Friday, July 29, 2011

It's Amazing How Much Context a Sound Bite Misses II

Back in May, I wrote a post about a new favorite thing that those on the right tout about "half of Americans" not paying federal income taxes.  In that post, I mentioned that there are other taxes that we all pay in some way shape or form, and as I said then, it was of no avail.  As this claim gained legs, it also started losing a couple of words, specifically "federal" and "income."  Now, there are people claiming, with complete righteous indignation, that half of the country "doesn't pay taxes."

Over at The Dish, there is a post that simply asks "Who Pays Taxes?"  I think it is well worth the read.  More importantly, the post and the various embedded links within the post provide the necessary context to disprove some things (like the notion that half of us pay no taxes) and flesh out other things (like how people end up not paying those federal income taxes, and how it's not just the poor who don't pay).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Christianism Defined and Personified

Following the terror acts in Norway, I wanted to see what Andrew Sullivan would have to say about the perpetrator.  I was not disappointed.  Please take a look at Sullivan's post.  It also provides a definition of "Christianism," a term he coined, and one that I use frequently.  And Sullivan argues that this Norwegian terrorist is a personification of a "Christianist," albeit one who decided that violence was the only way he could achieve his goals.  The post is a must-read

For Charisse

I am writing this post through tears.  I just learned that the world has lost an incredible young woman whom I had the privilege of working with during my tenure at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Charisse Cecil was the intern I hired all those years ago, and it was her passion for African American culture that really spoke to me.  It was her work ethic that impressed me even more.  She had the ability to synthesize the multiplicity of ideas running through my mind, and create a cohesive product that hit all the right points. 

I was happy to see her join the staff of the National Trust, as a full time employee, and to see her interest in historic preservation, particularly the preservation of African American historic places, grow.  We often talked about the links among, history, literature, music and preservation, and how more black folks needed that exposure to see the rich tapestry of our past.  In Charisse, I found a kindred spirit, and a good friend.  I wanted to see her reach the height of her potential.  And I just knew that future generations would one day sit in the classroom of the future Dr. Cecil to learn about African American literature and culture.

It hurts to know that that will not happen now.  It hurts to know that I will not be able to catch up with her, when I visit Washington again.  It hurts to know that I will never get to know her better.  And for all of the hurt that I feel, I cannot imagine what this loss is doing to her family and her closest friends, people that she spoke of so warmly, and with whom she had so much pride.

If only we had more people in this world as open, honest, giving and forthright as Charisse.  All of us who had the pleasure and privilege of knowing her will miss that remarkable smile, a smile that could brighten one's spirit the moment she flashed it. 

Charisse, you will be missed, but never forgotten.  May you rest in peace.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Now Celebrating the Repeal of DADT

I couldn't quite bring myself to celebrate the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" after the legislation was passed last year.  It was a good step forward, but it wasn't complete.  People were still caught in the cross hairs of that policy.  Only now do I feel really comfortable celebrating the closing of an unfortunate chapter (even though we still have until September 20 before it's wiped from the books) in American history.  The certifications necessary have been signed by the Defense Secretary, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the President. 

I am particularly happy for my friends (and my cousin) who served our country with pride, in spite of their fears.  And I am truly happy for all of those currently serving in our military who can relax, finally.  I am sure Leonard Matlovich is smiling down on this one.

Marriage Equality in Action

I just wanted to add my congratulations to the millions of others from around the country to all of those folks in New York taking advantage of the state's marriage equality.  And here is hoping that marriage equality will come to Maryland soon.

A Beautiful Voice Silenced

When I first got word that Amy Winehouse was dead, I assumed it was a joke, and a weak joke at that.  Yet, it was true.  I am one of those Winehouse fans who was rooting for her to beat back her demons, and return to the studio.  This is an incredible loss.

That voice. 

Anyone who had an opportunity to hear Winehouse sing could not deny that the woman had a voice.  "Rehab" was my introduction to Winehouse, and it took me a while actually to hear the song.  The praise for her voice reached me before I heard the first note, and when I finally heard Winehouse sing, I was hooked.  She deserved the accolades.

Even though she is gone, I hope that Amy Winehouse is now, finally, resting in peace.

Prayers for Norway

I can only imagine the horror the people of Norway are feeling right now.  It never would have occurred to me that a place as seemingly safe and tranquil as Norway would ever experience tragedies of such magnitude.  I hope that they will come to see this as a true aberration, and not as a symptom of times to come.

