NB Politicus

Remembering April 4, 1968

Posted in 1968, civil rights, In Memoriam, national politics, Poverty by nbpoliticus on March 31, 2018

By John McNamara

I remember exactly where I was on April 4, 1968.

That sunny and warm Thursday,  like many others in my senior year in high school, I drove to Bradlee’s Department store on the Lynnway in Lynn, Massachusetts after school to punch in for the evening shift, earning some money before entering Boston University in the fall.

News spread quickly into the evening that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was dead at the age of 39.

It didn’t take long to realize that my shift as a retail clerk would be different from all the others. The store quickly emptied out. Not a customer in sight all night. No need for Mr. Silverman, the shaken and somber store manager, to send me out on outside carriage control. The bullets in Memphis were enough to bring a normal business day to a halt in Lynn and most of the nation as big cities teetered on the brink of a violence that King sought to avoid with acts of non-violent resistance.


New Britain’s Memorial at MLK Park.

Just five short years before I had come home from junior high on a late summer day to watch King deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech – an event that would inspire so many of us to become community and political activists.

There are many good remembrances of what King said and stood for on his national holiday and at the permanent memorial in Washington every year.

But the nation could stand to be reminded again of the day King was killed and why he was in Memphis a few years after the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts became the law of the land.

By 1968, Rev. King was widening the concerns of his movement. In Where Do We Go From Here?  King, much to the consternation of the more cautious members of his movement and the political establishment, opposed a Vietnam policy that had begun to break the nation further apart. The lunchroom sit-ins and battles over accommodations and voting rights were giving way to a broader agenda. He was planning a new march on Washington – “the Poor People’s Campaign” — when he decided to take up the cause of 1,300 Black sanitation workers in Memphis, a city of southern segregation, where the white power structure opposed the right to unionize and the Mayor vowed never to bargain in good faith in a way that would give the sanitation workers their dignity. The strike and a citywide economic boycott were a cause King knew he could not ignore.

King’s prophetic “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech on the eve of the assassination is his best known from Memphis. But two weeks earlier, on March 18th, King galvanized support for strikers by saying: “So often we overlook the worth and significance of those who are not in professional jobs, or those who are not in the so-called big jobs…..One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive.” Following King’s assassination, the Memphis power structure gave up its intransigence – recognizing the union, awarding pay raises and instituting merit promotions.

Fifty years later Rev. King’s  work goes on and is being renewed for a new generation. Led by the Rev. William Barber of North Carolina and others a “moral direct action” campaign is mobilizing a 2018 Poor People’s Campaign  for the same principles  that led Rev. King to Memphis and his last days.

King’s campaign for striking AFSCME sanitation workers reaffirmed his greatness at the hour of his death and resonates today in the cause of social and economic justice. That’s why I’ll always remember 4/4/68 as a day frozen in time not to be forgotten.

Adapted and updated from an April 2007 post.

Ukrainian Americans Protest Manafort Ties To Dictator, Trump Campaign

Posted in national politics, New Britain Republicans, Presidential Politics, Ukraine by nbpoliticus on April 23, 2016

The Hartford area’s  Ukrainian-American community, including members of three church congregations in New Britain, is speaking out against a city native with a well-known name among Republicans — Paul Manafort, the son of a former mayor, longtime Washington lobbyist and now campaign manager for the GOP’s unlikely frontrunner,  Donald J. Trump.

With Tuesday’s Connecticut Primary just ahead,  local Ukrainian Americans are calling on the Trump campaign to dismiss Manafort for his representation of and campaign work for Victor Yanukovych, the former president of the Ukraine, whose regime is reported to have “ordered the shootings of more than 100 Ukrainian protestors” and “who stole tens of billions of dollars from Ukraine before fleeing to Russia.”

Ukrainian Americans of all ages protested involvement of Paul Manafort in Presidential politics in New Britain on April 23rd

Ukrainian Americans of all ages protested involvement of Paul Manafort in Presidential politics in New Britain on April 23rd

Residents calling for Manafort to exit the Trump campaign assert that Manafort and his colleagues “have made tens of millions of dollars  representing some of the world’s most brutal dictators of the 20th century.”  One press report has dubbed Manafort a member of the “torturers’ lobby.”

