In case anyone needs to know why the Annapolis talks are DOA, the previous statement uttered by Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice should clear up any doubt. This statement was uttered by Ms. Rice in response to the news that after the Palestinian elections she helped to usher in the Hamas faction had won the majority of seats. I remember from my pre-law days the admonition of one of my professors, “Never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to”. You would never schedule a democratic election, if you can’t guarantee the democratic results. Neither should you setup a final peace conference, if you don’t have any final peace agreement.
Nearly seven tumultuous years later, Ms. Rice, as secretary of state, has led the Bush administration to a startling turnaround and is now thrusting the United States as forcefully as Mr. Clinton once did into the role of mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians. The culmination of her efforts occurs this week in Annapolis, Md., as Mr. Bush, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, meet to set the outlines of a final peace agreement before the end of Mr. Bush’s term.
These talks have a snowballs chance in hell of creating any long-term peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Prior to a conference on this scale there has been behind the scenes negotiations that have ironed out the language and details of the agreement, to my knowledge there have been no such meetings. Without the proper groundwork what could she possibly hope to accomplish? The answer of course is nothing this is just another one of this administrations dog and pony shows where there is all sizzle and no substance.
There has been no movement on either side on the major issues that divide both sides, namely the borders and the refugee questions. There has been no movement on the roadmap. You have the majority of Palestinians supporting Hamas who was not invited to the conference, so what can you hope to accomplish without one of the major parties being present? If this weren’t so important and tragic, it would be almost hilarious. Ms. Rice has never been willing to push Israel enough to get a comprehensive agreement with enough concessions to make it palatable to the Palestinians. Just the fact that they are negotiating with a wounded Prime Minister from Palestine shows the desperation of Ms. Rice and this administration to be known for more than the Iraq war debacle.
Many other Middle East experts remain unconvinced as well, particularly since the failure so far of the Israelis and Palestinians to agree on a joint statement to come out of the 40-nation conference has forced Ms. Rice to recast Annapolis as the start rather than the end of negotiations. Critics say she is organizing little more than an elaborate photo opportunity.
So it seems rather than produce any meaningful agreement, this administration in the person of Ms. Rice is content to present a charade for the cameras and the US media. It will give everyone cover for continuing the status quo. We will have plenty of pictures of serious looking diplomats discussing the seriousness of peace in the Middle East, followed by a joint statement of nothingness by all parties, vowing to continue seeking peace. Once the cameras have been turned off, there will be a continuation of business as usual. There is too much invested for all concerned in maintaining the status quo, Abbas has no mandate outside of what Israel and the US gives him, Olmert does not have the political muscle to secure major concessions especially with the Palestinians being fractured, and the US has its hands full with Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iran on the horizon, the other Arab states just need to look like they are seeking peace and justice for the Palestinians to keep their populations stable. The only ones seeking peace have no power to bring it about.
For Ms. Rice, Annapolis reflects her evolution from passive participant to activist diplomat who has been willing to break with Mr. Cheney and other conservatives skeptical of an American diplomatic role in the Middle East. Mr. Cheney argued with Ms. Rice against a pivotal Middle East speech that Mr. Bush gave in 2002 in the Rose Garden, fought her on a host of other issues, including Iran and North Korea, and today surrounds himself with senior advisers dubious about the Annapolis meeting.
Condoleezza Rice has no serious backing in the administration for this effort. The President is vague and not invested and the Vice-President is totally not onboard. It appears that this is just Mr. Bush offering a token concession to Ms. Rice for her loyalty and their friendship. His position does not appear to have changed from early in his first term, where he did not feel obliged to become entangled in the whole Middle East peace process. Peace and negotiations are messy and tiresome, it’s not the cowboy way. Cowboys kick butt, cowboys do regime change and invasion. Negotiations are for weaklings and sissies, not tough guys like Bush and Cheney.
So let’s give a toast to Condi Rice and all the other dignitaries who will be getting face time on television and the cable news talking heads, but in the end, “oh my goodness, Hamas still won…”
Friday, November 30, 2007
In case anyone needs to know why the Annapolis talks are DOA, the previous statement uttered by Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice should clear up any doubt. This statement was uttered by Ms. Rice in response to the news that after the Palestinian elections she helped to usher in the Hamas faction had won the majority of seats. I remember from my pre-law days the admonition of one of my professors, “Never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to”. You would never schedule a democratic election, if you can’t guarantee the democratic results. Neither should you setup a final peace conference, if you don’t have any final peace agreement.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I have unfortunately come to the frightening conclusion that no one in America really wants change. Oh yeah, we want change so long as it effects other people and not us. We want the Iraqis to change and adopt our policies, we want the Pakistanis to change, we want the Sudanese to change, we want the Right to change, we want the politicians to change, we want our spouses to change, we want our bosses to change, we want the media to change. We want everyone to change, but ourselves.
We pretend we want change, we talk about it and we write about it. But when it comes right down to it, we don’t want change. Let’s face it change is difficult, scary, and confusing. Let the other folks change; I am fine like I am. I don’t kill people, I don’t molest children, and I haven’t said the N-word in awhile. Sure I eat too much crap, I don’t exercise enough, and I watch too much television, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. I mean every now and then I give the homeless folks a dollar, I give at work, and I give my old crap to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.
As I am writing this President Bush has just vetoed a spending bill to fund domestic programs, while at the same time he signed a 471 billion defense spending bill, this is not for the wars. This is in addition to the 196 billion he has already asked for and received for the war this year. So, we are spending more money to fight wars that no one can define than we are to provide for the needs of our people here at home and we are not in the streets over this? There are no riots, no storming the White House. No, we just go quietly home and ignore it all. It is our fear of change that allows these things to happen unchallenged.
I read an Op-Ed piece by Bob Herbert in the New York Times and he was talking about one of the young civil rights workers who were killed in 1968. The young man was white and from New York and he was willing to go all the way to Mississippi to fight for the rights of people he didn’t even know. When asked why he didn’t forbid him from going his father said, “I didn’t have the right, to tell him not to go.” This young man did not fear change, he showed what true courage was, and that in spite of his fears he was going to do the right thing, because it was the right thing.
So why do we have such a hard time changing and as a result affecting change around us. For many of us change is uncomfortable because we have all been programmed to a certain degree. We receive programming from our parents, friends, television, and our experiences. Most of us have had to overcome what we consider traumatic experiences, notice I said what “we” consider, no one can determine for another the emotional damage of any experience. We develop coping mechanisms that insulate us from further damage and we become comfortable with the results. The more comfortable we become the more resistant to change we become. For some the idea of change becomes so frightening or undesirable that they would choose death over change.
If we know that change is constant and the only thing that you can count on is change, then why do we resist it so much? Why don’t we embrace it and look forward to its arrival in the hope of lessening its impact. I have never understood why stubbornness and blind loyalty are considered traits to be emulated. Before his reelection Mr. Bush was given positive ratings for being stubborn and not willing to change course in the midst of mounting evidence against him. So there is something in many Americans that believes that change is bad, hence the mantra, “stay the course”. Even when change is discussed or contemplated, it is only presented as piecemeal or change-lite.
We know that the wealthy are siphoning off billions of private and taxpayer dollars, we know that the war in Iraq was unnecessary and based on false premises, we know that our government and its officials are awash in special interest money and influence, we know that the war on drugs is not working, we know that our government is torturing people in our name, we know that people who were sworn to protect it are ignoring or demolishing the Constitution, we know that our country is slowing becoming a police state and we are losing our democracy, yet despite all of these things we continue to spurn change. Anyone who advocates real change is immediately marginalized, depicted as insane, or killed and another brick is added to the wall.
It is hard to believe that we were the generation of change and revolution, we had such high hopes for ourselves and the world. Now many of us hide in our gated communities or suburban enclaves content with the treadmill existence we decried our parents for. Many of us have become stuck in our ruts, living lives of quiet desperation. So we complain and we moan and groan, but we are too afraid or too cynical to change. And as we amuse ourselves with the latest gadgets, reality show, or other distraction our country continues to spiral further away from us.
