culture


“Look for the helpers. You’ll always find people who are helping.”
— Mister Rogers

I’m imagining Mister Rogers dropping the mic and swaggering off the set in his sweater, knowing these words would help kids and adults alike focus on what needed focusing on, after a tragedy. Thank you, Fred. Now can this be our collective motto for everything, everyday?

Boston, we are with you. My heart aches. Our hearts ache.

Thank you, first responders, the greater Boston community, and the world. “Cooperation after a Tragedy: When our Hearts Know Better than our Minds

Respect to Dave Zirin (@edgeofsports), for reminding us of the history of the Boston marathon and of Kathrine Switzer, the first woman who ran the race. “The Boston Marathon: All my Tears, All my Love

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” – Kathrine Switzer

And that awful feeling in Boston — of chaos, pain, the worst experience ever? It’s hard to stomach the multiple, coordinated, terror attacks of car bombs and roadside bombs and armed gunmen all around the country of Iraq today. We mourn the deaths of 75, the wounds of 356, the terrorized psyches of Iraqis. Unimaginable. “Iraq’s Bloody Monday: 75 Killed, 356 Wounded

Iraq, we are with you. My heart aches. Our hearts ache.

Tracy Clayton wrote about the historic relevance of the numerous nicknames that 9 year-old Oscar nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis unwillingly received at The Oscars, Quvenzhané.  Check out the piece, it’s an important read.  Warsan Shire is quoted — one of my favorite quotes ever:

“Give your daughters difficult names. Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right … Give your children difficult names, so the world may learn how to unfurl its tongue in the direction of our stolen languages.”  – Warsan Shire

A good read, short piece on one kind of 21st century Jim Crow, focusing on the millions of former felons who are disenfranchised from voting:

“We have seen these shenanigans before: grandfather clauses; poll taxes, literacy tests. Yet African-Americans — heck, Americans in general — seem remarkably quiescent about seeing it all come around again, same old garbage in a different can.

“If you want to vote, show it,” trilled a TV commercial in support of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law before a judge blocked its implementation. The tenor of the ad was telling, though, implicitly suggesting that voting is a privilege for which one should be happy to jump through arbitrary hoops.

But voting is emphatically not a privilege. It is a right. By definition, then, it must be broadly accessible. These laws ensure that it is not.”

Remember this speech from Charlie Chaplin, in The Great Dictator, a movie he wrote, directed, and produced himself? (did you know it was released in 1940, before we even went to war with germany?)

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say “Do not despair”…

…Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security.

happy labor day to all.

[if interested, here's the full text of the speech.]

Oliver Stone’s documentary ‘South of the Border’ (trailer). Interesting!

So there’s a story from NPR this past week that’s getting passed around like ladoos at an Indian ceremony.  It’s about gay weddings and Indian-Americans.  I appreciate the sentiment and do agree that it’s moving that there are Indian-American parents who are coming to terms with and celebrating their kids’ unions with others of the same sex. I understand it’s a light-hearted piece, but I have a few very critical reactions to it.

First, it’s a story, in typical NPR style, that’s pre-packaged and presented in sing-song like fashion, from beginning to end.  It’s sad, and honestly nauseating, how so many NPR stories are crafted like “afterschool specials”. Please, treat us with a little more maturity and respect.

Second, and this is my bigger issue, the story celebrates gay marriage and Indian-Americans (a step forward), while celebrating and lauding practices of arranged marriages and twisted ideas of what is acceptable in society (parents advertising their children in the paper, using socioeconomic status and fair skin and other regressive ideas of what is desired in society).  The story ends with this sequence of paragraphs:

And I remembered that old coming-out line: “Mom, Dad, I am not going to get married.” The next generation of immigrant gays and lesbians might have to come up with some other coming-out line.

