Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 - The Year in Review (Politics)

                                 
  With only four days left in 2014 it is relatively safe for me to say that it was a good year for me. I enjoyed my first full year of semi-retirement. I had the good fortune to be an actor in plays of two up and coming playwrights Prudence Paez and Kasim Power. My family has overcome some rather serious challenges. Although it has been a good year for me. It has not been a good year for the world. It amazes me how much vitriolic contempt was hurled at President Obama, who like his Democratic predecessor  Bill Clinton was very accommodating to GOP as stated in this Noam Chomsky video. In spite of this I would still say that President Obama domestically is among our best presidents when you consider the economic ruin he inherited from George W. Bush. The country was losing over 700,000 jobs a month yet Obama was able to turn that around to a net gain of over 200,000 jobs a month. This is not an astonishing accomplishment but it is much better than what we had with Bush. What amazes me is how no one wants to give him credit. The Obama administration took the middle class out of the health care doldrums with the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). Is this the ultimate solution, no it is not, but every other western industrialized nation had a comprehensive healthcare program except the United States. President Obama played a vital role in the recovery of the US auto industry helping to provide badly needed funds for survival. Today all three major car companies are either in a black or close to it.
   Although I have praise for the president on most domestic issues, there are some actions he could have taken but didn't. 2014 was a year we had a black president and black attorney general but civil rights as far as blacks are concerned took one giant step backward. 30 of the 50 states successfully passed laws that disenfranchise blacks, latinos, students and the elderly.......and NOTHING was done about it, in fact it was rarely discussed. The president is fond of saying that he is president of ALL the people, but with real black unemployment reaching 30 per cent and numerous cases of unarmed young black men being killed by white policemen it is easy to understand why many blacks feel they are being ignored.
   Why did the Ukrainian change of government have to be so immediate? What is usually done in most democracies when the party in power is not doing the job the people elected it to do the people wait for the next election cycle and they vote the leader out of office. John McCain and several others on the right made frequent trips to Ukraine to encourage the rebels that the US would support them. Suddenly after the change in government when Crimea decided it didn't want to be part of the new Ukraine and with Russia's help succeeded in separating itself from Ukraine suddenly Russian backed rebels of Crimea were the bad guys in the US and western media in general.
  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues on and unless there is a genuine desire to meaningfully negotiate this conflict could go on and on for centuries. I believe the state of Israel has a right to exist, but how can you negotiate peace when you continue to grab land from your adversary illegally. The Netanyahu government is not willing to negotiate in good faith.
   It is on the president's watch that the US has become a police state. The NSA has the president's endorsement to spy on everyone domestically and overseas. Staunch US allies like France, Germany and Brasil have had their heads of state spied upon. Drone technology has killed hundreds if not thousands of innocent women and children. Later an apology is given but the same actions are repeated. Even the CIA now admits that these actions serve as recruiting tools for those who are seeking revenge against the United States.
    The major banks (Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, Goldman-Sachs) have stolen millions from US citizens through mortgage fraud, yet the President has forgiven them and tells us to "move on" As
of yet no one has gone to jail.  The lion's share of the funds raised to make Barack Obama president came from these same banks. When you go to a dance you have to leave with the one you came with.
   With only 37% of eligible voters showing up at the polls the Republican party has taken control of both houses of congress which means big trouble for this president and this country. The Republicans will do their best to destroy the Affordable Care Act and they may even have enough votes to impeach President Obama.
   What I find particularly distasteful is the media silence with regard to two projects that will definitely hurt the people of the United States. TPP or The Trans-Pacific Project according to Adam Grayson is something no member of Congress can discuss publicly, if they do it can get them jail time. Is this democracy or fascism? In spite of the threats and the intense secrecy certain information has been leaked. If this world-wide project prospers people will no longer be able to criticize multi-national corporations and will be subjected to lengthy prison terms if they do. Is this democracy or fascism?  The people of Maui, Hawaii decided that they want GMO labeling. Monsanto, Dow and other chemical giants are not waiting for the TPP to pass, they have already brought a lawsuit against the people of Maui. The other pending media sensitive outrage is the Keystone Pipeline project, once again most media outlets won't touch it and the public knows very little about it. This
project will bring dangerous tar sand oil from Canada through the heartland of the United States in route to China. President Obama keeps saying he hasn't made up his mind about it yet. In spite of the secrecy there are those who know exactly what this entails. Proponents say that this will create badly needed jobs, but detractors say it will only create about 58 jobs. This is a lose/lose endeavor for the American people, who will not share a role in the projected huge profit in sale. They will not be using the oil because its intended destination is China. The company behind this project is Canadian. There are several native American tribes who have promised to fight to their last breath of life to make sure the Keystone pipeline never is completed.
     In 2014 many innocent unarmed black men were killed by white police and these white police were never indicted. A twelve year old with a toy pistol was murdered because he was found to be in position of a toy gun. Another innocent young black man was killed in a Wal-Mart store when he picked up a toy rifle that was on sale in the store. Then this led to massive demonstrations across the nation by people of all races who showed their disdain for police who have been given a license to kill. The murder of unarmed 18 year old African American Michael Brown enraged black youth of Ferguson, Missouri to the extent that when a predominantly white police force pursued a small group of blacks that proceeded to an area near a river and an even larger group of unarmed blacks immediately surrounded the police, rendering them helpless being sandwiched between two groups of blacks. This could easily be done because Ferguson's population is 63% black with less that five black policemen.This is definitely a change in tactic that in the end resulted in saving lives on both sides since the police wouldn't dare deliberately harm any of the black demonstrators since they were heavily outnumbered. In Staten Island another unarmed African American Eric Gardner was killed by a white officer who used an illegal choke hold. This white officer was never indicted, just like the case in Ferguson. We would have never known about this if Ramsey Orta hadn't taken pictures of the whole incident with his cell phone. Believe it or not Ramsey Orta WAS indicted.
     The US government is very very quiet about the disappearance of 48 Mexican students in the state of Guerrero. Those outlets that do mention it provide nothing more than a soundbite. 43 thousand people demonstrated in Mexico City and little or nothing was mentioned here. Guerrero happens to be the site of petroleum deposits and the people who live on this land are native peoples. The proxy war technique so successful in Africa may be coming into play here. The people of the area say that the drug cartels and the police are working together. Keep in mind that United States involvement was found in the massacres that took place in Central America during the Reagan Administration when the horrific School of the Americas rewarded bogusly elected officials to kill their own people.  
    But the scenario is not all gloomy. New Jersey, Illinois and a few other states have voted against Citizen United. If the rest of the country agrees money would no longer decide elections and the Kochs and their ilk could no longer buy Congress. The city of Richmond, California embarrassed
Chevron buy defeating their entire slate of candidates in local elections and Maui, Hawaii did the same to Monsanto and Dow by insisting on GMO labeling. Monsanto and Dow lawyers are fighting back with a lawsuit. We will have to wait until 2015 to see how this battle will end.
    In the final years of his presidency Barack Obama finally realizes that bi-partisanship is NOT going to work so he is finally acting presidential.....by 1) initiating an historic re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and The United States  2) making a long term environmental agreement with China without consulting Republicans  3) supporting an immigration bill that would free over 5 million immigrants from immigration authority scrutiny. These actions are refreshing, but should have come sooner. So politically 2014 was definitely not a good year, hopefully 2015 will be better, time will tell.