The Weekend Retreat is Over, So Back to Posting

After an essentially news free weekend with old and very good friends, I am just finding out the things that I've missed since Friday morning.  Get ready, because I've got a few posts coming.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I Will Miss Cenk on MSNBC

Folks who read this blog know that I am a big fan of some of the hosts on MSNBC, and I am a HUGE fan of Rachel Maddow.  With that said, I was surprised, and glad to see Cenk Uygur from "The Young Turks" grow from being an occasional guest, to getting the 6p spot.  As time went on, I found myself making a point to tune in at 6p to see Uygur do his thing.  Hell, I even use his line "of cooourse," when I hear news of something typical coming out of Washington.  So count me as surprised when a week passed, and Al Sharpton was still filling in for a "vacationing" Uygur.  Immediately, I knew something was up.  And though I appreciate the occasional Sharpton combativeness (sometimes those black church phrases are just money), he doesn't bring it like Uygur.  Sadly, Uygur is gone.  But, he did take the time to explain why, and once I heard his reasons, I was glad that he left.

On a final note, it is beyond shady that MSNBC was willing to double Uygur's pay, while keeping him in a reduced role. That sounds like an expensive muzzle.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I Don't Know About Herman

Some folks might not believe me, but I am glad that Herman Cain is getting traction in his presidential bid.  I don't agree with his politics, but I do think that a greater political diversity within the black community is a good thing. 

Now with that said, I think that Cain might want to review the Constitution, as it relates to faith.  His position that Americans should have the right to ban mosques in their communities might come back to bite his Christianist butt, if he isn't careful.  Taken to its logical conclusion, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that Cain would not be upset if a community decided to ban the building of any church of any faith, including Christian churches?  I think we know that answer to that one.

Cain also made it clear that he felt that Mitt Romney would not be able to do well with Republican voters in the South, because Romney is a Mormon.  Actually, I agree with the reporter of the linked article that this is something that is whispered in Republican circles; but that isn't showing in the polls so far.  It was interesting that there was a comment on Fox where a reporter suggested that Romney isn't a Christian, when comparing Romney to Gov. Rick Perry.

I know one thing:  we don't need a "Christianist Warrior" in Chief.

A Welcome Break from the Debt Ceiling Madness

Because I am disappointed on so many fronts regarding this whole discussion regarding the debt ceiling, I have found myself being drawn in more and more to the incredible events in the UK.  I watched the Murdoch hearings, watched the Brooks hearing, and working on a project proposal that's due soon. 

Sometimes it's just better to look at another country's mess, than to look at your own.

Monday, July 18, 2011

On Change in the District: Preservation Does Not Have to Be the Enemy

I am not surprised that Washington is no longer a majority black city any longer.  I am also not surprised to read about the same issues related to whites moving in, historic preservation/gentrification, resentments and (on occasion) misunderstandings.  And though it might anger some, I think that the changes that have come to Washington have really helped improve much of the city.  Though, I agree that Ward 8, particularly, deserves much more attention, and with the current residents, than it has received over the years.

I also agree fully with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, in that Washington's black community has left an indelible cultural mark on the city, and it is a mark that deserves both preservation and revitalization.  I is a real shame that so many black folks in Washington continue to see historic preservation as an updated version of the old "negro removal" from the early and middle 20th century, because it didn't, and still doesn't, have to be that way.  There is no rule saying that preservation is available only to whites or to the wealthy.

During my 20+ years in Washington, I was often surprised by the people who did not factor in the lure of Prince George's County, MD for many upwardly mobile black Washington families as the 20th century closed.  A few of my relatives headed out there, including relatives who very easily could have remained in the city.  I'd suspect that the stereotypical American dream of the suburban home, a nice backyard and garage, once closed to many black families was just too strong to resist, when the opportunities opened. Currently, there are a number of black folks who could afford to move into market rate housing in the city, if they so chose.  There are a number of black folks who didn't realize precisely what they had, until it was too late, and there are a number who could not afford to maintain what they had (those are the stories that I find particularly sad).  For those in that last circumstance, I would suggest working with every resource in city government to help you keep what you have.

I still want to make a case for historic preservation, even for working class and poorer black communities in the city, because that was raised as a problem specifically.  If you see, or hear of, changes coming to your neighborhoods, especially regarding preservation or revitalization efforts, it is beyond important to begin to learn about what is happening around you, and voice, not only your concerns, but also your visions for your communities (the tensions and results described in the H Street Corridor are the types of things that should be happening, because many points of view are being heard).  It's all about taking proactive steps and learning how preservation and revitalization can work for you.  I can say, without hesitation, that the preservation organizations in Washington want to see working and lower income communities revitalized, particularly for current residents.  Reach out to the District's Historic Preservation Office, and the DC Preservation League; these are organization that want and need more input from working class and lower income communities in the city, especially as changes come.  They cannot be as effective, if folks wait until it is too late.

