Jeff Smith Offers His Hometown Recovering Pol Perspective on Ferguson

Tomorrow, our very own contributing RP Jeff Smith will be appearing on MSNBC’s “The Cycle” to discuss the tragic situation in Ferguson, Missouri, from his unique perspective as a social scientist who represented the St. Louis region in the Missouri legislature.

Jeff has already emerged as the go-to guy for many national news sources on the continuing crisis.

This morning, the New York Times published his op-ed, “In Ferguson, Black Town, White Power” which answers the perplexing question as to why it appears that a majority African-American population is being governed by mostly white authorities. Here’s an excerpt:

POLITICS, wrote the political scientist Harold Lasswell in 1936, is about “who gets what, when, and how.” If you want to understand the racial power disparities we’ve seen in Ferguson, Mo., understand that it’s not only about black and white. It’s about green.

Back in 1876, the city of St. Louis made a fateful decision. Tired of providing services to the outlying areas, the city cordoned itself off, separating from St. Louis County. It’s a decision the city came to regret. Most Rust Belt cities have bled population since the 1960s, but few have been as badly damaged as St. Louis City, which since 1970 has lost almost as much of its population as Detroit.

This exodus has left a ring of mostly middle-class suburbs around an urban core plagued by entrenched poverty. White flight from the city mostly ended in the 1980s; since then, blacks have left the inner city for suburbs such as Ferguson in the area of St. Louis County known as North County.

Ferguson’s demographics have shifted rapidly: in 1990, it was 74 percent white and 25 percent black; in 2000, 52 percent black and 45 percent white; by 2010, 67 percent black and 29 percent white.

The region’s fragmentation isn’t limited to the odd case of a city shedding its county. St. Louis County contains 90 municipalities, most with their own city hall and police force. Many rely on revenue generated from traffic tickets and related fines. According to a study by the St. Louis nonprofit Better Together, Ferguson receives nearly one-quarter of its revenue from court fees; for some surrounding towns it approaches 50 percent.

Click here for the full piece.

Last week, Jeff wrote an influential piece for The New Republic, “You Can’t Understand Ferguson Without First Understanding These Three Things.”  Here’s an excerpt:

You can’t really understand Fergusonthe now-famous St. Louis suburb with a long history of white people sometimes maliciously, sometimes not, imposing their will on black people’s livesunless you understand Kinloch.

Kinloch, the oldest black town in Missouri, is now essentially a ghost town, but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, it thrived for nearly a century after its founding in the 1890s. Back then, restrictive housing covenants prohibited the direct sale of property to blacks, so a white real estate firm purchased parcels of land, marked them up over 100 percent, and resold them to blacks.” One advertisement noted, “The good colored people of South Kinloch Park have built themselves a little city of which they have a right to be proud. More than a hundred homes, three churches and a splendid public school have been built in a few years.”

The turn of the century was a heady time for the bustling little town. The Wright Brothers visited Kinloch Airfield in one of their earliest tours, and the airfield hosted an event at which Theodore Roosevelt took the maiden presidential airplane flight, which lasted approximately three minutes. Kinloch Airfield was home to the first control tower, the first aerial photo, and the first airmail shipped by a young pilot named Charles Lindbergh. A streetcar line ran through Ferguson, helping Kinloch residents travel to jobs throughout the region, and perhaps more importantly, exposing many whites to Kinloch as they passed through. Despite the region’s decidedly Southern folkways and segregated housing arrangements, blacks and whites rode the streetcars as equals. Kinloch itself was also notable for its relative enlightenment; despite school segregation, it became the first Missouri community to elect a black man to its school board.

All that began to change in 1938. A second black man sought election to the school board in the district which had a narrow black majoritywhites inhabited the north and blacks the southand whites responded by attempting to split the school district. It failed: 415 blacks in the south voted unanimously against the effort, while 215 whites in the north all supported it. So to get around the small problem of losing democratically, whites in the northern half of Kinloch immediately formed a new municipality called Berkeley, and a rare Missouri effort at integrated governance ended. Kinloch continued to thrive for the next several decades as a small nearly all-black town of churches, shops, community centers, and tidy homes.

