Saturday, January 29, 2011

Suburbs - The New Center Of American Poverty

Cross-posted at Dagblog.

A great article in the Economist shows this changing dynamic:

The Sarasota-Bradenton metropolitan area, a two-county sprawl of condominiums, marinas and retirement homes, saw the proportion of people living below the poverty line rise by more between 2007 and 2009 than any other big city in America, from 9.2% to 13.7%, according to the Census Bureau. Nor is Sarasota an aberration. All the other metropolitan areas that saw jumps of four points or more are also formerly fast-growing southern and western cities: Bakersfield, California; Boise, Idaho; Greenville, South Carolina; Lakeland, Florida and Tucson, Arizona.Arizona now has the second highest poverty rate in the nation, after Mississippi. The especially severe housing bust that ended the breakneck growth of these sunbelt cities has brought with it deprivation on a scale they have never previously encountered and are struggling to address.

That perhaps explains why politics has become so extreme in Arizona. The remoteness and sprawl of suburbia, built for what was a population that previously could afford to trek distances to receive what they need, now is an impediment to the impoverished who may not have access to a car or the funds to pay for gas:

Poor inner cities in the Midwest and north-east still have higher overall poverty rates, but in recent years, notes Elizabeth Kneebone of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, poverty has grown fastest in the suburbs, especially in the sunbelt. A third of America’s poor, she notes, now live in suburban areas. Many cities in the sunbelt, adds Margaret Simms of the Urban Institute, are suffering from what it calls “double trouble”, meaning a plunge both in property values and employment, with concomitant jumps in poverty. This trend is significant, says Scott Allard of the University of Chicago, since it is harder for the poor to seek assistance and to hunt for jobs amid the suburban sprawl.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Workers Union vs. The Owners Guild

There is a great article up at Alternet (probably the best political news site). It's a shortened version of a segment by Rachel Maddow in which she declares that Dwight Eisenhower would be seen as a raging progressive today. There was a great segment in there about unions that I think would provide some clarity:

You want to talk about red meat for the base? Listen to some of the language the president used. "Workers have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers. And a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society." Wow.

How about this one? "Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of their right to join the union of their choice."

The reason why this has so much trouble applying to today is because, as this society has became rooted in consumerism, unions have become a totally different entity. The Economist wrote an excellent article in which it contrasted the vast social differences between the unions of old and the unions of today: "this time, the defenders of vested interests are not brawny miners spouting Trotsky, but nice middle-class women, often hiding behind useful-sounding groups like the National Education Association (American teachers) or the British Medical Association."

That fits very properly into the debate Genghis, myself and others are having at TPM. The United States still has a blue collar population (and may well have more of one if things continue on the current path), and they can be found everywhere from Oakland, California to rural Pennsylvania. Despite scrounging for pennies and feeling the hurt of globalization, the blue collar worker is bamboozled into adopting the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. I suspect Limbaugh knows this dynamic is at work, because he has ominously started including terms like "the ruling class" in his diatribes. This dynamic also keeps modern day Huey Longs from rising and trying to really shake up the system.

Unions are no longer independent organizations of angry workers demanding decency, they are now the guilds of the comfortable. In California, a state beset with fiscal havoc, new, shinier prisons continue to be built with the potent political influence of organizations like the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which endorsed Jerry Brown in the last election. (Their influence should help explain why Dianne Feinstein was a fierce opponent of marijuana legalization.)

Just as a prison-industrial complex has been fueled by people who have a direct interest in keeping it going, so too has an educational complex been fueled by a class that has a direct stake in keeping the status quo going. While the American public school system was set up to lift up a wave of early twentieth century immigrants and give them the same tools that native citizens had, it now seems to be holding them back from competing properly with other countries. The fact that any sort of restructuring, be it an increase in charter schools, mayoral control, vouchers or reduction of school size, is met with a reactionary accusation of being "market-based" or "conservative" is really bizarre.

There is a fantastic book that everyone should read - The Quest for Community by Robert Nisbet. (The book is available for sale through the Amazon widgets to the right.) In it, he asserts that the trade union has long been the vanguard for community and its erosion plays a strong role in the rise of a more alienated society. With unions looking more like the establishment that Trotskyists fought against, it's no wonder that the middle class is able to fall for the persecution politics of Beck and Limbaugh.

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Alyona Minkovski: Say Hello To "Gender-Neutral Models"

Andrej Pejic Andrej Pelic, an East European born fashion model, is apparently taking the fashion industry by storm and showing that it's not an all female fashion world anymore. You know that gender roles are breaking apart when a young man can cut an "hourglass figure" and compete with the world's top runway models. You go, boy.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Study: Confederate Flag Triggers An Anti-Black Mindset

Cross-posted at Little Green Footballs.

Shocking, I know. From Disinfo:

The Confederate flag, which continues to fly on buildings throughout the American South 150 years after the Civil War, is a potent symbol. But of what? Cultural heritage, answer many Southern whites. Lingering racism, insist many blacks.

Newly published research provides evidence supporting the latter view. It suggests exposure to the flag evokes anti-black sentiments among whites, regardless of their stated beliefs on racial issues.