An impromptu protest against the Trump hire of Manafort was held on Saturday, April 23rd near the entrance to the Route 9 Tadeusz Kosceiuszko Highway  and Paul Manafort Drive (named for the lobbyist’s late father) near Central Connecticut State University.   A group of Ukrainian-Americans held up signs  in protest such as “Shame on Putin, Shame on Manafort, Shame on Trump” and “Manafort’s Client Killed 104 Heroes.”  Ukrainian Americans fear Trump’s anti NATO position and praise of Russia’s Vladimir Putin will jeopardize the Ukraine’s fledgling democracy.

A statement released by the ad hoc group led by Alex Kuzma stated:

“Throughout his career Paul Manafort’s work overseas has been in direct conflict with the foreign policy interests of the United States and its allies, yet Manafort is now working to help influence the future of the highest office of the United States, pushing for a candidate who is more on message with Russian President Putin than our current U.S. President and member of Congress on both sides of the aisle.”

Ukrainian Americans condemn Trump campaign's hiring of Paul Manafort.

Ukrainian Americans condemn Trump campaign’s hiring of Paul Manafort.

Manafort, 66, has long been involved in national GOP politics and a partner in K Street lobbying firms such as Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly and more recently Davis, Manafort.  Through the years he has been among highly compensated U.S. consultants working for foreign leaders with a record of human rights violations and whose policies have contradicted U.S. foreign policy.

Local Republicans appear unfazed by Manafort’s foreign adventures.  In a New Britain Herald story on the the Trump-Manafort connection, former New Britain Mayor and current Chamber of Commerce President Timothy Stewart said of Manafort: “He’s a go-to guy as a Republican operative and he has been for many years. ‘PJ’ is the man. He knows the players.”

A 2014 Politico story –“Mystery Man: Ukraine’s U.S. Fixer”– described Manafort’s roles as presidential operative and consultant to dictators:


Over three decades in Washington, Manafort built a storied career as a Beltway man of mystery: a famously discreet operative who worked for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, steered the 1996 GOP convention and built not one but two white-shoe D.C. lobbying shops, a pair of firms that bore Manafort’s name and catered to an eclectic stable of clients including anti-communist Angolan rebels and Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator of the Philippines.

Last month Manafort  re-surfaced as Trump’s delegate fixer and liaison to the Republican establishment.   After a long hiatus, Manafort is back on U.S. soil managing Trump’s campaign just like he did for Ukraine’s Yanukovych and others with disturbing records of human rights violations.


Beware of Professional Politicians Accusing their Opponents of Being A "Professional Politician"

Posted in city politics and government, national politics by nbpoliticus on September 17, 2011

I once knew a state representative in Lynn, MA who came up with a winning slogan: “Tim Bassett Is A Lousy Politician”.  As I recall, the  Lynn lawmaker used the phrase to win  a term or two or three up on Beacon Hill giving  meaning to the use of irony in politics.

That same claim has been resurrected over and over again at every level and every year since I first heard it.

In presidential politics this year Mitt Romney, the former Governor of MA, the  former nominee for U.S. Senate and 2008 presidential contender, is using the line again, having accused his GOP opponents of being “professional politicians” in a recent speech. Shameless.

In New Britain, Mayoral Nominee Tim O’Brien’s primary opponent, a multi-term alderman and office seeker, labeled himself the “people’s advocate, not professional politician!!!”  Shameless again.

Most voters easily dismiss the “professional politician” charge because it always comes from a professional politician trying to deflect attention from issues and their own credentials.   The use of the tag line, however, is just another way of putting down the pursuit of politics and public service — a meaningless phrase that further contributes to voter apathy and indifference.
And what’s wrong with voting for a professional politician? He or she may know what their doing when they attain public office.

MA Election Senate Fallout: Labor Leader Says Dems "Under Reach" on Issues That Matter

Posted in Democrats, national politics by nbpoliticus on January 21, 2010

Who would have thought that a special election in Massachusetts would be the end of the Obama regime and a retreat from the “change that you can believe in” that was voted in just a year ago?

Media “gas bags”, Democratic “moderates”  and no small number of propagandists for the corporate right  are proclaiming this new political reality in the aftermath of the special election in Massachusetts won by Republican Scott Brown.

Less is said about the Coakley campaign failing to practice Tip O’Neill’s cardinal rule that “all politics is local” or that Coakley put all her money and eggs in a December primary, leaving her few resources and a general election plan that wrote off Brown as just another GOP patsy. In this case the better candidate with the “I’m mad as hell” message won. No matter that behind the pick up truck and neighborly image is a guy with six properties, including one in Aruba, who probably never met a Wall Street financier he didn’t like.

