Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tavis Smiley and Barack Obama -My thoughts on the matter

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I received alot of mainstream media requests about the situation between Senator Barack Obama and Tavis Smiley. Some interpreted my commentary to imply that I somehow wanted to take sides on this issue. I also received calls from some close friends of Tavis Smiley (but nothing personally from Tavis, who may be angry with me right now), who were concerned that I felt that Tavis was wrong for doing what he did.

I will now set the record straight.

I make it my primary objective to speak with complete honesty. I also found the situation between Barack Obama and Tavis Smiley to be disturbing. However, I do not consider either individual to be worthy of any form of persecution from the American public. I refused to do any mainstream media appearances to discuss this issue, because there are some things that black people need to discuss among themselves. I have a good relationship with the people at The Tom Joyner Morning Show and Black America Web, and it is my goal to keep it that way.

Tavis Smiley is a good man and a respectable brother. I want to see Barack Obama win this election, and Mr. Smiley has stated that he too celebrates Obama's success. It would never be in my plans to disrupt Obama's path to the White House, nor is it to add to the stress Tavis Smiley is clearly feeling right now. Did I take Tavis Smiley to task on what he said? A little bit, yes. But I only made my comments because I felt that some things needed to be said.

It is my personal opinion that while Tavis Smiley has no problem seeing Senator Obama jeopardize his race to The White House in order to appear at the State of the Black Union, I wouldn't expect Tavis to be willing to jeopardize one of his many corporate sponsorship deals to appear at someone else's forum. Also, if people were to accuse him of being anti-black for refusing to give up his sponsors, that would be wrong. While Smiley has proclaimed himself to be a tireless freedom fighter for the black community, I have never once seen him take Walmart to task for the way this company has consistently pillaged poor people and those of color. It would not be in Mr. Smiley's interest to do so, but yet the broader community would certainly benefit from such a commentary. Thus, like the rest of us, Tavis does sacrifice a little freedom for a little "me-dom" every now and then.

So, for those who are fans of Tavis Smiley, Tom Joyner or Barack Obama, please understand that my goal is to be fair, not to take sides. Tavis should have invited Barack to his conference, but for him to assume that anyone who is anyone in Black America should be attending the State of the Black Union.....well, that's just wrong. There are many forums in Black America that allow individuals to express their blackness, and his convention is just one of them.

Sorry to be honest brother, but I've got to tell the truth. I've had alot of people compare me to Tavis and we have alot of mutual friends. I will always respect you.

My video statement is below. A special thanks to the production crew for putting it together. For those who don't like the hip hop in the commentary, I'm sorry, but that's just me being Dr. Boyce.

Respect and Love:

Boyce Watkins

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Barack Obama Sends Open Letter to Tavis Smiley

February 13, 2008

Mr. Tavis Smiley
President and CEO
The Smiley Group
3870 Crenshaw Boulevard
Suite 391
Los Angeles, CA 90008

Dear Tavis,

Thank you for the invitation to participate in the 2008 State of the Black Union forum in New Orleans, Louisiana February 21-23. The exchange of ideas raised at this annual symposium are invaluable as our nation strives to address the critical issues facing not just African Americans, but Americans of every race, background and political party.

I especially commend you for hosting this dialogue in New Orleans. On the eve of the Louisiana primary, I visited this great city for the fifth time since declaring my candidacy to share policy proposals for rebuilding the Gulf Coast so that we never experience another Hurricane Katrina. On February 9, I was deeply humbled to win the Louisiana primary with 86 percent of the African American vote and a 14 point lead among all voters who said they were adversely affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Uniting our country and creating a national constituency for fundamental change is why I am running for President of the United States. We have come a long way in this race, but we still have a long road ahead. In the final stretch, I will be on the campaign trail everyday in states like Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin talking directly with voters about the causes that are at the heart of my campaign and the State of the Black Union forum such as affordable healthcare, housing, economic opportunity, civil rights and foreign policy. I am committed to touching every voter, and working to earn their vote.