In the 1980s, the airportlong since been renamed Lambert International Airportbegan snatching up property to build an additional runway. From 1990 to 2000, Kinloch shed over 80 percent of its population, and as the community fabric frayed, it was increasingly plagued by crime and disorder.

Construction on airport expansion, which cost well over a billion dollars and involved 550 companies, began in 2001. Unfortunately, two other things happened that year: American Airlines bought TWA, and 9/11. Which means that the airport is dramatically underutilized now; a senior airport official told me Lambert could easily handle twice the traffic it currently gets.

Meanwhile, many of the residents displaced by this wasteful construction project have ended up in Fergusonspecifically, in Canfield Green, the apartment complex on whose grounds Michael Brown tragically died.

Click here for the full piece.

Jeff has also been burning up the Twitter feed (@JeffSmithMO) with his brilliant perspective on each day’s events.  Click here to read a “Storify” of his last few days of tweeting.

JeffSmithMO Tweets on Ferguson

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: A Final Worthy Act

jyb_musingsThere is nothing noble about how Phillip Seymour Hoffman died. Nothing courageous; nothing thoughtful; nothing exemplifying caring for those who relied on him. And there was plenty to suggest deep pain, deceit, secrecy, and recklessness—all flowing effortlessly from a piercing drug addiction.

Professionally, Hoffman left an extraordinary legacy of achievement. But in his personal life, his legacy to his children was cut brutally and inexplicably short. Yet his will, leaving direction but limited resources to his three children showed, in my opinion, that he loved his children devotedly and cared deeply and thoughtfully about their well-being.

And proved again that love is better measured in time and thoughtfulness than dollars and cents.

One can hope, ironically, that this legacy Phillip Seymour Hoffman left to his children in death, may help in some important way to protect the children he loved from meeting the same tragic end that Hoffman himself did.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Great Opportunity!

jyb_musingsIf you are interested in splitting $8.2M with John Robart, ESQ, please go for it. (See below)

I just received this really nice email from Mr Robart, ESQ, even though we have never met. He is offering me a lump sum of $4.1M in money that he has access to in Benin, wherever that is.

Unfortunately for me, I have conflicts next week due to several business meetings and a dentist appointment I have already rescheduled twice –so next week is just a terrible week for me to try to get to Benin to help with this otherwise brilliant plan.

However, if anyone who knows me is available for a few days next week, this sounds like a great opportunity to pick up several million extra dollars without a lot of effort. (Note: There is a great budget airline out of Lexington, KY called Allegiant that has really reasonable fares and, for all I know, may even have a direct flight to Benin. It’s worth checking out.)

Thanks, John

(P.S. I do ask for a 10% finders fee from anyone who takes me up on this offer I received. And by the way, that will still leave you with over 50% because I negotiated with Mr Robart that if I agreed to help —either directly or through someone I find for him—we split the money 60%-40% in my favor rather than 50-50. Since 10% off the top of our 60% take is only 6%, that leaves my partner with 54% of $4.1M —or $2,214,00. Not a bad deal when you think it through with the extra bump I negotiated in for us)

The email letter I received is posted below. Thanks!

“BARRISTER JOHN ROBART ESQ
250 Porto-novo road republic du Benin

Dear John Y Brown III,
I am barrister John Robart personal attorney at law to late engineer Mr.Alaman Brown , a national of your country who was working as a militry engineer in calavi army barrack (CAB) republic of Benin, on the 20th of July 2008 my client Mr. Alamen and his family died in a fatal car accident along Benin to lome express way leaving the sum of $ 8.2million us dollar in African Development Bank republic of Benin since 2008 I have made several effort to locate any member of Mr. Alamen but all my effort seems to no avail

The Bank have informed me to provide his next of kin or the money will be confiscated since I was on able to locate his family member so I decided to track his last name in the internet that is why I have contacted you to present you to the Bank as my client Mr. Alamen next of kin since you bear the same last name with him so that the Bank will transfer the money into your Bank account and both of us will shear it 50% for you and 50% for me, I will provide every document that can protect you from any breach of the law all I want from you is your co operation and prompt responds to enable us see this deal true.

Contact me via my private email: b_robart@barid.com
Best Regards.
Barrister John Robart Esq.”

