South Africa

Civil Liberties And The Presidency: From John Adams To Barack Obama

When it comes to the issue of the Presidency and the Bill of Rights, many Presidents have scored at an alarmingly low rate, often despite many other virtues that these Presidents have possessed.

John Adams set a terrible standard when he signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.

Andrew Jackson forcibly decreed the removal of five Native American tribes (The Trail Of Tears) from their ancestral lands and relocation in Oklahoma, supposedly forever, but with the discovery of oil in Tulsa, the territory was opened to whites in 1889, and reservation life became the norm.

John Tyler, through negotiation to add Texas to the Union, and accepting its institution of slavery, helped to create the slavery expansion issue as one which would divide the nation and lead to Civil War, and Tyler was part of the Confederate government and gave up his American citizenship.

James K. Polk further promoted the expansion of slavery through war with Mexico, and had no issue with slavery anywhere and everywhere.

Millard Fillmore, signing the Compromise of 1850, allowed the South to pursue fugitive slaves in the North.

Franklin Pierce, signing the Kansas Nebraska Act in 1854, made the expansion of slavery develop into the Kansas Civil War, which led to the Civil War.

James Buchanan endorsed the Dred Scott Decision, which allowed expansion of slavery everywhere in the nation, if a slave owner chose to move to the North with his slaves.

Abraham Lincoln suppressed press freedom; allowed preventive detention; and imposed a military draft that one could escape only by paying a fee that only wealthy people could afford.

Andrew Johnson wanted to restrict the rights of African Americans after the Civil War, and was an open racist, much more than anyone.

Grover Cleveland promoted the reservation life and adaptation to white culture for Native Americans through his signing of the Dawes Act in 1887.

Theodore Roosevelt spoke and wrote often about superior and inferior races, seeing only intellectual accomplishment and military strength as the basis to admire individuals of other races, but believing in white supremacy and the “Anglo Saxon” race.

Woodrow Wilson backed restrictions on citizens during World War I, and presided over the Red Scare under Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer after the war, as well as showing racist tendencies toward African Americans and Japan. He signed the Sedition Act of 1918, and issued an executive order segregating African Americans in Washington, DC.

Franklin D. Roosevelt interned Japanese Americans under executive order during World War II, and did little to deal with the racial problem in the South.

Richard Nixon arranged for bugging and wiretapping of his “enemies”; arranged break ins and “dirty tricks”; and became engaged in obstruction of justice and abuse of power, leading to moves toward impeachment and his eventual resignation from the Presidency, due to the Watergate Scandal.

Ronald Reagan cut back on civil rights enforcement, and showed insensitivity on the issue of apartheid in South Africa.

George W. Bush pushed through the Patriot Act, and the government engaged in constant civil liberties violations as part of the War on Terror.

Barack Obama also promoted violations of civil liberties, as part of the continued threat of international terrorism.

So 17 Presidents, at the least, have undermined our civil liberties and civil rights, often overlapping.

Ronald Reagan: The Unvarnished Truth! Myth Versus Reality!

Ronald Reagan is treated as a saint by the conservative movement and the Republican Party, as a man and a President who could do no wrong, but the truth is otherwise.

Of course, no President and no human being is perfect, and all commit mistakes or show lack of sensitivity, but the point is that the 40th President’s image and historical record needs to come down to earth, on this, the 104th anniversary of his birth, and a quarter century after his leaving office.

So what should Americans and others know about Ronald Reagan, that is not general knowledge?

As California Governor and as President, the issue of mental illness was dealt with by cutting spending, and throwing mental patients onto the streets of America, creating a great increase in homeless population.

As head of the Screen Actors Guild in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Reagan cooperated with the House Unamerican Activities Committee investigation of Communists; worked with Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare; and was an FBI informant for J. Edgar Hoover, all to protect his own image and security as he had been a strong liberal Democrat, and supporter of the New Deal.

Reagan sold illegal arms to Iran, what became known as the Iran-Contra Scandal, as he worked to overthrow the government of Nicaragua, despite Congressional admonitions banning such activities.

Reagan backed the apartheid government of South Africa, despite its horrific violation of human rights, and vetoed a sanctions law, which was passed over his veto in 1986.