If we knew back then what we know now, I wonder if we would have done things differently. I don’t know, but this is definitely not what I envisioned.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
You don’t have to be a millionaire to run for office, but according to the Republicans, it doesn’t hurt. In an effort to demonstrate the level of desperation and corruption that our political landscape has become, the Republican’s are recruiting wealthy candidates for the upcoming House races. The Republicans need wealthy candidates because of their anemic fundraising the last few years, thanks in great part to their Party leader and President George W. Bush. Because this administration and its policies have been so unpopular, fundraising for the Republicans has slowed to a trickle and it is affecting all levels of the Party.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 25 — Confronting an enormous fund-raising gap with Democrats, Republican Party officials are aggressively recruiting wealthy candidates who can spend large sums of their own money to finance their Congressional races, party officials say.
At this point, strategists for the National Republican Congressional Committee have enlisted wealthy candidates to run in at least a dozen competitive Congressional districts nationwide, particularly those where Democrats are finishing their first term and are thus considered most vulnerable. They say more are on the way.
The Republican strategy has two major flaws; the first is that just because a candidate has a lot of money it doesn’t guarantee their election to office. In fact in most cases it is just the opposite the candidate spending the most of his own personal wealthy is usually defeated. It seems the voters can usually tell an asshole, no matter how much money he has. The second flaw is that it is immoral; by using this strategy the Republicans are skirting the campaign finance laws. Let me explain, by having these millionaires running for elected office bankrolling their own campaigns they are not subject to any limits on funding. Whereas, if these same “candidates” were just making campaign contributions, their donations would be subject to the current campaign finance laws.
This Republican and others argued that ready access to large sums of money was no substitute for a candidate with the personal qualities and political assets needed to meet the demands of a modern campaign, from an unflappable manner on the trail to an established network of allies and supporters.
In fact, past elections show that candidates who spend large sums of their own money frequently end up losing. In 2006, for example, only 2 of the 10 candidates who spent the most of their own money on their own races for House seats won the elections, according to an analysis of finance records and election results.
The Republicans are well aware of the data concerning the dismal election record of candidates who spend large sums of their own money. Having that information it calls into question this whole strategy except that the goal is not to get these candidates elected. Oh sure if they happen to get elected that would be great, but that is not expected or likely. So then what is the real strategy behind this? It is simply to force the Democrats to spend money on races they normally would not have to spend money on. The goal is to try to take money away from races that are truly competitive to spend on races that are not. Because no candidate can afford to have an opponent spending unlimited amounts of cash without a similar outlay of cash on their part, the Democrats will shift money to the race where the wealthy candidate is recklessly spending away from say a closely contested race.
It is a sad day when you are so desperate that you are not even trying to win, you just want to bloody your opponents. The Republicans have resorted to the scorched earth philosophy, due to their unpopularity and their bankruptcy of new ideas. We can’t win, but we will corrupt the system by dumping enormous amounts of cash for no other reason than we can.
It is precisely this type of strategy that has caused so many Americans to lose faith in our entire political process. Our political landscape is no longer a war of ideas, it has become a war for the sake of war. These two political parties are so entrenched in the warfare mentality, that it is no longer about what is best for the country it is about winning at all costs; give no ground and take no prisoners. If we continue to proceed down this road not only will we have a government that doesn’t function, we will have a society so divided it cannot be governed. It seems that each year we are becoming more and more separate, with each group becoming more defined, isolated, and cut off from debate or diversity. We no longer present our ideas for review in the community square, instead we only present them to those who are likeminded further reinforcing the logic of our argument. If that logic is flawed it never gets to be debated and debunked, at that point it becomes fact.
Today, too many false arguments are being presented as fact on both sides. Rather than investigate and study problems, they have been reduced to sound bites and talk show analysis. Complex problems have been condensed to little more than talking point solutions. Each side fills the crowd with only people who share their worldview, we no longer have the spontaneity of hearing a candidate’s true feelings and values with the give and take of an evenly divided audience. Now we see candidates being spoon fed questions by supporters or even worse “planted questionnaires”, it has all become so choreographed who can tell who truly stands for what. In the absence of debate, we end up with George Bush.
Monday, November 26, 2007
I normally do not make it a habit of coming out against a candidate, I have from time to time brought to light a candidate’s inconsistencies or outright lies but rarely have I made the case against a candidate. This will only be the second such case, the first was Rudy Giuliani because he is running on a misleading and often times false set of circumstances concerning 9/11 and his role in the Bernie Kerik fiasco. In the case of Mitt Romney I am willing to once again demonstrate a basic character flaw which is so entrenched in my opinion it should disqualify him from being elected President.
The deadly character flaw that Mitt Romney suffers from is a lack of courage to lead. America is at a crossroad and the last thing we need is a President without courage and leadership, because the direction and many of the steps we will need to take are not going to be popular and will not be consensus builders. For most of Mr. Romney’s adult life he has avoided the courage of leadership, eventhough he has been in leadership positions. It is one thing to be in charge, it is far different thing to be a leader. Someone in charge merely puts into place the positions and ideas of others, rarely venturing out of the box to express or enact any real change. Our country is in desperate need for real change, not someone who has made a life following and maintaining the status quo.
Civil rights became an even more insistent issue, when boycotts and violent protests over the university’s virtually all-white sports teams broke out at away games. The Mormon Church at the time excluded blacks from full membership, considering them spiritually unfit as results of a biblical curse on the descendants of Noah’s son Ham. (During their training, a fellow missionary of Mr. Romney took notes that read: “All men were created equal — No,” followed by “Sons of Ham. ”)
A handful of students and prominent Mormons — including the Arizona congressman Morris K. Udall and his brother Stewart, then secretary of the interior — called for an end to the doctrine. Some Mormons hoped the pressure would persuade the church to abandon its exclusion of blacks, just as it had stopped endorsing polygamy.
Mitt Romney had walked in civil rights marches with his father and said he shared his concern for racial equality. But neither publicly questioned the church’s teachings.
During the earth-shattering struggles of his time, Mr. Romney repeatedly chose to remain on the sidelines while others took the lead and now he wants us to believe that he is a leader. Where was your leadership Mr. Romney when the country was going through the previous struggles that defined a nation and a generation? An example would be the exclusion of blacks from his Church, Mr. Romney would have us believe that he was against it, yet nowhere publically did he speak out against it, even though being the son of one of the most prominent Mormons in the country he had a platform to do so. But Mr. Romney chose to play it safe and go with flow supposedly secretly wanting the Church to change its doctrine of exclusion.
In this article that I cited Mr. Romney states that how things are done in his church is by God’s intervention, well that’s all fine and good Mr. Romney but you might consider when your “Church” violates a commanding principal of God to maybe join another church? If my church begins to teach the doctrine that women are not spiritually fit to become members it is the time that I as a member must make a decision, to follow God or to follow my church. In this case I am not given the choice of doing nothing, because doing nothing is a choice.
Most of the missionaries, though, were also relieved that their service meant a draft deferment. “I am sorry, but no one was excited to go and get killed in Vietnam,” Mr. Hansen said, acknowledging, “In hindsight, it is easy to be for the war when you don’t have to worry about going to Vietnam.”
Mr. Romney, though, said that he sometimes had wished he were in Vietnam instead of France. “There were surely times on my mission when I was having a particularly difficult time accomplishing very little when I would have longed for the chance to be serving in the military,” he said in an interview, “but that was not to be.”
While many Mormons — and eventually, some of his fellow missionaries — enlisted, Mr. Romney got a student deferment after returning from France. When the draft lottery was introduced in December 1969, he drew a high enough number — 300 — that he would never be called up.