Carlton Weddington: Living with a Serial Killer

carlton weddington

Our newest contributing RP, former Ohio State Representative Carlton Weddington, is currently serving a three-year sentence at the Allen Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio for charges of bribery, election falsification and filing a false financial disclosure statement.  

Read his full bio here.

Read part one of “The Caged Bird Sings

Here’s Part Two:

Columbus seems to be unfortunately well represented in protective custody (PC), but fortunately, very few people recognized or know who I am.

I am a little surprised that so many know very little about politics or government. Cleveland and Cincinnati also are represented, and the neighborhood, side of town, or project you came from will dictate what kind of reception you receive from others.

Association with a gang is prevalent as well: The Aryan Brotherhood (AB) dominates among white inmates and Heartless Felons among black inmates — Gangsters’ Disciples, Bloods, and Crips also are represented. Religious affiliation provides some with a sense of protection if they are Muslim. If merely housing men who have broken the law is all that is desired of Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC), they have met the standard. These men, if they get out, will return home with no more education, programming or sense of purpose than when they arrived, and those that remain within the system are destined for a life’s experience of mental, physical and social ills that ODRC is not equipped to handle.


Never in a million years did I think I would be sitting behinds bars in a state prison interacting with some of Ohio’s notorious high profile murders, rapists, pedophiles, drug dealers, robbers, drug addicts, gang members, and snitches; but in 2012, that became a reality. A who’s who of individuals that you heard about on the news, read about in the papers or that T.V shows did reports about; they all seemed to have ended up in A.O.C.I. in protective custody.

Almost two years later — these same men who if I were told I would have to be confined with for more than 2 minutes, let alone 2 years, I might have taken my own life in fear that whatever heinous act that got them here — I might meet the same fate, but now I have no fear of. In fact, mostly I feel sorry for them because my mental strength and education out-matches whatever means they used to victimize others on the outside.

Read former State Senator Jeff Smith’s powerful story of sex, lies and love behind bars.

Most inmates I encountered abandoned the difficult path of study, self discipline, and rehabilitation for the instant gratification of prison life that leads to the perpetuation of the street life that brought them here. In PC alone, my first year in East 2 Block (where they house us are called blocks), I lived among “The Angel of Death”, “The Handcuff Rapist”, The 1-75 Murderer”, Matt Hoffman who murdered a family and stuffed them in a tree, and since then in West 2, “The Highway Shooter” and T.J. Lane “The School Shooter”.

Weddington and Harvey

Weddington and Harvey

For 6-plus months I celled with one of America’s most notorious serial killers — although now in his early 60′s this soft spoken, openly gay and unassuming man was once know as the “Angel of Death”. Donald Harvey still scares many of PC’s other inmates even though he’s a stroke survivor, and he moves a little slower than usual. His resume proceeds him, even after serving 25 years of a life sentence for murders associated with his work as an employed medical assistant at the local VA and hospitals in Northern Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Read the rest of…
Carlton Weddington: Living with a Serial Killer

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Has this Ever Happened to You?

10440762_10154361866075515_5869913408984617896_nHas this ever happened to you?

“Unbelievable!” is all you can say.

You walk out of a coffee shop back to your car and notice a new and severe crack down the rear right side that wasn’t there when you parked. You utter in frustration, “Oh man! How did this happen?” startling a women walking in with heels so high the break in concentration almost causes here to fall.

Not wanting to cause any injuries you stop talking out loud to yourself as your mind starts racing about how much this is going to cost you to fix and how unfair it is since you just got your car fixed less than a month ago for something else that wasn’t your fault (even though it really was your fault).

jyb_musingsAnd then you realize your car is actually in the space behind the car you are fixated on and is just as you left it 20 minutes earlier.

And you pull out feeling the universe is, after all, a pretty fair place. And like you got your first good break of the day already and it’s not even 730am.

 

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Suboxone

jyb_musingsKudos to Laura Ungar of the Courier-Journal for her clear-eyed, bold and much needed investigative piece on Suboxone. It isn’t critical as much as asks (and attempts to answer) sobering questions after the much heralded anti-addiction drug has now had time to demonstrate if it has been as effective as it’s early champions heralded it would be.

