December 23, 2006

As we entered 2006, there were a number of issues on my mind -- as I'm sure there were for everyone -- and I was attempting to get a sense of what the future would bring. So there were some predictions running around my head. Some of these were publicly proclaimed, others were private. Here's a limited review.

First, and most personally, I predicted I would win the Democratic Primary in Brooklyn's 11th Congressional District. I was wrong. I predicted that David Yassky would not win that election. I was correct. (Maybe one day I'll share my thoughts on this contest in detail; at the moment, however, there's still a burning sensation ...) I do wish Yvette Clarke the best as she starts her Congressional career.

I predicted that the Congressional Black Caucus in the 110th Congress would have no more members than it had in the 109th Congress. I was correct. Brooklyn's 11th District did remain a CBC district. In Tennessee, however, a "progressive" white candidate split the vote amongst many Black candidates in the House district formerly represented by African American Harold Ford, Jr. Fortunately, in Minnesota of all places, an African American candidate was victorious in the battle for a seat formerly represented by a Republican. And, to make life even more interesting, Keith Ellison, the winner, is the first member of Congress (either house) to practice Islam. Needless to say, Ellison has received alot of attention recently -- particularly from bigots.

On the Senate side of the CBC, there was hope that Illinois Senator Barack Obama would be joined by as many as two new African American colleagues. Kweisi Mfume (Democrat) and Michael Steele (Republican), both African Americans, each lost to Rep. Ben Cardin in Maryland. It was notable that Steele was thoroughly rejected by Black voters in that state during the General Election. And, again in Tennessee, Harold Ford, Jr., easily won his Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate, but lost a squeaker of a general election. To Ford's credit, his moderate to conservative policy approach and personal charisma enabled him to overcome some of the racism involved with a statewide electoral contest in a Southern state. (Progressives in the House of Representatives were happy to see Ford depart from Washington, however.)

So there are still 43 members of the CBC -- only one of whom is a U.S. Senator. I focus on this because the 42 CBC House members make up less than 10% of the 435 Representatives ... and African Americans constitute more than 10% of the U.S. population. And, of course, African Americans only represent 1% of the U.S. Senate membership. This inequity and disempowerment can only be countered through sensible and serious campaign finance reform for federal elections -- and less racism in our media and our daily lives.

I predicted that the situation in Iraq would worsen dramatically. Unfortunately, I was right. As we experience this holiday season and approach a new year, the loss of life on all sides saddens and depresses me. Deserving of our prayers and praise are our brave and dedicated Americans putting their lives on the line in both Iraq and Afghanistan -- as well as throughout the rest of the world. And the catastrophe currently experienced by Iraqis also deserves our attention and creativity as we pursue peaceful options.

I predicted that Iraq would undermine the Republican Party's ability to act politically. Fortunately, I was correct. I predicted that that Democrats would retake control of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Fortunately, voters were very cooperative in fulfilling this one -- however slim the Senate majority for Democrats may be. (I had no idea that stem cell research would become as much of a political flashpoint as it did during this election cycle. But I'm glad it did because the Missouri Senate race may have turned on it.)

I predicted that the demographic changes within Iran would have more of an effect on Iranian political posturing than anything the U.S. can do and that the U.S. would have to deal with Iran in a more direct manner. This has been proven true despite the fact that the Iranian President is a demagogic, anti-Semitic whacko. The U.S. and Europe cannot stop Iran from generating "peaceful" nuclear capabilities. An extreme hardline, however, means that the U.S. and Europe can actually increase the likelihood that Iran will expand to military capabilities.

I made no predictions regarding North Korea, though I was not surprised by the report of a nuclear test, and I did not know what to expect in the Darfur region. I had no special insights regarding police brutality; I always expect a problem with the NYPD and they never fail to meet my expectations. Most of you read my thoughts on the Sean Bell case in my last post so I won't rehash it all here.

In September, 2005, I predicted that New Orleans would never again by the center of the Louisiana Democratic Party as African Americans were displaced and unlikely to return in large numbers. Nothing happened in 2006 to convince me otherwise, unfortunately. I expected William Jefferson to retain his seat in Congress, unless he was indicted. He wasn't and he retained his seat. I expected Mayor Ray Nagin to win re-election in New Orleans -- though I am still unsure of how I really feel about him. Speaking of Mayors ...

I predicted that the less rosy truth regarding the Bloomberg educational experimentation would start to reveal itself -- and it has. Outrageously low high school graduation rates across the board -- and particularly for African American children -- are highlighting weaknesses in the grand plan. It is incumbent upon the activist community to ensure that Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer fights to ensure equitable distribution of education funds AND, since education is an area governed by state law, that there is aggressive oversight of the Bloomberg administration and Chancellor Klein.

Most unfortunate was my prediction that the disastrous Alantic Yards project here in Brooklyn would receive required government sign-offs. I won't predict the outcome of the legal cases that are pending in this matter, but I am confident that the plaintiffs will make a first-rate effort. Below are lyrics roasting New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, sung to "Silver Bells" and provided by brilliant and committed activists. Mr. Silver had the power to slow down approval for Atlantic Yards this past week and chose not to exercise it. Silver had allegedly expressed concern regarding the impact of this project on New York State's finances. It is rumoured that his concerns were addressed. Too bad the public still has no clue regarding the real finances or financing of this project. In New York State, this is what democracy looks like ...

Skeptic Sheldon, spoiler Sheldon / feigned concern for awhile.
We all thought that he'd cover our assets
Bucks are passing ... traffic's massing ... / backed up mile after mile.
And from every blog pundit you'll hear...

Silver bails! Silver bails! It's rip-off time in the city!
Ching-ka-ching! Feel it sting! Revenue floating away.

Pretty pages ... reams of pages / sent by KPMG
filled with data -- but no information.
No numbers crunched ... just a big bunch / of stuff Bruce gets for free.
And above this boondoggle you will hear...

Silver bails! Silver bails! It's rip-off time in the city!
Ching-ka-ching! Feel it sting! Oversight is so passe!
Revenue floating away.
Oversight is so passe!
Revenue floating ... a-way.

On behalf of my entire family, I hope that those of you who celebrate Hannukah enjoyed a good one, and that those of you who celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa have a wonderful and safe holiday as well!

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