Specifically, white students at a large state-supported Southern university who were exposed to images of the still-ubiquitous battle flag judged a fictional black character more harshly. They expressed less willingness to vote for presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008.

“Whether or not the Confederate flag includes other nonracist meanings, exposure to this flag evokes responses that are prejudicial,” a research team led by Florida State University psychologist Joyce Ehrlinger writes in the journal Political Psychology. Displays of the flag, the researchers assert, “may actually provoke discrimination — even among those who are low in prejudice.”

“White participants exposed to the Confederate flag reported a significantly lower likelihood of voting for Obama than those exposed to the neutral symbol,” the researchers report. (No similar impact was found for black participants.) Exposure to the flag had no effect on their self-reported measures of liberalism or conservatism; this suggests the flag’s psychic impact was on racial rather than ideological attitudes.

The second study featured 116 white students, half of whom were exposed to the Confederate flag via a sticker attached to a folder that sat upon their desks. They read a story about “a young man named Robert who engaged in ambiguously negative and aggressive behavior.”

Specifically, Robert — a young black male whose picture was provided — “refused to pay his rent until his landlord painted his apartment, and demanded his money back from a store clerk.” The results: Those exposed to the flag, which was sitting on the corner of their desks while they took the test, rated Robert more negatively than the others.

It would be interesting to see parallel studies - exposing the confederate flag to non-black minorites i.e. Asians, Hispanics, Middle Eastern or North Africans and another exposing African Americans to the flag.

This study solidifies what all of us know - the confederate flag has and still does symbolize prejudice and subjugation.

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The Poetic Brilliance of Nas

Originally posted at Parcbench. Cross-posted at Gonzo Times.

Between the erratic megalomania of Kanye West and the silliness of Soulja Boy and Lil Wayne, it’s easy for anyone to give up on hip-hop as a genre altogether, switching over toward musical genres that encourage creative maturity, diversity of sound and intelligence.

That’s what I’ve done. While I listened to nearly nothing except hip-hop throughout middle school, high school and the first few years of college, there are only a handful of rap groups on my iTunes now, outflanked by indie electro and rock bands like M83, White Lies, The Cure and Morrissey.

The rappers and rap groups that are still hanging around on my computer, however, will be there for a long, long time. The work of Talib Kweli, Jay-Z, Pharoahe Monch, Nas and similar acts is of enough poetic greatness that it’s almost tragic that they have to share the same genre as Soulja Boy, Ludacris or 50 Cent.

The most brilliant in this group of conscious rappers, in my view, is the prolific and unpredictable Nasir “Nas” Jones. Having released nine albums since his breakout 1994 album Illmatic, Nas is a master of words, able to weave linguistic puzzles that take years of listening to decipher.

On his most recent album, which was left “Untitled,” Nas recorded the sort of songs that I always hoped would be produced in hip-hop. On “Queens Get The Money,” Nas rapped over piano keys, illustrating a story of a child born out of wedlock (who we have to get is a 1973 Nasir Jones, “Pregnant teens give birth to intelligent gangsters, Their daddy’s faceless, Play this by your stomach, Let my words massage it and rub it, I’ll be his daddy if there’s nobody there to love it, Tell him his name’s Nasir, Tell him how he got here, Momma was just having fun with someone above her years.”

In an interview with the public radio show “The Sound of Young America,” the rapper Pharoahe Monch noted that hip-hop had been reduced to a brand to be marketed to a teenage demographic. That would explain the immaturity of most of what is seen as hip-hop on MTV, be it Lil Wayne putting his arm around a girl on a rollercoaster or Eminem dressing up like celebrities. It’s now made to sell horrible overpriced clothes for teenagers and not as a poetic outlet for inner city geniuses forgotten by the larger society.

It’s also unfortunate that a large portion of the population may have an image of Nas built from Bill O’Reilly’s ridiculous attacks on the man. Like many rappers, Nas has made songs that deal directly with inner city violence. (Hailing from the Queensbridge housing projects, this shouldn’t be a surprise.) The song that O’Reilly grabbed and played over and over was “Shoot ‘em up,” which had a chorus of “Shoot ‘em up shoot ‘em up, kill kill kill murder murder murder.” It’s worth noting that “Nastradamus” is the artist’s least popular album and was completely skipped over when he released his Greatest Hits album in 2007.

Bill O’Reilly, and Fox News at large, tried to make the case that Nas, because of songs that dealt with violence and, yes, at times glorified it, shouldn’t be allowed to perform at the 2008 remembrance concert at Virginia Tech. I don’t want to defend the most violent and offensive aspects of hip-hop, but it is worth noting that O’Reilly skipped over the far more notable song “I Gave You Power,” from Nas’ album “It Was Written,” a song in which Nas tells the narrative of a gun that has been handed from criminal to criminal, paving a road of bloodshed and tragedy with lyrics echoing the heartbreaking crime stories of Johnny Cash: “He pulled the trigger but I held on, it felt wrong, Knowing n**** is waiting in hell for him, He squeezed harder, I didn’t budge, sick of the blood, Sick of the thugs, sick of wrath of the next man’s grudge, What the other kid did was pull out, no doubt, A newer me in better shape, before he lit out, he lead the chase, My owner fell to the floor, his wig split so fast, I didn’t know he was hit, it’s over with, Heard mad n**** screamin, n**** runnin, cops is comin, Now I’m happy, until I felt somebody else grab me.”

“I Gave You Power” alone looms over the terrible hip-hop songs coming out today. Nas is a poetic genius, and a trip through his discography will acquaint listeners with what hip-hop can be.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Inside Story - Tunisia and power

Al Jazeera has made an absolutely great special on Tunisian democracy protests and Western policy towards the region. Juxtaposing the pro-democracy and reform rhetoric of Secretaries of State Rice and Clinton along with examining French, British and Chinese economic interests. I recommend watching the whole thing and keeping your eye on the situation.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kanye West and the Return of Black Power

Cross-posted at Dagblog.

If you've bought Kanye West's new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, you'll quickly realize that West has adopted a fairly healthy dose of race consciousness. The album cover is that of a black man being mounted by a white woman (an act of jungle fever that I assume was put for what he would assume to be shock value):

Kanye West's song "Gorgeous" puts the emphasis on Kanye's pigmentation, as he jeers that those "black-balled" him forgot about his "black balls," while elsewhere he says, "I treat the cash the way the government treats AIDS. I won't be satisfied til all my niggas get it, get it?" Now, as a hip hop connoisseur, this sentiment is always around but Pharoahe Monch said the same things in his 2007 album Desire, it didn't seem to be said with the same level of anger.

It's not upsetting that black power seems to be making an open return once again, it's just depressing. It shows that the animosity and anger that breeds it hasn't gotten away with the election of the first black president and that any one who had thought it had because of the alluring mirage of political correctness and coalition building was drastically mistaken.

Why shouldn't it return? While yours truly doesn't find that cover shocking or inappropriate, Glenn Beck's rallies have illustrated that there still are people that it would scare the bonkers out of. A friend of mine, who is African American, had become more conservative over the years and even started thinking of herself as a Republican. As of 2008, however, that dissipated and she has since converted to Islam, a much friendlier (at least in America) form of conservatism if you happen to be of color.

Meanwhile, classic black power anthems like Public Enemy's "By The Time I Get To Arizona" seem all the more appropriate as, from shootings to punitive immigration laws, Arizona fits Chuck D.'s description: ‎"And a smile on your face- 'cause the whole state's racist!"

Just imagine the racial intensity that could have destroyed this country if the attempted terrorist attack in Spokane had been successful:

The Associated Press has a report from an unnamed official in the investigation into the bomb discovered on the route of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane, who says it was the most potentially destructive device he had ever seen — a sophisticated IED with a remote detonator.

“They haven’t seen anything like this in this country,” the official said. “This was the worst device, and most intentional device, I’ve ever seen.”

There have also been reports that the bomb was packed with shrapnel to maximize injuries, and placed on a concrete bench to direct the full force of the blast toward the parade marchers. This was an extremely serious attempt at mass murder, and we’re very lucky the backpack was spotted by city employees before the parade began.

The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator(s).

This country would have erupted in racial violence, with many furious at the resurrection of old hatred by old methods. And you know what? Those furious would be completely justified in their fury that, after 150 years of abolition, much of white America is still seemingly uncomfortable with the decent, equal role of a group that was brought here by force. Persecution politics breeds other forms of persecution politics. Let's just hope things get better.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Cato Institute: "How the War on Drugs Is Destroying Black America"

I was actually legitimately surprised to see this article mailed to my mailbox today:

The main obstacle to getting black America past the illusion that racism is still a defining factor in America is the strained relationship between young black men and police forces. The massive number of black men in prison stands as an ongoing and graphically resonant rebuke to all calls to “get past racism,” exhibit initiative, or stress optimism. And the primary reason for this massive number of black men in jail is the War on Drugs. Therefore, if the War on Drugs were terminated, the main factor keeping race-based resent- ment a core element in the American social fabric would no longer exist. America would be a better place for all.

I have friends who I know would disagree with alot of the premises there. (Black conservatives are long derided, and even defined, by their dismissing the presence of racism.) Nevertheless, a headline like "How the War on Drugs Is Destroying Black America" is really pretty rough and hard hitting for the Cato Institute.

That Cato would put it is as their showcase article, written by New Republic contributor John McWhorter, illustrates that they may be trying to really break from the race-baiting, impenetrable border creating lot that passes itself off as "libertarian" at Tea Party rallies and Glenn Beck marches. (With a potential history creating disaster averted at an MLK rally in Spokane recently,the Cato Institute's decision to appeal to the Left seems even smarter.) Cato (and its similar satellites at Reason) all too often are riddled with articles like "Austerity Doesn't Mean No Growth" or "The Science of Libertarian Morality," which quite frankly have little appeal to the broad public that doesn't define their identity as "libertarian."

