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Progressives Should Campaign Against the Supreme Court

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(NNPA) When I first heard the news, my response was one of both outrage and a calm lack of surprise. I knew that there was a very real chance that the Supreme Court, in its McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission decision, would make it even more difficult to have limits on campaign spending. I suppose that I did not want to believe it. Thus, when the decision was issued, I found myself both resigned and furious at the same time.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s majority has made a mockery of right-wing allegations that it is liberals who have been engaged in so-called judicial activism. The conservative majority of the Supreme Court has gone out of its way to ensure the political supremacy of what the Occupy Movement called the 1 percent – the plutocrats.

There have been discussions ever since the Supreme Court’s notorious decision in the Citizens United case that there is need for a Constitutional amendment that addresses campaign finance. We now have an even more urgent need for such an amendment in light of the court’s further opening of the gates to super-money.

So, what do we do?

The first and most immediate step must be the formation of a very broad coalition to take initial steps towards securing such a Constitutional amendment. This coalition needs to make the midterm 2014 elections about the super-rich and money in elections. In that sense, candidates need to be running against the Supreme Court. Progressive candidates need to make the McCutcheon decision their battle-cry and use it to demonstrate the extent to which the 1 percent is moving at breakneck pace to derail any pretense of democracy. And they must commit to fighting for a Constitutional amendment to remove corruption from the electoral process.

The McCutcheon decision must be understood in tandem with the voter suppression efforts that we have been witnessing over the past eight years. These are steps that are being taken to hold back the future, that is, to deflate the power of the growing majority in the U.S.A. that is seeking broad and significant social and economic changes. To the extent to which people of color, youth, seniors, veterans, and others are blocked from voting and to the extent to which the faucets are opened for the super-rich to contribute inordinate amounts of money to the candidates that they now own, elections lose any meaning other than being a veneer over a very clever dictatorship of wealth.

The time has come to refocus the November elections on what is really at stake: the greed and avarice that now feels completely comfortable showing its face in public.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and atwww.billfletcherjr.com.

Whitewashing Republican Support of Civil Rights

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(NNPA) One of the best kept secrets over the past 50 years is that, proportionately, Republicans in Congress supported passage of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act by a much wider margin than Democrats.

As CNN.com reported, “The Guardian’s Harry J. Enten broke down the vote, showing that more than 80% of Republicans in both houses voted in favor of the bill, compared with more than 60% of Democrats. When you account for geography, according to Enten’s article, 90% of lawmakers from states that were in the union during the Civil War supported the bill compared with less than 10% of lawmakers from states that were in the Confederacy.”

This is from a report from CNN, not FOX, the network despised by liberals.

There was another interesting tidbit in the CNN report:

“Ohio’s Republican Rep. William McCulloch had a conservative track record – he opposed foreign and federal education aid and supported gun rights and school prayer. His district (the same one now represented by House Speaker John Boehner) had a small African-American population. So he had little to gain politically by supporting the Civil Rights Act.”

“Yet he became a critical leader in getting the bill passed.

“His ancestors opposed slavery even before the Civil War, and he’d made a deal with President Kennedy to see the bill through to passage.”

The article noted, “’The Constitution doesn’t say that whites alone shall have our most basic rights, but that we all shall have them,’ McCulloch would say to fellow legislators.”

But you would not know any of this if you relied on the official ceremonies at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library last week marking the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights. The three-day summit at the University of Texas featured President Obama and former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Other speakers included Black Democrats such as Julian Bond, the former NAACP chairman; Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta, and former UN Ambassador Andy Young, among others. (To see a full list of speakers, go to: http://www.civilrightssummit.org/program/.)

How can you have a discussion of Civil Rights and not have one Black Republican? How could you not have Robert J. Brown, top aide to President Nixon and one of Dr. King’s closest confidants?

What about former Eighth District Court of Appeals Judge Sara J. Harper? Last year, she was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame. She was also the first Black to graduate from Case Western Reserve University’s Law School. Is it really that easy to overlook the first Black National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, Colin Powell? Really?

They even had my good friend, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour as one of their speakers (a White southern male). So, they had White Republicans, but no Black Republicans. WOW!

As George Orwell wrote his book, 1984, “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”

If the summit were your sole source of information, you would think no Black Republicans were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Arthur Fletcher is known as “the father of affirmative action.” Though he is deceased, his work lives on – and should have been recognized.

Former Secretary of Transportation Bill Coleman was a proud Black Republican but just as proud of his support for civil rights. And so was former Senator Ed Brooke of Massachusetts. The list goes on and on – except at the LBJ ceremonies in Austin.

