OBAMA GOT GAME: Junior Senator crushes Hillary and Edwards in historic win

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I’m sorry I took too long, but as Gene Robinson of the Washington Post has said, this is a “Goosebumps moment.” As I write and listen once more to the victory speech, the tears are coming and I feel as emotional as a pregnant woman does. I will be in church on Sunday morning and nobody will be able to hold me down because I will be a shouting fool.

I needed this as my grandparents needed Martin and Malcolm. I needed this because I need to believe in something again. I needed this because my spirit has been shattered, my joy has been stolen, and my hope in my country destroyed. God has moved and his hand is clearly on Barack Obama. Iowa, 95% white, has sent the nation and the world a message that in the words of one of Sam Cooke’s signature tunes,”A Change gon’ Come.” And come it has.

Last night, Barack Obama, finally gave us, his people, “a word from the Lord.”

“They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”

“You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this New Year 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches, in small towns and big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, one people, and our time for a change has come.”

I still have Goosebumps. I could shout right here in this internet cafe. I don’t know about you, but after the almost divine intervention of Oprah, I could feel this tectonic shift in American politics coming.

Basking in the glow of this historical moment, one I’ve dreamed of for 25 years, I’ve overcome my bitter and sarcastic cynicism, and I have decided to endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States.

I am not taking back the substance of my criticisms because they represent my unvarnished feelings. Today, however, I feel like Patti Labelle and have “a new attitude.” Looking back over last year, I skillfully erected a wall of opposition to Barack Obama as strong as anything in the biblical Jericho because of his various missteps and obvious pandering to the corporate power structure. It got to the point where I could not even hear the brotha speak without picking out how he was telegraphing his mainstream intentions to the establishment and I just tuned him out. He didn’t move me until last night but Michelle and Oprah did, I must admit.

Michelle Obama cracked the walls of my ideological Jericho with her forthright manner in general and her South Carolina speech in particular. I cannot say enough about how attractive, articulate and persuasive a spokesperson she is on behalf of her husband. In February, after hearing him in person for the first time, I made it clear how necessary it was for Barack to give blackfolks, “A Word From The Lord.” He did and I guarantee that Black America will respond by abandoning Hillary Clinton en masse.

For me, however, Michelle Obama had already beat him to the punch with her address to a Orangeburg, South Carolina gathering. Sistah girl nailed it.

Michelle is able to communicate from the heart in a way that is both uplifting and empowering to me. Her spiel serves the dual purpose of communicating to whitefolks her safe middle class bonifides and her commitment to black empowerment. The frank recounting of the reservations she expressed about a presidential bid tells us that the sistah is grounded by the love of her upbringing, and will use those values as a guidepost for the road ahead. For Michelle, the personal is political which is demonstrated by her faith in a loving God and her wholesome commitment to strengthening families, especially the black family. I can think of no other woman I’d rather see become First Lady.

Michelle’s statuesque beauty, effortless style, bottomless grace, quiet intellect and amazing humility are exactly the qualities that America’s trailblazing black First Lady must exhibit and that her husband ought to have at his side.

Oprah, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Being in South Carolina with that massive crowd was almost a religious experience. The walls of my ideological Jericho came down with a mighty shout. I’ve been wrestling with how to tell y’all because I knew when I left the stadium that I would support Obama.

I traveled to South Carolina alone and adopted the lady in line next to me as my play mom for the day. I asked Ms. Johnson how many of her girlfriends supported Hillary. Ms. Johnson told me, “I don’t know nobody supporting Hillary.” I shoulda known then that Obama had ended Hillary’s chances of the nomination. Taking nothing away from the formidable imperial guard surrounding Hillary, I am quite comfortable predicting that Hillary will lose New Hampshire and the nomination to Obama.

Trailblazers like Oprah were way ahead of people like me. Never a true skeptic although she remained aloof from politics, Oprah, a billionaire as a result of her finger on the pulse of this country, knew a winner when she saw one.

Pondering the import of Oprah Winfrey’s whirlwind tour on behalf of Barack Obama has left me seeing the world in a new way and has me viewing Obama’s groundbreaking candidacy through the prism of Oprah Winfrey’s experience. Oprah’s humble yet passionate articulation of Obama’s cause brought the right touch of star power and street cred. Skeptical pundits have been forever silenced by Oprah’s power to help Obama draw weekend crowds of 66,000 in three states.

Both Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as Maya Angelou would agree, are phenomenal women, phenomenally. Just like Michelle Obama, I’ve had trouble reconciling Barack Obama the man and Barack Obama the phenomenon. Together, Michelle and Oprah helped put it into the proper perspective for me. Let me break it down, it’s all about the O, and I don’t mean Overstock.com.

Examining the arc of her remarkable life from Mississippi, Tennessee and Illinois, I am struck by how similar it tracks the same path as another daughter of Mississippi: Ida B. Wells-Barnett. I’ve always believed that although a prominent heroine of black history, Mrs. Wells-Barnett never fully received her due as a result of the bitter Victorian sexism of her time. Mrs. Wells-Barnett more than earned her place in the pantheon of black historical legends like Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois.

Born into slavery in 1862, orphaned at 14 by a yellow fever epidemic and left to raise five younger siblings, Ida B. Wells rose from the grinding poverty of Holly Springs, Mississippi to the highest echelon of black society. A teacher, journalist, anti-lynching activist, feminist, suffragist and Republican politician (we were republicans then), her significant contributions to our struggle against white supremacy and Jim Crow segregation cannot be exaggerated.

Crusader in Defense of the Black Body

Well educated for a child of slaves, she was educated at Mississippi’s Rust College and Tennessee’s Fisk University, both HBCU’s. By twenty, she moved with her siblings to Tennessee and settled in Memphis. By twenty-two, Wells-Barnett was leading campaigns against segregation in public accommodations. By twenty-four, she was writing editorials and investigative pieces to fight against lynching and white supremacy. She became a crusader in defense of the Black Body and a defender of our lives against the relentlessly racist oppression imposed by Jim Crow.


Crusader in Defense of the Black Spirit


Kosciusko, Mississippi born Oprah Winfrey, a trailblazing journalist, businesswoman, media personality, philanthropist, and child advocate, picked up Ida’s torch and has become a crusader in defense of the black spirit. Nashville’s first Black news anchor, she has used her life to fight a crusade against child sexual abuse, racism, poverty, and neglect. Single-handedly, the victim of rape and sexual molestation at the hands of cousin, uncle and her mother’s boyfriend, she is responsible for federal legislation that she authored to create a national registry of sex offenders to track predators against our children.

A philanthropist of legendary scale, she has given millions to black colleges and universities, is spending more money on rebuilding housing for hurricane Katrina victims than the damn federal government-over $17,000,000 million, despite billions appropriated and not spent by Washington, and is channeling millions of dollars for educational programs and HIV/AIDS programs in this country and worldwide.

An actress of legendary prowess, she came to national attention in her portrayal of Sophia in Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.” The character Sophia is asked by the wife of the town’s Mayor if she would like to be her maid. Sophia’s reply, “Hell No” is so robust, vehement, and unexpected that it ends up causing a dust-up in which she has to defend herself from a racist physical assault for “sassing” Miss Millie and her white male defenders. Sophia ends up rotting in Jail for years before being re-united with her family and the “kind-hearted” bitch for which she initially refused to work-as her maid.

Domestic servitude in the kitchens of white women is part and parcel of the history of black women in this country and touches upon a raw nerve that exists for black women of multiple generations-even now. Black women’s unjustified allegiance to Hillary Clinton tap dances on that nerve. My maternal grandmother, now in her 8th decade, is a woman of remarkable intestinal fortitude, humor, wisdom, and unassailable dignity. She is the rock upon which our family has relied for nearly 60 years. As a young mother of three and wife of an abusive husband, she found herself having to abandon the marriage and flee to the safety of family a good distance away. Work as a domestic in the homes of white women was what was available to her and she took it and used it to put herself through nursing school.

Mama told me how she was asked by the south Florida matron she worked for if she knew what “elbow grease” was. The woman wanted Mama to get down on her hands and knees and scrub the floor with a toothbrush like a house slave on the plantation. That vignette has always stayed with me and is like a festering boil that never heals. My grandmama’s story reveals the texture, depth, and authenticity of black women’s struggle in this country. It is something that Hillary Clinton, blinded by her sense of royal entitlement, will never understand and something that the grandson of a British colonial servant does.

