Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963: Memories of a Negro Child from Oakland

We were Negro back then. It took me awhile to realize when the TV newsmen spoke of the Negro race, they meant me, my family, and most of the people in my Oakland neighborhood. For the adults, Negro didn't produce the disdain felt for the other N-word. But then there was the variation used mostly by Southern Whites who called us Niggras. We would hear this term when whites were interviewed during the civil rights battles in the South that were going on in the late-fifties and early-sixties.

But for me, Negro reminded me of the young preacher, the civil rights leader always in suits, who talked about the dignity, hopes, and yes -- dreams of the Negro People. We were a People.... one of my earliest remembrances of our differences. They were Americans...we were a People.
Some of my older relatives, including my mother's oldest sister, insisted that we be referred to as colored, not Negro. To her, colored represented 'same as white' with just a little 'color' added in. And indeed, in my family as in most Negro families, there were relatives with very little 'color added in' who passed as white.
My aunt - the colored girl - as black women were referred to back then regardless of age, worked in the homes of wealthy whites on Nob Hill in San Francisco. Every now and then she would take me with her to visit 'Miss whoever-she-was-working-for-at-the-time.' The well-dressed woman was usually some rich man's wife, widow, or mother. The women always seemed nice enough, but I was too young to really understand there was more dividing us than wealth.
To them, I was a cute little colored girl. To me, they were rich white ladies who kept wanting to give me things - candy, clothes, books, cash - they just felt the need to shower me with gifts whenever they saw me. This was okay with me. Mostly, I wasn't allowed to accept gifts from anyone, but with my aunt standing near I learned to graciously acknowledge their kindness toward me. I'm sure lots of little Negro kids learned this routine.
The other whites we interfaced with were the military guys who served with my uncles. They would bring their young white girlfriends to our house. One guy left his girlfriend with us...shipped out and didn't come back to her or their upcoming baby. I believe her name was Maxine and she did what so many of the girls did in that situation. (You see her circumstance was not unique.) She found another sailor and left with him. She did stay in touch with our family for many years however, knowing that she would have been out on the streets without us.)
In 1960, there were a few lower-income whites that couldn't escape our mostly Negro neighborhood. I went to school with their offspring at Grant Elementary (since torn down) not far from our 28th and Telegraph apartment. My best friend in Kindergarten was a white kid named Jim. For awhile, Jim and I didn't understand the divisions between white and Negro. We needed assistance from our parents.
Mommy, "Whats a nig-a-ro?" I asked one day after school. (My mom still tells this story.) You see Jim had told me his mom did not want us to be friends, and I would not be visiting his house because I was a "nig-a-ro." The friendship was over and shortly thereafter Jim moved away - probably to an area where he didn't have to attend school with "nig-a-ro" kids.
This was race relations for me as a Negro child living in Oakland, California in the early 1960's. This was the backdrop when John Kennedy was running for President and decided to make a campaign swing through Oakland. Even though it was widely known he hailed from a rich family, Kennedy was seen as a champion of the underdog and the Negro People in particular. Like the rich white ladies on Nob Hill, surely he had many gifts to offer us. 

There was quite a commotion surrounding Kennedy's visit to working-class Oakland. Since Grant Elementary was near the route he would take on his way to de Fremery Park to greet supporters, it was decided that students would witness his visit first-hand -- lining the streets of his route to the park. I was happy because I was selected to wave the flag for my class as he drove by.
On November 2, 1960 Kennedy's motorcade (I didn't know it was called that until three years later) whizzed by and being small I didn't see a thing. I just heard them say, "Wave the flag, Linnie...Wave the flag!" And I did so (even though it was heavy) with all my might. I kept waving that flag until they told me to stop. Kennedy was probably miles away by then. They say Kennedy was mobbed by supporters at de Fremery Park and needed a police escort to get away.
Most of the Negros and the Colored People in my community loved John F. Kennedy and they were ecstatic when he won the Presidency the following week.
On November 22, 1963, I was in third grade at Brookfield Elementary School in what is called East Oakland. During recess we played tag almost every day. (Around that age the kids still played tag....normally the boys chasing the girls, however now I think the girls do some chasing of their own.)
We stopped our running and hiding when we noticed our teacher Mrs. Doxey, and some of the other teachers, crying and looking stunned. Mrs. Doxey brought us back into the classroom and told us the President had been shot. Not long after, I looked up and saw my mother at the door. She had come to get me. We only lived a few blocks from the school and she had walked over. She was the room mother so Mrs. Doxey knew her. In those days, all it took was a nod and I was released to go home with my mom.
There was sadness in our home and in the neighborhood when the President died. An overwhelming grief I had never seen - even when we had lost family members and friends. People who had suffered many hardships felt this was one more blow - it was personal.
The adults didn't spend a lot of time discussing conspiracy theories, since the majority of them were from the South and understood not getting answers on the murders of loved ones. They did however attribute the murder to Kennedy's stand on civil rights for the Negro People. Perhaps it made them more determined to fight.
1960. Me and my cowboy hat.
My family was from Dallas and had always been proud of their Texas culture. I had cowboy hats and boots from the time I was born. Suddenly, Dallas wasn't so popular anymore and the hats and boots were put away for years.
They say you never forget where you were or what you were doing when you hear the news of something like the Kennedy Assassination (or recently 9-11). At the time, we did not know if Kennedy's death marked the end of the civil rights battle, or if it would continue.
They say America lost its innocence on November 22, 1963. Nevertheless, there was also the coming together of a people united in grief. We came together not as ethnic groups, but as Americans.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Washington Watch: "Republican, Heal Thyself"

I'm a life-long Democrat...and, given the current "face" of the Republican Party (Limbaugh, Palin, Trump, Bachmann, Cruz), I won't be changing parties anytime soon. It's too bad because I think we are at our best with a two-party system -- with ideas coming forward instead of threats.

