Monday, December 31, 2007

Bill Moyers in dialogue w/ James Cone

This is a really interesting and insightful Bill Moyers interview with Christian theologian and philosopher, James Cone. During the Black Power era, Cone articulated what he called a "black liberation theology" and has since continued to put forth a radical and prophetic vision of Christ. "Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ's message," Cone argues. "Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology."

The interview posted here is based on a lecture Cone gives, titled, "Strange Fruit: The Cross and the Lynching Tree." Here is what Cone has to say by way of introducing the topic:
I know that the cross and the lynching tree are not comfortable subjects to talk about together. Who wants to think about lynched black bodies in church worship? Or when doing a theological reflection on Bonhoeffer's question "Who is Jesus Christ for us today?" This is exactly what I contend the Gospel requires Christians to do-especially preachers and theologians. I claim that no American Christian- white, black, or any other color-can understand correctly the full theological meaning of the American Christ, without identifying his image with a recrucified black body hanging from a lynching tree.

Black poets and other artists like Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and W.E.B. Du Bois realized the religious meaning and symbolic connection of the cross and the lynching tree. But this connection failed to ring a theological bell in the imagination of white theologians and their churches. Not many black theologians and preachers have made an explicit connection between the cross and the lynching tree either. So I want to start a conversation about the cross and the lynching tree, and thereby break our silence on race and Christianity in American history. I began this reflection in the only place I feel confident to speak as a theologian: the black religious experience. I was born into this reality, and have wrestled with these paradoxes and incongruities since childhood. If I have anything to say to the Christian community in America and around the world, it will happen as I stand as a theologian on the reality that sustains and empowers black people to resist the forces designed to destroy every ounce of dignity in their souls and bodies.

Cone is deep, a man of fierce intelligence. The Moyers interview (below) is worth some serious consideration... and is perhaps not a bad meditation for the new year:

part 1:

part 2:

part 3:

part 4:

Here is a well-known quote by Cone: "Anger and humour are like the left and right arm. They complement each other. Anger empowers the poor to declare their uncompromising opposition to opression, and humor prevents them from being consumed by their fury."

If you'd like to watch a video of Cone delivering the full "cross & lynching tree" lecture/sermon at Harvard, click here:

James Cone, "Strange Fruit: The Cross and the Lynching Tree," Harvard University, October 2006

"Superman Swoops In To Defend Obama!"

INDIANOLA, Iowa (CNN) — He may be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but Superman can’t caucus.

Actor and Iowa native Brandon Routh is better-known for his role as Superman, but Sunday night he made a cameo appearance on the campaign trail, speaking on behalf of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama at a rally in Indianola, Iowa.

Routh says he is "sad" that he can't caucus any more because he no longer lives in the Hawkeye State, but he says he's "excited" by Obama's ability to unite the country. He also says he likes that Obama is not taking money from lobbyists or special interests.

Routh says he hopes his visit will empower people to caucus for Obama.

Routh is a former fashion model turned actor. He appeared on several television series before being cast as the title hero in the 2006 film Superman Returns.

Election 2008: The Money Game (or, Who Owns My Candidate?)

It is common knowledge that private wealth rules our public elections. The contributions of wealthy individuals and large corporate donors dramatically skew the entire political system toward those interests over others. Mother Jones magazine posted the following series of pie charts to illustrate where each major presidential candidate has gotten their money (click any chart to enlarge):

Democratic Candidates:

Raised/Spent: $91m/$40m
• 63% of Clinton's donors have contributed the federal limit of $2,300.

Raised/Spent: $80m/$44m
• 26% of Obama's donors have given $200 or less. 47% gave more than $2,000.

Raised/Spent: $30m/$18m
• Edwards has raised $4.2 million from liberal fundraising group Act Blue, more than any other Democrat

Republican Candidates:

Raised/Spent: $2.3m/$1.6m
• An ordained Baptist minister, Huckabee has received $21,000 from clergy and religious organizations.

Raised/Spent: $63m/$54m
• Romney has put $17.4 million of his own money into his campaign—28% of its total funds.

Raised/Spent: $47m/$31m
• Giuliani has received more money from the tobacco, gambling, and oil and gas industries than any other candidate

Raised/Spent: $32m/$29m
• Is the top recipient of telecom money and the second-biggest recipient of lobbyist money (after Clinton)

Raised/Spent: $13m/$6m
• Thompson raised only $78,000 from his friends in showbiz; includes $2,300 from Law & Order producer Dick Wolf

A few more interesting charts (click any chart to enlarge):

If you want the full break-down on money and politics, visit the Center for Responsive Politics website. They are the single best resource for tracking the influence of private wealth on our public elections.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bob Marley - "Stir It Up"

This is a really clear and mellow-steady version of Marley's classic, "Stir It Up," recorded in studio... Dig it!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Open Thread: The Bhutto Factor in U.S. Election?

Do you think the assassination of former Prime Minister Bhutto of Pakistan will have a significant impact on the upcoming presidential election in the United States? If so, what kind of impact? Which candidates will benefit and which will not? Post a comment.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Black People Love Us!

More on the continuing adventures of "whiteness" in America... In this episode, "Sally" and "Johnny" revel in the love they receive from their black friends. They are so happy, they've created a website: "Black People Love Us"

On a related note, over at, Alex Jung has a very interesting and useful article about the "ten misunderstandings white liberals have about race."

Here are the ten misunderstandings:

1. White supremacy? You mean white men in white sheets?
2. I'm not racist, but ...
3. Colorblind as a bat.
4. Kumbaya, multiculturalism!
5. It's not a "[insert racial group here]" issue as much as it is a "human" issue.
6. One of my best friends is [insert nonwhite group here]!
7. How could I have white privilege? I'm poor/female/gay/Polish/disabled!
8. The white savior complex.
9. "Good" people of color
10. All that guilt.

To read Jung's explanation of each one, check out the article and then post a comment...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Holiday Reminder...