Wolf-Pac Resolution Passes New Jersey Senate

  This is a genuine national effort to reduce or better yet eliminate the influence of the Aldersons and Kochs and eventually get money out of politics. New Jersey has joined Illinois, Vermont and several others states with the objective of dismantling "Citizens United"  Not surprisingly I see very little about this on mainstream media. The 1% are confident that the vast majority of US citizens will do what they have done........nothing to confront the people who are diminishing their salaries, moving their jobs overseas, making tons of money while paying close to nothing in taxes. I applaud Wolf-Pac for taking the initiative instead of saying like so many others "Oh there's just nothing we can do" Wolf-Pac has just proven that THERE IS SOMETHING WE CAN DO.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

2014 The Year in Review (Sports)

by Claude Chaney

    2014 was not a particularly good sports year for me, but I was very impressed with the surge of the New York Mets, although still finishing below .500 they did manage to tie the Atlanta Braves for second place in the relatively weak National League East. There is good cause for optimism, Rookie of the year Jacob DeGrom surprised everyone while first baseman Lucas Duda provided much needed offense with 30 home runs. Next year the fences will be moved in which will definitely benefit David Wright and Curtis Granderson and the addition of Michael Cuddyer means that more balls will be going over the fences in 2015.
    One of my least favorite teams in baseball, the pitching dominant San Francisco Giants proved once again that they are the best team in baseball winning the World Series again for the third time in six years. Although I am a Mets fans, for some inexplicable reason I continue to root for the American League team in the All Star game and the World Series. The only time I will support the National League team in a World Series is when the Mets are participating. Therefore my hopes were with the Kansas City Royals, who were it not for Mr. Bumgarner would have been the 2014 world series champions. The Royals team were in it all the way to the seventh game. It appears as if after the 11-0 trouncing of the Giants in game they had nothing left for game seven. In any event the Royals represented the American League much better than the two previous teams the Rangers and Tigers who for all intents and purposes just played dead. The Giants' manager Bruce Bochy is the best in the game. He knows what each player is capable of doing in specific situations and deserves all the praise he has received.
      The Superbowl champion Seattle Seahawks were the dominant team in the NFL with a marksman quarterback and the league's strongest defense,  it was no surprise they became Super Bowl champions and have a strong chance of repeating in 2015.  The local teams the Jets and the Giants find themselves at or near the bottom of their divisions. Coach Ryan could not produce the magic of his first two seasons in New York, while Coach Coughlin is struggling through the first really bad year as Giant coach he may get another chance because of success in previous years. I don't know if Coach Ryan will be asked to return.
      As of December 20, 2014 The New York Knicks have a dismal 5-23 record after being embarrassed by the Chicago Bulls. The team seems to be rewarded for mediocrity because every home game is a sellout and even though the record is awful the Knicks still are among the leaders in attendance. If you are making exceptional money what is the incentive to improve the team? Sportswise 2014 is a year I would rather forget.

Friday, December 19, 2014

2014: The Year In Review (The Person of The Year)

