- Created on 07 April 2013
William Leonard Roberts II is a clown. He’s a clown who has made a very good living pretending to be a notorious international drug dealer surrounded by guns, henchmen, champagne and women. He is the prime example of just how unreal hip hop has become.
The stories Roberts tells under his rap moniker Rick Ross are likely true stories about Rick Ross. They are not, however, stories about William Leonard Roberts. Roberts is a fake, a phony, an imposter. He began his career rapping in the first person about hustling, murder and a multi-million dollar, crime-fueled lifestyle that he saw on television.
Not only has he stolen another man’s name and life, but his raps push lies to Black children about how great it is to be a murderous drug dealer. Rappers have long ceased being role models in their rhymes, but one could at least ask for some authenticity and a bit of compunction.
The real Rick Ross, the one whose name Roberts stole (and is being sued for stealing), actually made millions of dollars working with Central American drug lords peddling crack cocaine to unsuspecting Black communities and spent 13 years in prison for it. He has been more than conciliatory about his actions and their deleterious effect on urban neighborhoods to this day.
The man who actually lived the life William Roberts raps about now spends his time working with communities to keep kids out of the streets and to dispel the notion that there’s anything glamorous about selling drugs.
The fake Rick Ross, the one who was really an Albany State football player and then a corrections officer during the time he raps about selling kilograms of cocaine and meeting with “the real Noreaga” who purportedly owes him “a hundred favors,” has made his money pushing a story of gangster make believe. But that was all fine and good, all part of the “rap game,” until his verse on the Rockie Fresh song “U.O.E.N.O.” (a cute way to say “you don’t even know”).
“Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it,” Ross rapped.
That stopped the presses. Because even though almost all the fake Rick Ross raps about is murder and profiteering from drug pushing, there’s still a line drawn at condoning rape.
You can rap about selling poison to children, murdering innocents and slapping prostitutes around all you want, but drugging a woman and raping her? That’s a bridge too far.
The fake Rick Ross has insisted that even though his lyrics have been “interpreted as rape” they really aren’t. This statement seems to come from two misunderstandings on his part.
The first is that it’s obvious the fake Rick Ross has no idea what molly is. The drug is the crystal form of pure MDMA, a substance typically found in Ecstasy, and is known for its ability to reduce inhibitions and provide feelings of euphoria. But it’s not a sedative, so dropping it in a woman’s drink wouldn’t help you “take her home and enjoy that” without her even knowing.
Second, he apparently doesn’t understand that enjoying a woman without her consent is rape.
Rather than apologize for what he said, he’s been playing defense all week, attempting to blame listeners for interpreting his lyric about rape as being about rape.
"There was a misunderstanding with a lyric, a misinterpretation where the term 'rape' wasn't used,” he told a New Orleans radio station last week. “I would never use the term 'rape,' you know, in my records. And as far as my camp, hip-hop don't condone that, the streets don't condone that, nobody condones that.
“I just wanted to reach out to all the queens that’s on my timeline, all the sexy ladies, the beautiful ladies that had been reaching out to me with the misunderstanding,” he continued. “We don’t condone rape and I’m not with that.”
Then he took to Twitter to apologize for the way others had interpreted what he said.
“I don’t condone rape. Apologies for the #lyric interpreted as rape. #BOSS,” Ross tweeted earlier this week. He followed that up by directing a tweet toward Reebok, the company he has a contract with, and women’s group UltraViolet writing, “Apologies to my many business partners, who would never promote violence against women.”
There was just a rape case in Steubenville, Ohio, that illustrated to all of the U.S. that even when a woman (or girl, in that case) intoxicates herself it is still illegal for a man to “enjoy that” without her knowledge or consent.
Steubenville football players Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond probably didn’t think they were condoning or committing rape when they took advantage of a girl who had passed out at a party. But they’re serving at least a year in juvenile hall now, nonetheless.
There’s a lesson from that case that William Leonard Roberts obviously missed and its one that his fans would do well to remember. Far too many folks have this idea that rape is only something that occurs in back alleys when a masked man grabs an unsuspecting woman and violently takes her against her will. Most rapes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows and often someone the victim trusts.
There was a time when it wasn’t cool in hip hop to sell drugs. There was a time in hip hop when it wasn’t cool to disrespect women. There was even a time in hip hop when it wasn’t cool to drink expensive champagne and live in the suburbs. Those days are gone now. I just hope we aren’t witnessing the end of the time when it’s not cool to rap about date rape.
- Created on 05 April 2013
In February, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which was the first bill President Clinton signed into law. President Obama hailed the law, as did current and former lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle. Indeed, it was a singular accomplishment for the nation – the first national law ever to help workers balance the dual demands of job and family.
