Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of Decade part 8

OK this one is more of "Biggest" than "Best":

Biggest Mystery To Me and a Lot of Conspiracy Theorists on the Internet: The "Plane" That Hit the Pentagon - 9/11

Now I'm honestly not one for conspiracy theories.  Although I do love me a good conspiracy theory movie.  In fact, Enemy of the State, featuring Will Smith, (AKA the Fresh Prince), might be my favorite movie of all time.  But that's probably just me imagining myself as Will, taking on the NSA and the Mob in one fell swoop.  I could be Will, definitely.  But anyway, I don't typically concern myself with conspiracy theories because I believe the government is involved in enough unjust activity right in front of our faces that I have plenty of material to be upset about.  That's why I don't spend much time figuring out the injustices that are conspired about behind our back.  That and I don't want to seem like some of the freaky people that spend their time worrying about these things, think Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State; yeah I prefer to picture myself as Will Smith, but that's just me.

This brings us to the case of the American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon on 9/11.  I'm not going to get into the rest of the debatable events of 9/11 because I just don't have time.  In terms of the Pentagon, my question is why can't I see a plane?  At no point in any video footage have I seen anything that looks definitively like a large passenger plane. Now in fairness I went to this site and noticed that a good percentage of the crashes pictured on the site, seem to be disintegrated to a serious degree.  It still seems to me that there would be a little more wreckage in the video. I also would expect to see more eyewitness accounts. You know like: "Holy Shit I was walking into Wal-Mart and this giant 747 flew over my head".  Here is the official government video.They didn't release until 2006.  It doesn't look like a plane to me but I am no expert.  So tell me who is right?  This video and this video or National Geographic?

I'm not saying  that a plane did not crash into the Pentagon.  I mean that's a pretty big statement and lot's of "real people" lost their lives on that plane.  I do not wish to be flippant about a subject that involves the deaths of so many people.  I honestly am very curious.  Is there something about engineering and physics that I don't understand that makes this situation plausible.  I do know that the National Geographic video lays out a logical explanation.  For some reason I'm not convinced by it.  Could anyone else explain it to me?  If you can, please do.  I know one of my friends was in a plane in New York and saw a plane hit one of the towers, while in the air.  Does anyone out their have friends that saw something similar in DC?  I would love to know.
Wikipedia breaks it down, somewhat convincingly and leads me to believe that the "crash" as reported is plausible, but I'm still not convinced.  Feel free to call me a wingnut, I can handle it.

The only that I know for certain is, if there was a conspiracy of this magnitude, I want to be friends with the Gene Hackman character, but I still would rather be Will Smith.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of the Decade part 7

So the decade is almost over.  How do you feel?  I feel pretty darn good if I do say so myself.  Life is good and the future is bright, in fact hold on a second...

I had to run to the other room to grab my shades, that's how bright it is in here. But I suppose I should stop boring you with my grand illuminescence (Illuminescence is not a word in Webster's dictionary but definitely is a word in the urban dictionary). So let's get on with the next best of the decade entry, shall we?

Best victory connected to a protest in which I didn't realize how tremendous the victory was until almost a decade later: Sweat Free SUNY Demonstration at University of Albany 2000 and the Workers at the Russell Athletic Factory Winning Their Jobs Back 2009

Back in 2000 I was one of 17 students arrested at a demonstration at the University of Albany.  The purpose of the demo was to demand that the University stop selling clothes, with the school logo, that were made in sweatshops.  We also wanted the University to allow the food and service workers on campus to organize a union.  To accomplish this goal several students entered the Presidents Office and refused to leave.  The rest of us stood outside in support of their efforts.  At the end of the day they were arrested.  Than some mayhem broke out and to make a long story short, a bunch more students were arrested, including me.  The chaos took place in front of several news cameras and it became a national story.

The University was flooded with letters.  Soon afterwards the U Albany administration recongized the union for the campus workers and agreed to adopt a code-of-conduct that would ban University Apparel from being made in sweatshops. They dragged their feet on the second part but eventually followed through and created a "Statement of Principles for Workers Rights"   The Albany District Attorney also dropped all of the charges on the students (myself included) that had been arrested.  It seemed like a pretty decent victory.  The University made the policy changes we demanded, the campus workers were allowed to unionize and none of us had to go to jail.  It sounds pretty succesful doesn't it?  But to be honest I think some of us wondered how much of a difference this really made.  I can say I had my doubts.

Than fast forward to January of this year when Russell Athletic closed a plant in Honduras because many of the workers attempted to join a union.  The closing left 1200 people without jobs.  As a result, sweat free organizers began a national campaign to force Russell Athletic to re-open the plant.  They convinced 90 universities around the country to discontinue their contracts with Russell Athletic.  One of those schools was none other than the University of Albany.  They had to cancel the contract because Russel Athletics' actions now violated University Policy.   This forced Russell Athletic to re-open it's plant in Honduras and re-hire all of the workers, allow them to unionize, and agree not to block seven other Honduran Plants, operated by Russell, from unionizing.  Now that, my friends, is a victory.  

Of course the University of Albany demonstration that I was involved in was not the primary reason for this victory.  But that demo prompted more actions just like it across the country.  It was an important piece in a unified struggle to utilize our privileges as students and consumers to take a stand against the vicious abuses of the apparel industry.  And this holiday season, a whole lot of workers can sleep easier because of the support we've given them.  This victory belongs to the workers more than anyone else.  They've sacrificed so much more than I could possibly imagine, in the name of justice, dignity and respect. (Check out a slideshow of workers attending an assembly meeting right here.) It is an honor to have any role that could assist them.  Their example is one of true rebellion.  Hopefully our humble work has been an example of true support.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Best of Decade part 6

So today's entry isn't really a "best of", "worst of", or "biggest".  Today's entry is just an opportunity to honor the memory of a fallen ally.

In memory: Rachel Corrie

On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie lost her life to the blade of an Israeli Bulldozer. (Actually it was an American Bulldozer, made by Caterpillar Inc. based in Peoria, IL.) She was an activist in Palestine, acting in solidarity with the Palestinian people to prevent the demolition of homes in Gaza.  As any activist, she was an idealist.  I would imagine that she was both aware of the fact that she was in danger and simultaneously unclear as to how severe the danger was. I also assume that she felt like she could truly make a difference by utilizing her privilege as an American Citizen to prevent the Israeli Military from destroying the homes and livelihoods of countless Palestinians.

Unfortunately the brutality of war became a reality for Rachel and subsequently her family and friends.  The Israeli government claims that it was not responsible for her death.  They assert that the driver of the bulldozer never saw her and that it was a terrible accident.  Several eye witnesses dispute that claim and state that Rachel climbed on a mound of dirt and rubble to see the driver at eye level, seconds before being run over by the destructive machinery. 

You can read more about her story at her memorial website as well as Wikipedia.

After Rachel's death, Yasser Arafat told her parents "She is your daughter but she is also the daughter of all Palestinians. She is ours too now.” In this regard, I would say that Rachel is the sister of all of us that struggle for justice in the belly of the beast.  In her memory it is our duty to continue to support the struggle of the Palestinian people.  Their struggle is no different than the struggle of Black Americans in the United States, Tibetans in China, and Black Africans in South Africa.  Each of these struggles have benefited from the support of committed allies.

When I think of Rachel I'm always close to tears.  I did not know her, but I know people that knew her.  She seems like she could have been one of my friends, one of the people that I sat in organizing meetings with.  Her death reminded me of what it means to be an ally.  You don't have to die to be an ally but you have to really care and challenge your own privilege.  I believe Rachel embodies those principles and gave up her life for them.  Most of us that work for social justice understand that it could have been any one of us.  This is why we have to remember Rachel.

We will never forget you Rachel, in fact remembering you is the least we can do.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Best of Decade part 5

Hey y'all.  I'm back with the best of the decade.  Today this choice is actually a "worst of".  Here it is:
Worst Missed Opportunity to Grant a Pardon to Leonard Peltier: Lame Duck Bill Clinton January 2000

Just before Bill Clinton left office in January 2000, he granted over 100 pardons.  One of the names that people had hoped would be on that list was Leonard Peltier.  Unfortunately he was not.  If you don't know who Leonard Peltier is you should go here and here.  Leonard is an artist, activist and author and was convicted of killing two FBI agents even though there is not a shred of evidence to suggest he killed them.  His trial was one of the biggest shams in the history of the United States Justice System and let's be honest there have been some pretty big shams to compare it to.  He has more supporters than Santa Clause.  When your supporter list includes: The Dalai Lama, Mikael Gorbachev, the entire European Parliament, U2, Naomi Campbell, Kevin Spacey and Coolio, you deserve a chance at freedom.  

