Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another Monster Part 2

Back in April, I posted a diary entitled “We’ve Created Another Monster”. In that diary I discussed how the Kurds were making plans to secede from Iraq through annexing Kirkuk, negotiating independent PSA’s with oil companies, and destabilizing the northern region. This crisis as I predicted is continuing to intensify with the Iraqi Kurds unwillingness and the Iraqi and US governments unable to stop the cross-border raids of the PKK. The PKK is the terrorist wing of the Kurdish independence movement and has been designated as a terroristic organization by most governments including the US.

Well, true to the script that Iraq is a black hole from which there is no escape; the Kurds are on the move. In the past few weeks the PKK has been conducting deadly cross-border raids against the Turkish military culminating with the kidnap of 8 Turkish soldiers. This incident is causing great alarm in Turkey with demonstrations being held throughout the country calling for government action against the PKK. The PKK has been using northern Iraq to stage their raids against the Turks with the silent acquiescence from the Iraqi Kurds. The patience of the Turks is wearing thin and they are amassing troops on the border with Iraq, the Turkish military has also asked and received authority to cross into Iraq to quell the terrorist attacks and to locate its troops.

The ambush on Sunday was the most serious in recent memory by the militants, separatist fighters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or P.K.K., and came only four days after the Turkish Parliament formally approved contingency plans for military retaliation across the border.

The Turkish military struck back inside Turkey, killing as many as 34 Kurdish militants, the military said today, a higher number than had earlier been reported. But the Kurdish ambush still drew strong public outrage here, and its brazenness could effectively force the government to make good on its warning to send forces into northern Iraq.[1]

As the tensions continue to escalate the Iraqi Kurds seem content to allow events to spiral out of control. I believe this is part of their plan to destabilize the region and create a crisis for the Iraqi government. It will be during this crisis that the Kurds will make their play to try to break away from the Iraqi central government’s authority. As the past weeks have shown the Kurds continue to negotiate and sign PSA’s with oil companies despite calls from the government of al-Maliki and the US to stop the practice.

Saddam Hussein was hung for what he did to the Kurds; I wonder what punishment the current Prime Minister will receive for cracking down on the Kurds? The Kurdish problem has long been a thorn in the sides of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Prior to our setting up the Kurds in northern Iraq each country had initiated crackdowns in various forms to subjugate their minority Kurdish populations. Because we allowed the Kurds autonomy in Iraq, they are using that freedom to export terrorism and fan the flames of independence for Kurds in the region. It is these activities that will cause the war in Iraq to escalate into a broader regional conflict. The problem with not studying the country and region you are invading is that you have no perspective or history of the underlying conflicts of that region.

This Kurdish issue is not going to resolve itself quietly through diplomacy I’m afraid. The Kurds seemed to be determined to push this crisis to the breaking point. They have continued to talk of reigning in the PKK and yet have brought none of the leaders to justice. In what appears to be a strategy of forcing the hands of the Turks and the Iraqi central government, the Kurds appear to be playing a game of brinksmanship to take this situation beyond a regional issue into an international issue. I am not sure if the Kurds believe they can bring enough international pressure to form a separate independent Kurd nation or if they want to have the sovereignty of the state of Iraq but still be able to act independently.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who called on the PKK to cease fighting and to turn itself into a political organization, angered Turks further on Sunday by saying: "We will not hand any Kurd over to Turkey, not even a Kurdish cat," according to media.

At the same time, Mr. Talabani seemed to shrug off Turkish requests that the Iraqis hand over P.K.K. leaders hiding in northern Iraq.

“The leaders of P.K.K. do exist in Kurdistan’s rugged mountains, but the Turkish Army with all its power could not stem or arrest them, so how can we?” he said after the meeting which took place in Sulaimaniya in northern Iraq. “Handing over P.K.K. leaders to Turkey is a dream that will never be realized.”[2]

It is obvious by these statements that the Kurdish officials in northern Iraq have no intention of reining in the PKK or of doing anything to lower tensions in the region. It is a dangerous game that they are playing and in the process whatever little success we have in Iraq could be the first casualty of a larger conflict. The US does not seem to have any leverage over the Kurds who are acting as if they are independent of Iraq and the US.

Due to their desperate need to show progress in Iraq and the region, the US has allowed itself to be co-opted by terrorists who have little desire for peace or a unified Iraq. It will be difficult to criticize the Kurds after having held them up as the model of democracy for the whole region. They have us by the short hairs and they know it. This is the monster created from removing a monster…


Read more!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Obama’s Gay Problem

It is all over the blogosphere. All of the major blogs are discussing the decision of Barack Obama to tour with the reformed homosexual gospel singer Donnie McClurkin. The thing that troubles me about the debate currently surrounding this issue is the same thing that troubles me about the Democrats and the progressive movement as a whole. The problem with both is that they expect a candidate to be all things to all people and any candidate that doesn’t believe exactly as they believe is a sell-out. I’m sorry, but the majority of Americans do not support homosexuality. The problem is that everyone in the car wants their issue to be the driving issue, as if their issue is the only one of any consequence. Barack Obama is not anti-gay, but he is not pro-gay either. Why does one have to be one or the other?

We have come a long way in our acceptance and treatment of gays and lesbians in this country. Is it perfect? No, but a lot of progress has been made. Think of the progress made by the gay and lesbian agenda compared to civil rights or immigration, it has been fairly quick. I hear myself saying these words and it sounds so weird, I feel like one of those people telling blacks how much progress they have made. The truth is however, there is a lot of resistance to complete acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. It may not be fair, but it’s the way it is. Many would rather have a candidate that could help to promote unity and benefit many Americans on other issues lose and remain loyal, than win and make a difference. This type of logic to me is asinine. NEWSFLASH – You can’t govern, if you don’t win!

The sad thing about the debate is that no one believes that Senator Obama is a homophobe or does not support gay rights; no one believes that he would try to push a Constitutional amendment against gays. So why is he getting all this heat? Because he is willing to stand up and not pander to the minority in opposition to the majority. These people have a campaign to run and hopefully win. During campaigns strategic decisions are made, decisions like which issues to emphasize and which ones to downplay. Would any of the people bashing Barack believe that Mitt or Giuliani would make a better candidate?

Senator Obama is making a concerted effort to enlist the support of the Black faith community. If you don’t like the views of the Black Church bash them not the candidate trying to reach out to them. Is the Senator flip-flopping like his Republican counterparts on issues of importance to gays and lesbians? I have not heard the Senator back away from any of his stated positions concerning this group. The Black Church has been traditionally a rallying point in the community and to enlist their support is a smart campaign decision. Black churchgoers tend to vote more than other blacks and they tend to be more united in their voting patterns. Ministers in the Black Church hold a lot of influence over their parishioners and so I don’t see what the outrage is over Senator Obama making an outreach to them.

It is precisely this type of criticism that makes the rest of America view Democrats and their candidates as “godless” and without faith. If any candidate tries to court the religious vote they are demonized by the gay and lesbian communities and their surrogates in the progressive community. The time has come for Democrats to stop running from their faith and for those who do not share their faith to back off and allow them their freedom to believe. No one is saying that everyone has to believe the same thing, but by the same token allow those who do believe differently the freedom to express it. The problem with being a democratic candidate is that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Everyone expects you to cater to their particular viewpoint and if you are not 100% in agreement then you are a “sell-out”. Forget the fact that you won’t win, obviously that’s not important.

