Sunday, November 30, 2008
“Brotherhood” seems to suffer under the misfortune of timing. Had it arrived 10 or 15 years earlier, when long-form narrative was not the dominant form on cable television, it would have been felt, arguably, more as an explosion than a trickle. The series has at least so far failed to find a large audience, indicating perhaps how much we have come to take good serial drama for granted.
It is a sign of how quietly the show has been received that it produced a landmark moment in modern television last season that went almost entirely unnoticed. Believing that a career criminal suffering from a mild form of brain damage would not exactly make for an ideal father, Michael’s girlfriend, Kath (Tina Benko), aborted the baby they were going to have, without agonizing later that she had made the gravest mistake of her life.
This amounted to one of the most honest depictions of unplanned pregnancy in any medium in quite some time, and seemed to stand out especially on television, where women are typically saved from unwanted children by the convenient and politically neutral plot device of the miscarriage. (Or alternatively, they decide, like Miranda on “Sex and the City,” simply to have them.) Among its many virtues, “Brotherhood” isn’t in the business of life lessons.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
"Host" , Oil and Acrylic on Canvas 36" x 40"
"VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL"
INSTANT GRATIFICATION: I'm interested in superficial and product-oriented interference in the natural phases of life, as it pertains to childhood encounters with religion and sex. As a girl raised Catholic, I became accustomed to attractive versions of unattractive ideas in vessels that appealed to me at a young age. Storytelling formulas and strategies are used by parents to make certain complexities, such as Catholicism and sex, appear more final and less questionable. At 23, I'm beginning to dissect those issues that were once deemed absolute. My paintings are adult responses to the formulas I was fed as a child; they're about realizing that the notion of the unobtainable being attainable is indeed false. My body of work challenges the Catholic church's myth of accessibility by acknowledging the impossibility of mimicking an ideal Catholic figure, and by exploring a more personal and organic mode of power and sensuality: sex and the female form.
Celeste Rapone was raised in Wayne, NJ and attended the Rhode Island School of Design, where she received her B.F.A. degree in 2007. Ms. Rapone is the winner of the 2008 Phoenix Gallery Fellowship Program at the Phoenix Gallery.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Here is a small interview with her on C-SPAN:
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Last week as Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson as well as some minions came to Washington to explain just how the bail-out was going we learned interesting tidbits that are not being reported in the press. Surprise, surprise. First, "in a moment of high panic in September, the US treasury pushed through a radical change in how bank mergers are taxed - a change long sought by the industry. Despite the fact that this move will deprive the government of as much as $140bn in tax revenue, legislators found out only after the fact. According to the Washington Post, more than a dozen tax attorneys agree that "[the] treasury had no authority to issue the [tax change] notice." It is not just the brilliant Klein who reported this, however the bastion of free market capitalism the Washington Post reported on it as well.
So, while we bail-out these huge companies giving them 700 billion in revenue they change a law unchallenged and behind the American people's back so they can avoid taxes?! What is the Democratic response? Nothing.
Secondly, of equally dubious legality are the equity deals the treasury has negotiated with many of the banks. According to Congressman Barney Frank, one of the architects of the legislation that enables the deals: "Any use of these funds for any purpose other than lending - for bonuses, for severance pay, for dividends, for acquisitions of other institutions ... is a violation of the act." Yet this is exactly how the funds are being used.
Lastly, in addition to the $700 billion banks have been given as a gift for hijacking the American people, the Federal Reserve has also loaned out $2 trillion dollars in emergency loans. Where is this money you ask? Incredibly, the Fed will not reveal which corporations have received these loans or what it has accepted as collateral. Bloomberg news service believes this secrecy violates the law and has filed a federal suit demanding full disclosure.
The democrats are squarely absent from the conversation. Barack Obama constantly lets us know, "there is only one President at a time." Of course this is true, but these new policies not allowed by anyone, but the Bush administration has the ability to as Klein puts it, "hobble Obama's ability to make good on his promise of change." For instance, Obama's renewable energy plan is almost the exact amount of money being stolen from the American people because of the unilateral rule change by the Treasury Department.
Obama wants to be a bi-partisan President, which sounds nice, but these people play hard ball and care not for regular Americans. They are not playing in the agreed upon rules and Obama and the Democrats have a responsibility to highlight this. The reason Klein gives for their silence is this: I suspect the real reason the Democrats are failing to act has less to do with presidential protocol than with fear: fear that the stock market, which has the temperament of an over-indulged two-year-old, will throw one of its world-shaking tantrums.
