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Oliver Stone's Breakthrough Documentary on U.S. History

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(NNPA) I could not believe that I was actually seeing what I was seeing. I had heard about Oliver Stone’s 10-part documentary regarding contemporary U.S. history. I am not sure what I expected to see, but what I actually viewed was almost breathtaking. The documentary, titled the “Untold History of the United States” [http://www.sho.com/sho/oliver-stones-untold-history-of-the-united-states/home], is almost a visual version of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. As such it demystifies post-World War II U.S. history in a manner that I have not seen in the mainstream.

In mainstream settings we are taught about World War II and its aftermath as if it were a straight moral course taken by the USA. By way of example, consider the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945. Most mainstream sources in the USA insist, without question, that the use of the atomic bombs was essential to ending the war without massive U.S. and Japanese casualties. Yet few mainstream sources point to the real fear that the Japanese High Command had: the entry of the Soviet Union into the war and its devastating impact on Japanese troops in Manchuria and Korea (and the possible invasion of Japan by Soviet troops).

Stone presents what can be called a “counter-narrative” through an in depth investigation and use of archival footage leading the viewer to ask a very simple, yet profound question: Was the usage of the atomic bombs aimed at ending World War II or, in the alternative, putting the world on notice—and the Soviet Union in particular—of the power possessed by the USA?

As Stone proceeds, the story becomes more complicated, interesting and certainly eye-opening. The devastating impact of the domestic Cold War on progressive social movements is something with which we live to this day since, as Stone demonstrates, the Cold War anti-communism was not aimed at any alleged ‘communist menace’ but at forces at home that were attempting to deepen the reforms that had started with Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” In fact, the dominance of the super-rich, the so-called 1 percent, illuminated by the Occupy Movement, is in many ways the direct outgrowth of the blunting of movements for social justice first during the early Cold War, and then later in the 1970s and1980s; in the last case with a new and different form of repression.

Stone’s Untold History of the United States not only needs to be viewed, but more importantly, discussed. The one hour segments lend themselves to useful discussion, whether in a classroom setting or a living room setting.

Let’s start by spreading the word. This is one documentary that we cannot afford to have hushed up or brushed aside.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

John Kerry Tapped for Clean-up Duty

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(NNPA) President Barack Obama has won his re-election. That history is clear and the big question now is who in the Democratic Party will succeed him as president in 2016. Prior to now, it was certain to be Hillary Clinton. But when you look at the present situation doubts about her prospects rise to the fullest. Let’s consider a few current events that will certainly have consequence in the next presidential election.

During the race for 2004, candidate John Kerry spotted the talent of Barack Obama. He gave him a great debut by allowing him to keynote the Democratic National Convention. The junior senator from Illinois responded with one of his greatest speeches and from that point on the whole world knows the name Barack Obama. The two have been close ever since but make it a point to keep that friendship in the background.

With the exception of his criticism of the Vietnam War and other military endeavors, Senator Kerry’s slate is pretty clean. His strong point is foreign affairs and he chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When Senator Barbara Boxer botched the attempt to pass cap and trade through the Senate, President Obama asked Senator Kerry to take over the stewardship of the bill. It failed but President Obama’s trust of John Kerry was apparent. Foreign affairs and environmental issues are Senator Kerry’s strong suit.

Let me also disclose that I like John Kerry as a person. I did not support him in the 2004 campaign but he apparently holds no grudge. We held a convention in New Orleans in 2006 in support of the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. Senators Kerry and Barack Obama were in the area at the time and we asked both to come and speak. Obama did not respond at all but Senator Kerry immediately accepted. When I went to his hotel room to receive and escort him to the podium, he asked me to come in for a few minutes. He struck up a conversation and repeatedly stated that he thought I was a “good man.” I was humbled and reciprocated the compliment. From that point on my opinion of him grew dramatically.

So here we are in 2013, and what is the political climate for Democratic presidential prospects? The 2008 primary was divisive. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama camps fought bitterly. Obama won and to keep a good monitor on Hillary, he put her in his cabinet as Secretary of State. This was brilliant! She could not go off the reservation as this would seem disloyal and conniving. She was locked into place.

In retrospect, her tenure at the State Department has been a complete mess. The world is on fire. Our initiative to better relations with Russia has totally failed. In fact, you would have to go back to the Cold War to find worse times. She said she was going to reset Russia. She might as well have thrown a brick at it. The Middle East and Africa are in upheaval and we can’t seem to get a foot forward in solving the raging issues. Revolution, civil war, insurgency and chaos are running rampant in those regions and we don’t have a clue. This all falls into the lap of Hillary Clinton.