I have friends that are ex-convicts, drug addicts and alcoholics, but when I go to get a job I don’t emphasize those ties, it’s not that I am “dissin them” it’s just more prudent not to. The Bible says when I am around people that are vegetarians I don’t serve them meat, not because I agree with them but because I am not to be a stumbling block for my brother. We are to bear the weaknesses of our brothers, not condemn them for it. Is it wrong to reach out to those who may not be as enlightened as I am? If so how then am I to affect change?

The Senator is trying to show that politics or debate does not have to be an either/or proposition or that everything has to be done in a confrontational manner. But again in sticking to politics as usual, he is condemned for it. It appears that the wing-nuts are not the only ones who are stuck in the politics of the past; there are a lot of “so-called” progressives stuck in the same rut. Senator Obama does not have a gay problem, the gays and lesbians have an Obama problem.

Read more!

Economic Boom Brings Poverty

In what is a growing trend in America, it appears that even when the economy is booming, poverty continues to rise. The latest chapter in the trend is Washington, DC, according to reports the city is experiencing financial prosperity for the higher end wage earners. This however is not trending down towards the workers on the lower end of the spectrum. This condition is being repeated all over the country and other than John Edwards this trend is receiving very little coverage. We are in the process of creating wealth for only the high wage income categories, completely ignoring the low wage categories. How can we continue to justify the escalating wages of high income workers while keeping the low wage workers incomes at levels adjusted for inflation at the same scale of 1960? Why are more people not enjoying the benefits of economic prosperity? Is there a concerted effort to prevent the prosperity from reaching the poor?

The District's poverty rate is the highest in nearly a decade, and the employment rate for African American adults is at a 20-year low, according to a study to be released today.

Although the District's robust economy has spurred job growth, higher salaries, a construction boom and neighborhood revitalization, the city's poorest and least-educated residents have been left behind -- living "on the other side" of the city's "gleaming economy," the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute says.

The institute's study, titled "D.C.'s Two Economies," also shows that the gap between high-wage and low-wage workers in Washington is at an all-time high, with salaries for the least-paid workers (adjusted for inflation) virtually unchanged in three decades. Income inequality in the District is greater than in every city in the United States other than Atlanta and Tampa, the study says.[1]

The trickledown theory is once again proving to be the rich pissing down the backs of the poor. It seems that our economy is operating in two worlds; there is the high finance world that is booming and then there is the street economy where most poor Americans live and it isn’t doing so good. One could almost say that there is an effort to create the environment to force more and more poor people to turn to crime to survive. This of course would accomplish two goals, it would marginalize the poor by incarcerating them thus making them ineligible for most decent jobs, federal programs, and voting. The other would be to continue to fund the cottage industry that has replaced factory work in rural America with prison work.

By charging and convicting young poor people with a felony, you have sentenced them to a life without opportunity. You have stripped them of their rights to participate in our election system, you have made it next to impossible to participate in any employment higher than janitor or fast-food worker, and you have prevented them from participating in most federal programs. Therefore, you have removed all hope they have for any type of productive life. So, on the one hand you make street crime the only viable option and then you create a system of justice that penalizes the convicted for life. This allows you to claim that the problem is not with the system; it is that the poor are just prone to criminal behavior. If they would only play by the rules, their lives would get better. As if the playing field were actually level and the poor just choose to fail. This may get you on Fox News, but it adds nothing to the dialog of why the rich are getting richer and the poor are being forgotten.

There are many voices black and white that would have us to believe that success is some quantifiable objectives that if you just follow a few simple steps, the American Dream is yours to possess. Of course, along the way they ignore how unattainable that dream looks to a kid looking out of project windows. Are the poor doing things to intensify their downward spiral? Of course they are, but do any of us always do the things that would benefit us? When you remove all hope for a better life, you condemn men to more than just poverty. You condemn them to a state of hopelessness, which is far worse than just being poor. Hopelessness breeds desperation and desperation breeds frustration.

There is a disconnect taking place in America. It involves more than just white from black and vice versa, it is the haves and the have-nots. And if it continues unabated there will not be enough prison space available to contain it. Currently it is fashionable to ignore the needs of the poor, the SChips bill is a prime example. We are blaming the victim for the conditions that cause the disease. This of course helps to ease consciouses as we walk by them in doorways or on the streets. A country like ours must do better or we will reap the whirlwind of indifference and neglect.


Read more!

Monday, October 29, 2007

How Bout Them Hawks!

I’m sorry, but I have to take a moment to congratulate my school, the University of Kansas Jayhawks. The Jayhawks, as of this writing are 8-0 and ranked number 8 in the BCS poll. Ok, to you football powerhouses this may not seem like a big deal, but for KU alum, it is a very big deal. After years of having to disappear during football season, with our only comeback wait til basketball season, the hawk fans can now crow during football season. The last time the Jayhawks went 8-0 was 1909, so we deserve a little fanfare.

I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of the hiring of Mark Mangino as headcoach when it was announced, but coach Mangino has made a believer out of me and I am sure all of Jayhawk nation. Great job coach, you have overcome a losing tradition and have developed a program that is now competitive and nationally ranked. I can’t remember the last time we were nationally ranked in football. I remember all those years living in Lawrence when the Nebraska “Big Red” machine would roll into town and the whole Memorial Stadium would be awash in Red and there was that time I was at the Oklahoma game and Marcus Dupree scored a touchdown before I could turn around from saying Hi to a friend and continued to do so for the rest of the day.

No, we have suffered plenty and now we get our day in the sun. So all of you KU faithful who have been hibernating during the fall waiting for basketball season, rise up and be proud of the “fighting Mangino’s”, they deserve it. Regardless of what happens from here, we will no longer be the doormats of the Big 12. Coming to Lawrence will no longer be a write-in W, we are competitive and you better bring your A game. So here’s a Rock Chalk Jayhawk, GO KU for the team and keep up the good work.

Read more!

The New Chalabi?

Ayad Allawi, the former interim prime minister of Iraq, hinted in a television interview last weekend at one of the war's least understood turning points: America's decision not to challenge Iranian intervention in Iraq's January 2005 elections.

"Our adversaries in Iraq are heavily supported financially by other quarters. We are not," Allawi told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "We fought the elections with virtually no support whatsoever, except for Iraqis and the Iraqis who support us."[1]

An attempt is being made to develop a campaign to replace the current Iraqi PM, al Maliki with the former Iraqi PM, Allawi. The above quote came from an op-ed piece written by David Ignatius for two purposes. The first is to lay the groundwork for Mr. Allawi’s return and the second is to put some positive spin on Mr. Bush’s floundering record as Commander in Chief. This subtle change is probably orchestrated by the CIA and Neo-Cons who are tired of waiting for the current government to get itself together by Washington standards. I can see a no-confidence challenge being made against Mr. Maliki’s already weak position. Hoping to defy the reality of internal secularism that defines current Iraqi politics there are those who believe we can still control the outcome of this fiasco.

Why would they want to bring back Mr. Allawi? There are many very good reasons for his return to lead the Iraqi government. But first let’s look at his claim about being deserted by the US government during the election in Iraq that brought the current government to power and caused Mr. Allawi’s departure. According to my research this claim is false. The US government spent over 800 million dollars on the elections in Iraq and out of that Mr. Allawi’s government received 41 million.[2] This is from the State departments figures and does not include moneys supplied by the CIA and other “so-called” pro democracy groups. Two of these shadowy groups provided another 80 million dollars for pro-democratic and moderate politicians. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) are two organizations that sought to provide support to “further America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of citizens in the developing world.”