Today however, the Republican party has swung so far to the right (or maybe they are just being "led" too far right) that even my friends and family members who tend to vote Republican are shying away from the party.

In my view, the party let the far-right fringe get control (like a virus) in three-ways:

1. Wanting to beat Obama (and/or humiliate Obama) at any cost. For some it's policy or religious differences. Others are uncomfortable with the changing demographics in the country. Charles D. Ellison, Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune, suggests in an article for The Root entitled, "Backwoods Mentality Takes Over Congress" that it is also rural versus urban. Ellison questions the motives of the so-called 'Tea Party' Republicans, saying:
"We assume that they, like everyone else who goes to Washington, want to participate in a spirited federal or national political process. But do they really?
Instead, they're forcing our modern political process to fight a new Civil War."
This is the 'scorched earth' policy that politicians talk about where no one wins -- certainly not our national unity. (Do we still have any?)

2. "Too Comfortable" GOP House members afraid of a challenge from the right. There are Republicans in  Congress who see the folly of their position and recognize that they have done very little of substance recently. Maybe there are some who understand compromise. However, they are being bullied and threatened with a challenger the next time they run for office. (And for Congress members this is a very QUICK two years.) This would mean they would have to get out and actually campaign for votes from their district instead of being a shoo-in.

3. Lack of leadership. If you can't stand up to a bully, you would at least hope your leaders could. Not the case in the GOP-led House. Boehner seems as lost as the rest of America as to a solution. He's trying to please all of the factions and this NEVER works. PTA moms know this. Parents know this! You end up losing the respect of your people and control of the situation.

Right now...their poll numbers plummeting...Republicans are scrambling to save face. No matter what happens, they will have to swallow a bitter pill.

Then maybe, they can work on getting healthy again.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Washington Watch: "September 30, 2013"

September 30, 2013 is an important date for the nation's Congressional representatives. The end-of-the-quarter, it also signals the Federal Election Commission (FEC) deadline for collecting contributions for the quarter.  The books close on September 30 as far as donations for the quarter.

This year, with a government shutdown and the implementation of Obamacare on the line, both parties are pressing hard for contributions from their supporters to 'stop' the other side. The emails are flying and I imagine contributions are pouring in. Will there be a deal before midnight? Doubt it.

In the meantime, John Boehner will surely go down as the worst Speaker of the House EVER! He can't handle the tantrums from the right who want to take the 'sail' out of Obamacare on October 1. More antics. Still waiting on their alternatives for healthcare. No governing. Just more anti-Obamanism.

It is estimated that 48 million people are uninsured in America. You think they are going to ignore Obamacare?

Obamacare is law and the GOP knows that as people sign up...for some, getting healthcare for the first time in will be harder to stop the momentum. And, because they chose to call it Obamacare, citizens will always know it was President Obama who brought healthcare for all.

The right-wing will continue the fight to repeal it. It won't happen during Obama's presidency, unless they get enough votes (pickup the Senate and enough Districts in 2014) to override a veto. Not likely. Possible, but not likely.

But for now -- next will come the debt-ceiling vote. More theatrics coming from those who cannot accept the results of the November 2012 election.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Washington Watch: "Breaking Bad"

Speaker of the House
Rep. John A. Boehner [R-OH]
The GOP House leaders are calling it their line-in-the-sand, others are calling it the line-to-lunacy.  The tea party-led House voted YET again to shut-down (or defund this time) Obamacare....and not only that, they tied it into the funding to keep the government going.

There are those who get so high on their pedestal that the oxygen doesn't reach their brain. Others dislike the President SO MUCH that they even embrace the Russian leader. Americans.

History will not bode well for these obstructionists whose sole purpose is to derail a Presidency. They have not been pro-active at all. Only contrary.

Obamacare (they named it as a tactic to defeat his bid for a second term; He embraced the name) -- is LAW. Passed by both Houses of Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court.

Granted...the Administration could be doing a better (and faster) job of rolling it out, however many people with pre-existing conditions are looking forward to it. As are the millions of uninsured and others who are paying exorbitant rates for health care.

Is it perfect? Probably not. But what is the GOP proposing??? This seems to be more of their anti-Obamanism. The President summed it up today at a speech in Missouri:
"The debate that's going on in Congress is not meeting the test of helping middle-class families," Obama said. "They're focused on politics. They're focused on trying to mess with me. They're not focused on you."
Even if the goal is purely to make Obama look bad (as unworthy as this is) -- the question must be asked --do the ends justify the means? Bringing government to its knees, destroying the creditworthiness of the nation?

No...the ends do not justify the means more so than the actions of a dying teacher who becomes a drug lord to provide for his family in the TV show Breaking Bad.

This move by the right-led GOP is just plain BAD!

Oh Yeah -- they also cut food stamp funding this week.

