Sala Udin at his Pittsburgh home.
By Tracie Mauriello
Post-Gazette Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Sala Udin was stopped for speeding as he drove from a rally in Mississippi to drop off a carload of fellow Freedom Riders in Cleveland before heading home to Pittsburgh. Police who stopped him in Kentucky that day in 1970 searched his car, found an unloaded shotgun and a jug of Mississippi moonshine, and hauled him off to jail.
In 1972, he was sent to federal prison for seven months, with the shadow of his conviction hanging over him for the next 44 years.
On Monday, President Barack Obama pardoned the civil rights activist and 77 other people across the country. The president also issued 153 commutations to people sentenced for a variety of crimes, most involving manufacturing, selling or possessing drugs.
That brings the president’s total clemency actions to 1,324 — more than any predecessor since Lyndon B. Johnson.
Mr. Obama’s pardons and commutations “exemplify his belief that America is a nation of second chances,” said Neil Eggleston, counsel to the president. “While each clemency recipient’s story is unique, the common thread of rehabilitation underlies them all.”
A presidential pardon grants absolution as if a crime had never occurred.
“It’s a second chance, and I think — for most crimes — people deserve a second chance. Some of them would mess up again, but most of them would take full advantage of a second chance,” Mr. Udin said.
Continue reading Pittsburgh’s Sala Udin Gets Presidential Pardon, 44 Years Later
Barbara Lee, PDA and the Congressional Progressive Caucus Took the Initiative
By: Joe Gould
Oct 13, 2016 – WASHINGTON — Twenty-two more US House lawmakers are calling on President Barack Obama to adopt a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, part of a tide of Democratic lawmakers pushing for restraint on atomic arms as the sun sets on the current administration.
With relations between Washington and Moscow historically tense and unpredictable this week, the lawmakers in a letter to Obama on Thursday expressed worry over the two nations’ launch-under-attack postures and “the risk of catastrophic miscalculation and full-scale nuclear war.”
“As you know, were the United States to exercise its contingency plans to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict against a nuclear-armed adversary, a full-scale nuclear exchange could ensue, killing thousands of civilians,” the letter reads. “For the security and safety of the world, military options that can spiral towards mutually assured destruction should not be on the table.”
Thursday’s letter was led by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., the Peace and Security Task Force chair for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Another signatory was Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. Ellison is the caucus’ co-chair and his party’s chief deputy whip in the House.
A no-first-use policy would minimize the need for "first strike” weapons, they argue in the letter, including the next-generation nuclear-armed cruise missile and intercontinental ballistic missiles, "which could generate significant cost savings and lead other nuclear-armed states to make similar calculations."
Continue reading 22 US House Democrats Press Obama to Adopt ‘No-First-Use’ Nuclear Weapons Policy
By Andrew Gripp
Beaver County Blue via IVN-US
August 4, 2014 – Since President Obama’s inauguration and Rick Santelli’s movement-making call to action that inspired the tea party, national politics has been a triangular affair, with the Republican “establishment” caught in the middle between an anti-incumbent reaction and a seemingly united Democratic front. This triangular dynamic guiding policymaking in the past few years — from the credit downgrade to the fiscal cliff to the government shutdown – has led to the exclusion of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party from having much of a say in legislative affairs.
Like the Republican Party, the Democratic Party is not without its own internal fissure – one that could widen and surface preceding the presidential primary process when the Democratic Party will have to reinvent itself in the waning months of the Obama era.
An ideological and organizational X-ray of the Democratic Party in Congress reveals a surprising split: there are approximately 20 members of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition in the legislature, while the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) boasts more than 60 members. With progressive and even nonpartisan outlets and pundits calling for progressive candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Governor Martin O’Malley (D-Md.) to run, progressives – much ignored in the fracas of the last several years — might begin to find venues to ventilate their ideas.
"The Better Off Budget promised to create 8.8 million jobs by 2017 — including 4.6 million after one year."
The CPC — founded in 1991 and currently led by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) — has been especially active since the 111th Congress took its collective seat in 2009 and has not been afraid to challenge the president during his politically-mandated drift rightward since taking office.
Continue reading Congressional Progressive Caucus Increasingly Vocal, Critical of Obama
Obama proposal sets aside more funds for Mon River, Olmsted lock projects
Overlooking the landside lock, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and barge industry executives walk atop the Charleroi Lock and Dam during a tour of the Locks and Dams 2, 3, and 4 of the lower Monongahela River in June 2012.
By Len Bolselovic
Beaver County Blue via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
March 4, 2014 – President Barack Obama’s proposed fiscal 2015 budget includes $9 million for continuing long-delayed work on a vital lock and dam project on the Monongahela River, more than four times the funding it received in the current fiscal year.
The White House budget proposal also includes $160 million for continuing construction at an Ohio River infrastructure project plagued by massive cost overruns. Paying for that project, located about 600 miles down the Ohio from Pittsburgh at Olmsted, Ill., has prevented the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from providing additional funding for the Mon River work and other projects.
The barge industry and the federal government evenly split the cost of major lock and dam construction projects overseen by the Corps. The industry’s share is generated by a tax barge operators pay on the diesel fuel they use.
But river industry officials have complained about covering cost overruns at Olmsted, where the price tag has ballooned from $775 million when Congress authorized the project in 1988 to $3.1 billion.
More than half of the 200-plus locks and associated dams overseen by the Corps were built more than 50 years ago, which is how long they were expected to last.
