Rant. Muse. Eat. Sleep. Recycle.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
On the other side of the debate
Hey guys! I've been busy writing a book, so forgive my silence. But, as ever, I always troll the conservative blogosphere to see what they're doing over there. Some of you may know my... feelings for Ward Connerly. But, the following guy is a real piece of work. He denies being a racist, which I love because my "racistdar" suggests otherwise. He's a more polished David Duke in my opinion because my white friends look at me and say, 'Yeah, but he's got a point.' He's an attorney, of course he makes it appear like he has a point. Smoke and mirrors. His main argument is slipped in like the legalese on a car commercial -- fast and low. According to this guy -- there is no racism in America. Or, wait, there is, but we can't count on institutions like, oh, colleges! to remedy them. What can you get from college, except a better way of life, a higher paying job and an uplift for underrepresented races? Wait, scratch that last part... herewith, the confident, the assured, the slimy.. Mr. Roger Clegg.
The Race Speech President Clinton Should Have Given
By Roger Clegg
On June 14, 1997, President Clinton spoke to the graduating class at the University of California at San Diego, and to the nation, on the subject of race. In that speech, the President defended the use of racial preference policies, and announced the formation of a commission to study the nation's continuing racial problems. The Commission is chaired by Dr. John Hope Franklin, an historian, and is comprised of individuals generally sympathetic to the President's views on race and the government's role in addressing the problems often associated it. Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity below presents an alternative address that might have been given by the President.
I am delighted to be here today at the University of California at San Diego. Thank you for inviting me to be part of your graduation ceremony.
Let me begin with an apology. I have been promising a speech on the topic of race relations, but I recognize now that I should not have. Daniel Patrick Moynihan urged years ago that race relations in this country could benefit most from a period of "benign neglect." He was criticized for saying so, but he was right then; we have never had that period of benign neglect, and we should not have it now. We also don't need yet another blue-ribbon commission on race -- when I first suggested the appointment of such a commission, I had forgotten that the nation already funds a Civil Rights Commission. Nor do we need more town hall meetings, or anything of that kind. When it comes to quantity, we have plenty of discussion of civil rights issues. Rather, it's quality that the discussion lacks.
So let me make just three brief points today, and then let you celebrate your graduation with your families.
First, race relations in this country are good, have never been better, and are improving. We have made enormous progress in a very short period of time. Not so very long ago we had government-enforced, official, institutionalized racism in large parts of this country. But such systematic discrimination no longer exists. Not only are our public schools not segregated, but they teach that it is wrong to discriminate on account of race. We have passed laws, and we enforce those laws, making it illegal for governments to discriminate, and for private parties to do so as well, in virtually every public transaction: voting, employment, public accommodations, contracting, housing, credit, and so on. It is no longer socially acceptable to be a racist. There has never been less discrimination in more areas than there is now.
There are those who will say that I am "in denial." No. It is those who refuse to recognize the progress that has been made who are in denial. Does this mean that there is no longer any racism or discrimination? Of course not. And this is my second point.
There is still racism in America, and there is still discrimination. But the government cannot do much more about these problems than it has already done. The racism that remains must be addressed by all of us -- black and white, Asian and Hispanic, American Indian and immigrant -- in our hearts. While it is often very tempting to generalize about people based on the color of their skin, it is wrong to do so. All of us must resist that temptation.
But how will we end this temptation? This brings me to my third point, which is a hard one to make without offending people. But it must be said.
Although I have said that racism is not a major national problem anymore, other major national problems do exist. Illegitimacy, drug use, and crime are among them. These are not just problems for minorities, but for nonminorities too.
But we know that these problems are worse for our urban black poor than for other groups. Worse because the problems disproportionately afflict this group, and worse because their impact is greater on the poor than on the well-to-do. We must admit the fact that it is the urban black poor who bear a disproportionate number of our fatherless children; who buy sell, use, and become addicted to illegal drugs [Jae note: By any study except those done by conservative groups, this is patently untrue; and who commit violent crimes -- and we must admit that it is this fact that accounts for much of the remaining racism that exists in our country.
