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Influencing Barack Obama's Second Act

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(NNPA) There is a different feel in the air, and it should not be surprising. As historic as was the re-election of President Obama, nothing can replace the uniqueness of the opening of his first term four years ago. The expectations; the history that was made; the level of excitement…it was all too impossible to replicate.

The November 2012 re-election of the president, nevertheless, was a remarkable feat. Taking place during a time of war and economic crisis against a very well-funded opponent, combined with the Republican use of voter suppression efforts in many states, victory was far from assured. The forces of irrationalism were blunted in their tracks, however, at least for the moment.

Yet, as we approach Inauguration there are important concerns. In the ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations, President Obama, despite the public being on his side, once again displayed his tendency towards what I would call over-compromising, a reluctance to engage in hard-bargaining and a tendency to blink at the wrong time. Yes, things could have been worse, but that does not mean that they went well.

Beyond the fiscal cliff there are other issues facing us: climate change; turmoil in the Middle East; the continued war in Afghanistan, the threat of war with Iran; and, obviously, the economy. On each of these issues and more, we should not assume – in fact, we cannot assume – that President Obama will be on the right side. The drone strikes in Pakistan continue, for instance, and so too do the attacks on civil liberties at home.

The question, then, is, what should we expect over the next four years? The answer actually depends on us much more than it does on President Obama. In the fiscal cliff negotiations, we saw what happens without us: the wrong compromises are made in the name of bi-partisanship. The problem is that Obama cannot be bi-partisan if the other side is being fanatically partisan. Such attempts appear to be surrender rather than responsible diplomacy.

Thus, the real answer to what to expect over the next four years comes down to two very different and clear scenarios: One, in the absence of pressure, the administration will offer wonderful rhetoric as it continues to retreat, or, two, the administration will be compelled to shift gears and fulfill the mandate that it received from the decisive November election as a result of pressure that it receives from people like us.

In case you missed this, the administration can only be compelled through mass action. That means more than emails and phone calls, but instead public displays of protest – boots on the ground. In addition, when we have Republicans in Congress who, due to gerrymandering, have districts that are solidly Republican and, thus, they have little fear of any electoral challenge, the only thing that will shake them up is if society is a bit shaken.

One thing that we do not need is to find ourselves, four years from now, asking why we did not do more when we had the chance. If we miss the moment, we may not have additional chances.

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.

Falling Through the Crack in Brazil

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(NNPA) It started in the jungles of the Amazon and is now infesting the streets of the favelas (ghettos) of Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. Crack addiction is out of control in Brazil. In fact, Brazilians are the biggest consumers of crack and cocaine in the whole world. Keep in mind that Brazil has more than 100 million Black citizens, making it second only to Nigeria in Black population. That is two and a half times the Black population of the United States. How this has come to be is mysterious. But one thing is for sure – it predominantly affects the Black populace of this nation. It also reminds us of the targeted assault of crack on our own Black population.

Brazil is a former colony of Portugal. The Portuguese took a ship full of African slaves to the Vatican. They were seeking the Pope’s blessing. He received the slaves and blessed what the Portuguese were about to do. Thus, the greatest holocaust in history – Trans-Atlantic African slavery was begun. Portugal claimed Brazil in the year 1500 and the first slaves were delivered in 1525. There are villages in southeastern Brazil where the villagers still speak their native African languages. Unlike the United States, which went through a civil war and reconstruction for the immersion of Africans into the general population, Brazil and other South American nations ended slavery during the 1880s abruptly and had no transition for the newly freed Blacks.

This nation tries to hide its Blackness. They are officially in denial about disparity. Blacks are 52 percent of the population but, in a nation where voting is mandatory, Blacks are less than 10 percent of the elected officials. They have no economic base and any Black celebrity such as an athlete, singer or actor is expected to marry someone White. It reminds me of that old rock tune “All They Want to do is Dance.” Some day there is going to be a struggle in this predominantly Black nation.

How is cocaine being brought into this large nation? I have read various articles about the situation but no one seems to identify the source. It could be using the model of the United States. The difference is the trafficking started in the rural areas in Brazil with the cities being the final market.

The CIA wanted to fund a revolution in Nicaragua and were denied by Congress. Thus, they came up with a funding scheme. They would introduce crack to Black neighborhoods in the United States and come up with quick cash to buy arms for its rebels. They recruited a bright, entrepreneurial middle class guy living in Los Angeles by the name of Ricky Donnell Ross. Rick Ross put the first crack house in America at 69th and Hoover. That was eleven blocks south of my Aunt Lula’s home. His distribution source would be two fledgling gangs: Crips and Bloods. Los Angeles always had gangs. But they were social units like the Slausons, Business Men and Del Vikings. These new groups are murdering machines and would soon infest the entire nation with the crack plague. In the end, Rick Ross had mastered a $600 million enterprise and only had to do 14 years in prison. The damage done by this CIA-sponsored activity was very serious and it is still having a detrimental affect on our society.

The addiction level in Brazil is raging into a severe fury. No one seems to know how it is coming into the nation. Ha! Like the United States there is some level of official cooperation. The United States would use two major street gangs. The Brazilians have three gangs running their operation. There is a lack of much police activity. The only official activity to stop this plague is the social work industry. People will visit these “crack lands” that are located near favelas and try to convince addicts to enter rehab. They are basically ignored. Very rarely will you see police or military trying to suppress the drug activity.

These gangs operate with impunity within the favelas. They are more like the local government and organized crime can flourish within their territories. Brazil is known for its corruption at all levels and the crack business seems to have found very friendly territory. We, in the Black Diaspora, should not be quiet about this. There are evil people profiting off the misery of Black folk and where is the outrage? The government has announced that it will fund $2.2 billion for further rehab and education efforts but that probably will do nothing to stop the rise in addiction. A very large Black population is at risk and the world seems to ignore it.

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

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.

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