- Created on 20 February 2013
I have written about this previously but I am getting more and more concerned that the Postal Service will go the way of the dodo bird. Like virtually every other part of the legitimate role of government, the Postal Service is and has been under attack by conservatives. The perpetrators of the assault are the same crew that have been trying to privatize everything that is standing.
Organizations such as the right-wing Cato Institute and their allies in Congress wish to see the US Postal Service weakened to the point that it ceases to exist. Then they would have the mail handled through privately owned operations.
There are many reasons that we should be concerned about this attack. First, postal delivery is actually a Constitutional right. It is there in the Constitution. Now, our conservative friends will throw their hands in the air and exclaim that they are not challenging the Constitution. Rather, they will argue, mail delivery can, allegedly, be handled more efficiently by private outfits. There is no particular reason to believe that private companies can handle the mail more efficiently than the USPS.
With the USPS we are guaranteed that everything of a certain weight gets delivered to specific sites in the U.S.A. for a given price. In other words, a letter weighing one ounce does not cost more if it is mailed from Baltimore to Spokane or from Baltimore to New York. With privatization we can be guaranteed that the cost of mail would vary according to where the mail is being sent.
A second reason for concern has to do with the workforce. The Postal Service has been an important employer of African-Americans and it has provided employment at good wages with good benefits.
- Created on 22 January 2013
Exactly 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and 50 years after the March on Washington, President Barack Obama delivered a progressive and stunning speech centered around the notion of equality on the steps of the U.S. Capitol before thousands.
SPECIAL INAUGURAL REPORT
Naming each of the turning points of watershed moments in American history and emphasizing repeatedly the Declaration of Independence that "it is self evident that all men are created equal," Obama challenged the nation to be more forward thinking in his historic inaugural speech after his reelection.
Specifically addressing voting rights, women's rights, gay and lesbian rights, immigration reform, health care reform and global climate change, and mentioning Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Obama's remarks reached out to both Democrats and Republicans alike to seize this moment together.
"Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they've never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth," Obama said. "The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed."
Obama said through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, "We learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together."
"Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play," Obama said. "Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune."
Reminding the nation of the battles that were fought for the dignity of every person Obama put it bluntly, "We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."
With rhetorical ingenuity Obama anchored his speech on the theme of the 57 inaugural celebration "Faith in America's Future."
"It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts," Obama said to the thunderous applause of more than a half million people. "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law. For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."
The president went on as his speech was numerously interrupted with applauses.
"Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country," Obama said.
Zeroing on the urban safety crisis and the debate on gun control, Obama specifically mentioned Detroit.
"Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm," Obama said.
Re-echoing a campaign theme about the future of the middle class Obama said, "For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class."
The president went on "We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own."
After the inauguration the Obamas stopped at the Capitol Rotunda to pay homage to Dr. King's bust.
During the parade Obama waved to floats of Dr. King and the Tuskegee Airmen.
Bankole Thompson is a Senior Author-in-Residence at Global Mark Makers Publishing House in Iowa where he is writing a groundbreaking six-part book series on the Obama presidency. His book "Obama and Black Loyalty" published in 2010 follows his recent book "Obama and Christian Loyalty" with a foreword by Bob Weiner former White House spokesman. His forthcoming books in 2012 are "Obama and Jewish Loyalty" and "Obama and Business Loyalty." He is the first editor of a major African American newspaper to have a series of sit-down interviews with Barack Obama. Thompson is also a Senior Political News Analyst at WDET-101.9FM Detroit (NPR Affiliate) and a member of the weekly "Obama Watch" Sunday evening round table on WLIB-1190AM New York and simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut.
- Created on 18 January 2013
(CNN) -- I carry in my mind a picture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as we all gathered at the start of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march on March 21, 1965. What makes that picture so vivid to me 48 years later, as we prepare to celebrate his 84th birthday this month, is that voting rights issues have resurfaced on a national scale.
The biggest difference between then and now is that today's voter suppression efforts are highly sophisticated, compared with the crude, racist ones conducted by Southern sheriffs and voter registrars through the middle 1960s.