The other issue where Mr. Romney again showed a lack of courage was the question of the war in Vietnam. I’m sorry but I just have to ask; besides John McCain was there any Republican politician that went to defend the country they now hope to lead? So the best the Republicans can offer the country is another long list of chickenhawks, defenders of the war only because they or their ilk will never have to fight in it. What a sad state of affairs for our country. Mr. Romney not only chose to take a deferment, he again uses the disingenuous response of I really wanted to go, but. Mr. Romney if you really wanted to go there would have been nothing to stop you. Take for instances the former professional football player Pat Tillman, he really wanted to go and he went. He left all the comforts and privilege and chose to stand up for what he believed in. It eventually cost him his life, so don’t disgrace the memories of all those who did choose to go and fight with that weak kneed answer.
Mr. Romney has never shown the strength and courage of his convictions, even now on the campaign trail he has stood for something different from when he was a governor. Can our country afford another President who says one thing and does another; I for one do not think so. Courage is not something you get from your relatives, either you have it or you don’t and Mr. Romney does not seem to have it. If he does he has not shown it, which in my opinion makes him not qualified to be President.
Friday, November 23, 2007
With the ongoing debate about our immigration policy and lack of enforcement of current immigration laws, one thing has been made painfully clear in all the rhetoric and hub-bub. It is all the Mexicans fault and if they would just go back to Mexico and quit jumping the border America would be alright. This is the current solution to the immigration problem being bandied about by the Republicans. Basically we need to build a giant wall like in Israel and shoot anybody that tries to cross it. It’s amazing but since 9/11 illegal immigrants have now all been branded with the terrorists iron, so now not only are they taking the jobs of hard working Americans they are also planning some subversive activities.
Before we begin to start lynching illegal migrant workers I think it would be a good idea to make sure they are guilty first. My concern is that immigration is a smoke screen being used by the Republicans to divert attention away from the real issues that are confronting our country. It is also a cloak for the more racist elements of our society that see the “darkening” of America and want to stop it. The Republicans ever ready to exploit a racially charged issue have jumped on the anti-immigrant bandwagon as they did with the civil rights movement. Today instead of supporting “states rights”, they are supporting “native-born” rights. As if any of them were truly native born, they only seem to support native born up until about the 1600’s.
We have been wrestling with immigration for years and yet now it has been elevated to a hot button topic. Do we need to fix and amend our immigration policies? Of course we do, but I don’t think it is wise to do so in such a charged atmosphere. It is precisely this type of charged atmosphere that led to the invasion of Iraq and we all know how well that strategy is working out. Immigration in America is a complex issue and despite the sound bite rhetoric being tossed around, it is a topic that will require input and analysis from a lot of different areas of expertise. There is no easy answer and locking down the borders is definitely not it, this will only cause hardship for all concerned. Instead of having a debate of how things “should be”, we need to understand the situation as “it is” and begin to initiate changes that our both just and humane.
What we are hearing from the Republican candidates is more pandering to the base about immigration. They have devised biometric ID cards for all immigrants and aliens, build a giant wall, and add 23,000 more border patrol agents. While these suggestions will fire up the Party base it adds nothing to the real conversation and solutions to our immigration policies. What we need is an honest national debate on what is possible and prudent versus what will stoke the fires of prejudice.
The Democrats have been silent on the issue for fear of alienating any crossover or independent minded voters. They have offered plenty of generalities but very little in the way of definitive answers. One thing they all seem to agree on is an improved process for legal immigration. What that process will look like no one is saying.
Immigration and border security are important issues in the minds of many Americans, but we must not allow it to be used to avert our attention from the bleeding of our national treasure for an endless war, the lack of health insurance for too many Americans, the loss of democracy and personal freedoms and the siphoning off of wealth for the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. If we don’t deal with these issues it won’t matter how many immigrants come into the country, because there won’t be a country to defend. The defenders of the status quo will always create these “hot button” issues to distract the American public from the issues that will make a real difference in our lives. Instead of focusing on these other issues we get abortion, gay marriage, and immigration, so while our money and country is being stolen from the inside we are worried about these phantom menaces from the outside. In the centuries since our country has been founded we have had few direct assaults from the outside and each time they have been responded to, so for us to conclude that foreigners are going to bring down America is paranoia and not supported by the facts.
I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but the Mexicans are not responsible for all the things that are wrong in America, for many years they have provided a positive contribution to our nation. For us to deny that contribution or to minimize it would be wrong and unfair to all those immigrants who have come here and worked hard to help build and maintain America. It is always easy to blame some group or another for the problems besetting our country, from the beginning there have always been some group to blame. Whether that group is the Irish, the Germans, the Polish, the Chinese, the Italians, or the Blacks the wealthy class has always relied on the natural prejudice and fears of some to sidetrack scrutiny rightly intended for them and their shell game policies.
The immigration controversy revolves around questions of national identity, security in a post-Sept.-11 world and the workings of a $12 trillion economy. Illegal immigrants are essential workers on American farms, in hotels and restaurants and on construction sites. An estimated 7.2 million illegals provide much of the unskilled muscle that the USA's Information Age economy requires: 36% of insulation workers, 29% of farm hands and 27% of butchers.
That's nothing new. Historically, the contributions of the Irish, Germans, Italians, Mexicans and other groups to the American edifice are essential elements of the national belief system. Immigrants labored, often under harsh conditions, in New England paper mills, Midwestern steel plants and along the transcontinental railroads.
Yeah, what the hell who needs them, we’ll let Lou Dobbs and all those other Republicans pick next year’s fruit harvest.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
‘Tis the season to give and for decades we have given and given and yet every year there is always more to give. Every year there seems to be more people who give and more people who are in need. Why is it that for all of our giving we haven’t made a dent in the numbers of people who are in need? Is it that we haven’t given enough? Would giving more reduce the need? These are important questions that every year at the holidays I find myself asking. There just doesn’t seem to be an end to the need or any light at the end of the tunnel.
After careful consideration I have come up with what I consider the two main reasons we continue to see increases in the number of hungry people who show up at our pantries and soup kitchens. I don’t think it is a lack of trying or giving on the part of most Americans. Americans for the most part are giving people, we donate billions of dollars a year to a variety of charities and causes. In 2006 alone, Americans donated over 245 billion dollars or over 2% of their disposable income. Needless to say we have donated a lot of money over the decades, so what is the problem? I will not even begin to try and tackle the myriad of problems concerning eliminating poverty in America, but I would like to discuss hunger. Hunger is attacked in America in mainly three ways, there are soup kitchens that provide for daily needs, there is food pantries that provide for more long term needs, and then there is the Federal program of food stamps.
Let’s begin with soup kitchens, in most major cities there are churches and other social service organizations providing free meals throughout the day for those who are hungry. There are lists of these places posted at most social service organizations or they can be found through word of mouth from the people on the streets. To locate the lists one would simply ask a homeless person, where are they feeding?” At which point you would get the culinary cuisine being offered that day at probably all available outlets. The usual procedure is that each outlet offers a particular meal, so there is a circular effect. Breakfast is served at one location, lunch at another, and dinner is usually served at another. Some locations only serve on particular days.
Most of the food for these locations is provided by donations, either directly to the organization or through a large food bank or pantry. Most cities today have a food bank, a central location where businesses or individuals can drop off donations of perishables or non-perishable items that are then inspected and distributed throughout the city. In addition to the central or main food bank, there are usually smaller local food pantries run by churches or other social service organizations which also distribute food to the needy. Most of the perishable foods donated from businesses is very time sensitive and usually has expired its time, so a lot of the food banks work is tied up in inspecting, sorting, and disposing of donations.
The beauty of the food bank concept is that it allows everyone in the process to “feel good”. From the business owner or corporation that donates its excess products, to the volunteers that sort and distribute the food, everyone gets to feel like they are making a difference and pitching in to help end hunger. Especially now that the holidays are upon us the drive to secure more donations is at a fever pitch. There are large containers everywhere for donations and they are advertised constantly through PSA’s or on local newscasts. Food drives are being conducted by everyone. Each year there are literally tractor trailer trucks full of food to be distributed and yet each year there is more need.