Reagan’s Presidency saw the greatest amount of scandals of all sizes, only surpassed by the administrations of Richard Nixon, Ulysses S. Grant, and Warren G. Harding in overall malfeasance.

Reagan’s record on the environment is regarded by scholars as the absolute worst of all Presidents since 1900, and a big letdown after Jimmy Carter, who had one of the top three performances on that issue in American history.

Reagan ignored the AIDS crisis until 1987, and ridiculed the “gay plague”, only taking any interest when young hemophiliac Ryan White, and actor Rock Hudson, were revealed to have the disease in 1985.

Reagan supported backing the groups which fought Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, including such future terrorists as Osama Bin Laden; and also gave support to Saddam Hussein of Iraq in war with Iran, while still supplying arms to Iran.

The high ethical and moral standard said to be part of Reagan’s persona has now been revealed to be inappropriate, as he has been shown to have cheated on his first wife, Jane Wyman, and to have had affairs with dozens of actresses, including Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Doris Day, among many others.

For a man who professed “family values”, Reagan and his wife Nancy ignored their children, Patti and Ron, Jr; and hardly saw their grandchild from Reagan stepson Michael; and hardly ever attended church services, although flirting with the Christian Coalition and Moral Majority of the Reverend Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

So the truth about Ronald Reagan is far from the myth that has been promoted!

Presidents And Dictatorships: Double Standard Of Critics Of Obama Change Of Cuban Policy

Presidents of the United States deal with reality, not what they might wish was so.

America has had diplomatic relations with all sorts of terrible people who govern the world’s nations over time.

Latin American dictatorships, including those of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba; Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic; the Duvalier dynasty, father and son, in Haiti; Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua; and military dictatorships in all of the South American nations at different times, have been accepted by American Presidents.

Our Presidents have dealt with Asian dictatorships, including China beginning with Richard Nixon; and with Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Vietnam, South Korea for decades, Laos, Cambodia, Afghanistan and the former Soviet Republics, now independent, but almost all of them dictatorships.

We have dealt with the Arab nations of the Middle East and with Iran under the Shah, despite their harsh dictatorships.

We have had dealings with African dictatorships of all stripes, including South Africa under Apartheid; and the brutal governments of much of the continent.

Somehow, Cuba has been seen differently, when the governments of many of the world’s nations has been far worse in their oppression than Fidel and Raul Castro.

This is not saying that Fidel and Raul Castro cannot, rightfully, be condemned for their human rights violations, but if human rights was the guide, we would not have any diplomatic relations or trade with 80 percent of the world!

When Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and the two Presidents Bush have embraced, and even endorsed, dictators, it was always seen as no big deal, but when Barack Obama opens up to Cuba after 54 years, it is perceived as a crime of massive proportions, while we willingly accepted the previous harsh dictatorship in Cuba of Batista and his henchmen!

Hypocrisy anyone?

Two Anniversaries: Queen Elizabeth II And Ronald Reagan!

Today marks the 62nd Anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne of Great Britain!

While the Queen has very little real power, she has had a great impact, and she has a good opportunity to surpass her great great grandmothe, Queen Victoria, as longest reigning British Monarch and, also, longest reigning female monarch if she can survive another 381 days to September 10, 2014, and at age 87 and in good health, that seems very likely!

It is also the 103rd birthday of the late President Ronald Reagan, who is loved by conservatives and Republicans, recognized as significant by all historians and political scientists, but grossly overrated by the right wing in America, which refuses to see how complex, and often, contradictory Reagan really was!

The right wing loves to point out that Reagan ended the Cold War, as if he did it all on his own.

They fail to accept that he was damaging on the environment; on civil rights; on human rights; on the tripling of the national debt; on the growing homelessness and poverty; on the beginning of the destruction of the middle class (which has continued for 30 years now); on the crisis of AIDS (which he refused to address for a long time and which was the center of humor at cabinet meetings in his first term); on his willingness to support apartheid in South Africa (leading to one of his rare defeats, when Congress overrode his veto of apartheid sanctions); of the numerous scandals of his Presidency (making him the fourth most scandalous President after Richard Nixon, Warren G. Harding, and Ulysses S. Grant, with the major one being the Iran-Contra Scandal); his willingness to lie consistently (as for example, his Welfare Queen myth, still used today by conservatives and Republicans); and numerous other faults and shortcomings.