So, on the surface for Mr. Allawi to claim that his government received no support during the election process seems disingenuous. The real issue is whether the CIA and the US government should have rigged the election to prevent the Shiites with historical ties to Iran from seizing power. Fortunately at the time the answer was no, today I am not so sure it would be the same result. Mr. Allawi’s main complaint is that we did not subvert the democracy we had just fought a war to secure, how very American of him. Where do they get these guys from? Is there a central casting office for these clowns created in Langley?

It wasn’t enough that Mr. Allawi was handpicked by Paul Bremer, who at the time was the Emperor of Iraq, and given the reins of government to create popular support for his party and his policies. Because he had no popular support and was seen by many Iraqis as the puppet of the occupiers, he had no chance of victory in the election no matter how much was spent on his behalf. Then of course there were the two invasions of Iraqi cities (Najaf and Falluja) which alienated him from both the Sunnis and the Shiites.

And of course there was his history of spying, first for the British and then for the CIA. Mr. Allawi was just another attempt to impose an American strongman with no local support on the Iraqi people. The fact that he is making these claims is merely an attempt by him or his handlers to try and rehabilitate himself, an attempt to distance himself from those handlers, atleast publicly. The end result of course will be an attempt to return to power, but how can this be after his government was repudiated by the Iraqi people in the elections; winning only 14% of the vote? Here is where we get creative, the current government of Mr. Maliki is on life support and without the support of the Kurds and the few Sunnis he was able to marshal support from he cannot continue to govern. If through some backroom deal we were able to get the Kurds to pullout, then the government would collapse and plunge the country into chaos. At that point we could insert Mr. Allawi to once again restore order.

Allawi said he is trying to gather support for a new coalition of Kurds, Sunnis and secular Shiites as an alternative to the Shiite religious coalition that installed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in power. Some commentators see Allawi's recent decision to hire a Washington public relations firm as a sign of the Bush administration's support, but the opposite is probably the case. If Allawi had U.S. government backing, he wouldn't need the lobbyists.

Future historians should record that the Bush administration actually lived by its pro-democracy rhetoric about a new Iraq -- to the point that it scuttled a covert action program aimed at countering Iranian influence. Now the administration says it wants to counter Iranian meddling in Iraq, but it is probably too late.[3]

The PR firm of course is not for the Iraqis, it is for the domestic politics here. Mr. Allawi is about to be repackaged and resold, just like old Coke and new Coke


Read more!

Bush Offers Little More Than GasX For Gas Woes

With price of crude oil hitting the $90 a barrel mark, one would think that the President of the country that uses the most petroleum would be a little concerned. However, true to his natural lack of concern for anything not related to the wealthy, Mr. Bush came out with the following forceful statement in defense of the middle-class. The stock market tanked on the news, so it appears that investors considered it a bit more significant than the White House. There are millions of Americans who are suffering under the stress of high energy costs and with winter around the corner there will be millions more. The rise in crude oil prices will fuel the rise in many other products forcing many families to have to make some tough choices this winter.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- With crude oil prices crossing $90 a barrel, the White House said Friday that President Bush would like to see prices lower.

At the same time, the White House played down the $90 mark. ''There's no magic to any particular number like $90 a barrel, but obviously we would prefer oil prices lower,'' said deputy press secretary Tony Fratto.

''The president certainly would like to see the price of oil lower and would like to see us rely less on foreign sources of oil and reduce our dependence on all forms of oil,'' Fratto said. He called on Congress to enact Bush's program to expand the use of alternative fuels and cut gasoline use by 20 percent in 10 years.[1]

The problem I have with this White House, Republicans, and George Bush in particular is their dismissive attitude towards the general public. It’s as if they are saying, “We know what is going on and you don’t, so don’t ask us any questions or question any of our policies”. They continue to live in their own false reality to where crude oil prices reaching new highs means nothing, because they say it means nothing. Who are you going to believe this administration or your freezing kids? This of course is in keeping with his forceful remarks on the mortgage crisis.

We need a President who is willing to lead in times of crisis, a President who is willing to do more than lead us into war. We need a President who will provide direction and leadership and not just the same old rhetoric. Mr. Bush is showing every day that he is in fact irrelevant despite his calls to the opposite. Rather than using his remaining time in office to provide leadership in a worsening economic crisis, he chooses to desert the average American and continue to stand firm with his wealthy friends.

Ninety dollars a barrel may not be a magic number for this administration, but it is a magic number for the majority of Americans who have to buy gas and fuel oil this winter. We need more than a President who wants to placate us, we need one who will do more than say he would like to see lower prices. Hell, I would like to see a bigger paycheck, but saying it won’t make it so. This President needs to do more to help the average American during these economic times. The economy currently is only benefiting those wealthy few who have already received the tax-cut give-away that was suppose to stimulate the economy. It turns out it was just another transfer of wealth from the middle income Americans to the wealthiest. When will Americans realize that giving money to the wealthy will never result in economic success for them, all it does is give more wealth to the wealthy at tax payer expense.

The income to the government must be paid and if the wealthiest are getting tax-cuts, who do you think is paying for it. So rather than being able to provide health care for our poor children, or mortgage relief to average Americans, or fuel relief, we have a public treasury that has been bankrupted by the wealthy looters. It is going to be a long cold winter for Middle America. After struggling through the high fuel prices of summer, it will be more of the same for winter.

Have these guys gotten anything right on Iraq? Where is the lower fuel prices we were suppose to see in exchange for our securing their freedom? Along with all the other Iraqi scenarios, this one proves to be just as false. So let’s break out the GasX, because I have a feeling we are going to need it.


Read more!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Peace Begins With Me

I recently began to wonder if so many Americans are against the war, why a larger peace movement isn’t sweeping this nation. I guess after the Vietnam experience I am somewhat spoiled by what the power of the people can do. I began thinking about the differences between then and now and I was able to come up with a few. The first is that during Vietnam there was never a direct assault against America. There was that whole Tonkin Gulf incident, but that again was over there. The times were different; there was more of an activist spirit then. There was so much that seemed wrong with America and the government. But in the end I finally settled on something that has been troubling me for a long time.

I believe there will be no peace in Iraq, Iran, or anyplace else in the world from us or for us. The problem is not the terrorist threat, the Bush administrations false justifications for war, or our fascists’ tendencies. No, the answer is much deeper and therefore much more difficult to express. The answer in my opinion is that we (Americans) are not at peace with ourselves. We do not understand peace and in some ways I think it frightens us. The peace that I am speaking of is the internal peace that allows one to sit quietly and be ok being who the person is. Too many of us despise peace; we mistake it for boredom and try to quench it with activity or mindless entertainment. We constantly bombard it with noise and images, anything to make it go away. We are not a peaceful nation right now.

We are at war with ourselves. We are at war with our children, our neighbors, and each other. For months I have watched the blogosphere explode into a war zone of competing ideas, philosophies, and belief systems. These conflicts in and of themselves are a normal part of give and take in a democracy, but what is transpiring is a viciousness that is not. Simple misunderstandings are elevated to the level of personal vendettas. There has developed a gang mentality where groups descend down on anyone who has the gall to question their interpretation of the facts.

How can we expect to have peace in the world, in our homes, or anywhere else if we do not have peace within ourselves? Peace is not some ideal that we are able to give and take like so much merchandise, it is an internal calm that permeates one’s life and becomes that life. I heard that the Dalai Lama was visiting and when asked what he wanted most it was peace. Many believed it to mean in Tibet or in the world in general, but what he really means is this.