The food stamp program is a federally sponsored program created to help the nation’s farmers by boosting the consumption of over produced crops. While the program did help to alleviate hunger, that was not its original purpose. The program has undergone many reincarnations and transformations to its current form. The program offers participants an ATM card that they can use at stores to purchase food products, there are strict guidelines as to what the person may or may not purchase. Due to continued assault on the program by Conservatives and in turn the general public there are also strict eligibility requirements and unemployed adults can only receive benefits for three months. Because of reduced participation in the food stamp program, many private food banks have had increased participation. There is not less hunger it has just been shifted from government to private sources.
The problem with these programs is that they don’t attack hunger and poverty at their sources. It provides a short-term way for donors to feel good and to believe that they are helping to end hunger. The truth is these programs actually create more hunger. They create more hunger by how they are administered and managed. These programs are basically giant food give a-ways with no concern for the actual need of the individuals they are trying to serve. It creates an endless circle of donations, give a-ways, and pickups. While they may provide a chance for donors to get rid of old merchandise, they do little for the elimination of long-term hunger.
It is a known fact among food advocates that no matter how much food you show up with there will always be people to take it. It matters little what you are giving away or whether the persons need it, it is free. When word gets out that there is free food available unfortunately the old human characteristic of greed will show up with the food. No one seems to care because the goal is to get rid of the food, so we all continue to play the game and every year the problem continues unabated. I wish this year people took more of an interest in promoting real solutions to our problems and not just short-term warm fuzzy moments. I hope we can begin to move away from our current system, because all we are doing is creating the largest poor people in the world.
I know that all problems are relative, but I can’t help looking at the images of hunger in the world and then looking at our people and I hate to say it but it isn’t quite the same. I’m not so sure our problem is entirely hunger and until we begin to address the true problems I don’t know if we are doing any good for anyone. So this holiday season when we are loading up those bags of non-perishables heading down to the church, store, or other drop-off point, maybe we could think about more than the short-term gratification and consider what we can do to make a real difference in the lives of people. Maybe it’s really not more food they need, maybe it is something more. Happy Holidays!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
In case there were any people left who were not sure about the racist and class objectives of the Republican Party, I think this should clear up any more doubt. The state of Mississippi and its Republican Governor Haley Barbour has decided to take money earmarked for rebuilding the Gulf Coast region which was damaged by Katrina and use it to provide relief and redevelopment money for the wealthy at the expense of the poor. Mississippi was the only state that requested and the only state granted the waiver to override the provision that atleast 50% of the Community Block Grants be spent on low income projects. In creating the program Congress wanted to insure that the low income population in the affected states would not be left out of the redevelopment funds.
But so far, the state has spent $1.7 billion in federal money on programs that have mostly benefited relatively affluent residents and big businesses. The money has gone to compensate many middle- and upper-income homeowners, to aid utility companies whose equipment was damaged and to prop up the state’s insurance system.
Just $167 million, or about 10 percent of the federal money, has been spent on programs dedicated to helping the poor, mostly through a smaller grant program for lower-income homeowners.
Some critics contend that the main interest of state leaders in spending community development dollars is to help big businesses like shipbuilders and casinos and the port.
So while the Governor has claimed that there is no discrimination in the allocation of the funds, the numbers seem to be telling a different story. So what are we to believe the Governor or our own lying eyes and figures? It amazes me that even with compelling evidence there are those that will continue to deny the accusations of wrong doing. I am beginning to believe that lying has become so innate in politics that the politicians don’t even care when they are caught anymore. The Governor and other state representatives continue to push the trickledown theory to the poor. Let us take care of the business owners and the wealthy first and that will in turn benefit your situation. Well, this theory has never worked in practical application and only serves to transfer wealth from the public coffers to the wealthy.
The officials for the State of Mississippi would have us to believe that by spending money on their redevelopment projects it will generate jobs which will provide income to the low income workers; the problem is that the jobs being created in a poor state like Mississippi will never go to the low income. These jobs will be prized and go to the off-spring and the cronies of those officials allocating the funds. It is a viscous circle the low income will never be able to break so long as the deck is stacked going in. The state continues to make promises it has no intention of keeping. So on the one hand they can say we are trying to help the poor, but as soon as the cameras are turned off they go back to lining their own pockets. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.
So just as we have seen with the State of New Orleans; Mississippi has also chosen to improve the lot of the haves at the expense of the have-nots. The Katrina catastrophe has turned into a land grab and a poor population migration effort on the part of the Gulf Coast states. They now have the excuse to reclaim all that beachfront property that had been in the hands of the poor for the wealthy, while the rest of America sits idly by waiting for the resorts and casinos to be built on land and the homes of the poor. The affluent will visit the resorts and casinos currently being built and ignore the bodies they were built on. They have moved these people off their land and placed them in either hostile communities or tainted FEMA trailer parks. We have not seen a “land redistribution” on this magnitude since the reservation movement for Native Americans.
It is time we faced the facts America, Americans don’t like poor people. They are constantly treated with disdain and disregard. Sure you help them with donations and through local charities, but the reality is you would rather not see them and especially not talk to them. So the response is, so what if they are taking the land and homes of poor people and turning it into resorts, it was just going to waste with them on it anyway. I mean they don’t take care of their stuff and this is prime real estate. This land has been coveted for a long time and it took a natural disaster to allow the developers and moneychangers to get their hands on it.
It seems like lately every time America has been presented with a challenge to display our once great spirit, we have chosen to display instead fear, greed, and intolerance. With 9/11, we could have shown measured response to aggression in proportion to the threat, but we went way overboard in some kind of surreal statement of overkill and destruction upsetting the balance not only of the region, but the world as a whole and imprisoning ourselves in the process. With the Katrina catastrophe we could have displayed compassion and shared responsibility, but we chose covetousness, materialism, and racism. Have we departed so far from our ideals? The answer is without a doubt.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
There is a growing trend in America and it is sure to have profound effects for our future economic and technological viability. The trend is the practice of lowering expectations for our children and as a result ourselves. The practice is in effect “dumbing down” our society so that no one feels snubbed or not special. The goal is to make everyone feel equal, but the reality is that it is to make everyone the same. Making everyone feel the same is not the equivalent of everyone being equal. Let’s face it we are all created equal, but we do not all share the same gifts and talents. Instead of trying to amalgamate these differences, we need to be celebrating them.
The problem began when in an effort to lessen the effects of failure and defeat some genius came up with the idea that we would reward all children the same regardless of their performance. Win or lose everybody gets a trophy and regardless of your abilities everybody gets to play. If all children were in fact endowed with the same abilities in all the same areas, this would be a good idea; maybe. But the truth is not every child has the same abilities in all the same areas. There are some kids that excel in sports, while others may excel in music, and others in writing. For us to try to reduce these natural gaps in talents to keep our kids from experiencing loss is ill-conceived and just plain wrong. It is wrong for a number of reasons to not reward excellence when it is displayed whatever the venue.
Today we reward kids for their participation in an activity, basically for just showing up. Everyone gets a trophy no matter what their performance or effort. I find this attitude inconsistent with the goals of life. What these people don’t understand is that a child learns as much losing as he does winning and in many cases more. How will a child learn perseverance and dealing with defeat, if he never experiences it? Where is the incentive to get better or to work harder if you’ll be rewarded anyway? We are in effect removing the motivation for greatness so that we can reward mediocrity. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem fair to me.
The trophy backlash is part of what many experts see as a broader reaction to a culture of coddling. Some educators and psychologists argue that recent moves designed in part to build kids' self-esteem -- giving partial credit for incorrect math answers at school, for instance, or overlooking misspellings -- removes kids' incentives to push themselves. "If you are going to get an award anyway," says Jack Lesyk, a Beachwood, Ohio, psychologist who works with kids who play sports, "the message is you don't really have to try your best."