       This year's person of the year was virtually unknown until one dramatic event which may change the course of history. This year's choice was very hard to make because all three runners up are deserving but I can only pick one.( Previous winners: 2013- Edward Snowden, 2012- Barack Obama)
       Before discussing the 2014 winner lets look at the runners up.  1st Runner Up - Pope Francis. Pope Francis is a progressive Pope who forced his church to tone down the conservative rhetoric about abortion without abandoning the church's long standing position. This Pope did away with all traces of extravagance shown by his predecessors as well break ties with long standing conservative institutions, even dismissing high level office holders he felt were too insensitive to the needs of the poor. This Pope played a vital role in the return of normal relations between Cuba and The United States.  
     The second runner-up is New York Times columnist James Risen. There was a time when good investigative reporting was praised. The truth was appreciated regardless of what it revealed. Today there is no Edward R. Murrow because journalists may lose their freedom or even their lives if what they are reporting is detrimental to those of have real power and influence. There was a time when a reporter did not have to reveal his source. Those days are long gone. One of a dying breed of journalists James Risen steadfastly insists on not revealing a source, by refusing to do so he could be sentenced to ten years in jail. Mr. Risen is a true "profile in courage".
     The 2014 Person of the Year is.........The Ferguson Protester. The white police of Ferguson Missouri have been preying on the majority African-American community long before Darren Wilson murdered unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. They have raised money by targeting black motorists with excessive traffic fines. Many who were poor and couldn't afford capable lawyers were sent to jail and as a consequence were put into penal system. When you go to apply for a job and you're asked the question "Have you ever been incarcerated?" You have to say "yes". You're saying it was only a traffic violation means absolutely nothing to a potential employer once you have admitted to spending time behind bars. When Darren Wilson was not even indicted for the murder of Michael Brown The Ferguson African-American youth collectively  said "no more" and someone is going to pay for Mike Brown's death. Of course they did not kill anyone but they did send the racist element of the city a message they could understand......loss of money. The riots proved very costly to the Ferguson business community.
     These young blacks decided that they were going to tell their own story. They decided that they would not let charismatic and sometimes self-engrandizing black leaders speak for them. They feared that the good intentioned long established black organizations had been infiltrated. I am not saying that such organizations should be ignored, but the true solution to the problem has to be found by the ones who have endured the pain. According to the Ferguson protesters when the FBI did arrive in Ferguson they didn't start by asking questions about the Ferguson police. They wanted to know who were the organizers of these demonstrations that turned into riots. This is in turn inspired a change in tactic. These young African-Americans gave the FBI many different names to the extent that they could not pinpoint one individual, some even said "We are ALL leaders of this movement".
    The mainstream media did not tell us this major event that happened in Ferguson. The first night of the demonstrations a large number of blacks went to an area near a river. The heavily armed white police officers immediately pursued them, but to their complete astonishment an even larger number of black youth surrounded them. The heavily armed police found themselves sandwiched between two large groups of predominantly adolescent blacks. Their arms were useless because if they had
shot (or killed) any one of those black teenagers they would have to face a massive attack which would eventually lead to loss of life on both sides. This was an absolutely brilliant life saving strategy which showed tactical strategy that only enhanced their collective goal to pacify and overly aggressive police department. It is for these reasons that the Ferguson Protestor is the 2014 Person of the Year.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

CUBA and THE UNITED STATES TO EXCHANGE EMBASSIES

by Claude Chaney

   It is indeed a wonderful thing that progress has been made in establishing diplomatic relations between Cuba and The United States. U.S. citizens for the first time will be able to spend money in Cuba and use their credit cards. The two countries have been socially and politically cut off from each other since 1961. I can only hope that this initiative signals the genuine new beginning that will benefit both countries.
   There are several factors that led to this breakthrough. The United States is more interested in punishing Russia than it is in continuing to punish Cuba (with a heartless blockade). Through careful manipulation with Saudi Arabia the price of oil worldwide has plummeted....and this hurts Russia. Introducing US business to Cuba also hurts Russia. More Cuban dollars spent on US products will definitely diminish Cuban business with Russia. The rest of the world, excepting staunch U.S. allies like Canada, Israel and Great Britain can't understand the reasons for this blockade, which can't be justified by the US saying we don't do business with Communist countries because China is a Communist country, and not only does China do a lot of business with the United States, the United States has borrowed huge sums of money from China.
    The United States has long been an obstacle to Cuba joining the Organization of American States, using its veto successfully and persuading other Latin American leaders to follow suit, as a result the governments of the South American countries had plans for a "new" UN like organization that would have included Cuba and excluded the United States and Canada.
    From the calamitous "Bay of Pigs" invasion to the numerous attempts to murder Fidel Castro all attempts to dislodge the Castro regime have resulted in embarrassing failures, while the Cuban accomplishments have been mind boggling: Cuba is among the most literate countries in the Western Hemisphere.....even surpassing the United States. With the soaring costs of getting an education in the United States reaching record breaking levels. Cuba has opened it's "free" medical schools to the rest of the world. Students from the United States (especially African-American students from Mississippi, Alabama and other southern states) are taking advantage of this opportunity. All the Cuban government asked from the students is upon completion of studies return and practice in your own communities.
    It was no accident that Nelson Mandela visited Cuba upon his release from prison. Yes, boycotts and worldwide anti-apartheid protests did help to topple the racist South African regime, but the major credit has to go to Cuba. Over 10,000 soldiers from this small island nation lost their lives fighting apartheid and more than anyone else played the most significant role in the existence of democracy in the South African nation today.
   An espionage deal also played a role in the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. The Cubans gave up a US spy who allegedly planning to distribute dangerously harmful weapons to Anti-Castro Cubans on the island. This person (Mr. Gross) was exchanged for the three remaining Cuban Five in US jails who entered the United States to infiltrate an Anti-Castro unit in Florida that allegedly had plans to overthrow the current Cuban government.
   Although vilified in the U.S. media as a pariah, Fidel Castro is seen as a hero to many because he is like a David who conquered a Goliath. The United States with all those weapons and all that influence could not bring Castro to his knees. Finally Barack Obama realized this and apparently decided to go in another direction. Predictably this angers many Republicans (like Florida's Marco Rubio) and Democrats (like New Jersey's Robert Menendez) who have vowed to undo any agreements made by President Obama and President Raul Castro.
    Those of us who support this change of policy cannot be naive. We must keep in mind we will be facing and increasingly combative Republican congress who that may use this as a reason to impeach the president in spite of the fact that most Americans, most Cuban Americans and world wide public opinion favor these moves. We must also keep in mind that this doesn't end the blockade. In order for the blockade to end Congress must approve. I don't see a Republican Senate or a Republican House of Representatives voting to end the awful blockade, but we can always hope.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Two Florida cities arrest those who feed the poor in public.