As for the substance of McWhorter's argument, it is succinctly put when he argues "the main factor keeping race-based resent- ment a core element in the American social fabric would no longer exist." This is usually illustrated in progressive terms by comparing the warehousing of black America (which usually starts in public schools that aren't too different from prisons) to a modern day form of Jim Crow, as is done in this lecture series, the advertisement for which I took a photograph of at the Central District YMCA in Seattle:


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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Alan Moore's Unearthing

I received many gifts for Christmas, and one of them was a friend of the family buying something of my choosing. What was it? Alan Moore's Unearthing of course!

This is not a normal item, by any means, and certainly not a normal purchase. There is a $9.99 version of Unearthing available on iTunes, covering the audio version of the album. If you don't want to spare the massive cost of the original product (which, I would like to add, is available through this website by clicking on the Amazon widget to your right), you have the option of getting that cheap version. You can probably also bootleg it as well.

Following is the box of the box set, included within three phonograph records, a poster, a photo, three CDs and a transcript:


As you open the layers of this chocolate orange, it becomes increasingly clear that Alan Moore knows that you know he is strange and that he knows it about himself as well. There's no explanation for the artwork and there doesn't really have to be:


Once you've opened up this big folder, Alan Moore himself reminds you of how much more intimate the record is than the compact disc:


Our lady in nude makes an epic return as well:


There are several excellent shots of professional models throughout the rest of the record. I'm perhaps just not informed or intelligent enough to understand the relevance of the art to the nostalgic history of British comic books that is told throughout the album, but it is gorgeous nonetheless.




Alan Moore's mug makes a triumphant return both in the record artwork as well as in an accompanying photograph, which comes in a nice sealed envelope that I rudely unsealed:




Then comes the transcript.


That little makeshift preview of the Unearthing about wraps itself up. Clips of the album are available all over the internet, including this one:

I do recommend the leveling of currency involved in buying Alan Moore's epic record. Sure, it's a large sum but it's an actual auditory and visual experience that can't be duplicated through MP3 or even CD. (Believe it or not, I've listened to the records several times more than I have the CDs included in the box set, despite converting them to my iTunes.)

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Where Art Thou Masculinity?

‎"We know where the men are separated from the boys, but does the world know?" That sentence alone, and the lack of anything like that or anyone capable of saying anything like that, is why modern society and masculinity especially is a shell of what it once was or even could be.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Miles Davis' Hagiography

Bob Levin left this comment for me on the Miles Davis "hagiography:"

I think Cheadle wants a hagiography. Miles is from my part of the country, and musically, you grow up with Miles' stories. You don't want a biopic. Just listen to the music. It's like eating meat. Eat the food, don't tour the manufacturing plant.

A little correction--Cheadle wants the role of Miles. And he could play it any way the story goes. Still, stay away from the manufacturing plant.

I generally agree, but such great stuff was done with Joaquin Phoenix and his work in Walk the Line that you can't help but wonder what could be done with Miles Davis. Musicians tend to be crazy and I'm not sure how much the general public would relate with him. Cheadle would be wise to go in a different direction and try to use modern computer illustration technology to provide a visual accompaniment to Birth of the Cool and Kind of Blue.

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Burl Ives - Cool Water

Johnny Cash's latest posthumous album has a great cover of this song. I know it's near blasphemy to say so but, after hearing the original, I think it might be superior:

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Up A Tree

I made this a couple years ago. Enjoy.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Make San Francisco Bike Safe!

I am very good friends with the man this happened to:

A serious hit-and-run accident on Christmas Day that left a 24 year-old man fighting for his life has neighbors again talking about safety at the corner of 25th and Bartlett where the incident occurred.

At 12:20 a.m. on December 25th, a car going east on 25th street, made a left turn onto Bartlett and hit the cyclist, who was going west on 25th Street, police said.

There is a stop sign on Bartlett but no stop sign on 25th Street. The cyclist had the right of way because the car was turning, police said.

Several neighbors wrote to Mission Loc@l saying that they have seen car crashes and several close calls in the area.

"I can't help but wonder if there was a stop sign, like there is on Bartlett at 24th, 23rd, 22nd, ...etc. Maybe this accident wouldn't have happened?" a neighbor said in an email. "I live at the corner and I've seen close calls with cars, bicycles, and most common is with walkers."

There are four way stops on Bartlett at the 22nd, 23rd and 24th Streets intersections.

Miriam Jacobson, another neighbor said she thinks that people use the smaller streets as shortcuts to avoid traffic.

Actually, to say that we're good friends would not be doing anybody justice. I have been friends with the individual since 1999, an eternity considering both of our lifetimes. He's seen me at my best and my worst and checked me at each of them. He designed the banner for this blog. I've tried to do the same checking for him but I'm not sure I've done the best job.

There were bicycling accidents, people getting hit by cars and similar events all during our growing up. People were killed jogging and bicycling in my neighborhood. He grew up in a much more car-heavy region so neither of us should be unaware, however, you never think this sort of thing is going to happen to you. San Francisco, it should be added, is even more dangerous in this regard than in the areas where I grew up.

