AFAM Newsbits – December 2016

Most of us held our noses and voted Hillary Clinton for president knowing that the alternative was too dangerous to ignore. But too many of us ignored the danger and left the presidential choice vacant or didn’t vote at all, which is one of the reasons why Donald Trump is our new president. And we all have to live with that for the next four years as odious as it will be. For those who copped out, don’t complain. It’s your own fault. And the only thing to be said about that is that we who will suffer for your dereliction hope you have learned a lesson for future reference.

I certainly don’t disagree with the fundamental premise that Democrats deserved what they got in the 2016 election. Nor do I believe the party will undergo the painful fundamental change required for it to prevail in the future. The need for fundamental change has been around for decades but the entrenched interests have successfully resisted it because they benefit from the party’s closed shop.

The scuttlebutt ran rampant. When Hillary Clinton won the presidency, she was going to appoint Congressman Richie Neal as Ireland’s ambassador and State Senator Eric Lesser was gearing up to run for Richie’s seat, which explains Lesser’s exaggerated news profile over the last two years. Well, Richie is not going to Ireland and let’s hope Lesser settles down and begins to act like a freshman senator. It’ll be good for his future.

I’ve seen investigative journalism but the Republican’s Stephanie Barry has brought the genre to a new level in her articles on Springfield’s Bigda affair, a fact that is further driven home by her article on Wednesday (November 23 2016). If there ever was a case for a police commission, her article made it. The bungling and deception and outright lies that surround the case are second only to the finger pointing. One thing is clear; City Attorney Ed Pikula should resign. He has gone from being a fine professional years ago to being an awful representative of the legal profession. And Commissioner Barbieri should follow Pikula out the door.

Testifying at Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s dialogue on race, Dr. Monica O’Neal, a clinical psychologist, rose from the audience to address its organizers who expressed a desire “for conversations without anger or defensiveness.” Dr. O’Neal expressed a vital truth that seems to elude so many who want to “have their cake and eat it too” on racial dialogue when she said, “Talking about race without hostility “feels a bit like limiting the truth of what needs to be heard.”

The irony of the passage of the new marijuana law is that marijuana will be marketed by folks with money who have had no part in developing the demand for it or the channels of supply, which have been developed at the high risk of incarceration by little folks in poor neighborhoods trying to make an “honest” living. I’m not talking about the large cartels that produce marijuana but about the many street corner sales folks, many of whom have no other source of income, who market directly to the consumer through finely developed local networks. Too bad the law did not build in terms that give these entrepreneurs a shot at a share of the profits. If we don’t retool these folks for another source of income, they will probably drift to selling much harder drugs of the kind that are fueling the opiod crisis.

President Barack Obama has commuted sentences for well over 1000 men and women, more than all of the last 11 presidents combined. And he has recently sped up the process which is focused on releasing people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. As we know, Black and Brown people have been fed into a growing prison system to support our nation’s prison industrial complex, which has taken on an institutional life of its own driven by the private prison industry that White nonviolent drug offenders easily avoid. It’s a feather in Obama’s cap but I wish he had acted sooner and I hope he picks up the pace between now and the time he leaves office.

State Senator Eric Lesser is filing a resolution with our state Senate for a vote to eliminate the Electoral College in response to Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump even though she received more than two million votes more than Trump. If passed, the resolution would be nonbinding but it would at least be a small step toward a national movement for a Constitutional Amendment to eliminate the Electoral College which has deprived Democrats of victory in two elections since 2000.

The headline tagged on as an editorial in “The Republican” asserted that “America’s Elections Serve as Term limits” after which the author(s) made a spirited defense for leaving the system as it is by citing the Constitutional requirements for office lengths for elected federal officials. I thought it was interesting that the editorial made no mention of the barrels of big dollars used to regularly re-elect officials in a manner that defeats the will of the average voter. Just read “Dark Money” by Jane Mayer. The author reveals in intimate detail how the richest people in America have combined their money to successfully influence the outcomes of elections all over America. If not term limits through a Constitutional Amendment, at least let’s push for a repeal of Citizens United.

Where do these crazy racists come up with this stuff? The mayor of Clay W.V. and a county employee exchanged Facebook posts expressing relief that the White House, post-election, would finally be rid of Michelle Obama who they referred to as “An ape in heels.” Michelle Obama is one of the most sophisticated, intelligent, gentle and tough ladies who has ever occupied the White House. And she and her equally sophisticated husband enjoy some of the highest popularity ratings of most recent presidents in their lame duck year. The good news is that both of the perpetrators were forced to resign.

The one thing one must say about the retiring State Representative Benjamin Swan is that he is an honorable man who never abandoned his principles before and after his election to the statehouse. He is stepping down after 22 years of service and City Councilor Bud Williams was elected to replace him. Farewell Ben. Well done. Well done.

The question on many local minds is will Bud Williams step down as Springfield City Councilor when he is sworn in as State Representative of the 11th Hampden District or will he stay on the City Council and serve on both bodies simultaneously for the one year that remains on his Council seat. By law, he can serve on both. If he does, he will face a longstanding local media bias against elected officials holding two offices at the same time. Nonetheless, some argue that retaining his City Council seat is better than the alternative. It is an argument with substantial merit.

If you believe that the Trump family is not going to cash in on his presidency, then you probably believe in Santa Claus. ■

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