Sunday, January 23, 2011

One light bulb at a time

A physics teacher in high school, once told the students that while one grasshopper on the railroad tracks wouldn't slow a train very much, a billion of them would. In our current economic situation, every little thing we buy or do affects someone else - even their job.

Check this out. I can verify this because I was in Lowe's the other day for some reason and just for the heck of it I was looking at the hose attachments. They were all made in China. The next day I was in Home Depot and just for the heck of it I checked the hose attachments there. They were made in USA. Start looking..

My son likes Hershey's candy. I noticed, though, that it is made in Mexico. I do not buy it any more. My favorite toothpaste Colgate is made in Mexico, now I have switched to Crest. You have to read the labels on everything. This past weekend I was at Kroger. I needed 60W light bulbs and Bounce dryer sheets. I was in the light bulb aisle, and right next to the GE brand I normally buy was an off-brand labeled, "Everyday Value" I picked up both types of bulbs and compared the stats - they were the same except for the price. The GE bulbs were more money than the Everyday Value brand but the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that GE was made in MEXICO and the Everyday Value brand was made in USA by a company in Cleveland, Ohio. So throw out the myth that you cannot find products you use every day that are made right here.

So on to another aisle - Bounce Dryer Sheets. You guessed it, Bounce cost more money and is made in Canada. The Everyday Value brand was less money and MADE IN THE USA! I did laundry yesterday and the dryer sheets performed just like the Bounce Free I have been using for years and at almost half the price!

My challenge to you is to start reading the labels when you shop for everyday things and see what you can find that is made in the USA - the job you save may be your own or your neighbors! If you accept the challenge, pass this on to others so we can all start buying American, one light bulb at a time! Stop buying from overseas manufacturers!

Let's get with the program ... help our fellow Americans keep their jobs and create more jobs here in the U.S.A.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Paid Internship for Minority Students interested in Media - 15 February 2011

The Emma Bowen Foundation is recruiting for minority high school seniors and incoming college freshmen for PAID internships starting this summer. Students should have at least a 3.0 GPA, an interest in media and plan to attend a 4-year college. Selected students are paid and also receive a matching funds scholarship each summer to help pay for college expenses. Application deadline is 15 February 2011.

Please visit the website for more information and the application at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Constitution And Its Worshippers

by Jill Lepore

It is written in an elegant, clerical hand, on four sheets of parchment, each two feet wide and a bit more than two feet high, about the size of an eighteenth-century newspaper but finer, and made not from the pulp of plants but from the hide of an animal. Some of the ideas it contains reach across ages and oceans, to antiquity, more were, at the time, newfangled. 'We the People," the first three words of the preamble, are giant and Gothic: they slant left, and, because most of the rest of the words slant right, the writing zigzags. It took four months to debate and to draft, including two weeks to polish the prose, neat work done by a committee of style. By Monday, September 17, 1787, it was ready. That afternoon, the Constitution of the United States of America was read out loud in a chamber on the first floor of Pennsylvania's State House, where the delegates to the Federal Convention had assembled to subscribe their names to a new system of government, "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

Then Benjamin Franklin rose from his chair, wishing to be heard. At eighty-one, he was too tired to make another speech, but he had written down what he wanted to say, and James Wilson, decades Franklin's junior, read his remarks, which were addressed to George Washington, presiding. "Mr. President," he began, "I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them." Franklin liked to swaddle argument with affability, as if an argument were a colicky baby, the more forceful his argument, the more tightly he swaddled it. What he offered was a well-bundled statement about changeability. I find that there are errors here, he explained, but, who knows, someday I might change my mind; I often do. "For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better Information, or fuller Consideration, to change Opinions even on important Subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise." That people so often believe themselves to be right is no proof that they are; the only difference between the Church of Rome and the Church of England is that the former is infallible while the latter is never wrong. He hoped "that every member of the Convention who may still have Objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own Infallibility, and to make manifest our Unanimity, put his name to this Instrument." Although the document had its faults, he doubted that any other assembly would, at just that moment, have been able to draft a better one. "Thus I consent, Sk, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best.” Three delegates refused to sign, but at the bottom of the fourth page appear the signatures of the rest. What was written on parchment was then made public, printed in newspapers and broadsheets, often with "We the People" set off in extra-large type. Meanwhile, the secretary of the convention carried the original to New York to present it to Congress, which met, at the time, at City Hall. Without either endorsing or opposing it, Congress agreed to forward the Constitution to the states, for ratification. The original Constitution was simply filed away and, later, shuffled from one place to another. When City Hall underwent renovations, the Constitution was transferred to the Department of State. The following year, it moved with Congress to Philadelphia and, in 1800, to Washington, where it was stored at the Treasury Department until it was shifted to the War Office. In 1814, three clerks stuffed it into a linen sack and carried it to a gristmill in Virginia, which was fortunate, because the British burned Washington down. In the eighteen-twenties, when someone asked James Madison where it was, he had no idea.

In 1875, the Constitution found a home in a tin box in the bottom of a closet in a new building that housed the Departments of State, War, and Navy. In 1894, it was sealed between glass plates and locked in a safe in the basement. In 1921, Herbert Putnam, a librarian, drove it across town in his Model T. In 1924, it was put on display in the Library of Congress, for the first time ever. Before then, no one had thought of that. It spent the Second World War at Fort Knox. In 1952, it was driven in an armored tank under military guard to the National Archives, where it remains, in a shrine in the rotunda, alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

Ours is one of the oldest written constitutions in the world and the first, anywhere, to be submitted to the people for their approval. As Madison explained, the Constitution is "of no more consequence than the paper on which it is written, unless it be stamped with the approbation of those to whom it is addressed . . . THE PEOPLE THEMSELVES." Lately, some say, it's been thrown in the trash. "Stop Shredding Our Constitution!" Tea Party signs read. "FOUND in a DUMPSTER behind the Capitol," read another, on which was pasted the kind of faux-parchment Constitution you can buy in the souvenir shop at any history-for-profit heritage site. I bought mine at Bunker Hill years back It is printed on a single sheet of foolscap, and the writing is so small that it's illegible; then again, the knickknack Constitution isn't meant to be read. The National Archives sells a poster-size scroll, twenty-two inches by twenty-nine inches, that is a readable facsimile of the first page, for twelve dollars and ninety-five cents. This item is currently out of stock.

Parchment is beautiful. As an object, the Constitution has more in common with the Dead Sea Scrolls than with what we now think of as writing: pixels floating on a screen, words suspended in a digital cloud, bubbles of text. R we the ppl? Our words are vaporous. Not so the Constitution. "I have this crazy idea that the Constitution actually means something,” one bumper sticker reads. Ye olde parchment serves as shorthand for everything old, real, durable, American, and true—a talisman held up against the uncertainties and abstractions of a meaningless, changeable, paperless age.

