brotherpeacemaker

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Talk Radio

The older I get the more I turn into my parents.  When I was a young pup tagging along with my parents in the back of a station wagon, the AM only radio tuner was always tuned to KMOX, St. Louis’ all talk radio station.  While my brothers and sisters and I may have wanted to hear some kind of music, the parents would have none of that.  It could’ve been Karen Carpenter singing something as sappy as We’ve Only Just Begun.  My parents didn’t care.  That devil spawned, jungle thumping, pop music was going to ruin the world.  Ms. Carpenter to jungle music is like Pauly Shore to funny.

I don’t know when it happened.  It may have been one of my cross country treks between St. Louis and some far away destination that took the better part of a day.  I was getting sleepy and the most intense jungle music in the world wasn’t doing jack to keep me awake.  All the songs coming out of the radio were the same songs I heard what felt like a million times over.  I was bored with my CD collection and I had gotten lazy about changing the stack in the CD magazine in the trunk.

While changing stations with the tuner’s seek button, I landed on a station that was talking about something that was happening in the news.  Suddenly my curiosity was peaked and I was able to stay awake.  I found myself vacillating between agreeing and disagreeing with the various speakers.  I was learning more about the topic at hand.  I was surprised by how much I knew and by how much I didn’t know.  And before I knew it I was pushing the limits of the radio station’s signal.  Crackle and static began to take over the speakers.  Stabbing the seek button again I found another talk radio station.  I actually learned an appreciation for talk radio that day.  I still listen to music every now and then.  My collection grows almost on a weekly basis.  But the vast majority of my radio listening time is for news and talk radio.

I knew I was hooked when I wanted to get a Sirius or XM satellite radio so I could get nationwide access to several versions of National Public Radio (NPR).  I don’t have any imagination or patience for listening to sports.  The juvenile rants from shock jocks and their guests hold no interest for me.  The psycho babble associated with some Dr. Frasier Crane wannabe who solves people’s problems with just five minutes of radio analysis is too much of a sham to have any integrity worth hearing.  I refer to the talk radio that discusses political and other issues as well as book reviews, music reviews, matters of geography and education, health, social issues ranging from the family to the community to the nation, art, history, architecture, cars, and a wide variety of subjects with a wide variety of interesting and knowledgeable people and callers or commentators who truly want to contribute to the conversation at hand in an intelligent manner.

My car radio has so much dust on the tuner button because I never turn it away from NPR.  Well, almost never.  I can’t stand Car Talk with Tom and Ray Magliozzi.  Although they may have intense knowledge of automobiles and are nearly omniscient when it comes to auto mechanics, I really have a hard time listening to their joviality for anything more than five seconds.  Their constant guffaws for nearly everything that comes out their mouths gets on my nerves.  I’m sure other people like the show.  But trust me, I can pass.  So when Tom and Ray come on the air, my radio gets a break and I’ll either turn it off or stick in a CD.

But on the other hand, when it comes to facilitating a debate or conducting an interview on talk radio, no one does it better than Diane Rehm.  The Diane Rehm Show is broadcasted on NPR from radio station WAMU in Washington, DC.  The woman is a gem of a journalist.  Her interviews are always deeply informative and always entertaining for those who like to learn.  Ms. Rehm pulls no punches during her interviews.

But while other journalist pepper their guest with a barrage of seemingly leading questions and are constantly interrupting answers with follow up questions, Ms. Rehm ask pertinent questions and when an answer sounds like nothing but rhetoric or is diverted, she will carefully direct the interviewee back to the question and back to the subject at hand.  As the host, she never loses control of her show.  When her guest start interrupting or talking over each other, Ms. Rehm is quick to regain the control by softly repeating the phrase “excuse me” over and over again until either or both guest regain their restraint.  Ms. Rehm does not allow people to be rude.  Compared to the typical debates on popular television Mr. Rehm is a breath of fresh air.

So chances are good that when I’m driving along, I am listening to NPR and talk radio.  Other cars will pull up beside me with radios pulsing with the deepest base at volumes that can render entire neighborhoods of people deaf.  Whoever is the hottest hip hop artist of the last fifteen minutes will be discharging like some kind of torture treatment meant to resemble an anti-deprivation chamber.  While other people are listening to music and trying to distract themselves from the issues at hand with mind numbing decibel levels, I am doing my best to take every minute behind the wheel to learn something about the world we share.

This is the talk radio I have come to love.  It has come a long way from the AM radio that was my parent’s bread and butter.  My parents never asked their kids our opinion on what we were listening to on the radio.  But when my son gets old enough to understand what he’s listening to, I look forward to talking about the subject at hand with him so that he will learn to listen and hopefully develop an appreciation for information and learning much earlier than I did.  He’ll have more than enough time alone to listen to whatever he wants to listen to.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 Posted by | Cars, Life, Talk Radio, Thoughts | 2 Comments

Nightmare For The Peacemakers

I thought my family and I had a house.  We went through all the hoops to create a proposal to present to the board of directors who control the vast majority of the abandoned property here in Saint Louis.  We went to the board to show our faces and answer any questions they may have had about our proposal or our ability to carry it out.  We were approved without question.  We thought we would be starting on our rehabilitation by now.  Unfortunately, somebody else had different plans.