Leonard Peltier had that opportunity when Bill Clinton agreed to take a look at Peltier's case.  In response to this, hundreds of FBI agents marched to the White House in what was an unprecedented event.  I remember two phone interviews made by Amy Goodman at the time.  One was with Bill Clinton when he actually called in to her show and she asked him if he would release Peltier, his response was "I'm going to consider it."  Shortly afterwards, Goodman interviewed two FBI Agents that reminded me of the guys in suits from the Matrix.  While insisting Peltier was guilty, one of them said something like: "If Leonard didn't shoot the agent, than someone else did." There he was acknowledging the presence of reasonable doubt in Leonard's case to thousands of listeners across the country. Former Congressman and FBI Agent, Don Edwards had this to say: “The FBI continues to deny its improper conduct on Pine Ridge during the 1970's and in the trial of Leonard Peltier. The FBI used Mr. Peltier as a scapegoat and they continue to do so today. At every step of the way, FBI agents and leadership have opposed any admission of wrongdoing by the government, and they have sought to misrepresent and politicize the meaning of clemency for Leonard Peltier. The killing of FBI agents at Pine Ridge was reprehensible, but the government now admits that it cannot prove that Mr. Peltier killed the agents.”

On the night Clinton signed the pardons he declined to offer clemency to Leonard Peltier.  He did however pardon a former governor charged with bank fraud and a former CIA director accused of mishandling evidence.  He also pardoned billionaire Mark Rich.  Rich was indicted on tax-evasion and living in exile in Europe, meanwhile his wife was donating large sums of money to Hillary Clinton's New York Senatorial Campaign.  Maybe if Peltier had been a billionaire he would be free, unfortunately he is still in prison.

Honorable mention: George W. Bush and Barack Obama

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Best of Decade part 4

Hey y'all.  I hope those of you that celebrate Christmas had a wonderful time.  I did.  The kids woke up and opened up their presents.  They were so excited it was out of control.  The opposite side of the disgusting consumerism that represents Christmas in our capitalist nation is that parents buy gifts for their kids because they love to see them smile.  My kids definitely smiled.  Until my four year old realized that he didn't get a wolverine claw and then he was upset.  That's the flip side. Afterwards we went to see Alvin and the Chipmunks.  It was the worst movie I've ever seen.  Seriously.  Don't see it.  It's aweful, the most aweful.  It's been a tradition in my family since I was a kid to see a movie on Christmas.  It will be much better when the kids are big enough to see something that doesn't include singing chipmunks.  It's going to be great.

And back to the best of...

So for this one post I will deviate from radical politics to offer a category that is not radical nor political.

Best Basketball Team of the Decade: The Los Angeles Lakers

If you have been reading this blog you know that I write about sports from time to time, offering a radical perspective.  There is nothing radical about the Los Angeles Lakers except that they play "the holy game".  If you don't know why basketball is "the holy game", I'll have to explain it to you another time.  I can say that the players play the game because it has been their destiny and it makes them lots of money and the owners just like to make lots of money.

The Lakers are like the New York Yankees of basketball.  They spend lots of money on the best players and they win lots of championships.  (For full disclosure, the Lakers have been my favorite basketball team since I was six years old.) I've chosen to write about them today because there has been some debate about who the best basketball team of the decade is...

The team of the decade is indisputably the Los Angeles Lakers.  ESPN analyst Marc Stein, mistakenly picked the San Antonio Spurs.  Sports Illustrated on the other hand, ranks the Los Angeles Lakers as the best sports franchise of the decade.  How could the Lakers go from being the second best basketball team to the best sports franchise of the decade?  They can't.  That's why Stein is wrong, but let's look at the facts.

The Lakers won four NBA titles and the Spurs won three.  That should settle the debate.  But the Spurs were more consistent this decade winning at least 50 games (out of 82) every season.  The Lakers had one terrible year (34 wins) and two mediocre years (42 and 45 wins).  And if the award was the most consistent team of the decade, I would begrudgingly give the award to the Spurs.  But it's not.  The Lakers started the decade by winning 67 games and the NBA championship and closed the decade winning 65 games and the championship.  The most games the Spurs ever won in the decade was 63. Additionally the Lakers played in the NBA finals 2 other times and lost.  That means the Lakers have 6 NBA finals appearances and four championships (rings) compared to San Antonio's 3 appearances and 3 rings. What that tells us is that the Lakers excelled at the highest level more often than the Spurs and that is the most important marker for selecting the best team.

And to Marc Stein: "I'm right and your wrong."

But don't worry I'm not quitting my day job.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Best of Decade part 3

Merry Christmas everyone.   Sorry to invoke the images of consumerism, I just hope that everyone is enjoying themselves, wherever you are.  Here is my third entry for the Best of the Decade.

Best Demonstration of Hope Even if I Wasn’t Drinking the Kool-AID : Gathering at Grant Park in Chicago after the election of President Barack Obama

People that know this blog understand that I’ve never been a supporter of Barack Obama.  The main reason for my lack of support is my disenfranchisement from the system he represents.  But today’s entries are not about those differences.  It’s about me sitting on the living room floor of some friends in Arizona on Navajo Land.  It was the morning after the election.  Even though it was fairly obvious that he was going to win, most people still couldn’t believe it.  As I looked at the T.V., I stared at the crowds of people that swarmed the park on a brisk evening.  You could see people of all races and generations united in pure joy.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t in awe.  I actually wanted to be there.  It was invigorating to witness history like that.  I knew that I would tell my kids where I was when this happened.
I listened as an older Native American woman went off about how Obama was like a savior.  I listened to her son bombard her with critiques, the same ones I was thinking.  But I have to say the thought on my mind was, “we should let her have today, no matter what happens tomorrow, today is hers.”  And that’s how I felt for all of the people assembled in Chicago.  I was happy and proud because people that view the world from the same direction as me, made this happen.  This seemingly impossible event was manifested by hard working black, brown and white progressive Americans.  And it certainly felt nice to have a reprieve from GW. 
I had a conversation with Bill Ayers shortly after the election; he said it was important not to confuse Obama with the Obama energy.  In the past and present, I have been critical of the Obama presidency.  But I will have to say, that freedom fighter, Mr. Ayers, was right. The Obama Energy was one of the most uplifting images to witness this lifetime.  Even an anarchist like me can appreciate that. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best of Decade part 2

First things first, it turns out that Hewlett-Packard has created a webcam that is racist. Click here to see a video of it.

If you think this is a youtube hoax you can go to CNN and read a story about it.

Also some people have been checking out a post I wrote a little while back entitled "I guess I'm a racist."
In case you missed it you should check it out.

And finally on to my next best moment of the Decade....

Best Demonstration That Almost Happened: IMF/World Bank demonstration -Washington DC 2001

The demonstrations set to take place on September 29 and 30, 2001 were cancelled shortly after the attacks of September 11.  This demonstration was setting up to be one of the largest and most intense anti-capitalist convergences in United States History.  It's hard to remember what the climate was like back than on the eve of 9/11.

The anti-globalization movement had grown increasingly large in the U.S. as well as around the world.  Activism in general had a resurgence not seen since the sixties and seventies.  In 1999, "The Battle in Seattle" (No not the movie featuring Charlize Theron) also known as the WTO demonstrations rocked the powers that be to the point where the meeting had to be cancelled.  Simultaneously a strong movement for U.S. political prisoners was developing with large demonstrations like Jericho 98 and Millions for Mumia.  All of this taking place under the watch of a Democratic President (William Jefferson Clinton).  In the first 8 months of the decade, massive demonstrations continued to develop including the A16 mobilization against the IMF and World Bank in DC as well as crazy brawl like demos in response to the Democratic and Republican Conventions in Los Angeles and Philadelphia respectively.

And than George W. Bush was (s)elected as the new president.  Bush was instantly seen as a joke.  This fueled the anti-capitalist movement even more.  And everything was about to coalesce into something extraordinary.  The AFL-CIO signed on as supporters of the mobilization saying: "This fall, America's unions will unite with a broad range of activists from around the world to insist on transforming the rules and institutions of the global economy to ensure that they work for working people....". An organization as large and connected as the AFL-CIO signing on, for a demonstration like this, was a sign that this was going to be a serious event.  Their leadership knew full well that this wasn't going to be about sign-holding, rather massive blockades and and organized effort to shut the meetings down utilizing a wide range of tactics, some quite illegal.  This was the level of organized anger towards the capitalist power structure that directs world economies.  And it was going to be a fierce representation of resistance to repressive forces. 

And then 9/11 happened...

George W. Bush was suddenly (and temporarily) seen as a great leader.  The AFL-CIO immediately backed out of the mobilization and the IMF/World Bank postponed their meeting.  The demonstration never happened.  I believe that activism in U.S. has not recovered from that time period.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan led some people to focus more energy on electing Kerry, Clinton and Obama than focusing on resisting the entire power structure.  