You can keep a constitution in your pocket, as Thomas Paine once pointed out. Pocket constitutions have been around since the seventeen-nineties. The Cato Institute prints ~a handsome Constitution, the size and appearance of a passport, available for four dollars and ninety-five cents. The National Center for Constitutional Studies, founded by W. Cleon Skousen, a rogue Mormon, John Bircher, and all-purpose conspiracy theorist, prints a stapled paper version, the dimensions of a datebook, thirty cents if you order a gross. I got mine, free, at a Tea Party meeting in Boston. Andrew Johnson, our first impeached President, was said to have waved around his pocket constitution so often that he resembled a newsboy hawking the daily paper. Crying constitution is a minor American art form. "This is my copy of the Constitution," John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, said at a Tea Party rally in Ohio last year, holding up a pocket-size pamphlet. "And I'm going to stand here with the Founding Fathers, who wrote in the preamble, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'" Not to nitpick, but this is not the preamble to the Constitution. It is the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence.

At some forty-four hundred words, not counting amendments, our Constitution is one of the shortest in the world, but few Americans have read it. A national survey taken this summer reported that seventy-two per cent of about a thousand people polled had never once read all forty-four hundred words. This proves no obstacle to cherishing it; eighty-six per cent of respondents said that the Constitution has "an impact on their daily lives." The point of such surveys is that if more of us read the Constitution all of us would 'be better off; because we would demand that our elected officials abide by it, and we'd be able to tell when they weren't doing so and punish them accordingly. "This is what happens when our Constitution starts shaking her fist," Sarah Palin tweeted in October, about calls for an end to federal funding for National Public Radio, which she charged with violating the First Amendment by firing the commentator Juan Williams. "The American people's voice was heard at the ballot box," Boehner said on Election Night, and what the American people want is "a government that honors the Constitution." Rand Paul thanked his parents, in his victory speech, "for teaching me to respect our Constitution." Michelle Bachmann told ABC News that she plans to offer Constitution classes in the House. Glenn Beck asked his listeners to urge their representatives to join Bachmann's constitutional caucus. Sharron Angle said that she took comfort in the knowledge that Harry Reid carries a copy of the Constitution in his breast pocket: 'We want our senator to remember our Constitution, to read our Constitution, and to consider every bill that he votes for in light of that Constitution." The Tea Party's triumph, she said, amounts to this: 'We've inspired a nation to take a look at that document and begin to read it." Last week, when new lawmakers were sworn in, the Constitution was read out loud in the House of Representatives. It is the first time this has ever happened.

If you haven't read the Constitution lately, do. Chances are you'll find that it doesn't exactly explain itself. Consider Article III, Section 3: "The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted." This is simply put—hats off to the committee of style— but what does it mean? A legal education helps. Lawyers won't stumble over "attainder," even if the rest of us will. Part of the problem might appear to be the distance between our locution and theirs. "Corruption of Blood"? The document's learnedness and the changing meaning of words isn't the whole problem, though, because the charge that the Constitution is too difficult for ordinary people to understand—not because of its vocabulary but because of the complexity of its ideas—was brought nearly the minute it was made public. Anti-Federalists charged that the Constitution was so difficult to read that it amounted to a conspiracy against the understanding of a plain man, that it was willfully incomprehensible. "The constitution of a wise and free people, ought to be as evident to simple reason, as the letters of our alphabet," an Anti-Federalist wrote. "A constitution ought to be, like a beacon, held up to the public eye, so as to be understood by every man," Patrick Henry argued. He believed that what was drafted in Philadelphia was "of such an intricate and complicated nature, that no man on this earth can know its real operation." Anti-Federalists had more complaints, too, which is why ratification—a process wonderfully recounted by Pauline Maier in "
Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788"—was touch and go. Rhode Island, the only state to hold a popular referendum on the Constitution, rejected it. Elsewhere, in state ratifying conventions, the Constitution passed by the narrowest of margins: eightv-nine to seventy-nine in Virginia, thirty to twenty-seven in New York, a hundred and eighty-seven to a hundred and sixty-eight in Massachusetts.

Nor were complaints that the Constitution is obscure silenced by ratification. In a 1798 essay called "
The Key of Liberty," William Manning, the plainest of men—a New England farmer, a Revolutionary veteran, and the father of thirteen children—expressed a view widely held by Jeffersonian Republicans: "The Federal Constitution by a fair construction is a good one prinsapaly, but I have no doubt but that the Convention who made it intended to destroy our free governments by it, or they never would have spent 4 Months in making such an inexpliset thing." Franklin called the Constitution an "instrument"; he meant that it was a legal instrument, like a will. Manning thought that it was another kind of instrument: "It was made like a Fiddle, with but few Strings, but so that the ruling Majority could play any tune upon it they please." For all the charges that the Constitution was difficult to understand, between 1789 and 1860 only one state, California, required that it be taught in school. The first textbooks examining the Constitution weren't printed until the eighteen-twenties, and they were for law students. Three volumes of "Commentaries on the Constitution," written by Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, appeared in 1833. The next year, Story published an abridgment for schools, explaining that the Constitution "is the language of the People, to be judged of according to the common sense, and not by mere theoretical reasoning." That may be, but Story's schoolbook is a hundred and sixty-six pages of close legal argument.

You can't explain a thing without interpreting it. Story, a Northerner and a nationalist, emphasized the Supreme Court's role in arbitrating disputes between the federal government and the states. In those years, the disputes mainly had to do with slavery, Southerners who glossed the Constitution stressed state sovereignty. In 1846, William Hickey published a constitutional concordance. He got the idea from Polk's Vice-President, George Dallas, who believed the Constitution prohibited Congress from interfering with the extension of slavery into Western territories. The U.S. Senate, over which Dallas presided, ordered twelve thousand copies of Hickey's pro-slavery vade mecum. It does not appear to have elevated congressional conversation. In 1847, the governor of New York, Silas Wright, observed, "No one familiar with the affairs of our government, can have failed to notice how large a proportion of our statesmen appear never to have read the Constitution of the United States with a careful reference to its precise language and exact provisions, but rather, as occasion presents, seem to exercise their ingenuity ... to stretch both to the line of what they, at the moment, consider expedient."

By the middle of the nineteenth century, nearly all white men could vote. Not all of them could read, and not all of them owned a copy of the Constitution, but Daniel Webster insisted, "Almost every man in the country is capable of reading it." Whether they did or not is hard to say. Some did more than read it. William Lloyd Garrison burned the Constitution at an abolitionist rally in Massachusetts, calling it a "covenant with death, an agreement with hell." John Brown wrote his own constitution, replacing "We the people" with "We, citizens of the United States, and the oppressed people ... who have no rights." It was found on Brown's body when he was captured at Harpers Ferry. William Grimes, a fugitive slave, had a different idea about what to do with the Constitution: "If it were not for the stripes on my back which were made while I was a slave, I would in my will leave my skin as a legacy to the government, desiring that it might be taken off and made into parchment and then bind the Constitution of glorious, happy and free America." And then the American people went to war, over their different ways of reading letters inked on parchment and wounds cut into the skin of a black man's back.