Before the Rahm Emanuels in the Obama White House try to resurrect the Democratic Leadership Council formula of having Democrats move to the right,  President Obama and the national Democrats should heed  the “wake up call” of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Iraq Authorization and Wall Street Bailout Votes: Two Of A Kind

Posted in economy, national politics by nbpoliticus on March 18, 2009

The outrage now being expressed in Congress over the excessive bonuses paid to AIG executives — especially from Republicans — is an outrageous display of phony indignation.

When the federal bailout legislation was making its way through Congress last September there was some concern expressed by Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats on reining in executive pay and bonuses. It was Republican insistence on “no strings attached” and Democratic complicity in laissez faire use of public dollars that have brought us to this point.

Legitimate reservations that led Connecticut’s 2nd District Congressman, Joe Courtney, for example, to vote against the bill were set aside to allow the “rescue” to go forward. Courtney was the only member of the Connecticut delegation to vote no on a package that is coming back to bite us.

Saving Wall Street and such conglomerates as AIG trumped writing any oversight protection that would have prohibited this latest display of corporate greed (or should we call it welfare?). A blank check was given to George Bush and Henry Paulson to keep rewarding those who conducted business in ways that have contributed to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

“And there’s no quid pro quo here — nothing that gives taxpayers a stake in the upside, nothing that ensures that the money is used to stabilize the system rather than reward the undeserving,” observed the NY Times’ Paul Krugman last September.

The passage of the bailout is eerily similar to the 2002 Congressional authorization on the Iraq War that, in retrospect, ignored the War Powers Act and was adopted under false pretenses. How many times have we heard legislators from both parties say if “I knew then what I know now I would have voted differently.”

We may be about to hear the same thing on the September bailout vote in Congress. The authorization of force in Iraq and the authorization of bailout money to financial giants showed a rush to judgment. Oversight by a lame duck and irresponsible White House and Congress was missing on both the Iraq vote and on a bailout that is creating anger and resentment across the country.

O’Brien’s Call For Special Elections For U.S. Senate Vacancies Gets Traction With L’Affaire Blogojevich

Posted in national politics, U.S. Senate by nbpoliticus on December 14, 2008

State Rep. Tim O’Brien (D-24) gets a well deserved accolade from Connecticut Local Politics this weekend on his legislation requiring that special elections be held when vacancies occur for the U.S. Senate.

O’Brien saw his proposal die in the 2007 General Assembly with a criticism that his motive was “partisan.” Democrats haven’t held the Governor’s office in a long time and Jodi Rell, the incumbent, would be the sole appointing authority now should Chris Dodd or Joe Lieberman move on before their terms end.

You can’t blame O’Brien for bringing up the legislation (filed as HB 5034) again in light of the machinations of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the bipartisan calls springing up in the Land of Lincoln for “Blago’s” removal. “Blagojevich, according to FBI-related wiretap sources, wanted to sell Barack Obama’s vacated seat to the highest bidder, among other “pay to play”, indictable ideas.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)quickly called for a special election. It is a likely scenario that the Illinois Legislature will move quickly to impeach the sitting governor and set a date for an election — denying the cornered incumbent the chance to appoint or leaving it to the Lieutenant Governor who has called for the incumbent’s resignation. An Illinois special election, however, would bring electoral credibility to whoever fills Obama’s shoes and certainly promote the idea in other states.

O’Brien, who researched and offered the legislation as a member of the General Administration and Elections Committee (GAE), found it odd that U.S. Representative seats are always filled by special elections but not U.S. Senate seats. There was a time when senators were not elected by the people, but by legislatures. Gubernatorial appointment powers may be a throwback to those days. O’Brien cited the contradictory methods in filing the bill.

“My proposal was simple – let the people decide who represents them.” says O’Brien on his blog. “It is already the process we use to fill a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives when someone leaves that office. There is no good reason for why the process for filling vacancies in the U.S. Senate should be any different.”

O’Brien intends to file the bill again in the 2009 session. Opponents arguing that the Governor should remain the sole appointing power will be sure to have the Illinois situation thrown back at them.

Ending Wall Street Welfare: Economist Says Democrats Need Long Term Strategy

Posted in economy, national politics by nbpoliticus on October 2, 2008

Robert Kuttner, a widely published economist based at The American Prospect is providing some of the best commentary yet on the economic emergency precipitated by the excesses of the unregulated home mortgage and securities industries.

