The Threat to Democracy

My friends, here we are on the eve of yet another Election Day. This Election Day, like many before it, has been touted by many as “the most important Election Day …” and guess what? Each claim has been correct in accordance to the condition of these United States of America at any particular moment in time. In fact, there were some elections that turned out to be “most important” in hindsight – each Presidential election this millennium has been extremely important.

I am reminded of the well-known experiment of the frog in the boiling pot of water: If you place the frog in boiling water, it will immediately and instinctively jump out as an obvious measure of self- preservation. Place the same frog in a pot of water and turn up the heat incrementally? The frog is boiled alive in the pot.

The heat of new voter suppression tactics became noticeable with the activity surrounding the election of 2000 and each subsequent election. In 2000 Florida’s “hanging chads” made it hot! In 2004? The denial of more than 5.3 MILLION Americans who had previous felony convictions made things a little hotter. In 2008? More than 98,000 registered Georgia voters were removed from the roll of eligible voters because of a computer mismatch … making things hotter still. And here we are, the heirs to democracy – on the eve of the 2012 Presidential Election – more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs; sweating profusely, insides boiling from the fire, barely able to breathe, hoping against hope that our impressive, albeit last ditch, exercise in early voting pays off.

Below you will find a letter from O. Patrick “Pat” Scott, the youngest member of the Baltimore’s famed Goon Squad, still on his “j-o-b”, still arming the community with information explaining what we need to watch for tomorrow. It is obvious part of the letter is partisan but readers who may not agree with Pat’s choice for President should not lose sight of the greater message – the threat to democracy that voter suppression represents.

Thank you Pat,


My Friends:

Forgive me for preaching to the choir, but not many people really want to hear this.


If our frame of reference is the U.S. Federal Elections of 2000 and 2004, photo ID laws, the campaign of 2012, the catastrophic flooding of the northeastern states, and the national conversion of voting machines to devices that do not provide for recounts, to say the least, then we should expect the worst next Tuesday … Vote Stealing … and not be surprised.

We should expect vote stealing where:

  •  Confusion exists due to dislocation caused by the weather or by voter suppression attempts.
  •  Published poll results show competing candidates are “tied” or either is leading by an amount within the poll’s margin of error;
  •  One party “spins” that their own negative poll results actually reveal how close their candidate is to the other and therefore should be viewed as a “virtual tie”, no matter the margin.
  •  Polling organizations release “consolidated” polls that reveal almost everything is a “toss-up”. And the media amplifies this kind of message because it provides controversy, drama, or great story lines;

In a national election, a state’s Exit Polls are not covered by the national media because that state is not considered to be “in play”. For example, on Nov. 6, 2012 “TV Election Night news coverage” will cancel “exit poll data in 19 states” while House and Senate seats are still at stake. Given the circumstances above, the following states might need extreme monitoring:

  •  Toss-up states are: OH, NH, VA, WI, IA, CO and FL.
  •  Leaning states are: MI, MN, PA, OR, NV, and NC.
  •  States excluded from detailed exit poll data coverage are: AK, AR, DE, DC, GA, HI, ID, KY, LA, NE, ND, OK, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, WV, UT, and WY.

According to Bev Harris,, the people have the right to know:

1. Who can vote

2. Who did vote,

3. The chain of custody, and

4. The accurate count


Patrick Scott

November 1, 2012

What a Difference a Week Makes

Last week I sat in front of my television with my heart full and my eyes glistening with tears as I watched one of the Bible’s renowned stories acted out in real life. The story of the” Good Samaritan” (played by Doral Chenoweth, III) who helped the “poor man on the side of the road” (played by Ted Williams). The “poor man by the side of the road” had been “robbed, beaten and left for dead” (played by life). At that point, the story was inspiring yet in the back of my mind loomed thoughts of a developing cautionary tale that I dared not utter for fear of bringing it to life.

When most of us first met Ted Williams he appeared to have had more than his share of hard times. To his credit he made no excuses about his sordid past. Williams blamed nothing but his bad choices and took full responsibility for his part in his fate. Yet, in spite of nearly a 20 year downward spiral, regardless of how much fire or firewater he sucked down his throat, Ted’s “Golden” voice was spared by the One who gave us all the Golden Rule. And we all got to see it unfold. That was the good news. The bad news? We ALL got to see it unfold.