For the full story of how this peace slogan and design was created back in 1967, click here: origin story

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

In honor of the occassion, here are a few interesting Christmas-related posts:

Holiday Cheer 1: My friend Joe Germuska turned me on to the "Santacon" phenomenon, which is spreading across the land!

According to Wikipedia,
SantaCon, short for "Santa Convention," is a mass gathering of people dressed in their various interpretations of Santa Claus costumes (most, however, are traditional), and performing publicly on streets and in bars in cities around the world. The focus is on spontaneity, creativity, and the improvisational nature of human interaction while having a good time. Variously known in the U.S. as Naughty Santas, Cheapsuit Santas, Santarchy, Santa Rampage, the Red Menace and Santapalooza, SantaCon events are noted for cheerfully bawdy and harmless behavior, including the singing of naughty Christmas carols, and the giving of small gifts and free hugs to random strangers. Some participants see SantaCon as a postmodern revival of Saturnalia, while others see the event as a precursor of the flash mob.

In 1994, the Cacophony Society staged the first SantaCon in San Francisco. Influenced by the surrealist movement, Discordianism, and other subversive art currents, the Cacophonists decided to celebrate the Yule season in a distinctly anti-commercial manner, by mixing guerrilla street theatre, pranksterism, and public intoxication. In subsequent years, SantaCon evolved, spawning many different versions of the event throughout the world.
Here are some other links:
Wikipedia on Santacon
Chicago Santacon photos

Holiday Cheer 2: James Brown "Soulful Christmas"

Footage from a 1968 Boston live show spices up this holiday favorite...

Holiday Cheer 3: "Anarchists in the Aisles? Stores Provide a Stage"

The NYTimes has an interesting article about "shop-dropping" this holiday season. The author writes,
This is the season of frenetic shopping, but for a devious few people it’s also the season of spirited shopdropping.

Otherwise known as reverse shoplifting, shopdropping involves surreptitiously putting things in stores, rather than illegally taking them out, and the motivations vary.

Anti-consumerist artists slip replica products packaged with political messages onto shelves while religious proselytizers insert pamphlets between the pages of gay-and-lesbian readings at book stores.

Self-published authors sneak their works into the “new releases” section, while personal trainers put their business cards into weight-loss books, and aspiring professional photographers make homemade cards — their Web site address included, of course — and covertly plant them into stationery-store racks.

Holiday Cheer 4: Norad Tracks Santa Clause!

This one is an old favorite. NORAD, the North American Aerospace Command, has a great website that "tracks" Santa Clause's progress on Christmas as he flies through the skies delivering presents.

According to the website,
Santa maintains a huge list of children who have been good throughout the year. The list even includes addresses, ZIP codes and postal codes. The list, of course, gets bigger each year by virtue of the world's increasing population. This year's population right now is 6,634,570,959!

Santa has had to adapt over the years to having less and less time to deliver his toys. If one were to assume he works in the realm of standard time, as we know it, clearly he would have perhaps two to three ten-thousandths of a second to deliver his toys to each child's home he visits!

The fact that Santa Claus is more than 15 centuries old and does not appear to age is our biggest clue that he does not work within time, as we know it. His Christmas Eve trip may seem to take around 24 hours, but to Santa it could be that it lasts days, weeks or months in standard time. Santa would not want to rush the important job of bringing Christmas happiness to a child, so the only logical conclusion is that Santa somehow functions on a different time and space continuum.
If you have kids, this is a great thing to check out with them!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Greeting from the Republican Debate

Well, this one probably isn't going to go over well with everybody, but I think the point is a significant one. The hawkish zeal of most Christian conservatives is very troubling. The lack of a moral voice on the war is also cause for great concern. Ron Paul is the only guy on that side with any integrity on this issue... and he is otherwise a lunatic.

So, to my friends on the Right, have fun choosing a nominee among this screwy bunch!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Electability: Hillary vs. Obama

Hillary Clinton has been hitting hard on the "electability" theme throughout her campaign. She has steadfastly claimed that she is more electable that Barack Obama. She has said she has been through the fires with the GOP and can stand up to them. Is this true?

First, I don't recall the Clintons standing up too significantly to the GOP in the 1990s. Rather, their entire DLC philosophy was to CAVE to the conservatives by being Republican-lite. And, during Clinton's impeachment, they didn't fight back too vigorously because BILL DID IT! So, this argument is spurrious in my mind...

Second, I'll repeat an argument I burried in a previous email: Not only does Hillary begin with a 45-47% negative rating (more than double anyother candidate in either party), it is also widely acknowledged that she, more than any other candidate, will mobilize the GOP base, which is fairly disillusioned right now. BUT, MORE IMPORTANTLY, every Democrat, even those who adore Hillary, know several other Democrats that are turned-off by the prospect of her nomination and who will be disillusioned if she gets the nod. These people, including myself, may in the end hold their nose and vote for her, but they sure won't fight for her, nor will they be energized to work on the campaign, which will not only hurt Hillary's bid, but also Democrats up and down the ballot. Be honest. Think about it. I know you know several of these Democrats! We all do and this should give all Dems serious cause for pause before throwing their support to Clinton.

As a specific example, I cite Jim Esch in Omaha. Esch(D) ran for Congress in '06 and nearly beat conservtaive GOP boob, Lee Terry. He came within a whisker and that is no small task out here in Red State America. Most thought he would run in '08 and might very well win, but Esch has decided not to give it another go. Why? Well, in making his announcement, he specificially referenced, among other things, the fact that Hillary looked like a good bet to be the party nominee at the top and that that would be the kiss of death in a state like Nebraska, where her presence on the ballot will bring out every GOPer possible. So, even the prospect of a Hillary campaign has already cost the Democrats one potential congressional pick-up!

Last, Robert Parry has an excellent piece over at Alternet about the extreme vulnerability BOTH Clintons have because of Secret Service records, which detail their every move over the last many years, and which are under the control of Republicans in the Bish Administration!