    People are being arrested for feeding homeless people in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This is heartless. If Jesus Christ were to appear in either of these two cities with the intent of giving someone food He would be arrested. One of the men arrested was into his 90s.We live in a time where a man can kill an an innocent black teenager and get away with it, yet a 90 year old man whose only crime is that he attempted to give someone a plate of food can be arrested.
   The United States has become a police state. Unfortunately I believe things will get worse before they get better.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

All Is Not Lost....

by Occupy Democrats

Republicans took the Senate last night, but progressives won across the board on nearly every popular ballot question. Voters in four deeply Republican states raised the minimum wage, San Francisco upped theirs to $15. Massachusetts voted for an unprecedented 40 hours of paid sick leave. Voters in Maui banned GMO crops despite $8 million in attack ads by Monsanto and Dow in the most expensive campaign in Hawaii's history. Voters in Tallahassee backed a referendum to limit the influence of money in politics. Marijuana legalization passed in DC, Oregon, and Alaska. California voters made a serious dent in racist mass imprisonment and the war on drugs. Washington state voted for universal gun background checks. Natural gas fracking was banned in 4 counties including in the Texas town where it was invented. Colorado and North Dakota voters protected women's reproductive rights by voting down restrictions to abortion access.
The takeaway from this election is that if we want progressive reforms, popular ballots might be the most effective electoral strategy. Let's up and down vote on the most important social, economic, and environmental justice questions of our time. It's time we bypass the two-party system corrupted by corporate money. Who's ready for direct democracy? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Democratic Collapse of 2014....A WAKE UP CALL

by Claude Chaney

     Last night's Republican landslide proves three things.........voter suppression works... big money easily buys elections....and there are extremely difficult times ahead for blacks, latinos, native americans and the poor, but we cannot dispair because that is exactly what they want us to do.
     We can expect the 1% to acquire even more wealth and more tax cuts. We can expect more cases like Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown where the guilty are exonerated. Women will no longer have a say in what they do with their bodies. Let's face it the next two years are going to be hell for minorities and women.
      Polls showed that McConnell was trailing Grimes until the Koch brothers came to his rescue. Reagan survived having both the Senate and The House of Representatives being Democratic, but can Barack Obama do the same thing, honestly I don't know. We got into this situation by his eagerly wanting to reach out to the other side of Congress to find common ground. It took him a long time to learn that when dealing with today's Republicans there is no "common ground". I wonder if he is going to use the veto pen which he often promises to use but seldom uses.  I wonder if Democrats are going to maintain the 60 vote threshold for a bill to pass, or will they take the perceived high road and lower it in the name of ..........fairness.
     We can expect an all out assault on the environment because the Koch scouts in BOTH houses of Congress will be expected to do what they have been paid to do. Net Neutrality may become a thing of the past, because we are definitely going to see more Republicans as part of the FCC. It's now the Democrats turn to gerrymander districts, will they do it, or will they decline and take the high road in the name of "fairness" to Republicans who didn't give a damn about fairness when it came to Democrats.
    We can expect more mass murderers to surface since gun control which over 98% of the people of the United States want will be in decline. The number of states in which a trigger happy coward can go into a church with an AK-47 will increase. President Obama's record on immigration may not have been the best but if you're expecting anything from the Republicans then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you.
    As a lifelong Democrat I must admit that the time has come to take a good long look at how the party functions. There are some wonderful people who are doing the best they can to protect the middle class, yet at the same time we have a large number of blue dog Democrats whose ideology is much more alligned to the Republican Party and vote with Republicans on issues that have been historically Democratic.
     If you are black you must realize that you are hated and despised by a Republican party that vigorously wants to put you and your children behind bars and permenantly prevent you from voting. The sight of any one of today's Republicans to you should be the same as a venomous snake that wants to "KILL" you. If anyone tells you anything to the contrary then he or she is a damned liar or a fool,  even if it is someone who looks like you, a Dr. Ben Carson for example.
   It would be a serious mistake to think that Hillary Clinton will undoubtedly be the next president. The Kochs, and their ilk have tons of money, they have proved that not only can they buy senators and congresspersons, they can also buy votes.
   We have to pray for the health of the four centrist members of the Supreme Court because we could get another Scalia, Roberts, or even worse Thomas if God forbid something happens to any one of them.
   This is indeed a sad day for The United States, not because the Republicans control both houses because I can remember a time when they controlled both houses before, but that was a different Republican party. They were conservatives, but they had the interests of the country as a whole for a top priority. Today's Republicans are arrogant, greedy and for the most part racist. We are living in a time where facilities are being built to imprison tens of thousands of people when crime is decreasing and our infrastructure is crumbling. We have become a kleptocracy that has become government by the rich for the rich, yet we still cannot give up. To every problem there is a solution.....we just have to find it.

Monday, November 03, 2014

A message from American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director