Four years ago, I agreed to disagree with several doctors –in a discussion that turned contentious at times– that Suboxone, alone, was all many addicts needed to overcome their drug addiction.

The doctors, well-meaning but short sighted, in my view, insisted on the above position and dismissed my skepticism because I wasn’t a trained medical expert.

That is a tough position to be in if you are trying to convince someone of your opinion who is a “trained medical expert.” So I backed away without backing down entirely.

I don’t have medical training and they each did. They knew and cited studies and treatment outcome data. All I had is that in my experience people, including doctors, who felt supremely confident in themselves in successfully treating the deeply mysterious and heart wrenching disease of addiction, eventually had their over-confidence displaced by humility.

I wish that weren’t the case and that there were a kind of “magic pill” to fix an addiction to other kinds of “magic pills.” But it’s not that easy. As I said then, and still believe, some medications may serve the equivalent role of “water wings” to someone trying to beat addiction–help them float while they are trying to learn to swim. But water wings, by themselves, are only a tool, and a limited one at that. Especially if you are trying to learn to swim and they are the only thing between you and drowning.

 

A Caged Pol Sings — Former State Rep. Carlton Weddington Reports from Behind Bars on Sex, Violence and Survival

carlton weddington

 

Our newest contributing RP, former Ohio State Representative Carlton Weddington, is currently serving a three-year sentence at the Allen Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio for charges of bribery, election falsification and filing a false financial disclosure statement.  

Read his full bio here.

Here’s his report from behind bars:

===

It is still early yet, but I feel like I can survive at least two years without any major problems or issues. Arguably my biggest challenge to date is that some of the inmates being held in Protective Control (PC) just don’t give a fuck.

This is business as usual for the career inmates, and they are the ones that make the time hard to do. We will see what happens.

The politics of PC is dramatic and intense — inmates continually jockeying for positions of power. Extortion, gambling, drinking, smoking and sexual favors are the strategic norms used without thought or question. On a daily basis, I witness the constant chatter and sidebar conversations that take place about the next play, hustle or shot to be taken. It is an ultra-surreal, action-packed story of mini-tragedies within themselves.


Guys are anxious to find compatible cellmates since they have begun to implement a more “strict” tier system. A few have already asked to cell with me without even asking me, but going directly to the case manager or unit manager. Luckily, both managers are sharing with me who is asking and showing me some respect because of my status and former position as a state legislator. The bold ones just ask me directly; some are cool, but that doesn’t mean I want to cell with them.

I remember one inmate saying: “Yo man, I put in a kite to cell witchu cause I know you ain’t gawn be no trouble.”

I was quick to say: “I don’t think I am going to have a cellmate, but thanks anyway.”

I am having a hard time grasping the fact that many of the inmates are living double lives on the low. Other inmates call them ‘homo thugs.”

I was shocked when I heard a gang member openly tell one of his horrifying tales:  “Yo, I fucked his boy, he ain’t shit! …” was all I can really remember, but that was all I needed to know. Not only was he a gang hit man, but he spoke of his assaults on another inmate as a badge of honor. Big, bad and ready to “fuck or fight”!

For whatever reason, this mentality is a prison norm, with many of these same men having girlfriends, wives, and children on the street. I’m lobbying hard to stay in a cell by myself until I can figure this shit out and get my bearings together.

Read former State Senator Jeff Smith’s powerful story of sex, lies and love behind bars.

Unfortunately, a majority of the inmates in this unit are serving long sentences, and quite a few have life — some have even returned for their 3rd, 4th and 5th times. The mentalities of these men are unbelievable and distorted; their reality is clouded from the lack of outside contact and communication. The world is constantly changing and evolving without them; these men who are stuck in a warped, retarding environment that threatens to further sicken their ill hearts and minds through violence and other vices. Even though I am considered a “short timer” with a foreseeable outdate — back to reality of the chaos of the outside world unscathed, jaded and abused — I still must walk a fine line.

Prison_bars_Wallpaper_4a34tAn inmate from my city calls me “lil Barack o’Drama.” He would say, “You ain’t no politician no more, you’s a criminal.”  It didn’t bother me as much as when another inmate said, “Nigga, you think you betta than us but you in here wit us now!”