Before the 2012 elections, well-funded efforts in state after state tried to curtail the participation of poor and minority voters by introducing burdensome voter ID requirements, despite a record showing individual voter fraud is virtually nonexistent in the United States.
A five-year, nationwide investigation into voter fraud by the George W. Bush administration resulted in just 86 convictions.
At the end of the Selma to Montgomery march, King delivered one of his most memorable speeches before a crowd of 25,000 on the steps of the capitol. "Our whole campaign in Alabama has been centered on the right to vote," he declared. "We are on the move now, and no wave of racism can stop us."
The beginnings of the march, which came about after violent clashes between Alabama police and state troopers and civil rights protesters trying to get on the Alabama voter rolls, were more uncertain. By current demonstration standards, those of us gathered at Selma, a hard town to reach for anyone who didn't live nearby, were few -- 3,200 by most estimates.
As he moved to the front of the line, King seemed eager to get started. As the march moved down U.S. Highway 80, he appeared unperturbed by the counterprotest that seemed jolting to me: a "Coonsville USA" sign, young kids carrying BB guns screaming "white nigger."
King had, I realized, accepted such hatred as part of his lot in life. He could not know that by August 6, 1965, the Voting Rights Act would be signed into law by President Johnson. He could only hope the Selma march changed more minds than were in the rows of us walking behind him.
The voter suppression efforts that were aimed at preventing President Obama from being re-elected in 2012 are a reminder that the decisive victory the 1965 Voting Rights Act provided can be undermined if we are not vigilant.
The Supreme Court already has on its calendar a case, Shelby County v. Holder, that tests the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires state and local governments, primarily in the Deep South, with a history of discrimination to obtain "pre-clearance" from the Justice Department before making any changes affecting voting.
Motivating the Republican politicians, who in recent years have sought to suppress voting with tighter ID requirements, is their fear that the demographic tide is running against them.
We have come 180 degrees from 1968, when Kevin Phillips in his landmark political study, "The Emerging Republican Majority," noted that by virtue of capturing the loyalty of the anti-civil rights whites of the South along with a majority of voters from the nation's heartland, Republicans were in a position to be the dominant party in the country after decades of Democratic rule.
In 2012 the tide has shifted again. Despite taking 59% of the white vote, Mitt Romney could not win an election in which the votes of minorities and new immigrants make up such an important share of the electorate. Republicans, aware that their hostility to such issues as future citizenship for undocumented immigrants and affirmative action has put the majority of nonwhite voters beyond their reach, have sought to do what white Southerners did before 1965 -- erect voting barriers to preserve their power.
The voting barriers that King and the civil rights movement battled in the 1960s had their historic origins in such 19th century measures as the Mississippi Plan of 1890, in which the state instituted the poll tax as well as the requirement that a voter be able to read or interpret any section of the new Mississippi State Constitution.
The emphasis on photo IDs, which so many poor and minority voters lack because they do not own a car and cannot afford to fly, is a variation of this past Southern strategy, as Georgia's Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who was badly beaten at Selma during the "Bloody Sunday" protest of March 7, has pointed out.
The rhetoric of the Old South and the present can even sound alike when it comes to voter registration. We need only compare Judge R. H. Thompson bragging about how the Mississippi State Constitution of 1890 preserved the white vote "by Anglo-Saxon ingenuity" and Pennsylvania GOP House majority leader Mike Turzai telling a Republican State Convention this June, "Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done." (That Pennsylvania law ran into trouble with a judge and voter IDs were not required in the November election.)
It is easy to imagine King being dismayed by these regressive links, but it is hard to imagine him being moved to silence or inaction by them.
The same attitude should hold for those of us who honor his birthday. We cannot duplicate King's eloquence, but his tirelessness, so visible that first day of the Selma march, can in some measure be ours as we struggle to maintain 21st century voter rights.
- Created on 22 January 2013
So many in my parents' generation – and ours – never thought we'd see an African-American elected president of this country. Now, not only have we been blessed to see that day, but on Jan. 21, we will witness the president accept a second term on the same day that our nation pauses to acknowledge the contributions of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
What a tremendous honor it is to witness this moment in history. On the one hand, we are celebrating the legacy of someone who gave his blood, sweat, tears and life to make a better future for generations unborn. And on the other, we have someone who personifies the very substance of Dr. King's dream taking the Oath of Office for a second time.