The saddest situation involves Libya. The dictator has gone but so has any semblance of peace and governance. We failed our embassy there by turning our back on its safety and we are now trying to cover it up. It is so similar to the security failures of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania during the Bill Clinton administration. Just like then, they identify a fall person to put the blame on. They insinuated it was Susan Rice during the Clinton administration and then, unbelievably, they threw her under the “bus” once again. It is Clinton 101. Hillary has failed and President Obama will call on his old friend and confidant John Kerry to clean up the mess. I believe he will and in 2016 he will rise exponentially above Hillary.

He will also play a role in environmental issues such as the Keystone Pipeline and the Kyoto Protocol. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is also toast. The State Department will take full control of these issues. Administrator Jackson or “Richard Windsor,” as she mysteriously calls herself in secret and illegal email account, has announced her resignation before the illegal emails are released via a court order. John Kerry will have a hand in cleaning this up also. In essence, he is going to be the “fix it guy.” By 2016 he will be regarded as a healer and strong leader. Good bye Hillary.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

It's Time to Legalize all Drugs

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(NNPA) The old British Empire was the founder and leader of the drug trade. This government saw the drug trade, particularly Opium, as a good means to increase its treasury and promote the overall economy to benefit its citizens with jobs and industry. The English would grow and cultivate the opium crops in India and then sell the finished product to the Chinese. The wealth accrued by this system was enormous and it made this nation with such a small population rule other nations with populations exponentially greater. It was about power and wealth.

Today, the United States gives the appearance that drugs are evil and it must do everything in its power to suppress the drug trade. That is the appearance, but the reality is far from that. Drugs are prevalent in the United States more now than ever. It is an extremely large industry with no restraints and a future that seems very bright. At the low end of the trade business are law enforcement agencies locking up users and small traders. At the high end are drug cartels dragging in billions of dollars. The final phase of this industrial transaction is the cleaning or laundering of the dirty money. The largest banks in the world are far too willing to accommodate the drug cartels. They clean the money and give advice on tax avoidance. It is purely criminal but no one is going to jail.

Just last week the U.S. Department of Justice settled such a case with banking giant HSBC. According to Rolling Stone magazine, “The banks’ laundering transactions were so brazen that the NSA probably could have spotted them from space. (Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny) Breuer admitted that drug dealers would sometimes come to HSBC’s Mexican branches and “deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller windows.” Yes, they had it down to a finely run routine without fear of arrest or punishment.

For the above criminal activity HSBC received no indictment and no arrests were made at all. The government simply settled with them on a fine of $1.9 billion. They even had the nerve to do a press release on this. The fact is that this was no punishment at all. HSBC makes $1.9 billion in profit every five business days. I can assure you that they won’t stop the activity because the money is just too good.

Meanwhile, out in the streets and neighborhoods, the law authorities are locking up our population with a vengeance. Stiff penalties are handed out to users and low level dealers in rapid fashion. Long sentences are served in our prisons. In fact, our prisons are filling up to the point that they are now cramming our local jails with drug offenders. The rich get richer and the poor go to jail and have their futures terribly damaged. This happens because there is so much profit in the drug business. How do we get the profit out of drugs? There is a model. In Amsterdam, drugs are legal in designated areas. People can go and buy the drugs at low prices and get as high as they want. You won’t see the cartels doing much activity there because they cannot make the kind of big cash they are accustomed to.

Why don’t we do the same as Amsterdam? Let’s identify designated places and provide medical assistance to those trying to break the addiction and control the price of drugs to where the gangsters no longer have an incentive. Also, let us stop prosecuting and jailing our people for this activity. In fact, let’s start emptying our prisons and jails of drug users and low-level traffickers. Bring these people home and work them back into society as productive and full citizens. There would be a dramatically reduced public expense – fewer prisons, fewer guards, fewer lawyers and many other good things like happier families and bright futures for our children.

Oh, it would be so nice to see the cartels dry up and hard crime such as kidnapping, murder, overall violence would be reduced to almost nothing. Every African American family has been damaged or affected by the drug industry. Children, cousins, nephews, husbands, mothers and fathers are missing from our households because of the lure of illegal drug activity. The rich and powerful take part in this and get away with it as the common people suffer immensely. It is just like old China and the British opportunists. The playing field is hardly level. Let us start to go down this road to the legalization of drugs and end this social and economic madness.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

No Reason to Celebrate Tim Scott

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(NNPA) The polite side of me congratulates Tim Scott on being named Senator for the state of South Carolina. Alright, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

The appointment of Scott was a move that reminded me of the Republican choice to head the Republican National Committee–Michael Steele–in the aftermath of Barack Obama’s first election in 2008. The RNC seemed to want to go out of their way to demonstrate that they could put a Black person into a responsible position now that the country had elected an African American. In the aftermath of the re-election of President Obama, and the increasing support he is receiving among people of color (as voting blocs), the Republicans seem to, once again, want to demonstrate that they are not the party of whiteness…well, sort of.

