Saturday, January 31, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 12:04 PM
Two Holocaust survivors returned to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland for a commemoration of their liberation 70 years ago . (AP Photo / Alik Keplicz)

Like “Selma,” a theatrical release that recreates the events leading up to a seminal event in the American civil rights movement, people who are either too young to know much about it, or old enough to have put it out of their minds, should see the HBO documentary “Night Will Fall,” which includes actual footage of the rescue of Holocaust victims.

The film makes it painfully clear that human beings are capable of the most inconceivable depravities. But worst than the perpetrators of war crimes were the seemingly good people who tried to pretend they were unaware of the godless activities occurring a slingshot away from their bucolic communities in concentration camps like Dachau, Auschwitz, and Buchenwald.

The documentary includes footage from a film called “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey,” which the Allies began making in 1945 but never released after World War II ended. Apparently, the British and Americans decided making the Germans feel more guilt about the millions of emaciated, brutalized bodies discovered in concentration camps would crush their morale at a time when defeated Germany was already being considered a potential ally against the surging Soviet Union.

Harold Jackson @ 12:04 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, January 5, 2015, 2:06 PM
Protesters demonstrated in Philadelphia in September to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)

It amazes me when I hear near- to above-middle-class earners complain about the push to raise the federal minimum wage, which has stood at $7.25 for almost five years, including during the 2008 recession. These critics look at the $15 an hour that protesting fast-food workers have been asking for and say that’s too much for someone at that level of employment. What they’re really saying is that $15 an hour is getting too close to what they make and does not properly reflect the gap in education and responsibility between them and a – pardon the expression – hamburger flipper.

They’re looking at the issue from the wrong end of the microscope.  It’s not that fast-food workers are asking for too much for what they do. An annual salary of $16,120 isn’t excessive when you consider the price of goods and services in today’s world. A worker with a family earning that amount would need another job if he or she were the sole source of income. A young person earning that amount and trying to go to college would have a hard time keeping up with expenses even if he still lives at home.

It’s not that lower-paid workers are asking for too much; it’s that workers making more are settling for too little. Wages need to be adjusted from the bottom up, with those at the very top income levels – the multimillionaires making dozens of times more than their workers – giving up some cash to compensate. While the federal minimum wage didn’t budge, the average pay of CEOs rose 5.5 percent last year to more than $11 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Yes, the trickle-down theory can work, if it’s actually applied. Instead, the average Fortune 500 CEO is making 200 times more than his lowest-paid employees.

Harold Jackson @ 2:06 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, January 5, 2015, 1:48 PM
Protestors demonstrated in Philadelphia in September to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)

It amazes me when I hear near- to above-middle-class earners complain about the push to raise the minimum at the federal level, which has stood at $7.25 for almost five years, including during the 2008 recession. These critics look at the $15 an hour that protesting fast-food workers have been asking for and say that’s too much for someone at that level of employment. What they’re really saying is that $15 an hour is getting too close to what they make and does not properly reflect the gap in education and responsibility between them and a – pardon the expression – hamburger flipper.

They’re looking at the issue from the wrong end of the microscope.  It’s not that fast-food workers are asking for too much for what they do. An annual salary of $16,120 isn’t excessive when you consider the price of goods and services in today’s world. A worker with a family earning that amount would need another job if he or she were the sole source of income. A young person earning that amount and trying to go to college would have a hard time keeping up with expenses even if he still lives at home.

It’s not that lower-paid workers are asking for too much; it’s that workers making more are settling for too little. Wages need to be adjusted from the bottom up, with those at the very top income levels – the multimillionaires making dozens of times more than their workers – giving up some cash to compensate. While the federal minimum wage didn’t budge, the average pay of CEOs rose 5.5 percent last year to more than $11 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Yes, the trickle-down theory can work, if it’s actually applied. Instead, the average Fortune 500 CEO is making 200 times more than his employees.

Harold Jackson @ 1:48 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, December 15, 2014, 11:01 AM
Protesters confronting police in Ferguson, Mo., last summer. (ROBERT COHEN / St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

I have told friends that my mistrust of the police comes legitimately. I grew up in Birmingham, Ala., during the 1960s, when the city became infamous for the brutal way that civil rights demonstrators were treated by policemen who used snarling dogs and pummeling blasts of water from fire hoses to disperse protesters. A 9-year-old classmate was one of the youngest demonstrators arrested.

Back then, black people saw the police as appendages of a racist judicial system that more often than not protected, rather than prosecuted, whites accused of harming African Americans. Today, many think the same thing about the white police officers in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., who killed unarmed black men and managed to avoid prosecution.

My family didn't even think about looking to the police for protection after the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed by racists in 1963, killing four little girls, including an 11-year-old who attended my school. Instead, my father and other black men armed themselves, anticipating more violence.

Harold Jackson @ 11:01 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, December 8, 2014, 11:03 AM
In the tiny village of Da Ping, China, an elderly man proudly wears his faded army jacket. (Photo by Harold Jackson)

On a train from Xi'an to Beijing, traveling 180 miles an hour as it cuts through air so polluted you can't see the tops of city skyscrapers, a female attendant mops the speeding car's floors between stops to keep the compartment tidy. Clean floors, dirty air. This is China in the 21st century.