When the letter confirming our approved status arrived in the mail it contained a condition.  In order for us to gain title to the property the board required us to take out the previously approved construction loan prior to receiving the property.  My jaw hit the floor.  In order for me to buy a three thousand dollar piece of shit property I had to convince the bank to give me a two hundred thousand dollar loan to rebuild it.  The proposal we submitted said plain as day that we wanted to rebuild the property ourselves and that we would have X amount sweat equity hours and a budget of Y amount of dollars over Z number of years.  The board had an opportunity to ask us questions about our plan if there was any misunderstanding and declined.  Yet, some bureaucrat at the LRA decided that we were in over our heads and took it upon his or her self to force us to hire contractors to do the work.

Has anyone in the city followed the news lately to see what’s happening in the credit market?  Even with the most excellent credit rating people aren’t getting loans because there simply isn’t any money to loan.  And even if there were why would I want to borrow money when the budget and plans for my house have been approved?

A call to the LRA office got us nowhere.  Some secretary or receptionist of the woman whose name appeared on the letter simply told us that the representatives of the city were concerned that we were taking on a project that was too large.  We can have the house but the city wants to make sure the project is completed in a timely manner.  The city was within its rights to require the project to be completed in a timely fashion.

We called the little lady over the Old North Saint Louis group who is helping to manage the redevelopment project.  In the years that she’s been working with the city she never saw such a condition placed on anyone’s approval letter.  She wanted us to fax a copy of the letter to her so she could get to the heart of the matter.  After waiting a few days she came back with the name of a financial broker who would be able to help me secure the funds.  So much for her getting to the root of our problem.  Securing funds wasn’t the problem.  The problem was that we didn’t want to go into debt to rebuild this house, at least not in this current housing market crisis.  Nobody in their right mind these days would give us a two hundred thousand dollar loan on a house that has an estimated value of three grand.  I wouldn’t even think to take out a loan based on such numbers.  We were not going into debt to own this home.  If I wanted debt I would go and buy a two hundred thousand dollar house.

We called the city alderwoman over the ward where the house sits.  The alderwoman never heard of the city making such a move.  But she did tell us that the city is well within its rights to require assurances that anyone who purchases property has the financial resources to complete a rehabilitation project on hand.  But has the city ever exercised this right before?  Not to her knowledge.  The alderwoman was of no help.

On the day of our deadline to accept the city’s terms we called the LRA legal department and starting asking questions.  Does the city require people buying abandoned properties to secure funds before they can accept the deed?  Not normally but it’s totally proper. So how often does this happen and what are the conditions that would require funds to be secured?  Well it’s totally at the discretion of the board. But how often does it happen?  I’m not at liberty to say really. But isn’t it just a matter of public record?  Wrong number! (Click)  Not exactly what happened but close enough.

Within hours of talking to the legal department the woman who worked in the office of the woman whose name appeared on the original acceptance with conditions letter called us back.  She was somewhat perturbed.  She didn’t understand why in the world we would be concerned and calling around trying to figure out why we were being told to take out a loan and having so many people telling us how unusual this move is.  It was nothing but a misunderstanding and the city is now ready to withdraw the condition.  It’s no big deal!  Obviously it is a big enough deal to be added to the original approval letter.  We were assured that a second letter would follow and the deadline for acceptance would be extended.

When we originally found the house we wanted, we took a drive through the neighborhood to see exactly what was happening in the area.  There were a number of people working on their new homes on their own.  Although some people had experience working on houses virtually nobody hired contractors to do the work.  One horror story was about this one house where the new owner wanted to dig the basement deeper in order to add some height to the basement ceiling.  He dug out the back of the house, knocked out the back wall, and drove a little bobcat into his basement to help facilitate the dig.  This was back in April when the rains were particularly heavy.

On a subsequent drive through the neighborhood, the house had collapsed upon itself.  The rains had turned the ground to mush and it started to move.  The weakened foundation couldn’t resist the movement of the ground and went along with the flow.  One of the exterior walls followed suit and the house simply folded in on itself.  As we drove by we could see all the work the owner had already put into the project.  There was fresh yellow pine lumber jutting out of the rubble with brand new metal brackets at the ends to secure the new lumber to the rest of the house.  It was a massive loss.  And the little bobcat was sitting in the basement at the bottom of all that.  Obviously the city allowed other people to manage their rehabilitation projects and make their own mistakes.