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.[1]

I think the attacks on 9/11 opened a fissure within our nation and within ourselves. For many it was the first time they had been confronted in such a catastrophic way with those who don’t like America much. For many we were torn between trying to understand why and wanting to extract revenge. I think to this day we are still conflicted by the attack and our response to it. Would it have been more palpable had the war and occupation of Iraq gone better? Yes, but would that have removed the illegitimacy of it? The evidence of this is the relative ease that this country was led into war. Oh yeah, we complain now of how we were tricked, but what I know about being tricked is that no one can trick me if I don’t want to be tricked.

The thing I remember about the Vietnam era was that despite our many differences, there was an unnatural peace that permeated the movement. It’s hard to describe to anyone who was not there or a part of it, but inside we knew that our cause was just and it gave us a peace. Even though there was smoke and tear gas all around and cops with clubs and guns, there was peace. It was also in our civil rights movement. Our purpose gave us peace.

In today’s hurry up, got to do more world, it seems strange to hear these things I’m sure, but it was there and today it is not there. I shouldn’t say it is not there, it isn’t there in sufficient enough strength to overcome the forces of conflict that afflict us all. I suggest we all take a moment to search inside ourselves and see what conflicts we are fighting. You will find them in the silence of your mind and in the quiet of your heart, begin to resolve and make peace with them. We must begin to turn down the noise within us and choose peace.

I know for me I had a very difficult time coming back to peace. It was difficult learning how to once again accept peace. For some reason my nature preferred conflict to peace, activity to rest. I believe as more and more of us find our own peace we will be able to bring peace to the world. It is impossible for someone in conflict with themselves to give out peace. Let us begin to find peace and then allow that peace to flow out from us to the world. Remember hearing and believing all these things about peace, where did they go? We allowed them to be taken from us by the world. The world of commerce, the world of busyness, the world of conflict has stolen these things from us and it is time we took them back.

Peace, yes it begins with me and with you. If you want a peaceful world, learn to live in peace with yourself.


Read more!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

To Sag Or Not To Sag?

As more and more communities are creating ordinances in an attempt to ban the practice of “sagging”, I began to question my own feelings about the practice. As the parent of a young son, it is a topic that has become inescapable. It is a practice that I have never understood and found it to be foolish looking. I am reminded though that when I was a young man, I use to wear jeans that were completely patched. While adults at the time and many of my peers thought I looked ridiculous, I would not have changed them for the world. It was my way of saying “up yours” to everyone.

Sagging began in prison, where oversized uniforms were issued without belts to prevent suicide and their use as weapons. The style spread through rappers and music videos, from the ghetto to the suburbs and around the world.

Efforts to outlaw sagging in Virginia and statewide in Louisiana in 2004, failed, usually when opponents invoked a right to self-expression. But the latest legislative efforts have taken a different tack, drawing on indecency laws, and their success is inspiring lawmakers in other states.[1]

Today, I wear Brooks Brother suits and other assorted designer fashions. As I look back at my teenage years, I realize that I wore those jeans because I couldn’t afford to wear the fashions my contemporaries were wearing. So, instead of being angry and becoming a criminal and stealing I went the other way. I decided to create my own fashion statement. I went to an all-black high school and so my hippie inspired fashion statement was met with derision, but I didn’t care. Before long people stopped trying to clown me and began to accept me. My point was made; a fashion misfit could still be popular. I was elected class president for 3 years in a row. Secretly, being the class-clown and egotistical ass that I was, I reveled in the attention my fashions brought me.

I relate these years to say that while I find the sag to be personally distasteful, lacks any true sense of style, and is unimaginative, I would not support public laws banning it. I believe in that case the cure would be more dangerous than the disease. With so many of our freedoms being curtailed for our own protection, it is a slippery slope to begin to legislate fashion. With that being said I also understand that we set decency standards all the time for the public welfare, but growing up during the first mini-skirt and hot pants wave it would be hard for me to ban anything. I find the fashions of the young people today to be an extension of their culture, which seems to be bankrupt. Their music is pirated and sampled, their lyrics lack creativity, and their language is crude.

The advice I gave my son, is how I have been able to endure the current fashion trends. I told him simply that he could wear whatever he wanted so long as it did not interfere with his studies. You can look like a fool, but you’d better not be one. As soon as he began to slip in school, the gig is up. There would be no more hip-hop fashions and no more sagging. I explained to him that when trying to establish oneself, appearance is important. I told him that while it was unfortunate; the truth is that we are judged by how we look. I explained to him the Dave Chappell analogy of female fashions.

Dave said that if women wanted to stop being treated like “hoes” they should stop wearing the uniform. He said that if a car pulls up behind you with flashing lights and a guy gets out with a uniform, badge, and gun then you reasonably believe that he is a cop. You believe this because he is wearing the cop’s uniform, so whatever uniform you are wearing do not be surprised when you are treated like that character. In a perfect world it would not be this way, but this is not a perfect world. In a perfect world we would be judged by what was on the inside, not the outside; but this isn’t it.

I explained to him as a young black man he was already going to be stereotyped and that he would have to work very hard to overcome them. I told him that dressing in that way only added to the impression that he would have to overcome. I told him that if he wanted to take on the added weight that it was on him, but understand what you are getting into. People are going to judge you based on what you are wearing.

After going through my whole spiel, it turns out he is a skateboard enthusiast and isn’t even into the sag. So here it was I wasted a perfectly good father/son speech for nothing. I think what is missing from this dialog for the young black man is the presence of a father/mentor to explain the true consequences of their actions. Right now they are only getting one side of the story. They are getting the street side and it is not being tempered by any other voices. I am not saying that this would reduce the effects, because let’s face it youth will rebel. What it will do is give them an anchor, a fixed place to return to when the rebelliousness of youth runs its course.

I think to legislate will only cause them to rally around the cause and reinforce the us versus them mentality. What is needed is more voices in the discussion, voices of reason and concern. What we don’t need is voices of condemnation. In closing, I would like to lend my voice with the following to sag or not to sag is not the question; the question is? Are you taking care of your business regardless of how you look? It is one thing to look like a fool, it is quite another to be a fool.


Read more!

No Honor Among Thieves

Whoever said there was honor among thieves never met anyone in the American Congress or for that matter the American political theater in general. It has gotten to the point where it isn’t even hidden anymore. Have we gotten so callous as a nation that we no longer have the temerity to stand up and say enough.

The latest in the long line of “Quid Pro Quo” involves the senator from West Virginia, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV and the telecommunication companies seeking immunity for giving up customer records without warrants. It seems that coincidently this year these telecommunication giants decided to make large donations to the senator’s campaign and again I am sure coincidently there is a bill before Congress on whether to grant them immunity for their crimes in the name of national security. It just so happens coincidently that the senator is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and has been working to broker a deal to get the immunity bill passed.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 — Executives at the two biggest phone companies contributed more than $42,000 in political donations to Senator John D. Rockefeller IV this year while seeking his support for legal immunity for businesses participating in National Security Agency eavesdropping.

The surge in contributions came from a Who’s Who of executives at the companies, AT&T and Verizon, starting with the chief executives and including at least 50 executives and lawyers at the two utilities, according to campaign finance reports.

The money came primarily from a fund-raiser that Verizon held for Mr. Rockefeller in March in New York and another that AT&T sponsored for him in May in San Antonio.[1]

I have a simple question. If you didn’t do anything wrong why do you need immunity? If what you did you believed to be right in the name of national security, why would you be worried now? The answer is that they knew what they were doing was wrong while they were doing it. These companies deliberately ignored the Constitution and now when their deeds are about to be exposed, they want cover. I find it hard to believe that with the hundreds of lawyers on their payrolls, no one sought to get a legal opinion on the legality of what they were doing. I don’t think so; they knew exactly what they were doing. To offer them immunity now would be tantamount to condoning their illegal activities and give silent endorsement of future illegal activities in the name of national security.