Even as Hillary Clinton's operatives were dropping hints that Republicans would exploit Barack Obama's youthful drug use, some Clinton insiders privately worried about her own vulnerability because the Bush administration possesses detailed knowledge of her movements -- and her husband's -- over the past seven years.

Because of Sen. Clinton's unique status as the first former First Lady to run for President - and because her husband was succeeded by a Republican -- she is the first candidate to have both her and her spouse be subject to regular, long-term surveillance by an Executive Branch agency controlled by the opposing political party...

Though Secret Service records are supposed to be closely held secrets, a source close to the Clintons told me that it is believed that senior Republicans have received regular briefings about movements of the Clintons that might prove embarrassing if released during the general election campaign.

The article then goes on to cite several concrete examples of the Repubs willingness to exploit this access.

Here is the full text:
"Is Hillary More Vulnerable to Republican Attacks?

And, in case you missed it, Maureen Dowd has an excellent satirical piece about Clinton's drug smear against Obama:

"Reefer Madness in Iowa"

Friday, December 21, 2007

More Dirty Tricks from Clinton!

It simply never ends with the Clintons. Really. Check out these latest examples of the Clinton campaign in full smear mode. This is how they play politics. Looks a lot like the Republican attack machine, doesn't it? Is this the type of person you want leading the country? Is this the type of candidate you think will bring us change?

"Clinton Camp Purchases Two Obama Attack Websites"

ABC News has learned that the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has registered the names of two Web sites with the express goal of attacking her chief rival, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

It's the first time this election cycle a presidential campaign has launched a Web site with the express purpose of of launching serious criticisms on a rival... The Clinton campaign intends to use these new Web sites to paint Obama as cowardly.

I think the use of the word cowardly is interesting since that can come with a lot of genedered meaning, particularly in politics. Recall election '04, when the Republican Party's main argument against John Kerry was that he was a "girly man?" You know, he was weak, undecisive, he waffled, he spoke French (you know those French are so effeminate they can't even stand up for themselves like real men; they're appeasers!!)! Schwarzenegger called him a "girly man" at the convention. The subtext of the whole campaign was that Kerry, despite being a highly decorated war veteran against a bunch of chicken hawks, was not manly enough to lead in the post-9/11 world. In essence, they tarred him with a bunch of associations that communicated that he was a "wuss" or "fem-y" or even "gay." Recall all the anti-gay ballot measures that were on state lines in '04 and recall Bush's rhetoric that he was manly and decisive and the "decider."

Now, interestingly, perhaps the first woman president has decided to paint herself as the manly warhawk and apparently attack Obama as soft and unsatisfactorily "tough" and "decisive."

Now, the clintons are famous for moving to the Right and coopting Republican issues and ideas (that is the DLC approach), so perhaps this isn't surprising. Why should they stop now, right? It's worked for them this long...

The question is, will the electorate buy what they are seeling this time around?

"Clinton Campaign Disguises Attacks on Obama Through Edwards"

Some of the first negative mail in Iowa on the Democratic side is out, and it's anti-Obama. A new direct mail piece from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) accuses that: "For those without insurance, Barack Obama's band-aid solution is no change at all"...

But, as it turns out, AFSCME is backing Clinton. In fact, even though Clinton and her campaign have been arguing for the past month that Obama's health-care plan doesn't insure everyone, Clinton's name isn't mentioned once on the flier. The Edwards quote makes it appear to be a slam by the Edwards team.

This tactic, it seems, could be intended to deflect the distaste that most voters have for direct attacks -- even those that are policy based. But those in the know might think that this new negative mail is Iowa Nice playing a little dirty.

Or, there is the recent attempt to smear Obama by suggesting he hasn't "stood up" for his principles and for working people because he sometimes voted "present" while in the Illinois legislature. If you read the article, it would be easy to come away thinking the guy ALWAYS voted "present." The reality is that he voted "present" .o325% of the time. Yep. .0325%! And, you know why he voted "present" this miniscule number of times? Most of the time he voted "present" as a part of a routine tactical or procedural move supported by party leaders. The Clintons know this. Anyone who knows how legislatures work knows this. Yet, the Establishment media (and even many liberal/progressive sites eager for a story)simply forwards this crap unexamined. For an excellent disection of this attack and the way the media flubbed it, click here:
"Reading The Pictures: Cocaine, Kindergarten -- And Now, The Hand"

Puh-lease, people, stand up to these dirty tricks! PLEASE EMAIL THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN RIGHT NOW and tell them you are disgusted and WILL NOT be voting for Hillary because of her campaign's constant use of sleaze, because of their win-at-all-costs mentality, because it has embraced the "politics of swiftboating."

Also, spread the word about this blog to other people. Have them come read about the reality of these sleazebags. Seriosuly, time is of the essence. Get to it. Now!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hillary Clinton: Hawk-In-Chief?

More evidence that Hillary's claims that she is an agent of change and that she will end the war in Iraq are all a bunch of election-tailored hoo-ey.

Stephen Zunes, over at Foreign Policy in Focus, has a devastating analysis of Hillary Clinton's record on foreign policy... and unless you love militarism, it ain't pretty. In short, he writes,
While much attention has been given to Senator Hillary Clinton’s support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, her foreign policy record regarding other international conflicts and her apparent eagerness to accept the use of force appears to indicate that her fateful vote authorizing the invasion and her subsequent support for the occupation and counter-insurgency war was no aberration. Indeed, there’s every indication that, as president, her foreign policy agenda would closely parallel that of the Bush administration. Despite efforts by some conservative Republicans to portray her as being on the left wing of the Democratic Party, in reality her foreign policy positions bear a far closer resemblance to those of Ronald Reagan than they do of George McGovern.

For the full article, click here:
"Hillary Clinton on Military Policy"

Here is the main webpage for Foreign Policy in Focus, in case you want to poke around further there:
Foreign Policy in Focus

The Clinton Sleaze Machine

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

This is ridiculous. Who is going to stand up and call this for what it is: The Clinton Sleaze Machine in full effect.