She has more faith in the democrats than me. What I have seen over my adult life gives me no faith in the new Congress or in fact, a man I worked my heart out for, Barack Obama. I am glad we no longer have to worry about our place in the world because indeed it will be restored. But, I doubt heavily that anything significant will change in the way we do business with the rich and powerful and the not so rich and powerful. The rules are set up so that regular people will fail. Is that going to change?
I am not interested in rhetoric anymore. We need a President that will listen to every day Americans and we need to hear him now. I want to know what is going to change. Will we have Regulations that actually stop lenders and banks from merging into gargantuan companies that cannot fail (a move by the way that was made under the Clinton administration)? Citigroup is ready to fail and is going to be bailed out momentarily. Are we going to break up this huge conglomerate corporations? Are we going to stop lengers from predatory lending? Subprime mortgages? What, what is going to change?
Thursday, November 20, 2008
There is no real talk about what every day Americans are going through though. It is bail-out banks, bail-out the auto industry, next comes the air line industry. But, where does it end and when does the focus become people, not corporations. Is that not where this conversation should begin? How are people doing? Well, a new report on food and nutrition tells you: one-in-eight Americans who struggled to feed themselves adequately in 2007 even before the economic downturn. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of those affected rose from 10.5% to 11.1%. That's 36.2 million people.
Other highlights: The families with the highest rates of food insecurity were headed by single mothers (30.2 percent), black households (22.2 percent), Hispanic households (20.1 percent), and households with incomes below the official poverty line (37.7 percent).
States with families reporting the highest prevalence of food insecurity during 2005-07 were Mississippi (17.4 percent), New Mexico (15 percent), Texas (14.8 percent) and Arkansas (14.4 percent).
The highest growth in food insecurity over the past nine years came in Alaska and Iowa, both of which saw a 3.7 percent increase in families who struggled to eat adequately or had substantial food disruptions.
"Nationwide, children suffering from a severe disruption in how much food was available to them rose 50 percent, from 430,000 in 2006 to 691,000 in 2007, the worst year since 1998. Not Congolese fleeing the chaos of civil war. Not Dickensian orphans. Americans in the 21st Century."
This begs the question, what the hell are we thinking? Do bail-outs really help Americans? Will this help us turn the corner or is an entirely new way of thinking needed?
Here in the state of New Jersey Legal Services for the poor's funding is down approximately 65%. Lay-offs indeed have already begun in south jersey and the mood at the organization is bleak. Governor Corzine promised an additional 9.5 million in funds to keep the organization afloat. Word, however is this funding is in doubt (maybe Corzine is too busy thinking of who he can bail-out at the Department of Treasury). What will happen to poor people in New Jersey if this organization is forced to gut itself and cut jobs in half, which some of the plans project? Now mind you Legal Services here is asking for 9 million. Compare that to 25 billion the auto industry is asking for? Do we not have our priorities straight? Might we do both? (Just to put these numbers in perspective. The difference between a million and a billion is very significant. It takes 11 days for 1 million seconds to tick. How about a billion? 30 + years!).
While the poor are forced into poverty and "it is a result of the times" Auto executives fly into Washington on private jets and ask for 25 billion. Banks are given 700 billion. What if we took just one of those billions and divied it up amongst the poor? Would that be such a bad idea?
"There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they're going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses," Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York, told the chief executive officers of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.
"It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious."
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
So, the Democrats kiss Lieberman's ass today so they can try and get to 60 votes in the Senate. Though it doesn't matter because the Democrats have no back bone and have not had one for a decade or more. Listen to this clip by Lieberman telling us the Democrats left him. So, he goes and supports McCain because the Democrats finally begin listening to the progressive wing of the party.
Is today then, a return to Clintonism? Centrism? Forgoing the people and sucking up to corporations and special interests? Is that what we can look forward to in the coming years with Obama? Lieberman here blames the dems for hyper partisanship. Are you kidding me? The democrats? Joe left the democratic party a long time ago and it is democratic activists who began pushing the democrats to act like democrats again instead of Republican-lite.
If this is what we have to look forward to, you can have it. The democratic party activists (progressives) are responsible for the 2006 landlside, Obama winning the democratic nomination (along with African-American democrats who have been equally ignored) and the 2008 landslide. If these democrats think they will go back to business as usual they have got another thing coming.