Many of us relished the opportunity to send up prayers of thanks for the fact that our lives, no matter how disappointing or frustratingly off track, hadn’t gone as far off track as Brother Williams’ had. There were others of us who held hope for humankind in our heart once again. Then came the onslaught of “opportunities” supposedly “for” Ted. I am a man of modest means but I am willing to wager when all is said and done those offering sat around a table and figured out what they stood to gain in ratings and/or publicity by engaging Mr. Williams.

Many organizations came running. Entertainment Tonight and Kraft Foods were names that Williams mentioned in the blizzard of interviews but the one that made me chuckle was the Cleveland Cavaliers. Desperate for a public relations win after the team’s owner, Dan Gilbert, talked about LeBron James “deserting” Cleveland in a manner that made me feel he thought LeBron James belonged to him, the benevolent and loving Cleveland Cavaliers offered Ted Williams a job with the organization as Announcer.

Reality hastened to the fore quickly with the timed-release introduction of Williams’ family members. The reunion with his mother, Julia, seems that it could have happened any time as they were both in Ohio. That was a flag for me. Ted Williams was long-lost to his family emotionally but not geographically. It appeared that their estrangement was rooted in years of broken dreams, promises and hearts that resulted in more of a writing off than being physically “lost”. Nevertheless, the pain and frustration of some of Williams’ family members was palpable.

On one of Ted’s television appearances with his mother she spoke of him being good hearted but “weak” and easily lead astray. She told stories of her grandchildren telling her they had seen Ted standing on the corner with a sign. Sounds like Ted had probably worn out his welcome and the only love left was the tough love that a mother employs when her heart can’t stand to be broken any more. The broken promises and fulfilled lies are life companions of an addict. Picture Samuel L. Jackson as “Gator Purify” and Ruby Dee as “Lucinda Purify” in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever or Christian Bale’s “Dickie Eklund” and Melissa Leo’s “Alice Ward” in The Fighter. Ted Williams doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as violent or delusional as “Gator” or “Dickie” but his mother seems to be tougher than either “Lucinda” or “Alice”.

As wonderful as the Good Samaritan part of this story is there are children who had become accustomed to their father not being there who now – prayerfully – will be able to muddle through all of the hurt and anger and come out on the other side whole. There are grandchildren who may have never met their grandfather and those who have that may have never seen him sober. Trust will need to be reestablished and that is among the steepest mountains that Ted will have to climb … and it should all be done out of the public eye.

Brother Williams will need our prayers more than our adulation. He will receive many things that are beyond his ability to handle presently. Most of what he has been given has been charity which, if we are honest, does more for the giver than the receiver. Be that as it may, I am cautiously optimistic for Ted. The road to recovery is uphill, dark and bumpy but it is, indeed, with the proper assistance navigable and conquerable. May God bless Ted Williams, his family and his millions of brothers and sisters the world over.

Take your time, Ted. We’ll be here.

What a Difference a Week Makes © 2011 by Wendell F. Phillips

Meet The Press(ure)

As an intelligent, relatively young man I am really tired of the “formula” for interviews with “newsmakers” – and I may have to rethink that term as much of what is now considered “news” or “newsworthy” used to be considered garbage or “tabloidian” – don’t worry about spellchecking that … it’s a new phrase that I am coining with my poetic license, thank you very much.

Let me begin by saying that I am a huge fan of “Meet the Press”(MTP) and I miss Tim Russert on that show … immensely. I have been watching it for years and think its reputation for bringing some of the biggest names, in a timely fashion, into our homes is stellar. Washington and world politics comes directly to all of us arm chair Commanders-in-Chief and Secretaries of State as we sit comfortably in our PJs, geeked up on our caffeine of choice, screaming at the TV and explaining to our imaginary Cabinet (or befuddled children) how we would do things differently. The timely delivery of these powerful public officials has done much to sustain the viewership of MTP and shows like it. That being said there is a growing “gotcha” feel that I am not all too sure can be counted as intelligent or journalism; much less “intelligent journalism”.

