Monday, April 28, 2014

The Blackboard Weekly Report - 4/28/14

By Charles Brooks

Reparations: Rep. John Conyers, (D-MI) plans to re-introduce HR Bill 40 – to create a commission to study reparations. “It is the most important piece of legislation I have ever introduced, and I will re-introduce HR40 in the 113th Congress,” Rep. Conyers told an audience at the ‘Revitalizing The Reparations Movement’ Conference at Chicago State University. Sir Hilary Beckles, Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission was the key note speaker and was interviewed by The Final Call. See The Final Call’s coverage of the “Revitalizing The Reparations Movement Conference that was organized by the Institute of the Black World.
The Daily Beast acquired a recording of remarks made by Secretary of State John Kerry where he told the gathering at the Trilateral Commission that Israel risks becoming apartheid state if peace talks fail.  The Guardian is reporting this may be the first time a US official of Kerry's standing used the term 'apartheid' in the context of Israel.
The State Department announced that Mr. Kerry will be visiting Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Luanda this week between April 29 and May 5th
See The Black Agenda Report’s reporting here on the IBM and Ford Motor Company’s role in South African apartheid.
White House
President Obama is wrapping up his 5th trip to Asia; Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
During the President’s weekly address last Saturday, he talked about minimum wage. You can watch the address here or read the transcript here.
The president comments on the Sterling racist statements:”The United States continues to wrestle with a legacy of race and slavery and segregation that's still there — the vestiges of discrimination. We've made enormous strides, but you're going to continue to see this percolate up every so often…

Voting Rights: Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed bills to restore the voting rights of three people convicted of felonies.
An Arkansas judge struck down the state's new voter ID law ruling that it violates the state constitution by adding a requirement that voters must meet before casting a ballot. The law "is declared void and unenforceable," Fox wrote in the ruling. Additional coverage here and here.
Mayoral elections taking place in Mississippi and New Jersey. In Mississippi Tony Yarber has defeated Chokwe Antar Lumumba in a runoff election to become Jackson's new mayor, according to unofficial results. Mr. Antar Lumumba’s father, Mr. Chokwe Lumumba died in February 2014 thus creating a vacancy and forcing a runoff election. Mr. Yarber will now serve out the rest of Mr. Lumumba’s term.
In New Jersey with about two weeks to go, the Mayoral race between Ras Baraka and Shavar Jeffries.  According to PolitickerNJ, Mr. Baraka says: "I'm knocking on doors and talking to as many voters as possible down the stretch," Baraka, Newark's South Ward councilman, said. "The ground game is always the most important thing on Election Day. It's about how ready your organization is. Going negative shows people that you don't have any ideas. It just shows desperation. Those type of people, who are part of the old politics in this city, aren't going to be around very long." Mr. Baraka picked up another endorsement – this one from Local Talk Newspaper.
Mr. Jeffries was endorsed by the Newark Firefighters union and was the beneficiary of a judge’s decision to throw out a lawsuit filed by his opponent, Mr. Baraka, who called for the removal of two Jeffries supporters from the Essex County Board of Elections.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries comes to Newark fundraiser for Mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries: “This is a city that I feel intimately connected to because of my own family background," said U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY8), whose district encompasses parts of Brooklyn and Queens. "My father was born and raised in Newark and went to Barringer High School. Shavar supported me from a very early stage, when I ran for the [New York] state Assembly. I'll never forget that. Our areas codes are different, but the issues are largely the same. When you send him to City Hall, he's going to stand up for Newark.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More Clinton confidential papers released...

By Charles Brooks

“Courtesy, William J. Clinton Presidential Library.”
A fourth batch of confidential documents from the Clinton days in the White House was recently released for public view on April 18th.  This release of documents contains over 100 files totaling approximately 7,500 pages - the largest set of documents released thus far. As noted in The Blackboard’s previous posts on the Clinton Papers, these confidential documents contain items such as email correspondence, presidential meeting schedules, handwritten notes, internal memorandums, transcripts, letters, and speech drafts.  This stream of confidential correspondence – hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents provides the public with a peek to the world inside the White House where candid thoughts and hard-line positions are debated and captured on paper. 

