Category Archives: Politics

No Justice, No Peace

This is what the majority of people in the streets were about.

This is what the majority of people in the streets were about.

Baltimore, Ferguson, Staten Island, and the list goes on and on. Black men murdered with impunity and then reduced to “thug” status. Rather than looking at the crime of policemen killing people whose only crime was walking in the road or looking at a cop the wrong way, the victims become posthumously guilty of their own deaths. Communities come out to protest and it turns to violence. Is it unjustified? I don’t condone violence, but it seems violence gets attention the way a peaceful protest never can.

In the Baltimore case, the media has been gleefully present for the violence, but conspicuously silent about the crime.

This is the narrative that the media chooses to promote.

This is the narrative that the media chooses to promote.

Only days after the death of Freddie Gray whose spine was nearly split in two, there’s been no word from the police as to the crime for which he was arrested, and there has been no examination in the media of the system that is playing out in city after city.

According to Talking Points Memo:

Baltimore police initially said Gray was taken into custody after he made eye contact with multiple officers … and ran away from them.

These are no longer “isolated incidents.” They are a pattern of abuse that is crying out for a solution. And that solution needs to be system wide. Not town by town, but this country has to come to terms with racism and poverty and the militarism of our police forces that only exacerbates the feeling of us vs them. There is so much work to do that calls for a movement, that calls for a leader, that calls for a revolution.

TheBlackPanthers_OfficialPoster_WebI saw The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution at Full Frame Documentary Festival last month. It is the heartbreaking history of the rise and fall of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. So much of it feels decidedly déjà vu. From its beginnings as a reaction to the police targeting black men for walking while black, and the larger system keeping their communities poor and undereducated, and as a part of the larger youth movement that brought revolutionary ideas to the streets, the Party became an amazingly powerful national organization for black empowerment. The film weaves together the history through archival footage and interviews with surviving Panthers, their supporters and some of their detractors. It shows just how scared the establishment was of this uprising and how far J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI CoIntelPro program went to infiltrate and undermine them, even when in those early days they were using their organizing efforts to feed and educate their communities. There is a quote from J. Edgar in the film that feels very apt for today’s law enforcement, “Justice is incidental to law and order.” The film doesn’t gloss over the Panthers’ radical and at times violent agenda, but it shows that in the context of the times, their talk of fighting for their lives wasn’t just rhetoric. It also points to problems many organizations face, the egos of their leaders. Perhaps the most charismatic and best strategist they had was Fred Hampton, who was assassinated in his bed by the police. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution chronicles the Panther’s story from its founding in Oakland in the 60s through its leadership infighting and eventual disintegration in the early 80s. More than anything I came away from it wishing that another organization with the energy and reach could bring together the black community today to finish the fight. It is a film well worth seeing and I truly hope when it has a wider showing, that a lot of people see it and are inspired to act, again.

At the end of the day, the question is how do we make it better? Does it come down to divergent narratives? We all know something is very wrong, but as long as the narrative from some is that “the poor” are that way because it is their own fault, how does it get better? Is it somehow better for those who think that way to let things continue as it is? Is there a way to change that situation and make it worth their while to create an inclusive community that thrives together? Is the world getting worse or is media just shining a light on the dark places more? So many questions and time is ticking away.

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International Public Enemy #1

2 days ago a video went viral. For a few hours people were inspired, but quickly it turned into vitriolic critique not only of the film but the concept. Many of the negative critiques have been targeted at Invisible Children’s practices as an organization, not whether Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, is a war criminal. It has drawn a line between optimists and pessimists. Between people who want to believe that they can help make the world better and cynics who see this kind of thing as useless and manipulative. It has quickly devolved into a discussion of whether clicking on a link can help and whether this is a money making scam. The criticisms break down like this:

This is called slacktivism – the self-deluding idea that by sharing, liking, or retweeting something you are helping out.