To get rid of racism, we must get rid of the pathologies afflicting so many low income, urban communities.
Americans will disagree on the role that government can play in addressing these problems in our inner cities. But ultimately the best solutions will come from these communities themselves. And because, at their root, these are all moral problems, it should be obvious what institution can play the most important role in solving them.
That institution is the inner city church. More and more people, from both ends of the political spectrum, are coming to this conclusion. And I believe they are right.
I leave you graduates with this exhortation -- that each of you ask what you can do to help these churches. You are young, and may not have a lot of money now, but you can still volunteer your time. As you get older, and have paid off your student loans, don't forget the often lonely struggle in which these churches are locked.
In sum: be proud of the way America now treats all its racial groups; do your part and judge your fellow citizens by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, and do what you can to help our inner city churches as they fight the problems that are our real enemies.
Congratulations and the best of luck to you all.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Let me be the first to say it here -- "NoMoNoCo" -- "No More Norm Coleman!" Geez! The only word in the guy's vocabulary was "waffle" when Kerry last ran - now, all of a sudden, he's a centrist. Let's put the poor, waffling, touchy-feely, crossin'-the-aisle-while-singin'-Koombyah, sonofabitch out of his misery in '08!
This has been a public service announcement.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
I am taking business courses at the local technical college and alternative business models are not mentioned in any class. Not one, and I think it is a shame. It is quite clear that in the minds of these teachers, there is no alternative to market capitalism. I am trying to discuss this issue with anyone that will listen.
This doesn't really deal with market capitalism, but I think it is worth telling anyway. Today I did an exercise that, I assume, was supposed to strengthen my management skills. It involved a company that noticed it was losing a significant amount of money each month. Anyway, the text went on to explain that many companies try and "fix the problem" without really defining what the problem is. It explained in great detail a 7 step process to fix problems. The fake business in the problem was having issues with the production managers blaming the accountants for losing the money and vice versa. They decided that the managers had to work together to fix the problem. To make a long story short, they did and the problem got fixed. But one thing that seemed ridiculous to me is that towards the end of the 7 steps they recommended a workshop for the employees to brief them on the problem and how they fixed it. It didn't make sense because the way that they figured out how to fix the hypothetical problem was to ask the employees. A manager, in passing, mentioned the problem to a floor employee and right away they figured out the answer. It was something to do with the machines that he or she was operating. So if they would have had employee input from the beginning the problem would have been solved months before the managers figured out what was going on. Worker run businesses would not only be more productive, but also more efficient. No one in class mentioned this. The text didn't either.
I have paying for a capitalist education and spending most of my time studying different worker-led movements, like council communism, for free. One thing that has really got me interested is participatory economics. Here are some videos with Parecon's co-founder Michael Albert explaining it a bit. Any thoughts?
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Have the Dems "learned helplessness"?
By Jacob Weisberg/Slate Magazine
Several decades ago, psychologist Martin Seligman developed his theory of "learned helplessness." Subjected to repeated punishment, animals and humans often come to believe they have no control over what happens to them, whether they actually do or not. In Seligman's original experiment, dogs subjected to repeated electrical shocks would prostrate themselves and whine, even when escaping the abuse lay within their power.
As with canines, so with congressmen. In theory, Democrats now control a co-equal branch of government. In practice, they seem so traumatized by their years of mistreatment at the hands of a contemptuous executive that they continue to cower and simper whenever master waves a stick in their direction.
This phenomenon is at its most pitiable when it comes to Congress' powers over national security, terrorism, and war. Last Sunday, Sen. Joe Biden, the Democrats' dean of foreign policy, was asked on Meet the Press what he intended to do when President Bush announced his intention to send additional American troops to Iraq. "There's not much I can do about it," Biden shot back. "Not much anybody can do about it. He's commander in chief. … [I]t'll be a tragic mistake, in my view, but as a practical matter, there's no way to say, 'Mr. President, stop.' "
This has been, with some variation, the attitude of most of Biden's colleagues in both houses. Nearly all of them think that the war in Iraq is a losing proposition, which Bush's pending escalation will make worse. Most favor gradually reducing the number of Americans deployed in Iraq, which is what the Iraq Study Group recommended. Yet they're acting, for the most part, like onlookers at the scene of a disaster, mysteriously paralyzed and unable to act. At best, they're willing to consider expressing their disapproval to Bush through a nonbinding resolution, also known as "talking to the hand."