Reminding us of the “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” on the tour with the Obama’s, Oprah echoed Jane Pittman when she famously asked each of the children, “Are you the one, Are you the one that will save us.” He won’t single-handedly save us, but I sincerely believe that he is the one for this moment.

His election as president, should it occur, will not overnight result in a diminution of the world’s oppressive racial order, but it will be a step in the right direction for change. I could never get the image out of my head that Michelle conjured up of her husband taking the oath of office. I don’t think he can single-handedly end white supremacy and the grip of capitalist patriarchy, but I think that he may serve as an inspiration to the child or children who can.

Obama truly got game. He can unite this racially divided country in the spirit of brotherhood as nobody can, and for this reason, he will have my unswerving support.

Jesse disses Obama in Chicago Sun-Times Op-Ed piece

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Brotha Jesse is pissing outside of the tent again, this time its in the form of an op-ed piece in the Sun-Times. After reading it, give me your take.  Is Jesse’s criticism valid and is his timing right?  He’s endorsed the brotha and is pulling even with Miss Hillary in Iowa.  This piece begs the question of whether Jesse really wants Obama to win.

Hat Tip: By Rev. Jesse Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times  

Can Democrats get the votes they need simply because they’re not Republicans? You might think so in this presidential campaign. African-American and urban votes are critical to any Democratic victory. Bill Clinton won two terms without winning the most white votes. His margin was the overwhelming support of black voters. George Bush learned that lesson; that’s why his campaigns spent so much effort suppressing the black vote in key states like Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. His victory margin was the tally of votes suppressed or uncounted.

Yet the Democratic candidates — with the exception of John Edwards, who opened his campaign in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward and has made addressing poverty central to his campaign — have virtually ignored the plight of African Americans in this country. The catastrophic crisis that engulfs the African-American community goes without mention. No urban agenda is given priority. When thousands of African Americans marched in protest in Jena, La., not one candidate showed up.

Democratic candidates are talking about health care and raising the minimum wage, but they aren’t talking about the separate and stark realities facing African Americans.

The civil rights movement succeeded in ending segregation and providing blacks with the right to vote. But the end of legal apartheid did not end the era of discrimination. And the ending of institutionalized violence did not end institutionalized racism.

Patterns of discrimination are sharply etched. African Americans have, on average, about half of the good things that whites have, and double the bad things. We have about half the average household income and less than half the household wealth. On the other hand, we’re suffering twice the level of unemployment and twice the level of infant mortality (widely accepted as a measure of general health).

African Americans are brutalized by a system of criminal injustice. Young African Americans are more likely to be stopped, more likely to be searched if stopped, more likely to be arrested if searched, more likely to be charged if arrested, more likely to be sentenced to prison if charged, less likely to get early parole if imprisoned. Every study confirms that the discrimination is systemic and ruinous. And yet no candidate speaks to this central reality.

African Americans are more likely to go to overcrowded and underfunded schools, more likely to go without health care, more likely to drop out, less likely to find employment. Those who do work have less access to banks and are more likely to be ripped off by payday lenders, more likely to be stuck with high-interest auto and business loans, and far more likely to be steered to risky mortgages — even when adjusting for income. And yet, no candidate speaks to this central reality.

The result is visiting a catastrophe on the urban black community. I and many others campaign for young people to stay in school, to graduate and not to make babies until they are prepared to be parents. My son and I write and teach about personal financial responsibility. Personal responsibility is critical. But personal responsibility alone cannot overcome the effects of a discriminatory criminal justice and economic system in generating broken families and broken dreams.

The Rev. Martin Luther King saw the movement to end segregation and gain voting rights as the first stage of the civil rights movement. The second stage — to gain economic justice and equal opportunity in fact — he knew would be more difficult. Now, 40 years later, it is no longer acceptable for candidates to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to entrenched discrimination and still expect to reap our votes.

Obama declares Iowa voters beyond race

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photo courtesy of flickr by Guy as in Gee

The “Safe Negro,” Barack Obama, has declared that Iowa voters are beyond race.   He is quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “People are less concerned about race and much more concerned about, is this somebody who is going to be fighting for me.”   That is an astounding statement of cynical calculation which panders to Iowa’s lily white electorate that is false on its face and goes to the root of why black people like me remain skeptical brotha’s and sistah’s.    For the record, all of my closest friends are supporters of the Safe Negro, but I just can’t go there.   I probably never will as long as he keeps serving up rhetorical gems like this to a narcissistic and oblivious white electorate.

Let me be clear, y’all.   I was born and raised in a neighboring state to a family of southern transplants looking for a kinder and gentler racism so that they might have a fighting chance to raise healthy and happy chirren.  My grandparents largely succeeded.  After high school, I realized that in terms of a future, there was no there there and decided to strike out for the greener and decidedly blacker pastures in the south.  

After a false start in Louisiana, I ended up in the Carolinas.  Having four generations of my family living in the rural Midwest, you’d think that our sense of pride in self and community woulda dimmed somewhat, quite the opposite is true.    We know exactly who we are, where we came from, and we appreciate it and celebrate it.   We’re realists that were raised to see the world as it is, defects and all. It is because we do that statements like Obama’s can be decisively debunked with little effort.

According to Human Rights Watch, it is patently ridiculous for Barack Obama to be giving racial absolution to Iowans, “In every state, the proportion of blacks in prison exceeds, sometimes by a considerable amount, their proportion in the general population (Figure 2). In Minnesota and Iowa, blacks constitute a share of the prison population that is twelve times greater than their share of the state population. In eleven states — Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming –the percentage of the prison population that is black is more than six times greater than the percentage of the state population that is black.”

“Racially disaggregated incarceration rates that measure the number of confined blacks and whites per 100,000 residents of each racial group yield another perspective on the extent of racial disparities in imprisonment. Nationwide, blacks are incarcerated at 8.2 times the rate of whites. That is, a black person is 8.2 times more likely to be in prison than a white person. Among individual states, there are even more extraordinary racial disparities in incarceration rates (Figure 3). In seven states — Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — blacks are incarcerated at more than 13 times the rate of whites.”

“….Nationwide, black men are incarcerated at 9.6 times the rate of white men. In eleven states, black men are incarcerated at rates that are twelve to twenty-six times greater than those of white men (Table 5). Thus, in Minnesota, the state with the greatest racial disparity in incarceration, a black man is 26.8 times more likely to be in prison than a white man. In Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, a black man is more than fifteen times more likely to be in prison than a white man.”

The criminal justice system is always an accurate measure of how deep the sickness of racism is. In Iowa, on the basis of these 7-plus-year-old figures, the sickness is profound.   Apparently, Barack Obama is a glass is half-full kinda guy.  I’m just the opposite.  It’s one thing to campaign on the basis of optimism and hope, its quite another to pander to some white people’s grossly inflated sense of racial fairness and fairplay when statistics clearly show that their “fairness” is a lie from the pit of Hell.  Because of these and other reasons, I shall continue remaining skeptical about Barack Obama.  

 

Byrds of a Feather Flock Together

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Byrds of a Feather Flock Together: How Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama learned to accommodate white supremacy under the tutelage of Robert C. Byrd

In West Virginia’s State Capitol rotunda, there is an immense bronze monstrosity that commemorates the massive ego of its favorite son, Senator Robert Carlyle Byrd Jr, the longest serving U.S. Senator in American history. It is a monument to the incredible ignorance and servility of West Virginia’s electorate and its silent ostentation makes a cruel mockery of the state’s history of opposition to slavery and the suffering of its ever-present poor and working class majority.  

Senator Byrd’s principled opposition to the war in Iraq brought the Senate’s oldest war-horse some much needed prominence and acclaim as he trudged toward his crusade for the record books: a ninth six year term.  The Senator likes round numbers and at the conclusion of the current term, Byrd will have served in Congress for 60 years, shattering all previous records for congressional service. 