Arriving in the People's Republic three weeks ago, I expected to learn a lot - and I did. Perhaps most important, I learned that President Obama is right to try to shift America's foreign policy focus to Asia. Unfortunately, our country's preoccupation with the Middle East since the 9/11 attacks won't allow us to put that perpetually roiling situation into perspective and move on.

Two months prior to my nine-day visit, sponsored by the Hong Kong-based China U.S. Exchange Foundation, a group of Chinese journalists visiting The Inquirer while making a similar tour of the United States expressed disappointment in Americans' lack of knowledge about their country. Now I understand what they meant.

Harold Jackson @ 11:03 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 9:29 AM

Xi'an - The contrast couldn't be more pronounced between the metropolis of Xi'an, which, under the radar of most Americans, is trying to compete for business with California's Silicon Valley as a center of high-tech innovation and enterprise, and the little village of Da Ping, about 90 minutes away.

 The fewer than 50 villagers typically pass the day quietly on their one road, which was mud until paved in recent years. They grow cabbages and potatoes in the rocky ground on the Huashan mountain range, but there is no industry, no jobs, so all the young people have moved away. The village is literally dying.

Meanwhile in Xi'an, China is building the country's top R&D center, which has been attracting some of the world's leading companies. Already, one area of the sprawling complex has been designated Samsung City. Xi'an itself is experiencing tremendous growth, and expects its population of more than 8 million to exceed 10 million by 2020. 

Harold Jackson @ 9:29 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 10:35 AM
City Council President Darrell L. Clarke (left) greeting John J. Dougherty, business manager of Local 98 of the electricians union, at a fund-raiser hosted earlier this year by Dougherty for Clarke. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)

There’s no mystery as to why City Council President Darrell Clarke used a sham consultant’s study to kill the proposed sale of municipally owned Philadelphia Gas Works to a private utility. It was an exercise in sheer power. Clarke wanted to put to rest any doubts about his power in City Hall.

You need nine votes on the 17-member Council to get anything done, but Clarke doesn’t have to worry about that. Rarely does any other Council member utter a peep in opposition to their president’s desires. They stood with him Monday as he announced Council wouldn’t even vote on the PGW sale proposal. Only afterwards did some admit they hadn’t read the consultant’s report Clarke offered as evidence that the offer by UIL Holdings Corp. to buy PGW for $1.86 billion should be rejected.

Talk about Congress voting on legislation its members didn’t take the time to read, Philadelphia’s City Council wouldn’t even take a vote. So if Clarke is the most powerful person in City Hall, what does that make Mayor Nutter? The PGW deal was his work, the result of an effort that took the better part of two years. But Clarke from the beginning showed his disdain for the proposal because he had not been included in its formulation.

Harold Jackson @ 10:35 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, October 22, 2014, 5:16 PM
Gov. Corbett touts his ability to create jobs, but voters may not think he has done enough.

Polls show Gov. Corbett is losing his bid for reelection. He’s likable enough, coming across as a grandfatherly good guy who may have made some mistakes but didn’t mean to hurt anyone. His opponent, Tom Wolf, scores well on the likability meter as well. But this won’t be a popularity contest. There are distinctions between the candidates on taxes, education funding, and pension reform that give voters a clear choice. Above them all, though, is the state’s economy. It’s not doing as well as it should six years after the recession -- and President Obama isn’t the only incumbent being blamed.

Corbett can’t dodge some pretty damning numbers. For example: The state has gone from producing 1,900 new jobs a month in 2012 to gaining more than 5,000 a month through July of this year, but it was adding 6,600 jobs a month back in 2010. In fact, numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics rank Pennsylvania 50th in the nation in job creation since January 2011. That’s a dramatic fall from December 2009 to December 2010, when the state ranked 10th in job creation. Job creation has not made up for job losses. Consequently, despite a lower unemployment rate of 5.7 percent compared with the January 2011 rate of 8.1 percent, Pennsylvania has about 20,000 fewer jobs than in December 2007.

Not only that, the Keystone Research Center says one out of eight employees in the state is underemployed, including many part-time workers who want full-time jobs. The center also reports an overall decline in hourly wages, which has Pennsylvania’s full-time workers taking home about $750 to $1,150 less per year than in 2010. That’s money that won’t be spent on goods and services to boost the economy. Despite his playing point man for the natural-gas industry, Corbett hasn’t delivered the goods in bringing jobs to Pennsylvania -- at least not in numbers large enough to make people feel good about the economy. And as we all know, elections are about the economy.

Harold Jackson
Harold Jackson @ 5:16 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog

The Inquirer Editorial Board's Say What? opinion blog showcases the work of the editors and writers who produce the newspaper's daily and Sunday opinion pages.

Find out more about The Inquirer's Editorial Board here.

The Inquirer Editorial Board
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected