Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The World Keeps Spinning

There are many reasons why I don't post much anymore. One the main reasons is that regardless of the situation that arises, it seems I've already dealt with it in the past. Here's a couple of lines from a post I wrote back in August of 2008. I think it makes perfect sense in the light of the court decision over the weekend. 

There are those that will accuse me of being a whiner or playing the victim card or the race card (whatever the f&^K that means), but until you've had to walk a mile in the shoes of someone else, you shouldn't judge them. The question I would ask is how many indignities does someone have to suffer before they have a legitimate right to complain? How many times does a society have to show that it considers you a less valued member before you can cry foul? How many times do have to be made to feel almost sub human before you say enough? How many times do you have to passed by for less qualified people who just happen to be white before you have the right to make some noise? How many times have I have heard people say that the racial problem would go away if people would just stop bringing it up. That always amuses me because it reminds of the attitude of many Southerners during the civil rights era. There are many quotes from people saying that there was no racial problem in the South. It was those agitators from up North that were stirring up the blacks. It's amazingly easy not to question a system that works in your favor. I have lived in NYC for 30 years and you would be amazed at the number of times that a minority has been "accidentally" shot or otherwise abused by the police. The amazing thing is that during all of the time that I've been here, there has never been an "accidental" shooting or incident of brutal violence by NY's finest against anyone who wasn't "of color". I find that an amazing coincidence. And I might have chalked it up to coincidence if I hadn't been subjected to sub-human treatment at the hands of the NYCPD myself.

There is some notion in the press that this is some kind of transformative event, but even if the improbable happens and Obama were to win, the facts on the ground would remain the same. The richest of us will continue to maintain and grow those fortunes on the backs of the poorest of us. Racists and bigots would continue to be racists and bigots. Who you know is still going to be more important that what you know and the police will continue to "accidentally" shoot and abuse minorities.This piece is probably a little more rambling than I would have liked it to be, but I'm just God damned tired of people trying to tell me what me what my reality is. or why I shouldn't feel the way I do about the police. Or why we don't live in country where the color of your skin can give you an advantage. I don't live in that fantasy land. The real truth is that America can be deadly if you happen to be in the wrong place and are the wrong color. Do you think that we would have heard of either John McCain or George W. Bush if they were born into the same circumstances as Obama? Comedian Chris Rock tells a joke about the fact that there wasn't one white person in his audience who trade places with him in spite of the fact that he was rich. That may have been intended as a joke, but it is also the reality of America.
It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. Until next time. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

One More Time

Reposting something i wrote back in November of 2008. Seemed appropriate for today.

The most disappointing moment of the 2008 campaign for me came when Joe Biden said that he and Barack Obama did not support the right of homosexuals to marry (it was even more disappointing than Obama's vote on the FISA bill). It can only be seen as ironic that in an election when the American people decided to elect an African-American to the highest office in the land, the voters in four states decided to deny homosexuals the right to get married. In California, even more ironically, African-Americans voted overwhelmingly for the ban. I am positive that neither Barack Obama nor Joe Biden are opposed to homosexual marriage, but in order not to ruffle the feathers of the country, they took the more popular public stance.

This battle is very reminiscent of the bans against interracial marriage which were eventually struck down by the Supreme Court. In the case of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court stated:"Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State." (Just as a side note, Alabama had retained their law against interracial marriage on the books until 2000)

According to the Supreme Court, marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man". However the bans against homosexuals marrying have been upheld in various court challenges. The highest court in New York basically said that the homosexuals cannot be given the same protection under the law because discrimination against them hasn't been recognized until the recent past.The New York Court of Appeals held in 2006:"[T]he historical background of Loving is different from the history underlying this case. Racism has been recognized for centuries...This country fought a civil war to eliminate racism's worst manifestation, slavery, and passed three constitutional amendments to eliminate that curse and its vestiges. Loving was part of the civil rights revolution of the 1950s and 1960s... It is true that there has been serious injustice in the treatment of homosexuals also, a wrong that has been widely recognized only in the relatively recent past, and one our Legislature tried to address when it enacted the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act four years ago (L 2002, ch 2). But the traditional definition of marriage is not merely a by-product of historical injustice. Its history is of a different kind. The idea that same-sex marriage is even possible is a relatively new one. Until a few decades ago, it was an accepted truth for almost everyone who ever lived, in any society in which marriage existed, that there could be marriages only between participants of different sex. A court should not lightly conclude that everyone who held this belief was irrational, ignorant or bigoted. We do not so conclude.

"I do believe that in time this will become a non-issue. It's just a shame that the American people always seem to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into giving oppressed minorities equal protection under the law. The Supreme Court has usually had to take the first step and I do have hopes that over the next 8 years, the Court will address this issue and lay it to rest once and for all.

Here is what Barack Obama said in his now famous Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic convention:"For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper -- that makes this country work."