From think progress:
Senate Democrats are allowing Lieberman to keep control of the Armed Services subcommittee, even though some of his most misguided and incendiary attacks on Obama were on national security. Lieberman, for example, suggested that Obama hasn’t always “put the country first,” said that President Bush was right for comparing Obama to Nazi appeasers, and worried that Obama was “naive” and lacked the “right stuff to bomb Iran.”
Labor Secretary: David Bonior
Bonior was a senior adviser to the Edwards campaign and came out immediately for Barack after Edwards left the campaign trail. From 1976 to 2002 served as the progressive congressman from the Macomb and St. Clair County suburbs outside Detroit — the famous district of Reagan Democrats. During his tenure, Bonior championed unions, opposed trade agreements like NAFTA, and criticized both President Reagan’s Central American counter-insurgency policies and President Clinton’s civil liberties policies.
Transportation: Earl Blumenauer
Last summer, as Congress wrestled with energy legislation, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) offered a simple, $1 million proposal to encourage bike commuting. To his disbelief, the plan was ridiculed by a number of Republicans, including Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who called two-wheelers “a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.” In a prospective Obama administration, Blumenauer should get the last laugh.
An eco-friendly labor advocate from Portland, Blumenauer couldn’t be more representative of his liberal district, which he’s served since 1996. In the Oregon legislature and later on the Portland city council, Blumenauer helped direct Portland’s planning renaissance, championing bike lanes, light rail and streetcars. He brought his emphasis on smart growth to Washington, advocating for high-speed rail and launching the Congressional Bike Caucus. In fact, nobody in his congressional office applies for a parking permit.
Defense: Sarah Sewell
The editors admit this a long-shot candidate, but Sarah Sewall should be the next defense secretary. This would be the real glass ceiling this turn around, a woman at Defense.
During the Clinton administration, Sewall served as the first deputy assistant secretary of defense for peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance.
Currently the executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University and a lecturer in public policy, Sewall also directs the Center’s program on national security and human rights.
Sewall has worked at a variety of defense research organizations. In addition to writing the introduction to the University of Chicago edition of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (2007), she has written widely on U.S. foreign policy, multilateralism, peace operations and military intervention. She currently focuses on civilians in war, facilitating dialogue between the military and human rights communities on the use of force.
One of the biggest challenges facing our country today is recognizing — and adequately responding to — the broad spectrum of threats we face in our globalized world. That includes environmental changes and disease pandemics that are contributing to global conflicts. It also includes the weaponization of space; the proliferation of nuclear weapons; and the extravagance of bloated military budgets — while our schools crumble and nearly 46 million Americans go uninsured.
Commerce: Margot Dorfman
For decades, the Department of Commerce has represented the interests of the U.S. global business elite to the detriment of healthy and sustainable commerce.
Since the ’80s, the department has done little to abate the destruction of Main Street enterprise, the collapse of our manufacturing base, the looting of our public infrastructure, massive global outsourcing of jobs, and rampant tax shifting to overseas tax havens.
Prospective Obama administration should nominate Margot Dorfman for secretary of commerce. Dorfman would advocate for Main Street, not Wall Street, and for business owners and employees, not absentee shareholders. She would support high-road enterprise that encourages real investment and healthy growth, not speculation, outsourcing and exploitation.
As CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce Dorfman has supported sustainable business development, durable economic policies, community entrepreneurship, worker education, and small business development for women and people of color. Prior to that, Dorfman worked for General Mills and several small enterprises.
Secretary of State: Jim McDermott
Secretary of state has two major tasks: To define and represent U.S. interests in the world, and to bring the rest of the world’s interests to the United States. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) — a 10-term member of Congress and a Progressive Caucus stalwart — would do both.
McDermott has been a consistent voice for single-payer healthcare, for increased funding for the U.S. and global HIV/AIDS crisis, and for maintaining the estate tax. And he has stated unequivocally that Big Oil and the Iraq War are causing skyrocketing oil prices.
Like any U.S. politician, his record isn’t perfect, particularly on trade. But unlike most of his colleagues, McDermott is independent and willing to think and act outside the Washington box.
McDermott actively opposes U.S. threats of war against Iran, and he has challenged Israel directly, saying it’s “both appropriate and urgent for the U.S. to raise questions about [Israel’s] intentions” toward Iran.