We can honor both Queen Elizabeth II and Ronald Reagan today, but realize one did no harm, and the other did GREAT harm in so many ways, which will become more obvious, as the years go by, and further research is done!

Inspirational People Of 2013

In any year, there is so much to be discouraged about, so much to be shocked about, so much to be unhappy about, as we see so many examples of selfishness, greed, hatred, and prejudice in the world, not just the United States.

The concept of fairness, compassion, justice, equality, freedom is always being fought against those individuals and forces that would deny all of these basic principles of human advancement.

So on Christmas Day, it is an appropriate time to point out who has inspired liberals and progressives in the year 2013. In no special order, they include the following:

The late South African President Nelson Mandela
Pope Francis, Vatican City
New York City Mayor-Elect Bill De Blasio
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy
Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
Delaware Senator Chris Coons
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley
MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow
MNBC talk show host Lawrence O’Donnell

There are others who could make this list, but this is an even dozen, a great start to a list of principled, and inspiring, people who have changed our lives in a positive fashion!

The Barack Obama–Raul Castro Handshake: Much Ado Over Nothing!

While at the Nelson Mandela commemoration in South Africa, Barack Obama had an opportunity to meet dozens of world leaders, some of them from democracies, and some from dictatorships.

Unfortunately, dictatorships are much more common historically and in contemporary times, than are democracies.

Richard Nixon went to China and met Mao Tse Tung.

Dwight D. Eisenhower met Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at Camp David, and John F. Kennedy met Khrushchev in Vienna.

Ronald Reagan met Afghan freedom fighters, who later became involved in promoting terrorism, including September 11.

John McCain met Moammar Gaddafi of Libya, and shook his hand.

Donald Rumsfeld met Saddam Hussein of Iraq as a emissary from Ronald Reagan.

Also, many Presidents have bowed to royal leaders, including George W. Bush with the King of Saudi Arabia, and many Presidents with the Emperor of Japan and the Queen of England.

Never was such a big deal made of these handshakes or discussions, and even summits, until suddenly, Barack Obama became President!

When he met Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, it was the worst crime of the century to the right wing whackos!

Now, Obama shook the hand of Raul Castro, who has made it clear that he is leaving power in 2018, when he will be 87, and his brother Fidel Castro, will be 92, if either is still alive.

There will be a successor government in Cuba within a few years, and there is always the chance that Cuba could undergo change and reform, and in fact, already has developed capitalism and private property, as China, for instance, has done.

Has our government, under Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, refused to deal with “evil” governments? NO in the modern era, and we are talking with Iran and North Korea at times, so why not Cuba?

After 55 years, has the embargo on Cuba changed anything in that island nation? NO, as it unites the government with its population, who are the true victims of the American blockade!

Do we blockade trade and contact with other nations of much greater importance? The answer is NO, but apparently, we must cater to three million Cuban Americans, and their leadership in the Republican Party, when it benefits no one, and is a failed policy!

It is time for rapprochement with Cuba, so that we can have an effect on its future. This is the time to start such development of relations, and forget the lobbying of right wing groups and Marco Rubio, who have no interest in planning for the future without a Castro in power!

Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela, And South Africa

The push is on to promote an image of Ronald Reagan on South Africa that is false, that he was a supporter of freedom in South Africa, but could not do so because of the Cold War with the Soviet Union,

While it is true that Reagan worried about the African National Congress being linked to Communism in the 1970s and 1980s, the fact is that the US Congress, including a large number of Republicans, overcame a presidential veto of legislation to put sanctions on South Africa in 1986,

Who was on Reagan’s side? People like North Carolina Republican Senator Jesse Helms, one of the most outrageous racists ever to walk the halls of Congress, and ironically, hailed earlier this year by Texas Senator Ted Cruz as someone he admired, and wished there could be 100 Jesse Helmses in the US Senate today!

Also, one must recall that Reagan did not promote “human rights” in countries that Jimmy Carter had condemned, and withheld foreign aid from during his Presidency, nations such as the Philippines and Haiti, and only after “peoples” revolutions in those nations in the same year as the override of the presidential veto on South African sanctions, 1986, did Reagan suddenly become an advocate of human rights.

And one must remember that Reagan worked to undermine the civil rights laws in the 1980s, including opposition to affirmative action, and had never been an open advocate of those laws when they were passed.

