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Washington Football Team Owner Changes Tactics, but not Decision

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(NNPA) After insisting that the Washington football team would not change its name, Daniel Snyder, the team’s owner, decided to get warm and fuzzy and send out a personal letter to fans. This, of course, a few days after President Obama entered the fray and raised serious questions as to why the “Washington Redskins” continued to use a name that many people find offensive.

The gist of Snyder’s argument was that the name has been with the team for a long time and many Native Americans do not find the term “redskin” offensive. Apparently recognizing that his arrogant approach to this debate was winning him few friends, he decided to change tactics and come across as an understanding individual who felt that the legacy of the team would be harmed by a name change.

So, let’s try it this way, Mr. Snyder. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the name is not intended to be offensive. Does that really matter? Even if it is the case that some (or even many) Native Americans do not find it offensive, I think that in using a ‘reasonable person standard’ most of us would agree that, at a minimum, the term is archaic and certainly not a compliment to the Native American people.

Names and terms change over periods of time. The term “Negro,” for instance, which was used during much of the 19th and 20th centuries, was perceived as offensive by many African Americans, and ceased to be used as the consciousness of people of African descent within the U.S. changed. Specifically, we discarded the term—except when used in very distinct historical contexts – as we sought to clarify our identity as Black and of African descent.

In this sense, whether the term “redskin” is intended to offend misses the point. Let us be clear: many Native Americans (and their allies) do find the term offensive. But the central point is that the term is not used today in any respect that is in the least bit heroic, positive or an endorsement of the legacy of the First Nations of the Western Hemisphere. That is all that we actually need to know to help us conclude that the time has arrived to change the name of the Washington football team and enter the 21st Century.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Republicans and the New 'White Flight'

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By Lee A. Daniels
NNPA Columnist

(NNPA) Now that the GOP-manufactured economic crisis is over (for the several months, anyway), one might say the lesson for the Republican Party is best expressed by that old warning: Be careful what you wish for.

Driven by its reactionary Tea Party faction and the Right’s newest demagogue, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the GOP tried to use forcing a shutdown of the government and the debt-default threat to hijack the democratic process – to effectively repeal Obamacare and destroy the authority of the president.

However, wrapped in self-delusion, they misjudged President Obama and the Congressional Democrats – and, as the Republican Party’s sinking to record lows in many polls show, the American public – just as they did in the 2012 national election. Not for nothing did conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer, watching the battle unfold, label them Congress’ “suicide caucus.”

The outrageous stunt has likely tilted the political calculus for both the 2014 midterm congressional elections and the 2016 presidential contest more in the Democrats’ favor. One has to believe that the Democratic Party get-out-the-vote strategists, who’ve performed so superbly in 2008 and 2012, are already figuring the best ways to make hay from the GOP’s missteps.

But one of several critical questions this astonishing episode of American history has cast into sharp relief is who’s going to win the political war that’s now broken into the open within the Republican Party between the Tea Party faction and its establishment wing represented by Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

True, a significant bloc of the party’s establishment elected officials and business supporters such as the U.S. Chamber of Congress took concerted steps last week as the shutdown and debt-ceiling deadlines loomed to muster enough votes of GOP Senators and Representatives to back down from the confrontation. And they have promised to work to rein in the Tea Party’s extremist influence on the party as a whole by financially backing mainstream-conservative candidates in the primaries.

Nonetheless, the GOP’s political terrain looks mountainous, for Tea Party activists and Congressional representatives are even more scathing toward establishment Republicans and vow not to back down from the next confrontation.

You can take them at their word because, despite its defeat in the Congress and battering in the polls, the fact is the Tea Party did force the GOP pragmatists to allow their radical scheme to shut down the United States government– throwing tens of thousands of government employees temporarily out of work, temporarily blocking millions of Americans from access to government services – and causing more than $20 billion in damage to the U.S. economy.

The outcome of the GOP civil war between the Tea Party ideologues and the establishment wing is important not just for the Republican Party but for the country as a whole.

That’s because the Tea Party represents the most significant backward political force the country has seen since the defeat in the 1960s of the racial segregationists of the Jim Crow South. Indeed, they’re the latter’s spiritual descendants: in today’s far more diverse society their intolerance spans the spectrum of any group that’s “different.”