I don’t understand what we are protecting if the country we live in is not free. Are we so afraid of terrorists that we are willing to give up all rights to the Constitution to be protected from them? If we no longer adhere to the tenets of the Constitution, then are we a nation worth saving? What are we fighting for, if it is not for free speech, freedom from unlawful searches, or the right to be tried by our peers? The American public has lost sight of the larger issues at stake in this war on terror; in an effort to gain some measure of short-term security we have increased the chances for long-term tyranny.

The stage has been set for all future administrations to proceed down a similar path. Oh it may not be about Iraq or terrorists, but the enemy is not the issue. The issue is are we a democracy or are we not? The true test of democracy is not in the boom times, but when you are attacked. Do you recede into a self-imposed isolation based on fear of the unknown or do you stare the terrorists in the face and say we will not be moved. What is important is not the people, but the idea. Are we still willing to die for the idea?

The thing that kills me about the people who would take away our civil liberties is that none of them have ever been willing to die to protect the ideals of this nation. None of them were willing to defend this nation when the call came out. When given the opportunity to protect this land they find so dear, they were nowhere to be found. Yet they have the nerve to question the patriotism of those who did and we allow them to do so. Every time one of these chickenhawks talks about someone who did serve this nation there should be an outcry so loud that they would never even consider doing it again. Could you imagine Ike being elected President if it had come out that he had dodged the war? I guess if you were never willing to die for these ideas then surrendering them for you comes easy. You will never know the sacrifice or the true costs of freedom.

The senator’s office of course put out the usual denials of how the senator would never compromise his values for political cash. How no matter how much money he receives, he stands on principals. I find it interesting though that these principled men who would never compromise their votes for anyone, after receiving these contributions line up behind whatever legislation the contributor wanted. Is this all some freak cosmic alignment that causes this anomaly to happen?

Mr. Rockefeller received little in the way of contributions from AT&T or Verizon executives before this year, reporting $4,050 from 2002 through 2006. From last March to June, he collected a total of $42,850 from executives at the two companies. The increase was first reported by the online journal Wired, using data compiled by the Web site

Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a group promoting stricter campaign finance laws, said contributions like those to Mr. Rockefeller created an appearance problem that “corrode public confidence” in the political system.

We have so many examples like this of people on relevant committees receiving these contributions from people who are under their jurisdictions,” Ms. McGehee said. “It’s sad to say, but it is pretty much business as usual in Washington. And it shows why so many Americans just shake their heads over the way Washington works.”[2]

I’ll let you decide.


Read more!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

DNA – A Double-Edged Sword

I was reading an interesting article on AlterNet discussing the ramifications of DNA and race. You would think that in 2007, we would have gotten past the point where “scientists” would still be trying to use science to devalue people by race. But I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. Prejudice and racial intolerance seems to be ingrained in many people’s psyche and no amount of scientific study or facts will change their beliefs. It is a shame that millenniums together have done nothing to increase the amount of knowledge concerning race and humanity. Ignorance is still the order of the day even among so-called “men of science”.

The science of DNA has been used recently to exonerate many wrongly accused men who were serving time and some that were even on death row from crimes they had not committed. The Innocence Project alone has freed 208 unjustly incarcerated men; fifteen were on death row awaiting the final outcome of their convictions. While we should celebrate and continue to pursue the release of all innocent men falsely imprisoned, there is another darker side to this technology we must also be aware of. If you look at the faces of those exonerated through DNA evidence, there is a chilling fact that is unmistakable. The majority of faces are dark skinned. So while we cheer the release of innocent minority men, it also highlights the inherent bias of our criminal justice system. If this many black men have been incarcerated falsely, how many more are rotting in prisons for crimes they did not commit?

As if this wasn’t bad enough, a more pressing and potentially dangerous issue is looming on the horizon. Now DNA is being collected by law enforcement agencies all over the country from people for even minor offenses. Which means that millions of black men and women’s DNA is being pooled together all over the country in this database, for use by the same law enforcement agencies that have been shown to incarcerate minorities falsely. The naive may say that this is a good thing to help reduce the amount of false imprisonments, but this is not true.

Critics fear that such questionable science in criminal justice will inevitably lead to searches for gene markers for criminal behavior. If criminologists start with a database that is disproportionately Black and Latino because of police practices that target those communities, any computer-generated findings will be skewed. "What you're dealing with is a population in the database which is distorted," says Troy Duster, a sociologist and chancellor's professor at UC Berkeley. "So if someone wants to do this kind of research, they'll look for genetic markers. What they'll find, of course, are certain markers. Tell the program to find markers and you can find markers in DNA that may be more or less likely to appear in populations A, B or C. But it will be a huge mistake to conclude that because you have those markers you've explained crime."[1]

What it will do is create a database that is tilted towards minorities causing any results to be questionable. The reason being is that the majority of people arrested today are minorities, so therefore the majority of specimens are going to be of minorities. Given that information any studies done on this DNA data will overwhelmingly point towards minority markers for criminal predisposition. This of course could lead to high tech racial profiling by law enforcement and the government.

Of further concern is the new practice of using DNA to predict the racial profile of suspects in criminal cases. One case of note occurred in Baton Rouge, La; where the police were originally given the description of a white suspect in a series of serial murders. A company DNAPrint Genomics offered to analyze the sample from one of the crime scenes. The company’s test concluded that the suspect was not white, but that he was 85% Sub-Saharan African. So the police began to seek a black man and discovered that the sample appeared to match Derrick Todd Lee, who had voluntarily provided it to them. Mr. Lee was convicted and sentenced to die based in part on the DNA evidence provided by DNAPrint. DNA will no longer be used just to eliminate a suspect with clear-cut certainty, but will also be used to predict a suspect which is a far different criterion.

DNA has proven to be a Godsend for many unjustly held men, but in the wrong hands can be used to incarcerate countless others. We must not allow ourselves to be cared away with this scientific tool and its possible misuse. There will be those who will try to use it for nefarious and profit-seeking motives, irrespective of its limitations and our ignorance of its full applications. We need to get better controls in place to protect this dynamic information and safeguard its usage. We must remember that this information is the most personal we possess and not only does it give our information, but our families as well. We need to have laws in place as to who can have access to this information and for what exact purpose. We need to ensure that the DNA material is destroyed as the local laws prescribe and enact laws that will set limits on the time someone is in the database.

Follow-up: James Watson, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA in 1953, recently pronounced the entire population of Africa genetically inferior when it comes to intelligence. And while he hopes that everyone is equal, "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."[2]

The onslaught begins. Winning the Nobel Prize is obviously not a cure for racism. What this does is give credence to the idiots and bigots who can now quote a scientist.


Read more!

The Powerlessness of Power

There is a new victim-mentality sweeping college campuses and I believe America as a whole. It is the belief that whites are now victims. But that’s not the scary part; the scary part is in who they blame as the ones victimizing them. It seems that whites are being victimized by blacks and Latinos, that’s right the white privileged students on many college campuses are feeling victimized. They are not feeling victimized by higher crime rates on campus perpetrated by blacks and Latinos, no the victimization is occurring through college programs and political correctness. In an effort to fight back against these perceived threats to white privilege many conservative white students are hosting racial identity parties.