Continue reading A Few Green Jobs Coming Our Way? Push The Budget Through…
Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette: Protesters gather Friday on the corner of Bigelow Boulevard and Forbes Avenue in Oakland in disapproval of possible U.S. military action against Syria.
By Amy McConnell Schaarsmith
Beaver County Peace Links via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sept 7, 2013 – Weary of nearly two decades of intermittent wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, protesters met in Oakland on Friday to tell the Obama administration not to bomb Syria in retaliation for its apparent use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb last month.
Chanting slogans such as "more money for jobs, not for war!" and waving signs with slogans such as "Obushma" and "These Colors Don’t Run the World," the group of approximately 100 demonstrators organized by the Thomas Merton Center Antiwar Committee clogged the intersection of Forbes Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard and repeatedly crossed the streets in front of stopped vehicles.
Among them, Syrian native Elaine Khalil, 47, said the United States — and all the other countries trying to influence the outcome of the conflict between Syrian President Bashir Assad and the rebels trying to oust him — should stop meddling and let the Syrian people make their own peace.
"With [President Barack] Obama supporting this war, our fear is it would actually explode into World War III," Ms. Khalil said, citing the possibility that military strikes might incite retribution by other countries in the region. "If they would pull their hands out of it, the Syrian people would resolve their own problems."
Continue reading Obama Plan to Bomb Syria Protested in Pittsburgh
PDA urging Congressional Progressive Caucus to oppose US military attack on Syria, after Barbara Lee wins on debating the war policy.
By Cole Stangler
Beaver County Blue via In These Times
August 29, 2013 – Advocates of using U.S. military force against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have long made their case without success. But following a chemical weapons attack on civilians allegedly committed by Assad’s forces last week, the United States inched closer to military intervention.
On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry called the attack that left hundreds dead a “moral obscenity” and gave the strongest indication to date that the United States could be intervening militarily. As United Nations inspectors continue their investigations into last week’s attacks, President Obama says the United States has already “concluded” that the Assad regime is responsible.
Reports indicated that a U.S. attack on specific targets in Syria could take as place as soon as Thursday. But on Wednesday night, hours after delivering a speech to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, President Obama said in an interview that he had not yet come to a decision.
As the Obama administration mulls its course of action, opposition is slowly emerging in Congress, which is scheduled to be on summer recess until September 9. So far, nearly all of that opposition has focused not on the intervention itself, but on the executive branch’s lack of consultation with Congress.
Continue reading Will Congress Represent the Antiwar Majority and Block an Attack on Syria?
Activists are mobilizing around President Obama’s call to raise the minimum wage to $9.00, and polling shows that Americans across the political spectrum agree with such a policy.
But here’s an interesting fact about what the minimum wage could be instead. The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s John Dewitt looked at what the minimum wage would be if it simply rose with productivity — that is, if workers were actually paid for the increasing amount of output — since 1968, and found that it would be almost 3 times what it is now:
Since 1968, however, productivity growth has far outpaced the minimum wage. If the minimum wage had continued to move with average productivity after1968, it would have reached $21.72 per hour in 2012 – a rate well above the average production worker wage. If minimum-wage workers received only half of the productivity gains over the period, the federal minimum would be $15.34.
Even Obama’s modest plan to raise the minimum wage is expected to face intense opposition from Big Business and its lobbyists.
Malalai Joya pushes back against a decade of war, occupation and propaganda
By Jon Queally
Beaver County Peace Links via Common Dreams
Jan 10, 2013 – Malalai Joya has a simple message for US, NATO, and Afghan leaders: Get out.
‘Get out’ of her country, she tells those from the US and other western nations. And to the warlords, the Taliban, and the fundamentalists represented in the ruling government, she says ‘get out of the way’ of a peaceful and prosperous future for regular Afghans.
As Afghan President Hamid Karzai prepares to meet with Barack Obama on Friday and speculation swirls about the future US role as 2014 slowly approaches, one of Afghanistan’s leading peace advocates has a message that those in the US—increasingly cited for their war-weariness—rarely hear: Afghans themselves, caught between an occupying power and a corrupt government, are "fed up" with war, death and the destruction of their rights and aspirations.
"We are fed up with the so-called ‘helping hand’ of the US and NATO that is used to justify occupation," Joya said in an extensive interview with journalist Elsa Rassbach and published by Common Dreams Thursday.
Joya, who rose to international prominence as the youngest female member of the Afghan parliament in 2005, says the US-led war in Afghanistan—"waged under a fake banner of human rights and democracy"—has gone on far too long, and what most Afghans want is the complete withdrawal of US troops so that regular Afghans can reclaim their dignity and solve their own problems.
Responding to the Obama and Karzai meeting, Joya explained to Rassbach that agreements made in Washington between the two will do nothing to improve the lives of most Afghans.
Continue reading A Voice for Peace in Afghanistan: ‘Stop This Criminal War’
AP Poll: A Slight Majority of Americans Are Now Expressing Negative View Of Blacks
By Associated Press
October 27, 2012
WASHINGTON — Racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected its first black president, an Associated Press poll finds, as a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not.
Those views could cost President Barack Obama votes as he tries for re-election, the survey found, though the effects are mitigated by some people’s more favorable views of blacks.
Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008 whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racist attitudes, or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about that topic directly.
In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.
“As much as we’d hope the impact of race would decline over time … it appears the impact of anti-black sentiment on voting is about the same as it was four years ago,” said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor who worked with AP to develop the survey.
Continue reading White Racial Resentment: The Elephant in the Room