A better story: The President and the Lady

President Barack Obama writes a school excuse note for Alanah Poullard, 5, 
while visiting with Wounded Warriors and their families in the East Room 
during their tour of the White House, Sept. 19, 2013.
 Alanah asked for a note to show her kindergarten teacher. 
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Washington Watch: "The Syrian Two-Step"

President Barack Obama talks with advisors in the Oval Office, Sept. 10, 2013.
 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Syrian Stepping

Putin is at Step Five.

America -- the media, most of the politicians, and the people, are at Step Two.

Hopefully, the Administration is at Step 7 or higher. 

Some of you get what I am saying here. Certainly, chess players get it. And checkers players.  And maybe even tic-tac-toe players.

America has been baited into a "needed" response. (Or was Assad baited? Is he the pawn?)

The first delay -- going to Congress (also the right thing to do, whether the President takes their advice or not), was necessary because it would not have been good to have American military strikes while attending the G-20.

And this week...with September 11, would not be good for an American military strike. Delay our side.

Putin's move -- Syria turning in the weapons for international control and destruction.(Maybe). A delay on their side?

What is the endgame?

Again...hopefully the smart people in the Administration, and the military, are making the right moves. I trust that they are.

I think it is good the American people are paying attention to the Syrian situation...even if we can't be sure what is really going on. This is the legacy from Iraq.

Next move?

In the Meantime:

The Government will shut down on September 30th if no budget agreement is reached. (Remember the Sequester?) The GOP wants to vote YET AGAIN to stop Obamacare.

Think Progress:  The Who’s Who Of The Looming Government Shutdown 
ANNIE-ROSE STRASSER ON AUGUST 16, 2013  From the article:

"There is no middle ground for those who want to shut down the government over Obamacare. They want the health law defunded and they don’t care what it takes, and so they have said they will not sign onto a new continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government if it includes funds for Obamacare. In order for the government to remain funded, Congress must pass a CR by September 30."
What will happen with Immigration Reform?

policymic:  Immigration Reform 2013: Why Syria Means It's the Wrong Time
PAUL STERN, SEPTEMBER 10, 2013  From the article:
".... immigration reform may unfortunately languish on the steps of the House until next year, the all-important midterm election year. While this does not spell the absolute end, many representatives will be returning to their campaign trails, forgoing the compromise necessary to pass provisions crucial to the reform bill such as the pathway to citizenship. Instead, the House majority will spend the year playing party politics, focusing on re-election instead of legislating."

There's more as listed by Ms. Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC in her article: Welcome back Congress. Here’s your to-do list. She sums it up:
"For a group of men and women notorious for gridlock and inaction, Congress has a lot on its plate when it returns to session Sept. 9 after a five-week recess. Even before President Obama began aggressively lobbying for congressional approval to launch military strikes in Syria, the list of urgent legislative problems was long and daunting, which means some things have dropped off the radar."

And, oh yeah -- What about jobs and the economy????

Remembering the victims of 9-11

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Washington Watch: The Dream & The Wake-Up

This past week in Washington there were debates on if Dr. King's dream of 50 years ago has been realized, while at the same time, the Administration considered appropriate measures for atrocities in Syria.

What Dream?

The naysayers were out this past week as the country remembered the March on Washington fifty years ago. As dignitaries, including the President, spoke at the site of King's 'I Have a Dream' speech, many questioned: "Has the dream been realized?"

It is easy to lament the many challenges facing the nation, in particular people of color, and specifically African-Americans.

I myself questioned our progress a few weeks ago with a blog entitled  "After Trayvon Does it Matter?"  I related the growing list of indignities facing black America and how we have gone backward in many ways -- especially when we look at our disappearing middle-class. Yet, I concluded that "giving-up is not an option!" This is what I said and I still feel this way:

"In spite of....and BECAUSE of what we as African-Americans face in today's America --giving up is not an option. Here is why:
-If men, women, and children brought here in chains, and treated as chattel, did not give up their fight for dignity, neither will we.
-If the civil rights workers who were spat on, beaten, jailed, and killed so that we could have the right to vote, did not give up their fight for equality, neither will we.
-If the masses who spent MANY hours in line to vote in Florida in 2012, in spite of those who try to take away our voting privileges...well they did not give up. Even when they were told Barack Obama had won, they still stood in line to cast their ballot. They did not give up their right to vote, neither will we.
We will not give up.For our future....For our children...For Trayvon Martin...We will not give up on the promise of America."

But, back to "The Dream."  I did not have the honor of knowing Dr. King, but I have to believe that fifty years later, having an African-American LEADER OF THE FREE African-American as PRESIDENT of America...standing there honoring your speech from 50 years ago...well, think about it... Personally, I think he would be pleased....and he would Thank God! 

Yes...of course there is still much to be done...and we cannot be complacent because rights given by man can be taken away by man. We are human...there will always be wars, discrimination, and strife. is important to take a moment to recognize significant achievements in our advancement as a country. 

I often think of the elderly black folk....some in wheelchairs and walkers, braving the EXTREME cold and crowds to see in-person the swearing-in of Barack Obama as President.  Especially at the first inauguration. (The second inauguration also had a good number of older Americans...probably those who didn't make the first one and said "I'm not missing this one.")