Seriously, for weeks behind the scenes the Clinton minions have spread whispering fears about Obama, stating he has a "slush fund," that they have some unnamed dirt on him, that he is a drug user/dealer. Then, coincidentally I'm sure - nudge, nudge, wink, wink - as their poll numbers went into a tailspin, surrogates of the Clintons began making these slimy back door attacks publicly: Shaheen on Obama's drug use followed by Hillary's campaign chair repeating the word "cocaine" ad nauseum on Hardball; Bob Kerry at a Hillary endorsement event backhands Obama with the "Muslim madrassa" madness. Now, word that the Clintons supporters might be behind the rumors of John Edwards's "love child" with a former aid are swirling:
Hillary Supporter Heads National Enquirer

Meanwhile, as her minions are on the march engaging in the "politics of personal destruction," she and her handlers play a "softer, gentler" side of Hillary in public. Gross.

This is how the Clintons have always played their politics. Slash and burn. Personal ambition and power over all else, regardless of the damage it does, regardless of the truth of things. It is very "Rove-ian," actually, or "Carvel-ian". They know full well that the smear gets front page coverage and is pushed along through the media echo chamber. They let the hit sink in and cause a nice bruise, then they come forward and deny involvement, distance themselves from the original smear with a lot of "gee-golly-ing" and "shucks-ing," "boy, we were just as surprised as you were"... But, the damage has been done: The negative ideas are out there in the political ether to be repeated and rehashed for weeks and months through rumor and innuendo, the whole point to create a generalized negative impression in voters minds and on their emotions. It is a well-known political trick that if you throw enough slop, something is bound to stick.

So, why aren't they being more forcefully called to task for this sleaze? "Inquiring minds want to know!"

And, of course, that is not all. Bill has had to sever ties with some his most sleazy political friends. It has come to light he has a bunch of money stashed in the Cayman Islands (now why do people stash money in the Caymans??). Earlier, Clinton fund-raiser Hu was arrested for corruption. And on and on and on and on... Is this the politics of reform and change?? Hell no!

Oh, and this just in, as the Clintons were trashing Obama because of his drug use - remember, "He's not electable because the Repubs have this age-old drug use to use against him" - it turns out that the Republicans have the entire Secret Service records of the Clintons, which track their every move and detail their every corruption, private and public. Uhhhhh.. which do you think is potentially more damning, the stale Obama drug story, or the many, many revelations that are certain to be in those SS records? Which makes their candidate less electable?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Experience and Electability?

So, here we are on the cusp of the first caucus/primaries of the '08 election and a desperate Clinton campaign is pulling out all the stops, including dispatching another surrogate, this time Nebraska's own Democratic hack, Bob Kerry, to smear Obama by using coded words, like "Madrassa." Oh yeah, Hillary's husband made a big announcement last night, too, which should dispel any thought that she is a candidate of change: He said George Bush I would help a Clinton Administration regain its standing in the world. Exactly. Clinton and Bush, together again in '08! Uh, how is that change????? In that one moment, Bill destroyed any vestiges of the change argument for Hil... I thought this guy was supposed to be the ultimate campaigner. It is clear his ego and ambition have gotten the better of his sound political judgement. Bill, please remove foot from mouth and get the heck off the stump. With friends like you, Hillary doesn't need many enemies...

But I want to take on two other claims. First, that Hillary is the candidate with more EXPERIENCE. In fact, she is tied for the LEAST amount of elected experience among Dems, along with John Edwards. Here is how it breaks down on this point:

• Biden: senator 1973-present (34yrs)
• Kucinich: City Council 1970-75, 83-85, Clerk of courts 75-77, Mayor 77-79, Senator (state) 95-97, Congressman (federal) 97-present. (23yrs)
• Richardson: Congressman 83-97, Ambassador 97-98, Energy Sec. 98-01, Governor 03-present. (23yrs)
• Dodd: Congressman 1975-81, Senator 1981-present (22yrs)
• Gravel: Senator 1969-81 (12yrs)
• Obama: Senator 97-05 (state), 05-present (federal). (10yrs)
• Clinton: senator 2001-present (6yrs)
• Edwards: Senator 1999-2005 (6yrs)

Moreover, the Clinton campaign likes to claim it is the more "ELECTABLE" candidate. Again, the evidence just does not support this. For instance, Hillary clearly leads the "anti-vote." A full 40% of all Americans say they would actively vote to block a Clinton presidency, that is more than twice the second place candidate, Giuliani, who had a 17% "anti-vote." Overall, 64% of Republicans, 42% of third-party or Independent voters and nearly 20% of Democrats say the candidate they most want to keep from the White House is Hillary... again, numbers that far surpass her closest rival in this area.

Or, there's the new poll by USA Today that states
In hypothetical matchups for the general presidential election, Clinton and Obama each led Giuliani, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Romney, although at times narrowly.

Obama was somewhat stronger, besting Giuliani by 6 points, Huckabee by 11 and Romney by 18. Clinton had an edge of 1 point over Giuliani, 9 points over Huckabee and 6 points over Romney.

For me, here is the clincher when it comes to ELECTABILITY. I don't have any scientific data on this point, just my anecdotal experience, but if you are a Democrat think long and hard about what I am about to write: Not only does Hillary energize the conservative base in a way no other Democratic candidate does (which is a HUGE strike against her nomination and the idea that she is electable), but also the prospect of a Clinton restoration dispirits and demoralizes a large number of Democrats, myself included. Admit it. Every Democrat knows several other Democrats who are simply and totally turned-off by Hillary and the Clintons. Sure, most will probably hold their nose and vote for her anyway given the alternative, but they won't be energized and they won't work for her or the party. In a tight race, that very well could be the losing margin. This is the most damning evidence against the argument that she is most electable.