I've seen him since the accident and the damage is visible. He's in a neckbrace and has stitches but he is walking, talking and laughing. He posted a picture of us together on Facebook and I commented by saying "I love you."

The lifestyle that is rife in San Francisco can be disorderly, strange and directionless. Combined with people driving in for work or nightclubbing from the East Bay, a huge homeless population, tourists, the massive urbanization within this tiny little area creates alot of friction. I'm glad to see that my best friend's injury hasn't become a simple bump in the road for either of us and that some sort of reform is being done in the "City of Love:"

During routine business at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board meeting Tuesday, Director Cheryl Brinkman recounted how enjoyable it was to ride her bicycle on the new physically separated bike lane on Division Street between 9th and 11th Streets. Brinkman said she hoped the SFMTA would consider how it could improve the connection for cyclists between the Wiggle and the Panhandle, including the possibility of adding physical separation to the bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets between Scott and Baker Streets.

"I think it's such an important connection and I've been riding that stretch more and more recently," Brinkman told Streetsblog. "I don't know if it's the quality of the traffic changing, or if I'm getting older, but riding with the moving traffic so close to my handlebars is very unpleasant. I choose not to ride that section anymore."

Brinkman added that she had heard from several people living in the Sunset and the Richmond districts that they would ride downtown to work if it weren't for those three blocks along Oak and Fell. "It seems such a shame to have that great corridor but to have those three blocks that way," said Brinkman. "It shouldn't be designed so that only the brave cyclists use it. No one should be dissuaded because they are frightened."

As it turns out, Mayor Gavin Newsom is open to a study to improve that section of the bicycle network. According to Johanna Partin, a policy adviser to the Mayor, he would be "supportive of anything that would increase bike safety in the city."

I moved to the Bay Area years ago and probably would have lived in San Francisco and gone to SF State if it had not been for the chaos of the city. California State University - East Bay, where I've finished my degree, was closer to the South Bay and San Jose area. San Francisco is an old, old city and needs to revise its infrastructure drastically if it's going to be a city of importance in the future.

When I posted the story on Twitter, professional voice actress Hélène Janover retweeted the post and was kind enough to tell me, "I live in the neighborhood for years and know the dangers of being on foot or on bicycle there." Urban areas are like that and measures are necessary to make sure tragedy doesn't occur.

I'm currently thinking through ideas about this. A makeshift public service announcement aimed at everyone - pedestrians, drivers, bicyclists, lawmakers - in urban areas about the dangers of bicycling and the need to lessen the dangerous presence of cars in heavily packed urban areas might be a good place to start. This could go in any direction and I'm just excited to be active and not angry. If you'd like to get involved, let me know!

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

We Are Glass

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Danged Immigants!

Cross-posted at Voice of the Migrant.

As the friend who sent this wrote, "You can't sneak into North Korea, so it's immoral to sneak into the US! Let's write a song about it!"

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How "The Dark Knight" Helps

For all sorts of reasons personal and other, I never feel comfortable commenting on the wake of tragedy. Perhaps that's a mistake, as without proper absorption these things can just be forgotten and not learned from.

The political right as a whole is not responsible for the death of a child and a judge in Arizona.Columnist Kathleen Parker or American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, who have both written splendid works on the role of growing boys in our society, have no bearing on this madness. In fact, their writing may provide wisdom as regards the frequent alienation of young men that all too often "snap."

However, there is an ultra-paranoid tinge of American politics, which can be seen everywhere from Russia Today's Max Keiser to the insane talk show host Alex Jones to the bipolar Glenn Beck (who deviates from warm and fuzzy Billy Graham acolyte one day to the creepy aforementioned Jones the next) that is appealing to the basest level of people's fear zone. I experienced this first hand when I was working in Washington D.C. Thinking it would be good for a laugh, I handed a friend (who was a Tea Party supporter) some literature by the infamous Lyndon Larouche, the cult leader who has been running for president as a Democrat for three decades. Instead of laughing at it, I was caught off guard as this friend got really into Lyndon Larouche's monetary conspiracies and thanked me for telling him about them.

There's nothing "conservative" about the like of Keiser, Jones or Larouche and it shows the inadequacy of our political vocabulary to label them in the "liberal-conservative" paradigm. Instead, they're more like the other side of liberty that was illustrated so beautifully in the film The Dark Knight.

On the one hand, we do have the Batman side of liberty - willing to use rough tactics on the bad guys but only in protection of the innocent and embracing vigilantism simply because the corruption of the system has caused them to lose faith. On the other hand is the Joker, which as Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred describes in the film, "just wants to see the world burn."

Instead of getting down into the flames of "right" and "left," it may perhaps be wise to look at the Batman differentiation. For whatever I disagree with him, Ron Paul does legitimately seem as if he believes his model of liberty will benefit society. His case against the war on drugs is the strongest I have ever heard. (It's worth noting to anyone who will now dismiss libertarian ideology that tragedies have been perpetuated by the state in pursuit of the war on drugs.) Alex Jones and Max Keiser, however, seem to have demons of a more personal nature that they use their wide ranging microphone to expel on the country like some sort of toxic fallout.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Superheroes Policing American Streets?