If this were only about sports or other extracurricular activities that would be one thing, but this mentality has invaded academia. If you are a upper middle-class white person who is going to get accepted into college as a legacy, make C’s, and then be elected twice to be the President of America then this system is working, but for those of us with children that won’t have these advantages the last thing we want is for their inspiration to be dampened. Life for us is a struggle and always will be and we want our children to be prepared for that struggle. The way you prepare them for the struggle is not by coddling them or by lowering the standards. Many of the problems facing blacks as a community are from our kids, especially male children, being coddled by their mothers. Now they can’t even take someone insulting them without getting their feelings hurt and then wanting to shoot somebody.
We now, thanks to the “No Child Left Behind” charade are elevating mediocrity in education. With all the focus being placed on the children that are failing, the children that would have a chance to be exceptional are falling through the cracks. I wish we had recruiters in the inner-city that came around in grade school looking for academic superstars instead of the athletic ones. Do you know that many of our young athletes are recruited and offered scholarships to prestigious prep-schools for athletic prowess while still in elementary school, but none of these fine institutions are providing the same for academics. It is no wonder our kids are more focused on sports than education, these are the ones getting the rewards and accolades.
I’m sorry folks but the truth is the truth and the truth is simply this. Not everyone is as smart as me, as strong as me, or as handsome as me, but by the same token I am not as smart, strong, or handsome as some other people. It’s called life and in life sometimes you fail and sometimes you succeed. We all have to learn to live with our failures as much as with our successes. The thing about elevating mediocrity is that not only do you remove the stigma of failure, but you also remove the gratification for true success. My greatest triumphs came on the heels of defeats and failures. By elevating mediocrity, we have removed the incentive to strive for greatness.
The report challenges the conventional wisdom that cream will always rise to the top. And because the federal No Child Left Behind Act focuses on raising the performance of the lowest achievers to a baseline level known as "proficiency," there is little help for high achievers who fade over time. As this report shows, the odds are that such a "fader" student comes from a lower-income household. Little accountability exists under federal law for the academic performance of these high-achieving lower-income students. This needs to change.
I wouldn’t have a problem with the theory behind NCLB, but what has happened is that in order to qualify and meet the arbitrary standards set by a group whose sole goal has been the destruction of the public school system, we have lowered the standards and spent so much emphasis on raising the lower end of the scale that the upper end is withering and dying. We cannot afford to allow our most gifted to die on the vine due to a lack of stimulus and support. We now have gifted kids having to struggle to stay engaged while marginal students are taking most of the attention and focus of the instructors. The schools are forced to spend so much time and resources on standardized tests that no real learning is allowed to take place. We are developing a population of little automatons they are able to retrieve rote information, but what about independent thought and problem solving skills?
Monday, November 19, 2007
This is for all of those people who constantly write to me or write comments to my essays that no one can make a difference. Who would have thought that the biggest corporate pariah could be moved? I know I didn’t, even those who were on the front lines of this thing had given up. It seems that Wal-Mart is moving away from its previous stance concerning health insurance for its employees, to a more nuanced approach. Wal-Mart was notorious among major employers for its lack of a comprehensive health insurance plan to cover its employees at a price they could afford. It looked like Wal-Mart could deliver the lowest prices on everything except health insurance premiums for its employees.
The company, according to data available for the first time, is offering better coverage to a greater number of workers. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, provides insurance to 100,000 more workers than it did just three years ago — and it is now easier for many to sign up for health care at Wal-Mart than at its rival, Target, whose reputation glows in comparison.
Wal-Mart has hardly become a standard-bearer for corporate America: it still insures fewer than half its 1.4 million employees in the United States.
Because of the pressure and the damage to its corporate brand especially among state legislatures, many of whom were preparing or had passed legislation to force Wal-Mart to upgrade its insurance plans, Wal-Mart has found it now to be in its best corporate interest to begin the process of implementing a more affordable and less onerous plan.
What would cause a behemoth like Wal-Mart to retreat from its long standing policies? It was the constant pressure of those thought insignificant by the pundits, the media, and by the politicians. The thing about the power of the people is that it is not the fastest way to do things, nor is it the easiest. The first thing that happens is that you will be ignored and marginalized by the corporate media and the special interest politicians. The word must never get out that people power changes anything or that it works. They must continue the great myth that individuals cannot make changes, but time and again throughout history that has been proven to be false. People can make a difference, if they are willing to not give up in the face of innumerable odds.
The change at Wal-Mart will never be presented for what it truly represents. What it represents is a lesson to all of us who want to change this country. The lesson is, it won’t happen overnight and it won’t be easy. It means that we have to continue the pressure year end and year out, not succumbing to the temptation to give in. The belief that no one cares and we can’t change anything. It has taken almost a decade to change the corporate mentality at Wal-Mart, however if more people had taken up the mantle it would probably have succeeded sooner.
We must not be fooled into thinking that Wal-Mart developed some compassion and decided to implement these changes for the sake of its employees. Remember these were the same people who were willing to allow their employees to swell the state rolls of Medicaid just so they wouldn’t have to provide them insurance. No, this change was due to the people who continued to highlight the injustice of a company making 11 billion dollars annually in profits and yet cannot afford to provide affordable health insurance to its employees.
The company’s turnabout demonstrates the power of public pressure to change even the biggest corporations like Wal-Mart, which has based its business strategy on low costs at all costs.
What Wal-Mart discovered is that the chorus of critics it had long ignored or blithely rebutted had a point. “We were spending a lot of energy, and we weren’t making any headway,” said H. Lee Scott Jr., the company’s chief executive, who once traveled the country defending the retailer’s practices. “Retrospectively now I say, yes, that plan needed to be improved.”
Make no mistake about it; this is a victory as much as the Orange Revolution was a victory for the Ukraine. We now have to build on this victory and continue to highlight and mobilize public opinion to address the many other issues that confront this nation. The injustice of higher corporate profits and lower wages, the injustice of a criminal justice system that has more people locked up than other nation in the world, and the injustice of a nation where we are still not judged based on character. The fight is long and hard, but if we endure we can move mountains…
Friday, November 16, 2007
You cannot make this stuff up, it is too good. General and President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf held a news conference to discuss the reasons behind his having to call for emergency rule in such proximity to the upcoming elections. The General has obviously been a student at the George Bush School of Political Studies, because he has the lines down. According to the General in order to save democracy in Pakistan, he has to destroy it, temporarily of course. He stated that he has to suspend human and civil rights in order to protect those rights. If I didn’t know any better I would think George Bush had said that line.
He defended the decree issued 10 days ago that scrapped the Constitution, dismissed the Supreme Court and resulted in the arrests of 2,500 opposition party workers, lawyers and human rights advocates, and rejected an appeal by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to lift emergency rule.
General Musharraf said the decree was justified because the Supreme Court had meddled in politics, specifically the validity of his re-election, and because of the serious threat from terrorists.
Ok, this is Pakistan, right? There has to be a new rule that anytime the head of a government is doing something unpopular, illegal, or they are threatened by the truth, they are now allowed to say the word terrorist and all proceedings are to be halted. This includes any legal proceedings, financial dealings, or policy debates that happen to be occurring. The threat of terrorism trumps all other activities, no matter how illegal they may appear to the untrained eye. The problem with Pakistanis and many Americans is that they are making decisions based on not having all the facts. There are an elite few who have been given access to all the facts and they would appreciate you unenlightened people being quiet and letting them handle this. In what smacks of the Bush Administration’s dismissal of dissent and the media headed by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the General used similar rhetoric to deflect criticism of his suspending democracy.
