The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

(I wrote this for the Urban News in August 2020.)

In 1971, long before the Sugar Hill Gang made rap popular with “Rapper’s Delight,” there was a poet, philosopher, and jazz artist named Gil Scott-Heron who spoke more than he sang. With a jazzy beat in the background, he stated:
The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be brought to you
By Xerox in four parts without commercial interruptions
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon blowing a bugle
And leading a charge by John Mitchell, General Abrams, and Spiro Agnew
To eat hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary
The revolution will not be televised
The point of the song was that the revolution was going to be live. Everyone was going to have to participate.dd

Portland, Oregon

After the death of George Floyd, protests rang out throughout our country. Portland, Oregon was no different. The protests started in late May and continued into June. While the rest of the country was settling down, Portland continued to protest. The protesters identified Kendra James, Erin Campbell, Patrick Kimmons, and Quanice Hayes as Black residents who had been killed at the hands of the Portland police over the past several years.

In July, some of the protests turned violent. At about the same time, Donald Trump decided to send in federal troops. It is unclear from the reporting whether there was any consultation with the mayor of Portland or the governor of Oregon. The pretense that Trump used to send in federal troops was to protect “federal buildings.”

These federal troops were wearing no identifiable emblems. For the people of Portland, the stakes were now ramped up. Instead of a couple of hundred protesters, thousands were showing up. The troops—including some from the border patrol with no training in domestic policing—began shooting tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd. Arrests were made, sometimes without reason or probable cause. Cellphone footage of protesters being stuffed into unmarked cars began to circulate on social media. In late July, the governor announced that she had reached an agreement with the White House to withdraw these troops from Oregon.

I’m not sure what was accomplished. I’m not sure why we needed federal troops in an American city. I’m not sure if the whole ordeal was constitutional. I find it sad that Donald Trump’s first instinct is to use force and not to negotiate, or even talk, with protesters.

John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis died of pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2020. Although many textbooks do not point out the work that John Lewis did during the civil rights movement, he was there, and he was a major player. He was, in fact, considered one of the “big six” leaders of the movement, and the last to die.

The famous Freedom Rides that started in 1961 were an extremely simple concept. Thirteen people (seven Whites and six Blacks) were going to ride a bus from Washington, DC, to New Orleans. The whole purpose of this ride was to pressure the federal government into enforcing the 1960 Supreme Court decision (Boynton v. Virginia) that held that segregated interstate bus travel was unconstitutional.

The bus encountered angry mobs. The Freedom Riders were arrested. They were beaten. They were jailed. John Lewis was one of the original 13 riders. He was there.

A couple of years later, John Lewis became the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was among the leaders of the marches from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery. He was severely beaten while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge—beaten by cops with batons, blackjacks, you name it. Again, John Lewis was there, and once again he risked his life for his country—for us.

In 1963 John Lewis spoke at the March on Washington in which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. At 23, he was the youngest speaker on the dais. Once again, he was there, and he was an inspiration to the half-million people gathered on the Mall.

John Lewis was elected to Congress in 1986, representing metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. In that role, over the next 35 years, he became known as “the conscience of the House.” He called on his fellow representatives, and his fellow citizens, from the most humble to the most exalted, to seek justice, and do the right thing. Whenever he spoke, whomever he encountered, whatever the issue at hand, no matter the anger, frustration, or rancor in the air, he spoke with love, and with joy, and with hope. For he loved his fellow human beings, and believed in his heart that they, too, were capable of that same love.

From my standpoint, John Lewis was a great humanitarian. He fought against injustice everywhere. He worked for equality, and put his life on the line for democracy. He lived as we all should live, making “good trouble” for a cause greater than ourselves. We can take a page from John Lewis’ book. He seemed to always be on the right side of history, and he was always there when and where we needed him to be. (more…)

By |2020-09-23T20:07:00-04:00September 23rd, 2020|Domestic Issues, Newsletter, Obama administration|Comments Off on The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Nancy is Back (Published in the Urban News)

I wrote this for the Urban News in January 2019

Image result for nancy pelosi

We progressives can be a quirky, funny type of people. I am not sure why we do not treat Nancy Pelosi with the same reverence that we show Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Barack Obama. Yet when the dust settled, and it was clear that the Republicans took a shellacking in November, there was a lot of handwringing over Nancy becoming Speaker of the House again.

I guess that is understandable. We, progressives, tend to question everything. On one hand, that trait can be somewhat annoying; on the other hand, asking questions can keep you out of trouble (See Iraq War, in which no thoughtful questions were asked in the Bush administration).

Nancy Pelosi has a long record of supporting progressive causes. During the George W. Bush presidency, Nancy opposed the Iraq war. (She asked the right questions.) She opposed illegal wiretaps, which seemed to be routine during the Bush administration. Bush thought he had a mandate when he started his second term in office and proposed privatization of Social Security. Nancy Pelosi led the charge against that cockamamie idea. She did get sideways with progressive movement when she decided it was not in the country’s best interest to pursue impeachment hearings against George W. Bush. To Nancy, it was more important to fix what was broken than to punish the people who broke it. As she always does, she wanted to look forward, not back.