I remember thinking that some of the elders were there at great risk to their personal health. I heard that many traveled great distances to be there. Some were frail and shivering, but THEY SAW A BLACK MAN BECOME PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES in their lifetime. It was a significant life event for them. (And me). They said, "health be damned, I'm going!"

Now, there are those on the left and right who want to diminish the President's paint him as lacking in many ways. On the left we find 'pundits' and 'leaders' who are jealous, and on the right we find those who seek to humiliate and tear-down the President at every turn.

It is perfectly acceptable not to agree with Barack Obama's policies. And...we must question him and hold him accountable as we would any political leader. HOWEVER...we can never think he is "less than" because he is African-American. He is intelligent, articulate, and QUALIFIED to be our leader.

The realization of King's legacy is that Obama is not the President of Black America....he is the President of ALL of America. If we are looking for problems to be solved within our communities we will have to look among ourselves and also start making some demands of our community and political leaders. And we MUST protect our vote.

Again -- Obama leads ALL of America. He is African-American but he is not the 'black' president. He is the President of the United States of America.....same as Washington, Lincoln, Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, etc.

This is what King fought for...unimaginable in 1963.... and we should not let it be diminished.

The Syrian Strategy?

The White House has made the decision that the government of Syria must be punished for the use of chemical agents against civilians. There are many questions to be answered, including:

Why would Assad authorize the use of these weapons knowing the possible repercussions? Was it a game of dare? Is his side loosing the civil war and needing to take extreme measures? Did the rebels stage the attack to pull America into the conflict? Are other countries involved? And...what is their endgame, and more importantly...what is our end game?

Thankfully, the President remembered "who he is" and decided to take the case for a military strike to Congress, essentially saying...'okay Congress, pull up your diapers and vote!'

The GOP-led House, and many of their fellow Republicans in the Senate, have made a circus of Congress the past few years by being against virtually ANYTHING the Administration proposes! Will they put the country first this time and make their decision based on the case the Administration makes for striking Syria? Or, are they more concerned with trying to embarrass Obama...their strategy the past five years.

Questions must be asked of the Administration by Congress and the American people. In particular... what will the airstrikes accomplish? We paraphrase the Powell Doctrine (General Colin Powell)..."if you break it, you own it."

I trust the Administration will indeed make the case for action to prevent further atrocities such as this.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Washington Watch: "Obamacare???"

For better or worse, we are stuck with the term 'Obamacare' to describe the Administration's health care reform law.  ( is a law, in spite of 40 attempts by the GOP-led House to overturn it.)

Obamacare will be part of the President's legacy, and once it kicks in, and premiums go down (I hope), and those with pre-existing conditions get coverage...well, maybe this will be a good thing.

In the meantime...there is still much misinformation and the roll-out has been at a snail's pace considering what is at stake.  Democratic office holders are starting to have town halls across the country to explain Obamacare to their constituents. Is this enough?

I've written a couple of blogs about what's in Obamacare and where to get more information. Health insurance and its ramifications are confusing for most people. Those with coverage may not want to make the effort to determine if there are more affordable plans available or tax-credits they are eligible for.

There are many people who have no coverage or inadequate coverage and they are going without needed treatment. Others are paying exorbitant premiums. All are wondering, what will change with Obamacare? A recent field-poll shows that many Californians don't understand Obamacare eligibility. The San Jose Mercury News reported (Aug 21):
"California may be at the forefront of implementing Obamacare, but it still has a mountain to climb informing people that they're eligible for the subsidized or free benefits that are a key part of making the controversial law work, a new Field Poll shows."
The article continues:
"With enrollment in the state's new health-insurance exchange beginning Oct. 1, fewer than half of Californians whose income, age and insurance status qualify them for coverage benefits under the health care reforms knew of their eligibility when the poll was conducted this summer.
Less than half of low-income voters eligible to receive free health coverage next year under the expanded Medi-Cal program knew they're eligible. And only one in three moderate-income voters who aren't covered under an employer, union or government health care program knew that they're entitled to tax credits to reduce their insurance costs."

Already the false information and propaganda has started because this is a political football. Just recently, an elderly friend told me her son-in-law had lost his job because of Obamacare. Others in the room expressed concern that people might lose jobs or existing coverage.

Are there companies choosing to fire workers instead of comply? Probably. Is the GOP going to paint a dire picture and discourage people from signing up? Probably. They don't seem to have any policy issues of their own to put forth.

This will be the hot-button issue going into 2014 and 2016.

Some recent Obamacare headlines:

--Are premiums coming down?

The Remarkable Slowdown In Health Care Costs Since The Passage Of Obamacare (Think Progress, Aug 20):
"A new survey of health care premiums for employer-sponsored health care coverage shows that health care inflation is slowing, further undermining critics’ predictions that costs would skyrocket in the aftermath of the Affordable Care Act."

--A pre-existing condition made former Republican staff member Clint Murphy reconsider Obamacare.

A Republican conversion to Obamacare  (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug 17)
"Obamacare isn’t perfect, the former political spear-carrier said. “But to even improve it, to make something work, you’ve got to participate in the process. [Republicans] are not even participating in the process.”
He makes a good point...what are Republicans proposing to fix our health care system? Instead, they are debating shutting down the government or delaying the funding of the Affordable Care Act. Until when?  2014, if they get control of the Senate?

In the meantime...while Congress is on recess...the battle for the public opinion on Obamacare rages on.