It was true that I had a college degree, wrote legislation that impacted 11.9 million people in the State of Ohio, and traveled the world; but the perception that I thought I was better than them was hard for me to handle. I considered myself the staunch advocate for the underdog, less fortunate, and minorities, even amid the inmates being housed in the facility.

To keep safe of any ill feelings someone might have of me, I would tell inmates who asked what I did for a living: “I was a low level analyst.” It worked for awhile, until word got around that I was more than I claimed to be. My name appeared on the letterhead of a response letter from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee that several inmates had received — not to mention that it was stapled to the information boards in all the housing blocks. I immediately asked that it be removed and updated.

Read the rest of…
A Caged Pol Sings — Former State Rep. Carlton Weddington Reports from Behind Bars on Sex, Violence and Survival

Lauren Mayer: How To Make A Video Go Viral (Without Kittens)

I’ve used my teenage son’s line before here, about how ‘over 100 views is viral for old people.’ (Yes, I am shameless about using my kids’ comments for comedic purposes.  And actually, they really like it – I do a whole routine about their reactions to learning the facts of life, which you’d think would be humiliating, but for a generation raised on Family Guy and The Daily Show, any kind of reference is apparently a good thing!  But I digress . . . )

I do what I can to increase my views – I am now on Twitter (where I have tens of followers), and I send out email links, contribute content to Facebook groups, etc.  I’ve even considered adding footage of our very adorable dog (who looks like the live action model for Tramp, from Lady And The Tramp), but it turns out, all I have to do is mention gun control.  Suddenly, I’m a youTube sensation!

Of course, fame has its drawbacks – in my case, it’s dozens of really mean comments, disparaging my intelligence, my politics, my attractiveness and my singing.  But it’s hard to take these kinds of insults seriously when they’re often so badly spelled, it makes my teenagers’ texts look positively erudite.  And in any case, these anti-fans are still making my video go old-people-viral, and in the words one could imagine being tweeted by Kim Kardashian, “like, the only bad publicity is like not having any, like right?”

Miller v. Gore — The RP to Sue to former Vice President for Copyright Infringement

goreandjm

 

 

 

 

 

 

From yesterday’s Politico:

PM: There’s a million different ways to ask you the  2016 question. If Hillary [Clinton] doesn’t run, would you even consider it at  that point in time?

AG: You say you can ask the question a million ways.  I’m going to only answer it one way. With apologies, I’m sure you’ve heard this  answer before. I am a recovering politician. And the longer I avoid a relapse  the more confidence that I will not succumb to the temptation to run yet again.  But I’m a recovering politician. I’ll just leave it at that.

Anyone know a good copyright infringment attorney?

UPDATE:

It turns out Gore has been using this line a lot — even as early as 2002, 9 years before I started this Web site. From National Journal:

If politics is an addiction, Al Gore is still suffering.

It’s been well over a decade since he ran for president, but the former vice president still hasn’t managed to kick his political habit.

“I am a recovering politician,” he said in an interview with Politico Magazine, “And the longer I avoid a relapse, the more confidence I have that I will not succumb to the temptation to run yet again. But I’m a recovering politician. I’ll just leave it at that.”

If the answer sounds familiar, that might be because he’s been saying it since at least 2002, when he used that language with a crowd in Mexico City.

“I am Al Gore. I use to be the next president of United States of America,” he told listeners during a speech focused on free trade at Ibero-American University. “I’m a recovering politician.”

In 2006, the rhetoric surfaced again when, after a special screening of An Inconvenient Truth, someone asked him imploringly if he’d run for president again.

“I’m a recovering politician, on Step 9,” he said. “Thank you for your sentiment.”

That was eight years ago. Fast-forward to 2011, and there’s this: “I consider myself a recovering politician.” Fast-forward some more, and there’s this: “I’m a recovering politician, on about Step 9.” (That last quote was from a 2013 event hosted on Capitol Hill by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, and I remember it, perhaps, because I was there.)

If politics is an addiction, Al Gore is still in rehab. And withdrawal, like his talking points, lasts a lifetime.

 

 

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