One of the other things that we noticed as we drove through the area was that without exception, the people who were to be our neighbors were white.  It may have been coincidence.  But no one we saw working on their home was black.  Nobody involved in any part of the rehabilitation project was black.

I can’t prove it.  I really don’t have the time or the desire to research all the motives of what may have happened.  But my theory is that the woman at the LRA office took it upon herself to cast judgment that the black people who were trying to buy one of these nice houses didn’t know what they were doing and decided to save us from ourselves, or simply tried to keep us out of their new nice white neighborhood.  The woman took it upon herself to treat us with disparity in order to keep the status quo.  And it’s unfortunate.  Instead of giving black people the same opportunities as other people, somehow black people are held to a different standard.  In this situation, much higher standards and seriously unfair standards.  We have been conditioned to think that it is okay to put obstacles in black people’s path without even a second thought.

Monday, September 29, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Philosophy, Racism, Thoughts | 9 Comments

The White Man That Lost The Presidency

Now I figured it out!  Mr. McCain knows he’s on the line because he could go down in American history books as the white guy that lost the White House to America’s first black President! His name could actually become synonymous for the condition of a white man losing to a black man just like Benedict Arnold’s name became synonymous with being a traitor.  Imagine, “Dude, you just got McCained on that basketball court!“If I was John McCain the war hero, I’m pretty sure that would make my intestines clinch up  so tight that new and improved concentrated, industrial strength Metamucil wouldn’t clear up my bowels.

Peace

Sunday, September 28, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Barack Obama, Black Community, Democrats, John McCain, Life, Politics, Republicans, Thoughts | 1 Comment

Reflections On The First Presidential Debate

When Illinois Senator Barack Obama announced his run for the presidency, my political leaning was with the former Senator from North Carolina John Edwards.  While I was never in any danger of being swayed to the point of endorsing Mr. Edwards, I was attracted to his plans for universal healthcare and a renewed war on poverty.  When Mr. Edwards dropped out of the race, I was somewhat disappointed but easily made the transition.  I had a choice between Mr. Obama and his opponent, the New York Senator Hillary Clinton.  Ms. Clinton had a huge political advantage over Mr. Obama that steadily dwindled.  And as she fell in the polls, Ms. Clinton and her supporters went on the attack making overt and subtle racial innuendoes about a black political candidate who was unable to win hardworking white voters.  I was so turned off by the Clinton for President campaign that, while I was still unsure about Mr. Obama’s political positions, I happily donated fifty dollars to the Barack for President effort.

And then Mr. Obama made clear his desire to keep the black community at arms length.  He dropped his long time pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright when so many people were ready to lynch the man.  Mr. Obama did not bother to make an appearance at Tom Joyner’s State of the Black Union presentation while his opponent Ms. Clinton could.  Mr. Obama did not bother to appear at a celebration for Doctor King held in Memphis while both Ms. Clinton and Arizona Senator John McCain could.  And when Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy was struck with brain cancer and couldn’t make his appointment to address the graduating students at Wesleyan University, Mr. Obama stepped up as last minute replacement with just three days notice.  But what really turned me off about Mr. Obama was his Father’s Day speech at the Apostolic Church of God saying that too many black men are not participating in their children’s lives.  The implication is that the problem is epidemic in the black community based on well known, entrenched racial stereotypes that black men do not support their children.  Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he is more apt to perpetuate propaganda against black people rather than help defend black people against them.

Based on his inability to demonstrate some kind of connection to the black community I cannot fully support Mr. Obama.  However, at this point, the alternative is so abhorrent that I find it easy to support him in his bid for the White House against Mr. McCain.  When I look at Mr. McCain, I do not see a war veteran or a man with twenty plus years experience as a United States Senator.  What I see is a man who will do his best to continue the majority of the horrendous policies of President George “Dubya” Bush that has this country teetering on economic collapse with a tired military involved in two virtually un-winnable wars against ideologies of faith and a political standing in the world that has our global image in the tank ranked lower than the supposed terrorist state of North Korea.  Our Supreme Court is moving further and further to the right and stands ready to support laws that will trample over the constitutional rights of the ordinary American citizens.  When I look at Mr. McCain, I see a man who will continue giving even larger tax breaks to people who for all practical purposes don’t need them.  When I see John McCain, I see the continuation of ninety percent of Mr. Bush’s conservative policies that have his approval ratings in the upper twenties.

I tuned into the first presidential debate between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama hoping to see the Democratic Party nominee deliver a resounding defeat of his Republican Party opponent.  However, the majority debate was very flat and rather uninteresting.  I thought there were a number of times Mr. Obama could have been much more aggressive in exposing some of the rhetoric and misinformation that Mr. McCain brought to the debate.  But instead of jumping on chances to call Mr. McCain a liar, Mr. Obama looked for opportunities to agree with the Republican nominee.  Mr. Obama acknowledged at least sixteen times that there were areas where Mr. McCain was correct.  Mr. Obama spent the majority of his time looking like a statesman trying to respect his peer.  He remained too cerebral and too cordial and too content to let the facts speak for themselves.  Like the tortoise Mr. Obama is steady and unflappable.

