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Showing posts with label President Obama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label President Obama. Show all posts

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pres. Obama's Task Force: The Battle for the Public Trust begins...

By Charles Brooks

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
The interim report recently released by President Obama’s task force on policing will shed some light on their view of the public trust - a view that is not shared by those who seek more than just a laundry list of recommendations to address police violence.  The report was released just days before the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report of their investigation into the Ferguson Police Department – a flashpoint of racial frustrations and deep seated tensions unleashed in the face of aggressive and excessive policing.  A rather scathing report that detailed the apparent racist activities engaged not just by the Ferguson police officers but the Ferguson municipal government. However, the explosiveness of DOJ’s Ferguson report on the Ferguson Police Department should not be allowed to overshadow the president’s task force interim report because as the president himself said: “This time will be different,” President Obama said, regarding the effectiveness of the task force compared to prior ones, “because the President of the United States is deeply vested in making it different.”


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Attorney General Confirmation Hearings: "...I will be Loretta Lynch."

By Charles Brooks


 
Confirmation hearings were recently held for President’s Obama’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General, Ms. Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder, who resigned four months ago.  Ms. Lynch currently serves as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.  If confirmed, Ms. Lynch would be the first African American woman to lead the Department of Justice – certainly a plus for the President’s legacy. Since the start of the Obama administration, both the President and Attorney General – both African Americans – have been the source of some very intense opposition and hostility from Republicans. When Holder announced his resignation, he was immediately described as “the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history” by Republican Congressman Dan Issa, who serves as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  This is what Mr. Issa had to say: “Eric Holder is the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history and, in a vote supported by 17 Democratic House Members, has the dubious historic distinction of being the first Attorney General held in criminal contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Chairman Issa. “Time and again, Eric Holder administered justice as the political activist he describes himself as instead of an unbiased law enforcement official.  By needlessly injecting politics into law enforcement, Attorney General Holder’s legacy has eroded more confidence in our legal system than any Attorney General before him. Republicans have attacked Mr. Holder on critical national issues such as voting rights, terrorism, and immigration while pointing to controversial issues such as the Fast and Furious and IRS scandals.

Monday, November 24, 2014

2014 Elections: The Democratic Party's problem with white Democrats

By Charles Brooks
While the 2014 elections showed Democrats their difficulties in defeating Republicans, the elections also revealed the problem the Democratic Party has in appealing to their white constituents. The Democrats now find themselves in a very precarious position as they find a way to put together a message that resonates with the white as well as the black voter. Let’s consider for a moment the 2014 exit poll, particularly the questions about race relations. For example, 40% said race relations in the country had stayed about the same in the last few years. 38% said they had gotten worse while 20% said they’ve gotten better. Certainly no surprise here but let’s consider remarks made by the Congressional Black Caucus Chairperson, Marcia Fudge (D-OH) when she stated that Democrats lost the white Southerners due in part to racism. “Democrats lost Senate control because we failed to mobilize young voters across racial and regional spectrums. We failed to persuade Southern voters to hold true to core Democratic values. We lost because the Hispanic community was insufficiently motivated. We lost because of ideological differences within the Democratic Party and with our Administration. We lost because our party has, to some extent, lost white Southerners due in part to the race of our President. We lost because the Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon allowed a select few to subvert the political process with secret, unlimited money.  We lost because of gerrymandering in our state redistricting processes. We lost because of our continuing problem with a clear and compelling message that would encourage voters to stay with us.  Let the talking heads do what they do best: talk. But let’s be very clear in our analyses of the 2014 midterm elections. African Americans showed up. So don’t blame us! A review of the 2014 exit poll data verifies Rep. Fudge’s statement as the data indicates that while voter turnout for Hispanics and Blacks increased, the voter turnout for Whites went down, and overall turnout was quite low. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Elections: Can Black America rescue the Democrats?

 By Charles Brooks


The many months of political posturing and rhetoric will finally come to an end on Election night when we learn who’s hand will be raised in victory in this year’s battle between the Democrats and Republicans.  Reading the recent news accounts, polls and analyses about this year’s mid-term elections, is almost like reading a political obituary for the Democratic Party – the forecast just doesn’t look good for Democrats. Simply put, Democrats are faced with daunting odds to win elections and will probably suffer more than just a few defeats. To make matters worse, this year’s election cycle is taking place during an off presidential election year when people typically don’t vote.  Meanwhile the 2014 mid-term elections are framed for public consumption as one where there’s a lot at stake – how many times have you heard that during this year’s election cycle?  Typically during these election cycles you will find news stories about the significance of the black vote as well as contrasting stories about the black vote being taken for granted by the Democratic Party.  But what appears to be different with the 2014 elections is the degree of just how important, how significant the black vote will be for the DemocraticParty.