And here we are some 8 years later, with a dream President, a super-democratic majority in congress and the war in Afghanistan is escalating.  Meanwhile the IMF and World Bank continue to promote policies that deprive developing nations of the opportunities they need to create sustainable economies.  It's interesting to see how things unfold sometimes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best of Decade part 1

Alright y'all, the decade is coming to an end and I've been busy thinking up cool ideas to bring it to a close in the blogosphere. So I've decided to share my best of the decade with you. You should check in every day and you will find a new entry from now until the end of the decade. (10 in total) What are the topics? You will have to tune it to find out. So here goes the first one:

Best Demonstration attended by Me: Impromptu March in response to the acquittal of the four police officers that shot Amadou Diallo -Albany, NY 2000

I want to make clear that when I use the word "best" here I am referring to the energy of the people during the demonstration. It's hard to use the word "best" to describe anything to do with the trial of those police officers. I have lived in Albany for years and it's not often that we have major national news stories here. At the time of the trial, there were news trucks lining Washington Ave. The only other time I've seen anything like it was the Elliot Spitzer Sex Scandal. To get an idea of how big a story this trial was, I've provided a link to the transcript from Larry King Live on the day of the acquittal.
If you don't know who Amadou Diallo is, well that is a shame (not shame on you, shame on our society for not keeping his name in the forefront of everybody's mind). He was killed in 1999 by four police officers. They fired forty-one bullets at him; nineteen struck his body, killing him. He committed no crime; he was merely on his way home from work. They asked him who he was and he responded by pulling out his wallet, and they "mistook" it for a gun and fired 41 times. The defense attorney for the officers applied for a change of venue, claiming that the cops couldn't receive a fair trial in the Bronx. The trial was moved to Albany.
Thousands of people demonstrated across the street from the courthouse during the trial. I was one of them. Some days there were only a few heads and other days there were hundreds. Al Sharpton came on more than one occasion. Rosa Clemente, recent Green Party Vice-Presidential Nominee, was one of the chairs of the local organizing group, the Justice for Diallo Committee (J4D). Most of us were well aware that the cops may be acquitted, but I can say I was shocked when it actually happened.
The mood outside the courtroom was anger and disbelief. Our numbers grew. Eventually there was a large group and we needed something to do. We marched up Washington Ave. and the numbers kept on growing. We marched down Lark St towards Clinton Ave, and decided to take over the street. The police, trailing behind, didn't do a thing. I remember feeling like it was our city. Eventually some of us were arrested voluntarily and we had a brief encounter with the Albany Courts before our charges were dismissed. After some time, people moved on.
I learned a lot from that time period. I've learned how there can be an ebb and flow to things. How there can be tremendous amounts of energy one day and none at all the next day. I've been apart of powerful movements for social change. I've witnessed some intense demonstrations but I've never felt the power of my community and the possibilities of our strength, the way I did that day. I hope I will again soon and I hope it doesn't take someone to get killed for it to happen.

Honorable mention: A16 IMF/World Bank Demonstration -Washington D.C. 2000; Millions for Mumia -Philadelphia 1999 (It didn't actually happen this decade but it's my list)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hate Crimes Pennsylvania Revisited

Earlier today I referred to the recent indictments handed down in Shenandoah,  Pennsylvania regarding the death of Luis Ramirez, in July 2008.  Ramirez was beaten up by former local football stars, Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky. In May they were acquitted of the most serious charges and at the time something seemed fishy.  Well now we know where that smell of salmon came from, the Shenandoah Police Department.  Three of Shenandoah's finest are facing federal charges of official misconduct, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and even extortion (the extortion charge is from a separate case).  Since the three officers make up half of the Shenandoah force, there aren't enough cops to conduct business in town and the State Police will have to chip in.  One of the officers was the Department Chief, Matthew Nestor.  It doesn't seem like the mayor is a big fan, he said: "The chief is arrogant... They feel that they are a power unto themselves and they're not accountable to anyone...", except the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder.
I know some people will think this is a case of justice finally being served, but I don't think so.  The United States Department of Justice could not possibly investigate corruption in every little hamlet across the U.S.  It would be impossible.  What this story reveals is that police departments typically get away with almost anything.  This case would be no different except for it's high profile nature. If these officers are willing to destroy evidence and alter paperwork in a murder/hate crime case, what do you think they were able to get away under less scrutiny.  This type of corruption is fairly commonplace across the country.  In fact you don't have to go far from Shenandoah to find a recent case of similarly disturbing corruption.  In Wilkes Barre, PA, just fifty miles north on I 81, this past February Judge Mark Ciavarella and Judge Michael Conahan plead guilty to fraud.  Their crime was receiving over 2.6 million dollars to send kids to a juvenile detention center, and no I am not kidding. 

I'm not saying every police officer destroys evidence or every judge gets extra dough for locking kids up.  But how often do you think children of police officers or judges are given a pass on a speeding ticket? Or a DUI? Or a simple assault?  These situations take place everyday across the U.S. and demonstrate that the nation's criminal justice system is unjust.  I think the revelations in the case of the murder of Luis Ramirez help to prove my suspicions.

And today there has been another case of justice finally being served (please notice the ironic tone in the words I have just written).  After thirty-five years, James Bain will be released after serving time for a crime he did not commit. Bain applied for DNA testing 4 times in recent years and was denied.  The fifth time was the charm and it turns out, he is completely innocent.  His mother is dying and said she was holding on, hoping he would get out to see her.  He can never get those 35 years back.  I'm glad that he is out and at 54 years old, hopefully he can create a meaningful life for himself.

Hate Crimes in Pennsylvania

Hey y'all.  Remember those football players from a small town in PA that beat a Mexican Immigrant to death?  The two primary instigators, Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky, were acquitted in May on charges of third degree murder and ethnic intimidation.  They were however convicted of simle assault and are currently serving between 6 months and two years in jail.  Well it turns out that the police officers in the Shenandoah police department helped destroy evidence, falsify documents and lie to the FBI.  Now the police officers are being indicted for evidence tampering by the U.S. Justice Department.  Donchak and Piekarsky have been charged with Federal Hate Crimes. 

More on this later...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Health Care Part Ten Million

So it appears as though the Senate is close to passing a Health Care Bill. That's what President Obama said this evening. Assuming this is true, I wish someone could tell me if this will result in me getting health care. I have no idea and nothing I've read seems to explain it. I do know that there will not be a public option or a medicare buy-in, thanks to Senator Palpatine, I mean Lieberman. Some people, like the President say that this legislation will solve "a longstanding and urgent problem for the American people". Others like Howard Dean say "This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate and, honestly, the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill..." It is obvious that whatever is happening, that the bill is watered down and will be more palatable for the insurance companies.

And this my friends is why I am..  a revolutionary, in the words of Fred Hampton. It is my sincerest belief that we will never achieve our hopes and dreams through the structures of the United States Political System. I believe we are using the structures of a broken system in attempt to accomplish the change that we yearn for. And I don't think that the system is capable of sustaining that level of alteration.  Many of us acknowledge a need for profound change in our nation and some of us hope that we are making progress as a result of recent events including the election of President Barack Obama. I think that we are on a never-ending pendulum, and that the sometimes impressive rhetoric of the president and the solid majority in congress are only parts of an upswing that favors our side of the spectrum.  It doesn't take a socialist or anarchist to see that our political system ultimately serves the needs of the very wealthy and the corporate entities that they represent. I think it is an unreasonable strategy to assume that a system with such a design can suddenly begin to serve the needs of the masses of everyday people. And I think that Health Care Reform is an example of this reality.

Maybe I'm wrong. First of all I do not yet understand the intricacies of this piece of legislation or the long term impacts on people like you and I. Perhaps this is the beginning an ocean of political transformations resulting in a long term development of egalitarian principles that enable each and every member of our society to flourish regardless of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. In ten or fifteen years I believe that there will be a republican president and congressional presence that will pull the pendulum back in a less comfortable direction. Maybe I'm wrong, I hope not. But if I am right, how much longer are going play this pendulum game?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I guess I'm a racist.

This just in, the Senate has reached an agreement on Health Care Reform and it may still contain a public option. Unfortunately they aren't saying anything about it at this time. Will I get health care out of this? Your guess is as good as mine. Stay tuned.

Okay now I want you to go and watch this video. Hurry up, I'll wait.

Did you watch it? What did you think?

By making light of racism the video ultimately refutes the point it is trying to make. In between people staring at us and saying "I guess I'm a racist", we're provided with text and a narrator’s voice breaking down the issues at hand. Let's take a look at these issues.

1. 12% of voters believe that people who oppose Obama's health care plan are racist.

