May 2006 Archives

It's Not What You Know


The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Bush's Personal Aide To Enroll at Business School:

"A 26-year-old college dropout who carries President Bush's breath mints and makes him peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches will follow in his boss's footsteps this fall when he enrolls at Harvard Business School (HBS). "

After reading this article, I was a bit dumbstruck for adequate words. However, my good friend Taalib was not so afflicted:

I don't wanna hear a damn thing about how Affirmative Action "let's in" unqualified blacks and trumps qualified whites. People accept who they wanna if they have the power. Former HBSers should be in an uproar!

T ("Merit is still worth something to me," DA!)

Ousted CIA No. 3 Is Target of Raids:

"Federal agents yesterday searched the CIA offices and Northern Virginia home of Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the spy agency's No. 3 official who was forced to resign this week amid a widening criminal investigation into allegations of government corruption and bribery."

Live by the sword. Die by the sword.

Gays as Political Pigskin


Senate panel OKs gay-marriage ban - Yahoo! News:

"The measure passed 10-8 on a party-line vote. Specter said he voted for the amendment because he thought it should be taken up by the full Senate, even though he does not back it. The gay-marriage ban is one of several hot-button social issues Republicans are raising to rally conservative voters ahead of November's congressional elections."

Specter, a master at doublespeak, knows his politics. On the one hand, he says he is opposed to the first amendment in American history that would abridge the rights for U.S. citizens but he ensures it goes to a debate in the Senate where ostensibly it could be sent to the states for ratification. Why? Because in an election year that debate will energize voters to vote GOP, even if it's against their interests. He knows the amendment probably will not pass or get killed on floor debate, but the voters' ignorance, hatred, and/or fear will energize them for the fall. Talk about wanting it both ways! As a black man who has witnessed the effects of the GOP's racist "Southern Strategy" and coded race baiting with"welfare queens" and Willie Horton, I know how first hand how cynical and evil this is.

The Tax Shell Game

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GOP Reaches Deal on Tax Cuts:

"Middle-income households would receive an average tax cut of $20 from the agreement, according to the joint Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, while 0.02 percent of households with incomes over $1 million would receive average tax cuts of $42,000."

More tax shell games by the GOP. Pandering to the base in an election year. Nothing more really.

Treasury Secretary John Snow asserted that the tax breaks that would be extended have ushered in a period of rising business investment and strong economic growth. "When you get investment occurring and strong GDP growth, you get jobs," he said. The "investment" on dividends and capital gains mostly goes to those in the secondary market: investors trading shares with each other. When I sell GE stock, the firm doesn't get a dime. Now if they extended or even lowered taxes on IPO's or secondary offerings, Snow's claim would be more believable as that money is directly invested in firms which hire people. If the goal was to increase savings, I could see a tax credit on cap gains and dividends inversely related to income, but that wasn't the goal here.

America Before Your Agenda

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The Exposure of Valerie Plame:

"I don't go into security matters. But, you can be sure that we discussed security at great length with various agencies," Wilson said.

And Wilson says there have been specific threats. "There have been specific threats. Beyond that, I just can't go."

There are some things you just don't do, whether you have the power to do them or not. The ends can never justify the means. Many have sought to justify President's Bush's outing of a CIA agent through the ignoble path of press leak on the grounds that he was combating misinformation about Saddam Hussein's pursuit of uranium and the threat he posed to the US. What a fatuous argument. Wilson wrote an op-ed and laid out his concerns about the reasons for going to war in full public view for all to see, to agree or disagree. The President who has a bully pulpit from which to preach, could have challenged Mr. Wilson directly also in full public view via press conference or op-ed of his own, well one of his writers. That would have been, as my mother-in-law likes to say, "too much like right."

Instead, the President chose to engage in shady (some would say sh*tty) political attack because the direct honorable approach was futile. Wilson, as we all know, was right. To destroy Wilson's wife's career with reckless disregard for her safety, the safety of the people with whom she has done business undercover, compromising the CIA's ability to conduct intelligence in the interest of national security, and destroying Plame's ability to continue her essential work also in the interest of national security, all in the name of "hardball" politics was one of the most egregious acts a President can make. There is simply no excuse. And I am ashamed of Republicans who would try to excuse it. Patriotism should always trump partisanship.

Talk about Power

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Mexico's Fox backs down on drug law - Yahoo! News:

"MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - In a surprise reversal, Mexican President Vicente Fox will not sign a widely criticized reform to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of marijuana, cocaine and heroin, his office said on Wednesday.

The president's office said the law, which also toughened sentences for dealing and holding larger amounts of the intoxicants, would be sent back to Congress for revision.

'In our country the possession of drugs and their consumption are, and will continue to be, crimes,' the office said in a statement."

Wow. It's amazing how much power and influence America has over its neighbors. Every time they attempt to legalize anything related to illicit drugs by the democratic process, we step in and put the screws to the leaders to alter the law or prevent its ratification. What's important to note here is that American power is limited to how energized the local populace is on this. If the Mexican or Canadian people really want it. There is little we can do to stop it. That's the power and danger of democracy. People make choices you may or may not like. Look at Hamas.

It will be interesting to see how all of this pans out, esp. the "revisions." Personally, I applaud legalizing possession by users and focusing prosecuting this war on the real combatants, the major drug suppliers and distributors. It's sad we can't wake up to that idea.

