Category Archives: United States

President Obama Works to Strengthen U.S. Ties With Africa. Can Texas Benefit?

With a quiet confidence and an audience of of the world’s best and brightest, the Commander-in-Chief of the United States made history earlier this year in the bustling city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Barack Obama became the first sitting US President to address the African Union.  Here’s more from The Africa Report

US President Barack Obama advised African leaders to respect their constitutions and condemned those who refuse to step down when their terms end, in an historic address to the African Union, in Addis Ababa, on Tuesday.

Obama’s speech, the first by a sitting President of the United States at the AU, acknowledged progress Africa has made, ranging from a decline in HIV case to attracting increased foreign direct investment to the continent.

But he told the African Union that these gains rest “on a fragile foundation”.

“Africa’s progress will also depend on democracy, because Africans, like people everywhere, deserve the dignity of being in control of their own lives,” he said.

The remarks were the culmination of a landmark visit which also brought the President back to his father’s homeland of Kenya, and several meetings with leaders from across the continent.

His speech to the African Union may have leaned towards governance, but while in Kenya, Obama made some significant progress towards economic ties with the rapidly-rising nation and it’s neighboring economies.  As Jake Bright of Fortune magazine reports, new business opportunities are literally booming across the continent…

After a decade of rapid economic growth, a fast-rising African consumer class is expected to wield over $1 trillion in annual spending power by 2020. Foreign aid in Africa is being overshadowed by record increases in foreign direct investment, up 42% between 2008 and 2014, to $55 billion. Over the last two years, countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia have gained sovereign credit ratings and issued global government bonds now included in the portfolios of funds like PIMCO. And Africa’s stock markets are capitalizing and digitizing, as many of them partner with exchanges such as NASDAQ to adopt the latest trading platforms.

[…]

A major area attracting talent and U.S. investment is Africa’s emerging tech sector, which is most strongly associated with Kenya. The East African nation of 44 million has become the continent’s unofficial tech capital, dubbed “Silicon Savannah” for its advances inmobile money, tech incubators such as iHub, and local IT innovations such as the Ushahidi crowdsourcing platform and solar powered BRCK mobile Wi-Fi device that are finding applications in the U.S.

Kenya’s tech status has inspired a startup boom across the continent, led by many young African entrepreneurs with strong U.S. ties who are connecting ventures to American investment.

So what could all of these new inroads to the African continent mean for Texas metros like Houston?

Two words… trade missions.

As Houston Mayor Annise Parker has shown during her time in office, following Obama’s lead on international opportunities can have positive reverberations in the local economy.  The new economic ties with African nations can be utilized with all of the other important connections shared between the vast, diverse continent and the rapidly diversifying Lone Star State.  With its plethora of international flights, huge energy and medical research sectors, and established African immigrant communities, Houston seems a natural fit for these routes of growth.  But booming Tech sectors and an expanding need for digital expansion stands to benefit cities like Tech-savvy Austin as well.

Whether they agree with his politics or not, cities across Texas would be wise to follow this segment of Obama’s legacy.  It’s an important message for the next Mayor of Houston, and other state metros.

Let’s hope that state leaders see the growing potential that lies with the people of Africa.

 

Obama in Africa

(photo credit:  WhiteHouse.gov)

Jorge Ramos Shines Light on Immigration Issues

But first, two definitions….

Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power.

Civil discourse is engagement in discourse (conversation) intended to enhance understanding.

It’s important to understand these two terms… both the differences and similarities among them.  And the fact that sometimes, an encounter can have elements of both.

Such is the case for recent encounter between veteran bilingual journalist Jorge Ramos and 2016 Presidential hopeful Donald Trump.  Here’s a recap via Fusion TV…

For Mr. Trump and his accompanying echo chambers, Ramos’ actions were “absolutely out of line“.  Which I guess means we’re to assume that Trump’s full-scale Twitter attack against Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly is somehow acceptable and appropriate??

But let’s be clear about what happened.  Whether you consider Ramos’ actions to be more in the civil discourse camp, or the civil disobedience camp, that doesn’t change the fact that the reporter achieved his desired result.  In front of the national news media, he was successfully able to not only press Trump on Immigration, but also put the issue at the forefront of America’s political discussion once again.  He did so in the highest form of civil discourse… journalism.

The confrontation was similar to recent tactics employed by the Black Lives Matter movement and the DREAM Action Coalition. Individuals in these organizations may not be as well known as Ramos, but when given the opportunity, they have successfully brought their issues of concern to light, and in many cases, achieved important progress.