The world seems to be descended into something out of a work of fiction, so why not comic books? This story comes out of Milwaukee, by way of Comics Alliance:

Newly released documents from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin police department reveal that authorities have investigated reports of the existence and activities of a "gang" of rogue police officers known as the Punishers that may have been operating in the city since at least 2005. They are alleged to wear black gloves, caps and tattoos brandishing skull emblems, inspired by the Marvel Comics vigilante. Some of the policemen in question were involved in the beating of Frank Jude, Jr. in 2004 and were convicted of civil rights violations and fired. However, documents released as part of Jude's civil action against the city and his attackers reveal that the Punishers may have remained active through 2008 despite having been stripped of their police authority.

Jude was accused, apparently falsely, in 2004 of stealing a wallet and police badge at a party for off-duty police. The alleged Punisher cops -- who decorated their vehicles, lockers and bodies with the familiar skull emblem -- beat him savagely, kicking him in the head and groin, cutting off his clothes, jamming pens in his ears and threatening him with a knife and a gun. The biracial Jude said the Punishers used racial slurs during the beating, and he is seeking $30 million in damages.

In a less dark instance comes masked vigilantes in Seattle, my hometown:

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Your Republican Party

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dennis Prager: Fallen Hero

Cross-posted at Little Green Footballs.

I wrote up a comment on samuraishake's post and it turned into something long enough for an entire post, so here it is.

I listened to Dennis Prager's radio show regularly during the Bush years and stopped a little after Obama was elected. During the Bush years, he largely made alot of sense. He would talk about how the Left tended to use racial victimization, while illustrating that the Bush administration had brought in more minorities than any other administration. He had a really candid conversation with a caller of Indian descent about how, in her words, her culture found lighter skin to be preferable. Prager said gently that this was something she would have to overcome.

After Obama was elected, Prager descended into the mud. His columns are pure reaction and he is constantly (and apparently thoughtlessly) defending the Right against all criticism, buying into the nonsense that a liberal media is trying to paint conservatives as racists, when conservatives paint themselves that way and the media just highlights it.

I interned for a prominent conservative organization (which will not be named) and was disturbed by some racial comments co-workers made. It caught me off guard because I'd actually believed alot of the things I heard on Prager's show. I actually wrote in a letter to his program asking him if he thought there was a racism problem on the Right and what I should think of such comments. I got no response, not even a form letter.

I feel sorry for him honestly. He co-authored an entire book called Why The Jews that is about the historical persecution of the Jewish people. He's had wonderful, candid discussions about the role of men and woman towards one another. If he keeps going the way he's going, however, he's going to find himself surrounded by anti-Semites because he refused to see what's obvious.

Prager is a good example of what happens when a commentator ties himself to one side of the political spectrum permanently.

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Don Cheadle Lobbying For Miles Davis Biopic!

Cross-posted at Little Green Footballs.

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Don Cheadle is hoping Hollywood jumps aboard the Miles Davis train.

The "Iron Man 2" actor helped shape the screenplay for a Davis biopic in which he would star as the legendary jazz trumpeter and musical innovator. Herbie Hancock has reportedly been tapped to score the film.

"We just turned in the script and we're going to find some money to make this thing," Cheadle told The Hollywood Reporter at a party to celebrate the 40th anniversary of "Bitches Brew," Davis' game-changing improvisational double album.

There's one problem I have with a Miles Davis biopic and why it might work as an arthouse/independent film but not as a mainstream hit like Walk the Line or Ray. Miles Davis was a trumpet player and instrumentalist, not a vocalist. A sing-a-long musical element has been in most all successful biopics of musicians and I'm not sure how even a good director could get the average moviegoer to connect with Bitches' Brew. The director would have to highlight vocal-tinged songs like Blue Xmas with Gil Evans and make singers like Evans play a role in the film.

Also, for some reason a Miles Davis film appears in my twisted mind as a black and white, noir-ish film, centering around his 1950s-60s work. A little use of CGI to create a mystical element when he plays his trumpet (think Sin City) would be good too.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

School Shootings: The Blood Is On Your Hands, America

Cross-posted at Gonzo Times.

One of the gifts of Asperger's syndrome is that I'm not beholden to social regulations. I break them regularly and without any effort. When it comes to America's growing past time of school shootings, this gift may come in use.

OMAHA, Neb. (CBS/AP) Robert Butler Jr., the Millard South High School senior who shot two administrators, killing one, before killing himself posted a disturbing status update on Facebook before the shooting.

The status update reads:

"Everybody that used to know me, I'm sorry but Omaha changed me and f**ked me up. And the school I attend is even worse," the message read. "You're gonna here about the evil s**t I did but that f**king school drove me to this. I want you guys to remember me for who I was before this. I greatly affected the lives of the families ruined but I'm sorry. Goodbye."

Butler was new to the school. "He started going to school here in November," Omaha Police Chief Alex Hayes said. "He was a transfer student from Lincoln." He was the son of an Omaha police officer.