Cosby vs. Dyson

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Recently I had the opportunity to discuss the Bill Cosby/Michael Eric Dyson controversy with friends on an email list. One gentleman took Prof. Dyson to task for "pimp[ing] our condition and creat[ing] an unnecessary debate just to sell some books and gain notoriety" because he agreed with Cosby's alleged point of view and took a dim view of Dyson's "attack." I disagreed with him and spoke in Dyson's defense.

... In my response, I will quote Dr. Dyson as much as possible because he is his own best defender. Where he doesn't, I will supply my own thoughts. And note, that this is but the merest of shadows of what Dyson writes in his book. Here we go!

Title of the Book

The title of the book is partly about ensuring sales and partly quipping about the topic. Had the book been entitled Why I Disagree with Cosby and Other Thoughts, I'm not sure people would have found the book interesting enough to pick up let alone purchase. Dyson writes,

If Cosby's implicit claim is that the black poor have lost their way, then I don't mind suggesting, with only half my tongue in cheek, that the black middle class, of which I am a member has, in its views of the poor and its support of Cosby's sentiments, lost its mind. I hope to lay bare the vicious assault of the Afristocracy on the Ghettocracy and offer a principled defense of poor black folk, one rooted in clear-eyed acknowledgment of deficiencies and responsibility but anchored by an abiding compassion for the most vulnerable members of our community.

The Speech

If you read Cosby's speech, I'm willing to bet you would see vicious diatribe rather than impassioned truth telling. This kind of disrespectful behavior is not new for Mr. Cosby (see here for an example). But the nation's love for this man lead many to give him a pass. If Rush Limbaugh had given that speech, many of us, if not most of us, would rise in righteous indignation. Truth telling does not depend on the speaker. The truth is simply that. What damns Mr. Cosby is not necessarily what he said in his speech. (Personally, I did find it sufficient to damn him, however, because as I read Dr. Dyson's book I found Cosby to be a hypocrite, something for which I have little sympathy. Rule #1: Don't exhibit the same behavior or pathology you insult others for, e.g. flicking the bird at Dyson in public or refusing to acknowledge that "outside" child or be a father to her. It's bad form.) What damns him is his change of tactics. I watched an ABC News special on Mr. Cosby and I found his message had changed and changed dramatically at that. No more diatribes, only impassioned "Get up and do it" speeches. All of this was after Dyson called him to the carpet for his speech. Now if what he originally said about black men unknowingly screwing their grandmothers and naming one's child "Shaniqua, Taliqua, and Muhammad and all that crap" was so good, so cathartic, so right, why not repeat it to the very people in the condition he lambasts?

Dyson writes,

Cosby's position is dangerous because it aggressively ignores white society's responsibility in creating the problems he wants the poor to fix on their own. His position is especially dangerous because he has always, with two notable exceptions, gone soft on white society for its role in black suffering. Now that he has been enshrined by the conservative white critics as a courageous spokesman for the truth that most black leaders leave aside, Cosby has been wrongly saluted for positions that are well staked out in black political ideology. This false situation sets him up as a hero and a dissenter, when he is neither. Self-help philosophy is broadly embraced in black America; but black leaders and thinkers have warned against the dangers of emphasizing self-help without setting it in its proper context. It creates less controversy and resistance--and, in fact, it assures white praise--if black thinkers and leaders make whites feel better by refusing to demand of them the very thing that whites feel those leaders should demand of their followers, including the poor: responsibility. Like so many black elite before him, Cosby, as a public figure who has assumed the mantle of leadership, has failed in his responsibility to represent the interests, not simply demand the compliance, of the less fortunate.

Real Christian Identity

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Last night, I was finishing up a chapter of Democracy Matters by Cornel West in my bed when I read the following paragraph. I can tell you few people have written or spoken words that have resonated with me like these. It was almost like Prof. West was speaking for me.

I speak as a Christian--one whose commitment to democracy is very deep but whose Christian convictions are even deeper. Democracy is not my faith. And American democracy is not my idol. To see the Gospel of Jesus Christ bastardized by imperial Christians and pulverized by Constantinian [Religious Right] believers and then exploited by nihilistic elites of the American empire [e.g. neocons like Bush] makes my blood boil [emphasis mine]. To be a Christian--a follower of Jesus Christ--is to love wisdom, love justice, and love freedom. This is the radical love in Christian freedom and the radical freedom in Christian love that embraces Socratic questioning, prophetic witness, and tragicomic hope. If Christians do not exemplify this love and freedom, then we side with the nihilists of the Roman empire (cowardly elite Romans and subjugated [elite] Jews) who put Jesus to a humiliating death. Instead of receiving his love in freedom as a life-enhancing gift of grace, we end up believing in the idols of the empire that nailed him to the cross. I do not want to be numbered among those who sold their souls for a mess of pottage--who surrendered their democratic Christian identity for a comfortable place at the table of the American empire while, like Lazarus, the least of these cried out and I was too intoxicated with worldly power and might to hear, beckon, and heed their cries. To be a Christian is to live dangerously, honestly, freely--to step in the name of love as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep stepping because the something that sustains you no empire can give you and no empire can take away. This is the kind of vision and courage required to enable the renewal of prophetic, democratic Christian identity in the age of the American empire.