Democrats are right to get out in their communities this summer and try to get ahead of the curve.....or at least catch up to it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 28 - "2014"


The mid-term elections are coming soon. (Soon as defined by the political world.) The scrambling has started (began months ago) and we are about to see the beginning of the post-Obama era in American politics.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama will remain 'the-elephant-in-the-room' for quite some time. On the GOP side, candidates will run solidly against him in the coming years. Never mind that their own base is shrinking and they are perceived as out-of-touch.

In the upcoming election cycle, Democratic candidate attachment to Obama will range from mild to lukewarm, depending on his poll numbers as he wraps up his term -- even though many Democratic office-holders were elected because of his coattails in 2008 and 2012.

So what are the challenges for both parties going into 2014 and does it matter to the average citizen? (From a woman who actually LIVES the issues the pundits debate and the politicians ignore. I realize, as do most Americans, it is not about us everyday people!) 

What happens during elections has more to do with the money and the contributors. CBS's 60-Minutes anchor Leslie Stahl summed it up here: (The video is only about a minute. All the time that was needed to describe today's political and governing reality.)

Thanks to PDA, Progressive Democrats of America, for bringing this video, from 2011, back to the forefront this week, even though Stahl hammers (and rightfully so) both parties.

But back to 2014.

Currently, the big questions are will the Democrats be able to retake the House of Representatives, and will the Republicans capture the Senate? There is no shortage of headlines on this:

From TPM - How Republicans Can Win The Senate — And How They Can Screw It Up  (Sahil Kapur, August 12, 2013)

From the UK Guardian - Can the Democrats really win back the House in the 2014 midterms? (Harry J. Enten, July 11, 2013)

From the President - Obama says Democrats could win back U.S. House in 2014   (Reuters; Roberta RamptonMay 29, 2013)

And, from (fill-in-the-blank)_____________ - Rush Limbaugh: GOP could lose House   (Politico; Hadas Gold, July 2, 2013)

As of now, the Democrats would have to pick up an additional 17 seats to retake the House and net six seats to keep the Senate. Reportedly, there are about 50 to 65 Congressional Districts 'in play,' although it is still too early to tell.

Even if the Democrats are able to retake the House, I'm not sure how much this would help the Obama agenda because several of the winners will most likely come from moderate or somewhat conservative leaning districts. This is also absolutely true for Democratic Senate prospects.

While Senators are in place for six years, House Reps are elected every two years and might not want to upset the apple-cart. They will show their true colors on women's rights, gun control, and immigration reform -- voting against the Administration (or stalling) during Obama's final two years as President. Especially if his polling numbers stay low.

However, if the Democrats do win the House, we will not have 40 more Obamacare repeal votes!!!

Perhaps the Democratic Party can unify around a set of national issues that will bring out their base. These would include Voting Rights (in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling and North Carolina's oppressive voter suppression laws); Women's Rights (reproductive choice and equal pay); Immigration Reform; and...if the administration successfully gets the message out and gets people to sign up -- keeping Obamacare.

Speaking of unity...we can count on the GOP to be lock-step in their national platform and rolling it out locally. Their problem remains their far-right 'birthers ' and bigots (even GOP strategist Michel Steele had to call them out as being "asinine" recently) and their voting pool is shrinking. Unfortunately, on the right there seems to be more emphasis on restricting the vote than coming up with policies and solutions to the issues Americans care about. 'NOBAMA' is NOT a governing strategy. (I still see those bumper stickers and just yesterday I saw one that said "We must DEFEAT HILLARY.")

In the real world -- jobs, housing, and education remain critical to most Americans, yet both parties have proven they can win elections without focusing on these areas -- as long as the money is there for never ending campaigns. Politics is now an industry in America. Which goes back to Leslie's Stahl's comments on our broken political system.

Much can happen between now and 2014 that might change the national political talking points and strategies.

Not to be forgotten -- the other part of the equation is who is controlling the state houses? Many of the policy decisions that affect everyday Americans come from state and local government. Talk about winning the battle (the Presidency) and losing the war -- think North Carolina...Wisconsin...and Florida among others. Democrats need to focus on state governments and defeating voter suppression efforts. The GOP needs to focus on 2014 and not returning to 1950.

As they say...all politics is local. Stay tuned.


President Obama's First Term

From the National Scene blog by Linnie Frank Bailey

August 5 - 11, 2009

  • A Supreme Appointment -- American Hispanics of various origins—from Mexico, Central America, South America, Puerto Rico, and Cuba—celebrated the swearing-in of Bronx-native Sonia Sotomayor as the 111th Supreme Court Justice. Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Sotomayor on August 8, 2009, as her Puerto Rico-born mother, an 82-year-old former nurse, held the Bible.
  • Release of American Journalists from North Korea -- President Obama thanked former President Bill Clinton for his help in securing the release of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling whom had been detained in North Korea since March. The women were reunited with their families at the Burbank Airport. President Obama contacted the women and their families and called the reunion a “source of happiness not only for the families but for the entire country.”
Read more of the blog, including a health care reform law myth vs reality section as the bill was being debated.


And...back to 2013

President Barack Obama shakes hands with troops at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 7, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 27: "Scared of Her?"

(Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton seems to be a target of opponents even though she has not yet stated if she is running.