And I would add that if there is one person or group who are having their "fundamental" rights denied, then we are all oppressed, even if my rights are not being infringed upon. Denying the fundamental rights of citizens to marry is separate from the fight for Civil Rights of African-Americans (and clearly less violent), but the right to vote, the right to live where you want and the right to marry who you want are unalienable rights that are essential to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, that according to the Declaration of Independence, we were all endowed with by the Creator. Eventually we, as a country, realized that denying basic rights to an entire group of citizens based on something as arbitrary as skin color was wrong. I hope for the day when we as a country will realize that denying the fundamental rights of any minority group makes us smaller and uglier in the eyes of history. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was implemented to protect the rights of former slaves, but it should be applicable to every citizen regardless of their race, color, creed or sexual preference.

The 14th Amendment, Section 1:"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Lost Cause

Posted this on 6/19/08. I have no idea why anyone would now be shocked and outraged at the idea that the NSA is collecting data on all of us. We lost this fight years ago.

The Democratic led Congress has decided to bring a so called "compromise" bill on the FISA law. I have previously called the Democrats to task for their capitulation to the Bush administration's continuing attack on the Constitution, but by proposing this compromise (which is not really a compromise since it gives the administration everything they want), they have sent a clear signal that they have officially crossed over to the dark side.

The fourth amendment of the Constitution guarantees that American citizens are protected against illegal search and seizure. If the government wants to spy on a citizen, it is supposed to prove probable cause and get a warrant. In a nutshell, FISA(Foreign Intelligence Security Act) set up a separate court to review evidence and grant warrants for electronic surveillance. FISA expired in February with much gnashing of teeth from the administration, along with claims that if the act lapsed, we would be in imminent danger of terrorist attack. There are a couple of problems with that claim. First, the US Government doesn't need a warrant to bug any calls that originate outside of the United States. And secondly the Bush administration has been engaged in a program of warrantless surveillance headed by the NSA for years ( the interesting fact about that is the FISA court basically rubber stamped every request for surveillance. The NSA initiative was put in place to get around any oversight regardless of how perfunctory it may have been). An amendment to FISA made those warrentless searches "legal" in August of 2007, but as I said earlier, FISA expired in February of this year.

This "compromise" bill that the Congress is going to introduce not only revives FISA as amended, but would essentially protect the telecoms from prosecution for their role in any illegal wire tapping that took place under the NSA initiative before the passage of the amendment in August of last year. The Bush administration has been pushing hard for this immunity because along with shielding the telecoms from prosecution, they believe that it would also shield them from any prosecution over illegal wiretaps. So what Congress would be doing, in fact, is forgiving the Bush administration and any who aided them, for trampling all over the 4th amendment.

The Democrats in the House and Senate are not only willing to give the Bush administration practically unlimited power to eavesdrop on whoever the hell they please, but they are also willing to turn a blind eye to any wrong doing that may have occurred in the past. This is what Nancy Pelosi meant when she said that "impeachment is off the table". We have documented some of the failings of the Bush administration in this blog, but clearly we have let the now Democratic party controlled Congress off far too easily. I am literally amazed every day by the balls of this administration and it's utter lack of respect for the rule of law, but now the Congress is about to become more than just a silent partner in this disaster. Up until now, the Congress has just held it's nose at the multitude of Constitutional trangressions of this administration, but if they take this step, they will become a willing participant in the soiling of the Constitution.

I can only imagine what the founding fathers would think of the current state of politics. While they were no strangers to personal attacks and backstabing in politics, they would no doubt be appalled by the absolute disregard for the system of checks and balances that they worked so hard to perfect. The problem that we face is that most people in this country aren't aware that the rights which are guaranteed in the Constitution have been severely restricted. As with the Iraq War, most people are willing to view it as "someone else's problem". The "Low information voter" (a term which provided me and Sandy with a lot of laughs last night), has no idea what this administration has taken away from them. Hell, they don't have any idea what's even in the Bill of Rights.

Currently Congress is not acting in the best interest of the people (even low information voters deserve protection). They are acting on behalf of other politicians. I know that there won't be a great national outrage at what is about to happen, but I for one can't remain silent. I never thought that I would ever be a witness to the wholesale disregard and destruction of the most sacred document that this country has ever produced. Democrat and Republican politicians have very little that they can agree on, but in their mutual disregard of the Bill of Rights they seem to have found fertile ground for a new alliance.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

C -O - O - L, What's that spell?

