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.