The issue, however, is that while President Obama is not running in this year’s election – his legacy certainly is in the running. Consider for a moment just two items and how they would impact the President’s legacy - the Republican’s incessant chatter about impeachment along with the repeal of President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  With 36 Senate seats up for election: 21 belonging to Democrats versus 15 for Republicans, Black America’s vote is under heavy pursuit to help the Democrats retain their majority in the Senate. The Democratic Party is looking for Black America to shield and protect the President’s legacy from GOP obstructionism. The chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) recently told the New York Times: “Anybody who looks at the data realizes that if the black vote, and the brown vote, doesn’t turn out, we can’t win. It’s just that simple,” Ms. Fudge went on to say: “If we don’t turn out, we cannot hold the Senate.” African-Americans could help swing elections in Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and possibly Arkansas, a New York Times analysis of voter data shows, but only if they turn out at higher-than-forecast rates. 

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released a report entitled, “Black Turnout & The 2014 Midterms” where they concluded: “The analysis of voter turnout data corroborates the suspicion that this will be a challenging year for Democrats.  Assuming black turnout consistent with recent midterm elections and current polling data, Democrats will find it hard to put together winning coalitions, even with overwhelming African American support. Democratic candidates with the best prospects of winning include those running in states with relatively strong third party candidates who can serve as spoilers and states with small black populations where Democrats (or, in the case of Kansas, Independents) are performing strongly among white voters.”  Wow! So basically the Joint Center report is saying that while the Black vote is being heavily pursued, the black vote still needs the presence of third party candidates to make a difference in the elections.

Yet this pursuit of the black vote presents a bit of a dilemma for Black America; on one hand there’s the sentiment that the Democratic Party routinely takes the black vote for granted while on the other hand, the failure to vote Democratic will compel Republicans to advance a conservative agenda that is in direct contrast to Black America’s political interests.  But there’s another motivating factor to consider here… the relentless campaign waged by Republicans, who took a legislative approach to shrinking the pool of voters.  The stench of 19th century Jim Crow slowly rises from the graveyard of American racism as Republicans justify their actions with claims of addressing voter fraud.  In essence, they’ve proposed and passed legislation to address a nonexistent issue – incredible don’t you think? These voter suppression measures include requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote and proof of citizenship to register, cutting back on early voting, eliminating Election Day registration, new restrictions on voter registration drives as well as additional barriers to voting for people with criminal convictions.

Subsequently, there’s a political battle setting the Get Out The Vote activities versus stringent voter suppression measures.  Now these measures have been passed – for the most part - by several state legislatures since the election of the nation’s first African American president. So now, you can get a better sense of the significance of the 2014 election when you begin to understand how these voter suppression measures may possibly affect one’s ability to cast a vote. Bear in mind that the Brennan Center for Justice reported that of the 11 states with the highest African American turnout in 2008, seven passed laws making it harder to vote. In addition, of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth in the 2010 Census, nine have new restrictions in place. And of the 15 states that used to be monitored closely under the Voting Rights Act because of a history of racial discrimination in elections, nine passed new restrictions. These reasons alone will almost certainly compel the public’s attention…and their scrutiny on November 4th.

If nothing else, a review of the exit polls for the 2014 mid-terms can begin to answer at least two critical questions: First, how will Black America respond to the SOS call sent out by Democrats – particularly after revelations of Democrats refusing to stand up in support of President Obama? And the second question - how much did the various voter suppression measures impact black voter turnout and what role, if any, did this have on the many elections held across the nation?







https://www.aclu.org/maps/battle-protect-ballot-voter-suppression-measures-passed-2013

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Blackboard Weekly Report - 4/21/14