An orator of some heft, the Napoleonic Byrd routinely regales the Senate with perorations about the Senate of ancient Rome, U.S. Senate history, and mom and apple pie.   Behind those grandfatherly pontifications is something sinister, something dark, and it is the Senator’s own history of white supremacist advocacy as a member of the Ku Klux Klan and his record of opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Eric Pianin of the Washington Post picks up the story, “In the early 1940’s, a politically ambitious butcher from West Virginia named Bob Byrd recruited 150 of his friends and associates to form a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.  After Byrd had collected the $10 joining fee and $3 charge for a robe and hood from every applicant, the “Grand Dragon” for the mid-Atlantic states came down to tiny Crab Orchard, W. Va., to officially organize the chapter.” 

“As Byrd recalls now, the Klan official, Joel L. Baskin of Arlington, Va., was so impressed with the young Byrd’s organizational skills that he urged him to go into politics. ‘The country needs young men like you in the leadership of the nation,’ Baskin said.” 

With that chilling advice, Byrd embarked upon his legendary political career, which saw service in both houses of the West Virginia legislature and both houses of congress.  Along the way, he was attacked for his Klan associations, which he later “disavowed,” until the next election.   The friendships he made and the alliances built on a foundation of hate, lasted well into the second decade of his political career and they greased his path until he finally ran the U.S. Senate as its Majority Leader.    

A 1978 Time Magazine profile of Senator Byrd reads, “An archconservative, Byrd was regarded by many as a lightweight hanger-on to the influential group of Southern conservatives led by Georgia’s Richard Russell.  What no one realized was that Byrd was already planning his move to gain power in the Senate.  His strategy: to emulate Russell’s mastery of the Senate’s rules.  ‘Senator Russell’-out of reverence, Byrd always called him that-also advised him to study the book of precedents.  Byrd did, religiously, just as he had earlier pored over his butcher’s manual” 

“…Loyal to the Southern wing, he voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Pianin of the Washington Post continued, “Byrd filibustered the bill (the Civil Rights Act of 1964) for more than 14 hours as he argued that it abrogated principles of federalism.  He criticized most anti-poverty programs except for food stamps.  And in 1967, he voted against the nomination of Thurgood Marshall, the first black appointed to the Supreme Court.” 

The illumination of Byrd’s opposition to the Marshall Nomination and what that reveals about Hillary and Barack’s craven cultivation of a segregationist fossil is what I wish to focus on.  

Byrd was the final member to address the Senate and blustered “I have reached the conclusion, only last evening, that I shall vote against Mr. Marshall’s confirmation. I shall vote against his confirmation realizing that, from a purely political standpoint, my vote will probably not be a good vote.  Mine being a political career, it is only natural that I cannot be averse to political considerations in many of the decisions which I am called upon to make.   Nevertheless, I feel that political considerations must be subordinated to my strong convictions in matters, which will leave a lasting imprint upon the country, which the next generation will inherent from our hands.”  

“There are those critics who may say that my vote against Mr. Marshall is a “racist vote.”  There are those who may say my vote indicates that I am anti-Negro.  “… Mr. President, the truth of the matter is that I would like to vote for Mr. Marshall, and I am frank to say that I would like to vote for him particularly because he is a Negro.  Yet, I consider it my duty as a Senator, under the Constitution, not to let Mr. Marshall’s race influence my decision.  Having reached the definite conclusion that were Mr. Marshall white, I would vote against him.  I cannot, therefore, let the fact that he is a Negro influence me to vote for him when I would not do so otherwise.”  

“What is the basis for my decision to vote against Mr. Marshall’s confirmation?”  Byrd disingenuously raised the specter of black crime and the liberalization of Supreme Court rulings. He thundered, “I have repeatedly spoken out against Supreme Court decisions which have placed shackles upon the police and which have made increasingly difficult the problem of law enforcement.  …I do not believe that I can be justified in criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court for decisions which favor the criminal if I, by my own actions, fail to take a stand against the appointment of any individual to that Court whose past record in the legal profession and as a jurist point unmistakably, in my judgment, to the likelihood that the nominee will add to an already dangerously imbalanced High Tribunal.”  

Thurgood Marshall’s remarkable career is a powerful testimony to the existence of God because his hand is so clearly visible in the miracles of advocacy Marshall routinely pulled off in hostile southern courtrooms on behalf of African American defendants.   Noted for his groundbreaking and successful strategy of challenging segregation, his work on behalf of black defendants in criminal cases is often overlooked. 

Marshall was the senior member of a triumvirate of black generals leading the charge against segregation and discrimination in this society.  Congressman Adam Clayton Powell led the battle in Congress, Martin Luther King Jr. fought the struggle in the streets and Thurgood led the protracted struggle against discrimination in the civil and criminal courts of the country.   The only thing standing between some criminal defendants and the electric chair, he rode into sleepy southern locales on his white horse, at great personal risk to himself, and fought with the whole armor of God for his clients and won more often than not.   

In 1940, after seven years of private practice, Marshall won his first case in the U.S. Supreme Court.  During the fifties, King asked for Marshall’s help during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. As head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Marshall was glad to oblige.  King underscored the thrust of Marshall’s trial advocacy and the philosophy behind the protests “One thing the gradualists don’t seem to understand: We are not trying to make people love us when we go to court; we are trying to keep them from killing us.” 

Alabama was ground zero in the fight for civil rights by 1955.  Robert J. Norrell, author of “Law In A White Man’s Democracy,” for the Cumberland Law Review, recounts the racist history of Alabama’s Judiciary and the fight against it for equality. Norrell wrote, Electoral forms in Alabama created from 1874 onward were intended primarily to ensure white political supremacy. Despite divisions among whites, the first concern of most white politicians after Reconstruction was to maintain white dominance and to undermine any black influence.  In the new century, much of the effort to maintain white supremacy was focused on the criminal justice system in Alabama. The courts helped to maintain an unfree labor system and discriminatory application of law. 

In 1960, Marshall had moved the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to back up the civil rights movement almost exclusively and the ramifications were profound for the movement.  Again, Norrell, “By 1961, racial feelings had surged to new heights as a result of black challenges to segregation. In the spring of 1960, the sit-in movement protested lunch-counter segregation in most Alabama cities. In May 1961, the ‘freedom-riders’ came to Alabama, and the ensuing violence in Anniston, Birmingham, and Montgomery took racial tensions even higher. A sense of siege pervaded the feelings of many white Alabamians, and predictions of a coming race war were commonplace.” 

Marshall waded in again personally in 1961 on behalf of Alabamian Charles Clarence Hamilton, a black defendant convicted and sentenced to death for raping a white woman. Thurgood got the conviction reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court for a due-process violation. Far from admiring Marshall’s legal acumen as he had done in the past by voting to confirm him to the U.S. Court of Appeals and as Solicitor General; Byrd turned on a dime and reviled it. Confirmed by a vote of 69-11, Byrd’s Machiavellian grandstanding on the nomination of Thurgood Marshall had an audience of one: Senator Richard Russell of Georgia. He was the one man with the power to punch his ticket and smooth the glide path to Senate leadership.  

His efforts paid off handsomely. Pianin of the Washington Post wrote, “…As a rising member of the leadership, Byrd paid close attention to minor legislative details that made life easier for other senators, always showing elaborate courtesy, and wrote thank you notes on the slightest pretext.  In 1971, he challenged Sen. Edward M. Kennedy for the majority whip post and unseated him, after securing the death-bed proxy of the legendary Sen. Richard B. Russell D-Ga …the architect of the southern filibuster against civil rights legislation.” 

After Senator Russell’s death, Byrd sponsored legislation to honor his segregationist legacy by naming the first Senate Office Building in his honor and he paid tribute to him in a 1988 address on the Senate Floor in which he reminisced at Russell’s final resting place, “As I stood by his graveside there beneath the a soft southern sky, my thoughts ran backward across the years we had served together and to the many times when I had sought his sage counsel and advice.  I thought of the example that he had set, as a senator who had truly revered the Senate, and of the impact of his life upon my own.  Here, I thought, was a senator who would have graced the Senate well in any era, at any period, in the broad sweep of its two hundred-year history.  Richard Russell was someone who, more than anyone else I have ever met, should have been President of the United States.” 

A bitter segregationist should have been President of the United States-yeah, right. 