“Democrats will shortly become stewards not just of a temporary bailout but of a long term recovery strategy,” writes Kuttner in a September 30th post “Learning from 1929”. “They might as well begin by pointing us on the right path. That includes direct refinancing for homeowners, direct government involvement in the management of failing financial institutions that are recapitalized by government money, through something like the Reconstruction Finance Corporations of the Roosevelt era; and a transfer tax on stock and bond transactions, both to raise needed revenue and to damp down the kind of speculation that led to the meltdown. Then Congress can begin the task of regulating the financial system properly. The basic concept is that any financial enterprise capable of taking down the system requires the tight government supervision that in the recent past has been limited to commercial banks.”

Kuttner suggests that the congressional Democrats are a long way from finding an authentic Democratic response that can effectively deal with the laissez faire and failed policies of Republicanism. Regulating the financial system correctly, argues Kuttner, is “the Democratic ideology. But lately, that set of core convictions has gotten rusty. It needs to be reclaimed, and fast. Too many Democrats are still thinking small.”

Not, it should be noted, is the thinking of U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-2) who voted no on the amended Paulson proposal this week for all the right reasons. He was the only member of the Connecticut delegation to do so.

Kuttner doesn’t stop at the Wall Street “rescue”. “Government will need to rely on substantial public spending to pull the wider economy out of the hole. Most of that can be raised by surtaxes on the wealthy and by transaction taxes on speculation, but it will also require a temporary increase in public deficits. Raise enough revenue to cover about $700 billion of financial recapitalization in year one, and in years two through eight use the proceeds for public works, infrastructure, good jobs, universal health coverage, expanded pre-kindergarten and child care.”

Kuttner’s corrections, in other words, call for a New Deal in the 21st Century, not just to quell the high-finance meltdown on Wall Street, but to reduce the economic insecurity felt by a growing number of working and middle income households. Let’s hope that when the Congress votes again, more of Kuttner’s formula will be part of the rescue.

Original post from http://newbritaindemocrat.blogspot.com

The Nomination: Clinton, Obama, LBJ and Martin Luther King

Posted in civil rights, Democrats, national politics by nbpoliticus on August 24, 2008

In the back and forth of the Democratic Presidential primary season Hillary Clinton’s remarks about Rev. Martin Luther King, Lyndon Johnson and civil rights sparked an unfortunate exchange between hers and the Obama forces.

Clinton was trying to make a point about governing, but her remarks were criticized for pitting Lyndon Johnson’s delivery of landmark civil rights laws with the movement led by Rev. King — all of this in the context of her running against a rapidly rising African American politician who ultimately deprived her of the nomination.

Barack Obama’s acceptance speech on Thursday at the Denver convention provides a better opportunity to bring up King, Johnson, the presidency and the Democratic Party.

On 8/28 45 years ago, Rev. Martin Luther King delivered his “Dream” speech — one of the most heard and admired pieces of oratory in U.S. history. King’s speech and the movement he led pushed Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats to forge ahead with stronger, landmark civil rights laws for voting rights, accommodations and other aspects of equal opportunity in 1964 and 1965.

Clinton’s intent was not to diminish the civil rights struggle but to say King’s movement and Johnson’s power and legislative acumen were not mutually exclusive. One complemented the other. The Southerner Johnson knew the consequences. “There goes the South for a generation,” Johnson was quoted when he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law, predicting his party would lose elections and the “solid” South for many years as they surely did.

And now should it surprise anyone that Obama’s multi-cultural background is still fodder for a GOP divide and conquer strategy first invoked by Richard Nixon in 1968?

Obama needs to draw the distinctions sharply between his vision and that of John McCain, especially on economics and the interests of people who “work hard and play by the rules.” In doing so, he should revisit the King and Johnson legacy, perhaps noting that Clinton wasn’t dissing King over LBJ at all.

The betting here is he will recall that long ago August 28th as he prepares to lead Democrats into the fall election. The moment will not be lost on Obama that his political ascendency this week is a direct consequence of both King’s movement and Johnson’s Democrats and what was said and done a generation ago. Obama’s nomination will not be the end all for civil rights struggle, but a fulfillment of a huge piece of the “Dream”.

(Photo Credit: Johnson Library and Museum from wikimedia.org)