That’s why, as the nation’s cities have become more and more diverse, with more and more Americans of different backgrounds gathering in the same living space, the living space of the conservative and extremely conservative Whites who are the base of the Republican Party and its Tea Party faction is just the opposite.

As Ryan Lizza, the New Yorker’s political correspondent, noted in a recent article, “Where the G.O.P.’s Suicide Caucus Lives,” the districts of many Republican members of Congress “actually became less diverse (his emphasis) in 2012.” These districts, predominantly exurban and rural, where whites constitutes at least 80 percent of the residents, “represent an America where the population is getting whiter … and where the Republican Party is becoming more dominant and more popular.”

In other words, supporters of the GOP, and especially of the Tea Party are repeating in a slightly different way the “White flight” dynamic of the mid-20th century. Then, as more and more Southern Blacks migrated to the cities, more and more Whites fled their urban neighborhoods for lily-White suburban enclaves.

Today, the country’s demographic changes and Republicans’ deliberate Congressional-district gerrymandering have combined to effectively produce conservative Whites-only political “fortresses” that are, as the shutdown crisis showed, bastions of a voting bloc which values its “ideological purity” above the country’s political traditions and economic viability.

True, those kinds of voters have always existed in America. But it’s not a comforting thought to understand the last time such a group exercised significant political power was when the regime of Jim Crow ruled the South.

Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.

Republican Antics Discourage Talented Workers

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(NNPA) I keep hoping that I can stop writing about the federal government shutdown/lockout. Hopefully, when you read this, it will all be over. But even when it’s over, it won’t be over.

Case in point: I have a friend who works for the federal government. What she and many of her colleagues are wondering, in addition to when the shutdown/lockout will end, is whether there will be more of these idiotic Republican tactics in the future? The implications are actually quite sobering. If, as it appears, that Tea Party Republicans have decided to advance their agenda by creating a series of crises, this raises questions about the ability of federal workers to remain confident that there is actually a future for them in public service.

Think about it for a moment. Even with the apparent commitment by Congress to make whole federal workers for their lost wages, the reality is that the banks are not giving borrowers a free pass; I know of no mortgage company that is allowing federal workers to hold back on their mortgage payments until the end of the shutdown; I am unfamiliar with food stores providing resources to families on the assumption that they will be reimbursed when this shutdown/lockout is over.

As a result, each federal worker and contract employee must reflect on whether they can actually afford to continue to work in the federal service. How many more times will there be such lockouts? What sorts of plans can any federal worker make for the future?

There are already discussions in the mainstream media of how the shutdown/lockout has affected research being conducted in various federal scientific agencies and departments. This will become a chronic problem leading to an eventual grinding to a halt of major work coupled with the exit of federal employees.

Did I say “eventual?” There has actually been an exit underway. As federal workers have been demonized by the political Right and treated as scapegoats, through antics like sequestration, we have seen federal workers going for early retirements or other means of exiting the system.

One has to ask whether it is in the interests of the people of this country to lose talented, long-term employees from the federal government. The impact will ultimately be the increase in contract employees who will be paid less; have less secure employment; few, if any benefits…

That’s right. If that sounds familiar, that is the objective of the Tea Party Republicans.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. works for the American Federation of Government Employees. The content of this commentary does not necessarily represent the views of AFGE. He is also the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Time to Consider Impeaching Obama

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(NNPA) Throughout history every civilization owes its existence to its military. Societies exist because they are adequately protected against outside sources by the strength of their soldiers and strategy of their military leaders – field officers. The Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians because they had no comparable military to defend themselves. King David was respected by all because of his military acumen. England built a massive empire because its military was superior to all other nations. A very strong military brings peace while a weak one will invite invasion and oppression. That’s the way of the world.

The United States is no exception. We were created through a successful war. We have sustained our liberty via going to war. We have expanded our nation from 13 states to 50 plus various territories, all of which have come through war. Today, we are obviously the strongest nation in the world because of the efficiency of our military.

I am proud of many things. Besides my immediate family, I am most proud of having served in the United States Army as a 1st Lieutenant. There is no distinction of a person more noteworthy than that of a veteran. Many have fallen in defense of our nation. When I visit my family’s cemetery plot in Louisiana, I note that the most distinctive headstones are those of our veterans. On my father-in-law’s plot in Indianapolis, Kay and I proudly put on his headstone “Veteran of World War II – Tuskegee Airman.” It stands out among the thousands of headstones in that cemetery.