Am I the only one that noticed this intentional rewriting of history?

As usual, the media has been woefully and willfully negligent in not covering this angle. These supposedly bastions of journalistic integrity such as The Root and The Grio have caught a bad case of laryngitis. Melissa Perry and Joy Reid on MSNBC have suddenly forgotten how to speak English.

The LBJ library and Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for prostituting the real bi-partisan history of the Civil Rights Movement. This should have been one event that was truly reflective of the real history of America – the good and the bad.

Slavery and racism are still the biggest blemishes on American history; but because we are Americans and showed resolve, we also have one helluva story of redemption to tell. We have come a long way from the days of slavery and Jim Crow. We have Blacks making millions of dollars in sports, music, business, science, and education. Blacks have been to the moon and back. We even have a Black president.

In the very moment when we should have been celebrating the journey America has taken, we have been forced to reflect upon the willful deceit propagated upon the true history of our nation.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He is also the author of: “Writing Wrongs: My Political Journey in Black and Write. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

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(NNPA) Opening day for Major League Baseball always puts a smile on my face. This is the day that many of us treat as the actual beginning of spring. While snow can always appear, you know that warmer days are ahead. Yet, this is also a day when I think about a tragic injustice that is associated with Major League Baseball: the fact that both Curt Flood and Marvin Miller have not been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Curt Flood, who served with distinction as an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, was the player who was willing to risk it all in order to legally challenge baseball’s “reserved clause,” which held players in the equivalent of indentured servitude to their teams. Flood’s case went to the U.S. Supreme Court where he lost in one of the strangest decisions in court history. Yet the stand that he took and the terrible stain that this placed on Major League Baseball cracked open a door that had been locked during the 20th century. It was the Major League Baseball Players Association led by the iconic Marvin Miller that was ultimately able to break down the door and introduce “free agency,” the system through which the players were finally able to receive respectable compensation for all that they put into the game. Miller led in the building of the Player’s Association and the transformation of baseball.

Despite these major contributions, the candidacies of both of these now deceased individuals has been shot down when their names were submitted for consideration in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The only rationale for denying them their place in that roster of stars appears to have been that they chose to fight the system rather than roll over. The Hall of Fame is supposed to acknowledge those who have made substantial contributions to baseball. If that is the case, how can such individuals be denied their place?

Regardless of the rhetoric, the only way that this injustice will be overturned is when sports fans let their voices be heard, and heard loudly. Baseball fans in particular need to ensure that the owners of baseball franchises and the sports media as well understand that we–the fans–know something about what has made baseball what it is today. Courage and defiance are two of those factors. Nothing could better characterize Curt Flood and Marvin Miller.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. He is also a baseball fan, if you have not guessed. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Black Capitalism – Fulfillment or Failure?

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(NNPA) In light of what most of us know about the economy and where Black people fit, mostly as consumers rather than producers, a discussion of Black capitalism is in order. The term was promoted by Stokley Carmichael in 1966 as part of the “Black Power” movement, but came into vogue in 1968 when the Nixon administration adopted it from a proposal by Robert Kennedy. Black capitalism originally called for loan assistance, credit guarantees, and technical assistance for Black-owned businesses in an effort to stimulate economic development in the ghettos.

According to Black Entrepreneurship in America by Shelly Green and Paul Pryde: [Black capitalism] constituted a movement by Blacks to gain control over the business development of their own communities…Directing business growth in the Black community was considered the first step toward achieving a powerful Black economic presence in the larger American economy. [It] called for a new kind of social contract among racial groups in America – one based on mutual self-interest rather than integration.”

Andrew Brimmer, noted economist and Lyndon B. Johnson appointee to the Federal Reserve Board, had a different perspective on Black capitalism. In the book, A Different Vision: African American Economic Thought, Brimmer wrote, “…the strategy of Black capitalism offers a very limited potential for economic advancement for the majority of the Black population.”

In support of his contention, Brimmer posited, “The ghetto economy…does not appear to provide profitable opportunities for large scale business investment.” He noted a large part of the problem was attributable to “a tendency for affluent Blacks to shop in the more diverse national economy.”

Brimmer suggested that Black capitalism fails because it is founded on the premise of self-employment, as opposed to employment in salaried positions where the rewards are greater and the risks are much lower. (That reality gives credence to Thomas Boston’s “20 by 10” strategy of Black businesses hiring Black employees.) Brimmer suggested that Black capitalism “may retard Blacks’ economic advancement by discouraging many from the full participation in the national economy…” His position assumed that corporations would hire Blacks; but his concern about the greatest risk being placed on those who can least afford to take risks is quite valid. We have several examples of that reality in Black businesses today.