by Anthony D. Romero

           We are in a race against time to make sure millions of voters aren't excluded from this fall's critical elections - and we need you immediate involvement in the ACLU's all-out effort to protect the right to vote.
Here is the situation. Aggressive backers of voter suppression measures -voter ID laws, reckless purges of
voter files, and rollbacks of access to the ballot reforms - such as same-day registration and early voting - are driving to have a heavy impact of November's elections.
           They are feeding the public a false story about non-existent voter fraud, and packaging their agenda as non-partisan measures to ensure clean elections.
            In fact, their agenda is a highly partisan and profoundly anti-democratic. In a moment of rare candor, a former state political party chair in Florida acknowledged that the only reason he and his cohorts nationwide oppose early voting is because "early voting is not good for us."
           Couple this with a Supreme Court dicision that Justice Ruth Bader ginsburg described as the "demolition" of the Voting Rights Act. The Court's decision has made it more difficult for the Justice Department to challenge otrageous attempts to deprive people of their right to vote.
            So it is no surprise that we are witnessing a dramatic state-by state escalation in voter suppression laws. The good news is that the ACLU is active responding. And recently, we won a huge victory when a state court blocked Pennsylvania's extreme voter ID law.
            But we need to keep pushing - and we urgently need your support as we defend the principle that
elections should be decided by how many votes are won, not how many votes are blocked. Please take two immediate steps to protect our nation's most vulnerable voters:
           First, sign the ACLU petition addressed to your representatives in Congress urging immediate
action to restore the full power of the Voting Rights Act.
          Then, send a generous donation of $25, $35, or $50 to support the ACLU as we use our on-the-ground presence in all 50 states to wage a series of tough, state-by-state battles to defend the right to vote.
          Make no mistake about it, the fundamental rights of millions of people all across America-
African-American, Latino, elderly, young, disabled - are on the line.
          And while the ACLU is active working in Congress to restore this fundamental protection, we also know that we must be prepared to step in to fill the void left by the Court's decision.
          That is why it is so urgent for the ACLU to immediately ramp up our already robust state-by-state
defense of voting rights - and why we need you with us today.
         With our network of lawyers and experts in every state and our years of experience in fighting for voting rights, we are ready to take on this fight - and win.
         Right now, ACLU attorneys and advocates are already working overtime in states like Pennsylvania,
North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Virginia to stop efforts to restrict voting through Voter ID
requirements, coordinated state-by-state attempts to purge voters from the rolls, the elimination of early
voting , erecting barriers to voter registration, and more.
         We are doing this by using other parts of the Voting Rights Act, and other laws, to forge new
protections for vulnerble voters. We are using the National Voter Registration Act in new ways to fight
emerging voting hurdles. And we are making use of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to confront voter suppression as we did successfully in Wisconsin.
         But there is also no doubt that out work is going to be much more labor intensive and expensive
now that the Supreme Court has prevented the Justice Department from stepping in with a powerful tool for challenging voting abuses.
        We need your immediate help and your generous financial support to protect people's right to vote.
And we don't have a minute to lose. Every day that passes heightens the risk that people all across
the country could find their path to the polls blocked. 
       The stakes are enormous. Left unchallenged, these laws could take the right to vote away from people
who've been voting in elections all their lives. And not just a handful of people - we're talking about
thousands upon thousands of citizens in state after state. 
       Every single person who loses the right to vote takes our nation a giant step backwards. That is
something we cannot allow to happen, especially at a time when we need more participation in our
democracy, not less.
       North Carolina is a dramatic example of exactly what is at stake. We're challenging an especially
egregious voter suppression law that could imperil the votes of nearly 900,000 North Carolinians - over a third of them African American. Among other provisions, the new law eliminates a week of early voting
when data clearly demonstrates that more than 70 percent of African-American voters used early voting during the 2008 and 2012 general elections. But these insidious measures are not limited to just a few states.
       Our voting rights attorneys are working right now to take on the new and rapidly spreading "voter purge machine" being pushed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach: 22 states have signed on for this highly questionable scheme that operates in secret and purports to remove voters registered in more that one state.     We have reason to believe that the system will flag a voter for removal if the first name, last name and date of birth of a voter in one state matches that of a registrant in another - even if other identifying information, such as middle name or social security number do NOT match.
    With you active support, the ACLE's Let People Vote! campaign will:
           *Use our on-the-ground presence in all 50 states to wage vigorous campaigns to stop state
             legislatures from passing laws restricting voter rights.
           *Mobilize people all across America to demand that Congress act to restore the full power
             of the Voting rights Act.
           * Go to court to challenge block-the-vote laws that have already been enacted whenever and
              wherever those laws throw unreasonable barriers in people' path to the polls.
           * Launch a massive voter education campaign to help ensure that all voters are aware of their rights.
  No one has the right to rob people of their voice in electing our country's leaders. That is what is so dangerous about the relentless efforts unfolding across the country to block the vote. And that is what is so outrageous about the supreme Court's decision to take the teeth out of the Voting Rights Act.
            If you share our outrage, now is the time for you to act. Stand with the ACLU by taking the two
critical steps I've outlined. 

 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pennsylvanian Governor Tom Corbett attempts to abolish Mumia Abu Jamal's freedom of speech

by Claude Chaney 

   Apparently it's not enough to put an innocent man behind bars for a crime someone else has admittedly committed. The agent of repression in the person of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett wants to add insult to injury in the case of Mumia Abu Jamal, who has become one of the world most popular political prisoners.
   Governor Corbett is proposing a gag order on Mumia Abu Jamal and if he is successful it will just prove that all the hoopla we hear about freedom of speech and freedom of expression that we work so hard to establish in other countries is really a lot of bull excrement. The Pennsylvania Governor like so many of his
right wing brethren do not like Mumia Abu Jamal's world-wide popularity and are attempting to put an end to his radio broadcasts that can be heard world-wide through the internet. Since it is an election year for Corbett he is doing something that he knows will appeal to his greedy racist base.
    Mumia Abu Jamal welcomes Governor Corbett's decision because he feels it exposes the Governor for
what he really is. I emphatically disagree, should Governor Corbett succeed it will be one more alleged freedom abolished, one more step in the dismantling of the Constitution. We have already lost Habeus Corpus. We have lost the right to peacefully assemble and through the surveillance of the NSA we have lost the right to privacy. If Governor Corbett can muzzle Mumia Abu Jamal today, tomorrow it might be the NAACP, or the ACLU or even you or me. I appeal to the African-American community of Pennsylvania as well as all freedom loving people everywhere to vigorously oppose Governor Corbett's proposed act of repression. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why We Let Big Pharma Rip Us Off