Finally, even the prospect of a Clinton campaign is hurting the party already down the line. For example, in Omaha in '08 a good Democrat, Jim Esch almost pulled off a HUGE upset by beating Lee Terry for Congress. This is really quite incredible, in fact. There was much hope he would run again and win in '08. Again, this would have been a major pick-up. But, a few weeks back, Esch announced he would not run again. In his announcement, among other things, he cited the likelihood that Clinton would be the party standard-bearer as one of the major reasons for his decision against running. In essence, he argued that Hillary at the top of the ticket hurt his chances of electoral victory at the bottom of the ticket, particularly in moderate-to-conservative state, like Nebraska.

What do you think? Do you buy Clinton's "experience" and "electability" arguments?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Demystifying the Clinton Legacy

I understand that many Democrats look back through the disastrous last seven years of the Bush administration at the Clinton years through rose-colored glasses; it seems to look better than things have been under Bush. But, I submit that that view is a mythic narrative that never was. I argue that this willful misrepresentation of the recent past, this unwillingness to remember clearly, might propel the Democratic party over the cliff with the Hillary campaign in election '08...

Before we all jump over the edge with Hillary and Bill again, and go "back to the future," as their campaign cutely puts it, let's take a moment to swim through the Bush-induced haze and try to recall the reality of the Clinton era policies. Progressive political analyst Robert Borosage has a recent essay on this subject that is worth reading:

Borosage, "The Clinton Legacy"

In it, he writes:
The Clinton years gain luster in contrast to the foul catastrophes of Bush misrule... But the signature initiatives of the Clinton years -- NAFTA and the corporate trading world, budget surpluses, repealing welfare, posing tough on crime, reducing the size of government, proclaiming the "era of big government is over" -- are part of the problems, not part of the solutions that the next president must face. And as a candidate, Hillary has had to distance herself from many of her husband's core policies.

And here is his big finale, which I think all Dems should think long and hard about before pulling the lever or caucusing for restoration of the Clinton years:
Bill Clinton was a moderate politician caught in a conservative era. He fought a skillful rear guard action in some areas, while co-opting or embracing conservative ideas and policies in many others. The next Democratic president will be elected by a public looking for change in the wake of the catastrophic failures of those conservative ideas. He or she will have the mandate to forge a very different course. Hillary Clinton may benefit in the campaign for our nostalgia for the Clinton years of peace and prosperity. But the next president will succeed only if she or he charts a very different course.

I would simply add that it is important to keep in mind that overall economic inequality under Clinton dramatically increased, not decreased, continuing a trend from the Reagan-era 1980s!

And, since I am at it, please allow me to take on the conventional wisdom non-sense that Clinton is somehow "the first black president" and that somehow he was in tune with black people's interests and actually represented them well as President. This is all a bunch of smelly hoo-ha.

When Toni Morrison made this famous claim in 1998 she based it on the fact that Bill is from a "single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas." She also compared Clinton's sex life, which was scrutinized despite his career accomplishments, to the stereotyping and double standards that African Americans often endure. Often in popular culture, the argument is simplified to mean Clinton's general comfortableness with African Americans and black culture, as well as the association of black manliness with (extramarital) sexual dalliances. These are lame, and maybe even offensive, tropes; Clinton is not black and never has been. His whiteness has been a great advantage for him throughout his life and career as a politician. The reality is that Clinton's use of a compassionate rhetoric toward African Americans, and his ease with black culture, has overshadowed the reality of the policies he advocated as Commander in Chief.

To put it baldly, the policies of the Clinton years were, overall, pretty disastrous for African Americans. There is no doubt about that. Yes, it is true that in the 1990s, the black poverty and unemployment rates went down a small amount, but that was less the result of Clinton policies and more the temporary result of the macro-emergence of new technologies and the economic boom/bubble they caused during the mid-1990s (when the bubble burst it hurt black communities terribly). And also true and to his credit, Clinton affirmed affirmative action and appointed several African Americans to his administration.

So, what is my beef with Clinton's policies toward racial inequality, poverty and discrimination? Well, this is the guy that got back into the 1992 Presidential race in large part by pulling a trick out of the Republican's hat and playing the race card. Remember that Bill Clinton went home to Arkansas to very publicly preside over the state-sanctioned murder (execution) of a mentally-disabled black man, Ricky Ray Rector. Why did he do this? To prove to other white people that he was suitably "tough on crime"; he pandered to prevalent distorted white fears of black crime at that time. This was, really, a variation on the Willie Horton theme employed so effectively by the Bush I election team in 1988. Clinton extended his appeal to his fellow whites by picking silly fights with Jesse Jackson and Sister Souljah. What did black voters get in that election campaign in return? Clinton playing sax on Arsenio Hall and no policies that would actually help the black community. So, mainly a symbolic exploitation of black culture in both positive and negative ways.

Moreover, while in office, it was Clinton who did away with the Democrats' historic commitment to welfare, which has contributed to the struggles of that disproportionate number of African Americans at the bottom of the economic order. He also supported and encouraged a massive expansion of the miserably failed War on Drugs and supported a shocking expansion of the prison-industrial complex; both devastating policies that prey on black communities. Like the Republicans he was working so hard to coopt, Clinton substituted a limited social welfare system with a harsh, punitive culture that placed blame for poverty and inequality squarely on the victims. In addition, Clinton's pandering to unbridled global capitalist interests over the interests of everyday American workers in various trade agreements he signed further leveled a harsh blow to all working-class communities, including communities of color. The administration's failed health care policy also battered poor black communities. Oh yeah, Clinton did NOTHING as the Rwanda genocide raged on, claiming nearly 1 million lives.

Oh, but you say, "But Bill loves black people. He moved his offices to Harlem after he left office." Well, Harlem wasn't his first choice and if you don't think that was a political move, and another one that exploited race for his own political gain, then I've got a HUGE beach-front property to sell you out here in Nebraska! In fact, Clinton's move to Harlem has fueled some bad trends affecting that community. Here is an article on this subject:

"Harlem to Clinton: You're Ruining Us"

The short of it is that 'gentrification since the former president moved in has caused rents to rise by 100 per cent, forcing many poor and working-class black families out.