The United States honors its military in an admirable way. We have Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day each year to honor those who fell in battle. Our veterans are sacred. We have special mortgage financing for them. There is college funding for those who served honorably. There is adequate disability for those who were wounded or hurt during their service. Also, we have hospitals dedicated to those who have served during peacetime or war. Our America veterans are sacred.

In view of the above, I am totally shocked and saddened by the low regard our current president, Barack Obama, has for our veterans. During this current government shut down he has made it clear. He has instructed his minions to put pain on Americans and point the finger at political foes. This silly guy doesn’t realize that the “buck” stops with him. He is the Commander- in-Chief and holds the highest authority in our great nation. He has ordered his minions to spare no pain for anyone. To our shock and dismay, we now see him denying death benefits to the survivors of our fallen soldiers. Each soldier going into combat is given a life insurance policy of $100,000 (it was $15,000 when I served). Since October 1, 2013, every family whose military member has been killed in action has been denied that insurance payment. There are no military ceremonial funerals given and no funding for the widow/widower or nearest family member to come to meet the casket when it arrives back in America.

I have made it known to all that I don’t really like Barack Obama. However, he is our elected president and I will respect that position. As I was instructed in the Army, “Salute the uniform, not the person.” Never mind that he doesn’t go to church when a church is located across the street from his residence. I will not shout about the very low performance his administrations have done in procurement and business loans to Black entrepreneurs. Yes, he has laid off more than 800,000 government employees over a matter of “principal” – they will get through that somehow. The whole world is changing its view of America from “strong but nice” to “strong but stupid.” We will have another president in 2016 and, hopefully, we can recover from what has been lost.

But now, when you bring financial and emotional harm to the families of our fallen soldiers – I draw the line. This is disgraceful, anti-American and treasonous. Our House of Representatives should start considering impeachment. That’s right, to offend those who serve and put their lives on the line to protect our land and way of life is a heinous act. He is doing it with a smile and that is evil by any other name. I cried when I heard the news. I have never been so hurt by an elected official in my lifetime. I haven’t been this depressed since the assassinations of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy. Who is this in our White House – a White House that no longer allows the public to tour through it? Mr. President don’t mess with our vets!

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

The Federal Shutdown is Very Personal

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(NNPA) In the interest of full disclosure, I work for the largest labor union in the federal sector: the American Federation of Government Employees. But I am not writing on their behalf or because I was told to do so. This is personal.

Federal employees are largely invisible. Actually, we take them for granted. With certain exceptions such as TSA and the VA, most of us think almost nothing about them until and unless we have a problem that forces us into the federal system, be that Social Security, worker rights, food safety, or any number of other issues. We get so used to the services provided by federal workers that many of us actually believe that these matters are being performed automatically. I would go further and suggest that some of us seem to believe that it is being done through magic.

With the government shutdown/lockout, we come face-to-face with the reality of government. Various functions have stopped working altogether; agencies and offices are closed; and almost a a million workers are out on the street.

I know some of those workers. Let me tell you a bit about what they are facing: complete uncertainty. For years, politicians, particularly but not exclusively Republicans, have been making federal workers scapegoats for any number of problems. Then last year there was the sequestration which, in effect, cut the pay of hundreds of thousands of workers. As someone said to me the other day while we were waiting to go through airport security, “…the cost of living is not dropping so why are workers being asked to take more and more cuts?” Why, indeed!

With the shutdown/lockout, these same workers have been thrown into a mist. They have rents and mortgages to pay; they have credit card payments; they have children in school, yet those in Congress who have shut down the government care not one bit for this reality. They see the federal worker as an enemy and they want that enemy punished. The shutdown is a “two-for” as far as the Tea Party Republicans are concerned: go after the Obama administration and go after the federal worker.

In the name of blocking healthcare for more than 50 million people, the Tea Party Republicans have shut down the government. In shutting down the government they have rendered another million people unemployed, thereby setting in motion economic dominoes that may wreck entire communities. One would think that they might think twice about this, but the political motivations of this attack are too strong for some and if they have to bring everything down in order to prove a point, they are apparently quite willing to do so.

This only stops when we stop them.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. works for the American Federation of Government Employees. This commentary does not necessarily represent the views of the AFGE and was not written on their behalf. Follow Bill Fletcher, Jr. on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

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