by Robert Reich

According to a new federal database put online last week, pharmaceutical companies and device makers paid doctors some $380 million in speaking and consulting fees over a five-month period in 2013.
Some doctors received over half a million dollars each, and others got millions of dollars in royalties from products they helped develop.
Doctors claim these payments have no effect on what they prescribe. But why would drug companies shell out all this money if it didn’t provide them a healthy return on their investment?
America spends a fortune on drugs, more per person than any other nation on earth, even though Americans are no healthier than the citizens of other advanced nations.
Of the estimated $2.7 trillion America spends annually on health care, drugs account for 10 percent of the total.
Government pays some of this tab through Medicare, Medicaid, and subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.  But we pick up the tab indirectly through our taxes.
We pay the rest of it directly, through higher co-payments, deductibles, and premiums.
Drug company payments to doctors are a small part of a much larger strategy by Big Pharma to clean our pockets.
Another technique is called “product hopping” —making small and insignificant changes in a drug whose patent is about to expire, so it’s technically new.
For example, last February, before its patent expired on Namenda, its widely used drug to treat Alzheimer’s, Forest Laboratories announced it would stop selling the existing tablet form of in favor of new extended-release capsules called Namenda XR.
The capsules were just a reformulated version of the tablet. But even the minor change prevented pharmacists from substituting generic versions of the tablet.
Result: Higher profits for Forest Labs and higher costs for you and me.
Another technique is for drug companies to continue to aggressively advertise prescription brands long after their twenty-year patents have expired, so patients ask their doctors for them. Many doctors will comply.
America is one of few advanced nations that allow direct advertising of prescription drugs.
A fourth tactic is for drug companies to pay the makers of generic drugs to delay their cheaper versions. These so-called “pay-for-delay” agreements generate big profits for both the proprietary manufacturers and the generics. But here again, you and I pay. The tactic costs us an estimated $3.5 billion a year.
Europe doesn’t allow these sorts of payoffs, but they’re legal in the United States because the major drug makers and generics have fought off any legislative attempts to stop them.
Finally, while other nations set wholesale drug prices, the law prohibits the U.S. government from using its considerable bargaining power under Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate lower drug prices. This was part of the deal Big Pharma extracted for its support of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.
The drug companies say they need the additional profits to pay for researching and developing new drugs.
But the government supplies much of the research Big Pharma relies on, through the National Institutes of Health.
Meanwhile, Big Pharma is spending more on advertising and marketing than on research and development – often tens of millions to promote a single drug.
And it’s spending hundreds of millions more every year lobbying. Last year alone, the lobbying tab came to $225 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
That’s more than the formidable lobbying expenditures of America’s military contractors.
In addition, Big Pharma is spending heavily on political campaigns. In 2012, it shelled out over $36 million, making it the biggest political contributor of all American industries.
Why do we put up with this? It’s too facile to say we have no choice given how much the industry is spending on politics. If the public were sufficiently outraged, politicians and regulatory agencies wouldn’t allow this giant ripoff.
But the public isn’t outraged. That’s partly because much of this strategy is hidden from public view.
But I think it’s also because we’ve bought the ideological claptrap of the “free market” being separate from and superior to government.
And since private property and freedom of contract are the core of the free market, we assume drug companies have every right to charge what they want for the property they sell.
Yet in reality the “free market” can’t be separated from government because government determines the rules of the game.
It determines, for example, what can be patented and for how long, what side payoffs create unlawful conflicts of interest, what basic research should be subsidized, and when government can negotiate low prices.
The critical question is not whether government should play a role in the market. Without such government decisions there would be no market, and no new drugs.
The issue is how government organizes the market. So long as big drug makers have a disproportionate say in these decisions, the rest of us pay through the nose. 
Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future; The Work of Nations; Locked in the Cabinet; Supercapitalism; and his newest, Beyond Outrage. His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

McConnell Trails in latest poll


UPDATE: Young voters may swing Senate race
An internal Grimes survey last week by pollster Mark Mellman also showed Grimes with a two-point lead.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said the Bluegrass Poll results either are an anomaly or the first sign of a Grimes trend.
"You've got a lot of Kentuckians who say, 'I don't want a Democrat who's going to back Obama but I'm sick and tired of McConnell,' " he said. "The question is: How does it balance out on Election Day?"
University of Kentucky political scientist Stephen Voss cautioned that the 6-point swing to Grimes may not be real.
"I would take these results with a grain of salt, given that they deviate from everything we've seen recently," Voss said, referring to a number of other polls showing McConnell leading Grimes.
The Bluegrass Poll asked the opinions of 730 registered Kentucky voters, 632 of whom it determined to be likely voters in the Nov. 4 election. The latter group's responses were used to break down the Senate race, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

New poll shows Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell trailing Alison Grimes

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After two polls in his favor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has slipped behind Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in his re-election bid, according to the latest Bluegrass Poll.
Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, now leads the five-term senator 46 percent to 44 percent among likely voters, the survey found. Libertarian candidate David Patterson had 3 percent support in the poll, while 7 percent of likely voters said they were undecided.
While Grimes' advantage is within the poll's margin of error, it represents a 6-point swing to the Democrat since the survey was last conducted in late August.
The latest poll — conducted Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 by SurveyUSA for The Courier-Journal, Louisville's WHAS-TV, The Lexington Herald Leader and Lexington's WKYT-TV — was dismissed by McConnell's campaign.
"After fourteen straight public polls all showing Sen. McConnell with a clear lead, this Bluegrass Poll is obviously an outlier," spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement. "We're very comfortable with where this race stands and are confident Sen. McConnell will be re-elected in November."
But Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst said the survey "reflects the overwhelming grassroots enthusiasm Alison and our campaign see everyday across the commonwealth."