In fact, congressional Democrats have the power to stop the war any day they want. Rejecting additional funding for the war, which 12 senators (including John Kerry) voted to do in 2003, is merely the most dramatic and least politically attractive of their options. Congress can pass a law that says the president cannot send more than a set number of troops to Iraq. It can limit the length of military tours of duty. Or it can enforce a specific deadline for partial or complete withdrawal. A few anti-war types are, in fact, proposing such drastic measures. Sen. Ted Kennedy wants to require the president to ask Congress for the authority to send more troops. Rep. Jack Murtha wants to insist that more "ready" troops be stationed at home. But such voices remain a small, if vocal, minority. Most would rather kvetch.
Congress learned to be helpless by standing aside as successive presidents asserted that the war power belongs to them alone. As you may recall, that's not what the Constitution says. Article I, which gives the legislative branch the sole power to declare war, also puts it in charge of creating, funding, and regulating the armed forces. But every president since Harry Truman has taken the position that it's unreasonable to have to ask permission from Congress in advance of military action.
Congress' frustration with being brushed aside boiled over during Vietnam, resulting in the passage of the 1973 War Powers Resolution. Since Nixon, all presidents have maintained that this law—which creates a 60-day period after the onset of hostilities in which they must either get congressional approval or withdraw troops—is an unconstitutional infringement of their Article II powers as commander in chief. Both Presidents Bush have taken the position that they needed no congressional authorization for their Gulf Wars—and Congress, in both cases, chose to avoid a showdown by handing them the authorization anyhow. This has left unsettled the constitutional question of whether the president can go to war over Congress' objection.
But Congress' power to terminate a war seems even clearer than its power to forbid one in the first place. A provision of the War Powers Resolution states specifically that the president must remove forces when Congress so orders. Faced with military deployments they disliked in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, legislators did not hesitate to assert this authority during the Clinton years. Perhaps the most striking example was our military intervention in Somalia, which Clinton inherited from his predecessor, and which he was criticized for turning into an effort at "nation-building"—before that went from Republican dirty word to Republican policy in Iraq. In 1993, the House passed an amendment saying U.S. forces could remain in Somalia only for one more year. The Senate didn't follow suit, but two subsequent defense appropriations bills cutting off funding for the deployment did pass. Congress also drew limits around how U.S. personnel and bases could be used.
When they say they're incapable of resisting Bush's plan, what congressional Democrats really mean is that they're afraid to oppose it. With only 17 percent of respondents supporting the "surge," according to a recent ABC-Washington Post poll, it is hard to see how voting against more troops would be an act of political suicide. But after years of being called weak, unsupportive of the troops, micromanaging, and unpatriotic, flinching at conservative stares has become a Pavlovian Democratic response. Earlier this week, White House spokesman Tony Snow said the war in Iraq remained necessary because Americans "don't want another Sept. 11." It's hard to imagine anyone being buffaloed by this non sequitur at this point, yet many Democrats clearly still are. Pretend powerlessness also frees the congressional majority from unwanted responsibility. By feigning helplessness, Democrats leave the onus for whatever happens next in Iraq on Bush.
There are plausible arguments for supporting a surge and some very good ones for rejecting a precipitous pullout. But Democrats who argue for "redeployment" and fail to act on their convictions don't have a leg to stand on. Their passivity does harm that goes well beyond the immediate circumstances. By abdicating their constitutional role, they continue to feed the executive Frankenstein Bush and Cheney have created. If they're serious about ending this war, Democrats should quit yelping and bite back.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Is Obama Bullet-Proof?
Years back, there was a push to have Colin Powell run for president. This, of course, was before the General had committed to a political party. After he declared as a Republican, the push seemed stronger.