Supreme Court; don’t need it. Opposition Party and dissidents; secret terrorists. Parliament; meddlers and complainers. General Musharraf is demonstrating all that is wrong and has been wrong with American foreign policy. You continue to make deals with the devil, eventually you’re going to get burned. For anyone to now say that we are trying to export democracy the rug has been pulled out, the curtain has been drawn and the world can see the man behind it. Please ignore the man behind the curtain. How can we export what we refuse to allow here in America? We don’t want democracy we want stability. We talk about democracy in public, but behind the scenes we continue to prop up these “strongmen” or dictators all over the world. Why do we do it? Because they provide stability. They keep the trains arriving on time, they keep the oil flowing and the labor cheap.
I don’t have a problem with this being the case, but let’s be honest enough with ourselves to admit it. We could care less about democracy in Pakistan, the Sudan, or North Korea. What we want is stability for our markets and for our products. We want commerce to keep flowing out from them and into our pockets and if that means putting some tough guy in to keep them natives in line then so be it. I mean after all they don’t even understand democracy, nor do they deserve it. Democracy was meant for the northern Europeans, no one else really can understand its intricacies and that’s why they want to destroy it and our cherished way of life.
In the interview General Musharraf was critical of the opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, saying she was confrontational and would be difficult to work with.
Western governments and Western media, he said, misread Ms. Bhutto’s support because they placed too much emphasis on the significance of human rights advocates in Pakistan.
“You go and meet human rights activists,” he challenged his interviewers. “Ninety percent of them may have never cast their votes. They sleep on the day of elections.”
General Musharraf said nearly a dozen independent news television stations that had been closed under the emergency decree would be allowed to re-open if they agreed to a government code of conduct.
Now the General, he understands democracy. Democracy is like alcohol, you don’t want to become drunk with it. He recognizes that the people really don’t want democracy; they won’t even get off their lazy butts and go vote. All they want to do is complain. And the Americans they are just a bunch of hypocrites they complain in public, but privately they support our policies and provide 10 billion dollars of aid.
Hell, we don’t want democracy for Pakistan; we don’t even want it for ourselves. If we did we would have noticed those who are destroying it, so they can save it.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
As the Iranian nuclear nightmare diplomacy continues to spin out of control and the Neo-Con attack dogs persists in fanning the flames of war, it is painfully obvious that Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon. The reason Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon has nothing to do with the Bush WMD argument or the Israeli Armageddon scenario. While the wing-nuts would have us to believe that Iran’s behavior precludes them from possessing nuclear technology. They parade out charts and graphs displaying Iran’s support for terrorists, its unstable leader, and its theocratic government as reasons to launch a pre-emptive strike. Remember, we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.
The real reason Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon is not about Iranians at all, it is about the bankrupt Neo-Con agenda. The first question we must ask is why would Iran want nuclear weapons, if in fact they are pursuing the technology. The wing-nuts would have you to believe that number one they want it to take a preemptive shot at America or Israel. Let’s examine this on the surface, they would have you to believe that Iran would risk the complete annihilation of its people to shoot one nuclear bomb at the US or Israel. This is ludicrous to any sane individual, but to most Americans this will be the deal maker. After all, they hate us for our freedoms and would like nothing better than to destroy the “Great Satan”.
Another popular scenario is the Iranians giving the nuclear device to a terrorist organization to escape the retribution on its own people. The terrorist group would then detonate the device and diffuse any culpability from Iran. This of course ignores the available technology that would be used to track the detonation of the device as well as the designer and manufacturer. Thus, bringing us back to the original point of annihilation for Iran and any client group they used to deliver the device. Another and more plausible scenario is that the Iranians would use the device to extract concessions from the West and embolden it to become more aggressive in its foreign policy towards Israel and its neighbors. Does having a nuclear weapon change a nation? Not usually, what good is a gun in a room full of guns? It does not improve your bargaining position as if you were the only one with one.
The truth of the matter is that Iran cannot have a nuclear bomb because then it would be able to resist regime change. The real reason the Neo-Cons do not want Iran or any other nation in the Middle-East to have a bomb is to make it easier to institute regime change when the time comes. Think about what the nations have just witnessed in the last 5 years, there is a terrorist attack against the US on US soil. You have a retaliation invasion against Afghanistan and the Taliban that helped to harbor the perpetrators of the attack. Then out of nowhere you have an invasion of a sovereign country on the pretence that at some point they could have the weapons to threaten the US.
While Tehran didn’t lose any sleep over the deposing of Saddam, what they did lose sleep over was the fact that a line had been crossed in international relations. Deliberate and unconcealed regime change was now on the table with little or no evidence of threat or menace. Naked aggression against regimes that were considered hostile to “American Interests” was now if not condoned at least overlooked by the international community. When you include the fact that North Korea, one of the “axis of evil” members, who supposedly has nuclear capabilities, was never attacked, it’s not hard to understand Tehran’s desire for a deterrent against attack.
I realize with all the hype surrounding the Middle-East and Iran in particular this will be an unpopular position, but it is the only logical one. Of course there will be the Islamo-facist not being logical argument, but this is put forth only as a smoke screen to attack, just as the WMD’s were used for Iraq. If they are able to demonize and attach lunacy to the target, it gives it more legitimacy when taking it out. We have to get them before they get us. The thing that kills me is that with the results being in on Iraq, how anyone could seriously entertain the thought of attacking Iran and not be considered a lunatic themselves. But yet we have “experts” on the television daily offering up just such scenarios.
Despite the hype, there are still voices in the Middle-East that recognize the exaggeration being used to justify an attack on Iran. While no one wants to see nuclear proliferation in the region, they recognize that should Iran eventually get the bomb it will not automatically lead to WWIII as some have predicted.
"Would I like Iran to have a nuclear bomb? No," said Robert Jervis, a Columbia University professor of international politics who has written widely on nuclear deterrence. But, "the fears (voiced) by the administration and a fair number of sensible people as well, just are exaggerated. The idea that this will really make a big difference, I think is foolish."
Even some commentators in Israel, whose leaders see themselves in Iran's crosshairs, present a more nuanced view of the potential threat than the White House does.
An Iranian nuclear bomb could present Israel "with the real potential for an existential threat," Ephraim Kam of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv wrote in February.
Despite Iran's "messianic religious motivations," he wrote, "it is highly doubtful that Tehran would want to risk an Israeli nuclear response" by attempting a first strike.
And this is why Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or any other nation in the Middle-East other than Israel cannot have nuclear capabilities. It’s really rather simple when you think about it.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Bernard Kerik, onetime darling and partner of Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, is about to be indicted by a federal prosecutor for a list of offences that include tax fraud, corruption, and conspiracy, my how the mighty have fallen. Mr. Kerik was Mr. Giuliani’s hand-picked Corrections Commissioner, Police Commissioner, and would have made it to the upper echelons of the government were it not for someone finaling doing a proper vetting on him. Even after the debacle and embarrassment of submitting him for Homeland Security Director, he continued to remain a partner and earn a substantial salary at Mr. Giuliani’s consulting firm.
Federal prosecutors are scheduled to seek a grand jury indictment on Thursday of Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York police commissioner, on a list of charges that include tax fraud, corruption and conspiracy, according to people who have been briefed on the case.
The grand jury, sitting in Westchester, has been hearing evidence about Mr. Kerik for more than a year as part of a broad federal investigation into a variety of allegations, including his acceptance of $165,000 in renovations from a contractor who was seeking a city license.
Now while I am in no way suggesting that Mr. Kerik’s legal troubles cast any aspersions towards Mr. Giuliani’s honesty or integrity, I already had my doubts about that, it does cast aspersions on something that is of vital importance to a country that he wants to be president of. Despite his campaigns rigorous denials to the contrary, the Bernard Kerik case does demonstrate a lack of judgment by their candidate. They can attempt to color over this issue, but Mr. Giuliani’s judgment is now in question. These two men have been inextricably linked since 1990 and so for Rudy to now claim ignorance is beyond the realm of common sense. What does that say about this judgment if he can be so closely linked to this man for all those years and he did not know of his involvement in dubious business deals?
