Thursday, July 29, 2010

To Rep. Charlie Rangel: Kenny Rogers Might Be of Some Help to You Right Now

I have a suggestion for Speaker Pelosi and the staff of Rep. Charlie Rangel: Sit Rangel down and make him listen to "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers. In light of his current situation, with thirteen ethics charges looming, Rangel would be well advised to consider some of the options that the "gambler" suggests. And I can tell you now that "hold 'em" should not be one of the options.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Love For the Band Violens

I am sure that I am totally late on this group, but I have to say that I have really come to appreciate the music I've heard from the NYC band Violens. My friend Andrew up in Boston introduced them to me a little while ago by sending me a fan video for the song "Already Over." From there I looked for other videos on YouTube, and liked each song that I heard.

I thought that I would share with the folks who check out this blog some of the music of Violens. Let me know what you think.

Interesting Questions on U.S. Immigration, With a Little History Thrown in for Good Measure

I was also going to do a post about the news of the injunction against portions of the Arizona immigration law, but in looking for information, I stopped by Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog over at The Atlantic, and found myself reading a post from guest blogger Sara Mayeux on immigration history, including Ellis Island era immigration (and as is noted in the post, at that time there was an active barring of Chinese immigrants to the U.S.; and check out Angel Island over in the San Francisco area for immigration of many Asian Americans). And I just finished the second installment of that post, looking at how we've come to use the term "illegal alien," and simply "illegal."

Foiled again. I need to step up my game. Enjoy the posts.

On Raising Taxes on the Right People

I was going to write a post about the need to let the Bush era tax cuts come to an end, and to restore the inheritance tax, but I think that I will just direct folks to Robert Creamer's post over at Huffington Post. He said it better than I could have said it, and he broke it down, toward the end of his post, in a way that should make sense to average Americans, and more importantly, average American voters. Take a look.

I Guess BP's Tony Hayward Got His Life Back

There remain a few things that I believe people across the political spectrum can agree upon. I am more than comfortable that disdain for outgoing BP CEO Tony Hayward is one of those things.

Tony "I want my life back" Hayward was a the helm of a company that ignored safety regulations resulting in the deaths of 11 workers on one rig, and the decimation of a portion of the Gulf of Mexico. And instead of losing his job outright, he is simply being moved to a BP venture in Russia, out of the public eye. How is that possible?

People around this country lose their jobs with the quickness for far less. I am sure that Hayward is getting some sort of multi-million dollar settlement, as his contract most likely dictates. There is a total lack of fairness that this man gets his life back to a degree, and the people he leaves behind in the Gulf Region will not.

This is what class warfare looks like in my mind, real class warfare. And it remains mostly an enterprise conducted from the top down. Shame that not enough people pay attention to that reality.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Catching Up on Secret Bureaucracies and War

One of my goals for this week is the read the Washington Post series on our massive intelligence/national security bureaucracy, and to look through some of the stories related to the WikiLeaks information dump regarding the commission of the Afghan War.

Sometimes Class Really Does Trump Race

Last week, after reading the Wall Street Journal op-ed from Sen. Jim Webb regarding diversity programs and affirmative action, I wrote a post rightly challenging some of his assertions and omissions, but I ended my post saying that I was willing to give his idea a shot. I meant that.

As this conversation regarding race has descended (as usual) into farce, It's clear to me that we will likely never have a reasonable national discussion on race. All sides are too invested in their respective positions to make any substantive headway. If change is to come, then it will have to come from actual and personal interaction and discussions.

Meanwhile, I can now say that I am totally for abandoning race based admissions in higher education, and completely for embracing class based admissions programs. I think that the arguments I've read regarding shifting from race to class have been quite persuasive (here and here, with a h/t to The Daily Dish).