Not content to oppose the form and substance of equality, Byrd also opposed its number one spokesperson and sought to install Supreme Court Justices inimical to civil rights. The Harvard Crimson, Harvard’s student run newspaper, said in a January 11, 1977 article, “He once condemned the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a ‘self seeking rabble rouser,’ suggesting later that the slain civil rights leader had incited the riots that broke out in the wake of his assassination.  Byrd was so opposed to the progressive decisions of the Warren Court that he broke ranks with his colleagues in supporting President Nixon’s ill-fated nominees for the Supreme Court, W. Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell.” 

In 1977, Senator Byrd defeated former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a passionate civil rights advocate and leader of the forces pushing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for Senate Majority Leader. Again, the Harvard Crimson, “Surprisingly, Byrd received strong support in his campaign for the post not only from conservative Southern Democrats, but from liberals who might more naturally have been expected to support Byrd’s challenger, Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey D-Minn.  In fact, so widespread was the liberal defection to Byrd that Humphrey, recognizing he had no chance of winning, withdrew. 

This is the person to whom Hillary and Barack turned to school them in navigating the corridors of senate power. They turned to a former Klansman, segregationist, and archconservative. 

In the November 2006 issue of the Atlantic, staff writer Joshua Green wrote of Hillary Clinton, “Before she was even sworn in, she went to pay obeisance to the very man who had all but driven a stake through her health-care plan, Senator Robert C. Byrd…’I was not exactly a disciple,’ Byrd told me.  ‘I thought she would play upon her having been a president’s wife and expect to have a lot of favors done, a lot of bending and bowing.’ He added huffily, ‘That didn’t concur with my impressions of what a senator should be.’ 

“Instead, Clinton asked Byrd for advice on being a good senator, and got a primer on how to comport herself.  Afterward, she announced her intention to heed Byrd’s advice: ‘Be a workhorse, not a show horse.’…The meeting with Byrd accomplished two things: it sent a public signal about how Clinton planned conduct herself in her new job, and it sent a private signal to Byrd that she wanted to apprentice herself to him.  A senate staffer told me that Clinton also asked Byrd at the meeting if he would lead a series of classes for the freshmen, which she would arrange, on his specialty of parliamentary rules and procedures.  Byrd delightedly agreed.  For more than a year, groups of Senators large and small filed through Byrd’s ornate office in the Capitol for their lessons.  There was no question who was the star pupil.”  

Not to be outdone, Senator Obama wrote in the bestselling Audacity of Hope, “…among Senate Democrats at least, my meetings would end with one consistent recommendation: As soon as possible, they said, I should schedule a meeting with Senator Byrd-not only as a matter of senatorial courtesy, but also because Senator Byrd’s position on the Appropriations Committee and general stature gave him considerable clout.” 

“…We spoke about the Senate’s past, the Presidents he had known, the bills he had managed.  He told me I would do well in the Senate but that I shouldn’t be in too much of a rush-so many senators today become fixated on the White House, not understanding that in the constitutional design it was the Senate that was supreme, the heart and soul of the republic.” 

“…Listening to Senator Byrd speak, I felt with full force all the essential contradictions of me in this new place, with its marble busts, its arcane traditions, its memories and its ghosts. I pondered the fact that, according to his own autobiography, Senator Byrd had received his first taste of leadership in his early twenties, as a member of the Raleigh County Ku Klux Klan…I thought about how he had joined other giants of the Senate, like J. William Fulbright of Arkansas and Richard Russell of Georgia, in Southern resistance to civil rights legislation…I wondered if it should matter.” 

Apparently, in Obamaworld and Hillaryland, it really doesn’t matter. All is forgiven. Senator Obama contemplated the contradictions so deeply that he campaigned for Senator Byrd’s 2006 re-election and raised $634,000 towards his re-election bid through the political action committee, MoveOn.org.  The audacity of Obama’s genuflection to Byrd, and his accommodation of white supremacy meant that like Hillary, he also had internalized his power tutorial well.   

I should hope that the irony of a woman and an African American beating a path to the door of a former segregationist whose “reverence” for the constitution is evidenced by his carrying around a copy of it in his pocket for the entirety of his 6 decades of service in congress is not lost on anyone. Byrd has brandished his little copy of the constitution on the Senate floor for decades but has consistently failed to defend the constitutional rights of African Americans.    

The same could be said of both Hillary and Barack. The constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment is fungible in the Clinton household.   As a young law professor demonstrating an idealistic commitment to justice, Hillary Clinton wrote a brief that freed a retarded inmate from death row. It was a commitment that was to be sacrificed in order to embrace the calculated and bloodless political expediency that propelled the Clintons to Washington.

In her husband’s final term as governor, as he campaigned for President, she stood mute as he allowed the execution of a brain damaged black man, Ricky Ray Rector, who killed a police officer and then lobotomized himself with a gun shot to the head. 

Christopher Hitchens described the craven act brutally, Executed by Clinton to draw attention from the Gennifer Flowers flap (about which he also lied) Rector outdoes Willie Horton by every definition of racist grandstanding.” Rector was so mentally impaired that Rector’s prison guards called him “the Chickman” because he thought the guards were throwing alligators and chickens into his cell. He would grip the bars and jump up and down like an ape. On the night of his execution, Rector saved the slice of pecan pie to be eaten before bedtime, not realizing his death would come first. He also told his attorney that he would like to vote for Clinton in the fall,” wrote Alexander Nguyen of the American Prospect.

Rector was a man that Thurgood Marshall, then in his final term as a justice, would have ruled to spare had the Court chosen to hear his last appeal.  Marshall wrote in his dissent, Ultimately, then, the common law conception of incompetence embodies the principle that it is inhumane to put a man to death when he has been rendered incapable of appealing to the mercy of the society that has condemned him.”   The Clintons respected Marshall’s point of view so thoroughly that they fast-tracked executions when Bill signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which allows the death penalty for an additional 60 crimes and short circuits death row appeals based on due process violations and actual innocence.    

In Chicago, a twenty-year reign of racist terror by Southside Chicago Cops was summarily ignored by Barack Obama and his political patron, Mayor Rich Daley. From the website of the University of Chicago Police Torture Archive, “Between the years of 1972 and 1991, approximately [192] African American Men and women were arrested and tortured at the hands of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command at Area 2 police headquarters.  Some of these victims were as young as thirteen years old. Various court cases have established that the methods of torture used in the interrogation of suspects included electric shock to the ears and genitalia, mock executions, suffocation, and burning. While Jon Burge was ultimately fired by the Chicago Police Department, not a single perpetrator of the tortures has ever been criminally prosecuted.”  Fourteen of those tortured were sent to death row.  

Throughout almost the entire period of racist terror, either the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, or his son, Richard M. Daley, was in a position of power to stop these human rights violations and neither did anything.  Knowing all of this, Barack Obama endorsed the Mayor’s re-election bid for a sixth term and accepted the Mayor’s endorsement for President while simultaneously grandstanding on the Senate floor against the torture of foreign terrorism suspects.   Barack Obama, like Hillary, defecated on the legacy of Thurgood Marshall and showed to all the world that Byrds of a feather do indeed flock together to accommodate white supremacy.

 

Obama 08: a black bourgeois fantasy

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“Despite their solid achievements and the satisfactions which they derived from their way of life, there was always an atmosphere of unreality surrounding the isolated life of the small black middle class.  …urbanization and the increasing occupational differentiation of the Negro population undermined the privileged position of the old middle class.  But more important still, the compensations which ancestry, puritanical morals, and especially education, provided in a hostile white world were inadequate in the life of the new black bourgeoisie.”   

“Having become less isolated and thus more exposed to the contempt and hostility of the white world, but at the same time cherishing the values of the white world, the new black bourgeoisie with more money at their disposal, have sought compensation in the things that money can buy.   Moreover, their larger incomes have enabled them to propagate false notions about their place in American life and to create a world of make-believe.” 

- E. Franklin Frazier, in “Black Bourgeoisie”   

Because of the illusory affluence of conspicuous consumption and the presence of the largest black middle class in history, some of us have bought into the lie of American democracy and have become captivated with the idea that we can somehow elect a black president.  We have bought into the rhetoric of hope and the audacity of bourgeois hubris.  

Sistah Obama was right when she said  “If Barack doesn’t win Iowa, it’s just a dream.”   It is a dream because Political Scientist Michael Parenti describes the Presidency as nothing more than a bait and switch game intended to pull the wool over the eyes of the public while slavishly serving the powerful.  We have studiously avoided seeing that Barack Obama has signaled his intention to serve the powerful in everyway he can.   