By his own admission Mr. Giuliani has stated that one of his greatest strengths is his ability to surround himself with the right people, able and qualified. My question is, if one of your greatest strengths is suspect, should that not also cast doubts on your other so called strengths? As hard as he tries to run from the embarrassment that his friend Bernie has become, Mr. Giuliani will have to face up to his monumental lack of judgment. He was even pushing to have Mr. Kerik nominated for Homeland Security Director, this is a cabinet level appointment and is an indicator of the type of people Mr. Giuliani would nominate to his own cabinet, not to mention the appointments that don’t even require confirmation. Can this country afford another administration filled with party loyalist and incompetent hacks in positions of leadership? How many Alberto Gonzales and Michael D. Browns are enough?
Mr. Giuliani waved off the dissenters. “I believe that the skill I have developed better than any other was surrounding myself with great people,” Mr. Giuliani wrote in his 2002 book, “Leadership.”
If Mr. Giuliani wants to run on his record and his ability to surround himself with “great people”, then the American people have a right to examine his claims. In the case of this claim it does not hold up to inspection. One of the things that I find so troubling is that when Mr. Giuliani inserted Mr. Kerik’s name for Homeland Security, he and his staff were at that time well aware of Mr. Kerik’s seedy connections to the mob and a host of other dubious facts. Having this information did not deter Mr. Giuliani from submitting his name for consideration. So did he think that the White House would not vett him or did he think that with this White House it wouldn’t matter what his past entailed. Either way it brings up questions that he has not fully answered.
In Mr. Kerik’s case, by the time Mr. Giuliani recommended him for the federal job, his administration knew that Mr. Kerik had acted on behalf of Interstate Industrial. It also knew that he had drawn criticism for a range of other incidents, from sending detectives to search for his lover’s cellphone to using officers to research his autobiography.
Mr. Kerik was not some misguided bureaucrat seduced by the trappings of power, on the contrary Mr. Kerik has a long history of questionable decisions and unsavory relationships. Rumors have dogged him since his days as a NYC detective and continued to follow him through his meteoric rise to the gates of power. I find it incredulous that his one-time mentor was oblivious to these rumors and refused to verify their veracity. Are we now to believe that someone capable of making such a monumental mistake in character is capable of leading a nation during its most troubling times? I don’t think so, thanks to Mr. Bush incompetence is no longer in fashion for the office of Commander and Chief.
"But when you look at the combination of the mistakes and the correct decisions I've made, I think if I made the same balance of those decisions as president of the United States, the country would be in great shape," he continued.
Prior to Bush, Mr. Giuliani might have been able to get away with this logic, but hence Bush it seems anemic and flimsy. How we allow politicians with feeble records to run on those records unchecked is beyond me. We allow war heroes to be lambasted publically, but ignore the flawed records of suspect politicians. I don’t know what we have become, but woe to those who call evil good and good evil.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
It seems that pundit and Republican apologist David Brooks could not sit idly by and listen to the truth about his hero Ronald Reagan. Because of the recent talk surrounding the Reagan visit to Mississippi to kick-off his campaign and its racist overtones, Mr. Brooks is trying once again to write revisionist history concerning “The Gipper”. I wrote an essay detailing this phenomenon called “Revisionist History”, it seems the Republicans have to keep the image of Reagan as the populist hero because of the damage done by the Bush clan. It explains why all of the candidates are falling all over themselves to be the “next Reagan”. So, needless to say his image must not be tarnished by a small little detail like the truth.
The current complaint of Brooks and other revisionists revolves around a speech Reagan gave to kick-off his presidential campaign following the Republican convention. The speech took place in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers had been murdered just 16 years earlier. In the speech Reagan used the term “states rights” stating that, “I believe in states’ rights.” The term states’ rights has a long history in America and in the South particularly. States’ rights was the false justification used by the Confederacy to secede from the Union and to condone slavery.
The term "states' rights" has been used as a code word by defenders of segregation, and was the official name of the "Dixiecrat" party led by segregationist presidential candidate Strom Thurmond. George Wallace, the Alabama governor, who famously declared in his inaugural address, "Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!", later remarked that he should have said, "States' rights now! States' rights tomorrow! States' rights forever!" Wallace, however, claimed that segregation was but one issue symbolic of a larger struggle for states' rights; in that view, which historians dispute, his replacement of segregation with states' rights would be more of a clarification than a euphemism.
Mr. Brooks would have us believe that Mr. Reagan and his campaign were unaware of these facts at the time of the scheduling of this stop or the location of the stop. For Mr. Brooks to make this claim is incredulous and completely dishonest, you would have had to be a moron not to know the implications of being in Philadelphia, Mississippi and making a statement concerning states’ rights. If there is one thing we do know the campaign staff for Reagan were no idiots, they carefully fashioned a brand that is still being used today as the standard bearer for Republican and conservative ideas. A brand that began with this speech and as we have gained more insight into the Reagan years it has become obvious that every speech, every movement was carefully choreographed. The idea that this was some campaign oversight or slip up flies in the face of reality.
In reality, Reagan strategists decided to spend the week following the 1980 Republican convention courting African-American votes. Reagan delivered a major address at the Urban League, visited Vernon Jordan in the hospital where he was recovering from gunshot wounds, toured the South Bronx and traveled to Chicago to meet with the editorial boards of Ebony and Jet magazines.
You can look back on this history in many ways. It’s callous, at least, to use the phrase “states’ rights” in any context in Philadelphia. Reagan could have done something wonderful if he’d mentioned civil rights at the fair. He didn’t. And it’s obviously true that race played a role in the G.O.P.’s ascent.
Based on his own argument Mr. Brooks makes the case that race played a major role in the rise of the Republican Party, so how did this rise take place? Why would millions of voters flock to a party that didn’t support their views concerning race? According to his article the goal of the Reagan campaign was to move away from the racists roots of the “Southern Strategy” begun by Nixon. I’m sorry you want to move away from racism by going to Mississippi and giving a speech on states’ rights the day your general election campaign begins, am I the only one who is missing something here? That would be like me trying to court the Hispanic vote by going to a rally given by the Minutemen declaring my support of native-born rights and then attending a Cinco de Mayo celebration the same day. How stupid do these people take us for?
Despite their attempts to whitewash history, the truth is that Reagan and his staff knew exactly what they were doing and it is borne out by the policies of his administration. Mr. Brooks states that Reagan could have done something wonderful that day by instead of supporting states’ rights he had said he supported civil rights, but imagine how that would have played with that crowd, so he didn’t. These brand preservers forget one tiny detail, we have a historical record of Mr. Reagan’s policies and legislative agenda and they contain outright pandering and inward support for racist policies. Has Mr. Brooks forgotten about South Africa and Bob Jones University? To have a serious debate it requires a certain amount of honesty, honesty that Mr. Books and his ilk refuse to display.
The Reagan brand is a myth and like all good myths it requires fabricators to keep it alive and flourishing. I can’t say that Reagan was a racist or he wasn’t; only God can know a man’s heart, but I can say that he supported policies that had racist overtones. Mr. Brooks calling a duck a chicken doesn’t make it one.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
While contemplating my own mortality recently, I began to think about how we humans view our demise as compared to how we view the demise of animals. The Michael Vick incident revealed how we view the suffering of animals versus how we view the suffering of humans. Now, while this essay in no way condones the behavior of Mr. Vick or any human that would deliberately torture animals, it is interesting the amount of outrage generated by this injustice as compared to the amount of outrage for the ongoing human tragedies transpiring within our midst.