Has Black capitalism worked? Is it working? One thing is certain: Korean capitalism is working. They control the Black hair care market via their stores in the ghettos, where Black folks are their only customers; and Koreans hire their own people as well. This is a great example of how “segmented” capitalism can and does work.

Economist Milton Friedman said, “History suggests only that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom [since many nations can be identified that have] economic arrangements that are fundamentally capitalist and political arrangements that are not free.”

History Professor, Dr. Juliet E.K. Walker, wrote, “The existence of Black entrepreneurship… provides an example of an economic arrangement in this nation’s antebellum free enterprise system that was fundamentally capitalistic, but within which some of the capitalists, the African Americans, were not fundamentally free.”

The problem with Black capitalism is structural inequity due to a paucity of government support. Just as the government has subsidized large corporations, it should do the same for Black businesses. The International Journal of Humanities and Social Science (November 2012) carried a paper written by Ryan Very, titled, “Black Capitalism: An Economic Program for the Black American Ghetto,” in which Very made a good case for government support of Black capitalism.

Here is the abstract from that paper: “The American federal government supported the creation and expansion of economically depressed urban residential areas where blacks live in segregation from whites. These ghettos face barriers to economic development including high unemployment, a low wage labor market, capital drain, and market dualism. Three popular ghetto economic development strategies are ghetto dispersal, corporate branch planting, and black capitalism. Black capitalism breaks the ghetto’s economic barriers better than ghetto dispersal and corporate branch planting, but it will only be possible with significant support from whites and the federal government.” In other words, the government caused the problem, and the government should fix it.

Very continued, “Black access to capital coupled with subsidized entrepreneurial training services would…allow more residents to start their own potentially successful businesses in the ghetto. With a sizeable government subsidy, ghetto residents could even build manufacturing plants. If ghetto residents would export enough manufactured goods, both the drain of capital and the (neighborhood) trade deficit would decrease.”

Until Blacks understand our economic and political positions in this country, we will continue to languish in what Ron Daniels calls, the “Dark Ghettos” of either or, and we will never move to the land of both and.

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.

Russia is Not the Only Aggressor

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(NNPA) I have found myself getting a bit nervous as I hear various U.S. politicians rattling their swords in response to the Russian aggression in the Crimea. Before we lose our minds in this crisis let’s consider a few things.

First, there was a revolution in the Ukraine that, no matter how justifiable, put into office a new government that from the beginning was quite hostile to Russia and to ethnic Russians in the Ukraine.

Second, ever since the final years of the Soviet Union, the USSR and later Russia have pulled back militarily from Eastern Europe, only to see an expansion of NATO that the U.S.A. promised would not happen. An expansion, it should be added, that has been pressing up against Russia’s borders.

Third, Western Europe has a demonstrated history of provoking or encouraging secessionist movements, as it did in the former Yugoslavia, and/or encouraging smaller nations to provoke Russia, as it did in the case of the Georgian Republic.

Now, none of this excuses Russian aggression. None of this lets Russian President Putin off the hook for inflaming ethnic nationalism in Russia and the Ukraine. But what this does help us to understand are the conditions in which this aggression took place and that the West, specifically Western Europe and the U.S. are not blameless.

The United States has been willing to engage in all sorts of military aggression within the Western Hemisphere when the ruling elite believed that its interests were in danger, whether that was against Haiti in the 19th century through today; Cuba; or the countless interventions in the Caribbean and Central America. Despite this history, U.S. politicians have been acting as if they have never even heard the word “aggression” in the context of U.S. foreign policy.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example, has offered rhetoric that would lead the uninformed to believe that U.S. foreign policy has been guided by nothing but sweetness in comparison to the policies of the Russians. I believe that Senator McCain, and the Obama administration for that matter, need to re-read a bit of the history of U.S. foreign policy.

Before we hear any more discussion of sanctions and military force in connection with the Russian/Ukrainian crisis, it is instead time for a different approach. There needs to be an actual honest broker who starts speaking with both sides to pull everyone back from the brink. If that is not the United Nations, then perhaps it can be an assortment of countries from Europe and the global South. “Discussions” and “negotiations,” in either case, should be the watch-words.

In the meantime, class is in session for our politicians on the history of U.S. foreign policy. Anyone ever heard of the works of Howard Zinn, for instance?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

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