I found Mr. McCain’s unwillingness to look in Mr. Obama’s direction, to acknowledge Mr. Obama’s presence on the debating stage, disconcerting.  While Mr. Obama took opportunities to say that Mr. McCain was correct and to reach across the stage to him, Mr. McCain responded by dismissing the Democratic nominee as inexperienced, naïve, and not fully understanding circumstances.  Mr. McCain was much more aggressive and much more willing to do anything to win even if it meant burning bridges.  At one point doing the debate, Mr. Obama reiterated his willingness as President to enter an allied country to take out an al-Qaeda target if circumstances warranted, Mr. McCain chastised Mr. Obama that he should be more careful about his words when he is trying to become President.  It was one of the very few openings Mr. Obama took to slam his opponent reminding Mr. McCain that he said that he threatened North Korea with extinction and sang songs about bombing Iran.

Overall the performance between the two candidates was little different from their individual campaigns to date.  Nothing was changed.  Mr. McCain stayed aggressive and willing to stick with his tactics of deception and one of his most favorite of his rhetoric, that he didn’t win the congeniality award in the Senate.  If I was Mr. Obama, I would have asked Mr. McCain who did.  I would have asked Mr. McCain if he was the maverick of his party then why his party nominated him to become their best hope to be President.  I would have liked to have asked Mr. McCain that if he truly believed his running mate was the best hope for the country if something were to happen to him as President.  If so where was she?  I would ask Mr. McCain if he truly kept the country first and foremost was the pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin the best for the country or the best for an uninspiring old man’s hope to win the oval office?  I’m pretty sure these questions would’ve invoked one of Mr. McCain’s facial contortions he is quick to deliver whenever he is uncomfortable.

If you were someone who supported Barack Obama, there was nothing to dissuade such support.  The same is true of supporters for John McCain.  If you were already against either candidate there was little to change your position.  The debate was pretty much flat.  There will be a lot of second guessing over the next few days to get people to lean one way or the other.  But overall I would say nothing really changed.

Saturday, September 27, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Democrats, John McCain, Life, Politics, Republicans, Thoughts | 10 Comments

Paying To See The Miracle At St. Anna

Miracle at St. Anna is Spike Lee’s latest effort.  The story is about four soldiers of the all black 92nd Infantry Division who find themselves separated from their unit and trapped in German controlled territory near the small Tuscan village of St. Anna di Stazzema along the Gothic Line during the Italian Campaign of World War II after one of the men save an Italian boy.  These black men are risking their lives for a country in which they are treated with less respect than the enemy they are fighting.  Nevertheless, these soldiers manage to discover some semblance of humanity in the small Tuscan village.  The story is inspired by the August 1944 Sant’Anna di Stazzema massacre perpetrated by the Waffen SS in retaliation to Italian partisan activity.

It’s been a long time since I’ve bothered to take the family to see a movie.  The last movie we saw as a unit was X-Men 3:  X-Men United.  It was a pretty good flick.  I am a long time comic book fan and was deeply familiar with all the characters decades ago.  That was two years ago.  It was at a matinee and I ended up paying something like fifteen dollars.  The only movie I planned to see in the near future would be the new Star Trek flick now in production.  I am probably the biggest classic Star Trek fan that never donned a Federation uniform or purchased any of the other Star Trek paraphernalia.  Other than that, I don’t particularly care to see movies at the theater and would much rather prefer to see flicks in the comfort of my home on a DVD from Netflix.  But I will make an exception and will take the family to see Miracle at St. Anna.

I must confess that I’m not the biggest Spike Lee fan.  But the man has done more than his share of damn good movies.  Bamboozled is a movie that every black person in America should see.  Bamboozled is a well developed analogy of some black people’s willingness to sellout their sense of black community pride for a few crumbs of wealth from some corporate entity controlled by someone from the racially generic dominant community controlled overwhelmingly by white people.

I was impressed with Mr. Lee’s interpretation of a bank robbery in Inside Man.  And the biographical drama regarding the life of Malcolm X was the absolute bomb.  And I loved the story of the selfish player Bleek Gilliam in Mo’ Better Blues.  Mr. Lee seems to strike gold anytime he’s able to hook up with Denzel Washington.  But the only Spike Lee movie I ever paid to see in a theater was the life and times of Nola Darling in She’s Gotta Have It.  And that was over twenty years ago.  But I’m about to actually pay for my second Spike Lee film and pull out my wallet to see Miracle at St. Anna.