Indeed, when I thought about my own undergraduate experience, I really don't remember too many white guys from working class or poor families, though most of the minorities were from middle class families. I had a white roommate (and still good friend) who was from a working class background (with a prep school education no less), and years later, he talked about some of his insecurities based on class. I also had a high school buddy, who stayed with me my freshman year when he checked out the campus, let me know that a big part of his decision not to come to Hampden-Sydney was because of his concerns about fitting in at a school of primarily upper middle class and wealthy white guys; his family was poor.

It does make sense that we should try to educate as many people who show an aptitude for completing a college degree, regardless of race or ethnicity. It helps this country in the long run. And it is no secret that working class and poor people, regardless of race, often find themselves getting shafted as they try to move ahead.

Class, and not race, is the most pertinent issue of the 21st century, and those from the middle classes down need as much help as they can get. By endorsing and implementing class based affirmative action, I think that we will have an opportunity to tamp down the tiresome racial discussion that gets us nowhere. And it will provide deserving students opportunities that their parents and grandparents could only dream of.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mad About the Style of "Mad Men"

I was visiting my friend Ron and his girlfriend Yvette last year when I had my formal introduction to the much hyped show "Mad Men." Ron had the full first season on DVD, and we took in maybe three or four episodes. I sometimes found it difficult to shut down the historian in me and simply accept the show for what it was, but I eventually settled in and enjoyed the program.

Tonight is the premiere of the 4th season, and one would have to be blind not to notice all of the stories popping across the Internet on various aspects of the show. I personally enjoyed this one over at Salon arguing that "Mad Men" has directly affected pop culture (though I think an interest in the styles of the middle 20th century has been around for a little longer than the emergence of "Mad Men."

Interestingly, when I hear people talk about "Mad Men," I sense a hunger for the insouciant elegance that emanates from the actors' performances and looks. Hell, I have that hunger myself. I loved the final result of my "Mad Men Yourself" avatar (martini glass in hand, of course).

Like the devotees of the "Mad Men" style, I have a definite appreciation of the style of that period. Look back at the images of the people in the news during the early 1960s. Everyone looked clean and sharp, from the Kennedys to the Civil Rights marchers. And, I have enjoyed those films that have looked to that era stylistically.

"The Incredibles" is an excellent example of using that period style, from the Eichler-like family home, to the look and attitude of "Edna Mode." "Down With Love," an homage to the Rock Hudson/Doris Day films, is an excellent example as well, though it is definitely a lighter depiction of the era. And these are just two films that come to my mind immediately.

With all of this said, I doubt that I will be catching the show tonight. I would rather hold off and see the first three seasons, before trying to jump in at the last minute. I would have too many questions to really enjoy it. But, I will reaffirm my appreciate for the style of the show and of that era. We lack that elegant styling today, for the most part, and I can understand why an influential minority of "Mad Men" fans have been pushing to bring some of that elegance back.

Friday, July 23, 2010

In Response to Senator Webb

A friend of mine sent me a link to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal penned by U.S. Senator James Webb of Virginia. Sen. Webb essentially issues a plea for ending federal government sponsored affirmative action/diversity programs, specifically because they are discriminatory toward whites. I actually somewhat agree with Sen. Webb. My thoughts on affirmative action have evolved over the years, and I am firmly within the camp of providing more help to people who are poor in this nation, irrespective of race or ethnicity. Though race remains a contentious issue in this nation (our history all but guaranteed that), class is really the central issue that most threatens the viability of the nation, and anything that would lessen class disparities would be a great thing.

But I have to say that I had real issues with some of Webb's analysis.

Paragraph 1: If I recall correctly, the NAACP did not resolve that the Tea Party movement is racist. The NAACP did say that there are racist elements within the Tea Party movement, and asked that the movement purge those elements from within their midst. I also don't recall the Tea Party movement saying that the NAACP was a racist organization, though individual supporters of the Tea Party have made such claims.

Paragraph 2: Forty years ago, white people dominated the power structure of the country, period. Note, I wrote white people. Those who held power were predominantly Protestant, but there were definitely Catholics and Jews comfortably in positions of power throughout the country. I realize that he is setting up his argument about the need to differentiate among whites, but where there was power 40 years ago, there was a white person (man) present.