My first response to this data is to ask "why do so many people feel like this?" The video attempts to discredit the data with it's never ending refrain. At this point we are treated to a woman and her baby saying in a cutesy baby voice "Well I guess we're racist". This highlights the most shocking aspect of the video, the normalizing of the sentence "I'm a racist".

2. Even President Carter says that the "intense animosity toward President Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man."

The obvious response to this would be to say, wow not only do all of these people think that opponents of Health Care Reform are racist but the former president thinks that President Obama has been a target of racism, I wonder why this is? As the refrain continues we hear someone flat out say "I'm a racist". This serves to further normalize the language of claiming racism, while simultaneously trivializing it.

3. If people are racist for opposing Obama's health plan then, apparently a lot of people in this country are racist.

This statement is a conclusion made in response to the earlier points. The pattern of normalizing "being a racist" is continued when the text is split into two screens. With the second screen showing only "then, apparently a lot of people in this country are racist." It appears on the screen almost innocently, as if it isn't even offensive.

4. But, does that fact that Obama is black really have anything to do with it?

The video finally provides a pertinent question however it is prefaced by the word "But" implying that the answer is already known. Than we see one last person, the second black man in the video saying "I guess I'm a racist." He says it with what sounds like a tinge of regret in his voice. And we are left to assume the question has been answered.

5. Accusing us of being racist won't stop us from saying no to a total government takeover of our health care system.

This sentence asserts that the reasons for allegations of racism are to derail the resistance to a government takeover of Health Care. What this sentence fails to explain is why the producer feels that it is necessary to reclaim "being a racist" in order to prevent a health care "takeover".

To really understand the motivations behind this commercial, you have to read one more quote.

6. If opposing the Obama Administration’s big government policies is the new definition of racism, then BE A RACIST!

This quote is not on the video, it is on the website of the video's producer, Ray Griggs. Griggs makes this statement as an exclamation for his video, revealing what appears to be his own hidden racism. If he were against racism why would he ever ask people to "BE A RACIST"?

The video began by saying 12% of voters believe that people opposed to Obama's Health Care plan are racist. I asked, "Why do so many people feel like this?"

The answer is quite simple, it's because of people like Mr. Griggs and videos like "I guess I'm a racist."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Health Care and Slavery

Hey y'all. I took a few days off but I'm back. Last week I wrote a post about Allen Iverson, aka The Answer. I think I could have brought a little more depth to some of the ideas I presented. Luckily Q. McCall did a much better job at He even quotes Bell Hooks! And on to other news...

So I still don't have health care. In case you haven't noticed this is my 500th post about health care and not a whole lot has changed.

To recap in three sentences, the White House said we need Health Care Reform and Republicans in congress said we should bomb Canada instead, except for Olympia Snowe who said "Canada is way too close to Maine" and suggested that she might possibly, maybe consider voting for some version of Health Care Reform. Congressional Democrats meanwhile said Health Care Reform is essential and must contain a strong publicly funded insurance option, except Joe Lieberman, the sort of democrat, who responded by saying: "I think the best thing I can do for the U.S. economy is to try as hard as possible to look and act exactly like Senator Palpatine"(Star wars reference, c'mon people). And we've sort been in this place the whole time.

In fairness to the good men and women of the United States Congress, they have advanced legislation fairly far along in the process. The real problem is that no-one doubted that they could get this far. In fact most people would have told you that the House would likely pass a bill with a somewhat strong public option. Others would have also suggested that the Senate would be able to get a bill on the floor that would include some version of a public option. The problem is that no-one knows how the hell these people are going to agree on anything in the end that results in, ME, getting health care.

And hey that's important. I deserve health care, heck I'm entitled to it. But I still don't have any. I make too much to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to be able to afford it on my own. New York State does have programs that would make it more affordable for me and I'm still working on it. But what I really want is some Cuban, British, French, Canadian type of health care, you know some Straight Gangsta Type Health Care. If we are going to have a government, I ask that they pick up my trash, bring water to my house and give me Health Care. In turn I will pay taxes. I've been holding up my end of the bargain. When are you gonna hold up your end, Mr. Uncle Sam?

And if that wasn't enough, it turns out that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is flabbergasted about slavery. He said so when he pointed out that Republican lawmakers are stalling on health care the way some legislators stalled in outlawing slavery. Good point. It was messed up that those people in congress stalled legislation that could have ended slavery. I'm glad you brought it up. In fact, I think the logical next step for you, Mr. Reid, is to introduce legislation guaranteeing reparations to the ancestors of the American Slaves that built the mall you spend your days walking about. What do you think Harry, can we make it happen?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Joe Lieberman and Amnesia

So this is a message to the liberals that voted for Al Gore. The ones that scream the election was stolen. The ones who blame the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the Supreme Court for giving the election to G.W. Yes, yes the election was stolen, I know you were flabbergasted. It was at this critical juncture that they began to systematically chip away at our civil liberties. First it was stolen elections, than it was fabricated weapons of mass destruction and shady contracts to certain companies doing business in Iraq. I mean it was terrible. And it all never had to happen because Al Gore should have won the election, right?

And so I want to take you on my time warp machine. Come along. Now you will have a chance to experience a world where the election wasn't stolen. Now repeat after me, humuna, humuna, humuna, HUMUNA! Shazam it's election night, Two-thousand and...................................................................................eight!!!

I'm sorry did you think we were going back to a different election year? Oh 2000. It was boring. Al Gore won the election and the country drifted into a liberal coma for eight years. Nothing really exciting happened. But now we are in Election 08 and we are about to introduce the next president...

Joe Lieberman!!!

He narrowly defeated Jeb Bush. Yeah!!! "Thanks to all of you that elected the Gore/Lieberman ticket in 2000 and stood by us" Lieberman said.

What you don't like this picture? In the past 50 years when a sitting vice-president has sought the presidency, he has always won his party's nomination. It's pretty much a rubber stamp. So when you spend your days cursing Joe Lieberman for being the reason that I don't have health care, just remember that you were voting for Joe Lieberman when you voted for Gore. Unless of course you would have been supporting, Jeb Bush or Mit Romney in 08. I think sometimes people can be prone to amnesia in situations like these...

Which brings me to my next point. Scientists are mapping the brain of the worlds most famous amnesiac, Henry Molaison, known as H.M. He died last year after having amnesia for 50 years. But you can watch his brain being mapped live right here.

Tiger Woods, Obama, and Afghanistan

So there it was this morning, two competing headlines: Obama Afghanistan strategy: More troops in quickly, drawdown in 2011 and Tiger Woods: I let my family down It was hard to tell what was the more important story. Honestly I wasn't sure which one to click on first. I clicked on the Afghanistan story, not because I'm above pop/gossip, I just happened to have already heard the latest Tiger news and figured I should find out more about the war I'm going to be protesting.

Tiger's sexual transgressions are as newsworthy as the President expanding U.S. involvement in Afghanistan to the tune of 30,000 troops. What does this say about our society? Is the media to blame? Now I'm all for dumping on the media. I believe they decide the important news for us, quite often, by the way they deliver stories. But in all fairness, I think it is quite possible that more people legitimately were interested in reading about the escapades of Tiger. Maybe this isn't as bad as it looks. Perhaps people are resigned to a certain level of powerlessness. I mean if they are going to send troops off to get killed anyway, why not read the story that you find more interesting? Or maybe entertainment, and in particular sports, serve as the "opiate of the masses", pacifying people and distracting them from the real problems our society faces. I think both assertions are true. So where does this leave us?

President Obama is escalating the conflict in Afghanistan, a war most people say can never be won. I heard on the news that Afghanistan has never been conquered, never ever. It's kind of like the Mapuche in Chile, you just don't fuck with them, it's simply not done. Yet here we are headed to war. Led by the president that just won the Nobel Peace Prize, the one that many hoped would end the wars we find ourselves mired in. Some will say that he is doing exactly that. He is finishing this botched up half done job left over by the Bush Administration. Well I say Hogwash. I say tell that to some child that will undoubtedly give up their life because of some U.S. soldiers bullet. Pardon my indignation but I will never support the war in Afghanistan because I don't support the motives of our government. The United States Power Structure never cared about the atrocities that women faced in Afghanistan until it was time to hunt Bin Laden and didn't care about Bin Laden because it ran to Iraq before he could be found. If they cared today, they would be spending billions of dollars on schools and hospitals and community centers. They would commit to Afghanistan the way the U.S. government did towards Europe during the Marshall Plan to the tune of 1.37 Trillion in todays dollars. And maybe, just maybe, the Afghan people would support the U.S. Government instead of the Taliban.