When I was a little kid, I was forced to transfer from View Ridge Elementary in Seattle to Meany Middle School, then a school located in the heart of Seattle and home to the historically second largest group of Black Panthers in the country. The bullying was so intense that I simply stopped going to school. I started going back, to a different school, the next year but in retrospect I should have just stayed at home. I would have been much happier then being placed in another taxpayer funded hellhole where children are regularly abused and then treated like psychopaths when they lash back.

If you wonder why so many children who have been bullied end up going loco, don't blame guns. Those are just tools. They could be using knives, hammers, fists, chairs or bricks and the anger would be the same. Blame yourself for not listening. Blame yourself for only thinking about bullying now, after a wave of gay suicides, when the Columbine School Massacre happened twelve years ago.

How many more shootings in how many more American towns and cities do you need until people start to think, "Wow, maybe there is something about our schools that makes people lose their minds."

Why do you think the rapper Eminem is so popular? Check out his latest video, "No Love." In it, a child lashes out at his tormentors just as many others have, only using his fists and feet instead of guns:

Believe me, Marshall Mathers is speaking for alot of people in that video, yours truly including. My upcoming autism book will detail in full the bullying I experienced. I'm not against collectively funded education (like taxpayer funded online courses for homeschoolers) but, if I ever have children, it will take quite alot for me to send my children to a brick and mortar school, public or private.

I totally feel you. I was TORMENTED throughout my school years, and Iused to BEG my parents to send me to an alternative to regular school. All to no avail.

I will not send my children to school. No way in hell. First of all, students and teachers alike are often abusive. I would not want my child to be bullied, NOR would I want them to become a bully.

Not to mention that lack of truth in the school system's program of education. It is pure brainwashing designed to diminish the contribution of anyone but out white, male, so called founding fathers. No thanks.

No toxic environment for MY kids.

... I cannot help but wonder if this young man's race had something to do with his negative experience at that school, which was overwhelmingly white.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Defending the Huckleberry Revisionism

Cross posted at Dagblog and Firedoglake.

Note to readers - Writing isn't cheap. As much as I enjoy it, I need your support for the means to continue blogging and for the means to publishing my book on autism, which is close to completion. You can help out by doing your shopping through the advertisement on the side of my blog. Several books come recommended for you, including the biography of Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears album, A Heartbeat and a Guitar, which was dedicated to America's Native American population.

Over the night, a great deal of controversy exploded over the revising by New South Books of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The frequent use of the epithet "nigger," which appears 219 times, is edited out and replaced with "slave. "independent Some of the most belligerent animosity came from Michael Moynihan, the gifted writer and editor at Reason Magazine:

Don't read Evelyn Waugh's Scoop or Black Mischief (colonialist and racist); toss the reactionary and sexist Kingsley Amis on to the fire (probably shouldn't read Girl-20; definitely shouldn't read Stanley and the Women); and simply pulp the entire back catalog of George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman series, which manages to offend every minority group, every country, every-not-an-Englishman on virtually every page.

There is serious outrage on the part of Moynihan, not a characteristic of most of his work. It's a bit reactionary but understandable. A Southern friend of mine, Will Pierce, who appears sometimes on podcasts for Gonzo Times, was equally outraged by this. It all made me think that Twain has a very emotional attachment for many people, especially in the south but certainly not regulated to that region. I'm of Southern and Middle American descent and when I ran it by my mom, a person who would toss someone out the window if they omitted the word "nigger," she said that it "takes away" from the relevance and impact of the word.

My own viewpoint on this is interesting. I grew up on hip-hop, and just rappers that should appeal to me like Eminem or the Beastie Boys. Over the years, I swallowed up Wu-Tang Clan (and all of their solo stuff), Jay-Z, Nas, 50 Cent and Kool Keith.

As I've become an adult, however, "nigger" and the more friendly "nigga" have disgusted me more and more. I still listen to some hip-hop but my library tends towards white, Filipino, and rappers of not African American backgrounds simply because, admittedly, once you've stepped inside the ghettoes of Washington D.C. or met older black men whose lives were malted with racial derision, you can't stand to hear the word anymore unless you lack some sort of compassion or have simply become numb. I no longer really think that black comedians and rappers are empowering themselves by redefining the word but just transforming into a new sort of oppressive usage.

That's not to say the original text should be banned from us. New South Books is publishing their book independently for educational use. This isn't an order from Obama's Department of Education. I have copies of the N-word heavy book on my shelf still and am pretty sure Homeland Security will not take them away.

Likewise, comic book adaptations like Classics Illustrated or the PBS series Wishbone, which featured a dog in roles such as Don Quixote and Rip Van Winkel, have veered away from strict adherence to the text in presenting them to new audiences.

Here is New South's explanation of their book in full:

A new edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, forthcoming from NewSouth Books in mid-February, does more than unite the companion boy books in one volume, as the author had intended. It does more even than restore a passage from the Huckleberry Finnmanuscript that first appeared in Twain’s Life on the Mississippi and was subsequently cut from the work upon publication.