First, there were the Benghazi hearings, now the Republican National Committee is threatening to pull their presidential debates from CBS and CNN because of documentaries the networks are planning to air on the former First Lady and Secretary of State.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus stated:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Washington Watch: "Return of the Old South"

Fannie Lou Hamer in 1964. From Wikipedia.
"I am sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights activist who fought for the right to vote in the 1960's. She faced many trials including being jailed and severely beaten. She fought not only the racists in the Southern States that did not want blacks to vote...but also her own Democratic Party that did not want to seat her "Freedom Democrats" at the 1964 convention -- instead choosing to appease the all-white Southern delegation.

Hamer was indeed a tireless fighter for voting rights, and her famous quote is: "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." She is long gone but the fight continues, particularly after the Supreme Court overturned a key section of the Voting Rights Act.

Southern states (and some in the North that are controlled by conservative-leaning Governors or Legislators) are chomping-at-the-bit to restrict voting for large segments of the populace. Specifically, the groups that tend to favor Democrats. They say they are combating voter fraud...although there is little voter fraud taking place.

North Carolina struck last week with their own 'voter restriction bill.' North Carolina Policy Watch summarizes the draconian 'anti-voter' items in the bill:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 25 -- "Obama Steps Up"

On Week 25 of his second term, President Obama spoke to the nation as a black man living in America. Reminiscent of the speech he gave on race during his first campaign, this 'impromptu' and unexpected talk before an afternoon press briefing surprised even the reporters who were gathered. They did not expect to see him, and neither did we. So glad he showed up.

NPR's "Obama Explains Black America To White America," sums it up best:
The president did something no other holder of his office has ever had the life experience to do: He used the bully pulpit to, as an African-American, explain black America to white America in the wake of last week's acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
Appearing unannounced before surprised reporters who were expecting the White House press secretary, it was Obama — "the bridge" as New Yorker editor David Remnick has called him — trying to span a divide. It was Obama trying to help white Americans comprehend black America's reaction to the Martin-Zimmerman tragedy.

The President confirmed what we all know. As an American of African-descent he has experienced racism and profiling. He spoke of instances before he was President, however, many in the black community believe the vitriol and disrespect shown him as President is also tainted by racism.

For goodness sake, he HAD TO SHOW HIS BIRTH CERTIFICATE to quiet the rantings of fools who never should have been taken seriously! He WAS CALLED A LIAR from the House floor while giving a state-of-the-union-address! You had parents in an uproar because he wanted to address students at the beginning of a school year and encourage them to succeed!

But more ominously, you have a group of Republicans in the House who oppose EVERYTHING he puts forward (even if they were once for it) and who go to great lengths to keep the President from succeeding.

Politics as usual? No.

The recent New York Magazine piece "Anarchists of the House" describes this rampant dysfunction. among House Republicans. The subtitle says: "The Republican Congress is testing a new frontier of radicalism—governmental sabotage." In describing GOP strategy at the beginning of the president's first term:
"If some of them supported Obama’s proposals, they would only help the proposals seem more sensible. “It was absolutely critical that everybody be together,” Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell later said, “because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is okay.”
And so the Republican strategy during Obama’s first two years was almost total gridlock. Republican leaders aggressively pressured their members to withdraw support for any major Obama initiative, even denouncing ideas they themselves had previously endorsed."

It would be naive to think this anti-Obamanism does not have at least some racial undertones. As do the cartoons and caricatures of the President displayed in conservative-leaning papers across the country.

A large part of the response to President Obama probably has to do with fear of the diverse coalition that elected him.  America is changing. We now live in a multi-ethnic society. Many of us have family members who are of a different race. Census figures show a younger, more diverse nation in the years ahead. These Americans will demand a 'seat at the table'...and the right to walk home without being followed and attacked.

So with this backdrop, the President personalized the plight of black men in this country without castigating the system that gave us the verdict. He simply described the real world -- reminding us who we are and how we got here. Illustrating that even though he has reached the highest office in the land, he understands from personal experience the legacy of discrimination.

Here is the transcript of his speech.  Here is the video:

Touré did a fine job of explaining the risks the President took with the speech in a Time mag op-ed entitled: The Bravery of Obama’s Trayvon Speech, saying:
"It was a treacherous speech politically because for one part of the divide the answer to black pain is: get over it, as Representative Andy Harris recently said. Racism is in the past, white privilege is a myth, profiling is a ghost: Doesn’t Obama’s election prove we’re beyond all that? The President knows better. He asked, in his 19-minute address, that black pain be acknowledged, that internalized bias be taken seriously, that history be understood as not done with us yet."

The President, who was raised by a white mom and white grandparents, understands our differences and the need to 'explain' us to each other. In addition, he continues his quest to unite us. He did so with this recent speech, as with his first speech on race, "A More Perfect Union" in 2008, in which he stated:
"I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one."

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 24 -- "After Trayvon Does it Matter?"

Following the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder case, and recent news concerning the status of people of color in the country (particularly African-Americans), we are tempted to wonder if what happens in Washington really matters.

Let's look at both sides of the battle -- what we face, and why we keep going:

Being Black in America Today

There is no doubt we suffered greatly from the effects of the recession. So much black wealth -- mostly tied to home ownership -- was lost.

Here are some recent headlines that bring home our challenges in the years ahead: (Click on links to read full stories.)