I am a firm believer in the importance of individual communities deciding what is important enough in their neighborhoods to preserve for future generations.  Historic preservation does not have to mean "gentrification" in a negative sense.  It's just a matter of taking those first steps and identifying those businesses, churches or homes of community leaders that neighborhood folks think newcomers and young people should know about.  Then it is a matter of reaching out to those organizations that can help communities take the next steps.  It won't be easy.  Very little that is good for you comes without a struggle.  But as Washington diversifies, I hope that many of the remaining black residents will take advantage of the increasing diversity around them.  I loved my last neighborhood, Logan Circle, because it had a little bit of everything and everyone.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Regarding Fort Monroe

When it comes to Fort Monroe, I really don't know where I can begin.  The post has been a part of my life for most of my life, whether I was a youngster roaming around Armistead Hall, as my gran cleaned the guest rooms, or as a teenager getting my first "bloody" (by accident) at the Officer's Club during a Sunday brunch, or visiting the Casemate Museum as a Hampton City schools student, or walking along the top of the moat (where the pet cemetary is located, as well as incredible views), or going to the prom at the rooftop ballroom of The Chamberlin (now a Seniors' community), or attending various Easter Sunrise services (including the last one this year) and Hampton Cup Regattas.  I don't know how many tennis balls I lobbed into Mill Creek over the years.  And there are many other stories I could tell, like many people who have grown up and around this incredible National Historic Landmark.

When I first became involved with the historic preservation movement, I decided that if Fort Monroe ever made the BRAC (Base Re-alignment and Closure) list, then I would do everything in my power to make sure that the National Trust for Historic Preservation would be aware of the post, its history, and its importance to me and the folks in the region.  I kept that promise.  And I have been particularly happy with the effort to bring a National Park Service unit to Fort Monroe.  I will admit that I didn't think that it was possible, considering the incredible back log on the maintenance of the exisiting National Parks (sounds like jobs to me).  However, I have to applaud the efforts of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park (CFMNP); that organization (along with the Contraband Historical Society) truly helped to push hard for a National Park Service presence on the post.  I've also been following the progress of the Fort Monroe Authority, which is the organization managing the post's transition from an active to inactive post.

I was also quite happy to see my former colleagues at the National Trust (particularly Rob Nieweg) really take on the Fort Monroe cause.  The organization has a "take action" effort to encourage the Obama administration to designate Fort Monroe a National Monument (please follow this link to learn more).  Legislation also has been introduced by Rep. Scott Rigell in the U.S. House to establish a National Park Service unit at Fort Monroe; Senators Webb and Warner have also introduced similar legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Fort Monroe is an incredible historic site, with a history spanning the 17th (at Old Point Comfort) through 21st centuries.  It is more than worthy to have a National Park Service Unit.  And I highly recommend anyone who reads this blog to take a trip to the post (and don't forget to stop in Phoebus, as well)

Meanwhile, Across the Pond...

With the exception of an occasional television news report, I've not paid too much attention to the News International hacking scandal in the UK.  The scandal has also reached our shores, and I wonder if what has started in the UK will impact Murdoch's interests here in a similarly spectacular fashion (seems like we have a start)  Personally, I don't care what happens with Fox.  But this story out of the UK is just fascinating and unfortunate. 

I've been getting updates from UK sources like BBC News and The Guardian, because somehow I think that the US news sources will somehow miss something.  What's making this scandal particularly fascinating is the links to the Metropolitan Police, and even possibly to Prime Minister David Cameron himself.  BBC News has a great primer on the principals in this scandal so far, including victims.

It will be interesting to see how this ends.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mad Props to Michael Irvin

I just finished reading an article about Michael Irvin, yes, that Michael Irvin, in Out Magazine written by Cyd Zeigler of Outsports.  Not only does Irvin discuss his late gay brother, whom he idolized (and kept hidden out of concern for being associated with "gayness"), but he also makes it clear that he is a strong supporter of gay rights generally, and gay athletes particularly.  As I read that, I thought about my own teammates on my graduate school flag football team, and how I was accepted as simply a good center (with three intramural championships in four years, by the way); it also made me wish that those guys had been around when I was in high school, but was too afraid to even consider playing football for fear of being found out.

I also think that it is incredibly important for black folks to see someone of Irvin's status talk about a gay family member, and express his desire to see out gay athletes in American sports.  We need more allies like him.