These confidential documents delve into a wide range of issues that do well to remind the public of the hot-button policy issues as well as the tabloid scandals and political crises. The public can now view these internal memos that can provide some insight into the administrations’ thinking and approach to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the genocide in Rwanda, the aftermath of the horrific Oklahoma City bombing, and contentious relations with the Republicans.  In reviewing several of the released files, The Blackboard uncovered a few rather revealing items.  For instance, the White House relationship with the press: “We are really caught in a pull and tug with the magazine, I agree with some of LIFE's comments, but strongly disagree on others.  I agree with their reordering of the text, and I think it comes close to my first draft: opening with the personal Boys Nation anecdote, moving to the timeless lessons to be drawn from Kennedy's administration. My argument is not with the story they want, but the way they want the story told. The tone they seek from the President is so self-centered, it's actually solipsistic.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Blackboard Weekly Report - 4/21/14

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

·       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.   

·      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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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Highlights from the Clinton Papers - March 28, 2014 release

By Charles Brooks

In a recent post, I wrote about the March 28th release of the Clinton papers from the Clinton Presidential Library - the third such release since February 14th.  Below you will find highlights from selected correspondence on various topics from corporate responsibility to Clinton's Race Initiative.

Highlights from selected correspondence (letters, memos, emails, etc)

 “Courtesy, William J. Clinton Presidential Library.”

An internal memo on corporate responsibility
The program we're discussing is sponsored by Procter and Gamble, which, as one of the Labor Dept. people pointed out yesterday, MAY NOT BE A GOOD CORPORATE CITIZEN.

By giving the President a speech about corporate responsibility in Ohio, we are potentially involving him in the GM strike. Even if he "no comments" or says we don't involve ourselves in these matters when talks are underway, he's going to look out of touch with the very issues-- .how companies treat their workers-- that he's coming to Ohio to address. Is a Catholic University the best venue for this sort of speech? It should be held somewhere like the Detroit Economic Club.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Blackboard Report - 4/7/14

White House
·       President Obama faces increasing scrutiny over deportation policies earning the nickname “deporter in chief”. See coverage of this issue in Mother Jones and The Nation as they dig into the deportation of 2 million immigrants.

·       Affordable Care Act Update:  The White House is reporting an uptick of millions who are now have health insurance through marketplace exchanges, coverage on parent policies and Medicaid.

·       The Supreme Court has struck down the overall limits on political contributions with 5-4 decision.  Individuals can now give the maximum contribution to as many candidates or political committees as they wish.  See coverage of the dramatic decision at PBS, SCOTUS blog, Democracy Now, and Columbia Law School. 
·      Congressman Paul Ryan releases new budget containing billions in cuts.  See the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis on the Cong. Ryan's budget proposal.
·      The National Urban League (NUL) releases new report: State of Black America 2014 where the theme is the economy and Black unemployment.
·      Veteran journalist Chuck Stone joins the ancestors.

·      Mayor Vincent Gray of Washington DC is now a lame-duck, after suffering defeat to D.C. Councilperson, Muriel Bowser.
·      Incarcerated former Congressman Jesse Jackson has been transferred to a prison camp in Montgomery, Ala., according to the Bureau of Prisons.  See coverage in the Chicago Tribune here
·     UPS has decided to fire 250 drivers after they protested the dismissal of an employee, who worked there for 24 years.  

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Friday, April 4, 2014

More Clinton papers released - shows thinking on race

Courtesy, William J. Clinton Presidential Library
The Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas has released a third set of confidential correspondence from the Bill Clinton presidency.  The public can now view, for the first time, about seven files containing about 3,400 pages.  According to Politico, these files don’t appear to include some of the more sensitive and scandal-related documents believed to be in the set of about 33,000 pages of documents. These documents were initially withheld under restrictions that expire 12 years after a president leaves office.

There’s a broad sweep of presidential events covered in the recently released papers related to both domestic and foreign policy. From preparing for the State of the Union address in 1996 and 1997, the president’s farewell address in 2001, the World Trade Organization 50th anniversary, plans for the second term, to drafts of speeches to business leaders and college graduates.

So what you’ll see in this installment of White House documents are vivid reminders of the hot button issues that unfolded during the Clinton presidency such as crime (that’s adult and juvenile), welfare reform, poverty, and the global economy.  Internal memos and handwritten notes offering political advice as well as staff engaging in debate as positions are argued.  There were strategic plans around using commencement addresses to serve a political purpose. See the following from an April 1996 memo: “This memorandum outlines themes and topics for this spring's commencement addresses. We propose that you do a total of four such speeches -- the three currently scheduled, plus an additional speech at a site to be determined. These speeches would give the press and public a sense of what your goals for the nation would be during a second term, and would show how those goals flow from the goals you ran on in 1992 and the policies that you have put in place since then.