Secretary McDermott would not only call for redeploying combat troops out of Iraq, he would also press for bringing home all U.S. troops and mercenaries. He would enforce ignored laws prohibiting U.S. bases there. And he would immediately renounce U.S. efforts to control Iraq’s oil. In fact, he read into the Congressional Record the full text of the 1930 Anglo-Iraqi treaty, which set the same terms for British control of oil that the Bush administration is trying to impose on Iraq today.
Secretary of State Jim McDermott would reclaim the primacy of diplomacy in U.S. foreign policy.
Attorney General: Charles Ogletree, jr. (this is my favorite, though I would settle for Russ Feingold) Ogletree was also Obama's mentor at Harvard, but I also fear a Lani Guenier quality to his beliefs and would the Senate confirm him. Of course there will be at least 58 votes for Dems.
For the post of attorney general in an Obama administration, Charles Ogletree Jr. would be a good choice.
Ogletree, a tireless advocate for social justice causes, is the founder and director of the Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, which focuses on issues relating to race and justice, sponsors research and provides policy analysis.
Ogletree is another one of Obama’s Harvard professors-turned-adviser. He counsels the candidate on constitutional and criminal justice issues. He would be the perfect antidote to a justice department poisoned by illegal, politicized hiring, a reprehensible tolerance for torture and a refusal to enforce civil rights legislation.
Before joining the Harvard faculty in 1985, Ogletree served as a public defender in the District of Columbia, a position that helped shape his focus on civil rights and criminal justice issues. He has since earned a reputation as a brilliant legal theorist.
In 1991, he was legal counsel to Anita Hill during the Senate confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas.
Ogletree has also been a prominent media presence, moderating several PBS forums and serving as a commentator on national news programs.
He is author of several books, including From Lynch Mobs To The Killing State: Race And The Death Penalty In America in 2006, and the 2004 book All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education.
Ogletree is co-chair of the Reparations Coordinating Committee, a group of attorneys pursuing a legal route to reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans.
Kathleen Sebelius: Health and Human Services
Three major obstacles face the next secretary. One, tens of millions of Americans lack health insurance. Two, any attempt to deal with this crisis will result in the private insurance industry — and its lobbyists — swooping in to turn policy changes into a windfall for itself. And three, for eight years, the department has been crippled by low morale and staff departures caused by Bush administration mismanagement.
The next secretary must have the ability to help undo this damage.
Sebelius has shown independence from the healthcare industry. While serving as Kansas insurance commissioner from 1995 to 2003, she rejected an attempt by Anthem insurance company to buy out Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas. As governor, she has challenged the pharmaceutical industry by advocating for the import of prescription drugs. She also set up a state agency to work on plans to obtain better prices for prescription drugs and other healthcare services.
Sebelius has a strong background in health policy, having served on President Clinton’s Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry.
Most importantly, her experience as a governor could provide her with the needed executive ability to fill this vital post.
Treasury: Elizabeth Warren (My second favorite pick. If anyone saw Maxed Out, the documentary Elizabeth Warren showed herself to be both brilliant and a tireless advocate for those left out of this economy).
If treasury secretaries have legacies, the two with the most memorable in the last 16 years are Clinton Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin and recent Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. At different points in their careers, both men championed extremist free-trade policies, had a hand in the deregulatory policies that led to corporate meltdowns; contributed to boom-bust cycles; and spent time heading investment banking behemoth Goldman Sachs. Perhaps the latest financial meltdown will break Goldman Sachs’ death grip — and maybe, just maybe, Elizabeth Warren will be the first woman to head this key department.
A renowned Harvard Law professor, Warren may seem an unconventional choice for a position typically held by a business titan. But a presidency whose economic prospects will pivot on cleaning up conservatives’ laissez-faire wreckage could use a tough-minded regulator at the helm of the government apparatus responsible for collecting taxes and policing Wall Street. Warren fits that description perfectly as one of the nation’s leading experts on the laws and regulations that the treasury department is supposed to enforce, but too often doesn’t.
Having made national headlines as a bestselling author and a leader in the fight against the lobbyist-written Bankruptcy Bill of 2005, Warren would set a new tone for a treasury department that has often been a bought-and-paid-for appendage of Corporate America.
In 2000 and 2002, the National Law Journal named him one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.”