UPDATE:  Here is a great post on this subject over at Rod 2.0.  Enjoy!

Made In China?

I just stumbled upon an interesting story on Al Jazeera English regarding the new San Francisco Bay Bridge.  Though the bridge will be assembled by American workers, the actual development and construction of the bridge was done essentially by Chinese workers. 

Though I found the story interesting, I also found it rather sad. Is this the future of our infrastructure projects in the United States?

Friday, July 8, 2011

I Didn't Know My Ancestors Had it So Good

If one is going to claim that black children were better off in 1860 than in 2011, because they were "more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household," then I need that person to explain precisely what he/she means.  That is a claim made by a random Christianist group in Iowa in a pledge regarding heterosexual marriage (among other things, related to marriage and sex), that has been signed by GOP presidential contenders Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. 

Unless I missed something in my academic training in American history, children in slavery could be, and were often, sold away from their parents at the whim of slaveholders.  I don't think that "better off" even comes close.  That pledge was likely put together in direct response to marriage equality coming to New York, as well as marriage equality in Iowa (and as far as I can tell the state has not descended into Hell fire), so why not just keep to the basic subject of fundamentalist Christianist understandings of marriage and sex (or the lack thereof), instead of wading even more unnecessarily into an area the group clearly knows little about.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Man Raises Some Very Good Points

Now, I am not one who generally cites David Frum, but I have to admit that he raised some excellent points regarding President Obama's handling of this entire fiscal madness we are dealing with.  Sometimes it's good to be reminded why I don't belong to either party, especially after trying both.

UPDATE:  I do often cite Glenn Greenwald over at Salon, and I am about to once again.  His assessment of President Obama is ringing true to me as well, and the George Carlin ending is eerily relevant, and in terms of the current kerfuffle around Social Security, prescient.

Maybe I Need a Con Law Refresher...

..., because if I am reading the U.S Constitution's 14th Amendment correctly, then I would think that President Obama looking to it as a potential remedy for the debt ceiling issue, if Congress fails to act, is a constitutional question, not an impeachable offense.  Last time I checked, I don't think looking for a constitutional solution to a federal problem is an example of either treason, bribery or high crimes and/or misdemeanors.

I Think I Might Get Sen. Hatch Now

Now that it has become a shibboleth on the right that 47%-51% of the population "doesn't pay taxes" (of course all of those non-taxpayers are assumed to be "poor, and none of them pay other types of taxes; here is an interesting table with some preliminary stats for 2011), I think that perhaps Sen. Orrin Hatch's call for "the poor" to do more to shrink the debt and deficit makes more sense to me. 

We all know that "the poor" are getting over in this nation, and that this is a great time to be among "the poor," with unemployment benefits, food stamps and such.  So why not look to the elimination of Medicaid as a way to have "the poor" pay their fair share.  After all, why should we reward those who've made poor choices in their lives?  Why should we continue to force the real taxpayers to have their hard earned money go to the most undeserving in the nation, especially when their circumstances are entirely their fault?  It only makes sense, unless you are a real fan of Rand, that the real taxpayers' hard earned money should continue to support the various tax breaks and loopholes for those at the top of the economic ladder?  I mean once those real taxpayers join the top 1% of income earners, those breaks and loopholes will come in handy.

I mean there is no lobby for the poor, at least not one worth considering.  So why not eliminate Medicaid in the effort to help pay down our bills, force the undeserving to do something for themselves, finally?  What better way could there be to ensure that "the poor" are contributing sufficiently to this discussion?  Though, we might consider getting that small percentage of folks who aren't poor, but also don't "pay taxes" to chip in as well, unless they're rich.  After all, they certainly made most of the right choices in life, and deserve our fealty.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It Felt Good to Read Frank Rich Again

One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday was to check out the latest Frank Rich column in the New York Times, whether online or in print.  So, it was a pleasant surprise to find a HuffPo link to a new Rich article for New York magazine.  It was made even better by the fact that Rich wrote about President Obama's failure to take on Wall Street, when he had the overwhelming majority of the nation on his side to do so.  I agree with Rich that Obama lost the "populist moment" on the American economy.  I see it in conjunction with Obama's effort to shield the previous administration from a real investigation on torture.  So, before I get too deep into a discussion that only makes me sad and angry, I highly recommend reading the Rich article. 


Friday, July 1, 2011

Then There Are Times When I Don't Know What to Say

So when that happens, I will rely happily on others to express my feelings on a subject.  Please read Glenn Greenwald's post on the Obama administration's successful efforts to provide immunity virtually to everyone related to the subject of torture during the Bush administration.