It would be great to get rid of Kony. He and his forces have left a path of abductions and mass murder in their wake for over 20 years. But let’s get two things straight: 1) Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn’t been for 6 years; 2) the LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.

Yes, the guy behind this campaign acted with a lot of hubris. And probably did not think about the amount of scrutiny that an idea this big would have to go through. Some are calling it a a scam because the heads of the non-profit are paying themselves ninety grand  /yr., which doesn’t really sound unreasonable to me.

For me it is a cautionary tale about dealing with a huge international issue with a simple media message. You need to craft it well, have a kick-ass communications person ready for the back-lash, and think through all the ways that you could be misunderstood. My take on this is that they thought that their concept was so good and so simple that everyone would jump on board and they would save the world.

But now I am not sure whether people think Kony or Jason Russell, Invisible Children’s founder, are the worst.

And some of the criticisms from “experts” are a bit hyperbolic on their end. For instance the leap like this:

One of the biggest issues with a simplistic “Stop Kony” message is that discussions of Navy Seals or drone strikes are inevitable when patience runs out with Ugandan-led efforts. But what about the dozens or hundreds of abducted and brainwashed kids? Should we bomb everyone?

Many of the criticisms are coming from other relief workers in Uganda who think that Invisible Children should have a different agenda. But I got tired of reading lots of bloggers and opinions and decided to go to a non-blogger for some clarification and found a UN site that stated the following:

[This was written several months ago, before Invisible Children’s video] Economic and social recovery in northern Uganda has been slow, despite more than US$600 million having been spent in foreign aid in the years since the LRA was active there. According to development agencies and local communities, many are still living in abject poverty and in constant fear of a return of the LRA.

Development agencies and local communities cannot envisage economic and social recovery in northern Uganda until the LRA is disbanded and stability is brought to the whole region. “The fear of the LRA returning is affecting development,” said Bishop John Odama.

Lobongo Eromoja, a survivor of April 2005 LRA attack on the town of Atiak, in which some 200 people died, said: “When I hear that Joseph Kony is arrested or killed, only then will I know peace has returned… until then, we can’t rule out the possibility of them returning.”

And not all report are negative. The NY Times reports:

In this case, some experts said Invisible Children’s campaign, while oversimplified, could help add to the international resolve to stop the killing.

“It’s ultimately a good thing,” said Pernille Ironside, a senior adviser for child protection at Unicef who is an expert on the Lord’s Resistance Army. “It’s not just one organization in the United States who has discovered this issue,” she said. Still, Invisible Children “is essentially distilling a very complicated 26-year war into something that’s consumable and understandable by mass media.”

And so at the end of the day, there are many shades of gray in this scenario. If it helps the traumatized people of Uganda, and focuses attention on the other child soldiers in Africa, and catches a despicable war criminal, then it is successful. It has certainly gotten millions of people across a wide spectrum talking.

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Time for the Paradigm Shift

This guy is fascinating. And thought provoking. I am ready for the revolution. What do I bring to it?

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Why?

Why her?

The question of the moment and basis of millions of bytes of conjecture is, “Why?” There is an assumption that Jared Loughner is a right-wing Tea Party wacko who took SP’s cross-hairs challenge to heart and decided to kill one of the people on her list, specifically Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. But the question is why? Why now? Why today? And why all the others, including a child? Is he, as his videos lead me to believe, just another sad crazy young man who slipped through the cracks?

There is currently a young woman tweeting up a storm that she was friends with him and last time she spoke with him, (a few years I think) he was a “lefty.” Please let that not be true. Jeez, what if it was one of the many totally pissed off progressives? Not likely given his talk about gold standards and such, but then how important is it really to the whole discussion to put him in a political slot?

Did this affect him?

We would all like to apportion blame. Could it be the Beck/Limbaugh/P***n hate spewing influence? That seems like the easiest explanation, though I fear it may be much more complex and dealing with it should be priority number one for Congress. But I am sure the finger pointing, political points counting and grand gesturing will stop them from confronting a growing risk to everyone from the deep divides in the country.