What struck me then was the statement he made in the face of all this back-slapping adoration. After consulting with his wife Alma and the rest of his family, he said words to this effect: ‘I don’t think the Secret Service could protect me from those who wished to do me harm.’
I was flabbergasted. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that even white candidates have to deal with crazies. Hell, if Gerald Ford can be the target of an assassination, pretty much everyone in the office is fair game.
No, the underlying thoughts of that statement were A) hatred for an African American man as president would be so virulent that the best work of the Secret Service would be insufficient to keep him alive or B) The Secret Service wouldn’t provide its “best” work.
Either way, it was frightening. When we have so much going wrong in the world and in this country, the only real rallying cry some “U.S. residents” [I can't call them citizens] can relate to is ‘No n*****s for President.’ Brilliant.
So, I wonder what’s changed now. Is Obama naïve? Or has something changed that we’re not aware of?
Next rant: Immigration and African Americans – Why the Hell Are We So Quiet on This Issue?
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
We can't afford to do any more stabilizing in the Middle East
While Condoleezza Rice has been on her ironic "peace-seeking" mission in the Middle East, Israel announced yesterday that it was going to build more homes on Palestinian territory. Building more settlements, even so-called "natural growth" additions to previous settlements, are banned under Bush's "road map for peace." That tells you how much Israel is concerned about American opposition to their increased settlements. They don't even wait until the Secretary of State is out of the region before they announce plans to build.
It is perversely funny to watch Dr. Rice skip from country to country and talk about peace.
It is kind of like listening to a priest give a sermon about sex. It becomes more and more apparent as they yammer on that they have no clue what they are talking about. Stick a microphone in front of any White House official and they will talk about how certain countries want to "destabilize" the region. It is amazing to me that the two countries that do all the invading aren't the ones that are destabilizing the area. The ones that invade are the "stabilizers" and the ones that resent having their region thrust into chaos are trying to "destabilize" the area.
Arguably, the main country doing the "destabilizing" in the region is Iran. Iran has a very conservative President that says dumb things about the Holocaust. That is it, that is the case for invading Iran. They have the right to a civilian nuclear program and no one has given any proof that Iran has a nuclear weapons program of any kind. All 118 countries of the Non-Aligned Movement signed a statement of support for Iran's civilian nuclear program in Havana last year, giving it a majority of support from the 192 nations that make up the UN. Another reason given to confront Iran militarily is the widespread view that President Ahmadinejad is the "new Hitler." Never mind the fact that Iran has the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East, (and unlike the Palestinian Arabs, those Jews aren't under military occupation) it is simply a poor comparison. It is a poor comparison that has been applied to anyone perceived as an enemy by the West.
The real tragic part of all this is that it proves that the White House still hasn't learned that you can't bring democracy to a country by force. It is quite shocking that they still believe that a person would look at the pile of rubble that used to be his or her home and think "I am finally free!" It simply doesn't happen. People will rally around their homes, their country and their leader if they are attacked by an outside force. While he is growing more and more unpopular, Ahmadinejad isn't hated as much as Saddam was and any foreign intrusion will rally opposition forces to his side. Remember how much 9/11 boosted President Bush's ratings? We can't afford another mislead incursion into the Middle East. We haven't won in Afghanistan, we are escalating the war in Iraq and we are still talking as if we are prepared to invade, rather than talk with, Iran and Syria.
There are voices of dissent in the Middle East, from Israel to Iran. They want nothing to do with Islamic extremism nor do they care for US militarism. These two different kinds of extremism feed off of each other and our people and their people end up dying for nothing. We have all had enough.
Friday, January 12, 2007
BTW, People? 'Minnesota Nice' is a Sarcastic Phrase
Imagine for a moment that you are a single mother; having managed to escape an abusive marriage, homelessness with two small children and now must endure an endless series of confrontations with your abusive ex-husband. Add to that image the fact that you are also a recent immigrant to the United States lured here by the promise of love, security and a better life by a man who, as it turned out, was interested only in turning you into his slave.