I do not blame people one bit for being more interested in Tiger Woods adultery than the horrific tales of never ending bloodshed that are the legacy of these wars we are fighting in the Middle East. Both stories are depressing but Tiger's story is palatable, not that different than something one of us could experience. In fact it's almost refreshing, Tiger Woods is one of us after all. There is nothing ordinary about the decisions U.S. power brokers make behind close doors. They stand there going over reports and assessments while ultimately acting as a judge and executioner for countless lives.

When the war in Afghanistan broke out, a handful of older activists here in Albany started a weekly vigil. They committed to stay there until the war ended. That was 8 years ago. And they are still there. Every Wednesday, rain, sleet or snow, they stand out there with signs saying "Stop the War". I credit these committed individuals and others like them for turning the tide of public opinion on the Iraq War. And now it comes back to the war that started this whole mess. And today was another Wednesday and those same activists were there. It doesn't seem like they will be leaving anytime soon.

And oh yeah, Tiger, I'm sorry most of us are searching so desperately for a distraction from the really depressing realities of our time. You are right, you and your family deserve privacy. You're current troubles are none of our business. Our real responsibility is to stop this war in Afghanistan. Forgive us if that task seems overwhelming. It's even harder than a hole-in-one.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tiger, Maurice Cleamons, and Health Care Again

Alright so first off, let's start with Tiger Woods. If you've been living under a rock you may not have heard that Tiger has gotten himself into a sticky situation. What is the deal Tiger? I mean you are suppose to be squeaky clean, the ultimate picture of togetherness. Well Tiger I have no idea what happened at your house the other night. Assuming everyone is OK, physically, I don't really care. But I will say, you don't have to be perfect, not on our account. We are all screwed up too.

Also if you haven't read about it, a man named Maurice Cleamons is alleged to have shot and killed four police officers in Parkland, WA, not far from Seattle. An interesting tid-bit in this story is that Cleamons is originally from Arkansas and while serving a 95 years in prison, his sentence was commuted by then Governor Mike Huckabee. Huckabee had legitimate reasons for offering Cleamons and early release. Cleamons was 17 when he was sentenced and was not in prison for murder, rather a mixture of charges including burglary and bringing a gun to school.

And now I worry that people will claim that the problem is early release. Of course we never see the stories of former prisoners that are able to become productive members of society after receiving a second chance. I would argue that the problem was not the Governor releasing Cleamons. As I said before he had legitimate reasons. After his release Cleamons committed a host of crimes that could have kept him locked up but both Arkansas and Washington officials failed to do so. So does this mean that the that Sara Kruzan, a young woman serving life without parole in California for killing her abusive pimp, should not be considered for an early release? There are thousands of prisoners across the United States that would turn their lives around, given an opportunity. We can't allow people like Maurice Cleamons serve as examples to dissuade officials from releasing deserving prisoners early, especially when the justice system had several opportunities to keep him locked up before the killing of the four officers.

Finally, they are debating Health Care in the Senate. I currently do not have health care and could possibly receive coverage as a result of pending legislation. Will I be so lucky? You're guess is as good as mine. Does anyone have any idea of what is going to happen in the Senate? I certainly have no idea.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Answer

Alright people. So once again I will making a Leftist Sports Blog entry. For those of you who are new to my blog, you may need an explanation, if you don't need one, just skip this paragraph. Typically Ghetto Hippie is current events blog from a radical perspective. If you are one of the many radicals that abhors professional sports, I understand and you may not wish to read this entry. The thing is I have an addiction to professional sports that dates back to my childhood. I've widdled it down to one primary sport, basketball, and a few sports that I flirt with once in a while. So because I continue to support the industry of pro sports, by watching games and clicking on, I figure I might as well write about it from a leftist perspective, since that is a side of sports that is so rarely explored. That is a my long drawn out explanation. So, radical sports haters, read at your own risk.

Basketball fans will know exactly who this commentary is about. For the basketball illiterate, "The Answer" is the nickname of 10 time NBA All-Star and future Hall of Famer, Allen Iverson. "The Answer" has had an up and down career in the NBA. Statistically he is one of the best players to play the game, or as some have said the best "pound for pound" player in the history of the NBA (Iverson is only six feet tall, very small by NBA standards). At the same time he has never won a championship and has often been viewed as a me-first player.

Recently Iverson declared that he will be retiring at the age of 34. For normal humans, 34 is a somewhat reasonable time for someone to call it quits in the NBA. But everyone that has watched Iverson play, knows that he can still play basketball at a high level. The reason he chose to retire is because, it appeared that no one wanted him. After a long summer where only the Memphis Grizzlies showed any interest and a brief stint with them, it seemed no team wanted "to deal" with Iverson. (There are reports surfacing that his original team, the 76ers are interested in signing him.)

Why is there no team, including the deplorable Knicks, that are interested in a guard that can still drop twenty points in his sleep? Well there are several reasons. The main one is that Allen has a stipulation, he wants to start if he is the best player at his position on a particular team. He gets really angry when teams suggest otherwise, probably too angry. He has had some issues off the court over the years, but nothing that has been extremely out of control. For the most part, all of the teams he has been on have been competitive. Is it really that big of a deal that a player wants to be the starter on his team, if he is the best player?

And this reveals one of the conundrums of professional sports including the NBA. Seven years ago when Iverson was winning the league MVP and taking his team to the NBA Championship (Losing to the Lakers), he was rewarded for his bravado. He had his critics, but on the whole he was seen as an elite player deserving of elite treatment. Today his skills have dropped but only slightly. He is 34 which makes teams reluctant to make him a cornerstone yet he still is as competitive as ever. But now he is no longer rewarded for his fire. Instead he is criticized and ostracized. And here is where the political statement comes in: I think one of the reasons this is happening is because he is Black!

That type of statement would drive most sports commentators absolutely nuts. That's because many people see race relations as black and white (pun intended). I'm not implying that David Stern (The NBA Commissioner, who happens to be white) is secretly plotting with owners in the NBA to banish "The Answer" because he is black. It is more about the way white athletes can be viewed in comparison to black athletes.

Take Brett Favre (from the NFL), he appeared to be slipping, a little, a couple of years ago, retired, unretired, left the Packers to join the Jets, retired, unretired and joined the Vikings. Every stop he was given the red carpet treatment and the keys to the team. And now at the age of forty he is having a career season. He is the definition of competitive and has also refused to sit on the bench for an inferior player. In a lot of ways they aren't that different, except that teams have been willing to believe in Favre and put him in ideal situations to succeed. I believe this is because his story fits the "White American Hero Narrative". John Wayne, the Gipper, Superman and Paul Bunyon. I believe that this narrative lends itself to a glorification of the ideals of white society. For most people I believe this is unconscious, but when transcribed across the violent and racist history of the United States it can be problematic.

Look at Iverson, he is the Bad Boy, the villain, the epitome of what is wrong with basketball. Basketball cannot be basketball as we know it, without Allen Iverson. He is so transcendent an athlete, that his contributions are codified in the scripts of basketball history. So if something is negative about Iverson, than something is negative about B-Ball as a whole.

If Iverson represents the negativity of basketball than why does the introspection stop there? What about the industry that earned millions of dollars off of Iverson? What about the league where many of the players happen to be breathing commodities and also ancestors of slaves, while the owners are almost entirely white (With one exception.)? Sure Iverson is filthy rich and definitely not a a slave, but some of the dynamics are still there. Is there any reason why this isn't part of the dialogue? Yes.

The players could wake up one day and say: "This sucks. We quit. Let's start our own league." The millions of dollars they are paid buys their acquiescence while most of them will lose their money shortly after they retire, due to poor financial literacy. Of course very few owners will ever lose their money because most of them were raised with it. The few that weren't, spend their young adulthood learning how to make money, not jumpshots, and develop much more financial literacy. And so in the end, you have billionaires that will all remain wealthy their entire lives, buying and trading individual millionaires that will most likely have no money by the age of 50. Drawing attention to this could affect the players participation and the owners pockets.

And now we have "The Answer", most likely a millionaire for life, with nowhere (as of today) to play the game he gave everything to. And the game that gladly soaked up everything he had to offer.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks-Taking Day

Hello everyone! And welcome to a special Thankstaking day edition of Ghetto Hippie.
I do reccomend taking time today to reflect on the oppression that this day represents. Here is a good link to a story that breaks the whole thing down.

And now on to some quick thoughts:

First: This morning while trying to sleep, my beautiful sons came into my bed with the sole intention of waking me up. Of course I am grumpy and saying things like "five more minutes". Than my littlest one (he's four) says "I want to tell you a secret". And he whispers into my ear, "Your step-sister is ugly". Thankfully I don't have a step-sister. I say, "where did you learn that?" He says, "The Joker, cause he's rotten to the core."