In fact, I can imagine this ad in the local Indian weekly:

“Hindu very well-established Los Angeles family invites professional match for daughter, 25, 5-foot-3, slim, fair complexion, U.S. born, senior executive in Fortune 500 company. Loves music and dancing. Prospective lesbians encouraged to reply in confidence with complete bio data and returnable photo. Must be professional, under 30, caste no bar.”

It might just be time for the gay arranged marriage.

Gay marriage is NOT the only manifestation of gay/queer relationships, so the idea that in the future most Indian kids who are gay are going to need a coming out line other than “mom, dad, I am not going to get married” is a little silly.  And, the ad in the local Indian weekly, I almost jumped out of my seat when I read it.  The piece is embracing the idea of moving gay marriage into the old ways of representation of desire — socioeconomic status, fairness of skin (don’t say caste no bar when you’re bringing these two things into the mix!).   This is exactly the very fear that queer people have about gay culture and marriage ‘equality’ — that it risks succumbing to the normative model of what is desired and what is not desired in society, as a compromise instead of moving to a model of liberation and love.  Embracing the modern day caste system doesn’t feel very much like progress to me.  Thoughts?

Oh yes they did. Very creative, slightly disturbing, and wow. Alien vs Pooh

John Hodgman followed President Obama’s speech to the Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner with a speech about nerds vs jocks. Cracked me UP. He appropriately refers to Obama as “the first nerd president of the modern era”. Truly an exceptionally funny speech (tho i’m not a fan of nerd = needing asthma inhaler).

(cross-posted at CureThis)

Last night, CNBC featured a segment on “Is Health care a right or a privilege?” and invited two speakers to debate the question.


One of the speakers was Dr Mai Pham, senior policy advisor at the National Physicians Alliance (NPA). The NPA fimly believes that health care is a human right and its campaigns and mission speak directly to that. The other speaker was Michael Cannon, director of health policy at the CATO Institute, a free-market, libertarian organization.

Make your own conclusions about some incendiary statements made in this debate, but I must highlight one here.

“Saying health care is a fundamental human right is one of those simplistic nonsense slogans” — Michael Cannon, CATO.

Unbelievable. No it’s not. Saying health care is a fundamental human right is an important statement that we must embrace fully as a society (and to an extent have already embraced).

As guerillamamamedicine recently blogged:

i do not deserve a good job, or a beautiful home, or health care because i went to school and got my degree. i deserve them because i am a human being. if i were to say that i deserve them because of how many years i spent in school, or how much money i paid to go to school, or the number of letters behind my name, then i am saying that i deserve basic human dignity because of my educational privilege.

- – - – -

I applaud Dr. Pham’s calm and composure in the debate. There is much to loearn from her regarding how to stay on point and how to debate an issue articulately.

In any case, it was a pleasant surprise to see this issue covered by CNBC; perhaps the station will cover such issues in the future.

Yesterday as I was purchasing my afternoon coffee, I saw a copy of the New York times at the local coffeehouse, featuring an article on its FRONT PAGE entitled, “With Advocates’ Help, Squatters Call Foreclosures Home.” Check out the short article. Thanks to folks like Take Back the Land’s Max Rameu, the Miami Workers Center, Women in Transition, sheriffs in Ohio who refuse to evict people from their houses, the Poor Peoples’ Economic Human Rights Campaign, and others working together in their communities to preserve a little human dignity in this recession. It reminds me of the question that Travis Koplow brought up about a Los Angeles neighborhood council meeting and foreclosed houses:

Is it so important that we protect capital itself? Is the protection of property is more important than the safety and protection of people?

My friend Saba shared a comment on that previous post, with the website for Take Back the Land. Here’s the latest video, an interview on CNN.

Thoughts?

Check out this powerful and moving plea for healthy development and environmental justice, from Majora Carter — an inspiring and courageous activist and organizer in the South Bronx. This talk, entitled “Greening the Ghetto” was given at the TED conference in 2006.

“Environmental justice goes something like this: no community should be saddled with more environmental burdens, and less environmental benefits, than any other.”