Somewhere in our collective human psyche we have come to the acceptance that human suffering is, if not desirable at least tolerable. I don’t know when this acceptance took place in our human history or what exactly caused it, but its existence is none the less very real. It is displayed in how we treat suffering animals as compared to suffering humans. If we are confronted by a suffering animal we have no trouble “putting it out” of its misery. When the family pet becomes sick or just too old to continue life in a manner we deem gratifying we put them “down”. Why is it that we allow our pets or animals in general to go quietly into that good night, but we refuse to allow humans the same dignity?
Many have commented that it is primarily due to our innate fear of death that compels us to cling to any form of life no matter how torturous and labored. Others have commented that it is the sanctity of human life that prevents us from extinguishing its flame carelessly. And then there are those that espouse the self-survival instinct and how anything that would impede that would lessen the value of life. While these arguments have some rationale, I think that a deeper instinct may be at play in our collective consciousnesses. It has always seemed odd to me that many religions elevate suffering as a higher consciousness, but many adherents avoid it like the plague. So on the one hand suffering is presented as admirable and on the other hand it is evaded whenever possible.
There are many examples where the personal sufferings of an individual are hailed as remarkable and worthy of our admiration. How often has it been said that an individual withstood a tragedy or suffering with dignity. Her husband was a louse, but she withstood the suffering heroically or he fought that cancer to the very end. It is as if suffering for the sake of suffering is somehow significant, but does this only apply to others? I know for myself when I am in the midst of suffering, even if it is for some greater cause it doesn’t feel that good and my aim is not to prolong it to enhance its benefits.
I have to admit that like many others I am torn by the whole issue of suffering and even death. Being an Orthodox Christian I maintain certain beliefs about the sanctity of life and its preciousness, but at the same time I am human and like most humans do not relish the concept of suffering. I do not fear death, yet I don’t seek it out. I have left a living will stating that I should not be kept alive in some vegetative state by artificial means; I would hope that at that time I would be prepared to face whatever awaited me. But the question persists, why have we so readily accepted the concept of suffering in humans? Suffering, that we would promptly alleviate in anything that is not human but we allow for ourselves. And in many ways we not only allow for it, we advocate it.
This essay is not to promote assisted suicide or anything of the kind. I have not come to an opinion on that option and would not be comfortable expressing one if I had. I guess I am seeking discussion of the whole concept of human suffering in situations we do not allow other species to suffer. There are basically four trains of thought on human suffering with many subsets of these four. They are hedonism, utilitarianism, humanitarianism, and pessimism. Most of our concepts about suffering and pain are based in one of these four schools of thoughts.
The hedonists believe that good and evil exist in the forms of pleasure and pain. The goal of the hedonist is a state of not only reducing suffering, but of maximizing pleasure. The utilitarian’s believe that whatever benefits the most number of people is the right act; the goal is the complete abolition of human suffering. The humanitarians believe that the purpose of every human is to alleviate the suffering of other humans. The pessimists believe that all life is bad and that suffering is unavoidable and therefore suffering is necessary.
Many of us combine different forms of these four and some of us rotate back and forth depending on our current circumstances. I have also noticed that time plays a role for many in their state of mind on suffering, with many youthful hedonist and many older pessimist. So are we to continue to allow suffering for our loved ones, demanding that they do not go gently into that good night? Or will we allow what is good for Rowdy to also be good for mom, pops, or granddad?
Friday, November 9, 2007
From the believe or not section, I submit the Viacom corporation, a pillar of the corporate culture and business principles. It seems that the Viacom Corporation has decided that it is now the defender of all that is culturally black and will be the decider of what that black culture will consist of. Despite the many pleas from activists and community leaders for Viacom to discontinue to promote negative black cultural images through its subsidiaries MTV and BET, Viacom has come to the conclusion that they know better than blacks what the black cultural experience consists of. By their refusal to comply with the demands of parents and concerned citizens they are in effect saying that those black folks are out of step with their own culture, that these white businessmen are more attuned to the black experience than blacks are. We know what the black people want and we are going to deliver it to them even if it kills them.
In a move reminiscent of the latest Duane “Dog” Chapman interview on CNN, who stated that he felt he was entitled to use the N-word because of his long history with the black community. Of course he failed to mention that as a bounty hunter that history involved throwing a lot of black folks in jail, but what’s a little jail between friends. He thought he was cool enough with the community that he was just like one of the fellas. Hey what’s up my ni**a! The executives at Viacom are obviously going to try using the same tack as the “Dog”, they are presenting black executives as the fronts for their positions believing that these front men and women will have the clout to defuse any complaints from the black community regarding their one-sided view of black life. These networks appeal to the baser natures of black teenagers and young adults with their images of money, drugs, sex and violence.
I am not a censorship type of person; I never have been and never will be. I believe that everyone is responsible for their own decisions and will be judged accordingly. By the same token if you are the only or main network for black programming serving some 85 million households then I believe you have an obligation to that community to provide uplifting images as well as the negative images. I believe that Viacom owes it to the community that they are profiting from to provide balanced coverage. To display only one image of a community and say this is representative of that community is dishonest and fraudulent. The black community has a very diverse populace and is deserving of a platform that displays that diversity. Any network can play to the lowest common denominator. We don’t allow the other networks to do it and we shouldn’t allow these to do it, just because they put a black face on it.
I think these protests go to the heart of a much larger issue that is not receiving any debate. The larger issue is, who determines the cultural symbols of a community? Who is responsible for the images and sounds of a culture? This is a very difficult issue and one that is fraught with controversy, yet it is an issue that must be discussed in our community. The difficulty of course will be the attitude of the current group of young blacks, many young blacks do not feel the necessity or the allegiance with any community organization. Many have the attitude that no one or no group can tell them what to do, this is markedly different from previous generations. In previous generations due to our shared daily public oppression, blacks were more inclined to stick together and form partnerships, more inclined to unite under a single banner. There was a willingness to put aside individual concerns for the greater struggle.
This is not to say that there was not internal strife and there have never been a shortage of dissenting voices, but for the most part during the civil rights movement blacks were willing to be led in their efforts to overcome the overt racism they faced on a daily basis. Today it is not the same, today racism is not so overt. Due to the gains of blacks because of the civil rights movement, black people have more mobility and they have more independence. Also we live in a different society, today our society is more accepting of language and images that were once considered in bad taste or in some cases obscene.
Another issue is that today blacks have unprecedented access to money and material possessions. This is not to say that there are no poor blacks or that there is not still a large discrepancy between blacks and whites in the economic arena, but overall more blacks are economically better off than at any time in our history. With those material and economic gains comes greater access to technology and media. While there will always be those who will use these vehicles for nefarious purposes, we must not blame the access. The real culprits are those behind the access that are using them for reprehensible goals and personal gain.
I think the real answer to who defines a culture and its images is the members of that culture. While others may spotlight certain segments of a culture or subset if you will, the real responsibility lies with those who are being defined. If I don’t like the way someone is defining me it is incumbent upon me to reject that definition. We as black people can no longer shirk the responsibility of defining ourselves to others; we have too much money and too much access. I believe that one of the greatest failures of those blacks who have gained success through entertainment, sports, and business has been the lack of control of the media. For too long we have been content to play the roles created by others, written by others, directed by others, for others.
I am not a big Tyler Perry fan, to me his plots and storylines follow too familiar a pattern, but the thing I have to give him his props for is his willingness to create and define black people with his own media structure and apparatus. Why do we not have more of these types of ventures from other successful black people? Unfortunately, it appears that rather than go out and get our own, once again we are content to work for others or the ones who have developed their own have chosen to ignore their own image and chase after the image of the majority, the infamous crossover.
Blacks command too much economic clout today to allow others to continue to cast us in a negative image, the question is will we stand together against those forces that are willing to sell us out for personal gain. You can’t tell me that if enough black people chose to boycott the advertisers of BET and MTV that they would continue to display those negative images. This thing is about money and whoever controls the purse strings controls the agenda. The reason the networks are playing to this crowd is because they are the ones spending the money. They are the ones buying the crap these shows are promoting and selling. Where that money is coming from is the subject for another essay.