In November 2016 and the whole process leading up to it, Americans are being asked to make one of the most important decisions that we will ever make.  In the course of making that decision, all Americans have the right to question those seeking the office, and engage in civil discourse around issues that concern our lives.  Jorge Ramos was not out of line with Donald Trump… he was doing his job and representing the concerns of millions of Americans who want answers to those very questions.  Just as he has done with President Obama at many points in his Presidency, Speaker of the House John Boehner and even Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, Ramos continues to press Federal leaders on why they  have not yet achieved comprehensive Immigration Reform after years of promises to do so from both Democrats and Republicans.

After decades in the supposedly cut-throat world of big business, Mr. Trump sure seems to have difficulty with some of the most basic levels of civil discourse.  Jorge Ramos deserves high commendation for staying committed to the cause, and for being consistent with candidates of various political stripes.  The current Republican front-runner can say all he wants about the “temporary inconvenience” caused to his campaign.

But here’s a newsflash for Donald Trump… the truth ain’t always convenient.

Dos Centavos has more.

 

Jorge Ramos

Photo credit:  CNN Money

Houston Commemorates 10 years Post Hurricane Katrina

Even as the years pass and details fade, one moment in the history of the Gulf Coast sometimes seems crystal clear.  Ten years ago this week, the nation faced one of the most expensive natural disasters it has ever known.  On August 29th 2005, Hurricane Katrina first decimated towns on the Mississippi and Alabama coast, leaving hundreds dead and over 10,000 displaced.  That in itself was an alarming tragedy, but amazingly, the much larger urban area of New Orleans once again seemed to escape the worst effect of the storm.

Then the levees broke.

NOLAKatrina

The City of New Orleans, Lousiana during the Katrina flooding, 2005.  Photo credit:  WLU Academia.

What was already a devastating hurricane suddenly became a national nightmare.  The death toll multiplied, and the 10,000 refugees suddenly ballooned to over 250,000.

Many say that with every tragedy, there lies the opportunity for great leadership.  Such was the case for the City of Houston, and it’s Mayor at the time Bill White.  While others watched the events in horror, including many tasked to lead the Federal Government response, White and other Houston-area leaders stepped up to help our fellow Gulf Coast brethren in their time of need.

Just last week, the current Mayor of New Orleans came to Houston to mark this fact.  Here’s more on a very special press conference from Madlin Mekelburg of the Houston Chronicle

Standing alongside U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, former Houston Mayor Bill White and former Harris County Judge Robert Eckles, Landrieu said he was grateful for the widespread aid his city saw after the storm — particularly from Houston.

“When that flood receded, you see, another flood came in,” Landrieu said as the 10-year anniversary approaches. “That was the flood of good will that came from people all over the world … I can tell you this, we would not have survived without friends and neighbors like the people from Houston.” 

Throughout Hurricane Katrina’s onslaught  a decade ago, more than 1 million people evacuated the waterlogged coast, scrambling to find higher ground. Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama residents made their way to the northern reaches of their home states while others went farther and found lodging in Tennessee or Arkansas. Nearly 250,000 residents opted to travel west and ended up in Houston.

The city sprang into action as the diaspora pushed more evacuees westward. Houstonians and city officials worked to establish temporary shelters and find ways to provide food and health care to the evacuees. White said the money that was put forth to provide aid for the evacuees was nearly completely reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

Here’s a link to the full press conference, via HTV.

As reserved as Bill White was during the press conference, it’s pretty clear that he was the lead actor in an incredible response. While many at the Federal level sat on critical funds to help the city, White pioneered unique Houston solutions, first opening the Astrodome, the George R. Brown Convention Center, and several sites around town to house evacuees.  And then in just a few short weeks creating a bold Public-Private housing partnership, placing hundreds of thousands of people in temporary apartment housing.  A similar plan was done by Harris County under Judge Robert Eckles’ leadership.

The government leadership was very important, but even that  couldn’t have done what he did without the thousands of Houstonians that volunteered at shelter sites, donated money, food, clothing and shelter, or worked to rescue stranded persons across the region.  As extraordinary as Katrina was, it’s important to remember that the resilience of victims and those who assisted them was even greater.

As a brand new Houstonian in 2005, I was one of those who just showed up at the George R. Brown one night to see what could be done.  I ended up at a check-in table working to collect basic information on the displaced… asking if they were able to rescue any of their vital records (Driver License, birth certificate), and directing them to a place to sleep and shower.  I was one of hundreds of students from the University of Houston who dedicated several sleepless nights to help out at the GRB.  After that experience, I can say without fail that who I admire most were my fellow volunteers, and the incredible, proud and strong people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  As we celebrate those who helped them, let’s also remember the extraordinary effort it took for evacuees to rebuild their lives in Houston, back in New Orleans, or other places they settled across the nation.  It’s that inner strength that embodies the true American spirit, and we are thankful for all those that endured persevered and recovered.

HOU Katrina 10

L to R:  Bishop Robert Blake Jr., Former Harris County Judge Robert Eckles, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Former Houston Mayor Bill White.  Photo credit:  Mayor Mitch Landrieu via Twitter.  

