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.