Carter links unjust urban development to health problems, talks race, and discusses the potential and the imperative for Americans to move towards REAL and just sustainable development.

She ends with a bang, stating that communities affected by environmental injustices must be at the decision-making table regarding local and national strategies. Check it out in the video, here’s here ending paragraph, it is SO absolutely true, whether the issue is environmental justice, health care reform, city planning, or schools:

“I spoke to Mr [Al] Gore, the other day after breakfast. I asked him how environmental justice activists were going to be included in this new strategy. His response was a grant program. I don’t think he understood that I wasn’t asking for funding; I was making HIM an offer. What troubled me was that this top down approach is still around. Don’t get me wrong, we need money. But grassroots groups are needed at the table DURING the decision-making process. Of the 90 percent of the energy that Mr Gore reminded us that we waste everyday, don’t add wasting OUR energy, intelligence, and hard earned experience to that count.”

Odds of Dying in a Terrorist Attack

You are 13 times more likely to die in a railway accident than from a terrorist attack

You are 12,571 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack

You are six times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack

You are eight times more likely to die from accidental electrocution than from a terrorist attack

You are 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane

You are 87 times more likely to drown than die in a terrorist attack

You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack

You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack

You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack

You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack

You are nine times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack

You are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist

From John Baker’s blog.

This week on LA Metblogs, Travis Koplow wrote a post about his participation in/observation of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council. On the agenda for the meeting he attended was the issue of squatters in foreclosed homes. He said this:

But last night I went to my neighborhood council meeting for the first time and the discussion there raised an issue that I do think is worth us thinking and talking about more. Among the other topics on the plate was the growing number of squatters in foreclosure homes. There was a policeman present at the meeting, as I guess is usual, and he was talking about crime in Sherman Oaks, and one council member was asking him about people living illegally in empty homes. The policeman (I cannot bring myself to say “peace officer,” sorry folks) said that it was something to be on the lookout for, that if we suspected such a thing we should let the police know. There are several boarded up houses within a few blocks of my apartment and I get not wanting them to become crash pads for crack addicts or meth dealers. I get that. But then the councilman elaborates, saying that it’s important to be on the lookout, that sometimes it is hard to tell. Some of the squatters have kids and SUVs and dogs. Let me interrupt myself here to say, this post is in no way meant to disparage the SONC. It was my first time there, but I was made to feel welcome and the neighborhood council is clearly functional and positive and inclusive. But what I wonder is this: why is it so important to call the police on those families that look just like “normal” families? Is it so important that we protect capital itself? Is the protection of property is more important than the safety and protection of people?

Interesting. I know that squatting vs crime and other issues is a complex issue (for example, more break-ins into cars near an area where someone’s squatting at a foreclosed home can increase pressure on a community to better address these crimes and the causes of them) and I have great respect for the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council, but I always find it refreshing when the question of priorities re: property protection vs protection of people is brought to the forefront of the discussion. Thoughts?

Below: Step 9 of the 10 steps a country takes as it moves towards fascism. The clip is from the forthcoming documentary The End of America, based on Naomi Wolf’s book and speaking engagements. Naomi Wolf = brilliant.

Also check out the official movie trailer at the official The End of America documentary website.

Beautiful.

“And I also find it ironic that some of those who rail most loudly against this bill because of earmarks, actually inserted earmarks of their own, and will tout them in their own states and their own districts. These practices hit a peak in the middle of this decade, when the number of earmarks had ballooned to more than 16,000 and played a part in a series of corruption cases…

In 2007, the new democratic leadership in congress began to address these abuses by a series of reforms, that i was proud to have helped write. We eliminated anonymous earmarks and created new measures of transparency in the process so Americans could better follow how their tax dollars are being spent. Any earmark for a for-profit private company should be subject to the same bidding requirements as other federal contracts…

Rewarding of earmarks to private companies is the single most corrupting element of this practice, as witnessed by some of the indictments and convictions that we’ve already seen.”