"Find It in the Constitution," the Tea Party rally signs read. Forty-four hundred words and "God" is not one of them, as Benjamin Rush complained to John Adams, hoping for an emendation: "Perhaps an acknowledgement might be made of his goodness or of his providence in the proposed amendments." It was not. "White" isn't in the Constitution, but Senator Stephen Douglas, of Illinois, was still sure that the federal government was "made by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever." What about black men? "They are not included, and were not intended to be included," the Supreme Court ruled, in 1857. Railroads, slavery, banks, women, free markets, privacy, health care, wiretapping: not there. "There is nothing in the United States Constitution that gives the Congress, the President, or the Supreme Court the right to declare that white and colored children must attend the same public schools," Senator James Eastland, of Mississippi, said, after Brown v. Board of Education. "Have You Ever Seen the Words Forced Busing in the Constitution?" read a sign carried in Boston in 1975. 'Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" Christine O'Donnell asked Chris Coons during a debate in October. When Coons quoted the First Amendment, O'Donnell was flabbergasted: 'That's in the First Amendment?" Left-wing bloggers slapped their thighs; Coons won the election in a landslide. But the phrase "separation of church and state" really isn't in the Constitution or in any of the amendments.

A great deal of what many Americans hold dear is nowhere written on those four pages of parchment, or in any of the amendments. What has made the Constitution durable is the same as what makes it demanding: the fact that so much was left out. Felix Frankfurter once wrote that the Constitution "is most significantly not a document but a stream of history." The difference between forty-four hundred words and a stream of history goes a long way toward accounting for the panics, every few decades or so, that the Constitution is in crisis, and that America must return to constitutional principles through constitutional education. The two sides in this debate are always charging each other with not knowing the Constitution, but they are talking about different kinds of knowledge.

"We’ll keep clinging to our Constitution, our guns, and our religion," Palin said last spring, "and you can keep the change." Behind the word "change" is the word "evolution." In 1913, Woodrow Wilson insisted, "All that progressives ask or desire is permission—in an era when 'development,’ 'evolution,' is the scientific word—to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is a recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing." Conservatives called for a rejection of this nonsense about the "living Constitution." In 1916, the Sons of the American Revolution campaigned for Constitution Day. In 1919, the National Association for Constitutional Government published some fifty thousand copies of a pocket edition of the Constitution. (The association's other publications included an investigation into the influence of socialists in American colleges.) In 1921, Warren Harding called the Constitution divinely inspired; it was Harding who ordered the Librarian of Congress to take the parchment out of storage and put it into a shrine. Soon, the National Security League was distributing free copies of
reactionary books written by "Mr. Constitution," James Montgomery Beck, who was Harding's solicitor general. "The Constitution is in graver danger today than at any other time in the history of America," Beck warned.

By 1923, twenty-three states required constitutional instruction and, by 1931, forty-three. Studying Middletown's high school in 1929, the sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd found these classes worrying: "70 percent of the boys and 75 percent of the girls answered 'false' to the statement 'A citizen of the United States should be allowed to say anything he pleases, even to advocate violent revolution, if he does no violent act himself.'" Still, such instruction was by no means uniformly conservative. The author of an elementary-school textbook published in 1930 wrote, "This Constitution is yours, boys and girls of America, to cherish and to obey, to preserve and, if need be, to better."

The New Deal intensified debate over the nature of the Constitution, a debate whose cramped terms we've inherited. "Hopeful people today wave the flag," Thurman Arnold, later F.D.R.'s assistant attorney general, wrote in 1935. "Timid people wave the Constitution . . . the only bulwark against change." Obama supporters wore "HOPE" and "CHANGE" T-shirts; Tea Partiers carry the Constitution. Liberals argue for progress; conservatives argue for a return to the nation's founding principles. Change is a founding principle, too, but people divided by schism are blind to what they share: one half, infallible; the other, never wrong.

Pop quiz, from a test administered by the Hearst Corporation in 1987.
True or False: The following phrases are found in the U.S. Constitution:
"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
"The consent of the governed."
"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
"All men are created equal."
"Of the people, by the people, for the people."
This is what's known as a trick question. None of these phrases are in the Constitution. Eight in ten Americans believed, like Boehner, that "all men are created equal" was in the Constitution. Even more thought that "of the people, by the people, for the people" was in the Constitution. (Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, 1863.) Nearly five in ten thought "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" was written in Philadelphia in 1787. (Karl Marx, 1875.)

About a quarter of American voters are what political scientists call, impoliticly, "know nothings," meaning that they possess almost no general knowledge of the workings of their government, at least according to studies conducted by the American National Election Survey since 1948, during which time the know-nothing rate has barely budged. Critics, including James L. Gibson and Gregory A. Caldeira, have charged that these studies systemically overestimate political ignorance. A 2000 survey asked interviewees to identify William Rehnquist's job. The only correct answer was "the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court." Answers like "Chief Justice," "Justice," "Chief Justice of the Court," and anything breezier ("a Supreme Court judge who is the head honcho") were marked incorrect. Why the ability to name Rehnquist's job is necessary to good citizenship is never made clear. Those surveys seem to have had a point to prove—they have been used to argue, for instance, that the public ought not to play a role in electing or selecting judges—as did surveys conducted during the Cold War which appear to have been designed to elicit the headline-generating news that Americans are so ignorant of the Constitution that they can be gulled into confusing it with Marxism. "Americans have known the Constitution best when they have revered it least," Michael Kammen wrote, in an extraordinarily rich and rewarding history of the Constitution, published in 1986. The Hearst report reached quite a different conclusion: "Those Americans who are most knowledgeable about the Constitution are the least likely to support changes." In 1985 and 1986, Reagan's Attorney General, Edwin Meese, made a series of speeches advocating originalism. Reagan nominated Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court in June of 1986. The Hearst survey was conducted that fall and released in February of 1987. That May, Thurgood Marshall said, in a bicentennial address, I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever 'fixed' at the Philadelphia Convention." That July, Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Court, and, despite the failure of Bork's nomination, originalism never looked back.