I was personally offended when earlier this year Clint Eastwood made a statement that he would be rewriting history to add black people to any portrayal of the happenings on Iwo Jima where military propaganda showed nothing but white American soldiers fighting for the pacific island.  When Mr. Lee made a question public as to why black people were not in Mr. Eastwood’s World War II films, Mr. Eastwood responded by suggesting that Mr. Lee should “shut his face”.  Bottom line is that if black people want to be portrayed in war films then black people need to make war films.  And if black people want to see black people making our own films, black people need to support black people who make films.

Unfortunately, I doubt if the financial success of black films can overcome the movie making corporate establishment’s inertia against making more black community oriented and sourced films.  I mean it should be pretty obvious that there have been some hugely financial successful black films.  The previously mentioned Denzel Washington has the King Midas touch when it comes to films even with his reluctance to do a love scene with a white woman.  Then again, he’s never done a love scene with any woman.  He doesn’t have to rely on such a basic movie staple component as sex to make his films attractive.

Before he turned into Mike Myer’s sidekick ass and before she turned into from a black woman into a black looking woman person with a multi ethnic genealogy where the blackness is downplayed, Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry did the all black movie Boomerang.  Soul Food is another movie that had an all black ensemble.  But instead of these actors or other black actors coming together to do more black films sensitive to black culture, black actors would rather do minstrel quality shows like Grandma Goes To Jail and Fat Mama’s House.  And who told Snoop Dogg that he could act or that he was funny?  Movies like Soul Plane should have never seen the light of day.

I really don’t see me spending much time or money going to flicks at the theater that do little to promote or benefit black actors or the black community.  That includes woefully inaccurate portrayals of blackness in the minstrels.  If these corporate movie making and distributing conglomerates refuse to do more for and with the black community then the black community should do less with, if not completely without, the corporate conglomerates.  So many people have this impression that black people aren’t part of America’s history such as the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima.  Maybe black people shouldn’t be helping to finance this type of stereotypical anti-black propaganda.

Friday, September 26, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Men, Black People, Life, Racism, Spike Lee, Thoughts | 5 Comments

A Favorable Review

It is official. I have made the transition from contractor to employee. I would have said something earlier but I didn’t want to count my chickens before they hatched. About two months ago I was sitting in my cube when one of the senior managers asked if I would step into her office. This is it, I thought. They found out that I was doing a little internet surfing on my breaks and I was about to be reprimanded. I can’t help myself! I want to keep tabs on my website.

We went to her office and she closed the door behind me. This is too serious, I thought. My heart started thumping in my chest. What were my options for finding another job? Better make that move to Houston. I was asked if I liked working here. Trick question, I thought. But sensing a trap I replied, yes. Would you consider becoming an employee?

My mind shifted into overdrive. What? That’s not one of the questions people ask when they’re firing someone. I had missed a deadline a few weeks before and I thought for sure people were unhappy with my work. Go figure! But getting back to the question I was asked I was about to be offered a permanent job with complete benefits. The market for database application developers is shrinking. The economy is tanking. I really would like a little job security. I thought all of this in about a tenth of a second. But I should play this cool. See what they are willing to offer before I commit to anything. So I responded.

Hell Yes!

Earlier this week I went to the orientation process welcoming me along with about twenty other people into the employee fold. The chief executive officer of this company that has well over twenty thousand employees made an appearance to our orientation. It’s standard procedure that he spends an hour with the new employees. He gave his five minute speech telling us his door was open and then we went into a question and answer period where he would take questions and manipulate them to tell us whatever he wanted to tell us. Even with the manipulation he actually was very interesting.

He told us that the success of our company depends on us. Nothing earth shattering there. He told us about how he regularly takes a moment to help others who visit our campus. The company actually sits on something like twenty city blocks. This place is huge and it’s easy to get lost. When he sees someone in the lobby or in the hallway who is confused or who looks like they might be lost, whenever possible he’ll take the time to help them find their way. He admitted that he really doesn’t know the layout of the campus that well. But what he wants to do is establish a rapport with the person. He’ll ask how they’re doing and he’ll ask about their visit. He’ll show some empathy for the visitor and their situation whatever it might be.

By the time they reach their destination, the CEO will take a moment to introduce the visitor to whoever he or she is there to visit. The CEO would say something like please take care of my new friend. And of course, with him being the man in charge, more often than not the person being visited always replies to the visitor, you sure know how to pick your friends. Most of the people at the orientation session responded as if it was one of the funniest things they’ve ever heard. The point of the story is that when we take the time to listen to people, to actually listen to their needs and respond with a sense of caring, more often than not we will make huge steps towards developing a relationship that extends beyond whatever the business relationship and actually make their relationship with our company much more personal. More visitors to the company would be more likely to give the company a favorable review if they had a similar experience.