Monday, November 17, 2008
We need to do much more. We need help for the poor in this country as well as the working class and of course the middle class. Not just the fucking rich wall streeters who have their hands in the till. We need a country that stimulates the economy through practical policies that help regular people as well as changing the way we have done business for the last thirty years - capitalism for the rich. I don't see Obama as an FDR type, one who will change America significantly for the better in a progressive way. I hope I am wrong.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
LGBT rights advocates, organized by Join the Impact, turned out in eight countries, 50 states, and 300 cities today in support of marriage equality, with thousands gathering across California to specifically protest the recent passage of Prop. 8. Signs read “Are you better off now that I can’t marry?” and “The same Bible was used to justify slavery,” referencing the ban’s heavy support from the Mormon church. Some pictures from today’s events:I didn't make the protests and I am curious if anyone did, would they like to share? I hope this is the beginning of something.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Secondly, even when workers have won the right to be represented by a union, and even though both sides are required to bargain in good faith, companies can drag out the first contract negotiation process for years. And eventually kill the union. And companies face only minimal penalties if they violate employees’ rights to form a union or negotiate a first contract. There are several proposals floating around Washington to change this, but the best is called the Employer Free Choice Act. (EFCA)
Under EFCA, if a majority of employees sign cards indicating they want a union, the company has to recognize the union, as long as it is certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This is called "card check." Additionally, EFCA creates a fair process for resolving first contract disputes and EFCA would level the playing field by requiring the NLRB to take immediate legal action to reinstate workers fired for union activity and assess triple damages against companies that punish or fire employees for engaging in protected organizing activities.
Here is John Judas of the New Republic explaining it in layman's terms.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
"I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise."
Nate Silver at five thirty eight debunks the myth much better than I could:
Certainly, the No on 8 folks might have done a better job of outreach to California's black and Latino communities. But the notion that Prop 8 passed because of the Obama turnout surge is silly. Exit polls suggest that first-time voters -- the vast majority of whom were driven to turn out by Obama (he won 83 percent [!] of their votes) -- voted against Prop 8 by a 62-38 margin. More experienced voters voted for the measure 56-44, however, providing for its passage.
Now, it's true that if new voters had voted against Prop 8 at the same rates that they voted for Obama, the measure probably would have failed. But that does not mean that the new voters were harmful on balance -- they were helpful on balance. If California's electorate had been the same as it was in 2004, Prop 8 would have passed by a wider margin. Furthermore, it would be premature to say that new Latino and black voters were responsible for Prop 8's passage.
His final analysis is this is a generational thing and older folks in the black community, like the white community and every other community are more socially conservative and all we do is have to wait a few more years...
I will also say this. There are a lot more media outlets airing the very real anger of the progressive and gay communities. It is only a matter of time, though that is not a major consolation.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I went to buy the paper today, and I looked around at the magazines. One week after the American election, our President-elect, Barack Obama, is on every cover of every major magazine in Brazil. Every class I had, or almost every one, had at least one student who asked me what I thought about the election, and everyone was excited that it was Obama.
The U.S. has people hoping again. And that's a start. Now comes the hard part.
This photo was taken in SoHo in NYC by my brother, John.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Bill Ayers speaks out as the tool he was used by both Hillary and then McCain/Palin and how he saw it and then comments on social justice. I knew of Bill Ayers much before this ever hit the campaign trail. His book, A Kind and Just Parent is one of the seminal books on Juvenile Justice which I read some time ago. It is a gentle and empathetic look at how we treat kids in the juvenile justice system. I don't know much of his acts as a young radical, but do know the movie Running on Empty, an astonishing film, is based partly on his life. This is an interesting read and I have reprinted it in full.
What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been
Looking back on a surreal campaign season
By Bill Ayers
On the campaign trail, McCain immediately got on message. I became a prop, a cartoon character created to be pummeled.
Whew! What was all that mess? I’m still in a daze, sorting it all out, decompressing.
Pass the Vitamin C.
For the past few years, I have gone about my business, hanging out with my kids and, now, my grandchildren, taking care of our elders (they moved in as the kids moved out), going to work, teaching and writing. And every day, I participate in the never-ending effort to build a powerful and irresistible movement for peace and social justice.
In years past, I would now and then—often unpredictably—appear in the newspapers or on TV, sometimes with a reference to Fugitive Days, my 2001 memoir of the exhilarating and difficult years of resistance against the American war in Vietnam. It was a time when the world was in flames, revolution was in the air, and the serial assassinations of black leaders disrupted our utopian dreams.
These media episodes of fleeting notoriety always led to some extravagant and fantastic assertions about what I did, what I might have said and what I probably believe now.
It was always a bit surreal. Then came this political season.
