, and that more than half of the antibiotics in the U.S. are routinely fed to livestock? Animals receiving antibiotics in their feed gain 4% to 5% more body weight than animals that do not receive them. That’s a story for a whole other day, but here’s some food for thought, and see the definition below:

"The chief threat is that the use (in cattle) of antibiotics also used in human medicine increases the chance that when that antibiotic is used to treat human infections, it won't work."

Despite the Mad Cow scare, or the fact that Cargill Inc. has recalled 1 million pounds of beef for the second time in a month due to E. coli bacteria contamination, Americans still gobble down about 13 billion hamburgers a year (that’s 3 burgers a week person). And for everybody still wondering, a typical fast food hamburger often contains meat from dozens or even hundreds of cattle. Ewww.

What’s the point? Well, although only a few hundred cases of Mad Cow are officially reported in the U.S. annually, tens of thousands of Americans die from dementia related diseases like Alzeimer’s, every year. Thousands of these deaths may actually be from mad cow disease, caused by eating infected meat because mad cow has several similarities to Alzeimers. The problem is that autopsies are infrequently done, leaving mad cow disease to often go mis- or undiagnosed. Only 10% of Americans receive an autopsy, and the cost for this procedure is an extra $1500 on top of funeral expenses. Draw your own conclusions.

I’m going to end this with a few definitions. I’ll be back with Part II because this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg regarding our food supply, Chicken and pork need their own topics altogether.

Until then (and I'd love to hear your comments)

That Girl Boo


Animal-by-Products are just what they sound like, parts from slaughtered animals. These products “used to” include animals that are found dead on the farm, which were then ground into bone meal and fed to livestock

Nitrates are chemicals used as curing agents, including coloring and flavoring in meats, and according to the Water Environment Federation this substance has been linked to human health problems, including "blue baby" syndrome.

Antibiotics are given to treat illness, however animals are often given 8 times the amount of antibiotics that humans are give, and more than half of the antibiotics in the U.S. are routinely fed to livestock. Animals receiving antibiotics in their feed gain 4% to 5% more body weight than animals that do not receive antibiotics. The antibiotic-resistant bacteria that develop can easily be transmitted to humans through meat or through human contact with living animals

Steroids, are synthetic (man-made) substances related to the male sex hormones, it promotes muscle growth and reduce swelling and inflammation quickly. Please note that industries are prohibited from giving their chickens hormones, however antibiotics can be given to the animal everyday, and well, increase the size of the animal.



(2 )




(6) Bentor, Yinon. Chemical - Lead. Jun. 3, 2003.


(8) Journal of Virology 75(21):10073-89 (2001).Publish Post




Sunday, November 04, 2007

About That Food Supply (Again)

We've discussed the fragility of our food supply previously on this blog. Today brings us news of yet another recall of beef from one the world's biggest agribusinesses.

Cargill Inc. said Saturday it is recalling more than 1 million pounds of ground beef that may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria, the second time in less than a month it has voluntarily recalled beef that may have been tainted.

...A spokeswoman for Cargill said 10 states are included in the recall _ Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

...On Oct. 6, Cargill voluntarily recalled more than 840,000 pounds of ground beef patties distributed at Sam's Club stores nationwide after four Minnesota children and four Wisconsin adults who ate the food developed E. coli illness, which is the same strain that was detected to prompt the latest recall.

I'm sure That Girl Boo will have more on this later, but all I can say right now is be careful what you eat. You can find a list of all of the recalled products here.

Friday, November 02, 2007

It's A Start

With so many Blacks locked up for ridiculously long periods of time based simply on the possession of small quantities of crack cocaine, I can't help but welcome this development.

New federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenders went into effect today, lowering the recommended sentencing range for people caught with the drug. The new U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines for those possessing 5 grams or more of crack cocaine are prison terms of 51 months to 63 months, down from the old range of 63 months to 78 months. The new range for offenders possessing at least 50 grams is 97 months to 121 months in prison, down from 121 months to 151 months. Those ranges apply for first-time crack-cocaine convictions.

Progress towards equal justice under the law right? Maybe so, but if you read just a little bit further...

Federal law sets a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence for trafficking in 5 grams of crack cocaine. It takes 500 grams of cocaine powder to warrant the same sentence. The crack-powder disparity has a strong racial dimension because more than four-fifths of crack cocaine offenders in federal courts last year were black.

Unmentioned is the number of powder cocaine defendants who are white, but you already know that it's probably the majority.

The war on drugs and mandatory minimums have helped keep prison beds full with a lot of nonviolent, first time offenders charged with possession.

Addicts in other words.

The real question is whether the states will adhere to the federal guidelines or ignore them. With many states using prisons as engines of economic development in rural areas, it stands to reason that many will not. Prisons are big business, and keeping them full is a bottom line issue. And nothing keeps inmates coming like mandatory minimums.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dropout Factories

A wise man (my brother) once said that "America might be the only great power to fall because its citizens weren't educated enough to maintain it." I'm starting to realize the truth in that statement. From the Chronicle and multiple other news outlets today:

AUSTIN — Texas has 185 high schools, including 42 in the eight-county Houston area, that are hemorrhaging students fast enough to be called "dropout factories" in a new national report.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, who conducted the study for The Associated Press, applied that label to high schools with an attrition rate of 40 percent or higher — which amounted to one in 10 high schools across America.

The report's release coincides with a Texas study by the San Antonio-based Intercultural Development Research Association showing a 34 percent statewide attrition rate for the 2006 graduating class.

No matter how you look at it, this is a travesty that exposes policy initiatives like "No Child Left Behind" as just so much empty rhetoric. No child is left behind - by themselves anyway. They've got nearly half of their classmates with them. The schools are applying a different spin to the issue of course.

While they don't think the study is solid, Houston ISD officials acknowledge the district's dropout rate is too high. They've tried to tackle the issue by holding an annual door-to-door walk in the fall to look for students who haven't returned to school. The district also has a team of specialists who do a similar job year-round.

(Spokesman Terry) Abbott echoed the mobility issue, citing a ninth-grader who starts in one school and graduates in another can count as a dropout, and HISD has many transfers within the district.

"Calling them 'dropout factories' is just wrong. It's offensive to the many great men and women who give their lives to teaching children every day," he said.

He's right, there are many excellent teachers in the district who are dedicated to helping their students succeed. I'm sure that there are others just drawing a paycheck. But the issue isn't so much about teachers as it is about the allocation of resources, as evidenced by the "dropout factories" overwhelmingly being located in poor, inner city communities. Of course this issue affects African-Americans and Latinos disproportionately, especially here in Texas.

Maria Cuca Robledo, director of the Intercultural Development Research Association, said the term is "accurate" and noted that about 70 percent of the 2.7 million Texas students who left school during her group's study period were Hispanic or black.

But here's the money quote:

Schools plan for a 30 percent student attrition rate when hiring teachers, developing curriculum and building new schools, she said.

Planning for a 30 percent dropout rate? Like I said earlier, anyway you look at it this is a travesty.