International
  • Zimbabwe celebrated the 34th anniversary of their independence. See here for the press statement released by Secretary of State John Kerry and a brief summary of their history here from the Government of Zimbabwe.  
  • Professor Hilary Beckles, Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, is urging young people across the Caribbean to play a role in their reparation struggle. The Jamaican Observer reported Prof. Beckles comments during a lecture: "There are many people in the world who believe that all they have to do is sit quiet and allow the older leaders of this campaign to pass away," he said. "You are the descendants of those who have survived and that gives you, the younger generation, a special responsibility to honour this history."
 White House
  • President Obama: The President held a press conference last week, responding to questions about the Affordable Care Act and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.   During the press conference, President Obama tells Democrats not to run from health care issue with 2014 mid-term elections approaching. “I think the Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact that millions of people (have insurance)…I don't think we should apologize for it. I don't think we should be defensive about it…” 
  • Affordable Care Act Update:  The White House announces 8 million have signed up for health insurance via the market exchanges.   
  • Ukraine Crisis Update:  The Guardian reports that US secretary of state John Kerry urged Russia on Monday to meet Ukraine halfway in trying to defuse the crisis. See coverage of the ongoing Ukraine crisis by CNN, The Guardian, and the BBC.
  • Justice Department:  Attorney General Holder announced the Justice Department’s initiative to reduce sentencing disparities for drug offenders in the federal prison system by expanding the criteria for clemency.  “The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety.  The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.  
  • First Lady: The Washington Post reports that last Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama  and entertainer Bow Wow joined 37 students from Chicago public high schools for a tour of Howard University.  But the First Lady’s scheduled graduation address in Kansas is causing a stir   - Parents and students alike have expressed anguish that the first lady’s speech and limited seating for families detract from a day that should center on the graduating students and their loved ones.
 National
  • Restoring the right for convicted felons to vote appeared in Virginia and in Iowa. In Virginia, the Governor has signed an executive order enabling an easier process to gain voting rights; drug offenses will no longer be on the list of crimes that need a waiting period, and the waiting period for violent offenders will decrease from 5 years to 3 year.  
  • Meanwhile in Iowa, felons will continue to be disqualified despite a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling, 5-1 that some felonies may not rise to the level of barring voting rights.
Local
  • New York politico Basil Paterson passed away.  See obituary by Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein – the firm Mr. Paterson joined in the early 1980’s. See additional coverage in the New York Amsterdam News.  
  • The New York Police Department (NYPD) had dismantled the unit that spied on Muslim communities. The ACLU noted that NYPD spied on their places of worship, and businesses they frequent – based on nothing but their religious beliefs and associations. For additional information see the ACLU’s fact sheet and the Associated Press investigation into NYPD intelligence.


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Blackboard Report - 4/14/14

By Charles Brooks 


White House
·       In the last week, remarks by both the President and Attorney General at the National Action Network annual convention have placed a spotlight on the issue of race.  The Attorney General’s comments at the National Action Network were in part, in response to an contentious exchange between Mr. Holder and Mr. Gohmert during a House Judicary Committee hearing.
·     The President speaks at the Civil Rights Summit, a 50th anniversary celebration of the Civil Rights Bill signed in July 1964.  Joining President Obama was former presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
·      Affordable Care Act Update:  Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigns after months of criticism and days after news reports of 7.5 million signups for  health insurance through the marketplace exchanges.


National
·       Archived Rosa Parks memorabilia will be put up for auction for a reported $10 million.
·       Fox News is reporting that Ben Carson raised $4 million for the 2016 presidential race.
·       Reverend Al Sharpton’s past as an FBI informant has been republished as the National Action Network convention opens.   
          

Local
·      Chokwe Lumumba’s son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba wins mayoral primary in Jackson, Mississippi.
·      Florida’s Republican legislators are pushing gun bills to expand gun rights in Florida.
·      Missouri lawmakers seek to expand their self-defense laws.


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Thursday, January 9, 2014

End of Year review for 2013 - Part II

Part II
On the national political scene, 2013 opened up with President Obama ready to start his second term while Republicans gathered to debate their apparent demise during the November 2012 elections. But this GOP introspection didn’t last long as their long-term strategic objective – solid obstructionism – was back in play. Throughout the year, the nation was witness to both GOP obstructionism and Obama capitulation play out for all to see. There were several failed attempts to defund the Affordable Care Act, the federal government 16-day shutdown that cost upwards of $24 billion to the elimination of unemployment benefits and food stamp benefits for millions of people. Another casualty of GOP obstructionism was effective gun control legislation – after yet another school shooting, this time at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012 and episodes of gun violence occurring throughout the nation. The gun violence in Chicago became nationalized when young Hadiya Pendelton was shot dead less than two weeks after playing in a band at the presidential inauguration ceremonies. The president was subsequently criticized for failing to show similar emotion in reacting to Hadiya’s death compared to his shedding a tear on national television in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. African Americans across the nation began to sound the drumbeat in asking the president to do something – say something...First Lady Michelle Obama attended the funeral along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Valerie Jarrett – all three are from Chicago.