Regarding the marginalization of white workers within government (or within organizations that work directly with government), I think that Sen. Webb is wrong. Though the President is black, whites still maintain the majority of positions of power within government. Now, I can imagine that it would be difficult to go from running every high level position in government to having to share some of those positions with people who aren't white (primarily men). But, shouldn't some of that enmity be directed toward the rise of white women within the government? More than any single demographic group in the country, white women have made important and necessary strides into the halls of power within government. So, it makes it difficult for me to agree with Webb's point that affirmative action/diversity programs, on the whole, have marginalized white workers.

Paragraph 3: Please see my aforementioned point about white women regarding Webb's blanket statement regarding affirmative action/diversity programs not favoring anyone white.

Paragraph 7: I will always have an issue with the idea that affirmative action is automatic discrimination against a white person. It isn't. I will concede that affirmative action programs have been administered horribly in too many instances. There have been instances, too many, when unqualified people have moved ahead (and please don't act like there has never been an unqualified white person promoted to a position). But the presumption that if you see a black person in a higher education classroom, or a job (that isn't a low level position), then clearly a white person was discriminated against is bogus. That is how Webb's statement reads, and unfortunately, I think that too many white people believe that. I do agree that affirmative action programs expanded to include groups (including white women) not included in the original concept.

Paragraph 8: Sen. Webb points out that there were no specific government programs where whites were the beneficiaries. There is a growing body of history books and monographs that counters that notion. An examination of the subject of the suburbanization of the country, and the rise of the American middle class would reveal just how government across the board essentially helped white Americans grow their wealth (I know that I don't have to mention the South). Discriminatory practices in lending, discriminatory practices in the provision of veterans benefits, and a host of other government programs (federal, state and local) discriminated against black Americans. That wealth gap between whites and blacks, for example, didn't just emerge in the last 40 years.

Paragraph 9: I totally agree with Sen. Webb that it is a mistake generally to treat whites as a monolithic group, but his argument regarding public policy is wrong. The Civil Rights Movement dismantled the public policies of segregation. Jim Crow laws throughout the South treated whites as a monolithic group. Discriminatory practices by government workers prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 treated whites as a monolithic group. Moreover, Webb treats whites as a monolithic group for the purposes of making his point that affirmative action/diversity programs discriminate against whites, as a monolithic group. So, yes, "one strains to find the logic that could lump them together for the purpose of public policy."

Paragraph 11: This is just a teeny tiny point. John Hope Franklin is an eminent historian. The "black" isn't necessary.

Paragraph 13 (and 14): Sen. Webb left out some salient facts. With the exception of some of the southern cities, the South sought to recreate its antebellum agricultural dominance, and many places resisted industrialization, to the detriment of the region. As immigrant populations poured into the factories Northeast and Midwest, Southerners mostly returned to the farm. The establishment of Jim Crow legislation and the creation of a dual society, clearly strained the coffers in state treasuries. So it's no wonder that expenditures on students in the South, for example, would be so low, or that the South would lag behind other regions experiencing dramatic changes during the rise of modern America.

Paragraph 15: I understand that Sen. Webb is trying to make his point about affirmative action/diversity programs as discriminatory public policy against whites, but in suggesting that policy makers completely ignored the diversity of whites in terms of offering specific programs, he is incorrect. I found a 2000 article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette focused on Appalachia and the federal government's efforts to provide assistance through public policies since the Lyndon Johnson administration. Though the War on Poverty was a broad based program affecting many poor communities, President Johnson made it a point to showcase poor whites by launching his effort in Appalachia. These policies came about just as the federal government was developing affirmative action programs.

I also think it is important to include women, white women specifically, in this discussion, because if one can make the argument that just as there may be "special consideration for a minority candidate," then white women too have received "special consideration in a wide variety of areas including business startups, academic admissions, job promotions and lucrative government contracts."