The concern for Black America on this appointment is that we fall into the trap of ignoring Scott’s politics in the name of supporting ‘another Black man.’ This is a mistake that many of us have made over the years with one of the most egregious examples being the support gained by Clarence Thomas from too many African Americans when he was appointed to the Supreme Court. Many of us, naively, seemed to believe that Thomas would ‘do the right thing’ once he had the job security of a Supreme Court appointment. Instead we have been treated to an adamantly conservative justice. He has not only been of no help to Black America; he has been a hindrance.

Senator Tim Scott has not sided with the interests of Black America. His politics are not particularly different from outgoing Senator Jim DeMint. Scott essentially embraces the politics of the Tea Party. He happens to have Black skin.

For understandable reasons, we of Black America are frequently willing to give another Black person who achieves high office the benefit of the doubt. We are always concerned about double standards and the sorts of racist assaults that Black elected (and appointed) officials regularly experience. This reality, however, cannot lead us to ignore the actual ‘content of the character’ of such individuals. Whether the person is Tim Scott, Clarence Thomas, or for that matter, Susan Rice and Barack Obama, we need to scrutinize their politics and their policies. This means being prepared to challenge those who, regardless of their face, smile, speeches, or place of birth, advance the interests of the 1 percent over the rest of us.

Happy New Year!

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Black to the Future

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(NNPA) I was recently in South Africa for a conference. While there, I had two interesting experiences that raised the complications and politics of race.

In the first case I was on a shuttle bus. The driver, ethnically South Asian but a South African, was very friendly. We started up a conversation during which he asked me about life in the U.S.A. Among the things that I noted was the continued existence of racist oppression in the U.S.A. He then made this interesting comment: “Yeah, that’s the way it is here. If you are not Black then you do not get considered for jobs.”

I was a bit stunned by the comment. First, the driver felt completely comfortable saying this to me, which meant that he, apparently, did not see me as Black, or at least not like a Black South African. Second, when we continued the conversation and discussed apartheid and how the African majority had been suppressed and disenfranchised and that there need to be steps taken to repair this damage, he said absolutely nothing. His silence was deafening. He then changed the topic.

The second incident was in the context of a discussion with an Arab from Lebanon. I spoke about African Americans and at a certain point said something like “…we Blacks…” The gentleman looked at me and responded: “Bill, you do not look particularly Black.” He did not say this in an insulting manner but rather in a very matter of fact manner. I replied that what was interesting about his comment is that while I may look like I come from any number of places, e.g., North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Cape Verde, when my plane lands in New York there is no question but that I am Black.

When one is outside of the U.S.A., you are reminded that race is not scientific; it is not genetic; it is not hard-and-fast. Rather it is both social and political and very much defined by the history of one’s location and that location’s experience with Western colonialism.

The shuttle driver apparently thinks that “Black” refers to the indigenous African majority in South Africa. That was not the way that the anti-apartheid movement saw it, by the way. For most of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, “Black” was a political term that included all who were not White and were not in some honorary category (e.g., the Japanese). In other words, it referred to those who were the victims of systemic racist oppression, within which you could find indigenous Africans, so-called Coloreds (mixed race), and ethnic South Asians. The shuttle driver was looking at me as a foreigner, and one who was not black. A light-skinned person of African descent was, apparently, something else.

For the Arab, there was something very similar in play. The individual was a progressive trade union activist, but race, for him, did not look the way that it does for us. “Black” meant dark. It had no political meaning at all. If you were light-skinned you could not be Black. This was not seen as offensive but more a perception of reality.

Why is this important? The short answer is that race changes forms in different countries but also within different historical periods. In the U.S.A, people who are frequently considered White today would not necessarily have been considered White 150 years ago, e.g., Jews, Irish, Sicilians. Race gets revised and reconstructed over time to service those in power who wish to instill divisions among people at the base of society. How that appears depends entirely on what that population looks like; ethnic tensions; and methods of controlling the total population.

Think about this the next time you encounter an immigrant who “looks black.” Keep in mind that they come from a different history than yours and that their response to race and racism will be more influenced by the history of their homeland than our reality here in the USA, at least in the beginning.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

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