Second: If you were at the A16 protests in Washington DC back in 2000 you may be eligible for $18,000 in Green U.S. Dollars. In order to qualify you need to have been arrested at the demonstration on April 15th. I was there. I intended to go to that demonstration. In fact I did. When I got there the police had already blockaded the demonstration in preparation for a mass arrest. I was literally standing on the other side of the barricade talking to people. It was a truly horrible event. They left people on buses for up to 8 hours without being able to pee. They brought them all to a closed down jail. Some people were strip searched. Most of the people in this demonstration, were there because they intended to avoid the more risky actions taking place during the week. They were literally just walking down the street. And some people were on their way home from work and just happened to get caught up in the barricade. Most of them spent 3 nights locked up. It was pretty crazy. Any way for more info go to:

Third: If you remember I declared right here on this blog that Fox News is the Biggest Hater News Station in the history of communication. In honor of their title as the Hater Station I've decided to profile one of the articles from their website. The article entitled: GOP Senator Tells Climate Change Researchers to Retain Controversial E-Mails, basically suggests that officials in the UN are fudging stats to make the case for global warming. Can someone please explain the republican fascination with the idea that global warming doesn't exist? Okay so I get that republicans hate gays, hate choice and immigration. I don't doubt that many republicans would love to live in a world where gays, choice and immigrants didn't exist. But would that help them at all if the sea levels rise and cause an increase in catastrophic natural disasters? The only conclusion I can come to, is that they actually do believe that global warming is happening, and they want us to leave it alone, because it isn't being caused by humans and our waste, but instead it's being caused by G*D. And they are excited about it. Cause after all they are all going to heaven, so who cares if the oceans rise, it's just Jesus cleansing the world. I guess I just figured this whole thing out. Go me.

Four: A couple of "polo-playing socialites" (according to the Washington Post) crashed President Obama's first State Dinner. I don't really have anything constructive to say about this. I just think it's kind of funny. They have pictures of themselves posing with Joe Biden. That's hilarious.

Five: And finally, it's important to give props where props are due. Shakira's newest video NO, may very well be her best video yet. Go Shakira, do your thing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Responses to Recent Comments

So I haven't given any reponses in awhile, so here goes:

Health Care Again
Haha. That was Awesome.


Update on Jorge

jaime pablo
That was so beautifully expressed my friend.

You made my week.

White Priv #5
I enjoy these posts. Too often we get sucked into false dichotomy...

Wow I guess we have come along way. First you criticize me for trafficking in a false dichotomy and now you congratulate me for avoiding false dichotomies. I call that progress.

It is impossible to be more than 110 mi from a McDs and be in the continental U.S.

Man I use to love the quarter pounder with cheese. And the fries. And the chicken nuggets. My kids know all about McDonalds. I took them there once in a moment of weakness. That was two years ago. They still talk about it. They are 4 and 6.


Until some other corporation sprouts up that has more integrity than Walmart, It will remain the best... just like the Lakers.

I smell sarcasm. Colin is that you?


It's true that you don't have to believe in God to believe in Spirit, just as you don't have to believe in shoemakers to wear shoes.

I was thinking more like you don't have to get your shoes from any particular shoemaker and if you can't find a shoemaker you like, make your own shoes.

Hot Springs

I would hate to have to report your discriminatory practices to the appropriate government authorities.

Good point. Please don't report me. Pretty please.

Lil' Wayne and Bernard Kerik

You're getting good at this blogging thing.

You think so?

Civil Liberties

just a thought from an anonymous white guy... ever think that its the rich that are the true enemies of all you rightly label in here as oppressed and not "the white man".

Wow. If you reread LJ's comment (it precedes yours) she pretty much destroys your argument.

Where does he (me) say that all white men never ever have to work and get all the breaks? I am tired of people making valid critiques and analysis of there surroundings and the response being “don’t hate me because I am a white man!”

And she wrote her comment a month and half before you wrote yours. Now that is impressive.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Reflections on Yesterdays Post

So I realize that I was somewhat brief with my comments last night and possibly glossed over some important issues. I'm going to go over some of the points I made in order to clarify some things that could be misconstrued. I was tired last night and wrote a quick posting and think I was a little too brief. Also I urge you to read the press release distributed by organizers of a vigil in Oakland in honor of Jorge Lopez Steven Mercado and James Mattison. They make a lot of the points that I was trying to make, just more eloquently. If you want to read more about Jorge or James they provide links adjacent to the press release.

Last night I wrote: As I saw video of the people lighting candles and various people make statements, I began to feel warm-hearted. I realize that people might think I am trying to put a fancy ribbon on a horrific event. That is the tendency of American Culture. Like when my teachers said: "And then the natives and pilgrims sat down and ate dinner together." Or "the Declaration of Indepenence says that 'all men are created equal' but today it really means everyone." Or "slavery was terrible but today we are all equals." I wouldn't want anyone to think for one second that I'm saying "Jorge died, it was aweful, but we held hands and sung Kumbaya and it's all better now." What I was trying to say is that people are killed in Puerto Rico everyday. In spite of the horrific circumstances, there was something inspiring in seeing masses of people gathered to honor the life of this young Puerto Rican. Our existence is so often silent on the mainland (unless one of us is driving by blasting Pop/Salsa with a Puerto Rican Flag etched into the doors of our car). Jorge's death is a tremendous tragedy and there is no amount of hand holding, singing, or candle lighting that can minimize that.

I also wrote: Martinez Matos, claims that part of the reason for his actions was a result of being raped in prison. I obviously do not trust a word that he says, nor do I think anything that has happened to him could possibly serve as an explanation for his grotesque actions. I think that I missed an opportunity to point out how extremely insidious it is for people to attempt to use the "gay/trans panic" defense. The fact that someone would even consider using it as a defense is a testament to the entrenched homophobia of our society, because they think people might be sympathetic to it. It is our duty to reject anything that implies that there is any justification for harming someone based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. I apologize for not emphasizing this point more emphatically.

Finally I wrote: Prisons do not make us safer... So, in your rage and anger, I expect that you will want to see Juan A. Martinez Matos held accountable, and I assume he will be. But once he is locked up, possibly for life, do not believe for one second that justice was served. I stand by this statement for the most part. When I say that "Prisons do not make us safer", I'm talking about society as a whole. That said there are victims that sometimes are able to escape their abusers or stalkers because the perpetrator is locked up. These are situations where individuals are safer. And although I am not a supporter of the prison system, I am a supporter of Malcolm X's philosophy "by any means necessary" and I believe in accountability. So victims have no choice but to utilize the criminal Injustice system in order to create a safe space for themselves or to hold their perpetrators accountable. These are necessary individual victories. But as a whole we will not find justice in the human warehousing units of the U.S. Criminial Justice System. I believe the organizers of the vigil in Oakland said it best:

“Hate crimes legislation and more police patrols would not make our communities safer. It would not have prevented the murders, and no punishment will bring these two men back,” organizer Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha said. “Systemic homophobia and transphobia killed López-Mercado and Mattison, who like other queer or gender non-comforming youth of color, faced barriers like street harassment and discrimination in every facet of life..."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Vigil for Lopez Mercado

Tonight thousands of people hit the streets in memory of Jorge Lopez Steven Mercado. As I saw video of the people lighting candles and various people make statements, I began to feel warm-hearted. To think a man could be killed in a tiny mountain road in Puerto Rico, and thousands of people around the country could stand in solidarity with his death. I hope that this will stand as a wake-up call to the Puerto Rican Community. The time has long past for us to look at the homophobia and patriarchy in our culture and this despicable incident, affords us that opportunity. I thank everyone for taking notice of this event and standing up and saying Enough is Enough!

That said, I would like to caution people in regard to the cries for justice to be served. There has been a strong rallying cry for Juan A. Martinez Matos to be convicted under hate crimes law. This may very well be a necessary approach. However I believe that it is a flawed objective to expect to receive justice from the criminal Injustice system. Martinez Matos, claims that part of the reason for his actions was a result of being raped in prison. I obviously to not trust a word that he says, nor do I think anything that has happened to him could possibly serve as an explanation for his grotesque actions. That's not the point. The point is that his time in prison didn't make anyone safer. And that's what prisons are. They are incubators for horrific crimes among many other things. If you look at people like Phillip Garrido and Martinez Matos they share one thing in common, they served time in prison. Prisons do not make us safer. In fact I believe that prisons make the streets more dangerous. I believe most people that enter prison for smaller crimes, get out and graduate to larger ones because of the experiences they have being locked up.

So, in your rage and anger, I expect that you will want to see Juan A. Martinez Matos held accountable, and I assume he will be. But once he is locked up, possibly for life, do not believe for one second that justice was served. The only justice that can come for Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, is for our society to challenge patriarchy and heterosexism. To do this you can't reach out to the Criminal Injustice System. It is one of the most patriarchal and heterosexist institutions ever created. As Audre Lorde tell us, "you can't dismantle the masters house with the masters tools." I don't know if I always believe her but I certainly do in this instance. In fact I can't think of another quote that would be more appropriate.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Health Care Again...