Paragraph 17: Sen. Webb essentially suggests that non-discrimination laws have not applied to white people, which simply isn't true. Have there been problems? Yes. But, if I am not mistaken, the courts have been the place to remedy that issue, and as recent as last year with the Ricci v. DeStefano case, the SCOTUS has pushed to ensure that non-discrimination laws are indeed, non-discriminatory, even for white people. So once again, one could read that Sen. Webb is suggesting that any gain by a minority is a direct loss for a white person, and I think that is a bridge too far. It suggests that white people are automatically the winners, and if any other group lands a position within or related to government, then a white person was automatically discriminated against. I really don't think that Sen. Webb is making that argument, but it's sounds close to it.

I actually agree with Sen. Webb that non-discrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens. I think that it's a great goal. But with that in mind, I also think that it would be good not to leave this at just racial discrimination, as Sen. Webb states. I think I've made a reasonable argument that white women have benefited from similar programs that blacks and other minorities have, and in larger numbers. Have we reached the point where we are ensuring that "artificial distinctions such as [gender] do not determine the outcomes," or class, or sexual orientation, or religion? I am not so sure that we are really there yet. But, if we drop one "artificial distinction," then we should drop those other distinctions as well. At some point, and clearly for Sen. Webb, that point should be soon, we are going to have to end affirmative action/diversity programs, and just hope that people will actually do right.

That sounds like a tall order to me, and I am not that confident that people will not discriminate on the basis of race. Bluntly put, I am tired of all the hullabaloo, but I would be willing to give it a shot.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Adolescent Music Flashback: Scritti Politti

I must confess that I have just one Scritti Politti album, "Cupid & Psyche '85." I wore out the tape, and have played the CD so often that I think I need a replacement. I must also confess that I had a crush on Green Gartside back when "Perfect Way" was new and gracing MTV. I remember arriving in Physics class the morning after I saw "Perfect Way," and letting my friends know that I'd found a hot new band from the UK with a great name (of course).

My little crush shifted to the dancer in the video for "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)." But it was the actual album that really captured my ears. from beginning to end, including the remixes for "Absolute," the album was just one fine song after another. My hands down favorite track on the album is "Don't Work That Hard."

If you check the video for "Perfect Way" closely, you might catch glimpses of the beautiful former supermodel Veronica Webb. I only just noticed her as I watched the video recently, and it made me love the video that much more.

Maddow Gave an Interesting History Lesson Last Night, and I'll Add My Two Cents

Talk about a good history lesson on The Rachel Maddow Show. All she needed was Pat Buchanan to give a first hand account of implementing the Southern Strategy during the Nixon era.

I knew that if this country had ever reached the point of electing a black President we would have had some problems. Frankly, the problems that we have seen are not nearly as bad as I suspected, and I think that that is remarkable considering where we were when I arrived on the planet in 1968. Though most reasonable people know that the vast majority of Tea Party people aren't racists, there are some questionable ties (and the movement is beginning to sever those ties, which is great). Though most reasonable people know that the vast majority of people do not believe that critics of President Obama critique him only because he is black, there are some people who strangely hold on to that fallacy.

But getting back to the history that Maddow put forth last night, it is true that race is an instant powder keg in a political discussion. Some would rather not look to the past at all, and others won't move beyond it. Neither position makes the history less true. It is true that there have been those in politics, from Reconstruction through current times, who have used race and fear (and culture) to garner votes.

And they have been used for different reasons by different sets of people. Blacks in the 19th century supported Republican candidates, because they were afraid of white Democrats regaining power and "redeeming" the South, which actually happened. Whites in the South during the Populist Movement of the late 19th/early 20th centuries, eventually abandoned the notion of the fledgling class/occupation based interracial movement, because their "bourbon" opponents convinced them that blacks would usurp the whites' positions in society (the old "if black people gain something, then white people have to lose something" tactic). Minority politicians have also used race and fear in their campaigns to gain and/or preserve power (though that history isn't nearly as long). The case that stands out most to me was Corey Booker's first attempt at becoming mayor of Newark, NJ. Former mayor Sharpe James used a number of tools to scare black voters from Booker, including suggesting that Booker's very integrated upbringing, and his wide support from whites made him suspect for the majority black town.

