Rev. Jesse Jackson

Trump Is Turning His Back on Having a Future with Cuba

In his perverse fixation on overturning all things Barack Obama, President Donald Trump now turns his attention to Cuba, the island located 90 miles off our shore. Reports are that the president plans to travel to Florida to announce that he will reverse Obama’s opening to Cuba, reinstate restrictions on the right of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba and curtail business opportunities that Obama had opened up by executive order.

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Guns, Drugs and Police Violence: Obama Should Address What Ails Chicago in State of the Union

On Saturday, family and friends gathered to mourn the loss of Hadiya Pendleton, shot to death last month at age 15 in a South Side park. Michelle Obama graced the memorial with her caring presence, a mother comforting a brokenhearted family for the unbearable horror that took place about a mile from the Obama home in Kenwood. The first lady’s presence brought dignity, stature and the reassurance of concern and compassion from the highest level of government.

Now, the White House will give national attention to the violence that is scarring Chicago. Hidaya’s parents, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel A. Pendleton, will attend the State of the Union address on Tuesday. On Friday, President Obama will come to Chicago to speak on the city’s agony.

Chicago suffered 506 homicides last year — and another 46 this year alone. Nearly half of the 2,389 homicide victims from 2008 and 2012 were of those under age 25.

President Obama, who has organized, taught and represented this city, knows the situation well. He knows the guns are not made here. He knows Chicago’s tough gun laws are undermined by lax enforcement and lower standards outside the city. He knows that as the guns and drugs are flowing in, the jobs are flowing out.

He can use this occasion to speak to the crisis engulfing Chicago and other cities. Too many children are born into grinding poverty and constant insecurity. Too many have parents who are absent without leave, providing neither the discipline nor the stability so vitally needed at home. Too many children are sent to underfunded schools and overcrowded classrooms. Jobs are scarce, and generally pay little with few benefits. Guns and drugs are readily available for those whose hopes are crushed.

Accompanying the violence is a sundering of trust. Arrests were made in only one-fourth of Chicago’s murders last year.

A “no snitch” rule protects the violent. Police misconduct leaves communities wary.

Last year, the police shot and injured 50 people, an average of nearly one per week. More than 90 percent were African-American or Latino. Taser use has more than tripled during the past three years, and once more, in cases where race is identified, more than nine of 10 victims are African-American or Latino.

These zones of pain need a plan for reconstruction. White House aides have indicated that the president’s State of the Union address will focus on jobs and the economy, on the challenge of making this economy work for the many and not just the few.

Central to this strategy must be a plan for reviving our cities. Strong laws and enforcement on gun violence — banning the sale of military style assault weapons, ending the loopholes in background checks — are essential. Ensuring that every child has the opportunity to learn — from infant nutrition to universal pre-school to world-class schools and affordable college — can revive hope.

The first step must be to put people, particularly the young, to work. Work provides structure, discipline and dignity. The president faces a Congress fixated on cutting spending rather than on fixing the economy. But he can use this moment to challenge the Congress and the American people. We must invest in our children, and in schools and college and jobs — or we will pay far more in crime and violence and jails.

Unlike previous presidents, Obama knows this from experience. No one is better able to define the challenge and summon Americans to meet it. In Chicago on Friday, he will have a big spotlight for a call to action.

We Must Establish a Constitutional Right to Health Care

Today's economic crisis, and the federal government's response, is like putting a finger in the dike to avert a major catastrophe -- possibly even a depression.

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Senators Should Object to Ohio Vote

This Thursday in Washington Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the senior minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, will formally object to the counting of the Ohio electoral vote in the 2004 presidential election. If any senator joins him, the counting of the vote is suspended and the House and the Senate must convene separately to hear the objections filed, and to vote on whether to accept them.

The grounds for the objections are clear: The irregularities in the Ohio vote and vote count are widespread and blatant. If the Ohio election were held in the Ukraine, it would not have been certified by the international community.

In Ohio, the gulf between exit polls and counted votes is vast and glaring. Blatant discrimination in the distribution of voting machines ensured long lines in inner-city and working-class precincts that favored John Kerry, while the exurban districts that favored President Bush had no similar problems.

Systematic efforts were made to suppress and challenge the new voters in Kerry precincts, whether students or African Americans. Some precincts were certified with more votes than the number registered; others were certified with preposterously low turnouts. Voting machines, produced by a company headed by a vowed Bush supporter, provide no paper record. Ohio's secretary of state, the inappropriately partisan head of the state's Bush campaign, has resisted any systematic recount of the ballots.

The systematic bias and potential for fraud is unmistakable. An in-depth investigation is vital – and the partisan secretary of state has opposed it every step of the way. In this context, Conyers and his colleagues in the House are serving the nation's best interests in demanding an investigation of the irregularities in Ohio, and objecting to business as usual in counting the vote.

If Harry Reid, the new leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate, has any sense, he will lead members of the caucus to support their colleagues from the House and demand a debate that will expose the irregularities in Ohio. If Kerry wants to establish his continued leadership, he will stand first to join with Conyers and demand a debate.

Will the debate overturn the outcome of the election? That is doubtful, although the irregularities in Ohio suggest that Kerry may well have won if a true count could be had. But the debate is vital anyway. This country's elections, each run with different standards by different states, with partisan tricks, racial bias, and too often widespread incompetence, are an open scandal.

We need national standards to ensure that we get an honest count across the country. National standards, accompanied by a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote for all Americans, will be passed only if leaders in the Congress refuse to close their eyes to the scandal, and instead stop business as usual.

Conyers, Reid and Kerry will face harsh criticism for violating what might be called the Nixon precedent. When Kennedy beat Nixon by a few thousand votes in an election marked by irregularities in Illinois and Texas, Nixon chose not to challenge the result. Gore essentially followed that rule after the gang of five in the Supreme Court disgraced themselves by stopping the vote count in Florida. But the effect of the Nixon precedent is to provide those who would cheat with essentially a free pass. Particularly when the state officials are partisans, they can put in the fix with little fear of exposure so long as they win.

So Conyers will step up, accompanied by other courageous members of the House. They will object to the count and demand a debate. To force that debate, they need only one member of the Senate to join them. Reid should lead the entire caucus to join them. Kerry should stand alone if necessary to demand clean elections in America.

If America is to be a champion of democracy abroad, it must clean up its elections at home. If it is to complain of fraudulent and dishonest election practices abroad, it cannot condone them at home. But more important, if our own elections are to be legitimate, then they must be honest, open, with high national standards.

The time has come to stand up for clean elections, and to let it be known that massive irregularities will not go unchallenged.

This piece originally appeared in the Sun Times.

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