In many respects, ghetto-fabulous parties are the culmination of conservative politics on college campuses. They reflect the ongoing insecurities of whiteness in the wake of the civil rights movement and the supposed prominence of multiculturalism and political correctness. Indeed, ghetto-fab parties are part of a broader reactionary movement that believes whiteness and the ivory tower are being imperiled by political correctness, radical professors and “minority rights.” Pushing against these perceived evils, conservative students have organized political theatrics on campuses, holding “affirmative action” bake sales and “white-only” scholarships. They have in essence created a culture today in which those with power think of themselves as victims and those without become targets for violence.[1]

These ghetto-fabulous and cholo parties are events where white students depending on the cultural theme of the event dress up as what they consider to be representations of these cultures. For example at a ghetto-fabulous party the students wear black face, fake gold teeth, and drink 40oz bottles of malt liquor. The women sometimes even feign pregnancy and pad their posteriors to imitate the stereotypes of black females. These racial identity parties are growing in popularity across America's campuses. The question becomes why are they gaining in popularity when our universities should be the places where tolerance and diversity are being taught and practiced?

The first reason I think is the perceived loss of power felt by the white students. As college campuses became more liberal and diverse they began to institute political correctness policies, rather than helping to remove the prejudice they in fact caused it to go underground. It was no longer fashionable to use racial epithets in public or to display racially insensitive material. It was naïve to think that by forcing compliance to these policies that change of thought would result, instead what we got was a more deep seated type of intolerance. A type of intolerance that does not come out in public, but lurks under the surface waiting for the opportunity to demonstrate itself in a safe environment. These parties provide that opportunity for them to display their intolerance among like-minded people.

After all, all we are doing is just having a party, having a little fun. We certainly don’t mean any harm by it and it definitely is not racial. They pretend to ignore the harm of their actions, as if demonstrating the worst stereotypes of a racial group is harmless. Sort of like when the future King of England was seen attending a party in a Nazi outfit, just harmless fun. They also ignore the fact of how demeaning it is for members of that racial group to be depicted in these outlandish stereotypical roles and outfits.

The second reason for the increased outbreak I think is the corporate take-over of the university experience. There was a time when the university experience was dictated by experimentation and a desire to improve one’s environment. Students took an active role in leading social change. There was Vietnam, South Africa, poverty, civil rights and a whole host of other movements that were either begun or championed by college students. With corporations taking over more and more of university life there is less of the rebellious spirit and more of the boardroom spirit. The thing about the campus spirit is that it changes from conservative to liberal and vice versa. During the time of Vietnam and civil rights college campuses represented the same conservative values of the country as a whole, until the spirit of change and revolution swept through.

Today more and more universities have opened up the campuses to the influences of corporate America and in the process they have sold their creative and liberal souls to the devil. As the corporations exert more and more influence on not only student life but college curriculums, there are fewer classes and opportunities to study diversity of cultures or cultural studies in general. Social study classes are being cancelled due to the fact they are not generating graduating numbers, they are not adding to the bottom line of the university. They speak as though the goal of the university is to make money, I thought it was to educate, challenge and prepare young adults for adulthood. To develop independent, critical thought processes in preparation for the challenges of life was one worthwhile goal of the university experience I thought.

The final reason I think for the rise in racial identity parties is the lack of diversity on our nation’s campuses. With the challenges to affirmative action and financial aid cutbacks, there are fewer minority students on college campuses. This lack of diversity I think fuels the attitude of exclusiveness for the white students and offers less resistance to their antics. With fewer minority students to interact with, there is a lack of empathy and common sense to restrain their behavior. I think that as fewer minority students are able to attend college there will be an even greater increase in these parties and also in the escalation of similar activities.

Without the influence of cultural study classes and minority students there will be less inhibition on the part of those who truly harbor racists’ feelings to express those feelings in a more demonstrative way. I predict a rise in racial symbolism and more racial attacks. Our campuses are becoming more conservative and this is something that should trouble all of us. If the students are only being given one side of the story their views of the world will be askew. We all need to have beliefs challenged and questioned in order to either embrace them as truth or discard them as false. This gives rise to the false premise that those with power are now powerless victims and as such must lash out against the true powerless that they view as now usurping that power.


Read more!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

America Eats Its Young

As part of our “get tough” on crime initiatives, the US imprisons more people, gives the death penalty to children, and gives children life without parole. Remember this was designed to stem the new diabolical child criminals we were going to be seeing following the crack and meth epidemics. These kids were supposed to be so violent and so spiritually flawed that prison for life and the death penalty were the only solutions for them. I have never understood why the US continues to support this “lock em up” and throw away the key mentality when none of the so-called crises ever manifest themselves. Where are these ultra-violent juveniles who are suppose to be stalking our streets and invading our homes?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In December, the United Nations took up a resolution calling for the abolition of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for children and young teenagers. The vote was 185 to 1, with the United States the lone dissenter.

Indeed, the United States stands alone in the world in convicting young adolescents as adults and sentencing them to live out their lives in prison. According to a new report, there are 73 Americans serving such sentences for crimes they committed at 13 or 14.[1]

Many studies suggest that juveniles are not more violent, the statistics are being driven by juveniles having more access to guns, which is driving the rise in the statistics. Because so many more of our youth are carrying guns, these youths are committing more violent acts, but the number of violent youths has not substantially increased. I remember there was a young man in Chicago who made magazine covers and newspapers all over the country, this young man became the face of the new pre-teen killers. His name was Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, he was the 11 year old who was accused of killing a fourteen year old girl in a gang shooting cross-fire mishap. This child was going to usher in the new wave of violence perpetrated by these pre-teen psychopaths.

Once again playing to the fears and prejudices of the population, politicians were able to push through legislation in many states allowing for the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole for children as young as 13. If you allow crime to fester in neighborhoods by providing insufficient resources and an attitude of indifference towards the victims, naturally there will be frustration and a call to get tough on these vicious children. It will always be easier to deal with the aftermath of crime than to deal with the systemic issues that create it. The fact that there are way too many guns in America and it is too easy for kids to get them, the fact that too many of our children are being allowed to become invisible and slip through the cracks of our social service nets, or the fact that too many of the parents of these children are either incapable or unable to provide the emotional, physical, or financial support to sustain these kids.

Are we willing to say to children that their lives are over at 13? Are we a nation that will fight for a child only up until the time it is born? As more and more of our children are becoming at-risk for not only being victims, but also for being perpetrators are we willing to marshal the necessary forces and resources to rescue them or will we continue to turn a blind eye to those least able to protect themselves. Are there some children who have been so damaged by their life’s circumstances to be beyond redemption? Maybe, but we owe it to our children to provide them with every chance to become rehabilitated. Remember, no one is born a cold-blooded killer. Each child comes into this world an empty vessel, we want to pollute the vessel and then cast it aside to rot in some dudgeon so we don’t have to admire our handiwork. At least the rest of the world is willing to try to repair the damage society has done to its most vulnerable members, we unfortunately do not share that ideal.

Every child destroyed by our society is an indictment against all of us. Yet in the best of situations we dump them off at malls with little or no supervision or at worst we leave them to raise themselves while we pursue our own selfish pleasures of drug and alcohol abuse. We expect them to behave like little robots and if they don’t we pump them full of psychotropic drugs to regulate their moods. We promote youth in our culture as a trait to be valued and envied, yet we sacrifice our children so we can continue to feed the machine that is American culture. Yes, America eats its young through inattentiveness, selfishness, and moral deficiency.