The other issue that must be faced is that this may just be one deeply disturbed man who should have gotten mental health help, but our country is not set up for that. And so the irony is, he shot a Congresswoman who has been fighting for health care for all, including the kind he needs the most.

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities. — Voltaire

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It is all in how you ask it

This is the survey sent out by the RNC to gauge where their constituents stand on many issues. It is interesting to me how every question is phrased so you must accept a lie to agree.

1. Do you agree with Barack Obama and the Democrats’ plan to pay for their government-run health care plan with new taxes on families, small business owners and charitable giving?

If that was what the bill said, then no. But since that is not what they are proposing…

2. Do you agree with Barack Obama and the Democrats that the best way to grow the economy and create jobs is to increase federal and state government spending?

Again, if that were the Democrats’ position, I would say no. Could you phrase that another way and ask, do you think the government can help in job creation? And I think it can and has.

3. Do you support Barack Obama’s budget plan that nearly doubles the national debt over the next 10 years?

Of course, how many people doing this survey have any idea of what is this plan they speak of. If you could take the Bush years away and get us back to where we were when Clinton ended his term without a deficit, no one would be questioning this spending. I think we need to call the Republicans on their policy of “no tax and spend.” They are always talking about the Dems being the “tax and spend” party. At least we try to pay for what we want to spend money on. And all this talk of taxing poor Americans is just evil smoke and mirrors.

4. Do you agree with Barack Obama appointing more than 30 White House czars to oversee policy decisions without being confirmed by the U.S. Senate?

Every President since Woodrow Wilson has had czars. I think that if they were simply called advisors they might be less of a bogeyman to the right.

But while Obama’s cadre of newly crowned czars has earned condemnation from the right, when it comes to recruiting presidential advisers he’s in good company. During World War I, Woodrow Wilson appointed financier Bernard Baruch to head the War Industries Board — a position dubbed industry czar (this just one year after the final Russian czar, Nicholas II, was overthrown in the Russian Revolution). Franklin Roosevelt had his own bevy of czars during World War II, overseeing such aspects of the war effort as shipping and synthetic-rubber production. The term was then essentially retired until the presidency of Richard Nixon, who appointed the first drug czar and a well-regarded energy czar, William E. Simon, who helped the country navigate the 1970s oil crisis. The modern drug czarship — perhaps the best-known of the bunch — was created by George H.W. Bush and first filled by William Bennett, now a conservative radio host. By some counts, George W. Bush had the same number czars as Obama — or even more — though not so early in his presidency.

5. Are you in favor of the Obama Democrats’ proposal to give the Federal Reserve the power to review and regulate bankers’ compensation?

Someone should. Do they have another suggestion?

6. Do you support a Senate Democrat bill that would give President Obama emergency control of the Internet during a national crisis?

Sure. At least he knows what it does and how to use it. Are they trying to scare the young uns with this. “Obama is going to take your internet away!” During a “national crisis” the President can do whatever the fuck he needs to do and we should be okay with that.

7. Do you agree with the Obama Democrats’ cap and trade bill that could cost American families $1,761 a year in new taxes?

This is very complex concept and reducing it to “it’s going to cost you and your family a lot of money” is disingenuous. Also the use of the word “could” here means that the writer of the question was hedging his bets.

8. Do you support the Defense of Marriage Act or do you support Democrat efforts to overturn it?

Absolutely overturn it now!!!

9. Do you believe the United Nations is “a critical, central institution” to U.S. foreign policy like Barack Obama does?

Do I think the UN does everything right? No. But I definitely think the UN has an important mission and having a central institution where all countries can meet is necessary.

10. Do you agree with a United Nations proposal to replace the U.S. dollar with a new global currency?

I think the proposal has its merits. And what they are talking about is not doing away with the dollar but finding a new currency to act as the word’s reserve currency.