The nation stood witness to the headlines and stories dominated by the Affordable Care Act all year long, particularly when the ACA rollout faced an avalanche of problems associated with the website, Healthcare.gov. The rollout was characterized by the chaos that followed revelations of number of major technical problems, insurance plans for millions of folks were dropped, and poor management decisions from the Obama administration, just to name a few. In short, the rollout was a disaster and a rather bitter pill for the president to swallow. The Affordable Care Act is his signature piece of legislation and has been under constant attack from Republicans since the president signed off on it. There were repeated efforts to undermine Obama’s key legislation through attempts at defunding and repealing ACA – every attempt unsuccessful.

As 2013 came to a close, the Obama administration reported that slightly more than two million people have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Although, they may be severely challenged in meeting the seven million target – it does appears that the worse is behind Obama’s team. However, that has not stopped opponents of ACA who are encouraged by declining poll numbers for both Obama and ACA. For example, results from a December 2013 Gallup poll disclosed that ACA is both President Obama’s greatest achievement (22%) as well as his biggest failure (36%). Republican opponents of ACA continue their efforts to undermine the nearly four year old law with online petitions to repeal and defund ACA.

But the reality is that ACA has clearly forced a paradigm shift in America where for the first time, there is a national effort to provide health insurance coverage to the nearly fifty million Americans without health insurance. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act is such a HUGE step forward not only in providing coverage for the uninsured but the protections as well as preventive care that will now be provided. For example, pre-existing conditions are now covered; preventive care is free; coverage is extended for young adults until they reach twenty-six years old; and lifetime and yearly limits are eliminated. See a complete listing here for all protections provided The free screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, Type-2 diabetes, HIV – and particular for women – screening for breast cancer, cervical cancer, mammograms, Hepatitis for pregnant women are just a scant few examples. See a complete listing here for a listing of all available screening for women. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama spoke with several mothers about ACA and the president said, “I think this conversation really drove home in a very personal way why this is important,” President Obama said. “Sometimes here in Washington, this is a very abstract conversation or an entirely political conversation. But when you boil it down to stories and people hear what it means to have the security of solid health insurance at an affordable price when you need it, it reminds me at least of why we've been fighting so hard to get this done.”

2013 ended with Hillary Clinton declared the frontrunner for the 2016 presidential race – although she hasn’t officially announced her candidacy. While end of the year Gallup polls underline her popularity – is this a legitimate consideration for the highest office in the country – before consideration of her politics and policy proposals? The voter must critically think for themselves and disregard Clinton popularity over policy; become more interested in policy proposals and ideas while ignoring celebrity and elitist endorsements. For example, while we know of Hillary’s advocacy for women issues - what do we know of her positions on the economy, unemployment, education, voting rights and affirmative action? What about her views on Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East? Where does she stand on the use of drones – both domestically and internationally, and the NSA surveillance on American citizens? Taking into consideration the fallout between Blacks and Clinton during the 2008 campaign – what will be Black America’s political reaction if Hillary disagrees and then criticizes President Obama policies? Hillary Clinton served as the First lady for two terms, went on to become a US Senator and then the Secretary of state – but voters, progressive voters must ask these and other necessary questions before a decision to support her candidacy is made.

NSA and government surveillance
There was also the jaw dropping revelations published by The Guardian about the National Security Agency commonly known as the NSA, who were actively collecting and storing phone record data on millions of Americans. While these revelations may not rise to the shrug your shoulder level – but should we really be surprised about this? After the September 11 attacks, there were several disclosures about the Bush presidency and government surveillance, not to mention the long sordid history of being watched or listened to by the government. We’ll get to this momentarily but getting back to the Bush presidency – there were similar revelations. For example, when he secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants required for domestic spying. Or in 2006 when we found out that the NSA was secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth to analyze calling patterns to detect terrorism.

But what should be quite disturbing was the revelation of a Pew survey measuring the public's view around combating terrorism vs. privacy - the results are interesting. The survey showed 56 percent of people believe the NSA tracking of telephone calls is an acceptable way to fight terrorism. That includes 53 percent of whites, 62 percent of blacks and 63 percent of nonwhites in general. In fact, the survey noted the following, "...finds no indications that last week’s revelations of the government’s collection of phone records and internet data have altered fundamental public views about the tradeoff between investigating possible terrorism and protecting personal privacy."