During the primary, the blogosphere was full of chatter about my relationship with President-elect Barack Obama. We had served together on the board of the Woods Foundation and knew one another as neighbors in Chicago’s Hyde Park. In 1996, at a coffee gathering that my wife, Bernardine Dohrn, and I held for him, I made a donation to his campaign for the Illinois State Senate.
Obama’s political rivals and enemies thought they saw an opportunity to deepen a dishonest perception that he is somehow un-American, alien, linked to radical ideas, a closet terrorist who sympathizes with extremism—and they pounced.
Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) campaign provided the script, which included guilt by association, demonization of people Obama knew (or might have known), creepy questions about his background and dark hints about hidden secrets yet to be uncovered.
On March 13, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), apparently in an attempt to reassure the “base,” sat down for an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News. McCain was not yet aware of the narrative Hannity had been spinning for months, and so Hannity filled him in: Ayers is an unrepentant “terrorist,” he explained, “On 9/11, of all days, he had an article where he bragged about bombing our Pentagon, bombing the Capitol and bombing New York City police headquarters. … He said, ‘I regret not doing more.’ “
McCain couldn’t believe it.
Neither could I.
On the campaign trail, McCain immediately got on message. I became a prop, a cartoon character created to be pummeled.
When Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin got hold of it, the attack went viral. At a now-famous Oct. 4 rally, she said Obama was “pallin’ around with terrorists.” (I pictured us sharing a milkshake with two straws.)
The crowd began chanting, “Kill him!” “Kill him!” It was downhill from there.
My voicemail filled up with hate messages. They were mostly from men, all venting and sweating and breathing heavily. A few threats: “Watch out!” and “You deserve to be shot.” And some e-mails, like this one I got from firstname.lastname@example.org: “I’m coming to get you and when I do, I’ll water-board you.”
The police lieutenant who came to copy down those threats deadpanned that he hoped the guy who was going to shoot me got there before the guy who was going to water-board me, since it would be most foul to be tortured and then shot. (We have been pals ever since he was first assigned to investigate threats made against me in 1987, after I was hired as an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.)
The good news was that every time McCain or Palin mentioned my name, they lost a point or two in the polls. The cartoon invented to hurt Obama was now poking holes in the rapidly sinking McCain-Palin ship.
That ’60s show.
On Aug. 28, Stephen Colbert, the faux right-wing commentator from Comedy Central who channels Bill O’Reilly on steroids, observed:
To this day, when our country holds a presidential election, we judge the candidates through the lens of the 1960s. … We all know Obama is cozy with William Ayers a ’60s radical who planted a bomb in the capital building and then later went on to even more heinous crimes by becoming a college professor. … Let us keep fighting the culture wars of our grandparents. The ’60s are a political gift that keeps on giving.
It was inevitable. McCain would bet the house on a dishonest and largely discredited vision of the ’60s, which was the defining decade for him. He built his political career on being a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
The ’60s—as myth and symbol—is much abused: the downfall of civilization in one account, a time of defeat and humiliation in a second, and a perfect moment of righteous opposition, peace and love in a third.
The idea that the 2008 election may be the last time in American political life that the ’60s plays any role whatsoever is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, let’s get over the nostalgia and move on. On the other, the lessons we might have learned from the black freedom movement and from the resistance against the Vietnam War have never been learned. To achieve this would require that we face history fully and honestly, something this nation has never done.
The war in Vietnam was an illegal invasion and occupation, much of it conducted as a war of terror against the civilian population. The U.S. military killed millions of Vietnamese in air raids—like the one conducted by McCain—and entire areas of the country were designated free-fire zones, where American pilots indiscriminately dropped surplus ordinance—an immoral enterprise by any measure.
What is really important
McCain and Palin—or as our late friend Studs Terkel put it, “Joe McCarthy in drag”—would like to bury the ’60s. The ’60s, after all, was a time of rejecting obedience and conformity in favor of initiative and courage. The ’60s pushed us to a deeper appreciation of the humanity of every human being. And that is the threat it poses to the right wing, hence the attacks and all the guilt by association.
McCain and Palin demanded to “know the full extent” of the Obama-Ayers “relationship” so that they can know if Obama, as Palin put it, “is telling the truth to the American people or not.”
This is just plain stupid.
Obama has continually been asked to defend something that ought to be at democracy’s heart: the importance of talking to as many people as possible in this complicated and wildly diverse society, of listening with the possibility of learning something new, and of speaking with the possibility of persuading or influencing others.
