Southern Political Report

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Complicating Harold Ford, Jr’s nascent bid for the Tennesse Governor’s mansion is the fact that Uncle John, a former state Senator, has been sentenced to 66 months in prison for taking bribes. The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the scoop:  

John Ford sentenced to 66 months in prison

John Ford was sentenced to 66 months in prison this morning for his April conviction of accepting $55,000 in bribes in the FBI’s Tennessee Waltz public corruption investigation.

U.S. Dist. Court Judge J. Daniel Breen carefully noted his interpretation of advisory federal guidelines that suggest enhanced punishment for factors such as the amount and number of bribes, threatening witnesses, acceptance of responsibility and the fact that Ford was an elected official.

The judge said he was not convinced that Ford truly believes he did anything wrong and that the sentence must be a deterrence to others.

“The court is not convinced that a reduction for acceptance of responsibility is warranted in this case,” Breen said. “This trial reflects a person of greed and avarice, but at the same time a man with the ability to help others. This is the tragic dichotomy of this case.

“The sentence, therefore, should reflect the serious nature of this offense.”

Breen said he would impose no fine.

Ford, who showed no reaction to the sentence, will remain free pending notification from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons when and where he will report.

Ford, 65, was one of 12 lawmakers or aides charged in the sweeping statewide investigation, 11 of whom have pleaded guilty or been convicted in trial.

Earlier this morning defense attorney Michael Scholl criticized the media and the government for “the persecution of John Ford” over the years.

“What I have seen is John Ford singled out in all of this,” Scholl told the judge, noting that other legislators have been convicted and faced lighter sentencing. “John Ford could have gone out and robbed and shot somebody and he would be facing less time than he is now. What I want to emphasize here is all the good that John Ford has done. We can’t just wipe out 30 years in the legislature.”

Witnesses have testified that the county has suffered in money it gets from the legislature because Ford is no longer there, Scholl added.

He also issued a plea for the judge to consider Ford’s support responsibilities for seven of his 12 children.

“John Ford has suffered for two years,” Scholl said. “They have taken everything he has. One of the things I’ve seen in this case is the awesome power of the government.”

Federal prosecutor Lorraine Craig said Scholl’s comments reflect the problems that the government has with Ford.

“He has been persecuted? He has suffered?” she said. “Is it a surprise that his family and friends did not see the side that we saw on those (undercover) tapes? This was Mr. Ford, the man who makes the deals. The man who goes first class. That’s the Mr. Ford we saw.”

She said Ford accepts no responsibility for his offense.

“The only thing he says he did wrong was that he trusted too much,” Craig told the judge. “No one persecuted Mr. Ford. He is here in this courtroom because of his own criminal conduct.”

 Speaking of Memphis Politics, Nikki Tinker, the corporate protege of Harold Ford, Jr is ramping up her campaign to take back Tennessee’s Ninth Congressional District for the Congressional Black Caucus against Steve Cohen.  The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the scoop:

WASHINGTON — Nikki Tinker began her 2008 campaign for the 9th Congressional District seat the night she lost the Democratic Party Primary to Steve Cohen last August by just 4,459 votes.

Cohen did too.

Cohen, who is white, says voters in Memphis will consider the job he’s doing rather than his skin color in deciding whether to re-elect him. Meanwhile, he tells anyone who will listen that he votes with the sensitivities of a black woman.

He and others suspect that a recent brouhaha among members of the Baptist Ministerial Association over his support of hate crimes legislation may be the opening salvo in a battle that Tinker would like to have center on, as she puts it, changing “the face and pace of our leadership.”

Tinker did not respond to repeated phone calls for this story, but her Washington-based spokesman, Cornell Belcher, explained Friday that she’s not interested in talking issues or Cohen’s record yet.

“Here’s where we are, to be straight with you: At this point, we want her talking to voters and raising money,” said Belcher, a partner in Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies. Talking about her differences with Cohen “is something that we really would rather not get into right now. … It will come, but it’s just not going to come right now.”

Cohen isn’t waiting. He says he doesn’t know where his opponent stands on most issues, and points out she’s never cast a legislative vote.