The question here is why is there so much acceptance of government surveillance, considering the sad history of government spying on US citizens and related abuses? Is there any awareness of the dangers of surveillance? For example, didn’t COINTELPRO demonstrate for all to see the connection between surveillance and political imprisonment – do you think this is the next natural step after accusations are made and charges levied? COINTELPRO was a domestic covert operation used by the FBI under the notorious J. Edgar Hoover. The covert operation was designed to repress political expression outside the mainstream. For example, victims of COINTELPRO were activists in the American Indian Movement, the Black Liberation Movement, Civil Rights Movement, Puerto Rican Independence Movement, Socialist Workers Party, Students for Democratic Society, and the Communist Party USA, to name a few. The FBI infiltrated these groups, used the legal system and the local police department to levy false criminal charges and carry out sting operations and murderous raids. Maybe – just maybe is it possible the acceptance of government surveillance, as indicated from the results from the Pew survey cited earlier – is based on fear? Do you think this begins to explain why there hasn’t been a strong national movement in this country, such as the social movements outlined earlier, since the sixties

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What about Joe?...will Hillary’s history repeat itself?


By Charles Brooks

Since Hillary Clinton stepped down as Secretary of State in February 2013, a groundswell of support has emerged encouraging her to run for the presidency in 2016. Although she remains noncommittal to the idea of running for president, nevertheless there’s the foregone conclusion that she will be the Democratic Party nominee. Now, if you recall, there was a similar sentiment when she launched her 2008 campaign – when she was afforded front runner status – until the bubble burst in the Iowa caucuses when then-candidate Barack Obama shocked the world by defeating Hillary Clinton. Obama went on to win several key primaries during a contentious campaign while Hillary played catch up and failed to gain traction. Only time will tell if history will repeat itself, but in the meantime there are two years before the 2016 campaign really starts to heat up.



In recent months, several news articles were written advancing the notion of Ms. Clinton running and even winning the nomination in 2016.  Now bear in mind that Ms. Clinton has already garnered a number of early endorsements from Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillbrand, and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill. In addition, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have voiced their support for Hillary such as James Clyburn (D-SC) John Lewis, (D-GA), and Donna Edwards (D-MD).

But the question here though is - what is the basis of their support for Hillary – aside from her popularity? What is in her body of work that indicates she will be responsive to their interests as president? It is probably better to take a step back and pause for a second or two before we declare Hilary the winner…before the first vote is cast. For an electorate that has demonstrated vulnerability to political symbolism and gestures, there’s the strong potential of getting caught up in all of the hype, pomp and circumstance that already surrounds her much anticipated candidacy. This is significant, particularly before any tough questions are asked - such as what does Hillary stand for and is it relevant or aligned with our interests. Wouldn’t you agree that the tough questions need to be asked because posing the tough questions ignores the popularity and instead, highlights the politics? A curious observer of these events must critically think for themselves and not choose popularity over policy. A critical thinking observer must also be wary of a media that fails to ask the important questions because of their partnership with the idea of a Hillary run for the presidency.

For example, the New York Times recently published an article about Clinton’s attempt to mend fences hwith their most supportive yet maligned constituency – the African American voter. Incredibly though, the article was written without so much of a thread of scrutiny or coherent analysis. Although the article cited several popular political commentators, there were no political analysts or even a professor of political science interviewed for the piece. Hmmm...strike one. The article indicated the wounds opened during the 2008 campaign were healed as a result of the "Clinton personal touch". Additionally, no insight was provided regarding the source of those opened wounds other than the “fairy tale” quote made by former president Bill Clinton. No mention of Hillary’s quote about Dr. Martin Luther King’s role in the passage of key civil rights legislation. Ahem…strike two. And lastly, the article appeared to indicate that African Americans has forgiven the Clintons, especially due to the role the Clinton personal touch played in all of this…whiff – strike three! On the other hand, a Washington Post article argues that there is no need for Hillary to rebuild her relationship with Black America, “...Hillary Clinton’s reputation among black voters is on solid ground.”

The voter must critically think for themselves and disregard Clinton's popularity over policy; become more interested in policy proposals and ideas while ignoring celebrity and elitist endorsements. For example, while we know of Hillary’s advocacy for women issues - what do we know of her positions on the economy, unemployment, education, or affirmative action? What about her views on Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East? Where does she stand on the use of drones – both domestically and internationally, as well as the NSA's surveillance on American citizens? Taking into consideration the fallout between Blacks and Clinton during the 2008 campaign – what will be Black America’s political reaction if Hillary disagrees and then criticizes President Obama policies?

And just one last point…why is there such a bright spotlight cast on the much anticipated candidacy of Hillary Clinton while Joe Biden, the Vice-President for five years, is barely noticeable behind the faint glow of a flickering candle. What about Joe? What about Joe?