That law is making a huge difference for the country.
Most directly, the FMLA allows about 60 percent of workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted or foster child, to recover from serious illness, or to help a close family member facing a serious health problem. When workers take leave under the FMLA, their health insurance continues and a job is waiting for them when they return.
In the 20 years since the FMLA became law, workers have used the law to take leave more than 100 million times.
The FMLA had indirect benefits, too, changing the culture by embedding in law that workers have family as well as job responsibilities. It helped create a climate in which work/family responsibilities became part of a national conversation. This has meant support for families from all communities, men as well as women, parents providing childcare as well as children providing eldercare.
It's made our workplaces more humane and family friendly.
In these times when there is so much rancor and so little consensus, it's important to keep in mind that passage of the FMLA did not come quickly or easily. It was a nine-year battle to get both houses of Congress to pass it at a time when we had a president who would sign it into law. It took an extraordinary coalition that included women's, civil rights, children's, health, labor, aging and other groups. The National Partnership led that coalition and the NAACP contributed mightily to its success. We proved that progress is possible, even in contentious times.
But for all we accomplished, it's important to remember that the FMLA was always intended to be the first step on the road to a family-friendly nation. And 20 years later, the country has not taken the next step. That's a real disappointment and a painful one, because workers in our communities are being cheated out of the policies they urgently need.
The good news is that a broad coalition continues to work for family friendly policies, because we recognize that the FMLA's unpaid leave is not sufficient to meet the needs of workers and families. Low-wage workers suffer the most. According to the Department of Labor's 2012 survey, most often workers who forgo leave do so because they can't afford to take leave without pay. That survey shows that, for every two workers of color who took FMLA leave, one needed leave but could not take it.
It's time – past time – to rectify that. The next step needs to be improving the law so it covers more workers who need to take leave for more reasons, and adopting a national paid leave insurance system that provides some wage replacement, so low-wage and part-time workers, too, can take family and medical leave when they need it most.
The country is ready. A bipartisan poll taken in November showed that, across all demographic lines, workers are struggling to balance their work and family responsibilities, and they want Congress and the president to consider new laws like paid family and medical leave insurance. African Americans, Latinos, women and young people — the very voters that decided the last election — felt strongest about the importance of congressional and presidential action: 77 percent of African Americans, 79 percent of Latinos, 69 percent of women and 68 percent of people under 30 considered it "very important."
They are right.
It's time to take the next step. In February, we celebrated. But now it's April, and 40 percent of the workforce still isn't covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, and tens of millions of workers, many of them low-wage, still can't afford to take the unpaid leave the law provides. When babies are born, illness strikes, or relatives need care, they either show up at work or risk losing their jobs.
We can do better. It's time to rededicate ourselves to this issue, deepen our resolve, make some noise, and demand that lawmakers take the next step. Making the nation more family friendly is the unfinished business of our time.
Shelton is Washington bureau director and senior vice president of policy and advocacy for the NAACP; Ness is president of the National Partnership for Women & Families.
- Created on 04 April 2013
Anna Brown, a St. Louis-based homeless woman, needed treatment for a sprained ankle. She went to three emergency rooms seeking treatment. In the third hospital, St. Mary’s Health Center, Brown was emphatic about needing care. Instead of being treated, she was arrested for trespassing, and died in a jail cell. Was she ill-treated because she was homeless? Black? Broke? All three? It really doesn’t matter. What matters is the hospital that failed to treat her may have contributed to her death.
Too many African Americans are treated in emergency rooms as criminals, not people in need of health services. After learning of the Anna Brown case, a sisterfriend shared that she had such an extreme anxiety attack that her 10-year-old son called 911. When she got to the emergency room (with health insurance, thank you), she was queried about her use of drugs and alcohol, not her health condition. It was only after her blood was tested that she was treated. So she spent four agonizing hours on a hospital bed with raspy breath, a frightened son, and no medical care.
She isn’t the only one who was mistreated. African American and Latino men with broken bones are less likely to get pain medication than others. Even children of color are less likely to receive painkillers than White children, because some physicians think they are faking the severity of their pain. When we look at health disparities and wonder why African Americans are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failures, breast cancer, AIDS and other diseases, one might point to the many ways that doctors, especially those in emergency rooms, signal that Black pain is not worth treating. The result is that someone who is really hurting chooses to forgo medical care instead of dealing with medical condescension and arrogance.
To our society’s shame, emergency rooms often become the health providers of last resort. Those without a regular physician are stuck going to an emergency room when all else fails. A cold becomes the flu and the flu becomes pneumonia and only when a patient is struggling for breath does she seek treatment in an emergency room. I can understand a doctor’s frustration because the patient did not deal with her challenges earlier. But well-paid emergency room doctors need to do their work without judgmental attitudes getting in their way.