I lived in NYC for two years and nearby in Newark NJ for another few years, and the NY Post is not a reasonable publication by any means, and has never been. And this week it published a very controversial cartoon. Sam Stein and Baratunde Thurston are articulate and to the point with the connotations inherent in this cartoon. Check out the video above.

Baratunde Thurston also published an essay in the Huffington Post, where he expands on Dr Phillip Goff’s research on the very real brutality/racism effects of psychologically likening blacks to monkeys.

And Dr Goff’s full essay, “Little Things are Still a Big Deal” can be found here. It’s VERY interesting. Here’s a snippet:

For the better part of the past seven years, my colleagues and I have conducted research on the psychological phenomenon of dehumanization. Specifically, we have examined cognitive associations between African Americans and non-human apes. And the association leads to bad things. When we began the research, we were skeptical of whether or not participants even knew that people of African descent were caricatured as ape-like — as less than human — throughout the better part of the past 400 years. And, in fact, many were not. However, even those who were unaware of this historical association demonstrated a cognitive association between blacks and apes. That is, when they thought of apes, they thought of blacks and vice versa — when they thought of blacks, they thought of apes.

But the fact of this cognitive association was not the most disturbing part of the research. Rather, it was the fact that the association between blacks and apes could lead to violence.

In one study, participants who were made to think about apes were more likely to support police violence against black (but not white) criminal suspects. The association actually caused them to endorse anti-black violence. Most disturbing of all, however, was a study of media coverage and the death penalty. Looking at a sample of death-eligible cases in Philadelphia from 1979 to 1999, the more that media coverage used ape-like metaphors to describe a murder trial (i.e. “urban jungle,” “aping the suspects behavior,” etc.) the more likely black suspects, but not white suspects were to be put to death.

Something to mull over…

The sheer number of articles in mainstream press about the social networking platform “Twitter” are cause for nausea. (Twitter is a platform by which one can send out 140-character messages, known as tweets, to however many other people are following their page. Some call it “microblogging”).

I dig Twitter and I use it to share articles with friends, reflect on medicine and public health, and share thoughts / events / passions about Los Angeles and the world around me. I’ve learned a wealth of information and have been led to innovative web-based technologies regarding health, based on short communications on twitter. I follow folks on Twitter whose opinions and article-sharing I like, I receive feedback on questions I pose, and I have a healthy relationship with this kind of experimentation of newer models of information sharing and reflecting.

So back to these articles. Seriously? Aren’t there more important issues to cover in the world? Most pieces I’ve seen about Twitter proclaim it to be the Next Best Thing. It’s been placed on some grotesque pedestal, but then again, much of media is in the business of sensationalizing. But most recently the alt press site Alternet.org, a website I have much respect for and read regularly, featured a commentary on Twitter entitled, “Twitter Nation Has Arrived: How Scared Should we Be?” by Alexander Zaitchik. I didn’t expect Alternet to post a commentary like this. Not because it’s disapproving of twitter and attempts to make larger philosophical points. But because it’s so poorly written, not well fact-checked, and is FULL of spite. The seething hate emanates from the article in very non-subtle ways. And the assumptions are far-reaching and presumptuous.

In addition, his facts are not researched. For example, the author states that Twitter was based on Facebook’s status update model. Nope. Twitter was around for almost a year before Facebook started incorporating status updates into its model. One of several simple facts that the author had completely wrong.