The lure of appearing on MTP for those who hold public office or positions with federal agencies is that about 3 million people are going to see you and hear what you have to say. The danger of appearing on MTP is that about 3 million people are going to see you and hear what you have to say.

In 2007, Neilsen Media Research data claimed that MTP was the number one public affairs show among adults aged 25-54. This is the group of folk who are really paying attention to what is going on in the world … okay … at least we should be. This is the workhorse demographic. If you look 5 to 10 years on either end of this range, a good number of folk aren’t really contributing to our economic engine in the same way.

Before 25 years of age young folk are becoming adults and most haven’t yet settled on a career path. They have years to go before their earning potential peaks. On the other end of the spectrum, people beyond 54 years of age are looking to transition out of the “rat race”. Their earning potential peaked years ago and they would like to -at least – think about relaxing. Their grind isn’t the same. I can only hope to see that day … but with a 2 year old? … at 46? You are much more likely to attend my funeral than my retirement party. But I digress. The point is we are keen folk who watch these shows and we tune in because we are plugged in. We are directly, if not immediately affected by all political machinations. So each Sunday we sit down to see who is going to be on the proverbial “hot seat” this week.

One would think that in today’s world of camera phones, open mics, youtube, “off the record” statements that somehow end up on the record, and other gotcha “journalism” practices, you are only as good as your last faux pas. In the case of MTP, when we see someone getting grilled or saying the exact opposite of something they have said before – sometimes years before – we are shaking our head or screaming at the television, nearly choking on our coffee trying to pass judgment on someone whose position we are likely never to be in. Yet many times it’s whoever is getting interrogated that week that helps make him or herself look guilty.

With lobbyists, experts on specific issues and yes, even constituents, folk on Capitol Hill have information to which the rest of us have limited or no access. With more information ought to come more knowledge and a better perspective or grasp on a given issue. Sometimes that additional knowledge, that obscure report or the testimony of constituents whose lives could be completely decimated or forever lifted by the press of a “Yea” or “Nea” button is justification enough for changing the way one sees an issue. But admitting they didn’t have enough information to take a stand on an issue or that they found they were -get this – “wrong” on an issue is just not something most elected officials are willing to do. So here they sit on the MTP “hot seat” and the dance begins. They make contradictory statements, the host calls them on it and we label them a liar – or worse – a typical politician.

We tune in week after week for much the same reason we rubberneck at accident scenes. That “gotcha moment” on MTP grabs politicos like The Jerry Springer Show grabs idiots. About the only thing that rivals that moment is how the issue, statements or misstatements get spun throughout the next week. But the formula works and has been for years.

The intention of MTP is to interview public figures and hold them accountable for their words and/or deeds. In short, it is essentially a 30 minute press conference with one reporter followed up by a 30 minute panel discussion over the events of the past week. The clever part is that the seed to some of the issues discussed this week were planted last week from all the spin doctors trying to correct statements from their bosses … who at the end of the day are mere mortals. Real people with real families and real lives just like us.

I have to admit that I find it interesting that when the show began on radio in the late 1940’s it was hosted by a woman. By the time televisions made their way into most homes the host was a man. In fact, for more than 50 of its 63 years the host of MTP has been a man and for a year in the mid eighties, men, as Roger Mudd and Marvin Kalb co-moderated. Martha Rountree holds the distinction of being the only female employed as moderator of MTP. I only throw that in because I find it interesting for a show that was viewed by so many as “cutting edge”, the edge isn’t sharp enough to seriously entertain the possibility of a minority host. Though the show co-created by a woman there has not been a female permanent host in over fifty years. Why not? Hypothetically speaking, would it be so bad to tune in on Sunday and see … say … Gwen Ifill, Michele Norris, Leslie Stahl, Natalie Morales or Suzanne Malveaux on your screen? Would the news be somehow less “newsy”? Would World events lose their importance? I think not.