That is my only criticism of Maddow's otherwise excellent piece. This tactic of using race and fear can and has been used by non-white folks. Yet, my small criticism neither diminishes, nor negates her main point.

The bottom line is that we should call out these tactics when we see them emerge, and call them what they are. But to do that, we have to acknowledge the use of race and fear (and culture) in our midst (the proposed mosque in Lower Manhattan anyone?).

Are we mature enough as a society to do that without falling into hysterics?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hip Hop Remembrances: De La Soul's "3 Feet High and Rising"

When I heard the opening chords of De La Soul's "Me Myself and I" back in '89, I knew I was going to like the group. When I saw the video, I was sold. De La Soul reminded me of how I might have looked, if I'd been less preppy and more hip hop (though I did sport an Africa medallion with my prep threads). And their emergence during the rise of gangsta rap, of which I was not a fan, was like a cool autumnal breeze in the midst of a miserable summer. I played "3 Feet High and Rising" like it was going out of style, and "Me Myself and I" became my personal theme song.

And there are just so many other great tunes on this CD, and the samples are all over the musical map. Just take a listen and enjoy. And I dare you not to do the Running Man when "Say No Go" is playing, or the Kid-N-Play when listening to "This a Recording 4 Living in a Full Time Era."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's Amazing What Context Can Bring to a Situation

This morning, the media were abuzz with the "news" that a black Obama USDA appointee was discriminating against white farmers. By 9pm, it was pretty clear that Shirley Sherrod had her words taken out of context completely. Over at Maddowblog (and via the NAACP), they have posted the full unedited video clip that was at the center of this controversy:

I think that her decision back in '86 to put aside feelings of racial animus and simply help people in need is helping her now. The story that she told, in its full context, is a great American story of race and redemption.

It's a shame that the people who did the hit job edited video were so blind in their determination to embarrass the NAACP that they made a great story into a fake story. They made a woman who had been doing the right thing into a caricature representing their fantasies of how black folks are really the racists and whites the victims (the pathetic, racist, and ineffectual New Black Panther Party clearly wasn't enough).

I hope Ms. Sherrod is consulting attorneys.

On Race and Reason(ableness)

Sometimes you just don't want to wade in some pools, and that was how I felt about the NAACP's call for the Tea Party people to call out and expel the racists in their midst. It is as reasonable a call, as the call for groups like the NAACP to call out say the New Black Panther Party people (who are like a crazy/racist swirl of who knows what). Then, a Tea Party person decided that not only was he offended that the NAACP would even suggest that race played any sort of role in the actions of Tea Party people (impossible right?), but he also had to put his thoughts in a blog post that managed to prove the NAACP's point. Now that Tea Party person has been ousted. My guess is that people will now be satisfied that he was the only one with any hint of racism within the movement.

We move now to today, and the game of tit for tat has been elevated. A random Agriculture Department Obama appointee has resigned under pressure after it was suggested that she was being racist, during her tenure at the Agriculture Department, against white farmers, and it was all caught on video, and the video was of a local Georgia NAACP meeting earlier this year. Total bitch slap back to the NAACP, so there.

However, now it's beginning to look like the appointee in question was explaining, in a parable of sorts, how she felt back in '85-'86 about a white farmer seeking her help when she was with a non-profit, not the Department of Agriculture as had been suggested (once the unedited video is released, we will find out). The parable reflected on her decision not to succumb to her own racist and vengeful thoughts of not helping this white farmer. Instead, she decides to offer help to a person in need. Even that white farmer now corroborates that story, and adds that the appointee in question has been a friend for years.