The article makes some interesting anthropological points that I agree with (and I’m always interested in discussions about how we’re becoming post-human). He also reveals some of the silliness of Twitter (honestly I don’t always get why people share what they do, and oftentimes the TMI syndrome comes into play — Too Much Information about your personal life, I don’t care — but that’s easily remedied by not following that individual’s stream). But interspersed his otherwise interesting points are volcanoes of rage (ha! did I just say volcanoes of rage? awesome!) which dilute any point he’s trying to make. Anyway, here are some of the author’s rants that I thought i’d share: (more…)

Two legends of American folk, Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen, sang “This Land is Your Land” (along with Pete Seeger’s grandson, Tao Rodríguez-Seeger) at the Obama Pre-Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in DC. However, they say the original lyrics, which includes two verses by Woody Guthrie that are not as well known (the verses about private property and the hungry Americans at the relief office). There were half a million people in the audience at this performance, and the video is quite moving. We share it with you here. Feel free to sing along, it’s better that way.

This Land Is Your Land

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

Here’s a link to Woody Guthrie’s website with lyrics. And the Wikipedia entry for This Land is Your Land, with a bit of history (including why Guthrie wrote the famous folk song).

Check out this poster, starting with “389 Years ago the first slave ship lands in the American colonies.” And ending with “And on November 4th 2008, the people of the United States elect their first African-American President and his name is Barack Obama”.

Thanks, folks at Wallstats, for putting it together and for celebrating progress.

Yolanda Pierce of The Kitchen Table, on the selection of Elizabeth Alexander as the inaugural poet laureate:

I am celebrating this news because it honors a black woman we both know and deeply respect, a woman who has dedicated her life and work to not only writing, but training the next generation of writers. Alexander’s volume The Venus Hottentot, remains one of the most influential volumes of poetry I’ve read and I use it for my own teaching.

I am celebrating this news because Obama seems to fully grasp the idea that words and language truly matter. By restoring poetry as a central feature of his inauguration, Obama gives hope to those of us who believe that art is always important and necessary, especially during hard times. Artistic expression is as necessary and as vital as bread and water.

I am celebrating this news because our African American ancestors articulated their struggle for freedom and dignity in verse: poetry, song, and prose. And so, through poets like Alexander, we can pay homage to Phillis Wheatley, and Jupiter Hammon, and Lucy Terry Prince – 18th century black poets who dared to sing a free song, while their bodies were still enslaved.

I’m enjoying exploring some of Elizabeth Alexander’s poetry. Fitting for this site, here’s a beautiful poem she wrote about Los Angeles:

Stravinsky in L.A.

In white pleated trousers, peering through green
sunshades, looking for the way the sun is red
noise, how locusts hiss to replicate the sun.
What is the visual equivalent
of syncopation? Rows of seared palms wrinkle
in the heat waves through green glass. Sprinklers
tick, tick, tick. The Watts Towers aim to split
the sky into chroma, spires tiled with rubble
nothing less than aspiration. I’ve left
minarets for sun and syncopation,
sixty-seven shades of green which I have
counted, beginning: palm leaves, front and back,
luncheon pickle, bottle glass, etcetera.
One day I will comprehend the different
grades of red. On that day I will comprehend
these people, rhythms, jazz, Simon Rodia,
Watts, Los Angeles, aspiration.

And a wonderful poem on poetry itself:

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves,
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”)
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

She also wrote a beautiful piece on the legacy of poet and activist June Jordan. All these and more poetry, audio, and essays can be found at Elizabeth Alexander’s website.

When he was preparing for the Democratic primary debates, Obama was recorded saying, “I don’t consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.’ So when Brian Williams is asking me about what’s a personal thing that you’ve done [that's green], and I say, you know, ‘Well, I planted a bunch of trees.’ And he says, ‘I’m talking about personal.’ What I’m thinking in my head is, ‘Well, the truth is, Brian, we can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective’.”

(via brownfemipower. original source – Newsweek, November 5, 2008, “Hackers and Spending Sprees”)

From Tom Ackerman (via Meteor Blades), an interesting concept:

I no longer recognize marriage. It’s a new thing I’m trying.

Turns out it’s fun.

Yesterday I called a woman’s spouse her boyfriend.

She says, correcting me, “He’s my husband,”
“Oh,” I say, “I no longer recognize marriage.”