Last February, Meese and a coalition of prominent conservatives, including leaders of the Heritage Foundation, The National Review, and the Federalist Society, met in Virginia to sign "The Mount Vernon Statement." It calls for a coalition of social, economic, and national-security conservatives to return the nation to the principles stated in its founding documents, now "under sustained attack" in "our culture, our universities and our politics": "The self-evident truths of 1776 have been supplanted by the notion that no such truths exist. The federal government today ignores the limits of the Constitution, which is increasingly dismissed as obsolete and irrelevant." The Mount Vernon Statement was modelled on the Sharon Statement, signed in 1960. The threat to the Constitution, in the Sharon Statement, was a "menace," and it came from "the forces of international Communism." In the Mount Vernon version, the threat is "change": change is "an empty promise'' and "a dangerous deception," and it comes from the American people—that is, from those of us who are to be found in the nation's universities and the federal government. The Sharon Statement was signed in William F. Buckley, Jr.'s home, in Sharon, Connecticut. The organizers of the Mount Vernon Statement wanted to meet at Mount Vernon, but the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association turned them down. Still, the statement was printed on fake parchment, and a guy dressed up as George Washington handed out Sharpies.

Originalists argue that originalism is the only faithfully democratic mode of constitutional interpretation. Laws are passed by the elected representatives of the people; the courts protect the will of the people by making sure those laws adhere to the Constitution, as originally drafted and popularly ratified. Any other mode of jurisprudence is overstepping, and amounts to an abuse of judicial power because it favors the rulings of un-elected judges—the caprice of contemporary courts—against the will of the people, as embodied by the Constitution. Liberal legal scholars have tried different approaches in countering this argument. One has been to point out that the American people whose will originalism protects are dead, and that, even if they weren't, they aren't us. "If democratic legitimacy is the measure of a sound constitutional interpretive practice," the Columbia law professor Jamal Greene has written, "then Justice Scalia needs to give an account of why and how rote obedience to the commitments of voters two centuries distant and wildly different in racial, ethnic, sexual, and cultural composition can be justified on democratic grounds."

Another approach has been to argue that originalism, so far from being original, in the sense of being the same age as those four sheets of parchment in the National Archives, is quite modern. Consider the Second Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Historical evidence can be marshalled to support different interpretations of these words, and it certainly has been. But the Yale law professor Reva Siegel has argued that, for much of the twentieth century, legal scholars, judges, and politicians, both conservative and liberal, commonly understood the Second Amendment as protecting the right of citizens to form militias—as narrow a right as the protection provided by the Third Amendment against the government's forcing you to quarter troops in your house. Beginning in the early nineteen-seventies, lawyers for the National Rifle Association, concerned about gun-control laws passed in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, argued that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms—and that this represented not a changing interpretation but a restoration of its original meaning. The N.R.A., which had never before backed a Presidential candidate, backed Ronald Reagan in 1980. As late as 1989, even Bork could argue that the Second Amendment works "to guarantee the right of states to form militias, not for individuals to bear arms." In an interview in 1991, the former Chief Justice Warren Burger said that the N.R.A.'s interpretation of the Second Amendment was "one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word 'fraud,' on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."

The individual-rights argument warrants serious debate. But, instead, on the political stage, people who disagreed with it were accused of failing to respect the Constitution, or of being too stupid to understand it. In 1995, Newt Gingrich wrote, "Liberals neither understand nor believe in the Constitutional right to bear arms." Who are the know-nothings now? Liberal scholars and jurists. In 2005, Mark Levin, a talk-radio host who worked under Meese in the Reagan Justice Department, wrote that Thurgood Marshall, who had challenged originalism, "couldn't have had a weaker grasp of the Constitution." In 2008, the N.R.A.'s argument about the Second Amendment was made law in the District of Columbia v. Heller, which ruled as unconstitutional a gun-control law passed in D.C. in 1968. This decision, Siegel argues, has more to do with Charlton Hes-ton than with James Madison.

In 2004, Larry D. Kramer, the dean of Stanford Law School, argued not against originalism but against judicial review (a power wielded, in recent years, by an originalist Court). Kramer offered another jurisprudence, based on different historical claims: popular constitutionalism. "The Supreme Court is not the highest authority in the land on constitutional law," Kramer wrote. "We are." Critics charge that it's unclear how popular constitutionalism works, but the opposition of white activists to school desegregation, the N.R.A.'s interpretation of the Second Amendment, and Iowans voting out of office judges who supported same-sex marriage would all seem to fit into this category, and if recent legislation is overturned by an incoming Congress elected by people who believe that legislation to be unconstitutional, that will be popular constitutionalism, too.

Originalism is popular. Four in ten Americans favor it. Not all Tea Partiers are originalists, but the movement is fairly described as a populist movement inclined toward originalism. The populist appeal of originalism overlaps with that of heritage tourism: both collapse the distance between past and present and locate virtue in an imaginary eighteenth century where "the people" and "the elite" are perfectly aligned in unity of purpose. Originalism, which has no purchase anywhere but here, has a natural affinity with some varieties of Protestantism, and the United States differs from all other Western democracies in the far greater proportion of its citizens who believe in the literal truth of the Bible. Although originalism is a serious and influential mode of constitutional interpretation, Greene has argued that it is also a political product manufactured by the New Right and marketed to the public by talk radio, cable television, and the Internet, where it enjoys a competitive advantage over other varieties of constitutional interpretation, partly because it's the easiest.

An unexamined question at the heart of this debate, then, is how people actually read the Constitution. Many people are now reading it, with earnestness and dedication, often in reading groups modelled on Bible study groups. The Tea Party Express endorses "
The Constitution Made Easy," a translation into colloquial English made by Michael Holler, and available on Holler's Web site for eight dollars and ninety-five cents. Holler studied at Biola University, a Christian college offering a Biblically centered education. Much of his translation, which appears side by side with the original, is forthright. His Article III, Section 3, reads, "Congress will have Power to declare the punishment for treason, but the penalty may not include confiscating a person s property after that person is executed," and, in an end note, he supplies the helpful information that "Corruption of Blood" refers to the common-law confiscation of the property of executed traitors, which "had the effect of punishing the traitor's heirs, or bloodline." Holler's Second Amendment is less straightforward; he inverts the language of the original, so that it reads, "The people have the right to own and carry firearms, and it may not be violated because a well-equipped Militia is necessary for a State to remain secure and free." Holler is an N.R.A.-certified handgun instructor who, in addition to offering courses on the Constitution, sells classes in how to obtain a concealed-handgun permit.

U.S. Constitution for Dummies," published in 2009, was written by Michael Armheim, an English barrister. The book includes a foreword by Ted Cruz, a nationally prominent defender of the death penalty and a former solicitor general of Texas who successfully defended a monument to the Ten Commandments at the Texas State Capitol. More recently, Cruz authored an amicus brief, on behalf of thirty-one states, supporting the anti-gun-control argument in the District of Columbia v. Heller. Arnheim's "plain-English guide" translates portions of the Constitution (e.g., "Due process is really just an old-fashioned way of saying 'proper procedure'"), with an emphasis on contemporary controversies, which he frames as battles between "judge-made law" and the proper workings of democracy; the right to privacy, for instance, is an example of judge-made law. Arnheim is not stinting with his views. "In my opinion," he writes, "same-sex marriage in Massachusetts is unconstitutional, and the other states therefore don't have to recognize such unions. I am available if anyone wants to take this issue to the U.S. Supreme Court!"