Anna Brown deserved to be treated as a human being. She deserved to be treated as someone who was struggling with pain. Instead, she was treated as a criminal because she insisted on care. Thus, she was accused of trespassing, instead of being treated as someone who was hurting.
While many would describe our society as post-racial that is a specious and inaccurate description of the world in which we live. Racism muddies the water that we all swim in, and physicians are not exempted. Those who swim in muddy water reflect the muddy attitudes that are prevalent in our society. Many doctors consider themselves “culturally sensitive” but they have come to certain conclusions about poor folks, Black folks, and others that they treat. It is easier to write off a woman like Anna Brown than it is to find out what is really wrong with her.
The Hippocratic oath that physicians swear to says “first, do no harm.” From the facts that have been published about Anna Brown though, this homeless 29-year-old mother of two was harmed by a medical indifference that landed her in a jail cell instead of a hospital bed. The tragedy is that Anna Brown is not the only one who has been treated this way.
We have health disparities because people are treated differently in our health care system. We cannot talk about closing gaps without talking about the ways that medical attitudes shape the medical experience for those who are so underserved that they come to emergency rooms for help. While the jury is out on the ways that Obamacare will reform our health care system, the intent of health care reform is to eliminate tragedies like Anna Brown’s.
Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.
- Created on 04 April 2013
Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden -- From 9/11 to Abbottabad" and a director at the New America Foundation.
(CNN) -- On the evening of March 19, Tom Clements, the director of Colorado's prison system, was shot and killed when he answered the door of his home near Colorado Springs.
The slaying sparked a police chase that ended a few days later in Texas, with authorities finally killing the suspect, 28-year-old Evan Ebel, in a shootout. It was soon discovered that Ebel had been part of a violent white supremacist gang during the eight years he spent in Colorado prisons.
Clements was the latest victim of increasingly active violent right-wing extremists. While American politicians and the U.S. public continue to focus on the threat from jihadist extremists, there seems to be too little awareness that this domestic form of political violence is a growing problem at home.
From 2002 to 2007, only nine right-wing extremists were indicted for their roles in politically motivated murders and other types of violent assaults. But between 2008 and 2012, the number mushroomed to 53, according to data collected by the New America Foundation.
Fifteen right-wing extremists were indicted in 2012 -- including six who were involved in a militia in Georgia that accumulated weapons, plotted attacks on the government and murdered a young U.S. Army soldier and his 17-year-old girlfriend, who they suspected were planning to rat out the group to authorities. Seven claimed membership in the anti-government Sovereign Citizens movement and allegedly murdered two policemen in Louisiana. And two had gone on a murderous rampage the previous year, killing four people before they were arrested in California, where they told police they were on their "way to Sacramento to kill more Jews."
By comparison, in 2012, only six people who subscribed to al Qaeda's ideology were indicted on terrorism-related charges in the United States, confirming the trend of the past four years, which is a sharp decline in such cases that has been documented by the authors in previous pieces for CNN.com.
It's about time that politicians who are quick to talk about the threat posed by al Qaeda began paying attention to the shifting nature of the threats.
In comparing the two sources of domestic terrorism, it's striking that the jihadists charged with crimes were much less likely to have actually carried out a violent attack before they were arrested.
According to data gathered by the New America Foundation, 207 people motivated by al Qaeda's ideology of violence against American targets have been indicted in the U.S. on terrorism-related charges since 9/11. But only about 5% of those were indicted for their roles in violent incidents, whereas of the 139 right-wing militants indicted in the United States since 9/11, just under half had engaged in a violent attack before they were arrested.
The word "terrorism" is not often used in the charges leveled against these right-wing militants, simply because laws in the United States primarily define terrorism as the work of a designated foreign terrorist group.
But the New America data shows that domestic terrorists motivated by non-jihadist ideologies now pose a similar or even greater threat than those who admire al Qaeda. We define non-jihadist terrorists to be those who carry out or aspire to carry out acts of politically motivated violence, and who fall into the following categories: right-wing extremists who oppose the government, subscribe to a neo-Nazi ideology, or oppose homosexuality or abortion; left-wing extremists; violent animal rights activists; and violent environmental activists.
Over the past several years, acts or plots of non-jihadist terrorism have derived almost entirely from right-wing extremists like the soldiers' militia in Georgia and the anti-government group in Louisiana. Of the 54 non-jihadist terrorists indicted between 2010 and 2012, 47 were right-wing extremists.
Seven were leftists or animal rights extremists. For instance, three were participants in Occupy Chicago, a leftist political movement, and were indicted on terrorism charges last June for plotting to throw Molotov cocktails at President Barack Obama and other officials during a NATO summit in Chicago. Their lawyers say an undercover government agent had urged them to plot the attacks and build the firebombs.