That is why with regret, I am not able to attend the forum. I understand that you have declined the campaign’s request to have Michelle Obama speak on my behalf. I ask that you reconsider. Michelle is a powerful voice for the type of real change America is hungry for. No one knows my record or my passion for leading America in a new direction more than Michelle Obama.

Tavis, this is our movement and our time. I look forward to working closely with you throughout this election. Thank you for your continued support.


Barack Obama

Monday, February 11, 2008

Getting through this Recession the Right Way

By Dr. Boyce Watkins

You may have heard from the “financial experts” on TV that the recession is coming. For lack of a better phrase, many of us might be tempted to say “no duh”. Hearing a rich person on TV tell you that hard times are on the way is like being knee deep in water and getting a rain alert from the weather man.

Most Americans knew the recession was here when they started losing their homes in the subprime lending crisis. Many others learned about the recession when they could not afford heat for their homes, health care for their families, or college tuition for their children. According to a recent Gallup poll, 50% of all Americans expect their standard of living to decline. We don’t need a Suzie Orman, Larry King or some random journalist to tell us that.

As a financial researcher, I saw the recession coming 2 years ago during my fellowship with the Center for European Economic Research. The data showed, quite clearly, that Americans were managing their money like a pack of drunken sailors. We were over spending, over borrowing, under saving and under investing. That combination is never good in the long-term. Financial chickens always come home to roost.

We weren’t exactly seeing a good example from the Federal government, who has taken the word “conservative” out of the term “Conservative Republican”. Spending on a war that cost entirely too much, we were borrowing in a manner that even scared people who don’t care about politics. If our government were a college student, he would be getting an angry phone call from his mother.

It is not my belief that we should worry about the government when it comes to getting through the recession. The highly publicized “stimulus package” is only designed to stimulate you to do more of what got you in this mess in the first place. Giving Americans money back in hopes that they will spend it is like getting the drug addict high again to avoid the hangover.

“Personally responsibility” is a phrase often used by conservatives toward the poor. But it is also the key phrase here, as many have demanded that the government bail out those of us who bought homes we could not afford, stopped saving for retirement, or took extra hits from the “credit card crack pipe”. All of us make mistakes, but it is important to learn from the mistakes to move forward in prosperity.

Here are some quick lessons we can learn from the current economic downturn. The recession “out there” in the broader economy has little to do what is going on in your own home. In fact, my grandmother used to say that growing up “The Great Depression was business as usual for black folk. We didn’t know there even was a depression in the first place and we never really saw it come to an end.”

1) Budget Budget Budget – Most Americans don’t keep a budget and it leaves us in a financial mess. Spending money without a budget is like driving your car without a map. At the end of the day, you don’t really get anywhere meaningful and just end up running out of gas.

2) Use government help as a stepping stone, never as a crutch – if the government sends you a tax refund, save it. They are also making it easier for those with more expensive homes to get 3% mortgages, subsidized by tax payer money. Subsidized mortgages are a much better use of tax payer resources than blowing it on Iraq. Look into these options and learn what opportunities are available for you.

3) Take stock of your financial life – Calculate your net worth, which is the market value of all your assets, minus the debt you owe. Being in debt is not a terrible thing, but not trying to get out of debt can be a problem. If you are a professional, take account of the amount in your retirement savings and find out if your company has options for retirement investing.

4) Kill a Credit Card Today – Find a credit card and slice that son of a bitch in half. Most of us have 4 or 5 of them, so just pick one and see if you can go on a cash budget. In fact, you may want to give yourself a cash allowance in order to control your frivolous spending. Credit cards really do seem like free money, which impacts the perception of our spending.

5) Declare a One Month Spending Freeze – For four straight weeks, try to only pay necessary bills. Don’t go to the mall, don’t go out to eat, don’t buy any new clothes, shoes, hair, or fur coats for your puppy. Take the extra income you will get from the freeze (calculated in your budget) and put that money into your retirement plan or brokerage account. If you don’t have one, get one right now.
Habits are created by a series of seemingly insignificant actions, all headed in the same direction. The depths of despair serve as incubators for our greatest achievements. Let’s be wealthy and great in 2008.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Michael Vick, Black Men and Prison

Dr. Boyce Watkins -

We shot this episode of Boiling Hot with Boyce Watkins in the middle of the Michael Vick saga. I think that there is good reason to keep this issue in the front of our minds, even if it is not in the media.