Two more new guides include both scholarly annotations and historical essays. Jack Rakove, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian from Stanford, has prepared "
The Annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence." Rakove wrote an amicus brief in Heller, opposing the position argued by Cruz, but here he goes no farther than to call the evidence for Cruz's position "tenuous." Richard Beeman, who teaches history at the University of Pennsylvania, is the editor of a small-trim, twelve-dollar paperback, "The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution." In his commentary on Heller, the laudably equable Beeman summarizes the arguments; shrugs ("The meaning of the Second Amendment is subject to varying interpretations"); and moves on. Both of these excellent guides are valuable and judicious. Neither defines "Corruption of Blood."

I never knew what the Constitution really is until I read Mr. Beck's book," a sly critic of James Montgomery Beck once wrote. “You can read it without thinking." Critics of originalism are in a bind. When ideas are reduced to icons, which, unfortunately, is the ordinary state of affairs, constitutionalism and originalism look exactly the same: the faux parchment stands for both. But originalism and constitutionalism are not the same, and the opposite of original is not unconstitutional. Originalism is one method of constitutional interpretation. Popular originalism is originalism scrawled with Magic Markers, on poster board. The N.R.A. opposed gun-control laws. It argued, at length, and over years, that those laws violated the Second Amendment. Eventually, the Supreme Court agreed. So far, the Tea Party's passions ignite faster and are stated more simply. A sign at a Tea Party rally in Temecula, California: 'Impeach Obama: He's Unconstitutional."

The Constitution is ink on parchment. It is forty-four hundred words. And it is, too, the accreted set of meanings that have been made of those words, the amendments, the failed amendments, the struggles, the debates—the course of events— over more than two centuries. It is not easy, but it is everyone's. It is the rule of law, the opinions of the Court, the stripes on William Grimes's back, a shrine in the National Archives, a sign carried on the Washington Mall, and the noise all of us make when we disagree. If the Constitution is a fiddle, it is also all the music that has ever been played on it. Some of that music is beautiful; much of it is humdrum; some of it sounds like hell.

Reprinted from The New Yorker, 17 Jan 2011, p.70

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The Helix Water District is accepting applications from high school seniors interested in receiving a college scholarship. The agency plans to award two $1,000 scholarships to students living within the San Diego East County district, which includes La Mesa, Spring Valley, Lemon Grove and the El Cajon area. Applications are due by 1 March 2011. Each applicant must submit a statement of financial need, write an essay related to water and provide other materials. For more information, call 619-466-0585 or visit

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Giving and Getting: Philanthropy among African American Fraternities

by Gasman, Louison, and Barnes

The story of African American fraternities began in 1905 in Ithaca, New York, on Cornell's bitterly cold and racially intolerant campus. Pressured to "ascend" the "proscriptions of color common to American institutions of this era, and hampered by limited means of the average 'poor' student," the founders of the nations oldest intercollegiate black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, "faced the future and boldly endeavored to find a way out of their difficulties, scarcely realizing, however, the import of their action on subsequent generations".[70] Whether they found themselves stranded on historically white college campuses in New York, Indiana, or Ohio or among their own people in Washington, D.C., or Baltimore, the founders of each fraternity set out to establish a mission and adhered to the basic principles of education, political involvement, and economic empowerment to advance the race.

Initiates of Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, and Iota Phi Theta have, from their organizations' inception, taken solemn oaths to serve one another and humankind.[71] The modus operandi of each fraternity is expressed clearly in its motto. Thus, the Kappas aim is to produce "achievement in every field of human endeavor." The Omega knows that "friendship is essential to the soul" and uses it to serve others.. Establishing a "culture for service and service for humanity" is the Sigma's creed. The Iota believes in "building a tradition, not resting one" as he works to advance social change. Being "servants to all" is what Alphas strive to do.[72]

This review of philanthropy in black fraternities highlights the historical models that the five organizations have used to increase blacks' participation in education, engage them in political processes, stimulate their entrepreneurial ambitions, and establish a tradition of giving through fraternity-based foundations. We point to the driving influences behind their philanthropy, noting why and how black fraternities have given support to the greater good.


In fraternity histories, the formation of "movements," or what would later be called "national programs," was often a response to the crisis of the day or the vision fraternity men had for future generations.[73] It is important to remem¬ber that during the earliest years of black fraternities, between 1906 and 1914, black men and women had limited access to higher education. Few African Americans were aware of the benefits of higher education, and discrimination was widespread.[74]

The black fraternities' methods for solving what many referred to as the "Negro problem" focused on balancing inequities in public and private education, creating businesses, participating in political processes, establishing foundations, and building strategic alliances. Early debates routinely questioned the efficacy and sustainability of responding to fraternal and community calls for action. These debates, however, helped lay permanent foundations on which future generations of fraternity men could stand and thus advance themselves, their families, their communities, and their fraternities.[75]

Within black fraternities, philanthropic endeavors typically began at the local level and spread throughout each organization with the aid of national conclaves and conferences. Iota Phi Theta places this fact in the proper perspective on its national Web site: "In the initial stages of the Fraternity's existence, the Fraternity's service initiatives were local in nature as reflected by the size of the Fraternity and the scope of its resources. As the Fraternity began to take on a national dimension, it became evident that its programmatic thrust would have to be adjusted accordingly. This adjustment was complicated however, by the fact that many chapters have had historical ties to service organizations and causes in their local areas."[76] Tremendous overlap in philanthropic focus exists across each fraternity. Also, it is important to note that each organization awards scholarships to members and nonmembers at the chapter, district or state, and national levels, amounting to millions of dollars spent on African American education. No one fraternity concentrates on only one national initiative, and efforts often overlap within chapters.


The brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha agree that a college education is the "single best predictor of future economic success."[77] As such, they developed the national Go-to-High School, Go-to-College campaign in 1920, which used speakers, pamphlets, and personal letters to advertise the benefits of a college education.[78] Today, Alphas deliver their message year-round through a curriculum that concentrates on time management, study skills, goal setting, violence and conflict prevention, building self-esteem, historical perspectives of African and African American peoples, gender in society and current events.[79]

Omega Psi Phi's national talent search awards scholarships to young people each year. The search began in the fraternity's Sixth District, which covers North and South Carolina. Since 1953, Omegas have organized talent contests in local communities and at their national conclaves.[80] Likewise, Phi Beta Sigma "focuses on programming and services to graduates and undergraduates in the fraternity" through its National Education Program.[81] Tutoring, scholarship awards, and lectures are its core objectives.[82]


Before the Great Depression, and before the discovery of "black capitalism" and the federal Office of Minority Business Enterprise in the late 1960s, the fraternity men of Sigma introduced the "Bigger and Better Negro Business" exhibition in 1924 to showcase to members and the public the achievements of the race. At the first convention in Philadelphia, more than twenty-five leading black businesses entered more than fifty exhibits. The response from local visitors was supportive, and as a result, the fraternity voted unanimously in 1925 to make "Bigger and Better Negro Business" a regular program. This program is consistent with Phi Beta Sigmas commitment to improving the economic conditions of minorities and the welfare of society at large.[83] Today, the programs mission includes "the promotion and fostering of ideas for the effective organization, improvement and expansion of business and the dissemination and propagation of information for the advancement of sound business principles and practices."[84] Partnering with organizations such as the NAACP and the National Urban League, Sigma offers financial and home ownership information to its members and their families through its Project SEED (Sigma Economic Empowerment Development). It also runs "an all-volunteer board, manager and staff" credit union for "the blue and white family" of Sigmas and the women of Zeta Phi Beta.[85] Deposits in the credit union are insured up to $100,000, and it provides low-cost mortgages for fraternity and sorority members, as well as loans for home improvement, education, and weddings.


An old joke asks: "What's the difference between ignorance and indifference?" The answer: "I don't know and I don't care." Each fraternal organization has endeavored to inform communities about pressing social issues that must be addressed through political and legislative processes, including getting people out to vote in local, state, and national elections.

Social action is the term most of the fraternities use to describe activities aimed at registering voters and increasing their knowledge of political issues.[86] Alpha Phi Alpha professes that "A Voteless People Is a Hopeless People." Its campaign began in the 1930s and was led by chapters across the country. Over the years, the Alphas have maintained and strengthened their belief in the power of voting.[87] In fact, in 2005 they began an effort to raise awareness of the expiration of the Voting Rights Act. Members of the organization testified before Congress and worked in local communities to educate African Americans about the importance of the act's reauthorization.[88] Likewise, the brothers of Omega Psi Phi are dedicated to a national platform aimed at increasing political involvement and voting. According to the national office, "all levels of the fraternity are expected to facilitate, participate and/or coordinate activities that will uplift their communities through the power of the vote."[89]


Another way the fraternities work to combat ignorance and educate the African American community is through their health-related initiatives. For example, Omega Psi Phi chapters aim to uplift their local communities through the promotion of good health practices. Specifically, the chapters participate in the Charles Drew Blood Drive each June, the American Diabetes Association, and several HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives.[90] This last effort is particularly important because African Americans represent 50 percent of all new AIDS cases in the United States.[91] Phi Beta Sigma chapters, like the Omegas, spend considerable time raising money and educating their local communities on issues that are detrimental to the health of African Americans, such as diabetes.[92]

Eliminating health disparities in the black community has been a major thrust for fraternal organizations. In 2002, Iota Phi Theta launched a national Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness Campaign with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. According to Scott Seward, Iota Phi Thetas Pennsylvania state director, "Children are a significant reason for me to do community service. My chapter has donated several thousand dollars to the St. Jude's Cancer Foundation for Children."[93]

Alpha Phi Alpha forms a national partnership with the March of Dimes each year. Both organizations work cooperatively to educate teenagers about sexual health and responsibility. Males and, in some cases, females between the ages of twelve and fifteen participate in workshops designed to let them explore their attitudes about their sexuality, increase their awareness of sexually transmitted diseases, and improve their self-esteem. Also, both organizations raise funds for research on birth defects and educational programs through Walk America. "Every day 1 in 8 babies born in the U.S. arrives too soon," reports the March of Dimes.[94] Alpha brothers team up and engage in fraternal competitions to determine which chapter can raise the most funds and get the most members to participate in the walk.


Over the years, fraternities have partnered with national nonprofit organizations and well-known for-profit corporations to advance their fraternal missions. In some cases, the fraternities were invited to participate in the development of nationwide programs and strategies to deliver educational curricula and resources aimed at reducing the plight of low- to moderate-income communities.

Iota men help communities "succeed in a digital age" through a joint effort with and Microsoft Corporation to bridge the digital divide. The digital divide has been described as a social, racial, class, and even political problem in society that further separates the haves from the have-nots with regard to technology and information access. In 2001, Iota men set out to deliver black culture and history to schools through Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Kwame Anthony Appiah's Africana Encyclopedia and Microsoft's Encarta Africana, the CD-ROM version.[95]

The preponderance of single-parent households is a critical issue in urban and rural communities. National organizations such as the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America have sought to ease the stress in these homes by provid¬ing children with "Bigs" to serve as mentors, counselors, and guides. In 1990, Alpha Phi Alpha signed an agreement with Big Brothers/Big Sisters to assist in its efforts to create environments where single parents and their children can increase their growth options and opportunities.[96] The fraternity also partnered with the Boy Scouts of America to create additional opportunities for boys to receive career guidance from accomplished black males.

Fraternities have partnered with or donated to the causes of such organizations as the NAACP, National Urban League, and United Negro College Fund. Omega Psi Phi has an extensive history of giving to these organizations. At Omega Psi Phi’s Los Angeles Grand Conclave in 1955, it was decided that "each graduate chapter would purchase a Life Membership from the NAACP," and "between 1955 and 1959, chapters contributed nearly $40,000" to the organization.[97] In the 1980s, the fraternity contributed $250,000 to the United Negro College Fund and authorized an "annual gift of 50,000 dollars to that organization in perpetuity."[98]


Determining what drives people to give of their time, talents, and treasures to help others is no easy task. Although there are many reasons why a person might express a philanthropic spirit, it is clear that purpose is what drives black fraternity men. They connect on a number of levels with the missions of their organizations. Isaac Fraisier, an Omega Psi Phi brother for fifty-plus years, says his fraternity encourages him to "produce a better society where there are more and better young people being prepared to become leaders. It's an inward feeling that I get when I'm helping Omega to be the best. You are a servant of the community."[99] Fraisier has been a dues-paying member since he was initiated in 1949 on the campus of Claflin College. Born in 1925, he is currently a very active member of Nu Alpha Graduate Chapter in Charleston, South Carolina.

Iota Phi Theta member Scott Seward remarks, "My inspiration to serve comes from the knowledge that somebody will be better educated or better prepared in life because of my efforts and the efforts of my brothers. There is no other reason why I do this than the promotion and positive movement of the black race."[100] Seward was initiated at West Chester University in Pennsylvania in 2001 and is thirty years old. He is a member of the Chi Omega Chapter in Philadelphia.