Houston Dash, NWSL Players Make FAR Less Than Male Counterparts

Houston got to welcome some true sports champions home over the weekend, which is not something this city gets to claim in a regular fashion.

Fresh off of their astonishing win of the 2015 World Cup, blazing media and press victory tour, and even full-blown ticker- tape parade down New York City’s infamous Canyon of Heroes, Houston Dash players Meghan Klingenberg, Morgan Brian and Carli Lloyd rooted on their teammates to face the Chicago Red Stars.  And even with Chicago besting H-Town in Sunday’s game, it can still be counted as a “win” for the Dash, as they garnered record attendance at BBVA Compass Stadium.

But even as the whole nation celebrates a well-deserving championship team, the National Women’s Soccer League continues to endure blatant inequality.  While their male counterparts in the MLS (Major Leage Soccer) receive average salaries well in excess of 6 figures, NWSL players are lucky to earn a living wage, with some paid as little as $6,000/yr. Shocking as it seems, these numbers are not made up.  Women playing professional sports and doing every bit of the same work as men (let’s be honestmore work given that they likely have full-time jobs just to support their passion for the game, and other life needs) are literally being paid pennies on the dollar.  And need we be reminded that men’s soccer in the United States has yet to produce a World Cup championship team?

In terms of information specific to Houston, Texas Leftist could not locate published salary figures for the Dash at press time.  But as of 2013, here are the salaries for Houston Dynamo players.

After all of the focus during the Obama Presidency on equal pay for equal work, it almost doesn’t seem possible that this disparity could go unnoticed by the rapidly-growing community of US Soccer fans.  It may be true that players are doing what they do “for the love of the game” but their hard work deserves the same respect and financial security as the MLS.  So as we continue to celebrate an incredible victory for Team USA on the world stage, let’s be mindful of the battles that still need to be fought at home.

#DashOn #EqualPayForEqualWork

Houston Dash

 

 

(photo credit:  BBVA Compass Stadium)

The ABCs of the GOP: T is for TRUMP and friends

If you followed the blog closely during the height of our last Presidential race, you may recall my extensive series about the state of the Republican Party– The ABCs of the GOP.  The series was an attempt to catalog just how far party leaders have strayed from what they professed as their essential ideals for the country.  This was of course back in 2012, and when all with that election was said and done, President Obama had a decisive victory in part because of the many internal problems on the other side.

But after everything that Republicans went through in 2012, it doesn’t seem that the party has learned any valuable lessons.  Bolstered by huge victories in 2014 (co-sponsored by all those people that didn’t care enough to vote), it appears that the GOP is preparing to venture down the same rabbit holes which cemented its downfall 4 years ago.

And the guy leading the way to that rabbit hole??  It’s none other than Billionaire media harlot Donald Trump.  As one can imagine, Democrats are enjoying every minute of the chaos, even giving Republicans a new nickname.  Here’s more from Colin Campbell of Business Insider

The national Democratic Party released a new video Thursday that connects the entire Republican presidential field to the immigration remarks made by real-estate magnate Donald Trump.

The Democratic National Committee’s video is titled, “Retrumplican Party.”

The brief clip intersperses some of Trump’s most controversial comments with the other GOP candidates’ own statements against illegal immigration.

“Trump may be running for president,” the video concludes, “but his ideas are running the party.”

The video immediately spread like wildfire among political pundits, and “Retrumplican Party” started trending nation-wide on Twitter.

Of course we know that all Republican leaders do not agree with Donald Trump, and many of the more sensible ones have come out in direct opposition to his heinous comments.  But now for the third week in a row, the top message being conveyed from Republicans is directly from Donald Trump.

Only this week have we finally got a close second from 2016 front-runner Jeb Bush.  Mr. Bush, who was born to a life of exceptional privilege and is the son and brother of two presidents, thinks the rest of us should be working longer hours to help improve the United States economy.  Sheesh!!

But in any event, the point remains.  Once again, Republicans can’t seem to learn from their very recent past.  As long as the Party’s “big tent” is controlled by a ravenous coalition of Primary voters, it’s going to be difficult to ‘Dump the Trump’.  For the sake of our entire political system, let’ s hope that reason prevails this election cycle.

Retrumplicans

On This Independence Day

On this Independence Day, the great experiment of the Democratic Republic goes on. And in the wake of recent historic decisions by our nation’s Supreme Court, this holiday has a particular tinge of patriotism for those in the LGBT community, and those who support them.

For others, evaluation of the “more perfect union” is still very much up for debate. As an American people, we still have many issues to tackle small and great.  But for today, let us be reminded of what makes America great… that centuries-long struggle to improve.

Happy 239th to the United States of America!!

 

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