Michael Vick was an absolute knucklehead and I make no excuses for his behavior. However, I think that some people underestimate the fact that we put our American liberties in jeopardy when we condone a mob mentality toward someone who has committed a crime. The notion that any crime justfies any punishment is wrong, but that is exactly what happens in our prison system.

We believe that these men should not be allowed to vote for the rest of their lives. We allow them to rape one another and pass horrible diseases. Many people are against the idea of even allowing them to get an education or come back to the communities that need them. We don't allow them to get jobs when they are released and we even allow slavery to occur. All of these atrocities, as fascist as they seem, are justified on the basis that anyone who makes a criminal mistake deserves few rights as an American....ever.

I compared Vick's case to a modern day lynching because when black men were lynched, it was not just because they were black. It was, in many cases, in response to the accusation of criminal activity. Most of us would argue that even in cases where the accusations were truthful, lynching was not the appropriate punishment.

In Vick's case, America felt that because he had done something wrong, he deserved to lose everything: past, present and future. He would be burdened with an endless and unpayable debt to society, never allowed to earn a living as an athlete in the NFL and lose all the years of hard work and asset accumulation he has earned throughout the years.

The Michael Vick situation was similar to a lynching for a couple of reasons: First, Vick's greatest crime was angering white America. Many African-Americans (not all) seemed to feel that while Vick's actions were reprehensible, he deserved the chance to rebuild his young life. During the BET Awards, a Michael Vick jersey was held up and cheered by the fans in the audience. None of this was shown on CNN or other networks. Second, there was a sentiment that seemed to imply that because he was a criminal, he therefore deserved any punishment laid upon him. This throws out the fact that the punishment must fit the crime.

So, the ultimate question is not whether Michael Vick did something wrong. He clearly did. The important question pertains to finding the proper punishment. If a man were to stab his daughter for not doing her homework, most of us would not agree with the punishment, no matter how committed we are to education. The same principle applies in the Michael Vick case.

Michael Vick's situaton gave us a window into the prison system and it's relationship with black men. This national epidemic is one of our great disgraces as a country and one of the destructive legacies of the Reagan Era. Eventually chickens come home to roost, and while you don't think this affects you or your family, you might want to think again.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rapper Pimp C Killed by Cough Syrup

Pimp C, a high-powered artist that was part of the group UGK, was found to have died from an overdose of over the counter cough medicine, according to the LA County coroner.

Pimp C, whose real name was Chad Butler, was found dead on December 4, but it took two months to determine his cause of death. The coroner's report stated that the death was "due to promethazine/codeine effects and other unestablished factors."

Ed Winter, the Assistant Chief of the Coroner's office, said that the levels of the medication were high, but not high enough for an overdose. However, the high levels of cough medicine, mixed with Butler's sleep apnea, created the deadly combination.

Pimp C was part of the hot hip-hop team UGK, along with rap artist Bun B. The group hit #1 with their last release "Underground Kingz."

Pimp C's cause of death led to some controversy after UGK recorded "Sippin on some Sizzurp", which some connect with cough syrup. The rap lyrics included one controversial line: "I'm choking on that doja sweet and sipping on that sizz-erp."

The medication that led to Pimp C's overdose has been considered popular in the south for young people who want to get high. Rap artist Big Mo even called Houston "City of Syrup", for being known for recreational cough syrup consumption.

Jose Martinez, a DEA special agent, said that the cough syrup is only available by pescription, but that it's recreational use is widespread.

"It is not uncommon to see large quantities of the controlled substance being sold and transported," he said.

The medication found in Pimp C's hotel room carries a warning against use by those with sleep apnea.