Race remains an issue in this country, and we need to stop pretending that it doesn't. Most of us put up our respective guards, ignore the obvious one way or another, and assume the worst about whatever person (and concomitantly the group to which that person belongs) we disagree with. We all do it. Do I think we need some big "national conversation" on race? No. But I think we do need to talk with people we know, and at least try to sort things out in our own spheres. I've had some interesting and sometimes infuriating conversations with friends about race and history and current events. Some of those conversations have happened here. Some of those conversations worried me that friendships might have been frayed (I hope not). Yet, we will never get anywhere, if we refuse to understand, at the very least, another person's perspective.

I think that Attorney General Eric Holder was, in retrospect, correct in calling most of us cowards. It's not an easy conversation to have, and it is not fun. But, if we want to get to the point where we can "move on," and I mean most of us (the true racists never will move on), then we have to, at some point, have occasional discussions among friends, and hope that those friends will have their own discussions with their friends if the issue arises.

What we don't need is what we have been seeing and reading of late.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Love the National Parks Love From the Obama Family

Last year, the Obamas visited the National Parks at Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. At the time the visits were touted as a way to encourage other Americans to enjoy our national treasures. Just this past weekend, the Obamas visited Acadia National Park in Maine. I hope that the Obamas will continue to visit the various National Parks for the rest of President Obama's tenure, and I hope that his successor will do the same (and visiting some of those historic sites would be great as well).

As Ken Burns reminded us last autumn, out National Parks are indeed a real treasure that all Americans can enjoy, and it is important for any first family to help us to remember that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Adolescent Music Flashback: Loose Ends

Back in the day, I thought Loose Ends was the end all and be all of R&B bands. The fact that they were from the UK was total icing on the cake. Whenever I hear a Loose Ends song, and I am talking about the period when Jane Eugene and Steve Nichol (I had a crush on him back in the day) were still a part of the band, I felt that I was listening to the essence of what makes R&B cool. "Hangin' on a String" from the album "A Little Spice" was my introduction to the band, and I was a fan within seconds. By the time the songs from the album "Zagora" was making in onto the scene, I was already hungry for more Loose Ends, and they delivered. All I can say is just take a good listen, and I am sure your head will bop to the beats. This is just musical goodness.

Loose Ends was still doing their thing as I crossed out of my adolescence. The 1988 album "The Real Chuckeeboo," was off the chain. "Watching You" and "Mr. Bachelor" were the hits off of that album ("Is It Ever Too Late?" is my favorite song from that album). And I was really surprised when I heard Pete Rock's 2000 song "Take Your Time" and heard Jane Eugene singing (Carl McIntosh was in there too). Naturally, "Take Your Time is my favorite Pete Rock song.

DADT Madness Revisited

Back in May, I wrote a post wondering if gays, lesbians and bisexuals currently serving in the military will be offered an opportunity to participate in this Defense Department study without threat of being subjected to DADT, and I equated not offering them that immunity with asking only white people about the racial integration of the military back in the day. So, color me not surprised by what happened once the survey to active duty military members and reservists that went out was seen by GLBT groups.

I am not surprised that issues like showering moved to the front and center of this debate. Oddly enough, I think Sherri Shepherd spoke for your average straight person in wondering if counseling would be made available to straight people who had to shower with "known homosexuals." It's interesting that the relatives I have who have served, almost to a man, were aware of the gays in their midst and didn't give a shit (including my gay cousin who made it to the rank of Captain). Why not ask the following question in the survey: Have you harassed a known or even suspected gay, bisexual or lesbian in your unit because you don't think that he/she deserves to be serving with you? And I am glad that this idea of instituting some form of segregation is being debunked.

I am beginning to wander a bit with this post, so let me try to bring it back to the point. It seems clear to me that the military is not interested in understanding what it is like to be gay and serve, nor does it seem interested in learning how units with known gay folks work through that reality. It seems clear to me that the military is not interested in learning from the examples of the other western nations that have successfully integrated open gays, lesbians and bisexuals into their forces. I think that the combination of institutional/political conservatism and strong religious conservatism within military leadership is a real driving force behind this foot dragging.