So it looks like sixty senators are going to prevent a filibuster so that Health Care Legislation can get passed. Well not exactly. The only thing that is happening is sixty senators, 58 dems and 2 independents, have agreed to allow the bill to be debated. Which means exactly nothing. Here is my question, how is it that George W. was able to pass things like the Patriot Act, Tax Cuts for the Rich, and the Iraq War, without ever having a filibuster proof majority? How did Ronald Reagan pass anything, when he never had a republican majority at all. Meanwhile, Obama, has the majority he needs and no one knows if he will get the votes. Why is this? The answer is simple. The democratic party is the most spineless party in the history of the planet earth. Not since we were single celled organisms, has there been a more Amoebic group of individuals.

So stay tuned. And maybe, just maybe, I will get health care out of all of this. I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Army Corps of Engineers and Alcatraz

So I just want to say again, in case anyone missed it, the ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FLOODING AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA! Think about every minute you spent watching the news and saw people struggling to get on life-boats. Remember the bloated bodies, the desperation, the people standing on the roof tops, stranded pets, and U.S. citizens being referred to as refugees. I want you to really transport yourself back to that time. Maybe you collected some canned food to send down, maybe you went down to New Orleans afterwards to help rebuild, maybe you didn't do anything but felt a pit in your stomach of total despair. Bring that feeling back and once you really feel it than repeat these words: THE ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FLOODING AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA! Say it over and over again until it's stuck in your head like Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. When your done ask yourself why the f@#* is this story not being blasted all across the news. Where are the talking heads, the headlines, the condemnations, where is the story? It's buried somewhere next to the obituaries of the people that lost their lives in New Orleans in 2005. To read more about it go here.

Also... it is the fortieth anniversary of the Alcatraz Takeover. If you don't know the story I'll give you the basics. In 1969, Native Americans, representing nations from all over the U.S. occupied Alcatraz Island. They occupied the island for a year and four months. And brought Native issues to the forefront of American Politics. Their most notable success was getting President Nixon to end the US Tribal Termination Policy. This was the practice of dissolving Native reservations and was happening fairly frequently at the time. I admire the brothers and sisters that took over Alcatraz. I send them a thousand thank yous. It is this type of spirit and commitment that we need to achieve social justice today. For more info go to:


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oprah and Johnny Depp

This just in...


This is not a joke!

If you are standing up, please sit down.

I know it's scary but the truth hurts sometimes.

After being the leading talk show for TWENTY THREE seasons, that's right TWENTY THREE, she will be calling it quits in 2011. Yes that means you have a year and some change to prepare yourself but can you ever prepare yourself for something like this? I mean who defeats Oprah in a game of I've got more clout and mojo than you? Jay-Z? Beyonce? Please! This is Oprah mutherf*#$ing Winfrey we are talking about. Barack Obama you say? Oprah made Barack Obama, literally. Alright she didn't conceive him in her actual womb but she conceived him in her I got more props than anybody womb. Not one person in the entire United States thought for one second that Barack Hussein Obama was winning any goddamn thing against Hillary Rodham I will kick your a*# Clinton. But that all changed when, you guessed it, Oprah said "vote for this dude." And people did. It was that easy. And now people, she is leaving you. What will you do? Cry yourself to sleep? I know, it's OK. I feel for you. We know she's a capitalist corporate billionaire but she's OUR capitalist corporate billionaire. I know y'all are thinking "We have Obama". Oh ye short-sighted individuals. Barack is temporary, possibly an 8 year flash in the pan. But Oprah is eternal. Or at least she was suppose to be. She is as reliable as the sun. Or as my partner LJ would say: "She is your pastor, Dear Abby, and Martha Stewart all in one." This will be a tough one.

To paraphrase Gloria Gaynor... "We will survive."

And Ohh yeah Johnny Depp was voted the sexiest man by People Magazine again. Waw waw waw... yada yada yada. I could kick his butt!

Army Corps of Engineers

A court ruled yesterday that the Army Corps of Engineers is liable for the flooding of Hurricane Katrina. All of the despair that took place after the hurricane hit could have been avoided. The flooding, the Superdome, and the "looting" (I actually don't think people that are trying to survive are looters) could all have been avoided if the Army Corps of Engineers acted on their knowledge that the levies were vulnerable. In fact they knew this would most likely happen under these circumstances. How long did they know this for? Forty years!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jorge, Another Tragedy and a Milestone for the KKK

Yesterday I mentioned that translations were sometimes problematic. Well the one I read yesterday gave the wrong name of the murderer of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado. The correct name is Juan A. Martinez Matos. He will be charged with 1st degree murder in addition to four other counts. It has not been determined whether or not this will be prosecuted as a hate crime.

As if the tragedy of Jorge was not enough, I just found out that another gay teen was brutally murdered in the past week. His name is Jason Mattison Jr. He was killed in Baltimore last week by a family friend named Dante Parrish. This story is as horrific as the story of Lopez Mercado. As of now this case doesn't appear to be a hate crime, rather a brutal murder resulting from a forced sexual relationship. It's truly depressing and proof that we have a long way to go in the efforts to stop violence in the US. I do not know all of the details of the case yet but one dissapointing fact is that the murderer, Dante Parish was once represented by the Innocence Project. Through the efforts of the Innocence Project, Mr. Parish only served 10 years of a 30 year murder sentence because of a flawed conviction. This is truly unfortunate because the Innocence Project does great work. There couldn't have been a worse outcome for their efforts.

Finally you can chalk up a victory for the KKK today. Today Sen. Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia became the longest serving member in US Congressional History. What is the connection you ask? Well nothing really except the fact that Senator Byrd was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan. That's right. But wait, he's a Democrat. I thought Republicans were the ones that were supported by bigots in the south. Well Senator Byrd comes from a time when Democrats were the party of choice for Dixie Bigots. Byrd has admitted that his membership in the KKK was a grave error and has gone on to achieve notoriety as a true statesmen, serving as Senate Majority Leader on two separate occasions. But than again he voted against the Civil Rights Act, some twenty years after leaving behind his hooded homies. Maybe I'm just a commie, lefty wacko but I just don't think a former KKK member should be a hero, at least not one that voted against the Civil Rights Act. But at least we got to hear his eloquent speeches on NPR when he challenged George Bush's Iraq Policy. You would almost think he was on our side. I wished afterward they also mentioned that he was the man who wrote this:

I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side... Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.

Congratulations Senator.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Update: Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado

Yesterday I introduced the case of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado. Now there is an update in the case. Last night police arrested a suspect. There is hardly any info about this individual other than he is a 26 year old male from Cayey, PR. There still is no word on whether or not this crime will be investigated as a hate crime. The FBI is not currently involved in the investigation but is monitoring it. US attorneys office is also looking into it. The FBI did acknowledge that a federal investigation is possible. Actually there is an even newer update...

It appears that the killer has confessed. His name is Juan A. Martinez Matos and he claims that he was trying to find a female prostitute and was fooled by Jorge. He than says that in a fit of rage he brutally killed him. I do want to caution everyone that these articles are originally written in Spanish. The information I'm getting is in English. (I do speak Spanish, but not well enough to properly translate a news article.) I have come across several translation errors in this process.

Here are some links for people to read.

Here are the latest articles in English.

And here they are in Spanish.
And a facebook page called Justice for Jorge...

My heart goes out to the friends and family of Jorge. Hopefully some clarity can come from the situation now that Juan A. Martinez Matos has confessed. I am thoroughly saddened by the revelations of this event. I imagine that Martinez Matos will pay dearly for his actions. I do want to point out that I reserve my greatest judgement for our society that propagates heterosexism and patriarchy. That teaches little boys to hate gay people. That it would be better to die, than to be gay, that it would be better to kill than to be touched by a gay person. Such pathological thinking is devoid of any true communal understanding of human existence. And this is why our responsibility to challenge oppression in all of its forms is so critical. So that we can prevent the next Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado from losing his life.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado

It is with great sadness that I'm writing about the death of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado. Unfortunately I cannot find a story about him in any major news outlet. Here is a link to a story about him. Lopez Mercado was killed on November 14th in Puerto Rico. He was found in Cayey a small city just outside of Caguas, Puerto Rico's third largest city. What was done to him is so extremely horrific that I will not write about the specifics here. Read the article above to find out. Many people are assuming that he was killed because he is gay. Furthermore, people are calling for this murder to be investigated as a potential hate crime. And if all this wasn't enough, the officer in charge of the investigation (Ángel Rodríguez Colón), explained that "When these type of people get into this and go out into the streets like this, they know this can happen to them." Colón was subsequently removed from the case.