So, how deep does Clinton's supposed compassion for the struggles of black people really go? He's probably always been in tune with African Americans, you might think, right? Wrong. In 1966, while a student at Georgetown (so not a naive little kid), with the civil rights movement in full swing for many years and the new racial consciousness of Black Power sweeping the nation, Clinton sent the postcard you see to the left to his grandmother. She had given him the cards and he writes that he wanted to prove to her that he was using them. Absolutely no indication is given in the letter that he had any consciousness of the racism of the card. What, then, is the root of Clinton's supposed commitment to black people? Perhaps later on he went through some personal transformation on race that was genuine and true. Perhaps. Or, perhaps it came to be in his political self-interest. The evidence seems to suggest the latter as much as the former.

Now, let me be clear, since this last example might be viewed by some, particularly Clinton partisans, as inflammatory or unfair. I don't mean to write that Clinton cannot overcome whatever racial missteps he might have made in his past, particularly as a young man having grown up in a racist culture. Heck, I know as well as anyone that we are all sullied by white supremacy; no one is clean, or pure, on racial issues in the U.S. And, of course, it is important to keep in mind that the iconography on the card was typical of the region and time period, particularly for folks in his grandmother's age-range. Moreover, Bill was still fairly young at 19. Yet, other young people, on and off campuses across the country, and some much younger than 19, had been active in the civil rights movement, the student movement and anti-war activism for several years by 1966, a reality about which Clinton was no doubt aware. Regardless, my main point is simply that there is no historical evidence to support a claim that Bill Clinton ever was a significant supporter of civil rights or a champion of the interests of black people. Those issues have never been at the forefront of his agenda.

Oh, by the way, what was Hillary Clinton doing during the height of the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s? She was supporting Barry "Mr. Anti-Civil Rights Act of 1964" Goldwater! Again, I applaud her later transformation to the Democratic Party and some form of liberalism, but she deserves no special kudos as a 60s civil rights activist when she was not. She was a Goldwater Republican and grew up in a family rooted in those politics.

But, wait, you say, Hillary is running, not Bill. Why all this talk about Bill in this entry? Well, because Hillary's main mantra is to claim her husband's legacy and that she was somehow a central player in those policies. Moreover, many days, it appears Bill is the one running rather than Hillary. Note his attack-dog performance on Charlie Rose last night, in fact. This is clearly a "two-for-one" deal, so Bill's legacy is open for scrutiny...

I guess what I am saying is that in the end, I am just not buying what the Clinton's are selling. Their kind of Republican-lite triangulation might have made sense in the 1990s, but not in this moment, when the Dems finally have a little wind in their sails and when so many Americans are desperate for a new politic and a more progressive and visionary appeal. Moreover, the claim that African Americans should show any allegiance to the Clintons, or that he is somehow one of them, or that they should welcome a Clinton restoration in politics and policy is, frankly, absurd and more than a bit scary.

And there is one more thing that troubles me greatly: Every Democrat, even the most ardent Hillary supporter, knows several other Democrats that are simply turned off, or at least deflated, by Hillary and the prospect of a Clinton restoration. Seriously. Admit it. We all know 'em, if we aren't them ourselves. No other leading candidate has this strange problem. Couple this with the obvious surge in conservative energy that would inevitably come from a Hillary nomination and you have a recipe for political disaster on the Dem side. So, in fact, the electability argument is also fairly shaky in my mind...

So, what do you think? Feel free to post a comment.

I hope you will also spread the word, pass on this link and help dispel these dangerous myths. Yes, the Democrats need to win in '08, but not at all costs and not when there are other excellent candidates available in the party...

Before it's too late. Wake up, please...

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Story of Stuff

One of the major concerns I have about the environment and which I think often gets over-shadowed in all the (justified) hoopla about greenhouse gasses, is "our problem with stuff," our addiction to material things, to the over-consumption of non-essential goods. We simply live a massively unsustainable way of life. Any environmental movement has to confront this reality...

Annie Leonard has created a delightful short film (20 minutes total) on this issue, titled, "The Story of Stuff, " which combines animation and humor to make a very creative progressive argument. Check it out and pass along the link to your friends and family. Everyone should see this:

Ch. 1: Introduction (2:37)

Ch. 2: Extraction (2:05)

Ch. 3: Production (3:27)

Ch. 4: Distribution (1:59)

Ch. 5: Consumption (6:35)

Ch. 7: Another Way (2:04)

The Last Poets w/ Pharoah Sanders - "This is Madness"

The Last Poets were formed in 1968 and are often credited as one of the early progenitors of hip hop. Sanders played with Sun Ra and John Coltrane early on before setting off on his own adventuresome solo career in free jazz, often with an African-twist. The music is always a little dissonant with Sanders, but the words of the Last Poets are equally conscious and deep...

For more on Sanders, click here:
Pharoah Sanders

For more on The Last Poets, click here:
The Last Poets

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Andrew Young Attacks Obama; Freedom Road Fights Back (w/ a little help from our friends)!

Recently, while doing an internet-linked talk former civil rights activist Andrew Young took the opportunity to attack Barack Obama as too young to be President. (Andrew Young Attacks Obama) In making this silly argument, he went on to challenge Obama's racial authenticity, stating that "Bill Clinton is as black as Barack... and he's probably been with as many black women as Barack, too." Steamed by these lame remarks, I snapped off a missive to the SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) email list, of which I am a participant. SNCC was the vanguard of the Movement during the 60s. In that message, I wrote, among other things:

"Offensive isn't even strong enough a word for those lines. First, Bill ain't black. Never was, never will be. The remark plays into this ridiculous line of argument that casts doubt on Barack's authenticity as a black man because he doesn't play to the stereotypes. Second, it plays into the long-standing politics of race and sex. Third, it equates blackness and manliness with (extra-marital) sexual prowess. Fourth, it is simply sexist as hell. Young deserves to be forcefully condemned again and again for these offensive comments and the Clintons called to account, too."