He rejects reparations, played footsie with Chicago’s corrupt Daley Machine and ignored its police brutality, caved to the Israel Lobby, voted for Condi Rice, equivocated on war funding (voting for it before he was against it), and his health care plan isn’t universal. The only thing he hasn’t done is walk up and down the streets of America peddling his ass like a prostitute.  

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is a black middle class fantasy, an idealistic delusion of epic proportions that those outside of the black community have hijacked to achieve their own malevolent ends. Most Americans will never grasp the significance of our nation’s role as an imperial power that enforces a bloody and repressive economic and political hegemony upon the world’s colored peoples.  They have been uniformly brainwashed by patriotic propaganda advanced by a greedy and self-interested corporate media and indoctrinated by historical revisionists that omit America’s history of genocide, slavery and discrimination.  

The President is the guardian of our undemocratic system and the character of the presidency perverts any good intention.  Parenti writes, “If presidents tend to speak one way and act another, it is due less to some inborn flaw shared by the varied personalities who occupy the office than to the nature of the office itself.  Like any officeholder, the president plays a dual role in that he must satisfy the major interests of corporate America and at the same time make a show of serving the people. He differs from other politicians in that the demands and expectations of his office are greater and therefore the contradictions deeper.  …Like other politicians, perhaps more so, the president is caught between the demands of democracy and the powers of plutocracy.” 

No matter what set of progressive policies our president claims fealty to, his responsibility to the capitalist power structure will always be greater and his response to the entreaties of its emissaries shall forever be swifter.  Placing Barack’s narrow behind in the oval office won’t change this dynamic of power.  

The futility of this delusional presidential exercise is borne out by poll numbers, which reveal that the majority of African Americans are still with Hillary.  During the period of sky-high poll numbers and uncritical acclaim, Obama’s poll numbers with the black community were in the toilet.  Now that the newness has worn off the Safe Negro and whitefolks adoration and worship has cooled, blackfolks have started to take a second look.  He ain’t never gonna get off that racial seesaw and it will eventually become his undoing as a candidate.  

We have the means through which to control a great deal that happens to and within our communities but haven’t because of a lack of vision. That will not change because Barack Obama stepped onto the scene.  The relative weakness of our political leadership and the precariousness of our economic strength keep the enormous power of the world’s wealthiest black middle class in check.  

In this respect, little has changed since Dr. Frasier wrote, “Since the black bourgeoisie is composed chiefly of white collar workers and since its small business enterprises are insignificant in the American economy, the black bourgeoisie wields no political power as a class in American society.  Nor does the black bourgeoisie exercise any significant power within the Negro community as an employer of labor.  Its power within the Negro community stems from the fact that middle-class Negroes hold strategic positions in segregated institutions and create and propagate the ideologies current in the Negro community.” 

“In the political life of the American society the Negro political leaders, who have always had a middle-class outlook, follow an opportunistic policy.  They attempt to accommodate the demands of Negroes for better economic and social conditions to their personal interests which are tied up with the political machines, which in turn are geared to the interests of the white propertied classes.” 

Ultimately, it is the white power structure, not us, that will benefit from the next presidency, whichever candidate is selected.  In the unlikely event that I am wrong and an Obama presidency materializes, those whose mission it is to turn back the clock on social progress will have all the ammunition they need to destroy forever the possibility of progressive change.  His election will be hailed from coast to coast as a triumph over racism and our legacy of discrimination when it will be anything but.  

It’s time to wake up from our middle class fantasies and realize the ideological cul-de sac American politics is and do something about the unequal power relationships that disadvantage us socially, economically, and politically.

The Audacity of Evasion: Barack Obama and the Reparations debate

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Barack Obama nimbly evaded the question of reparations last month in CNN’s Youtube debate and tried to turn the question toward something more “mainstream” in calling for more funding for education for our schools.  It was a deliberate and craven deception that calls into question his true love for African people in this country and throughout the diaspora.

While increasing numbers of us are singing Kumbaya with white liberals over his ground-breaking candidacy, there are people like me who believe that his reparations equivocation is yet another affirmation of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. 

Obama, a former constitutional law professor, rarely sprinkles any of his stump speeches with critical race theory. Some of our contributors, like NMP and yogo, are lawyers and have found no contradiction between support of Obama or Hillary and their support for the African American community.  I am not so sanguine.  

One candidate had the cohones to support reparations for African Americans and Congressman Kucinich is to be commended.  Hillary, Biden, Richardson, and Dodd didn’t comment.   Edwards and Obama shot the idea down and yet we still shout Barack’s name from the rooftops.  Why?

Obama’s peers in the constitutional law community are not so sanguine either, and many have written extensively  regarding the need for and the ample legal precedent supporting the call for slave reparations.  I’d like to explore some of those with you here. 

Professor David Hall of Northeastern University School of Law has written, “Reparation is deeply rooted in the American legal system.  All first-year law students during their course in contracts are made aware of the contractual injury of unjust enrichment.  The legal remedy for unjust enrichment is restitution, one of the three main remedies for contractual breaches.”

“Reparation, though generally thought of as applying to collective or group remedies, is merely another form of the historic and accepted remedy of restitution.  Some authors have presuasively demonstrated how restitution, and thus reparation, in addition to their longstanding legal tradition, have deep spiritual roots within various religious traditions.  Thus, our culture and our legal system have a long-standing affinity with these remedies.”

Opponents downplay and reject the concept of historical enrichment by their ancestors and question the necessity for restitution. Alfreda Robinson, Associate Dean of the George Washington University Law School has written, “In contrast, reparations opponents contend that reparations discouse and demands for reparations unnecessarily “trouble ‘settled’ waters.”  In their view, reparations discourse creates racial and ethnic strife by resurrecting painful memories that Americans would rather forget.” 

“Reparations opponents further argue that the reparations debate wastes sparse intellectual, social, political, and economic resources that African Americans should direct elsewhere, that it focuses on ancient claims, blames inappropriately present day white Americans for the sins of their deceased ancestors and racial blood group, and holds African Americans captive to an underserved and debilitating victim’s image.”

This seems to be the side that Obama’s on.  The side that would rather not have this discussion and the side the rejects out of hand a discourse of restitution.   His collegues reject that handkerchief head talk and have moved forward to initiate litigation despite the presence of resistance. 

Again, Professor Hall, “Despite this resistance, the idea of reparations for African Americans for the atrocities and unjust gains of slavery and the slave trade has now reached center stage.  The prominence is due in large part to recent lawsuits that have been filed against corporations, and against govermental entities.  But reparations for African Americans is not a new topic or issue. It has always been with us, yet we have always managed to keep it locked up in the closets of our collective consciousness.”

The question of restitution is clearly locked up in the double consciousness of former Harvard Law Review President Barack Obama, and will not ever be set free as long as he believes himself to be a viable Presidential candidate.  Y’all may not like that, but it’s the damn truth.  I see no need to let the “Safe Negro” slide on that.   In the place of reparations, we see the cruel and deceptive attempt to graft the candidacy of Obama, as if by its mere existence, it has the power to heal the deep wounds of genocide, slavery, and white supremacy. It doesn’t. 

The healing that needs to take place can only take place by advancing the discourse reparations and by creating a framework that leads to resititution.  Professor Hall writes, “As we go through the difficult and technical issues related to reparations in the context of American slavery and racism, it is important not to lose sight of the spiritual dimensions and realities of this remedy within this context. For if understood properly, we could begin to see that reparations, like all legal remedies, are attempting to do more than just transfer resources form one party to another.

“The legal system, through its system of remedies, is also trying to address deep wounds and restore broken relationships.  If there is a compelling scenario where psychic wounds and broken spirits exist, it is within the collective experience of slavery and racism in America.  Reparations, despite its long delay and its numerous procedural and substantive challenges, offers this nation a great opportunity for spiritual cleansing.”

Healing and spiritual cleansing are both advanced subliminally by the Obama campaign as traits he has the capacity to bring to our nation as President.  The reality is that we”ll get neither if he doesn’t have the courage to acknowledge the necessity for reparations.  The conundrum of power in this country is that those who demonstrate the cohones to lead rarely get elected or stay elected to do so.