This is much more than a footnote in the history books. In fact, as a man of faith, I am compelled to believe that this is not a mere coincidence; rather this is a seminal moment for us all.
This is an opportunity for this generation to be inspired by the aspirations of those who came before us.
There is still much to do, and President Obama remains uniquely positioned to help our nation achieve the tenets of humanity and equality of which Dr. King could only dream.
I hope that the Congress will work with President Obama to change our national discourse during his second term.
We must refocus our conversation and our efforts on what really matters – creating jobs; increasing and expanding access to effective, efficient and affordable healthcare; and strengthening our education system so more of our children can succeed.
This isn't about agendas. This isn't about Republicans versus Democrats. This is about doing what's right because no people – no matter what their race or station – can survive and thrive in the absence of healthy systems of economic development, healthcare and education.
I also hope that the president will resist changes to Social Security benefits and Medicare in his second term. Many Social Security beneficiaries – particularly those from black and poor communities – have only Social Security benefits on which to live. They have no pension, no savings, no 401(K), and now, thanks to the recession, some of them don't even have a house or a job.
When we add to that a lack of health care, increases in the cost of living and Medicare premiums, as well as decreases in access to quality care, what we have is a group of people marching toward their senior years who will lead shorter, sicker lives.
Instead of protecting the future of our senior citizens, there are some looking to make the country solvent on their backs. We must do better.
Finally, I hope that all Americans who cherish democracy will be vigilant. Our 21st century civil rights movement to expand and preserve our voting rights has just begun.
Last November, a months-long campaign to suppress the votes of the elderly, the poor, students, Hispanics, and African-Americans came to a head when record numbers turned out to vote.
Many voters of all ethnicities withstood remarkable odds just to cast their ballots for President Obama. Long lines, hours-long waits, and state-imposed restrictive voter ID laws all threatened to rob many of their votes.
A strategic, nationwide campaign to remove early voting opportunities was launched, attacking the bedrock of the African-American voting tradition. Early voting hours in many states, like Ohio and Florida, were all but eliminated. Where they weren't successful, it appeared that organizations like True The Vote stepped in with aggressive poll monitoring techniques to support the Republican agenda.
Now is not the time to become complacent in our efforts to fight voter suppression. We can do better as a nation in upholding this fundamental Constitutional right – and with the president's leadership, we can preserve this key right for generations yet unborn.
In April 1960, Dr. King gave the Founders Day address at Spelman College. He closed his remarks, "Move From This Mountain," by reading Langston Hughes' poem "Mother to Son" and offering this appeal: "If you can't fly, run; if you can't run, walk; if you can't walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving."
Dr. King and our forefathers and mothers passed the baton to President Obama and all of us. It is up to us to continue to stand up for what's right. We must not drop the baton. We must continue moving forward.
- Created on 17 January 2013
In each of the first three years of his presidency, I urged Barack Obama (in vain...read here, here and here) not to vacation on Martha's Vineyard—the summer redoubt of notables ranging from the Kennedys to Oprah—even if it is, among African Americans at least, as sure a sign as any that you've "arrived."
Because it's also a place where elite folk go to escape the hoi polloi, and so Obama risks looking like he's out of touch if he's living a lifestyle that's above the pay grade of average Americans, according to David Swerdlick on The Grio.
But the National Rifle Association has taken that line of reasoning one perverse step too far with its new ad that tags Obama as an "elitist" and a "hypocrite" for eschewing their calls for more armed guards in public schools while the president's children have 'round-the-clock security.
After disingenuously asking "are the president's kids more important than yours?" the ad goes on to argue that Obama "demands" that wealthy Americans pay a "fair share" of taxes, but that "he's just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security".
In other words, the NRA cares if your kids get shot at school, but not Obama. Oh, and if he really favors gun control, he should either find a way to furnish armed guards for every child in America, or give it up for his own daughters, as well.