Now, Young has been a sell-out for quite some time. He left the Movement behind a couple of decades ago to cash in as a corporate consultant. Most recently, he got paid big bucks to travel the country and defend Walmart from negative charges from local communities, particularly poor communities and communities of color. For more on this angle, check this out:
"Andy Young: The Shameless Son"

My hope in writing to the SNCC list was that one of its members might step forth and write a retort. Yesterday, Bob Zellner, one of the many heroic figures in SNCC's incredibly heroic history, wrote the following piece. I was humbled and gratified to get a shout-out...

December 13, 2007
Bob Zellner

Ambassador suffers from foot-in-mouth disease

Ambassador Andy Young and I go back a long ways, as many movement people do. “The Movement” is the black struggle for equal rights which began its modern phase with the Brown decision in the mid fifties when the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools.

I once took my friend Andy Young to task when he said on a television program that “all the leaders of the civil rights movement were ministers.” In a public statement I asked the ambassador if that was true of Ms Ella Baker, the founder of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee where I served as a Field Secretary. Was Fanny Lou Hammer, the leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, a minister? She was actually a share cropper on Senator James Eastland’s Mississippi Delta plantation.

I then listed strong women who were top leaders in the movement – Diane Nash, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, Ms Rosa Parks, Septima Clark, Mojesica Simpkins, Dorothy Cotton, Joanne Robinson, Anne Braden, Ruby Hurley of the NAACP, the list go on and on…. Were they ministers? I asked Ambassador Young.

Andy had no answer. Well I wonder if he has an answer now after trashing the only black candidate in the presidential race - the first in history to have a serious chance of being elected.

A shill for the Clintons, Andrew “Mr. Wal-Mart” Young labeled Barack Obama as too lacking in a support network, and too young to rise to the Presidency. Hillary, however, has all the support she needs in Bill, who is “every bit as black as Barack.” And, Andy inelegantly added, “He’s probably gone with more black women than Barack.”

The fact that Mr. Young followed this with a lame disclaimer that he was only ‘clowning’ did not detract from the offensive nature of his remarks. Ambassadors, I’m sure, never joke without a purpose. I suppose Andy has a thick skin after taking the abuse he received when he took a great deal of money in exchange for trying to improve the image of the tight fisted, anti-union Wal-Mart bunch. But this is too much, Mr. Young. With friends like you can the Clintons afford any more enemies?

News reports call you a “civil rights icon” so those remaining true to the cause must call you Big Time on this one. Your remarks are sexist and disrespectful of black men – implying that manliness and blackness is proven by exhibiting extra-marital sexual prowess. Where did that stereotype originate? Is this a way for you to denigrate Barack Obama – by rejecting the stereotype, he allows you to question his authenticity as a black leader?

Continuing his tasteless comments Mr. Young slanders the history of the Black Freedom Struggle - “It’s not (only) a matter of being inexperienced. It’s a matter of being young, there’s a certain level of maturity…you’ve got to learn to take a certain amount of (bleep).”

Barack could bat that one back by citing the obvious - the civil rights movement would not have prevailed without the courage, the energy, the creativity and the sheer bodatiousness of young people. Sheyann Webb and Joanne Bland, active to this day on the front lines in Selma Alabama, were in elementary school when they became little friends of Martin Luther King marching with him for freedom. On bloody Sunday, fleeing George Wallace’s troopers and the sheriff’s horsemen, Joanne Bland shouted for Hosea Williams to put her down, “You not running fast enough,” she told the older minister.

I am Bob Zellner, and it is my opinion that this latest outrage from the good Ambassador is not about the pros and cons of Obama vs. Hillary but about the abuse of our history and legacy. Movement folk fought for women’s rights while battling for the rights of black people. Some of us are frankly undecided where our support will ultimately settle, with the woman or the black man in this race. Both Senator Barack and Senator Clinton will advance the cause of freedom at home and around the world.

The point I wish to make is best stated in an email message to the SNCC-list by my friend and fellow historian, Patrick D. Jones, Ph.D. who addressed movement leaders:

“….my interest was in alerting [the civil rights community] to another abuse of your history and legacy. ….This article went out with headlines like, ‘CIVIL RIGHTS ICON SLAMS OBAMA.' (It’s) not just about Young’s opinions, sexist, racist, in poor taste, sycophantic, corporate or otherwise. It is about marshaling the legacy of one of the greatest movements for social justice in our nation’s history to smear the lone black candidate in the race with derogatory and spurious claims. …It’s important for other civil rights activists with the kind of public clout as Young to publicly denounce him and his comments for what they are and reclaim the Movement for the true values and goals it has always stood for.”

Dr. Jones of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ends by saying that he is “just a young Movement historian, so I do not have that kind of public cache…but you all do!"

Well we all should speak up. I am Bob Zellner and this is my opinion. What’s yours?

The Clinton Dirty Trick Machine

What'd I tell you... The smear is in effect. Yesterday, Billy Shaheen, confidante and Clinton campaign co-chair in NH, publicly attacked Obama about his well-known, already been there done that past drug use. The term "henchman" comes to mind:
Shaheen Smears Obama for Clintons

Here's what Thomas Edsall wrote on the subject:
Edsall on the Sheehan Smear

And now this morning Dark Prince of the Right, Robert Novak, who broke the story about the secret Clinton smear of Obama a week or so ago, now details the broader behind-the-scenes smear campaign that has been on-going for quite a while now, apparently. Again, the point is not the specific issue raised but rather to create the overall impression of doubt about Obama:
Novak on the Clinton Smear Campaign

Is this the kind of politics you want? As I wrote previously, this reveals a more essential truth about the Clintons than anything we've seen on the stump or in debates.

If you are reading this, I hope you will spread the word about how slimy the Clintons have turned as their desperate grasp for more power falters. I hope you will write directly to the Clinton campaign and tell them you will not vote for her BECAUSE of these dirty tricks. I hope you will write your local paper denouncing these politics of personal destruction.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hats Off to Bella Abzug!

The NYTimes has a nice podcast up right now about the fascinating and controversial women's rights pioneer, Bella Abzug.