The Audacity of Ambivalence

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Twenty-three years ago, I was transformed by the presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson.  I became the political animal that haunts this blog with sporadic amounts of humor and cynicism.  The campaign became a coming of age that should define a generation of us in our mid-thirties. The rhetoric of the campaign was uplifting and edifying in a spiritual way and inspired a new generation of African American politicians great and small.    

In his convention address, Jesse said, “No generation can choose the age or circumstance in which it is born, but through leadership it can choose to make the age in which it is born an age of enlightenment, an age of jobs, and peace, and justice. Only leadership — that intangible combination of gifts, the discipline, information, circumstance, courage, timing, will and divine inspiration — can lead us out of the crisis in which we find ourselves. Leadership can mitigate the misery of our nation. Leadership can part the waters and lead our nation in the direction of the Promised Land. Leadership can lift the boats stuck at the bottom.” 

After seven years of movement conservative disaster, America is looking for a leader that can heal our land and lead us toward what Dr. King described as the beloved community, “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” The beloved community is an ideal founded on the biblical principle embodied by the commandment to, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” The opening salvos of this Presidential campaign was a period of assessment in which we could go to our quiet place, commune with ourselves, and reflect on what it is that our President should embody besides white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.   

Over $100 million dollars has been raised by just two of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination and I find myself wondering, “is this it?”  “Is this shit all there is?”  I really don’t need to hear more deceptive rhetoric masquerading as courage and understanding. Quoting Big Mama’s favorite bible verse is not gonna cut it this year. I need to get a sense that there is a plan for progressive transformation behind the Machiavellian mask.  

Hiding deep in the recesses of their rhetoric should be some amalgamation of the hopes, fears, and wild aspirations of the average working class person.  What we’ve all been hearing for the last six months is the emotionless recitation of the same broken promises that we threw our votes away for the last four times.  Playing it safe in order to keep power is what got us here to start with and placating the establishment so that it facilitates the rise to the ultimate power of the Presidency is not my idea of radical transformation.   

Creeping up inside of my listless and dispirited soul is a powerful melancholy because we’ve been on the smooth glide path toward plutocracy for over a century and nothing in the last twenty-five years has slowed down the process.  Instead, what we’ve seen is an acceleration of the total corporate hegemony over our democracy.  

I am incapable of realizing the eminent death of our democracy and the moribund nature of national democratic leadership while smiling optimistically into the face of Barack Obama as the physical embodiment of my youthful idealism and the personification of my adult ambivalence.   

While Rev. Jackson paid homage to this nation’s diversity, America is not like a blanket — one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size. America is more like a quilt: many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread. The white, the Hispanic, the black, the Arab, the Jew, the woman, the native American, the small farmer, the businessperson, the environmentalist, the peace activist, the young, the old, the lesbian, the gay, and the disabled make up the American quilt.” 

“Even in our fractured state, all of us count and fit somewhere. We have proven that we can survive without each other. But we have not proven that we can win and make progress without each other. We must come together.” 

Obama tipped his hat to a white vision of race-less, class-less American-ness, “…there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”  

Common ground can never be reached by a pander bear reaching out to people blinded by willful ignorance and deliberate racial amnesia.

I am angry that  Rev. Jackson has bequeathed the legacy of his progressive imprimatur to a man with the audacity to deny the necessity for slave reparations.    

I am angry that Obama is content to go through the motions of opposition while leaving reactionary power arrangements intact. 

I am angry that Obama claims the mantle of the biblical Joshua and then secretly  dons the robes of a Pharaoh.  

I am angry that our system of presidential selection is a closed process of capitalist kabuki dancing that is all calibrated to telegraph the non-threatening intentions of the contenders to the white power structure so that they may choose the most willing corporate whore.  

I am angry that my voice no longer matters and that the hunger for true leadership is turned against us so that we’re forced to accept Wall Street’s favorite ventriloquist dummy as our President.  

I am angry that identity politics is no longer a means of empowerment but an instrument of our oppression.  

I am angry that my youthful idealism is in reality a childish delusion.  

I am angry that I am losing my willingness to stay in this country and fight the forces of reaction that are devouring our planet and killing our people.  

I am angry that my writing and local activism isn’t enough.   

I am angry that the one man that speaks to my frustration, Dennis Kucinich, is marginalized, belittled and ignored.

I am angry that I am still just one lonely voice as powerless after 225,000 site views as I was the very first day I posted over a year ago when nobody was listening. For me, the thrill of politics, the driving passion of my life, is gone.

Hillary and Barack tensions simmer underneath surface pleasantries

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 — They work in the same building. They slog through the same rigorous travel schedule. Along the way, they often cross paths several times a day.

But Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have barely spoken to each other — at least in any meaningful way — for months.

The tension between the two Democratic presidential hopefuls, which has spilled into public view in the last three weeks, has been intensifying since January. It is clear that the genteel decorum of the Senate has given way to the go-for-the-jugular instinct of the campaign trail.

As the Senate held late sessions of back-to-back votes before its summer break, the two rivals kept a careful eye on each other as they moved across the Senate floor. For more than two hours one night, often while standing only a few feet apart, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama never approached each other or exchanged so much as a pleasantry.

The scene repeated itself the next evening, a departure from the clubby confines of the Senate, where even the fiercest adversaries are apt to engage in the legislative equivalent of cocktail party chitchat.

When the cameras are on them, they can make a point of showing good sportsmanship. At a Democratic forum Saturday in Chicago, Mrs. Clinton smiled and moved her hands as though she was conducting a choir when an audience of liberal bloggers sang “Happy Birthday” to Mr. Obama, who was turning 46.

By the end of the event, Mr. Obama had called her “Hillary” in a sharp tone, criticizing her for accepting contributions from lobbyists.

The Clinton-Obama watch has become something of a parlor game, for their colleagues in Congress as well as for the scribes in the gallery above the Senate floor.

Consider a scene from the Capitol on a recent evening. It was a few minutes after 8 p.m. when the side doors of the Senate swung open and three Democratic candidates walked through.

Mrs. Clinton, of New York, and Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut came first, laughing as they made their way to the Democratic side of the aisle. A few paces behind was Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, who quickly joined them. Mr. Obama, of Illinois, entered the Senate floor alone. He glanced at the other three, then pulled out his BlackBerry and paused for a few seconds before taking a seat next to three freshman senators. As the evening passed, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton each spoke to several Republicans and to nearly every Democrat — except each other.

It was not always this way.

When Mr. Obama was running for the Senate in 2004, Mrs. Clinton once sat on the tarmac waiting out a lightning storm to fly to Chicago for a fund-raiser on his behalf. After he arrived in Washington in 2005, he studied her first year in office and worked to keep a similarly studious and low profile. After Hurricane Katrina, he joined Mrs. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton as they visited storm evacuees in Houston.

The relationship began to change when Mr. Obama began musing aloud about a presidential bid. The day he opened his exploratory committee, several Senate observers said, he extended his hand and said hello on the Senate floor. She breezed by him, offering a cool stare.

One week later, after the State of the Union address, the two senators found themselves doing back-to-back interviews on CNN. Mr. Obama went first, with Mrs. Clinton pacing a few feet away. Finally, an aide escorted her completely around the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building, avoiding walking directly by Mr. Obama.

Many Senate observers, even those close to Mrs. Clinton, say they believe she set the less-than-collegial tone. But Mr. Obama offered a glimpse into his own competitiveness two years ago when a Chicago television reporter told him about snagging a hallway interview with Mrs. Clinton.

“I outpoll her in Illinois,” Mr. Obama said. Then, realizing how his remark might sound, he added, “That was a joke!”

Now, with both candidates under Secret Service protection, their entourages are larger and they are less likely to have face-to-face encounters. One of the last times an impartial Senate observer could remember the two standing together without tension was when lawmakers gathered around a television in the cloakroom as Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of another Democratic presidential contender, John Edwards, announced that her cancer had returned.

In the public spotlight, they can be gracious toward each other. When asked at a debate last month in South Carolina what they liked and disliked about their opponents, Mrs. Clinton said of Mr. Obama, “I admire and like very much Barack, as I do with all of the candidates here.”