In its sentencing of juveniles, as in many other areas, the legal system in the United States goes it alone. American law is, by international standards, a series of innovations and exceptions. From the central role played by juries in civil cases to the election of judges to punitive damages to the disproportionate number of people in prison, the United States is an island in the sea of international law.

In defending American policy in this area in 2006, the State Department told the United Nations that sentencing is usually a matter of state law. “As a general matter,” the department added, juvenile offenders serving life-without-parole terms “were hardened criminals who had committed gravely serious crimes.”[2]


Read more!

Monday, October 22, 2007

We Created Another Monster

There is a growing storm brewing in Iraq that no one seems to want to talk about. Although it may be a long ways off, it is brewing none the less. The storm I speak of is the Kurdish issue in Iraq and how it will affect its neighbors, specifically Turkey.

There is growing rhetoric and posturing on both sides concerning this volatile issue that has been simmering for a while now. It began when the US, after the first gulf war created a semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq. For over 10 years the Kurds have had the run of northern Iraq under the protection of the US and have been held out by this administration as a model of democracy. In our usual benevolent way we have armed and financially backed the Kurds allowing them to have free rein in that region. Now granted this region has been a model of stability for Iraq, however considering the other regions in Iraq this is not really hard to do. It’s sort of like being the valedictorian of the “special class”. Your parents are proud, but you’re not going to get a call from Harvard. By allowing the Kurds to progress autonomous of the rest of Iraq, we have created a separate entity that does not seem to have much federalist or Iraqi nationalist fervor.

Fouad Masoun, a Kurdish legislator and deputy chairman of the parliament's constitution review committee, said: "There are some revisions which are necessary, but there are also demands by certain parties we reject, such as returning Iraq to a centralized government or reducing the powers of the Kurdistan region and other regions.

The Kurds do have nationalistic plans, but for the Kurdistan Republic and thus the tension with Turkey. For those that don’t know, Turkey has a large minority population of Kurds who have been trying to become autonomous. The idea of having a nation of Kurdistan on its border has always been unacceptable to Turkey. The issue has continued to complicate our relationship with Turkey whom we consider an ally in the region. Turkey does not want its Kurdish population to get any ideas of becoming autonomous, which is becoming more and more difficult as the Iraqi Kurds get more autonomy. Should the Iraqi Kurds complete their plan to annex the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, a serious diplomatic crisis would ensue. So far, the administration has been able to placate the Kurds through cash and concessions. Should the situation in Iraq continue to deteriorate the Kurds being the strongest and most organized force in Iraq could basically take the city and the oil revenues that it represents. If this were to happen the war would immediately escalate into a regional conflict that Washington could no longer manage.

The Kurds are doing their best to carve out enough oil revenue to fund their nationalistic plans. They have continued to resist having Iraq’s huge oil reserves under the authority of the central government which would go a long way to insure that Iraq remains unified. The Kurds have made their intentions known that they would prefer to have Iraq divided. They also are in favor of independent PSA’s for the oil reserves with foreign oil companies taking control and negotiated at the regional level, again to keep the oil revenues in their hands.

Currently we have a war of words and rhetoric between the Iraqi Kurds and the Turks, but history tells us this will not continue for much longer. Rather than spending some of the “political capital” he may still have, the President and this administration are hoping that this crisis will just go away. You know the same strategy they are prescribing for that whole “global warming” thing.

Mark it down people, we have not heard the end of this confrontation and as long as it is ignored it will continue to fester and spread. This is another of those worsening situations that invading Iraq has fostered. This will be no “Young Frankenstein” I’m afraid.

Read more!

Where’s The Beef

Lou Dobbs, the anchor of Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN, has sometimes expressed views I support, the US flag in the lapel flap is not one of them. According to Mr. Dobbs he began to wear his flag pin following the 9/11 attacks to show respect for those killed and support for the “war on Islamist extremists”. I have never understood why some people feel it is necessary to display these symbols of nationality inside the country. I understand national pride and support displaying the flag in front of government buildings or national shrines, I understand displaying it on certain holidays, but to display it on your lapel seems a bit over the top. The problem I have with it is that it seems unnecessary and has been co-opted by forces that I choose not to associate myself with.

Why must I display an American flag inside of America? Is there the possibility that I am going to wake up someday and not know I am in America and will require a vision of a flag to reacquaint me? That I could mistake my Midwestern home for Germany? If you have fought for the flag in conflict, then you have every right to display that flag anytime, anyplace. The problem is that most of those with flag lapel pins did not fight for the flag when given the opportunity, wearing the flag provides them with some false patriotism that assuages their guilt for not being willing to fight for the flag they now cherish so deeply. Based on his bio, Mr. Dobbs would have had an option to fight for his flag in Vietnam. I do not find any record of military service in his background.

I find Mr. Dobbs defense of his lapel pin and his critique of those who choose not to wear one to be naïve. He would have us to believe that the strength of one’s patriotism, character, and words cannot be measured compared to the symbolism of the American flag. So according to Mr. Dobbs the wearing or displaying of the American flag trumps one’s actions, using this logic you could be against everything the flag stands for but as long as you have one on your lapel or in your yard your patriotism goes unquestioned. It does not matter that you are hijacking the ideals and values of that symbol as long as you are displaying that symbol. You can torture, suspend the Constitution, and conduct warrantless searches against other Americans; by God but if you got your flag pin you’re alright.

Here is some of Mr. Dobbs logic.

Sen. Barack Obama put away his lapel flag pin. The senator says instead of a flag pin, his words will be a testament to his patriotism. I don't know what's wrong with the senator or why he can find any discomfort at all, but that's his right as an American. But any politician of any political party who believes their words can be an adequate substitute for the symbolic power of the American flag is sadly arrogant and horribly mistaken.

Several years ago PBS' Bill Moyers said the flag's "been hijacked and turned into a logo -- the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism." I respect Moyers and his work greatly, but he's simply, utterly wrong on this issue. The flag belongs to no group, to no party, to no special interest and to no corporation. Our flag is America's. And if journalists, by some tortured reasoning, believe the absence of the pin suggests neutrality and that gives them the pretense of objectivity, they couldn't be more wrong.[1]

I don’t understand how Mr. Dobbs can ignore the rhetoric that has engulfed the very nature of patriotism in this country by the wing-nuts. He ignores the accusations against decorated war heroes as being unpatriotic because they questioned the rationale for war. He ignores the “us versus them” propaganda being committed by the same people wrapping themselves in the flag to deflect criticism. For Mr. Dobbs to say these things are irrelevant is naïve at best and misleading at worse.

This whole flag pin flap is just more distraction from the real questions we should be asking. The question is not should we be wearing lapel pins or even do we support the troops. The real questions we should be asking is why are our civil liberties being taken away under the guise of security, or why isn’t the best way to support the troops is to bring them home? Saying someone supports the troops or the country is just empty rhetoric without being willing to question the direction of this country or the sacrifice of those troops.

You clowns can wear your lapel pins, those of us who truly support this country and the troops will continue to fight not for the America that was, or the America that is, but the America we have yet to become. The America we support is the one that truly believes in democracy and the rights of all people regardless of their race, religion, or ethnicity. An America where equal opportunity is provided to all of its citizens and equal protection under the law is guaranteed. An America that is willing to provide healthcare, shelter for the poor, and a living wage for all.

Just because you sit in a chicken coop doesn’t make you a chicken and just because you wear a lapel pin does make you a patriot. Just as a chicken has to lay eggs to be a chicken, so a patriot has to do more than wear a flag. There are many in this country who want the sizzle, but where’s the beef?


Read more!