I am tired of the argument that there is some sort of social experimentation going on here. That argument died with DADT, because the notion of the law assumed that there were in fact gays within the ranks. The troops have been dealing with this "experiment" for ages. There are too many gay veterans out there who tell stories of their buddies knowing and not telling, and the world moving along just fine. The American people want this (across the political spectrum), the President kinda wants this, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs even acknowledged that this will happen. So why not stop the bullshit roadblocks and wasteful surveys?

Though I Agree With Judge Andrew Napolitano, I am Confident Nothing Will be Done

NYC Mosque Hullabaloo: Castigating the Whole for the Actions of a Few

It is classically American to castigate the whole for the actions of a few. Hell, even I trip up and do that occasionally (have you seen some of my commentary about conservatives and/or the black church?), though I try really hard not to. Well that seems to be what is happening in New York City right now, with a mosque trying to move to a new location in Manhattan.

This mosque has been in the neighborhood of the World Trade Center, according to the linked article, since 1983. As far as I know (and someone correct me if I missed something), the folks who attended that mosque have never been accused of following radical aspects of Islam, before or after September 11th (or even the 1993 WTC bombing). So this mosque has been a part of the fabric of lower Manhattan for the last 27 years, a few true nut jobs who share the same faith commit horrific crimes 18 years after this mosque is established, then the mosque seeks not only to move to a larger space in the neighborhood and establish a center to promote a greater understanding of Islam, but that is an insult to the memory of those who died on that sad day? Classic

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Remembering "My Beautiful Laundrette"

I just finished reading an interesting article at regarding pivotal gay sex scenes in films. I am so glad that the author started his slide show with "My Beautiful Laundrette." The scene that he talks about with Daniel Day-Lewis and Gordon Warnecke (they made a gorgeous couple) is one of the hottest sex scenes, regardless of orientation, that I've seen on film. I totally remember sneaking to catch it on HBO late at night back in '86. I remember being completely floored by the image of two men kissing right there in my living room. Only when I got older and looked at the film again did I really pay attention to the broader political messages of the film, and I found it to be an excellent movie. And as the film came to a close, I found myself wanting more. I wanted to know if Omar and Johnny actually made it as a couple, or if the laundrette really did remain a success. If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing the movie, then I highly recommend it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Great News Out of Massachusetts

I think it would be a delicious irony if the first state to legalize gay marriage became the state that helped to bring the nasty federal law DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) down.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hawaii's GOP Governor Vetoes Civil Unions Bill; Was Anyone Actually Surprised?

I hate to sound cynical, but did supporters of gay marriage/civil unions in Hawaii actually think that Gov. Lingle was going to sign into law the civil unions bill that the Hawaii legislature? She is a Republican (strike one). She does not see the distinction between secular and sacred marriage, and therefore conflates the two (strikes two and three). So her vetoing the legislation was an exercise in the obvious.

I am so not shocked.

Will Being Gay in Uganda Lead to Execution or Imprisonment? VII

I was doing my usual check of Pam's House Blend, when I saw her post regarding the murder of Ugandan GLBT activist Pasikali Kashusbe. I also popped over to Rod 2.0 and Towleroad to see what they were reporting. Here is a news clip:

I really hope that Kashusbe's murder had nothing to do with his work with Ugandan GLBT youth. However, considering the level of animus toward anything related to homosexuality in Uganda, I will not be surprised if it turns out that he was indeed murdered for his GLBT work. The brutality of his murder is nothing short of shocking. May he rest in peace, and may his efforts to help GLBT youth in Uganda continue.

UPDATE (07.07.10): It looks like the GLBT connection was a hoax, and in a way, I am glad. Though I am still sorry for the poor individual who had to die such a brutal death.

Representatives Frank and Paul Tell the Truth About Spending, Yet Will Their Colleagues Listen?