In essence, the report calls for a new Bretton Woods-style system of managed international exchange rates, meaning central banks would be forced to intervene and either support or push down their currencies depending on how the rest of the world economy is behaving.

The proposals would also imply that surplus nations such as China and Germany should stimulate their economies further in order to cut their own imbalances, rather than, as in the present system, deficit nations such as the UK and US having to take the main burden of readjustment.

Sounds good to me.

11. Do you support the Obama Administration’s decision to walk away from our allies Poland and the Czech Republic by reneging on the USA’s promise to install defensive missile interceptors and a radar station in those countries?

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds — and Republicans.

12. Iran recently tested new missiles and a secretly developed underground uranium enrichment facility was discovered there. With this is mind, are you in favor of the Obama Administration’s decision to cut missile defense funding by 15%?

Not up to date here. Clearly they missed this NY Times Piece: U.S. Speeding Up Missile Defenses in Persian Gulf Published January 30, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is accelerating the deployment of new defenses against possible Iranian missile attacks in the Persian Gulf, placing special ships off the Iranian coast and antimissile systems in at least four Arab countries, according to administration and military officials.

13. Are you in favor of trying 9/11 terrorists in a civilian court in New York City instead of a military tribunal as the Obama Administration has ordered?

Yes. If you think that they are a threat now, just wait until you elevate them to “Holy Warrior Martyrs” by trying them in military courts.

Already out of date and behind the times again!. The trial has been moved. But civilian courts have been used since 9/11 for any number of “terrorists.” Are they saying our civilian courts are not to be trusted?

14. Do you think it is hypocritical of President Obama to say he’s cleaning up Washington and then sell access to the White House for bowling tours and movie screenings to liberal fat cat donors?

Jeez! Bowling and movies. Really?

As we know, no other president ever had friends and political donors into the White House before. The key here is “selling access.” Is it selling if you invite donors over?

15. Would you be willing to contribute to a special RNC fund dedicated to defeating Congressmen and Senators who vote for Obama’s health care plan?

So can they rally around this one idea? No, not really.

Part II. Member Media Profile

Please select all that apply. All information below is optional and will be held in strictest confidence to help the RNC gets its message out and to mobilize the largest possible turnout on Election Day.

1. Are you actively involved any of the following social networking groups?

Facebook Not Interested
Twitter Other
LinkedIn

They are actively trying to get up to Organizing for America speed on this new-fangled interweb thingy. Not sure it is working as well as they’d like.

2. If so, are you following any political figure online or signed up as a fan of the Republican National Committee?

I follow Sarah Palin. I like good and really bad theater. Her Facebook page is updated frequently by her handlers. Try reading some of the notes and you can be sure Palin herself did not have anything to do with the writing (or the thinking) behind the notes – they’re well written by her handlers for sure. I also keep up with her on the gossip pages and around the bloggosphere; she’s everywhere.

3. Do you own a smart phone?

No.

4. If so what, what brand/model? (Please specify)

Why does the GOP need to know what kind of phone I own?

5. Would you like to receive political updates and information from the RNC on your mobile device?

Hell no!

6. Which two of these mediums do you feel are the most effective at communicating our Republican message to voters in your area?

Network Television Daily Newspaper
Cable News Networks News/Opinion Websites
Radio News/Opinion Magazines
Text Messages Email
Social Networking Sites Other

Where is the button for other idiots?

7. Which of the following websites do you read for news and political updates?

Drudge Report Townhall
National Review Online Red State
Human Events Weekly Standard
NewsMax Other
GOPUSA

No NY Times, Slate, HuffPo?

At the end of the day, this “survey” is a way to engage their constituents in another bit of brainwashing. By reading the questions, you must accept certain “talking points” as truth. Clever. And devious. Just what I would expect.