Young, black and buried in debt: How for-profit colleges prey on African-American ambition --
Kai Wright, Salon, 6/9/2013
"It’s true that the country’s middle class is collapsing for everyone, but that trend is most profound among African-Americans. In 2008, as black folks flocked into higher ed, the Economic Policy Institute found that 45 percent of African-Americans born into the middle class were living at or near poverty as adults."

Middle Class Jobs, Income Quickly Disappearing (INFOGRAPHIC)
Jan Diehm & Kay Hall, Huffington Post, 6/7/2013
"Deep job losses in occupations such as construction, information technology, manufacturing and insurance are not likely to recover. Middle-class families also saw nearly 30 percent of their wealth disappear over the past decade, while the cost of goods and services they rely upon steadily climbed."
Riva Gold, The Atlantic, 7/9/2013
"At a time when non-whites make up roughly 37 percent of the U.S. population, the percentage of minorities in the newsroom has fallen to 12.37 percent from its 13.73 percent high in 2006." 
"This means that fewer minorities are getting the opportunity to work in news, and news organizations are losing their ability to empower, represent, and -- especially in cases where language ability is crucial -- even to report on minority populations in their communities."

Racial Diversity Efforts Ebb for Elite Careers, Analysis Finds 
Nelson D. Schwartz and Michael Cooper, New York Times, 5/27/2013
"While about 12 percent of the nation’s working-age population is black, about 5 percent of physicians and dentists in the United States are black — a share that has not grown since 1990, according to an analysis of census data that was prepared for The New York Times by sociologists at Queens College of the City University of New York. The analysis found that 3 percent of American architects are black, another field where the share has not increased in more than two decades.
The share of the nation’s lawyers who are minorities and women, which had been growing slowly but steadily for years, fell in 2010 for the first time since NALP, the National Association for Law Placement, began keeping statistics in 1993."

Black Chefs Dig Into Restaurant Industry's Lack Of Diversity....
Huffington Post, 7/11/2013
"It's difficult to get in the door in a lot of upscale places," sous chef Karl Adams told Redd. "A lot of time, they'll see my resume and when I step in I'll get the eye, like they can't match up the resume to a black person."
And while opportunities aren't handed out to African Americans at the same rate they are to chefs of other ethnicities, they're also often taken away, Adams adds. "We don't get the promotion, we don't get the experience or we're stuck in one station for one year, two years," he said."

My climb out of poverty wouldn’t be possible today
Bernardine Watson, Washington Post, 6/27/2013
"The welfare benefits I received under the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program were barely enough to live on, but they paid for housing, food and medical care while I pursued my education. I was poor, but hopeful about the future.
I don’t see the 1970s as a panacea for the disadvantaged in this country. I also know that policy makers and social scientists disagree about whether the social programs of the 1960s and ’70s had much impact on poverty. Still, if I had to be a poor, single mother in this society, I’m glad it was then and not now."

Yet, Still We Rise

In spite of....and BECAUSE of what we as African-Americans face in today's America -- giving up is not an option. Here is why:

If men, women, and children brought here in chains, and treated as chattel, did not give up their fight for dignity, neither will we.
If the civil rights workers who were spat on, beaten, jailed, and killed so that we could have the right to vote, did not give up their fight for equality, neither will we.
If the masses who spent MANY hours in line to vote in Florida in 2012, in spite of those who try to take away our voting privileges...well they did not give up.  Even when they were told Barack Obama had won, they still stood in line to cast their ballot.  They did not give up their right to vote, neither will we.

We will not give up.

For our future....
For our children...
For Trayvon Martin...

We will not give up on the promise of America.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 23 -- "The Greatest"

This past week we celebrated the 237th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence.

Yes...our issues are many, and our Congress is in gridlock, and there are those who will never accept the diversity of our country....still, we can fight for our freedoms in ways others around the world cannot.

And, despite all those who disparage him simply for who he is...America ELECTED Barack Hussein Obama, as our President -- TWICE!!

The ideals upon which our country began are to be remembered, celebrated, and always held in esteem as our battle cry.

As described so eloquently by Jefferson, (who penned the first draft)....and subsequently edited by the Congress at the time, led by chosen editors, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin -- the opening of our Declaration of Independence speaks to our goals as a nation:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Surely, some of the founders of our great country understood the hypocrisy of slavery as juxtaposed with the above line...and yes, they had to have known there would one day be judgment.

Indeed, the famous statesman, abolitionist, and former slave Frederick Douglass described it adequately in his speech and essay:  "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?"

Still -- the document...the words...stand as our goal.  Equal rights for ALL remains our ideal. The fight continues...

Celebrate with Red, White, and Blues

The White House has made available videos of "Performances at the White House" where the East Room of the White House has been transformed into a concert stage many times the past few years..  

Here's are some performances from "Red, White, and Blues" a salute to the blues,featuring: (each performance is a separate video on the White House site)

B.B. King & Ensemble  "Let the Good Times Roll"
Trombone Shorty  "St. James Infirmary"
Buddy Guy & Jeff Beck    "Let Me Love You"
Mick Jagger & Jeff Beck   "Commit a Crime"
Shamika Copeland & Gary Clark Jr.  "Beat Up Old Guitar"
Gary Clark Jr.   "Catfish Blues"
Keb' Mo'  "Henry"
Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, & Warren Haynes  "I'd Rather Go Blind"
Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Gary Clark Jr., & Jeff Beck  "Five Long Years"
Buddy Guy & Ensemble (Finale)  "Sweet Home Chicago"   Watch the President sing.