So while no one is calling Ronald Reagan a racist, least of all the author, his lack of sensitivity on the outrage of apartheid in South Africa, still stand out as reprehensible!

And the greatest example of how the Reagan view has been repudiated is the fact that three former Presidents–Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush—and President Barack Obama, are all going to the funeral of Nelson Mandela next week, a tribute to the greatness of this man considered by many 30 years ago as a “terrorist”, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who himself could be considered a war criminal by many for the waging of the war in Iraq on false pretenses.

Dick Cheney is no model to follow, any more than Jesse Helms!

If this is said to be representative of the conservative movement in America, then they have made their own downfall as a serious alternative to what matters most, human rights and dignity!

Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter And Human Rights Vs Ronald Reagan

President Lyndon Johnson overcame his Southern past to promote the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through Congress, because he knew it was the right thing to do in his time!

President Jimmy Carter took a strong stand on human rights in Haiti, the Philippines, South Africa and elsewhere when he was President, because he knew it was the right thing to do in his time!

On the other hand, Ronald Reagan did everything to work against advancement of civil rights in America and human rights overseas in his time, refusing to condemn the governments of Haiti, the Philippines, and South Africa!

Only when Haiti and the Philippines overthrew their governments in 1986 in revolution, did Reagan, belatedly, endorse the changes and say he was for human rights in those nations, only five years late, and only when the deed was done to overthrow both dictatorships!

And when Reagan had a chance to condemn apartheid in South Africa, he threatened to, and finally did veto, a resolution passed in Congress to start sanctions against that racist regime. The Congress went ahead and overrode the veto, the first time in the 20th century that Congress had overridden a President on a foreign policy matter, with many Republicans joining Democrats in overriding the veto. This is so well depicted in the fantastic film, THE BUTLER, one of the best films in many years to come from Hollywood about history and politics!

In the film, the actor portraying Reagan shows insensitivity to the main character, black actor Forest Whitaker, on this issue, but then asks, is he possibly wrong in his decision to veto? Forrest Whittaker does not answer, but the resounding answer is YES!

So despite the adulation of Ronald Reagan on the far RIGHT of the Republican Party and the conservative movement, Reagan is correctly depicted as NOT being an advocate of civil rights and human rights, and did not have the courage and foresight of Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter, who were principled men for good, unlike our 40th President!

If Only: Jimmy Carter Had Been President For Second Term! How Would America Be Different?

As we celebrate Barack Obama’s second term victory, and as we thank Bill Clinton for his super efforts for Obama, crucial to Obama’s victory, we can have a wistful moment and wonder:

How would America be different if Jimmy Carter had won a second term as President in 1980?

Ronald Reagan would never have been President, just be seen as a mediocre, second rate actor on Death Valley Days and the General Electric Theater on television, and a few good movies in Hollywood, and a mixed record as two term Governor of California. We would not have him being seen as an icon, a god like figure, totally misrepresented by those who adore him!

We would not have George H. W. Bush as Vice President for eight years, and then be the successor in office after Reagan left.

We would not have had George W. Bush as President, and we would not be speculating about Jeb Bush as possibly a candidate for the 2016 Presidential Election.

We would have had a much more responsive, sympathetic reaction to the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, and would have saved many lives in the process.

We would not have had a tripling of the national debt, as Carter was very tight fiscally, and added very little to the national debt.

We would have had a President who would have continued his great environmental work into a second term.

We would not have allowed the rich to get richer, and the poor to get poorer, and the maldistribution of wealth to accelerate, and then again occur again under George W. Bush.

We would not have seen the decline of labor unions, caused by Ronald Reagan being our President.

We would have had Vice President Walter Mondale having a much better opportunity to be our President in 1984, a continuation of the tradition and principles of Hubert Humphrey and Minnesota progressivism.

The Iran hostage seizure crisis would have been resolved sooner with Carter having defeated Reagan in November 1980.

The early 1980s would have seen further promotion of human rights, a policy backtracked by Ronald Reagan.

There would have been no friendship with Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and no backing of the South African Apartheid regime.

These are just 12 ways life would have been different if Jimmy Carter had been reelected in 1980. And Carter would not have been constantly attacked and ridiculed as a failed President if he had served a second term.

Oh well……