Since 9/11, at least 29 people living in the United States have been killed by right-wing extremists, while 17 have been killed by jihadist extremists, the majority of whom died in one incident: the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Texas. Of course, this story would be much different if al Qaeda recruit Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab had detonated a bomb hidden in his underwear aboard Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009.
But it would also be much different if city workers hadn't spotted a suspicious backpack left on the route of a Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Spokane, Washington, in January 2011, in which white supremacist Kevin Harpham had hidden a bomb packed with fishing weights coated in rat poison. Or if police hadn't discovered a napalm bomb and several other live, wired explosives in the suburban Cleveland home of right-wing extremist Matthew Fairfield in April 2010.
And of all the people indicted on terrorism charges in the United States since 9/11, no jihadist suspect has ever acquired or attempted to acquire chemical, biological or radiological weapons, while at least 11 right- and left-wing terrorists either obtained such materials or made serious attempts to do so.
In 2003, federal agents discovered "nearly two pounds of a cyanide compound and other chemicals that could create enough poisonous gas to kill everyone inside a space as large as a big-chain bookstore or a small-town civic center" at the home of Judith Bruey and her husband, William Krar, according to an Associated Press report. Alongside the arsenal of chemical weapons were about 60 pipe bombs, several machine guns, remote-controlled bombs disguised as briefcases, and anti-Semitic, anti-black, and anti-government literature, the report said.
Although the feds had been tracking Bruey and Krar in the mid-90s, their case fell through the cracks when the events of 9/11 turned law enforcement's attention to jihadist terrorism. The couple was only found out when Krar tried to mail a package of counterfeit birth certificates to an anti-government militia member in New Jersey, but got the address wrong. That mistake resulted in a tip to local police.
A report from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point released in January found that, "In the last few years, and especially since 2007, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots originating from people and groups who self-identify with the far-right of American politics."
In a report that was much criticized at the time, the Department of Homeland Security predicted in 2009 that the nation's election the previous year of its first black president, along with a severe economic downturn that created disenchantment with the government among poorer populations, had the potential to radicalize greater numbers of right-wing terrorists. The same report warned that increasing numbers of returning military veterans as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down provided those on the far right with a vulnerable population to target for radicalization.
The New America Foundation data shows that about 20% of the right-wing extremists indicted since 9/11 had spent time in the military.
The New America data supports the Department of Homeland Security's assessment of the growing threat of right-wing extremist groups. American politicians and the public should become more aware of the fact that while the threat from al Qaeda-inspired terrorists is much diminished at home, the threat from right-wing militants continues to rise.
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David Sterman assisted with research for this report.
- Created on 04 April 2013
I was first introduced to the court proceeding called “probate” as a result of a frantic call I received soon after I began practicing law.
The caller, a real estate agent, was handling an escrow and found that the sale couldn’t be completed because the seller (his client) didn’t have title to the property. Unfortunately, the property in question was still in the name of the seller’s mother who had died several years earlier. Because the seller didn’t have title, the escrow couldn’t be completed, the real estate agent lost his commission, and the matter had to be taken to court before any further action could be taken with respect to the property.
Many people who have inherited real estate are surprised to learn that they must go through probate in order to legally transfer the property into their name. They usually learn of their need for probate only after they have decided to sell the property or borrow against it. When they find out that the average probate takes 15 months to complete, they are disappointed that their plans have to be put on hold. Then, when they find out what probate costs, they are shocked. For the average home in Los Angeles County, now valued at $350,000, probate costs can exceed $25,000!
Even those that are aware that they must go through probate put it off for various reasons — primarily the cost, time, and/or “hassle” involved in a court proceeding. However, procrastination can lead to unforeseen problems down the road. For example, a person who inherits a piece of property might think that the property is worth a certain amount and has made big plans for the future based on the anticipated inheritance. However, the individual may not be aware of creditors or other heirs that have a legitimate claim to the property until their claim is revealed through the probate process. In one case I know about, a person was sharing in the rental income from the property for years, but when the probate was completed it revealed that the person sharing in the rental income had no legal claim to the property at all.
When probate procrastination goes on for years, it becomes a huge problem to sort out the various interests in the property. Many of us have heard of instances where a family inherited property “down South” a long time ago, never went through probate and now there are so many relatives involved that it seems hopeless and not worth any one person’s time and effort to get the title issues resolved.
Of course the best solution to probate problems is to avoid probate altogether through a living trust. A forward-thinking property owner would do well to save his or her heirs the time, expense and “hassle” of probate. If, on the other hand, you are that unfortunate heir who is faced with probate, it is best do it sooner rather than later.