The impact is obvious. I tried it on a man who has been in a relationship for years,

“How’s your longtime companion, Jill?”
“She’s my wife!”
“Yeah, well, my beliefs don’t recognize marriage.”

Fun. And instant, eyebrow-raising recognition. Suddenly the majority gets to feel what the minority feels. In a moment they feel what it’s like to have their relationship downgraded, and to have a much taken-for-granted right called into question because of another’s beliefs.

Just replace the words husband, wife, spouse, or fiancé with boyfriend, girlfriend, special friend, or longtime companion. There is a reason we needed stronger words for more serious relationships. We know it; now they can see it…

The rest of the piece is here. Thoughts?

Brenda Ann Kenneally, a photographer who documents the poor, was interviewed by Alternet (link to the interview and a photo essay of poor people in Troy, New York). A must read. Two excerpts:

NB: How was this “upstate” born?

AK: It came into being during the 1970s with the enactment of the Rockefeller drug laws, which created thousands of new convicts facing drug sentences of 10, 20, even 30 years for possession charges. The result was a prison boom upstate, which became increasingly important in towns like Troy, as manufacturing jobs were lost to globalization. So young male inmates with brown skin and low incomes were shipped from New York City to be counted as widgets in the state inventory where government money was awarded according to population numbers. And the only population gain in upstate New York over the past 10 years has been from inmates and those connected to inmates. Drug crimes have risen and the local police and sheriff have adopted a zero-tolerance policy, Giuliani-style, leading to more arrests and incarcerations, and the circle spins round and round. This has particularly impacted juveniles. There is now a special section in Albany County Jail for under 18 years old known as “baby jail.”

The policy of judicial intervention has become more widely acceptable, spreading to schools — children who are seen as behavioral problems are required to take medication. If parents do not comply, there have been cases where the parents have been charged with neglect through family court. The medication is seen as a permanent solution to an often short-term problem and can turn into another form of warehousing already disadvantaged young people. Many times the students have problems because they lack structure at home due to a working mother and an incarcerated father, so it is like they are criminalized at every turn. I met one woman who had been arrested and jailed because her teenage daughter became pregnant while “living under her mother’s roof.” It happened during a period when the woman was working at Wal-Mart and the daughter was home unsupervised. She was reported by a bitter ex-husband…

NB: Your photographs show three generations of poverty under one roof with no end to the cycle. Most of the men are in jail or have abandoned their partners and children. The women are battered in low-wage jobs, and the children, moved from apartment to shelter to youth homes, are traumatized, treated with prescription drugs for so-called learning disorders and depression. Through it all, more babies are being born. After spending five years photographing these families, what solutions can you imagine to stop the cycle?

AK: What saved me is this gift that came from the outside, almost like the big bang. I was lucky to meet some people who introduced me to radical thought. In these young women’s lives, there is no outside air getting in. You buckle down and accept hard work and drudgery, and you conform. The schools, rather than trying to open their minds, are trying to just get them to learn a trade at best. Their parents have not gone through any higher education, so the way would not be paved by them.

The force that should have empowered these women was the feminist movement, but this took place among women of education and privilege and rarely reached “downward” to the sisters who could have not only benefited form the movement, but strengthened and diversified it in a way that would be valuable today in the empowerment of this permanent underclass of working female heads of household. This is the same problem that the youth movement of the ’60s tried to address when the college-educated organizers tried to recruit the children of the proletariat. It was not seen as valuable to working class youth. … It is the educated class that learns and takes seriously their role in the larger world. This is the role of education — to expand the worldview. It is not as simple as the working-class kids did not have time to think of philosophical matters like stopping the war or fighting hypocrisy; they just did not understand this kind of impractical thinking, nor were they groomed to feel a sense of duty to such causes. Also, there was a resentment and suspicion for the educated class that still lingers today.