I was glad to read the post that Representatives Frank and Paul published at Huffington Post. It's one of the few examples of actual (and potentially) useful bipartisanship. For all of those people screaming about bloated and/or runaway government, those same people tend to be as silent as the grave when it comes to the Department of Defense budget. And when they aren't silent, they suggest that cuts to the DoD budget is tantamount to attacks on our troops (which is fatuous indeed). I wish the Representatives all the best on this effort, and I hope the President listens.

As I read that post, I thought of the information that Arianna Huffington raised in her post blasting Politifact, following her confrontation with Liz Cheney on "This Week." Just focus in on the money that everyone (except Liz Cheney) acknowledges was spent on the Halliburton subsidiary KBR. Figures like $121 million and $553 million reflect payments to KBR that should not have been given according to a federal audit of our contract with the company. Imagine what we could have done with that additional $674 million dollars going toward stimulating the economy, or extending unemployment benefits.

Add to all of this the recent admission by CIA Director Leon Panetta that we are currently fighting approximately 50 to 100 Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan. 50 to 100. How much money are we spending over there right now? Then it was noted that we could be looking at an overall total (now including Al Qaeda in Pakistan) possibly 300 to 400 people. I am neither a central Asian or economics expert, but I agree with folks like Fareed Zakaria that we have put way too much money into all of this with diminishing results.

We simply do not have the money to continue doing this. President Eisenhower warned us of the military-industrial complex decades ago, and what we have now is a that on steroids with no end in sight. Add to that an energy-industrial complex of sorts, and you end up with Enron and BP. Add also a Wall Street-industrial complex, and you have the United States at its most economically vulnerable since the Great Depression.

We need to have a very public, very thorough federal audit across the whole of the U.S. government. We need to call out and end the wasteful projects and government contracts that work against the bottom line of the government. But of course I know that nothing like this will happen, and that is our key problem.

Representatives Frank and Paul are trying to point us in the right direction. Who among their colleagues will pay attention?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Remembering the Centennial of the "Great White Hope" Fight Between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries

Here I have been doing the typical Fourth of July things today, bonding with family, serving as grill master, and now listening to all of the illegal (I am in Virginia right now) fireworks going off throughout the neighborhood. But I knew I wanted to do more thing before the close of the holiday.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the first "Great White Hope" fight between Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion, and Jim Jeffries, the former heavyweight champion who came out of retirement to reclaim the title. It was in Reno, NV where this fight took place, and it was the talk of the nation. Newspapers across the country followed the fight camps, and the nation listened intently as the fight went on. Once Johnson was declared the winner (and the hopes of whites across the nation were dashed, and the hopes of blacks across the nation were reaffirmed), fights broke out across the nation. More than 20 people lost their lives, and hundreds more were injured.

I enjoyed writing about this event when I was working on my Master's thesis way back in the '90s, and I was amazed by the fact that what was big news back in 1910 is not really well known today. I looked for articles that marked the centennial of this great battle, and I found a fair few. The Reno Gazette-Journal has done a special report (and had a three day celebration) for the centennial, and it is a read that I strongly recommend. There is also an interesting article over at chronicling what happened in the city during and after the fight. The Galveston County Daily News has an interesting article on the legacy of that community's hometown champion (nice quotes Mr. Collins!).

Johnson was indeed a complicated figure, and he was not immortalized as Joe Louis was (Louis' career was created to be the antithesis of Johnson's, and Louis became the second black heavyweight champion with a combination of his huge talent and his lack of Jack Johnson like bravado). And most people little remember that the phrase "great white hope" is directly related to putting a particular black man "back in his place." I think that it is great that a number of outlets have remembered the centennial. I think it helps to show how far we have come (and how far we have not come).

And on a final note, I do hope that President Obama will grant Johnson a well deserved posthumous pardon. The efforts of the Jack Johnson Foundation, as well as Sen. John McCain, should be commended. That pardon would be an excellent way to cap this centennial commemoration.

Happy 4th!!