Tinker has spoken to the ministerial association and arranged for the company she works for as general counsel to provide a free airplane ride to members of the ministers’ congregations in June — after declaring her candidacy. Pinnacle Airlines flew the group in circles around Memphis on June 23 but, through spokesman R. Phillip Reed Jr., said the flight was “not directly or indirectly associated with the Tinker for Congress campaign.”

The ministers say the hate crimes bill passed by the House would limit what they could say about homosexuality from their pulpits, although the language of the law indicates it won’t. It’s pending in the Senate.

Among those who suspect that politics is involved in the hate crimes issue is Downtown developer Henry Turley, who has been Cohen’s campaign treasurer since he ran for the Shelby County Commission in the late 1970s.

“You can’t help but wonder, is this an effort to discredit Cohen?” Turley said last week. “It certainly makes you wonder since it’s an incorrect or spurious charge. …Why would they make that incorrect statement? … Why would someone say that unless there was an agenda?”

The issue didn’t draw fire during Ford’s terms. Records show Ford co-sponsored the hate crimes bill, broadening federal jurisdiction over crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation, four times between 1997 and 2004 and voted for it in 2005. His stance never made headlines or drew criticism from the churches.

Turley said Tinker’s prodigious fund-raising in 2006 was impressive and he attributed it to two things: the influence of her boss, Philip H. Trenary, CEO of Pinnacle Airlines, and her endorsement by the pro-abortion rights group Emily’s List, whose acronym stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast.

Some in Memphis publicly objected to Tinker receiving the February 2006 endorsement, saying Cohen’s abortion rights bona fides were better established, but hundreds of thousands of dollars poured in for Tinker from across the country.

A spokesman for Emily’s List, Ramona Oliver, said last week that no decision on an endorsement in the 9th Congressional District race has been made.

Cohen acknowledges he’s asked “a few people at the national level” to help derail future Emily’s List endorsement. The group endorses women only.

“I’d be shocked if Emily’s List would get involved in this election,” Cohen said.

African American State Senator Vivian Davis Figures is gearing up to challenge ignorant confederate incumbent U.S. Senator Jefferson Sessions in 2008

MOBILE — Democratic State Sen. Vivian Figures said Saturday she is running against Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions in the 2008 election, pledging to give Alabama “new progressive leadership.”

Figures, 50, made her announcement at Mobile Government Plaza where she began her political career in 1993 on the City Council. She moved from the council into her husband Michael Figures’ legislative seat after his death in 1996 and has served 11 years.

Sessions, 60, also of Mobile, won his second term in 2002 and will seek re-election. No other challengers have announced plans to run.

Senator Figures is delusional if she thinks she can win in Alabama.

Turning to Louisiana, State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy announced his change of party from Democratic to Republican in preparation for a run for U.S. Senate against Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, in 2008:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

BATON ROUGE — State Treasurer John Kennedy has switched political parties and will seek re-election to a third term this fall as a Republican, he announced Monday.

The change immediately vaults Kennedy to the top of the list of potential challengers to U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La, who is up for re-election to a third term in 2008 and is considered vulnerable by national Republicans.

Kennedy has been publicly considering the party switch for months, and he has become an increasingly ascerbic critic of Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate on a variety of spending issues. 

In an e-mail message to supporters, Kennedy cited “certain fixed, bedrock principles” that he believes are more in line with the Republican Party than the Democrats, and said GOP officials have been more responsive to his proposals in recent years.

“For the past several years, it has increasingly been the case that those public servants who have embraced my ideas and my philosophy of trying new approaches are primarily Republicans,” Kennedy wrote.

He had been courted to switch parties by U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and met recently with senior White House aide Karl Rove to discuss the matter.

The switch comes at a time when Republicans are losing ground nationally, having lost control of the U.S. House and Senate in the 2006 mid-term elections, but appear to be ascendant in Louisiana, where U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, enjoys a wide lead in the governor’s race.

Hormone Replacement Therapy: Hillary’s bait and switch strategy

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Hillary Clinton 

America, from its inception, has been addicted to patriarchy-the white supremacist capitalist kind. American feminists have been railing against the more ignorant aspects of patriarchy and misogyny in all of its forms for more than a century. They have been chafing under the gendered constraints of patriarchy and desire to break, at last, the ultimate glass ceiling of the Presidency.  