One of the most respected military figures of the Republican Party endorsed Obama yesterday. He spoke eloquently, and he systematically broke down every argument and tactic that the McCain campaign has used. Full transcript here. He talked about the politics of unity versus division, spoke about domestic policy issues and supreme court judges even though he’s a foreign policy person, and called out the anti-American smears for what they were. He also essentially said that McCain put campaign first, not country first, in choosing a completely unqualified vice presidential candidate.

Here’s an excerpt that I was especially thankful to hear:

Now, I understand what politics is all about. I know how you can go after one another, and that’s good. But I think this goes too far. And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It’s not what the American people are looking for. And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign and they trouble me. And the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift. I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we’d be looking at in a McCain administration. I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he isàIs there something wrong with being a Muslim in this countryàThe answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be presidentàYet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards—Purple Heart, Bronze Star—showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I’m troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

Thank you Colin Powell, for your judgment, your timeliness, your thoughtfulness.

Army Unit to Deploy in October for Domestic Operations

Beginning in October, the Army plans to station an active unit inside the United States for the first time to serve as an on-call federal response in times of emergency. The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent thirty-five of the last sixty months in Iraq, but now the unit is training for domestic operations. The unit will soon be under the day-to-day control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The Army Times reports this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command. The paper says the Army unit may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control. The soldiers are learning to use so-called nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals and crowds.

This unit’s supposed to be deployed in October 2008, but i SWEAR, i SWEAR i saw these guys last month — masked as riot police at the Republican National Convention, using “so-called nonlethal weapons to subdue unruly crowds”.  It didn’t go too well, as I last understood.

So this is what i’m wondering… Why now?  Where is this greater threat, or this perception of greater threat, coming from?  What’s the need for this internal deployment?  Who called these guys in?

I’m not sure who pushed forward the GOP strategy to ridicule community organizers, but Giuliani and Palin offended Americans to the core yesterday, during their speeches for the Republican National Convention.

Giuliani on Obama:

“On the other hand, you have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education. He worked as a community organizer… [intended pause]… “what?”…

…with a quizzical look and a smirk (only the kind of smirk Giuliani can wear), gaining quite a laugh from the Republican delegates on the floor. And Palin, in her speech:

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a “community organizer,” except that you have actual responsibilities.

Again, loud laughter from the Republican delegates in the audience. (more…)

Jay Smooth really makes me nod my head with these two lines:

“But as a general rule if you’re not the original target of an insult, you can’t be the one to reclaim it. And 9 times out of 10, if you’re not sure whether you should use it, you probably shouldn’t.”

Yep. That goes for white people wondering why blacks can use the word nigger and they can’t, that goes for people calling everything lame throwing around the word “ghetto”, that goes for folks throwing around the word “retard”, and so on and so forth. That doesn’t go for the word dude. Anyone can say dude :>

UPDATE: Eric Stoller, a man I respect greatly, corrected me in the comments. I didn’t check myself on using the word “lame” while discussing offensive connotations of other words. Oops. Will promptly take that word out of use in my vocabulary.

UPDATE #2: Kevin @ A Slant Truth shares a new meme inspired by Sylvia @ ProblemChylde — changing NO HOMO to SO HOMO. I’m enjoying using it so far. Try it yourself.

Stephen Colbert and Nas bring it.

Lyrics to “Sly Fox” by Nas below…
(more…)

Video by Jay Smooth, a serious fightin’-with-love-brother whose hiphop shows I’ve listened to since way back in 2002 when I lived in NJ and tuned into WBAI pacifica radio late at night.

Tomorrow night brings a very special event. Los Angeles folks — if you’re free, come on out and support! It’s called NOT EXACTLY THE PIXIES and it’s at The Echo (1822 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles), doors @9pm, show starts @9:30pm.

Local LA musicians will perform songs from The Pixies, as a benefit for the Downtown Womens Center (a truly beautiful and empowering organization serving over 2000 homeless and low-income women). My brother’s going to be in one of the bands, playing geeeeetar! And my wonderful friend Jen DeMartino put together this event, found the performers, and organized everything, in her spare time. If you go, she’ll be the one MC’ing and she’ll be singing in one of the bands.