A moment later, Mr. Obama defended Mrs. Clinton against a bad fashion review Mr. Edwards had jokingly directed at her. “I actually like Hillary’s jacket,” Mr. Obama said.

As he walked through the Capitol recently, Mr. Obama paused for a moment to answer a question about their relationship.

“She’s said hello a couple times,” Mr. Obama said, a slow grin spreading over his face as he walked away.

Turning back, he added, “It’s been fine.”

Yet another reason why Clinton-Obama will never happen.

Dixie Dianne’s Betrayal

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Dianne Feinstein The Battle Flag of the Confederacy 

Some Democratic Senators are lackluster, some are unreliable, and some, like Dianne Feinstein, are unpredictable.  Civil Rights groups like People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice were blindsided Thursday when Feinstein voted for another of Trent Lott’s Brooks Brothers suited racists to assume a lifetime appointment to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

People for the American Way, The Alliance for Justice, and The Leadership Conference for Civil Rights can usually be depended upon to bring their A game and effectively rally folk to block bigots of this caliber.  They failed this time. However, the fight isn’t over.  There is the option to mount a filibuster on the floor; the problem is that once nominations are reported out of committee, they become harder to kill.

 

For unfathomable reasons, Dianne Feinstein has made a deal with the Devil and punched the ticket for one of his malevolent minions to serve for life as a federal judge.  For a San Francisco Democrat, there is nothing liberal about cutting deals with a man who reveres segregationists and longs for the good ole days of massive resistance. 

All of this for a judge who makes light of the fact that he ordered the reinstatement of a white female state employee that called a black female co-worker, “a good ole nigger.”  As I’ve said before, there is no circumstance where it is ever acceptable for a white person to call a black person a nigger in freakin’ Mississippi.  Never.  For this betrayal, I shall resurrect the moniker given to her by local Marxists during a dispute over the confederate flag flying at the civic center in San Francisco: Dixie Dianne.

During her tenure as Mayor of San Francisco, the Marxists had the temerity to oppose the flying of the confederate flag because it is a symbol of hate and white supremacy and they cut down the flagpole rather than allow her to have the flag hoisted up again.  

African Americans are a beleaguered but cohesive minority in California and it is time for the progressives in our community to let Dianne know how we feel about her collusion with the enemy.  If you live in California, you can call her Senate Offices at 202 224 2841.  This should be Dixie Dianne’s last term given her advanced age, but if she runs one mo’gin in 2012, somebody should primary her.

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Dixie Dianne’s betrayal has had one fortuitous consequence.  She has provided the Democratic frontrunners in this contest one more opportunity to prove their progressive fealty or their politically expedient treachery.  Judge Southwick’s nomination is coming to the Senate floor whether we like it or not. If the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Majority Leader green light a filibuster, it will happen.  Even if they don’t concur, Hillary and Barack have the power to force one.  We will see if they oppose this bastard because they have too or because his nomination is an offensive stench in the nostrils of freedom loving people everywhere.

Reading an obligatory statement into the record will not do.  Voting against cloture will not do.   Putting up an aggressive fight and making several lengthy statements on the floor and to the media that make it clear that their opposition is not merely for show; and their active and visible participation in floor strategy that kills this nomination, that’s what we must demand. 

I’ve had family in Mississippi since about 1840.  My mother’s family was enslaved on the Watkins and Dove plantations near Newton and Jasper counties.  This fight is personal for me.  Upon entering Mississippi, one notices the distinct smell of oppression in the air.  It is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced if you weren’t raised in the south.  Just a few days in Mississippi changed me in ways I still can’t explain.  What black people have endured over the course of the state’s history is really mind blowing.  Elevating another instrument and facilitator of that same oppression will not be tolerated.  Enough is enough. 

   

Obama’s war plans

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 Senator Obama speech

photo by radiospike

Hat Tip: Dan Balz, Washington Post

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama today pledged an aggressive war against Islamic extremists, calling for the deployment of at least 7,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to combat the growing Taliban influence and promising to order U.S. forces into Pakistan if necessary to seek out and kill known terrorists.

“When I am president, we will wage a war that has to be won,” Obama told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. He added, “I will not hesitate to use military force to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to the United States.”

Obama’s speech represented the most comprehensive outline of his approach to Islamic terrorism. He said ending the war in Iraq is crucial to success in the broader struggle against terrorism.

“The terrorists are at war with us,” he said. “The threat is from violent extremists who are a small minority of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, but the threat is real.”

The Illinois senator offered a biting critique of President Bush’s foreign policy decisions after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, while seeking to reassure Americans that his long-stated opposition to the war in Iraq would not make him hesitant to vigorously pursue extremists who threaten the United States.

He repeated a pledge to double U.S. foreign aid to $50 billion, provide $2 billion to combat the influence of Islamic madrassas and launch a more ambitious public diplomacy initiative that he said he would personally lead. He also called for additional steps to protect the homeland from possible attack.

Obama said that, as president, he would make U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional on the success of President Pervez Musharraf’s efforts to shut down terrorist training camps and prevent the Taliban from using the nation’s territory as a staging ground.

“Let me make this clear,” Obama said. “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again . . . If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”

Bush, he said, squandered national and international unity in a reckless war in Iraq that has compromised American values, undermined U.S. influence and left the country less secure.

“Because of a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11,” Obama said.

He also took a thinly veiled swipe at his principal rival for the Democratic nomination, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, with sharp words of criticism for the Congress, which he said had “rubber-stamped the rush to war” in 2002. “Congress became a co-author of a catastrophic war,” he said.”

Clinton, who voted for the Iraq war resolution, last week had described Obama’s willingness to meet with leaders of rogue nations without pre-conditions as “irresponsible and frankly naive.” That sparked a days-long argument between the two about diplomacy and the presidency.

In his speech today, Obama said the “lesson of the Bush years is that not talking [to hostile nations] does not work,” and signaled his desire to take a different approach.

“It’s time to turn the page on Washington’s conventional wisdom that agreement must be reached before you meet, that talking to other countries is some kind of reward and that presidents can only meet with people who will tell them what they want to hear,” he said.

Obama accused the Bush administration of undermining American values and said that if he becomes president, “we will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers and that justice is not arbitrary.”

He said he would prohibit torture “without exception,” assure that any intelligence gathering adheres to the letter of the law and close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Obama said he would end the Iraq war as president if Bush has not done so by the end of his second term. That, he said, would free up resources for fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. He pledged at least two additional brigades for the effort there and said he favored sending the Afghan government an additional $1 billion in non-military aid.

Obama courts black voters

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Associated Press Writer

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is reaching out to fellow blacks in his first advertising effort in South Carolina, a minute-long spot scheduled to begin airing Wednesday on 36 radio stations with predominantly black listenership.

The Illinois senator has been careful not to be defined strictly as a black candidate and risk alienating white voters, but he and rival Hillary Rodham Clinton are in a close fight for the black voters who traditionally make up half of the Democratic primary turnout in South Carolina. The radio ad allows Obama to target his appeal to black audiences.

Presidential hopeful, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., waves at supporters after speaking at the National Council of La Raza conference in Miami Beach, Fla., on Sunday, July 22, 2007. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Clinton enjoys strong support in the black community and is married to former President Clinton, who is wildly popular among black voters. Obama’s advisers say their biggest challenge is introducing him to voters who certainly know who Clinton is, but may not know much about Obama or even that he is black.

The ad makes it clear with excerpts from Obama’s speech to the NAACP. He ticks off problems facing the community — more black men in prison than in college, serious illnesses disproportionately affecting blacks and the argument that it takes a hurricane to show the rest of the country about problems of race and poverty.

“I know what you know,” Obama says. “Despite all the progress that’s been made we have more work to do.”

Soft jazz plays in the background as a deep-voiced announcer describes Obama as a Christian family man, a former civil rights lawyer and state legislator. “It’s time for Barack Obama,” the announcer says repeatedly.

Obama is running two ads on television in Iowa, but the radio spot is his first in South Carolina.

A poll of South Carolina adults by CNN/Opinion Research Corp. conducted last week found Clinton leading with 39 percent, followed by Obama with 25 percent. A poll last month by a different pollster, Mason Dixon, had Obama narrowly ahead.