He found you via one of many allegedly reputable internet dating services set up specifically to connect U.S. males with women from countries around the world. You responded but were familiar only with the image of the United States as a land of opportunity and promise. You believed his promises and descriptions of himself as a religious, highly moral and lonely individual seeking a wife with whom to share his material fortunes. Your understanding of English was not good enough to allow you to analyze the promises and make an informed decision.
Now, forced to run and hide in a difficult economic environment with two small children and your self image smashed you muster the courage to improve your understanding of the language, identify educational opportunities and economic support for yourself and your children. As you do, however, you continually look over your shoulder because your ex is obsessed with taking the children away from you as his only remaining weapon of punishment for your disobedience.
Having abandoned your home during the holidays and taken up refuge in a motel in order to provide your children with some small measure of a holiday adventure you are startled by someone pounding on your motel room door. No one is supposed to know where you are. You open the door and come face to face with a policeman who demands that you turn over your children to him immediately. He intends to deliver them to your ex-husband. Your ex has tracked you down with the help of not one but two local police departments. His skill at manipulating and deceiving the authorities into believing he is the victim has destroyed your holiday and wrenched your children from you.
You want to explain to the police that whatever papers he has used to get them to intervene on his behalf are not valid but you still do not have sufficient command of the language to do so. The police are unwilling to explore your side of the story or even to tell you where your children are, where they will be or when they will be returned to you. You are immediately tossed back into the abyss of his control and are certain that the laws are designed to serve only him.
Your children are gone. You sit there in that motel room with your guts feeling as if they have been drawn and quartered. You are drenched in tears and have little hope that you will ever be in control of your life as long as you have to live in this country.
This is a true horror story. The image is reality for this woman. The place of this horror story is right here in “liberal” Minnesota. It happened here where the myth of “Minnesota Nice” enjoys great prominence. What does this true story tell us about the oft expressed view of the immigrant as exploiter of our welfare system and opportunities? What does it say about the way we deploy our so-called overworked police force? What does it suggest about our commitment to children and equality?
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
So everyone agrees that Iraq is a mess. I heard General Jack Keane on Charlie Rose last night. He sounded downright annoyed that people would question the strategy of sending more troops to Iraq. If I understood correctly, his idea is to retake Baghdad (this is now the third time doing this I believe) only this time after we kick ass, we stick around. He wants to keep the troops walking the street all day and all night. No more disco Thursday in the Green Zone. I assume this is close to what Bush is going to say on his talk to the nation on Wednesday.
So bigger is better is our new strategy- more power is the key. Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor is now running the war.
But what happens when one of these troops accidentally shoots up a family of innocent Iraqis? Or we inadvertently gun down a group of unarmed protestors? I don't think that the insurgents are planning to put on uniforms anytime soon, which would make it quite confusing to tell who's who I would imagine. I mean it is confusing enough for one of our members of the House of Representatives to know if Al Qaeda is a Sunni or Shia organization for God's sake. We might succeed in bringing the Shias and the Sunnis together to fight our intensified occupation. Remember when they weren't killing each other as much, they were killing us more. How will we react when we start seeing children picking up strategically placed guns in marketplaces and shooting soldiers at point-blank range? How about a beautiful woman in despair pretending to hug a soldier, only to place a bullet under his chin and disappear into a crowd? You know, they did have a screening of "The Battle of Algiers" at the Pentagon in 2003. Ahh, but it was a foreign film in black and white. I doubt anyone paid much attention.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Wrong Lessons Learned During Civil Rights Struggle
Standing before the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., addressing the throng gathered there to hear him, called for equality of opportunity. He rightly said, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
There were two distinct approaches blacks used to express their discontent with discrimination and particularly Jim Crow in the South. Malcolm Little in the North took a more confrontational approach. Dr. King took inspiration from the success of Ghandi in winning independence for India from England; non-violent civil disobedience. Like Ghandi, King won the day. He was the leader and collective action and message discipline it seemed were required for success.
With the passage of the Voting and Civil Rights Acts this nation finally lived up to its promise. Certainly there were and continue to be remnants of pre-1965 America but the march of progress has been inexorable if unduly deliberate on some fronts. But why has relative economic progress been so slow? Many would argue that some nebulous corporate influence is to blame (“the good ole’ boy network”). I think that when Dr. King died, many who were accustomed to being led and acting collectively, looked to apply the success of that movement to all other aspects of political life in America, especially economics. It was the wrong lesson.