Friday, October 19, 2007

“Sprinkle A Little Crack On Em”

The sentences for crack cocaine are some of the harshest in our criminal justice system. Crack cocaine is the crystallized, highly-addictive form of cocaine used primarily by blacks and other poor people. The disparity between the sentences given out to crack users and low-level dealers and the same given to powder cocaine users is 100 to 1. Which means a powder cocaine user would have to possess 100 times the amount of powder as a crack user to receive the same amount of jail time. Now both users would possess the same drug, just in different forms. It would be like me getting 20 years for having ice cubes and you getting 5 years for having water, we both would have the same thing. So why is there a discrepancy in sentencing?

When crack cocaine was introduced, America was in the midst of another one of its “get tough” on crime initiatives. Crack was being depicted as the scourge of all that was bad in the ghetto and so required harsher sentences according to the logic. The sad part about it is that many of the black legislators at the time signed off on these harsher sentences. Because crack is used primarily in the black community, it soon became apparent that the black community was hit disproportionately by these new sentencing guidelines.

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC), a division of the judicial branch that monitors and advises Congress on sentencing policy, in 2006, more than four-fifths of crack cocaine offenders in federal courts were black.

The 1986 drug laws have had a devastating effect on the U.S. criminal justice system. Drug offenders in prisons and jails have increased 1100 percent since 1980, from 41,000 people to nearly 500,000.

Nearly 6 out of 10 people in state prison for a drug offense have no history of violence or high-level drug-selling activity but are often receiving harsher sentences than people who do. People caught with the drug in 2004, the last year for which data is available, served an average of ten years in federal penitentiaries, while the average convict served 2.9 years for manslaughter, 3.1 years for assault and 5.4 years for sexual abuse.[1]

We are sentencing people for crack cocaine related offenses more harshly than those convicted of manslaughter. Is that crazy or what, you get more time for crack than you do for killing someone. There is something dreadfully wrong when this occurs. Because of the mandatory minimums associated with crack, the federal judges are powerless to alter the sentences. Judges are no longer allowed any discretion in their sentencing of crack defendants, they must impose the harsher sentences even if they feel they are not warranted.

There is currently a case before the Supreme Court where a federal judge decided not to impose the harsher sentence and was overruled by the appellate court because he did not have the authority to change the sentence. The federal judge felt it was wrong to impose harsher sentences for crack versus powder cocaine and so he imposed the lower sentencing for powder. It is important to see if the Supreme Court will rule the disparity in sentencing unconstitutional, because the only difference in the two drugs is who uses them and where they use it.

I know firsthand the devastation that crack cocaine can do to a family and a community, so I would never try to minimize its effects. I also know that crack like all drugs is a social health issue and not a criminal issue. To say that one drug is more immoral to take than another is illogical and bias. There are millions of Americans who are receiving legal prescriptions for all types of mood enhancers and suppressants, are we to believe that because they are prescribed by doctors and made by pharmaceutical companies that they are any less addictive and safe. So, the housewife in Brentwood gets her valium, while the poor person in Watts gets 20 years for crack. I personally side with the same approach we took with alcohol and tobacco; we educate and try to minimize the adverse effects to our society from its misuse.

People are going to take some form of drug or attempt to escape life in some form. You have people who drive too fast, you have people who skydive, and there are millions of Americans who participate in risky behavior that we do not outlaw. The Draconian drug laws we try to enforce have had a devastating effect on the black community and there needs to be changes. I believe that the current bills in Congress go toward alleviating some of those effects. I find the bill sponsored by Senator Joe Biden to be especially enlightened and support it whole-heartedly.

It is time we remove the inherent unfairness and possible racism from our drug policies. As Black Americans we need to begin to ask our candidates and political leaders to begin to take these issues to the frontline of the political debate. We need to know where the candidates stand on the issues that affect our communities in a disproportionate fashion. The time for blind loyalty is over, if candidates want our votes they must address our issues. The devastation of crack is a major issue in our communities and must be addressed. So let’s sprinkle a little crack on Hillary, Obama, and John.


Read more!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Students Aren’t Failing, We Are

School District

Graduation Rate Percentages

Detroit, MI


Baltimore City, MD


New York City, NY


Milwaukee, WI


Cleveland, OH


Los Angeles, CA


Miami-Dade County, FL


Dallas, TX


Pinellas County, FL


Denver, CO


Memphis, TN


Broward County, FL


Fort Worth, TX


Houston, TX


I recently came across some statistics that seemed unbelievable to me in America. It appears that in 10 of our largest cities the public school systems are graduating less than half of their students. That is correct they will graduate less than 50% of their students. According to the report compiled by EPE Research and published in the USA Today, there are 14 school districts that graduate less than 50% of their students. This should be a national emergency; except for one small caveat the majority of students in these schools are minorities.

The city of Detroit was by far the worst; their schools will only graduate 25% of their students. This is a travesty on a national scale and yet it goes unnoticed and unreported. So what if only 25% of those black students graduate, what is that to me? What it is to me is a national disgrace. That we allow an entire school district to only graduate 1 in 4 of their students and there is no outcry is a scandal in itself. Where are the protest marchers and the 2 Reverends holding press conferences? Where are the appeals to Congress for investigations? We have too many people making a living on poverty and keeping the forgotten masses of capitalism buried. If we were churning out millions of white kids without diplomas I guarantee you there would be an outcry. There would be rioting in the streets, but a bunch of minorities, silence.

These appalling figures diminish all of us. How can a country, our country accept these graduation numbers from one of our largest cities? How can we accept less than 50% graduation rates from 14 school districts? How can we spend 500 billion dollars in Iraq and have the Detroit School District graduating 25% of its students? We should be bringing every resource we have to bear on this problem, this is unacceptable. We must begin to deal with the systemic problems that lead to 1 in 4 kids graduating. There is an ever widening gap between the haves and the have-nots in this country and news like this only accelerates it. There will be a day of reckoning if we continue to ignore and fail to educate all of our children. Here is a list of the top 14 districts and their graduation percentages.

These are millions of children who will not have the basic tools to earn a living, let alone to progress beyond the inter-generational poverty they were born into. We are beginning to create the class societies of third world countries, of great wealth being concentrated in the hands of a very few people. What happened to the dream that once was America? What will these children have to look forward to, to dream about? A life of menial minimum wage jobs, street crime, or the slow death of addiction, is this the future we want to offer them? Not everyone wants or is able to go to college, but a high school diploma represents the bare minimum one needs to function in our high-tech world. As our world becomes more technology based and there are fewer and fewer manual labor opportunities, we will be sentencing these children to a life without hope for a better tomorrow. Once we remove hope, what shall they have left?

It is amazing to me that we can spend billions of dollars in Iraq, on space exploration, and a host of other military projects, but we have no money to save millions of American kids from a life of hopelessness. It is time we elect a true "education President", one who will provide more than just rhetoric and catchy phrases. A president who will fund the programs needed to correct this gross injustice being perpetrated against America's minority youth. This is just further proof that separate will never be equal, we have not ended segregation in our schools we have just gotten better at disguising it. It has gone from direct racial inequality to an economic mask covering the racial component lurking beneath the surface. How are we to have a society based on equality for all, if we are willing to accept sending millions of minority kids into the world uneducated and untrained for its demands.

Have our children failed? No, we have failed them and continue to do so as long as a school district in this country is allowed to fail at educating ¾ of its students. We have failed them because we have not been willing to accept the challenge of successfully educating them. Can we as a nation afford to throw millions of lives away, millions of minds?

Read more!
HTML stat tracker