As a Puerto Rican male, I feel a particular sense of responsibility in this situation. As is the case with many cultures, patriarchy and heterosexism are serious problems on our island. Many people think that it is worse in Puerto Rico than here. I will not make that claim. That said I do think patriarchy takes on a different flavor among our colonized people. It is time for those of us that hate patriarchy, heterosexism, and violence against gays, to stand up and say this is unacceptable.

The loss of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado is similar to the loss of Emmett Till. The United States still has not recovered from that event. But at least, thanks to his mother Mamie Till Bradley, he will never be forgotten. And now it is our mission to claim Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado as a casualty in the fight for freedom from colonization. He has become a part of Puerto Rican History and we can never let him be forgotten.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bedtime stories

Yeah I know it's been nine days but who cares?

So I was reading bedtime stories to my two little boys. The first was the Tin Forest. A quaint little tail where an old man who lives in a junkyard never stops dreaming. He eventually builds a forest out of metal debris, a beautiful lifeless forest. But all of a sudden birds start showing up and trees start growing and komodo dragons appear. (I made the komodo dragons part up) And the tin forest suddenly becomes a real forest, all because an old man never dared to stop dreaming. This story is a true tour-deforce in the mold of Field of Dreams. "If you build it, they will come."

After Tin Forest it was on to a more serious drama. Rosa, the childrens book by Nikki Giovanni, that discusses the life of Rosa Parks. It's a pretty intense read for little ones. Luckily my littler one, fell out after Tin Forest. The drama was to exciting. It just wore him out. But My big/little one was wide awake. And he asks "What does 'Emmit Till was vicously lynched' mean"? Any thoughts out there people? How do you explain one of the greatest individual tragedies of the last century, to a six year old. I have no idea. So I told him the truth, sort of. I actually didn't get into lynching yet. I just told him that Emmit Till was killed. I didn't explain the horrific details. Just the basic ones. I think that was enough to upset him. And honestly I don't really want him to have to think about things like this, not yet. But he is six and he's growing up. Not in the "dad can I have the car keys so I can go have sex and do drugs?" sort of way. More like his mind is expanding and I need to be prepared for things like this.

I'm not.
I try.
It's hard.
I'll do my best...

Friday, November 6, 2009


Hey y'all. How have you been? I'm sitting in Boulder Colorado right now and it is unseasonably warm. Being in Boulder, when it is warm, in the fall, is beautiful. Anyway I want to quickly recap my predictions that I made. Her goes. I predicted that on Tuesday November 3rd these things would happen:

The Obama Administration will announce that it is vital that we pass a substantive bill on Health Care Reform

Actually I didn't read a single article about the Obama administration talking about health care, but I'm pretty sure that someone in the administration at some point said to someone that day, that it was vital that we pass Health Care Reform. So... CORRECT

The Los Angeles Lakers will defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder

The Lakers won... CORRECT

John Gosselin will issue a statement suggesting that he is in some way frustrated with Kate

Well John did issue a statement. It actually wasn't that he was frustrated with Kate. It was that he hopes she will forgive him. I knew he was going to issue a statement about Kate I just read the tea leaves wrong. But the effort was there so... CORRECT

And Jay-Z and Beyonce will break up

And lastly Jay and Beyonce didn't break up. I'm pissed at Beyonce because she told me it was over and I believed her. Now I look like a fool. Oh well... INCORRECT

Three out of four. Not bad at all. I told you people that I could transport myself five days in the future. This blogging thing is really improving my abilities in every capacity of my existence. I predict that I year from now I will be able to breath underwater without assistance. The bold predictions never stop coming. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

One more thing...

So when I started the challenge, I said that by the end I would be 5 days in the future. So as not to dissapoint, I will prove it to you.

On Tuesday November 3rd these things will happen:

The Obama Administration will announce that it is vital that we pass a substantive bill on Health Care Reform

The Los Angeles Lakers will defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder

John Gosselin will issue a statement suggesting that he is in some way frustrated with Kate

And Jay-Z and Beyonce will break up

There it is, the future, be prepared.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Challenge Concludes

Well, well, well! Here we are commentary number 30 in day 30 and I even got it in Eastern Standard Time. I made it! With your help of course and seven commentaries in one day. I've learned a ton. First and foremost, I learned that I can challenge myself and stick to something. I oftentimes consider myself too busy to follow through on anything. My time is occupied with work, my little boys, my band, and my wonderful relationship. I regularly feel like a jack of all trades and master of none. But I've been told that I'm not that far from being a Renaissance Man (thanks LJ). Don't get me started about the problematic realities of celebrating the "Renaissance". For today I will except anything that has a positive connotation. Bell Hooks tells us that we need to nurture our own "spiritual growth". Sometimes I'm not that good at taking care of myself. And if I can't take care of myself than I'm no good to anyone else. But today I've accomplished a small goal. And I'm happy about it. I haven't stopped racism, sexism or homophobia. I have explored gentrification, love and white privilige. I've also had the opportunity to take a humorous look at several events like Balloon Boy, Kanye and Taylor, and "Hot Springs". And so I'm here with each of you. My hits have almost tripled during this challenge. Thanks for taking time to hear what I have to say. It means a lot. Seriously.

As far as the future, I will continue to write blogs. I'm going to take a couple of days off but I will be back! And who knows maybe I'll have a new challenge down the road.

Finally, thanks to Julie Powell. She taught me that deadlines can be a good thing. Who knew?

White Privilege part 5

So as most of you know a while back I wrote several posts about white privilege. I received tons of responses and have yet to formally respond. It’s not going to happen today but I promise to get to it. I just want to make a point. I think some people think I write about white privilege as a way of exposing how all white people are inherently evil. For the record, this is not true. Far from it. I believe in one race. I’m just not one of those people that get’s all sappy about it because I believe that a lot of people use “we are all the same” as a way to prevent doing the necessary work to create substantive change in terms of racism. You see many people say “I’m not racist”. By doing so they eliminate themselves from the problem. By taking no ownership over the existence of racism we are forced to find the “actual racists” and confront them. However in today's society there are so few people that actually acknowledge being out and out racists. Are we to believe that this handful of individuals (ie. Skinheads and KKK members) are the only ones responsible for racism in the US? I beg to differ. I think everyone has some culpability when it comes to racism and everyone has a role in the solution. I believe that examining privilege is a blueprint for individuals to confront the root causes of oppression and begin the intense process of healing from racism. And there's the rub, it's difficult, you have to ask yourself hard questions. It requires a fearless "moral inventory" and reveals some realities many don't want to think about. Alas this is the only way we will have change. This is the only way that white people, black people, and all people will truly live in harmony. I advocate for hearing me out. What if I'm right? What if examining your own privilege and socialized racism puts you on a path towards recovery? Wouldn't it be worth it? This is all I'm saying people. Keep it in mind.


I’m currently on a cross country tour. And what is the one thing that is universal across the United States, the unifying thread of our society? Wal-Mart. You guessed it. So…

Is it bad to shop at Wal-Mart. The short answer is yes. But the longer answer is more important. Consumer politics can be extremely classist. In the case of Wal-Mart, some people with the financial flexibility to spend a little more money, make the political choice not to use their purchasing power at Wal-Mart (aka The Evil Empire). Another demographic that refuses to shop at The Evil Empire, are young politically minded people. Many of them were raised in privileged households. Some of these individuals make the choice not to patron The Evil Empire. This decision is not a very difficult one, as the Evil Empire is designed for families on a budget, since most American families consider themselves to be on a budget, most people shop at Wal-Mart. This unfortunately contributes to the tremendous war chest that is the Walton Family (Owners of The Evil Empire). This allows the Walton's to continue to travel the world, destroying Eco-systems and assassinating smaller local businesses. These are reasons to not to spend your money there. I commend your decision. But under no circumstances should you be judgmental of people that do shop or work at The Evil Empire. Because we have a dependency on this institution. So many of us are struggling to make a dollar and don’t have the time to visit five stores that are all more expensive and inconvenient than The Evil Empire. Some of y’all might think this is an excuse. It’s not. I personally have been known to shop at The Evil Empire. I’m not proud of it. In fact every day I plan on never returning. My children know the appropriate name for Wal-Mart, The Evil Empire. But they also know the name Wal-Mart and that shows you how pervasive this monster is. I long for the day that the Walton's lose every penny and I plan on working towards that goal. In the meantime, the vast majority of people in the US will shop there. Those of you that have broken from this evil institution, are no better than the people that shop there. And I think that for people to really break away from The Evil Empire, we need empathy. We can defeat Wal-Mart together, after all we are the ones that gave them their power. To get there let’s try and be a little more understanding. I’ll meet you half way. I’ll double my efforts never to return to the Evil Empire as long as you don’t try and imply that I’m as evil as the Walton's if I fall short. Deal?