Although the black church has often been cited as a reason for participating in philanthropic activities, some members do not understand this notion. According to Seward, "I am a Christian. I don't believe there is a spiritual influence in this work. Some of the [philosophies] connect with my fraternity's ideals, but I don't confuse them. We have partnered with churches and faith-based organizations on several occasions. It helps promote our brothers' work to people we wouldn't connect with through our other events and community service efforts." On the campuses of black colleges and universities, religion was a strong influence in the development of a service orientation. According to Fraisier, "Claflin was supported by the Methodist Church. The president demanded that everyone put on clean shirts and pants, and line up to go to church every Sunday. We marched with the Deltas to the church. Service wasn't a hard thing for me to do because of my background. It was a demanding sort of thing at Claflin."[101]

Since pledging was officially abolished in 1990, the fraternities have put service at the core of their process to initiate new members.[102] In all cases, "aspirants" are required to design and implement a community service project or program during the orientation period. Some believe that membership intake does not instill philanthropic values, but others disagree. "After some members pay for membership and use up their advanced payment, they don't come around anymore, and are not to be counted on to give time and money" said Fraisier. He continued, "It depends on brothers that sponsor new members to help them embrace that promotion [philanthropy]." Seward has a different point of view: "When service projects are properly implemented, intakes get to see that philanthropy is second nature for a brother. When they're done improperly, it has a negative effect and intakes see service as a chore. I believe engaging intakes in the service project or fund-raising development process helps him to better understand that this is our fraternity’s primary purpose, and it’s what's most important to the brotherhood." According to Seward, "Tradition goes hand in hand with philanthropy."[103] Each fraternity prides itself on what it has done to serve others. Service is their raison d'etre. Each of their creation stories points to a void that was present in their communities and the steps they took to improve themselves and society. Tradition is a powerful influence in the black fraternity, especially among the more senior members.

In addition to the imperatives to give, there are certainly factors that have a negative impact on giving. Membership fees and dues at the chapter and national levels have the potential to dampen the philanthropic spirit. "Even though it's sad to say, membership fees, local and national dues, and convention costs have a negative effect on the willingness and ability of a member to donate money to scholarship causes," Seward observed. Established members are more likely to make direct donations to scholarship funds. These members are typically alumni who have achieved a modicum of success in their careers. Fraisier points to economic reality when he says: "Young people in the fraternity are still in debt after graduating from college. They have small children, mortgages, etc. That situation has a negative effect on their ability to give time and money, but sometimes they manage to do it. More established alumni brothers are different altogether."[104] Socioeconomic background, lifestyle, living arrangements, and even hobbies are all factors in a fraternity member s ability and willingness to participate in his organization. There are many more reasons that push and pull these men to give up the things that matter to them to help others.

It is evident that BGLOs play an intensely significant role in American philanthropy, specifically in the lives of African Americans. As demonstrated, in formal and informal ways, black sororities and fraternities have worked to serve and shape their local, regional, and national communities. Too often, the work of these organizations has been overlooked by historians and scholars with little access to organizational papers and key stakeholders. As noted, this is often due to the secretive nature of these organizations. However, through the scholarship of insiders and those who are willing to invest the time, a rich, wonderful story of love of humankind can be told. Telling this story is essential to establishing the relevance of BGLOs, especially in light of recent criticism surrounding hazing issues. The African American community and the general public need to be made aware of the multilayered, complex history and operation of BGLOs in order to have a more informed understanding of their contributions to society.

Excerpt from Black Greek-Letter Organizations in the 21st Century
edited by Gregory S. Parks. University Press of Kentucky, 2008. p.197-209.


70. Charles H. Wesley, The History of Alpha Phi Alpha: A Development in College Life (Baltimore: Foundation Publishers, 1996), 15.
71. Brown et al., African American Fraternities and Sororities.
72. Ibid.; Herman Dreer, The History of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity: A Brotherhood of Negro College Men, 1911-1939 (Washington, D.C.: Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, 1940); W. S. Savage and L. D. Reddick, Our Cause Speeds On: An Informal History of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity (Atlanta: Fuller Press, 1957); John Slade, The Centaur Rising: Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.: Ascending to the Next Millennium (Washington, D.C.: Nations
Capital Publishers, 1999).
73. McKenzie, "Community Service and Social Action”.
74. John Hope Franklin and Alfred Moss, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994).
75. Brown et al., African American Fraternities and Sororities; Walter Kimbrough, Black Greek 101: The Culture, Customs, and Challenges of Black Fraternities and Sororities (Teaneck, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003).
76. Iota Phi Theta Web site, (accessed April 9, 2006).
77. Go-to-High-School, Go-to-College curriculum guide, (accessed April 8, 2006).
78. Wesley, History of Alpha Phi Alpha.
79. Ross, The Divine Nine.
80. Dreer, History of Omega Psi Phi. a .
81. Phi Beta Sigma national Web site, (accessed 27 April 2006).
82. Welton Scott, History of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity (Savannah, Ga.: Savannah State College, 1970).
83. Ibid.; Phi Beta Sigma Web site,
84. Phi Beta Sigma Web site,
85. Ibid.
86. McKenzie, "Community Service and Social Action."
87. Wesley, History of Alpha Phi Alpha.
88. Alpha Phi Alpha Web site, (accessed 30 April 2006).
89. Omega Psi Phi Web site, (accessed 30 April 2006).
90. Ibid.; Dreer, History of Omega Psi Phi; Robert Gill, The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and the Men Who Make Its History (Washington, D.C.: Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, 1940).
91. Centers for Disease Control, (accessed 30 April 2006).
92. Savage and Reddick, Our Cause Speeds On.
93. Scott Seward, written response to survey questions.
94. March of Dimes corporate Web site, (accessed 29 April 2006).
95. Iota Phi Theta Web site,
96. Alpha Phi Alpha Web site,
97. Gill, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity; Omega Psi Phi Web site,
98. Omega Psi Phi Web site,
99. Isaac Fraisier, telephone interview with Mark Barnes, 9 March 2006.
100. Seward, written response to survey questions.
101. Ibid.; Fraisier interview.
102. Brown et al., African American Fraternities and Sororities.
103. Fraisier interview; Scott Seward, interview with Mark Barnes, 9 March 2006.
104. Seward interview; Fraisier interview.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Modern Fraternities, Ancient Origins

by Charles S. Finch III

They are the remnants of ancient and traditional institutions for initiation and rites of passage, archetypal portals erected by ancient cultures. The passwords, secret knowledge, symbols, peer group bonds, and lifelong relationships of mutual support all reflect sociocultural institutions whose origins are discernible in the dim mists of antiquity. Fraternities, moreover, are distantly related to Masonic organizations, which consciously stress their role as the inheritors and keepers of ancient and secret knowledge. The archetypal drives that Western society has so diligently endeavored to de-energize and delete from modern 'culture are as strong as ever and still impel men to find an outlet for them in venues of reenacted initiation, ritual, symbol, and myth. The persistence of organizations like fraternities responds to our deepest and most ineradicable imperatives.