CNN Debate Tonight

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The first of six officially sanctioned Democratic debates will be held tonight with CNN and Youtube as co-sponsors.  Tonight’s debate will be availble in its entirety on this space as soon as Youtube makes it available and I can put it up.  

The pundit class has been chattering actively that its put up or shut up time for Barack Obama.  Senator Clinton continues to solidify her poll numbers even as Obama outraises her.   She, however, has plenty of cash to end his Presidential aspirations and enough street cred with African American women to prevent him from solidifying and expanding his base with black folks.  Mama is perfectly positioned to take her place as the head of the Clintonista’s in this era of dynastic politics.

It would take a pretty big applause line and counterattack on Obama’s part, and a weak comeback on Hillary’s, to make this debate seem more than routine.   I’m not looking for any surprises.   Debate time commences in less than one hour.  Stay tuned here for a re-cap.

UPDATE: the debate has been lively and intersting. The questions sent in via Youtube have been excellent.  From Reparations to Iraq, from Same-Sex marriage to Darfur, they have truly been great.  Gravel drew some blood from Obama pointedly revealing the fact that despite Obama’s good government spiel, he has the CEO of foreign owned UBS bank bundling contributions for him.

Obama also dodged the reparations question deftly as did Edwards-Kucinich came out for it strongly.   Edwards stumbled on the same-sex marriage question by a North Carolina minister and they had the minister in the audience do a follow up and said that he didn’t really answer.

Senator Gravel’s point about following the money in this race is important and it says more about the state of our democracy than we think.  In 2008, a candidate willing to raise money under federal campaign finance guidelines to receive matching funds cannot win the Presidency.  The state of our Union is rotting from the inside out and an honest candidate willing to rise or fall by trusting the people cannot be elected.

Obama feeds labor a line

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Hat Tip:  By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press Writer/photo by jay mallin

Democrat Barack Obama is telling union activists he would walk a picket line as president if organized labor helps elect him in 2008.

The Illinois senator also criticized President Bush’s policies toward working people.

`We are facing a Washington that has thrown open its doors to the most anti-union, anti-worker forces we’ve seen in generations,” Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery Saturday night. “What we need to make real today is the idea that in this country we value the labor of every American.”

Obama was scheduled to speak to Iowa’s largest union representing more than 20,000 state workers.

Four other Democratic presidential candidates have courted activists at the annual convention of Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Like his rivals, the Illinois senator challenged Bush’s labor policies and said he was committed to union causes.

“I stood on the picket line and marched with workers at the Congress Hotel in Chicago last week,” Obama said. “I had marched with them four years earlier and I told them when I left that if they were still fighting four years from now, I’d be back on that picket line as president of the United States.”

In his prepared remarks, Obama cited his years as a community organizer in Chicago. Because of that experience, Obama said he has closer ties to people who are struggling. He asked union activists to keep that in mind in choosing a candidate to support in January’s Iowa caucuses, which begin the presidential nominating process.

“So I want you to remember one thing, because you’ll hear from a lot of candidates between now and January,” Obama said. “When I talk about hope, when I talk about change, when I talk about holding America up to its ideals of opportunity and equality, this isn’t just the rhetoric of a campaign for me, it’s been the cause of a life — a cause I will work for and fight for every day as your president.”

Obama portrayed himself as a political outsider, saying it takes a new figure in Washington to break the gridlock.

“We’ve heard promises and slogans about change before,” said Obama. “The road to Washington is often paved with good intentions, but it always ends in the same divisive, polarizing politics that’s blocked real progress for so many years.”

The union plays an important role in Iowa Democratic politics. In addition to campaign money, the union’s endorsement brings into play a legion of talented organizers throughout the state.

Former Sen. John Edwards, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chris Dodd and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also spoke to the union leaders.

Dodd, D-Conn., told delegates at a lunch that he had supported labor issues during his 30-plus years in Congress and urged them to consider backing candidates not now in the top tier of the crowded field.

“I hope over the next 180 days you’ll give us all a chance to be heard,” Dodd said. “I know I’m not as well known as some of the people you’ll be seeing, nor am I as well-heeled financially.”

I am so tickled that the laughter is hard to stifle.  The idea of a sitting President walking a picket line is almost radical.   Barack has clearly veered off his mainstream talking points and will be reigned in any minute now.   If he keeps trying to steal Edwards’ applause lines, he might actually become a progressive and then his money will dry up.

Obama leading McCain and Romney 47% to 38%,

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Barack ObamaJohn McCainMitt Romney

Hat Tip: Rasmussen Reports

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone poll finds Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D) with a nine point lead over Arizona Senator John McCain (R). It’s Obama 47% McCain 38%. That’s little changed from a month ago and the fourth straight monthly poll in which Obama has enjoyed an advantage over McCain. For the two months before that, they were tied.

McCain has had a terrible month of July including a shocking report that his campaign was nearly out of money, staff defections, and declining poll numbers. Among those seeking the Republican nomination, he is currently in fourth place in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll. Early in the month, his favorability rating fell to 44% and, for the first time ever, a larger percentage offered an unfavorable opinion of the Senator. Polling released this week showed that McCain’s decline has stopped for the moment–45% now have a favorable opinion of him while 46% hold an unfavorable view.

Last December, McCain had been viewed favorably by 59% of voters. As recently as two months ago, 55% had a positive assessment of the Senator from Arizona.

As McCain seeks to keep his campaign afloat, he does so with a tremendous disadvantage—40% of Republican voters have an unfavorable opinion of him. No other candidate in either party approaches that level (the closest is former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, viewed unfavorably by 31% of Republicans).

Obama is now viewed favorably by 54% of voters nationwide and unfavorably by 37%. He remains in second place among those seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination. Obama and New York Senator Hillary Clinton are clearly in a league of their own at this point in the nomination process.

McCain also trails Clinton and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards in general election match-ups.

Obama leads Romney and is in close races with Republican frontrunners Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani.

Obama’s political expediency is showing

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Hat Tip: By Philip Elliott, Associated Press

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.

“Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven’t done. Those of us who care about Darfur don’t think it would be a good idea,” he said.

Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, said it’s likely there would be increased bloodshed if U.S. forces left Iraq.

“Nobody is proposing we leave precipitously. There are still going to be U.S. forces in the region that could intercede, with an international force, on an emergency basis,” Obama said between stops on the first of two days scheduled on the New Hampshire campaign trail. “There’s no doubt there are risks of increased bloodshed in Iraq without a continuing U.S. presence there.”

The greater risk is staying in Iraq, Obama said.

“It is my assessment that those risks are even greater if we continue to occupy Iraq and serve as a magnate for not only terrorist activity but also irresponsible behavior by Iraqi factions,” he said.

The senator has been a fierce critic of the war in Iraq, speaking out against it even before he was elected to his post in 2004. He was among the senators who tried unsuccessfully earlier this week to force President Bush’s hand and begin to limit the role of U.S. forces there.

“We have not lost a military battle in Iraq. So when people say if we leave, we will lose, they’re asking the wrong question,” he said. “We cannot achieve a stable Iraq with a military. We could be fighting there for the next decade.”

Obama said the answer to Iraq — and other civil conflicts — lies in diplomacy.

“When you have civil conflict like this, military efforts and protective forces can play an important role, especially if they’re under an international mandate as opposed to simply a U.S. mandate. But you can’t solve the underlying problem at the end of a barrel of a gun,” he said. “There’s got to be a deliberate and constant diplomatic effort to get the various factions to recognize that they are better off arriving at a peaceful resolution of their conflicts.”

The Republican National Committee accused Obama of changing his position on the war.

“Barack Obama can’t seem to make up his mind,” said Amber Wilkerson, an RNC spokeswoman. “First he says that a quick withdrawal from Iraq would be ‘a slap in the face’ to the troops, and then he votes to cut funding for our soldiers who are still in harm’s way. Americans are looking for principled leadership — not a rookie politician who is pandering to the left wing of his party in an attempt to win an election.”

An opponent of the death penalty, Obama said he would make an exception for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The first thing I’d support is his capture, which is something this administration has proved incapable of achieving,” Obama said. “I would then, as president, order a trial that observed international standards of due process. At that point, do I think that somebody who killed 3,000 Americans qualifies as someone who has perpetrated heinous crimes, and would qualify for the death penalty. Then yes.”