The McCain-Palin attacks not only involved guilt by association, they also assumed that one must apply a political litmus test to begin a conversation.
On Oct. 4, Palin described her supporters as those who “see America as the greatest force for good in this world” and as a “beacon of light and hope for others who seek freedom and democracy.” But Obama, she said, “Is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America.” In other words, there are “real” Americans — and then there are the rest of us.
In a robust and sophisticated democracy, political leaders—and all of us—ought to seek ways to talk with many people who hold dissenting, or even radical, ideas. Lacking that simple and yet essential capacity to question authority, we might still be burning witches and enslaving our fellow human beings today.
Maybe we could welcome our current situation—torn by another illegal war, as it was in the ’60s—as an opportunity to search for the new.
Perhaps we might think of ourselves not as passive consumers of politics but as fully mobilized political actors. Perhaps we might think of our various efforts now, as we did then, as more than a single campaign, but rather as our movement-in-the-making.
We might find hope in the growth of opposition to war and occupation worldwide. Or we might be inspired by the growing movements for reparations and prison abolition, or the rising immigrant rights movement and the stirrings of working people everywhere, or by gay and lesbian and transgender people courageously pressing for full recognition.
Yet hope—my hope, our hope—resides in a simple self-evident truth: the future is unknown, and it is also entirely unknowable.
History is always in the making. It’s up to us. It is up to me and to you. Nothing is predetermined. That makes our moment on this earth both hopeful and all the more urgent—we must find ways to become real actors, to become authentic subjects in our own history.
We may not be able to will a movement into being, but neither can we sit idly for a movement to spring full-grown, as from the head of Zeus.
We have to agitate for democracy and egalitarianism, press harder for human rights, learn to build a new society through our self-transformations and our limited everyday struggles.
At the turn of the last century, Eugene Debs, the great Socialist Party leader from Terre Haute, Ind., told a group of workers in Chicago, “If I could lead you into the Promised Land, I would not do it, because someone else would come along and lead you out.”
In this time of new beginnings and rising expectations, it is even more urgent that we figure out how to become the people we have been waiting to be.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The Presidential election, of course. As an American in Brazil, at least a few people, the paper guessed, might care to know what a gringo like myself might be up to on the day before the most important election in half a century. So, I gave my two (or three) cents, smiled for the birdie, and waited to see if anything would actually come of this twenty minutes spent with the Brazilian media.
The next day, I bought the paper, Bom Dia, and saw myself lounging, in a T-shirt and shorts, on the cover...between photos of John McCain and Barack Obama! I was a bit taken aback, and then realized that on page 8 of this upstart newspaper, I was pictured again, with a short article. So, just in case anyone would like to know what the hell I said, I have translated it from Portuguese for you, the reader of SG.
American citizens who live in Brazil use the Internet to stay informed about the elections in the United States. That is the case of Daniel James Fogarty, 32, in Bauru for five years. A graduate of Sociology in New York, he is married with two children to a Bauruense, and teaches English in the city.
Daniel voted more than a month ago by mail -- a method available in his country for citizens living outside the U.S. -- and believes in victory for the Democrat Barack Obama.
"Obama is going to win even in states where democrats haven't won in 25 years, like Florida," he said. For Daniel, Obama is different from democrats in previous elections, "who gave over-intellectualized speeches and couldn't reach the population."
Beside this, Daniel said that his people are fed up with republicans. "McCain is a party pawn . Everyone knows that he didn't want Sarah Palin for vice." Daniel has a blog where he writes about politics: www.northsouthconnect.blogspot.com.
by Reynaldo Turollo Jr.
I wondered what I could write about this morning, it is such an historic day and words are sometimes inexpressive enough to capture a moment. I feel that today. This morning and last night, however several people commented to me I thought I might share. My mom called me last night at about 11:02, shortly after my twin brother called me to congratulate my hard work and react to the idiots at his job who keep talking about assassination. I urged him not to pay attention to such hateful talk. My mom could hardly speak, she said: "I am speechless" as she sobbed into the phone. I thought I might cry as well. "And they just called Florida, honey." "I am so happy." R. Thelonius lamented about the problems with Georgia, "wtf is wrong down there?" "But, my wife has a new boss and she is happy."