In a bold move compassionately advocated by Twain scholar Dr. Alan Gribben and embraced by NewSouth, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn also replaces two hurtful epithets that appear hundreds of times in the texts with less offensive words, this intended to counter the “preemptive censorship” that Dr. Gribben observes has caused these important works of literature to fall off curriculum lists nationwide.

In presenting his rationale for publication, eloquently developed in the book’s introduction, Dr. Gribben discusses the context of the racial slurs Twain used in these books. He also remarks on the irony of the fact that use of such language has caused Twain’s books to join the ranks of outdated literary classics Twain once humorously defined as works “which people praise and don’t read.”

At NewSouth, we saw the value in an edition that would help the works find new readers. If the publication sparks good debate about how language impacts learning or about the nature of censorship or the way in which racial slurs exercise their baneful influence, then our mission in publishing this new edition of Twain’s works will be more emphatically fulfilled.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Voice Of The Native

After thinking it over, this blog is now going to be used as a bridge between work I do elsewhere, in order to bring it all together with a hopeful community. I have joined Amazon Associates and would greatly appreciate if you used the links on this page to do your shopping. I've recommended several books that I think will make for great reading. To start off this new era at Deschamps, as it were, let's celebrate New Year's Day.

Cross posted at Voice of the Migrant , Dagblog and FireDogLake.

I just recently moved back to my native Seattle. Returning here always has strange effects and they almost always have to do with music. Whereas California is fixated on film and media as its mode of cultural expression, Seattle speaks in musical notes. Nirvana was from here, as was Jimi Hendrix, Courtney Love, Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, Blue Scholars, the list goes on...

It's not Northwest music that I'm finding myself listening to, however. Instead, Seattle provides a keen reminder of the significance of America's native population. Seattle itself is a butchering of the name of Chief Sealth by stupid white settlers who couldn't even manage to get that right. Even if it is physically distant from the nation's capital or the writing of the Constitution, American history is in your face with the names of as constant reminders - Snohomish, Yakima, Muckleshoot, Puyallup. Washington state is host to reservations just like much of the rest of the United States, a sad legacy that is mapped out on the Governors Office website.

That sad history is reflected in music by numerous artists, Elton John and Johnny Cash standing out prominently. John wrote the song "Indian Sunset," which tells the story of a young Iroquois man whose heart is broken by the slow motion destruction of his people:

Johnny Cash made an entire album dedicated to America's Native population called Bitter Tears. A book has recently been released on the making of the album, called A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears by writer Antonio D'Ambrosio (which is linked to at the side of this website. "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," the story of a native of the Pima Indian tribe and World War II veteran, who descended into alcoholism after participating in the famed photograph by Joe Rosenthal at Iwo Jima in Japan.

That song is incredible, but the whole album is also inspiring. "Apache Tears" is one of many songs that should be permanently in one's music library:

I once had an encounter in California in which someone, who for whatever reason had logged in his mind that I must be a racist due to factors of his own decision, tried to latch me on a racist by bringing up the sad history of Native Americans:

Him: "When I was in Seattle, I noticed no real hostility toward black people but people were sensitive about Indians."

Me: "Indians? Well alot of Indians tend to live in Bellevue, I guess..."

Him: "So then Indians are the nigg*rs of Seattle and live in Bellevue because you won't let them in Seattle?"

Me: "Bellevue is actually a really well to do, affluent place. It's near where Microsoft and Bill Gates are located. Are you talking about Native Americans?"

Him: "Yes, I guess I should have said Native Americans."

That discussion, if one is liberal enough to call it that, was sad as it reflected how racially sick alot of people in this country are but made me feel proud that I was not even able to be baited on the subject because no such prejudice was there. Political correctness can go pretty off the deep end when taken too seriously but it's seem common decency to use the term "Native American" instead of the ignorance-oozing epithet "Indian."

In Seattle, much had often been said in disrespect about Yakima, where 33.7% of the population is Hispanic and 2% Native American, but on my few visits there I was left with the same strong impression that I had toward the Hispanic district of San Francisco. Any objective observer of America's Hispanic populations has to be left with an impression of a group that has taken society's lemon seeds and made it into lemon meringue pie, only to sell it back to the seed sellers. This lifelong impression, along with much of the research I did on Latin American politics while working in Washington D.C., is a significant reason why I started Voice of the Migrant, with the help of Nate Parham and Punk Johnny Cash.

Native Americans are largely undiscussed in the American media, as if their existence were a historical aberration. Foreign media, like Russia Today, do bring up their role in the American story in an effort to show the country's imperfections, while the like of Rush Limbaugh use their economic marginalization as red meat to his prejudiced listeners.

Americans can never have a real, holistic awareness of who they are as a people unless they consider the experience of Native Americans. Whether it's through a book like A Heartbeat and a Guitar, a graphic novel like Apache Skies, Dan Carlin's superb "Apache Tears" podcast or the video I've posted on the experience of Alaska's native population and Russian explorers, an easy and healthy resolution this year would be to become familiar with the people who were here first.

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