Abzug, who was known for her trademark hat, once said, “Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel.”

Have a listen here:
Hats Off to Bella Abzug podcast

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

As Iowa Nears, Clinton Allies Quietly Raise Obama's Cocaine Use

This is exactly what kills it for me with the Clintons. Here they are AGAIN caught in the act of a devious, behind the scenes, seedy smear campaign. I suggest that this kind of stuff reveals a more essential truth about Hillary and Bill and what drives them than anything we've seen or heard on the stump. It is so clear that personal ambition is their driving force. Obama's been on the record about his drug use for a while now. And, the off-the-record, behind-the-scenes strategy is purposely aimed at creating a more generalized sense of doubt, or negativity, or unsteadiness, out their in the media/political ether about Obama. It is all about branding impressions and feelings toward the candidates in the electorate, in this case negative ones about Obama...

Anyway, here is the story:
Clintons Spread Coke Stories About Obama

Sunday, December 09, 2007

"The Economic Rape of Cleveland"

If you aren't aware, there is an economic meltdown underway in America, particularly in our urban centers. There is a rot at the core of the system that preys upon poor neighborhoods and communities of color. The most recent sign of this meltdown is the sub-prime mortgage fiasco. Sadly, my hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, is being ravaged more than any other in the nation.

Harry C. Alford from the Washington Informer recently wrote an interesting essay on the impact of this economic crisis in Cleveland. The article, "The Economic Rape of Cleveland," briefly explains how the sub-prime scheme worked:
This game broke all of the rules. It exaggerated housing appraisals to boost lending amounts. It eased credit rules to allow people who did not qualify for mortgages to get them anyway and pay the consequences later. Hedge fund investors fell into the same trick that made Enron famous. They fronted asset investments that were really poorly collateralized loans that would soon default and leave the investors holding the “bag.” Middle men brokers and package dealers ran these schemes for quick fees and cash. In the end, the investors and new mortgage owners would take the big hit.

He goes on to look at Cleveland as
a typical Chocolate City in regards to this matter. Cleveland, Ohio seems to be a perfect example. It’s a hardworking town with a strong history of neighborhoods producing some of the greatest American citizens. A black middle class was formed decades ago and is indeed an institution in this population center. Maybe this is why the subprime hustlers targeted Cleveland. It had plenty of established black property owners who could be exploited while the activity remained under the “radar” for a while.

In a devastating conclusion that should outrage us all, Alford writes:
There is one particular zip code in Cleveland that has over 1,000 present foreclosures. The neighborhoods in this part of Cleveland have become slums overnight and the blacks living there didn’t see it coming. It was fast and there appears nothing they can do. This city has been violated in every economic sense of the term. Their virtue has been quite lessened and the repair is not even imaginable. The elected officials, community leaders, chambers of commerce, etc. are lost in trying to find a solution to this devastation. All they can do now is stop the hustlers so that the present state can be termed the “bottom." But even doing this doesn’t mean that “which way is up” can be visualized anytime soon.

And then, plaintively:
Yes, the lovely city of Cleveland has been ripped off. There are other cities, counties and rural communities around the nation facing the same crisis. Greed and hustle coupled with bad policy and weak laws have hurt us miserably. Our children will pay the price and all we can do is start over once again. It hurts. t hurts real bad and will have a very long-term effect. Cleveland was raped. She was not alone. Lord, help us please!

This is the cost of conservative economics, people! These are real live human beings, devoured by large economic interests and then cast off in a seedy profit scheme that counted on their vulnerability... and relative invisibility to the rest of the nation. These white-collar criminals assumed no one would care in the end about these poor neighborhoods, about these communities of color. They believed no one would raise alarm or protest.

Well, now is the opportunity to prove them wrong... or right.

Is this the world you want to live in?
Is this the kind of economy we should countenance?

What will you do?
What will we, as a society, do?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Strange Fruit?

Take a moment. Click the above map to enlarge. Spend some time looking at this "op-chart" from the NYTimes which depicts recent noose incidents around the U.S...


What the *%#@^!&?


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Duke Ellington, "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" (1943)

American maestro, Duke Ellington, everyone...

I really dig the politeness with which they all trade chops in this clip.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Melting Pot or Mosaic?

The mythic image of the "melting pot" has been a powerful trope throughout American history to describe how such a diverse country becomes one nation. Yet, over time, this narrative has come under fire from activists and academics. During the 60s, political activists in the civil rights movement saw the melting pot as another form of forced assimilation and cultural/historical erasure. Academic historians also have seriously challenged the idea that America has ever successfully "melted" its various constituent parts into some unified American character. Some have offered, instead, the metaphor of the "tossed salad," which emphasizes both the distinctness of individual cultures/histories, while also acknowledging that we share some sort of common experience/destiny as USians.

This is not a purely academic question. The narrative we use reveals quite a bit about how we think of ourselves and how we deal with diversity.

Recently, I came across an interesting article - "American Melting Pot vs Indian Cultural Mosaic" - which speaks to these issues over at New American Media. The essay is written by Punit Arora and originally appeared in India Currents.

The article defines "cultural mosaic" this way:
Cultural Mosaic is a term that was first coined by John Murray Gibbon in Canadian Mosaic. Gibbons disapproved of the American concept of the melting pot because he felt it asked immigrants to cut-off ties with their roots and culture and adopt completely alien practices. In contrast, he felt that Canada should promote a mosaic approach in which each wave of immigrants could contribute something new to the society.

Arora further argues that India offers more support for the mosaic approach:

While the United States necessitates that we each adapt to dominant cultural norms, India, more than any other country in the world, emphasizes the adoption and promotion of the “cultural mosaic” approach. By celebrating differences and by according legitimacy to the values held by all communities, India makes it possible to negotiate and develop a synthesis.

How do you think about diversity in America? Do these narratives matter? If so, how? To what extent do immigrants have a responsibility to assimilate ("melt") into mainstream American culture and to what extent should they maintain their cultural and historical ways?