But the story got me to thinking. What if people took the time to empathize with the people who suffer the conditions in the black community? All too often when people in the racially generic dominant community that is coincidentally predominantly white, there is little compassion for whatever happens in the black community.

Hurricane Katrina was the best demonstration of America’s lack of compassion for people in the black community. I actually had a conservative black man tell me that after watching all those people sitting in the late August, mosquito infested heat of New Orleans, Louisiana, right here in America, without food, water, medication, or hope that it was perfectly understandable that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took four days before it could respond. More appropriately, before it would respond.

When we tolerate police officers beating and killing innocent, unarmed black people who have committed no crime in our streets, the majority of America does little to empathize with our black brothers and sisters. We are more likely to look the other way and say, well you know it was a black person or you know it happened in the black community. It really is disturbing to see people make such a callous comment as if it alone explains away our national racial disparity.

When black people say we need jobs, people in the dominant community respond with go get an education. As if getting an education is so easy. When black people say okay we need quality education, the dominants will say, show some personal responsibility and pay for an education. Okay, we need jobs to pay for the education. When people from the black community are the subject, the majority of America will respond with varying examples of this circular, self canceling, logic.

It would be wonderful if more people would make the choice to try and develop a more personal relationship or a more compassionate attitude with more people. But while people are more likely to empathize with others, the chances of such empathy being extended to black people are slim to none. The dominant community couldn’t care any less if black people had a positive experience or not. Nationally, our collective attitude is that any problems in the black community are of the black community’s own making and can be corrected if black people would just do whatever. The lack of compassion could not be more stark. And from many black people’s perspective, it’s hard to have a favorable view of a country when we as a people are more likely to support police officers for using their guns and batons and their authority to subjugate against black people at the slightest whim.

Thursday, September 25, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Philosophy, Racism, Thoughts | 10 Comments

McCain-Palin Continues To Fail The Transparency Test

For days, weeks even, Republican vice presidential nominee Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been given a free pass by getting complete and intensely favorable coverage of her coronation into the upper echelons of national politics without much of the scrutiny that would cover such ascension.  Since Republican nominee Senator John McCain’s public announcement of his running mate pick on Friday, August 29, a move scheduled to minimize the impact of the favorable ratings bounce in the opinion polls immediately following the Democratic National Convention held in Denver that climaxed just the night before.

While the Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama has been derided by his opponents as grossly inexperienced for the job as chief executive officer of the country, Mr. McCain, who himself has never operated as an executive in any government capacity but somehow suffers not from any label that he has limited experience, picked a woman who, at the time of her selection, had less than twenty months of governorship experience of the least populated state in the nation.  The only other executive experience Ms. Palin had was her two term stint as Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska with a population considerably less than seven thousand.

In order to minimize the fallout from the Hail Mary selection of Ms. Palin, the Republican presidential campaign organizers have been limiting Ms. Palin’s exposure to scrutiny.  While reporters are allowed to ask her questions, she’s never placed in a situation where she has to answer.  In the past nearly four weeks, I have only seen two reporters who have been blessed with access to Ms. Palin.  There was the much ballyhooed interview with Charles Gibson of ABC News who was careful to handle Ms. Palin with the softest of kid gloves even though he still managed to expose her as having limited understanding of international issues with a question about the Bush Doctrine and its interpretation that America has the right to preemptively attack other nations perceived as threatening.  The other interview was the romper room rebound with Sean Hanity of FOX News with his infuriatingly sympathetic questions and mannerisms in a one on one interview with Ms. Palin that would make tell us where the bad man touched you look like an Abu Ghraib style interrogation.

But something wonderful happened yesterday.  In New York, New York to develop some understanding of foreign affairs and to gain some credible international exposure, Ms. Palin was to do a photo shoot with her sitting down with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Columbian President Alvaro Uribe.  At the last minute before a photo op, campaign aides tried to ban reporters from the meetings.  The McCain-Palin team only wanted photographers at the meetings with a few world leaders.  But the news organizations finally said no.  If reporters weren’t allowed then there would be no cameras.  Suddenly realizing that their gravy train might jump the track there was some negotiation and a single producer was allowed thirty seconds to accompany photographers.  The McCain-Palin campaign downplayed the altercation calling it nothing more than another one of their misunderstandings.

I’ll admit that one producer for thirty seconds is rather trivial.  But the simple fact that the news organizations didn’t simply roll over like they have been accustomed to doing with Ms. Palin is a huge step in the right direction.  If I was running a news agency I would have pulled my cameras and my reporters off of the McCain-Palin campaign as soon as they made it obvious that they want coverage only on their terms.  News agencies are only to be used for propaganda purposes and not for any in depth reporting.  Such manipulation of the press as tools of propaganda has become the norm over the past seven plus years with the Bush administration.  And without press coverage it would be difficult for anyone to get the exposure necessary to win the White House.  If any presidential candidate wants only favorable exposure from a network then they can buy it.