Monday, October 06, 2014

Mike Brown Demonstration delays St. Louis Symphony Ochestra.

 by Claude Chaney


     Demonstrators disrupted a performance of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in remembrance of African-American teenager who was unarmed when shot by a white Ferguson police officer. Since this incident there have been at least three other assaults of whites on blacks in Ohio, Utah and South Carolina, of the three only the South Carolina incident didn't result in death.
     In Staten Island a policeman used an illegal choke hold killing a black man whose alleged crime was selling illegal cigarettes. I don't know if these types of crimes have been going on repeatedly under the
radar of media scrutiny, or if the situation is even worse, but is getting exposure since the advent of the camera cell phone. The 22 year old African-American man was just looking at a gun in an Ohio Wal-mart, when a white employee called police and told them that a black man was waving a gun around the store threatening customers.Other witnesses claim this was not the case. A Michael Moore movie showed how easy it busy to buy a gun in Texas Wal-Marts with minimal background checks or no background check at all. Whites enter and leave that particular Texas Wal-Mart with REAL loaded guns and they have no problem at all. In this case the police entered and immediately killed the young man. Similar cases in Florida and Michigan have resulted in convictions, but these may just be aberrations.  Guns should be federal, and uniform in all fifty states. ALEC, the NRA and like minded organizations are at the root of this crisis and unless we, the American people take action this problem will get worse before it gets better.

  

Saturday, October 04, 2014

ALEC Must go

     The blatantly partisan right-wing organization is being exposed by Color Of Change, as a result many multinational corporations like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Intuit etc. have abandoned what is basically a racist, lunatic operation that writes legislation and gives it to congresspersons to pass. This subverts the legitimate political process. ALEC advocates the destruction of public education and kill at will laws such as "Stand Your Ground" which indirectly resulted in the death of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin.
     Most recently Facebook, Google and Windows have disassociated themselves from ALEC, which is a good thing but The Koch Brothers and Walmart state that they will continue to support ALEC irregardless to what other multi-national companies do. These two giants alone can keep ALEC afloat for some time as long as the general public is kept in the dark about their operations.
      A successful right wing campaign destroyed what could be considered an ALEC counterpart ACORN, whose primary goal was to register black, brown and poor people of any ethnicity to vote. Million of US citizens are now ready willing and able to return the favor, but in order to do so the people must be aware of ALEC and it's racist right wing agenda.
     In spite of the fact that many large corporations have abandoned ALEC there are still those who continue to stay on board. I for one am not so naive to think that the companies who left ALEC did so out of a concern for the environment of the kindness of their hearts. They left because they feared they would lose money. 
     ALEC has considerable support from major media (although it is covert for obvious reasons). This blog has declared itself a sworn enemy of ALEC and will do anything reasonable to hasten it's demise, working in conjunction with Color Of Change, People For The American Way, Emily's List and like minded organizations.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Republicans determined to turn the clock back to the times of the robber barons

by Claude Chaney 

  Today's Republican party seems determined to return to the days of the robber barons when
billionaires determined labor policies without challenges. Today's conservatives have made
many gains at the expense of the middle class. This is a middle class that is for the most part
clueless about what is happening. This is by design. Fox News, The Washington Times and many other media entities have captured the eyes and the ears of a frightened citizenry. The sleeping giant
recently has shown some signs of waking up but it may already be too late.
   Fox News has a commanding lead in the Cable News sweepstakes. This is a network that has
fired employees who told the truth, and the law has supported it. The average Fox viewer doesn't have a grasp for reality. These are people who believe President Obama wasn't born in the United States, that Saddam Heussein had weapons of mass destruction and that there was a cover-up of the facts of the invasion of Benghazi. Dick Armey has created a conservative army of the tragically mis-
informed and as Republicans do so well convince people to vote against their own interests. This
is the present day Tea-Party, most of which are not wealthy but still has cast their political lot with
the Heritage Foundation, The Cato Institute, Americans For Prosperity and the extremely dangerous
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). I once heard a tea party member make the
utterly ridiculous statement "I don't want the government's hands on my Social Security check" (when the check comes from the government).
   Former presidential aspirant Rick Santorum criticized President Obama when he said "I would
like "every" child to grow up and go to college". Santorum thought that this statement was
"elitest", as if wanting an education was something bad. These conservatives have no concern for
the well being of  "all" the citizens of the United States. Their concerns are only for themselves, which is why they are so adamantly against health care, education accessibility for all, social security and anything that would remotely benefit the middle class or the poor. At the same time
conservative CEOs are moving their companies overseas to take advantage of cheap labor and
putting their earnings overseas to avoid paying taxes. This has resulted in large corporations like
Exxon-Mobile paying absolutely NOTHING in taxes while the middle income US citizen has seen
his or her taxes skyrocket. It has been said that the United States has the ability to destroy the planet
Earth eighteen times, yet these conservatives still are asking for more money for the military. Mitt
Romney as a presidential candidate advocated adding two billion dollars to the military budget.
    The conservatives don't want us to know what is in our food, condemning warning the public
of GMOs. They have also begun to turn the clock back when it comes to civil rights. Over 40,000 names were removed from voting lists in North Carolina....and as of yet, nothing has been done
about it. 30 states have enacted laws that will curtail voting activity of blacks, latinos,students, the
elderly, Native Americans and Eskimos with the endorsement of the Supreme Court.
    Walmart has made a fortune by paying their employees subpar wages and forcing the rest of
us to pay for their medical bills when they go to the emergency rooms and we have to pay for them
with our tax dollars. When I discuss this with most people I constantly get the response "Oh no,
they wouldn't do that" well they "are" doing it. Democracy is slowly but surely turning into
fascism. The bulk of the American people are totally clueless about what is happening today, but for those of us who know the time has come to fight back in a battle we are already losing. We have to
know the intentionally faceless architects of suppression. Here are just a few.......Art Pope, The Koch Brothers, Matt Drudge, Mort Zuckerman, Bernard Marcus, Joe Ricketts, Kenneth Langone, B. Wayne Hughes, Harrold Simmons, Sheldon Adelson, Steven Schwarzman, Donald Trum, Leon Cooperman, Steve Wynn, David Siegel, Jackie Siegel. Of course there are many many more but both time and space are limited.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Media Matters declares victory in war against FOX