More details at this piece over at LAist.com. There will also be raffles and other fun things.

The venue’s NOT big and it’s going to get packed quicky, so come early if you can!

Dick Gregory, one of my greatest heroes, was droppin’ KNOWLEDGE at the State of the Black Union. This here is 4 minutes WORTH watching.

Dick Gregory is the comedian and civil rights activist who wrote one of my all time favorite books — “Nigger” — READ it if you haven’t, it’s a powerful but quick read, his attitude is nothing but contagious. He has inspired me to become a stronger person, and to use humor to bring people together.

As an example of Gregory’s daring humor, this is from the book “Nigger” (from a routine he shared in black and white comedy clubs in the early 1960′s):

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night.

Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, “We don’t serve colored people here.” I said, “That’s all right. I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.”

Then these three white boys came up to me and said, “Boy, we’re givin’ you fair warnin’. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you.” So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, “Line up, boys!”

From the fine folks at RockRap, today’s musical thought for the day:

The problem is
We’ve been trained
We’ve been programmed
To not dream
Not want
Not think that there’s a better life available
Other than the one that’s being portrayed to us
Through the tube
Through the radio
We don’t even understand how much
The world is ours
But we just haven’t claimed it yet

Black Ice & K-Salaam

Edwards suspended his bid for presidency yesterday, in the lower ninth ward in New Orleans, a place that shares visions of hope and that starkly lies in contrast to the richer whiter areas of New Orleans (a place that defines Edwards “two Americas” theme). He started his campaign there too, so this was symbolic, and a continued dedication to the causes he so strongly believes in.

I’ve been amazed to see the transformation that Edwards has gone through from the last presidential bid to this one. Others have often times sounded so contrived; others have sounded like they’re sitting in their ivory towers during the day and speaking “about the people” in the evenings. Edwards has the fire in him of a man who has changed in such powerful ways, a man who’s changed by INTERACTING with, LISTENING to everyday people all over America, day after day. One can feel it in his energy, and HOT DAMN it is infectious.

It was heartening to me that healthcare was a huge focus of Edwards’ campaign. And he speaks to the personal touch that inspired greatness in healthcare in his campaign, as he recalls the story of a man in west virginia who couldn’t speak for 50 years of his life because he did not have the money to pay for a cleft palate repair:

His amazing story, though, gave this campaign voice: universal health care for every man, woman and child in America. That is our cause.

In his farewell, Edwards honorably also took Obama and Clinton to task:

Now, I’ve spoken to both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. They have both pledged to me and more importantly through me to America, that they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency.

And more importantly, they have pledged to me that as President of the United States they will make ending poverty and economic inequality central to their Presidency. This is the cause of my life and I now have their commitment to engage in this cause…

But I want to say this — I want to say this because it’s important. With all of the injustice that we’ve seen, I can say this, America’s hour of transformation is upon us. It may be hard to believe when we have bullets flying in Baghdad and it may be hard to believe when it costs $58 to fill your car up with gas. It may be hard to believe when your school doesn’t have the right books for your kids. It’s hard to speak out for change when you feel like your voice is not being heard.

But I do hear it. We hear it. This Democratic Party hears you. We hear you, once again. And we will lift you up with our dream of what’s possible.

One America, one America that works for everybody.

And then he said let’s get to work. So let us.

(A transcript of John Edwards’ speech can be found at the John Edwards 2008 website). It’s a must-read. It makes me want to say, “Si, se puede!” :>

The above is a small celebration of Women-of-Color feminism and bloggers. I’m blessed to be included in the prelim video that Sudy put together and know that there are many others more deserving of a place in this montage.

Sudy ends the video with this quote:

“Power is never given back. When it’s stolen, if you want it back, you have to take it.” – M. Caballero

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