The idea that such political candidates seeking the White House can completely dictate terms of news coverage is alarming.  The methodology a political campaign uses to win an office is the same methodology they will use to run it.  A political campaign that wants to hide its candidates from public scrutiny can hardly be considered transparent and open for examination.  We have been sold the idea that Ms. Palin is ready on day one and that she has a world of executive experience and that she will be a game changing reformer in Washington’s political circles.  But if the past nearly four weeks are any indication we should be able to see that Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin are nothing but warmed over manipulators looking to take every advantage while offering little in return unless it is on their terms.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 Posted by | ABC News, Democrats, Fox News, John McCain, Life, News, Politics, Republicans, Sarah Palin, Thoughts | 2 Comments

Drill Baby Drill

I was listening to a now forgotten political pundit describing the Republican National Convention.  Of particular note was when the crowd started chanting the refrain drill baby drill in response to the GOPAC Chairman Michael Steele’s speech.  The political pundit said that the current price of energy has spawned serious pushes towards alternative fuels.  There’s more talk about developing wind and solar energy.  There’s talk about developing more all electric cars.  All of this talk is being fueled by the high cost of oil that makes alternative fuels that much more attractive.

The political pundit compared the mindset of the drill baby drill crowd, with its focus on keeping the drill for more oil anywhere we can find it status quo, to the mindset of anyone who resist change.  The total focus on more drilling while we are on the cusp of new energy technologies was compared to people who would embrace the old technology of IBM Selectric typewriters when the Pentium personal computers were in the early stages of development.  We could develop computers to replace typewriters and try to make the business environment more efficient.  But why would we develop such technology when we already have the proven technology of typewriters?  Type baby type!

Currently, Americans consume something like twenty millions barrels of oil per day.  According to the Energy Information Administration, a subdivision of the Department of Energy that produces official energy related statistics, and the National Petroleum Council, it is believed that about sixty billion barrels of undiscovered but recoverable oil reserves exist off the outer continental shelf.  Of this sixty billion barrels, nearly a third of it is in areas where drilling has been banned, leaving more than forty billion barrels of oil in areas that are currently open to leasing and development.  The problem with these oil reserves is that it might not be economically feasible to recover the oil with the current standards of oil drilling technology.

However, by lifting the current ban on drilling, it would be expected that by 2025 oil resources from these parts of the outer continental shelf could increase United States crude oil production by more than one million barrels per day.  But production would not start in any measure before 2017.  In an article published by Kyriacos Zygourakis in EV World that quotes David Kirsch, an oil analyst at PFC Energy, if the most promising areas off of the Florida and California coastlines were opened for drilling, their peak output could be as little as a quarter million barrels per day.  These production numbers would hardly make a dent in our consumption numbers.  The net result would literally be pennies on the gallon.

Add the fact that refineries are already operating at near capacity, and the infrastructure to deliver oil would need considerable investment as well, the idea that we can simply drill our way back to cheaper oil prices is a fallacy.  And the more we use exorbitant, but nevertheless limited, funds to fuel our oil addiction the fewer funds we will have for the development of alternative energy resources.

Drill baby drill is a mantra of people with severely limited vision for the future.  It is a chorus from people who resist change and the development of most things new.  Drill baby drill is coded language for keeping the status quo exactly the way it is.  These people do not want the uncertainty of a reality but the comfort of having a secured belief in what’s around the corner, even though the reality of what is around the corner is very, very different.

No matter how much or how many facts these people hear about what is happening and how the world is changing, no matter how much science and education is devoted to the study of issues, there is an adherence to the familiar.  Science can be refuted.  All you have to do is find a scientist who is all too willing to sell his or her shingle to the highest bidder and suddenly you have the makings of a scientific debate and can claim that the science in inconclusive.  Deceive baby deceive!

This is the stereotypical mindset of the Pacific Islanders we associate with B class movies and programs who would grab the white woman who visits their island along with the professor.  The islanders would worship Gork the volcano god.  The professor would try to tell the islanders the science about volcanoes and lava and magma.  But the islanders would hear nothing of this modern world witchcraft and would stick with their single minded, superstitious focus to please the volcano god with the greatest sacrifice they can find, the white woman.  Once the white woman is thrown into the volcano Gork will stop his rumbling and the island would be spared his wrath.  No offense to the white woman or the professor, but Gork baby Gork!