When she was Speaker during the first two years of Barack Obama’s administration, so much progressive legislation got passed it was dizzying. Remember, we were in the midst of the Great Recession. She helped pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which saved our economy. No, she did not go after the bankers; she did help put America on track for recovery that has lasted almost 10 years. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Credit Card Act which forced credit card companies to explain all of their fees in plain, simple language. She helped extend unemployment benefits to 20 weeks in states with high unemployment.

And, of course, there was the patient protection and affordability healthcare act also known as ObamaCare, which gave 20 million Americans who did not have health insurance, health insurance. This is exactly what we want a progressive leader to do.

Our government has been shut down since December 22 because Donald Trump wants funding for his border wall. According to his latest pronouncements, the president is willing to keep the government shut down indefinitely. One of Speaker Pelosi’s first acts was shepherding two bills through the House to fund the government.

One funds the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8, to give legislators and the administration time to negotiate border security. The other funds the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Housing and Urban Development and others affected by the shutdown through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. The Republican Senate and House (under former Speaker Paul Ryan) couldn’t manage to do even that much last year.

Both bills passed the House and now they’re waiting for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, (Donald Trump’s lapdog), to bring them to the Senate floor for debate and a vote. That is not going to happen.

Nancy Pelosi will use all of her skill and power to try to reopen the government as quickly as possible. She understands the problem. Look for her also to begin to pass comprehensive border security legislation that does not include any funding for the wall. This will prove that progressives are interested in border security, because we are.

The very first legislation Pelosi’s House Democrats passed was HR 1, aimed at decreasing the influence of money in politics and expanding voting rights. This is solid progressive legislation. It places a little bit more pressure on Mitch McConnell and the Senate, who again will try to ignore the bill.

Like “The Notorious RBG” (Ruth Bader Ginsberg), Nancy Pelosi doesn’t give great speeches. She will not star in a rap video. She will not vindictively go after opponents—but she will hold malefactors’ feet to the fire. She doesn’t use the coolest lingo, but she will show up every day for work in heels and pearls. She will protect children, women, minorities, the GLBTQ community, and the underserved. She will protect Social Security and Medicare against renewed assaults. She will stand up for health care, education, and our environment.

Most of all, she will stand up to Trump and his nonsense every day. That’s what we need in a House Speaker. Go Nancy Go!

By |2019-07-27T15:15:36-04:00July 27th, 2019|Obama administration, Party Politics|Comments Off on Nancy is Back (Published in the Urban News)

Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban – Update

In my opinion, the best lie is the one that is just a little bit tainted with truth. Those lies are the best lies. About two weeks ago, President Donald Trump (yeah, it still does not sound right) signed an executive order which asked for increased scrutiny of persons wanting to immigrate to this country from several lands. I say “several lands,” because if you actually read his executive order; first of all, it is kind of a headache, as it is long and nonspecific. The order does not actually specify Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. So, let us actually read what the order says I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

Now, this whole thing quickly gets complicated. It appears that President Trump’s executive order refers to the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.” This bill was tacked onto the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. So, it is kinda hard to say that this was an Obama administration initiative. The bill was actually written by former Congresswoman Candice Miller, a Republican. To make matters even more confusing, this bill, HR 158, simply canceled the Visa Waiver Program. So, essentially, what this did was force travelers from Syria and Iraq to get visas the old-fashioned way, through interviews at the American consulate. So, President Obama had the choice of signing this huge, omnibus spending bill into law, allowing our government to continue to operate (or to veto it), because of this bill’s being tacked on by Congresswoman Miller. You tell me, does this sound like an Obama program?

So, because this is not confusing enough, Donald Trump said, “My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.” Um, this is not exactly true either. So, in response to the May 2011 arrest of two Iraqi refugees on terrorism charges in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Obama Administration decided that immigrants from Iraq warranted increased scrutiny. This was not a ban. It was increased scrutiny. So, on one hand, Donald Trump was right. President Obama did do something in 2011, and his policy was relatively similar… kind of, but not really.

This is not the kind of thing you should NOT be arguing over at the water cooler. It is simply not worth it. There are tons of details. For the most part, when you are arguing over at the office water cooler, nobody knows the details. The reason I bring this up is that I heard the argument in the emergency room. Two doctors were going at it. One was accusing the other of hypocrisy because “Obama did the same thing.” No, Obama did not. Go back and read. While it is important to engage our fellow Americans, it is not important to discuss the details of a ban that is an actual ban; verses Obama’s ban, which was not, in reality, a ban. Got it.

Finally, I think that the President has the power to control who is coming into this country. I think that’s in the Constitution. I don’t think we can argue that. Instead, the argument is what kind of convoluted nonsense Trump put in his executive order.  Oops. I just got an email from my (our) constitutional scholar Linda Monk. I was wrong!!! Article I gives the power of immigration to Congress and NOT the president.  Article I, Section 8 – The Congress shall have Power to establish as uniform Rule of Naturalization. There it is in black and white.  Article II deals with the President. It says in Section 2 – The President shall be Commander in Chief of the  Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States. The president’s powers, with regard to immigration, are implied. So, Congress needs to pass a law restricting immigration from those 7 countries. That would be lawful!

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