There are two general methods of organizing an economy; centrally or by markets. One method has produced 25% of the world’s wealth from just 5% of its population. One method has produced freedom, the other, the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, etc. As the European (including the Nordic states) states move toward socialism, all are experiencing great difficulty sustaining the entitlements they have codified and require a huge influx of foreign workers to support the programs’ continued existence.
One need not even leave the shores of the United States to see the adverse effect of central economic organization. Every credible study has shown that government imposed artificial wage requirements create unemployment, particularly for black teens. As the 110th Congress is sworn in, Nancy Pelosi argued for “paygo.” Something that if enacted will mean an immediate tax increase. Yet despite 9/11, Katrina, Corporate scandal, a recession, two wars and Medicare part D, tax cuts have increased revenues to the federal coffers, lowered unemployment and reduced the deficit.
Despite the empirical and even anecdotal evidence that tax cuts work and that increasing the minimum wage doesn’t, many of us still support the collective approach. Populism is appealing because it strikes out at the perceived elite. So attacks on Wal Mart carry political resonance because they don’t provide health care to all employees, when in fact they provide health care to more Americans than any other company. Wal Mart also makes it easier for the elderly and low income citizens of America to improve or maintain their standard of living. As those who attack Wal Mart as a symbol and attempt to keep them out of certain markets, they should do so with the recognition that they are eliminating jobs for their neighbors.
Some day, we will see through populism and collectivism to realize that the ability to live the dream is ours. Individual choices, effort and determination can produce far more than any government program. I’m optimistic though. I see signs that like the children of Israel who wandered in the desert for 40 years (as we near the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s death) before taking Canaan, we have sent out scouts and some are bringing back a faithful report. We will have to subdue the land by effort, it will not be given to us. I can almost hear the choir tuning up to sing Free at Last.
- Posted by Craig Bardo
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
History repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as farce
It appears General Pace is soon to be out of Iraq and several thousand other soldiers are soon to be in. Bush is expected to announce his new "plan" for Iraq sometime before his State of the Union address, which is scheduled for January 23rd. His plan is widely suspected to include an increase of troops in Iraq. Most of these troops will be going back for at least a second time. Last time I checked, around 11% of the public agreed with sending more troops.
Marx's quote was quite clever, but what happens when history repeats itself for the third time, or maybe even the fourth?
I was watching Robert Fisk give a speech about journalism the other day and he made the point that both journalists and politicians don't know history. If this is true, and I believe it is, then I hope Tony Blair got a history book for Christmas because this is the third time the Brits have invaded Iraq. The British Empire went through this same struggle for the first time starting in 1914 and the second time during World War II in what was called the Anglo-Iraqi war. It is all too familiar. The 1914 invasion has striking similarities. They came as "liberators." They were received as invaders. Some of the nationalist insurgent forces in Iraq today have adopted the same names as the ones from the first British invasion.
Do they have to slap us in the face with a history book?
We Americans can't remember much of anything before Hitler and Vietnam, so Saddam became our new Hitler and we made damn sure Iraq was going to be nothing like Vietnam. Iraq didn't need to be another Vietnam because it was another Iraq. Also, I have noticed that the WWII comparisons have died down quite a bit after our involvement in Iraq finally surpassed that of the famous "just war."
Sure, there are subtle differences. This time the Brits are playing the role of the sidekick and colonialism has evolved (I believe they misleadingly call it "globalization" now) but the results are still the same. As the Democrats are poised to take over Congress on Thursday, they have a historic chance to open a history book and see the path that was taken and choose a different way. The Brits didn't want to leave Iraq because the country would descend into anarchy. Sound familiar? Many people in the UK were sick of their government's imperialist ventures and this helped fuel a Labour win in the 1929 General Election. But the Labour government failed to end the occupation. Democrats take note. Why do I get the feeling I know how this one is going to end?