I don't really have anything new to say about our current political situation so I've decided to write about something really important. The coolest song ever. Now a cool song doesn't have to be a great song, but quality definitely helps. You know it's like how Steve McQueen is the coolest guy ever on film, but he couldn't hold a candle to Cary Grant in the looks department. So anyway, after years of research, I've decided that it comes down to two songs. Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed and Shaft by Issac Hayes. It's a real nail bitter between these two. They both have the attitude, the subject matter and the delivery of perfect coolness. The pedal work on the guitars on Shaft is spectacular, the sax solo at the end of Wild Side is sublime. 
I could go into a long analysis of each song, but suffice it to say that they work on every level of cool. Cool can't be too earnest (sorry Bono). Cool can't be too socially conscious (sorry everyone who ever wrote a song about suffering). Cool can't take itself too seriously (almost every musician). Anyway, in a photo finish, I think the winner is Wild Side by Lou Reed (although that cat Shaft is a bad mutha...). The crowd goes wild and the colored girls say,  do, do do, do do!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Timing is Everything

This week there was outrage about the Monsanto amendment to the funding bill. Apparently the amendment was added to the spending bill anonymously and approved by Congress and signed into law by the President without so much as a committee vote. I actually find the outrage to be outrageous. Since when do our elected officials do anything that isn't motivated by money or power? I'm sure that there was enough money passed around by Monsanto to feed a small country many times over. Our politicians are motivated by greed and by the need to be reelected. There has been a flood of politicians who have all of a sudden found their voice when it comes to gay marriage. Why? Because the polls now show that a majority of Americans now approve it. The President came out in favor of gay marriage after the polls tipped the 50% barrier. Now that the numbers are moving toward 60% , there's a tidal wave of politicians climbing over each other to join the growing chorus. Where were these politicians when state after state voted against gay marriage? Where were they when the polls showed the majority was against gay marriage? I'll tell you where they were; They were sitting on their hands because they didn't want to take a position that might have cost them votes. 

Politicians only respond to a couple of things and doing what is right isn't one of them. It's terrible that a bill that allows genetically altered food to remain on the shelves regardless of pending legal action, was passed by the Congress and then approved by the President. And it's nice that Senators are finally coming on board to support gay rights. In the end it doesn't matter at all. Courage and common sense are severely lacking in Washington. Every decision is made with an eye toward the next election and in gathering the required cash to win that election. So thanks Mr. President, thank you Hillary Clinton and thanks to all the senators who were so "brave" in expressing their support for gay marriage. You guys really went out on a limb. Courage abounds! And as far as the Monsanto amendment goes, the old adage still applies, money talks and bullshit walks.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dream A Little Dream

I'm reposting this for the third time. As the President takes his last oath of office, I still don't think I've come up with anything better to say.

"...in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope". Those are the words that Barack Obama used in his now famous speech after the New Hampshire primary and it illustrates perfectly his connection with the man whose birthday we celebrate as a nation today. Hope is the tie that binds Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama. The hope and the belief that America can do and must do better. Obama's speech not only made the point that the destinies of all Americans are intertwined, but that people must have hope in order to make a better world. MLK's most famous speech was all about hope. It spoke of a nation that didn't exist. It spoke of the dreams of an America where someone like Barack Obama can reach the highest position in the land. They share the dream of a better America. Whether it is an America where people are judged by the "content of their character", or an America where we strive to build "a more perfect union", their goals were the same.

There has been a lot of talk about whether Obama's election is the culmination of MLK's dream. It is clearly a part of what he hoped for, but it is not the end of what he hoped for. Before his death, he was working on organizing another march on Washington. This one was going to be a poverty march. He looked across the country and realized that the underclass had no one to speak for them. He realized that the poor had no voice and no power to change their situation. His dream had expanded to include the poor of all colors. Whites in Appalachia, Hispanics in California, Native Americans in Oklahoma, they all became part of the dream. Injustice will always exist, that is why the dream will never be fulfilled. It is a moving target, as is Barack Obama's dream to build a more perfect union. Obama's words imply that the union can never be perfected, but we must always strive to make it better.

MLK led the greatest moral campaign that this country has ever known. He led a generation of people who were willing to put their lives on the line to make this country a better place. Tom Brokaw wrote a book about the WWII generation entitled "The Greatest Generation", however I think that designation should go to those who worked and fought and died so that the dream of America could be shared by all Americans. It is somewhat easier to make those sacrifices when the entire country agrees with you, but when you are faced with the opposition of the majority of the citizens of this country, it takes an extraordinary type of intestinal fortitude to persevere. Barack Obama is not the successor to MLK. As President, his moral compass will not be as consistent as MLK's was. His goals will not be as single minded as MLK's were. They can't be. The job of President is much more complicated and Obama is not just the representative of some of us, he is the representative of all of us. Those who have expectations that Obama will lead a moral revolution on the scale of MLK will be disappointed.

MLK was the leader of a movement that changed this nation forever. Barack Obama is about to become the leader of the country and his election has changed this nation forever. They will always be inexorably linked. The fact that Obama will be inaugurated on the day after this nation celebrates the birthday of MLK would lead many to invoke the term, poetic justice. MLK's dream is alive in Barack Obama as it is in every person who strives to make this world a better place. The Dream and the Perfect Union remain out of reach, but it is in the striving for those things that we tap into the better angels of our nature. It is our willingness to try, regardless of the obstacles in our way, that keeps the Dream alive. MLK would most likely be very proud of Barack Obama, not only because of what he represents, but because Obama is still challenging the nation to be better. Indeed that is ultimately what links them. We can be better, we just need someone to show us the way.