PBS (not just the home of Big Bird) also has the entire show as well as other White House Performances shows celebrating jazz, Motown, country, classical, Latin, Memphis soul, spoken word, etc.)


President Obama's First Term

By Linnie Frank Bailey
After celebrating the nation’s birthday with military families at the White House, the Obama family left the country for a trip to Russia, Italy and Ghana. In what will be one of the most moving experiences for people of African descent the world over—in Ghana on Friday, President Barack Obama will visit the Cape Coast Castle, where enslaved Africans were once held before being loaded into ships and traded in the Americas and Caribbean. READ BLOG.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 22 - "What a Week"

"What a Week" -- Major Supreme Court Rulings, Senate Passes Immigration Reform, Obama and family in Africa.

Supreme Rulings

The Voting Rights Act (from 1965) was gutted and southern states quickly reacted to suppress the minority vote. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Prop 8 were struck down and gay marriages immediately resumed in California.

Nan Aron, President of The Alliance for Justice, got it exactly right with her HuffPo piece: "The Supreme Court Takes With One Hand, Gives With the Other."

Says Ms. Aron:
"It's been a bittersweet week in the Supreme Court. On the one hand, the Court's decisions on same-sex marriage left many of us profoundly hopeful, while its voting rights opinion was deeply disappointing. By simultaneously moving in opposite directions on fundamental principles of civil rights, this Court has torn a hole in our political fabric, and once again left the nation part equal and part unequal."    Read More
Before the ink had settled on the Voting Rights ruling, Republicans in Texas got busy. From The CS Monitor:
"Shortly after the decision on Tuesday, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that the state’s new voter ID law would immediately take effect. He also said that the state’s challenged redistricting maps “may” also take effect without prior approval from Washington."  Read More

Supporters of voting rights, such as Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile, are calling on Congress to restore provisions of the act. However, even Ms. Brazile realizes this will be difficult given the current climate in Washington. From her CNN op-ed: "Congress Give us new Voting Rights Act,"
"Don't expect the conservative-controlled House of Representatives to jump at the chance though. Just last year, during the 2012 election cycle, Republican elected officials in states across the country pushed deeply hostile voter ID laws that disproportionately limit minority voters. Sometimes, the Republicans were even explicit that the purpose of these laws was to put victories in the "R" column. And all that took place with a full and complete Voting Rights Act still on the books."  Read More

In brighter news... with the decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, weddings are free to resume in those states which allow gay marriage. As a matter of fact, two of the plaintiffs in the historic ruling--Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, from Berkeley, were the first to be married with California Attorney General Kamala Harris officiating.

Btw.......Did Chris Christie just lose 2016 with this stance on gay marriage?
"New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) blasted the Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, calling it "wrong."   Read More"
Maybe this is his stance going into the GOP primaries (which depend on the right-wing vote) however, should he become the Presidential candidate I predict he will "see the light" on this issue.

Will the Immigration Bill be Stalled?

The Senate passed a bi-partisan immigration bill this week, now it goes to the House. President Obama has called on Congress to pass the bill before their August recess. (We talked about this likely STALL in our post from week 20.)

Student Loan Rates set to Double

Rates on new student loans will DOUBLE on Monday.  Still, no action from Congress to prevent this.


President Obama's First Term
A Look Back at Week 22 - 2009:

(Excerpts from my blog National Scene -- Week 22)
National Scene 6/24-6/30/2009
By Linnie Frank Bailey

As the first half of the year ends, the Administration can look back on significant efforts to get America back on track, including -- an economic stimulus, a revamped energy policy, the beginnings of health care reform, and a new approach to international relations. Moreover, the following legislation has been passed and signed by President Barack Obama in 2009:

1. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – (fair pay for women) Signed: January 29, 2009
2. Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act –(continue state program SCHIP) Signed: February 4, 2009
3. DTV Delay Act – (delayed implementation of digital TV until June 2009) Signed: February 11, 2009
4. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – (major economic stimulus bill) Signed: February 17, 2009
5. Small Business Act Temporary Extension – (temporarily extends SBA programs) Signed: March 20, 2009
6. Omnibus Public Lands Management Act – (public land conservation) Signed: March 30, 2009
7. Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act – (increases and manages community service programs and funding) Signed: April 21, 2009
8. Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act – (steps to end mortgage fraud and predatory lending) Signed: May 20, 2009
9. Helping Families Save Their Homes Act – (steps to prevent foreclosures and rewrite mortgage loans) Signed: May 20, 2009
10. Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act – (defense procurement reform) Signed: May 22, 2009
11. Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 – (consumer credit protection) Signed: May 22, 2009
12. Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act – (steps to prevent children and teens from smoking) Signed: June 22, 2009

...Read More on Week 22, 2009  -- Immigration Reform...Pell Grants Extended...FAFSA Simplified


And Finally.....back to 2013:

The Obamas in Africa:

View the video for a behind the scenes with the President & The First Lady at Gorée Island -- including a visit to the Masion des Esclaves (House of Slaves) Museum. Below Barack Obama stands at the "door of no return" where countless Africans were forced to board ships to the Americas where they were enslaved.
Watch and Listen -- an eloquent narrative by the First Lady.