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Worst Case Scenario @ The US Supreme Court

In what I think may be their worst collective decision ever, the Supreme Court of these United States today decided that “government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.” The ruling takes the position that freedom of speech extends to corporations which they treat as individuals. (See the concept of corporate personhood.) So it now seems that any corporation can spend freely to push their political agenda as they please. Whereas you and I have a limit on our donations, they do not. This decision overturns 20 years of campaign finance regulations and allows corporations to wield unprecedented control over our elections.

Haven’t we had enough proof of the power of the corporate purse in watching the disgusting way health reform has been dealt with because the pharmaceutical and insurance industries own so many of our politicians? Now corporations unhappy with the way any candidate votes may throw their vast fortunes behind their opponent, essentially taking the power of our votes away. To quote Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) : “The bottom line is this: the Supreme Court has just predetermined the winners of next November’s elections. It won’t be Republicans. It won’t be Democrats. It will be corporate America.”

Now we really need to push for campaign finance reform from the Congress. There are those that say this is a done deal, but if the framers of the constitution really thought corporations should have this power, they sure had a strange way of showing it. A brief history of the corporation in American from reclaimdemocracy.org:

Initially, the privilege of incorporation was granted selectively to enable activities that benefited the public, such as construction of roads or canals. Enabling shareholders to profit was seen as a means to that end.

The states also imposed conditions (some of which remain on the books, though unused) like these:

* Corporate charters (licenses to exist) were granted for a limited time and could be revoked promptly for violating laws.

* Corporations could engage only in activities necessary to fulfill their chartered purpose.

* Corporations could not own stock in other corporations nor own any property that was not essential to fulfilling their chartered purpose.

* Corporations were often terminated if they exceeded their authority or caused public harm.

* Owners and managers were responsible for criminal acts committed on the job.

* Corporations could not make any political or charitable contributions nor spend money to influence law-making.

Now the people on the right are crowing about this being a victory for them. “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC, serves as an affirmation of the constitutional rights provided to Americans under the first amendment,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele in a statement. But how would the founding fathers look on this decision? All those that have of late wrapped themselves in the flag and claimed to be the real patriots (yes, you tea partiers, I am talking to you) should be up in arms at this. The idea that government is not working for the people has now been validated by this Supreme Court, and I for one am ready to take to the streets. And I hope this decision wakes a lot of slumbering actual people to the reality of the corporatization of not just the US, but the world.

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News of the Weird

It was inevitable and shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, but really?

Sarah Palin to Contribute to Fox News

Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska has signed on as a contributor to the Fox News Channel.

The network confirmed that Ms. Palin will appear on the network’s programming on a regular basis as part of a multi-year deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Ms. Palin will not have her own regular program, one person familiar with the deal said, though she will host an occasional series that will run on the network from time to time. This person would not elaborate…

…The Fox News deal, however, would not seem to be all encompassing, and would appear to give her room for other pursuits, as well…

Full article here. But the question is, “Is this how you run for office in 2012?” Does she or do her handlers believe that becoming a Fox News “contributor” will give her the kind of exposure that will make her more acceptable to the electorate? Seems like more preaching to the choir to me. And just what does this say about Fox News and their respect for truthful journalism? (Okay, maybe I’m being a bit facetious with that one.) Will they have her on script or will they just let her go rogue? It is going to be a train wreck, I’m sure, but there will be many who won’t see it that way. And I think that is the thing that keeps me up at night. We are a massively divided country when we can all see the very same thing and come away from it with diametrically opposing views. God help us.

I would love to be a fly on the wall in the room with her handlers. You know they are orchestrating her life, her every move with a long-term plan. Could it be that they really believe she could be a viable candidate or is she just the conservative celebrity du jour? I’m hoping for the latter, but fearing the first. However, her “independent” streak may be her undoing. As hard as the McCain people tried to manage her, she still took every opportunity she saw to assert her true self. And I believe that super-size Palin ego may prove too much for even the best handlers to wrangle. God help us, really!

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