Someone wiser than I coined the phrase, “information is power” and if that is true then so is the fact that misinformation is an epidemic. Despite some of what I mention here, I will continue to watch MTP (and shows like it), read papers, articles, books, attend forums and events because I like to be informed. With an equal measure of passion, I like deconstructing misinformation, reading body language and listening to what is not being said. So I leave you with one request … regardless of where you get your information, think and think critically before speaking of, acting on or most certainly spreading what you consider to be “news”.

Well, I’ve got to go because it’s the weekend! In fact, it’s Sunday … “And if it’s Sunday … “.

Meet the Press(ure) © 2010 by Wendell F. Phillips

Omission Breeds Suspicion: Healthcare & The Lack of Minority Points of View in the Media

Lately, I can’t click on the television (sometimes referred to as the tell-lie-vision) without seeing throngs of angry, predominantly white folk screaming about health care. In some cases they are indoors and at other times they appear to be assembling outside and they are heated! Bill Maher made the best comparison to date when he said, “White people in Town Halls acting like black people in movie theaters”.

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Regardless of what city I may find myself during the news hour I make it a habit to scroll only through the local stations– as much as love CNN and MSNBC and the like, I purposefully ignore them at that time because not everyone can afford cable and I want to see what Joe Everyman and Jane Everywoman are seeing because – “truth be told”- that is where most of America’s opinion is being formed or validated.

Now, is it just me or has anyone else noticed that there are no minorities being shown verbally wrestling with the members of Congress at these forums? When I proffered this question to some of my friends I got two quick responses: “…I was concerned with the two sisters I saw being escorted out and wondered why that was shown over and over and over…” and a second response stated, “There was a black woman getting into an altercation at one of the Town Halls”.

It was safe for me to assume that this image, seen by two different people, with two different points of view were one and the same. An addendum to my initial problem was born. First, the lack of minorities depicted troubled me. Secondly, the only depiction brought to the fore was “… a Black woman getting into an altercation …” with … wait for it … ANOTHER BLACK WOMAN! Or so it would appear because there was no explanation given and they were not interviewed. They were escorted out by the police and from the footage it is hard to tell what exactly transpired but it is suspected that they were supporters of President Obama and they were thrown out for disrupting the meeting by waving signs that expressed that support.

All that being said, what are we to conclude from the fact that all over the local news channels these forums appear to have been virtually devoid of any people of color on an issue as important as Healthcare?

A) Minorities don’t care because most are not insured anyway
B) Minorities have no opinion
C) Media doesn’t care about the opinion of minorities
D) Minorities have to work and don’t have the time/energy to attend these forums
E) I am just preoccupied with the issue of “race” and how it manifests in society
F) All of the above

But wait!

When I sat down to write this I thought that my topic would be healthcare and its reform. I am finding that as I continue to write and analyze what we have been shown on television (“we” being me, Joe Everyman & Jane Everywoman) I realize what bothers me at my core … Race.

I have always been and will forever be fascinated by the issue of race and its chokehold on this nation and her progression. Simply fascinated by the fact that whenever America shows how great she is or how terrible she can be it has stemmed from an issue of race. And for those of us who want to deny its power – especially over this nation – even the defense of its denial robs us all of valuable time and energy better spent on issues of mutual import.

So as I alluded to earlier it would appear that Black folk and other minorities are not interested in the issue of healthcare or the recent forums. According to what I have seen on Joe & Jane’s news stations, Black folk have no interest in the issue on any level. As the news reporters scan the nation since the recess of Congress, have you seen them stop by any Black member of Congress’ – House or Senate – Town Hall meeting to date? What’s that? Representative David Scott of Georgia you say? True, the media did stop by his office and they never went inside. They interviewed him outside and the main thrust was not the merits of the bill or the intricacies of healthcare reform but rather the swastika spray painted on the sign to his office.

Are we to believe that even Black, Latino or Asian (so called) leaders (I can use that term no more loosely) and elected officials have no interest in healthcare reform?!? Of course they do. The omission borders on criminal. And omission, whether it be intentional or unintentional, helps to create and sustain division … or at least the appearance thereof.

Omission Breeds Suspicion: Healthcare & the Lack of Minority POV in the Media © 2009 by Wendell F. Phillips