It is nothing but smoke and mirrors to think that all the drilling in the world is going to pull gasoline prices back down to a point where Dodge Vipers and Lincoln Navigators will become attractive again to the commoners.  Such excesses are a thing of the past.  The future belongs in the hands of those who are more likely to kick old habits to the curb and embrace new ideas.  Without such forward thinking the majority of us would probably be stuck on the myth that the world is flat and there are a couple of big garage door on either size of the horizon that swallows the sun at night and releases it in the morning.  The idea of such ignorant thinking in the twenty first century is ludicrous at best.  And yet, so many of us believe that all we have to do is drill our way out of our current situation.  Stuck baby stuck.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 Posted by | Alaska, ANWR, John McCain, Life, Michaele Steele, Nuclear Energy, Oil, Petroleum, Republicans | 2 Comments

Privatized Profits And Socialized Losses

The recent financial names that have ceased to exist reads like a Who’s Who of Wall Street.  There is no longer a Bear Stearns, a Countrywide Financial, an American Home Mortgage, a New Century Financial Corporation, a Lehman Brothers, nor a Merrill Lynch & Company.  The government sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been taken over by the federal government.  American International Group, Incorporated had to borrow eighty five billion dollars from the government to remain solvent.  There is talk that the consumer bank Washington Mutual as well as other financial institutions are in trouble.  And through the vast majority of all this financial turmoil, the federal government has been willing to put United States tax payer dollars, the latest move is project to cost something like an additional seven hundred billion dollars in order to keep the economy going, or at least limping, along.

But one thing you don’t hear promoted very much are the complaints from some financial pundits about the negative implications of socialized federal bailouts.  So far the Federal Reserve has already put up hundreds of billions of dollars to keep this economy afloat.  A lot of people talk about these entities being so large that if they go under it would drag down not just the American economy but the global economy.  It seems to me that if we were so concerned about the national or global economy it would have been smart to put a stop to this economic nightmare that has Freddie Krueger roaming Wall street back when it was small and manageable over on Elm street.

When stories were developing about an increasing number of people not being able to afford their homes, people were told to show some personal responsibility and quit looking for a handout.  Obviously handouts are only for companies with lots of zeroes behind the other numbers in their bank accounts.  Accusations of predatory lending were dismissed as nothing worth federal level scrutiny.  People should have known better whether or not they could have afforded their homes.  It would appear fair to me that if this rather short sighted financial logic is good for the little goose then it ought to be just as good for the giant gander.  If we propped the little players up and cared about their financial stability, made sure that the average consumer had everything we needed to keep our heads over water, then the big players would have been supported through a strong, publicly funded economic foundation.

Now, by going directly to the Federal Reserve, companies are getting their public funds without the hassle of dealing with the average joe middleman.  Who needs to support the little individual family economies when big players can go directly to the public teat?  And while these banks get their infusions of billions of tax payer dollars, individuals will get an infusion of about six hundred dollars to help them afford another hundred fifty gallons of gasoline at roughly four bucks a gallon.  Am I the only one who sees the hypocrisy of this only save the big guy thinking?

In the movie Titanic, when it became obvious that the massive ship was fatally damaged on her maiden voyage and tragically sinking in the icy, dark waters of the Northern Atlantic, there was a scene where the poor souls traveling in baggage class were actually padlocked down on the lower decks in order to reserve escape on the limited number of life boats to the wealthy first class passengers.  It must be some basic flaw of human thinking that only rich people deserve saving.

The RMS Titanic serves as an apt analogy for America’s economy.  Men and women trusted with steering her safely through dangerous waters were too focused on making the most money possible as quickly as possible without the slightest thought as to what might or might not be prudent.  When there were signs that slowing down was a sensible course of action the thought of smashing records and becoming wildly successful was just too attractive to the ego to not even try for.  Like the captain of the Titanic the idea of having enough equipment for everyone’s safety never even occurred to these captains of industry.  And we will do everything we can to save big corporations while we will let individuals get trampled.

Relatively few people are concerned about the dangers of socialized financial bailouts.  When these financial institutions were doing extremely well they never called the government and begged for someone to save them from too much profit.  Collectively speaking we will think nothing about using our socialized wealth to help big players through hard times.  But let it be somebody who could use a little help that would come from just a sliver of a fraction of a single percentage of a tiny portion of what it takes to save one of these giants and it’s too bad so sad.  It is pretty obvious that we penalize people for being financially small if not outright poor while we move mountains to rescue people who wouldn’t give any a second thought to keeping the vast majority of the public financially small if not outright poor so they can become the fat cat that we all care so much about.

Monday, September 22, 2008 Posted by | Capitalism, Democrats, Economy, Life, News, Politics, Republicans, The Economy, Thoughts | 9 Comments

Barack Obama’s Race Problem

Poll: Racial views steer some white Dems away from Obama

by RON FOURNIER and TREVOR TOMPSON

WASHINGTON (AP) — Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them “lazy,” “violent,” responsible for their own troubles.

Please click here to finish reading the rest of this article and learn how large a problem racial stereotypes are for Mr. Obama, the Democrats, the political race for the White House, and for the nation.

Sunday, September 21, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Barack Obama, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Men, Black People, Democrats, Life, Racism, Thoughts | 4 Comments