   Recently Media Matters declared victory over Fox News. The battle began when Media Matters saw the danger of Fox promoting itself as "Fair and Balanced" This catch phrase developed into
the Fox mantra. At first most people believed Fox News was fair and balanced because they kept hearing it on........Fox News. The truth is that Fox is extremely opinionated towards the right and any semblance of "balance' is extremely rare. This becomes a serious problem for presenting the truth because Fox is the highest rated cable network and its viewers have developed a reputation for being notoriously misinformed.
   Media Matters was tenacious in going after those Fox pundits who they felt deliberately misinformed the viewers. The Media Matters campaign has proved to be so highly successful that
most Americans now believe that Fox is anything but fair and balanced, and as a result Media Matters declares the war on Fox is officially over because the vast majority of Americans now see
the network as GOPTV.
   In this video we see five reasons for the Media Matters victory.

Edward Snowden 2013 Person Of The Year

          The 2013 Man Of The Year is Edward Snowden, who sacrificed his life to expose the National
Surveillance Agency as a government sponsored operative that invades the privacy of ALL United States citizens and spies on friendly heads of state of countries like Germany and Brasil. This spying
has not only political objectives but also economic objectives since according to Snowden major German businesses were spied upon.
           When Snowden's findings were initially revealed the mainstream media was eager to label him as a "traitor" who has endangered the lives of United States intelligence agents around the world. It is ironic and obviously hypocritical that the former Vice President Dick Cheney actually did this to Valerie Plame and faced no consecuences whatsoever. Edward Snowden thusfar has not to been shown to endanger the life of anyone. What was revealed was spying on countries presumed to be our stauchest allies. German chancellor Angela Merkel had her cell phone tapped.
            What Snowden did was for the good of the United States citizen, who had no idea this blatantly illegal activity was taking place. Although Snowden was lucky to escape and find sanctuary in Russia he will have to be looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life. If he returns to the United States there is no chance whatsoever he will get a "fair" trial. In spite of the barrage of negative comments initially made about Snowden by the mainstream press the number of people who see him as a genuine "patriot" continues to grow, infact Edward Snowden is now a viable candidate to win the Nobel Peace prize. To this point Edward Snowden is much better off than an earlier "whistleblower" Bradley (now known as "Chelsea") Manning, who was denied clothing while being exposed to extremely low temperature among other insidious forms of torture because he exposed outright murder of innocent people, including children in Iraq. Manning thought that revealing this outrage would bring the guilty to justice, but that was not the case.....the murderers were rewarded with varied amount of promotions. This just goes to show that there really aren't any real protections for whistleblowers who expose activity harmful to the image of The United States as a true democracy.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

More NJ Democratic mayors hassled by Christie adminstration because they supported Democrat Barbara Buono

    I would like to give Gov. Chris Christie the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the "Bridgegate" scandal, but as time goes by it seems even more unlikely that he is as innocent as he claims. Mainstream media has given the governor high marks for his press conferences in which he claims
that he was blindsided by the totally unexpected misdeeds of his trusted staff.
   There are now even more revelations that indicate that there is a possibility the Governor may have
been involved because of e-mails that involved staff members Bridget Ann Kelley and David Wildstein which included statements like "Time for some problems in Fort Lee" and the response
"Got it". There is also another at this time unidentified person who also makes statements in this
conversation. This person may or may not be the governor.
    The Christie administration is being accused of deliberately punishing Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Sokolich because he refused to support Christie's gubernatorial campaign. By closing two vital lanes of the George Washington Bridge Christie would also embarrass Mayor Sokolich by making his support of a plan to build two high rises, unlikely for potential occupants who will work in New York City, and will need convenient access to the bridge. To add ethnic insult to injury Wildstein referred to Sokolich as that "little Serbian". When refering to Sokolich's concern about children not being on time for school because of the lane closures Wildstein allegedly said "These are the children of Buono voters". Sokolich on tv interviews appears very reserved to point of actually being overly polite, while discussing Christie and his aides, but this is where he drew the line by saying Wildstein deserves a good "asskicking". Sokolich is not of Serbian dessent, he is of Croation dessent. What does ethnicity have to do with this issue anyway?
     Mayor Sokolich was not the only alleged victim of the Christie retribution. Jersey City Mayor
Steven Fulop was another Democrat who did not support Christie during the race for governor.
Fulop paid the price.....all scheduled meetings with the state commissioners with regard to
matters concerning Jersey City were abruptly cancelled.
    Another Democratic victim of this attack was the mayor of Hoboken, the third largest city in the state of New Jersey, Dawn Zimmer, who as a result of Hurricane Sandy damage requested 100 million dollars in rescue aid, but only received $300.000. Keep in mind 80% of the states' third largest city was covered by water and the state is not even given half a million in rescue aid. It is ver hard to believe that Governor Christie knew abolutely nothing about these horrid events. If he did know he should have done something about it. If he didn't know then he is inept. Either was he is responsible.  In spite of the overwhelming evidence that is building against him Christie may triumph in the end. One thing 2013 has taught us is that the just conviction is very elusive when you think about the "Affluenza" case in which a teenager got away with murder, or especially the Travon Martin case. In time we will see.
    There is a huge amount of blame to be put on Democrats as well. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono was only able to get meager $300 campaign contributions because many Democrats were afraid that giving anything more would upset Governor Christie. If this is true the governor IS a bully and the Democrats are cowards.