The hazing that is so characteristic of modern fraternities—and so tenaciously persistent—is but a simulacrum of the manhood trials emblematic of the rites of passage among traditional peoples in Africa, America, Asia, and the South Pacific. The physical trials in these tribal manhood rites involved, among other things, ritualized pain, deprivation, and suffering, often severe enough to lead to death. These initiation rites were designed to test and train young males for the rigors and responsibilities of manhood; indeed, the initiate was, in effect, undergoing a metaphorical and mythical "death" of his old child-self so that, through these trials, he could be "reborn" as a true man. Modern hazing—whether in fraternities, the military, or sports teams—is impelled by the same deep-seated, if unacknowledged, motives. However, fraternity hazing lacks the serious purpose of tribal manhood initiation; the life and sustainability of the tribe depended on producing strong, capable, resourceful men ready to give their lives to the service of family, clan, and community. In the tribal setting, boys became men without passing through adolescence. Put another way, adolescence was compressed into the two- to three-month period of the rite of passage. The extended teenage angst so characteristic of modern society—with its often destructive self-indulgence and rebellion—simply did not exist. There was no place for it; ancient and traditional societies did not have the luxury or the inclination to support it.

It can therefore be said that the roots of the modern fraternity can be traced to two related processes: the initiation into special occult or spiritual knowledge, and the rite of passage of manhood training. In traditional society, one could not be a full and participating member without initiation. In effect, everyone was initiated at some basic level. One could hardly consider oneself a real person without knowing where one belonged and what one's place in life was. Perhaps that is the reason that even today, there is a mild, detectable, but usually unexpressed disdain among fraternity members for those not in fraternities or those not "properly" initiated.

Excerpt from Black Greek-Letter Organizations in the 21st Century
Edited by Gregory S. Parks. University Press of Kentucky, 2008. p.367

Your NAACP membership is needed !!!

Please consider becoming or renewing your membership in the NAACP this week. Your NAACP membership is more than a contribution. You are joining the team that has been on the forefront of civil and human rights battles for more than one hundred years.

Since 1909, the NAACP has been supported by countless members and have led the fight for freedom, justice and equality. Members forge a better future each and every day for men, women and children. NAACP membership makes a positive difference in the lives of Americans, and provides an opportunity to become an important part of a network of hundreds of thousands of advocates across the country affectionately known as “members.”

A stronger NAACP with a larger, more active membership is the best hope for protecting freedom and advancing our gains!

2011 College & Financial Aid Guide for AB540 Undocumented Immigrant Students

This is a helpful guide and contains useful information to assist high school students without a social security number (AB540 Undocument Immigrant Students). Please share.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Jobs Cri.sis

by James Surowiecki

The recession has been over for more than a year now, but so many people are out of work that it doesn't feel like much of a recovery. In November, the economy added just thirty-nine thousand jobs. The failure to translate G.D.P. growth into job growth has given us an unemployment rate that remains near ten per cent (twice what it was in 2007), and has swelled the ranks of the long term unemployed.

Why have new jobs been so hard to come by? One view blames cyclical economic factors: at times when everyone is cautious about spending, companies are slow to expand capacity and take on more workers. But another, more skeptical account has emerged, which argues that a big part of the problem is a mismatch between the jobs that are available and the skills that people have. According to this view, many of the jobs that existed before the recession (in home building, for example) are gone for good, and the people who held those jobs don't have the skills needed to work in other fields. A big chunk of current unemployment, the argument goes, is therefore structural, not cyclical: resurgent demand won't make it go away.

Though this may sound like an academic argument, its consequences are all too real. If the problem is a lack of demand, policies that boost demand fiscal stimulus, aggressive monetary policy- will help. But if unemployment is mainly structural there's little we can do about it: we just need to wait for the market to sort things out, which is going to take a while.

The structural argument sounds plausible: it fits our sense that there's a price to be paid for the excesses of the past decade; that the U.S. economy was profoundly out of whack before the recession hit; and that we need major changes in the kind of work people do. But there's surprisingly little evidence for it. If the problems with the job market really were structural, you'd expect job losses to be heavily concentrated in a few industries, the ones that are disappearing as a result of the bursting of the bubble. And if there were industries that were having trouble finding enough qualified workers, you'd expect them to have lots of job vacancies, and to be paying their existing workers more and working them longer hours.

As it happens, you don't see any of those things. Instead, jobs have been lost and hiring is slow almost across the board. Payrolls were slashed by five per cent or more not just in the bubble categories of construction and finance but also in manufacturing, retail, wholesale, transportation, and information technology. And take hiring: one of the industries that have been most cautious is the hotel and leisure business. Needless to say, there's no shortage of people with the skills to be maids or waiters; there just isn't enough work. Another sure sign of weak demand is that people with jobs aren't deluged with overtime; hours worked have barely budged in the past year.

Believers in the structural argument refer to something called the Beveridge Curve, which measures the historical relationship between job vacancies and unemployment. They argue that the curve currently shows more job openings than there should be, given the current unemployment rate-implying that businesses are having a hard time finding qualified workers. But a careful analysis of Beveridge Curve data by two economists at the Cleveland Federal Reserve shows that it's behaving much the way it has in previous recessions: there are as few job vacancies as you'd expect, given how desperate people are for work. The percentage of small businesses with so-called "hard-to-fill" job vacancies is near a twenty-five-year low, and open jobs are being filled quickly. And one recent study showed that companies' "recruiting intensity" has dropped sharply, probably because the fall-off in demand means that they don't have a pressing need for new workers.

Don't expect the structural argument to go away, though. It's a perennial: nearly every recession leads pundits to proclaim that the job market is facing structural challenges, and that higher unemployment is here to stay. During the 1981-82 recession, now seen as a classic cyclical recession, the economist Barry Bluestone warned that, as a result of structural issues, there might not be "much recovery in terms of overall employment in the United States." Yet, by 1984, unemployment was back to where it had been before recession hit. A 1964 survey of economists found that more than half believed structural issues were playing a significant role in limiting the number of jobs; three years later, unemployment was below four per cent. And, during the Great Depression, even F.D.R. thought that unemployment might well be stuck at a permanently higher level. Recessions are, among other things, crises of confidence, and one manifestation of lack of confidence is the conviction that this time we're not going to be able to climb our way out.

Structural issues aren't irrelevant, of course; there are certainly plenty of construction workers who are going to have start plying a new trade. But what defined the recent recession was the biggest decline in consumption and investment since the Depression. Dealing with that is the place to start if we want to do something about unemployment. The structural argument makes government action seem irrelevant. But if we don't do more to get the economy back up to speed, it won't be because stimulating demand won't work. It will be because we've chosen not to do it. If we can't find the way, it's because we don't have the will.

THE NEW YORKER - 3 January 2011 - page 23