Symbolically, the election of a female chief executive will be a watershed event.  However, it’s practical, political import is the functional equivalent of dabbing perfume behind the ears of a pig in a pigsty.  The American political system is hard-wired never to embrace reform completely and shall not next year.  Instead, we will fall for a cosmetic subterfuge: two women exercising and extending white supremacist capitalist patriarchy into the middle of this new millennium and performing a kind of hormone replacement therapy for the nation, switching us from testosterone to estrogen.  

Yes, children, Hillary will choose a woman to run with her and in the process cement her appeal to and strength among women everywhere.  This will work because feminists-especially white feminists, have always been ambivalent about challenging patriarchy and white privilege.  If anything, they wish to exercise the prerogatives of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy alongside their men.  In my mind, nothing could be a better description of the Clintons marriage and political partnership. 

African American feminist scholar and cultural critic, bell hooks, has written, “Coming in the wake of the civil rights struggle, of black power movements which were demanding cultural revolution, a sharing of the nation’s material resources as well as an end to white supremacy, contemporary white women’s liberation movement was easily co-opted to serve the interests of white patriarchy by reconsolidating white power, by keeping resources all in the family.”  

 “It should have come as no surprise to any of us that those white women who were mainly concerned with gaining equal access to domains of white male privilege quickly ceased to espouse a radical political agenda which included the dismantling of patriarchy as well as an anti-racist, anti-classist agenda. No doubt white patriarchal men must have found it amusing and affirming that many of the white women who had so vehemently and fiercely denounced domination were quite happy to assume the role of oppressor and/or exploiter if it meant that they could wield power equally with white men (Killing Rage p. 98-99).” 

It makes me physically sick to see black people falling all over ourselves in a mad dash to subsidize our own oppression by supporting Bill and Hillary Clinton’s undercover malevolent agenda.  They have deftly exploited our political ignorance and shall harness the loving caress of the black community to propel themselves back into the Oval Office and the apparatus of imperial tyranny that it commands.  

  

It was recently discovered that hormone replacement therapy for women enduring the severe symptoms of menopause, is a cure more dangerous than the disease.  Dramatically increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke are common in women after long-term treatment.  Similarly, the estrogen replacement bait and switch ruse that Hillary and her Vice President will play on the American people is equally dangerous because the excesses of American capitalist hegemony will not be cured, social and economic justice will not be advanced, and resource wars will still be waged as tools of American foreign policy.  

To whom shall Hillary turn to complete the troika of power?   That’s the $64,000 question and one I have pondered a bit.   I’ve come up with a few names:  Ellen Tauscher, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu, and Claire McCaskill.   Each woman brings a different strength to the ticket and has more experience as an elected official than Hillary has.  

A blue dog democrat, six-term Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher D-California has ready-made entrée to the more conservative wing of moderate House Democrats so crucial to maintaining legislative success and maintaining political power.  A former stock broker and the youngest woman in the country to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, Ellen speaks Wall Street’s language and parlayed that ability to raise record sums for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s corporate pacification program.   An initial supporter of the Iraq War, she’s had to backtrack because of the opposition of activist groups like MoveOn and the blogosphere, which, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, conspired to alter her district to make a primary challenge more likely, if she didn’t toe the line.  A gifted fundraiser, she can help take a burden off Hillary, a plus Hillary would greatly appreciate.   

Blanche Lincoln, a  second-term Arkansas Senator, is a right-wing good ole’ gal too comfy-cozy with the corporate power structure of Arkansas and D.C.’s legendary K street-synonymous as a headquarters of corporate lobbyist influence peddling.   Blanche was also a supporter of the bullshit in Baghdad and Bush’s plutocratic tax cuts as a member of the Senate Finance Committee.  A former congressional aide, she sized up many of the mediocre congressional membership and decided to throw caution to the wind and challenge former Congressman Bill Alexander, a profligate fool caught up in the house bank check kiting scandal.  She won, got married, had twin boys, and left the house after two terms, only to return two years later to claim Dale Bumpers seat in the Senate.  Blanche ain’t no radical and her down home twang and wholesome motherhood shtick would be a big selling point to working class women.  

Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Senator up for re-election in 2008, is the most experienced politician of the four and brings nearly 3 decades of experience and she is only 52.  The female scion of a prominent New Orleans political dynasty, Landrieu is a tough, unflappable pol that has survived two tough races for the Senate.  A former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and two- term U.S. Senator, she brings to the table the ability to make a deal and be taken seriously.  A member of the gang of 14 that smoothed the way for confirmation of two of Bush’s reactionary Court of Appeals judges, she kept the Senate from blowing up and shutting down if Cheney or his minions would have forced a vote by violating the Senate’s filibuster rules.  Mary Landrieu is as liberal a Senator as Louisiana will ever have-which is to say that she voted for the War and against partial birth abortion and takes great pains to look after the care and feeding of the corporate interests of her state.  Mary’s greatest strength is the ability to demagogue anything-a skill I’m sure Hillary will find a use for.  

Lastly, there is Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Senator elected last year who rid us of Richard Nixon’s philosophical son, Jim Talent, a corporate whore and wingnut with a disturbing propensity to mentor black republicans.  Claire McCaskill is an executive by temperament, a former state legislator, District Attorney and State Auditor, she ran against the sitting Governor of her party and defeated him for the nomination in 2004.   She is hard charging and decisive and came heartbreakingly close to winning the governorship.  She came back last year and was elected to the Senate to prove that there is a God, and he will not be mocked by a deceptive and sanctimonious fascist like Jim Talent.  A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Miss Claire has yet to find any of the balls she stole from weaker men and oppose this war like she was elected to do.  A cautious moderate and policy wonk, she and Hillary will find immediate kinship.   

Maxine Waters famously said at one of the Democratic National Conventions in the 90’s that the Clinton-Gore ticket was the last all-white anything she would support.  I took a sistah at her word, and then came the Gore-Lieberman ticket, and then the Kerry-Edwards ticket. We heard some mild grumbling from ole girl about the corporate vampire that masquerades as Joe Lieberman, but that’s about it. Until Barack Obama came along, I thought that some grassroots effort to enforce diversity was in order, and then I really scrutinized the choices and examined our political system and concluded, rightly I think, that resistance is damn near futile when the choices are so circumscribed.   

Author bell hooks has said, “What I am most criticized about is the use of the phrase “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”. It’s seen as too strident, too exaggerated, too militant. But what that criticism says is that we’re not even allowed to name the enemy. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says we have to call things by their real name, and if we’re not allowed to do that, how can we have a revolution? How do we move forward? I’m not particularly attached to those terms but they seem to me to much more accurately state what we’re up against than a term like “sexism.” And I prefer the term “white supremacy” to “racism.”  

It occurs to me that diversifying the patriarchy isn’t gonna do much except create female or colored mouthpieces to propagate a reactionary program-which will, in turn, drive progressives down an ideological cul de sac and do nothing to really change things.  Hell, we can’t even agree that we need to name the thing which prevents progressive change.  If a white, sixty-five year old fascist with and itchy trigger finger can be Vice President, and progressives can tout the Vice Presidential candidacy of the not so progressive Barack Obama, why can’t we discuss the Vice Presidential candidacy of a sixtyish black woman with 17 years experience in Congress like Maxine Waters.  I think you know why.  Maxine Waters has a political agenda that wasn’t written in the bowels of a corporate think tank or in the office suites of a corporate lobbyist. 

Hillary Clinton will try to sell her all-white, all-female ticket as an affirmation of America’s diversity-it will be anything but.  What it will be is an affirmation of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.  Again, bell hooks, “white women have a stake in white supremacy – that it is the hottest, the fastest ticket for white women to get inside the patriarchy and play the game. We can’t act like “daddy made me do it” anymore. It’s all about what white women have to gain.  What Hillary and the women who are brainwashed by her have to gain is power.     The glass ceiling may be shattered, but it will not liberate anybody except Bill and Hillary and their loyal retainers.