This morning as La Francaise cursed the day because she had to get up and go to work, we walked in Hoboken. First, infemity's partner was at the coffee house we usually frequent and I said "hello." He commented he was tired because "I had to see the speech." I asked, as I knew he liked Ron Paul, "was he happy?" He said: "Well, I just hated John McCain and at least now we have a President that can pronounce "Nuclear." I smiled and it seems everyone is taking part in the history of the moment. I saw an African-American woman on television say: "I feel taller and stronger today."
I saw an older friend in Hoboken as I took the laundry to the laundromat. I helped her vote yesterday, or at least find the right district to vote in - in Hoboken. She said: "Did you stay there all day yesterday?" as I petted her new cute dog. I said: "Yes. it was tiring." She said, "well it was a great night." She is over 70 most likely, but in phenomenally good health. "I was sooo happy about Florida." "Thank you she said." after I told I just came back from there Monday night. "I am so upset about Georgia, though." Now the second person in 12 hours to say this to me. "I grew up in southwest Georgia." I always wondered where in the south she was from. "I hated segregation, it was awful and terrible for all of the people. Even today, they accept black people, but there is a line that cannot be crossed. I just cannot go back there anymore. But, last night was worth the wait. Maybe things really will change."
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
This morning I was listening to pundits expound on this historic moment in our history. And in the way that pundits tend to get carried away, they speculated that we are living in a “post racial” society, using the fact that Obama did not run on a ticket of “redemption” for our collective sins against African-Americans but rather a message of hope and a new course for our country as evidence of his “post racial” appeal.
I hate to be a cynic on the day of the triumph of hope, but COME ON! Don’t get me wrong, I do have the audacity to hope that it will indeed be a historic moment when the election results come in tonight, but I think that Obama’s campaign was so effective precisely because he recognized that this is not a post racial society and kept a careful distance from “black” issues (the fact that he is half white, light skinned and talks with a Midwestern twang did not hurt either). And I’m not saying that I think his vision for unity and change is insincere (or even that his twang is rehearsed), or that just because he is half-black means he should be a single issue candidate. I am saying that Barack Obama being elected president does not mean the U.S. has “moved beyond” race as an issue.
Consider the reality of black men in America. The statistics show that fewer than half of black boys graduate from high school four years after entering the ninth grade. More black men earn their high school equivalency diplomas in prison each year than graduate from college. More than half of the nation's 5.6 million black boys live in fatherless households, 40 percent of which are impoverished. 840,000 black men are incarcerated, and black males have a one in three chance of serving time at some point in their lives.
After the parties are over tonight, and everyone has basked in the historic glow of Obama’s legitimately impressive and unprecedented accomplishment, we will all wake up tomorrow to an America still marked by widening inequality, where the ladder of opportunity remains out of reach for certain populations, and where it is increasingly clear that it is propped up against an unsustainable and crumbling economic system.
Despite this overwhelming reality, I am hopeful about an Obama presidency. If he could persuade the majority of the electorate to vote for him, perhaps he can use his great communication skills to call Americans to higher ideals. Maybe he can move us to reconsider the idea that our individual futures are tied to the collective and that we fare better as a society when we care for our neighbors – even when they don’t look like us. This means loosening the grip on our national obsession with amassing personal fortunes and our tendency to create policies that ensure individuals and corporations are unfettered in their pursuit of cash. Maybe this sounds a little too pie in the sky (or even, gasp! commie, to our more conservative friends), but I think we are a country in need of a paradigm shift and that starts with thinking differently - with inspiration. We are undoubtedly going to have an economic wake-up call in the next couple of years – to my mind the important question is, will it bring us together or tear us apart? If Obama wins, I think coming together has a shooting chance (but first he has to win!)
Monday, November 3, 2008
Anyway, I got downtown early enough, introduced myself to the Legal team. They were all about 25 years old (this must be the reason I was needed down here) and Hastings and Chicago Law school grads. Fresh grads at that. I was given a phone and told go get started. The phone rang within seconds and I was off and running. The statewide hotline in Florida is designed for anyone having trouble with voting or a simple question about voting to call and get their question answered. The typical question was: "Is early voting still going on?" "Where?" "Can you tell me my precinct I will be voting in?" "I requested an absentee ballot, but I did not get it, can I still vote?" Many of the same questions I was asked at the polls. But, here is where it got impressive. "I need a ride to the polls, can you help?" When this question arose you inquire as to the person's information plug in into the website and submit. Within hours this person is contacted and set up with a ride to the polls.
Or someone might say I requested an absentee ballot, but I cannot leave the house (disabled or elderly) can someone come and get it? You plug this information in the website at headquarters and the person's vote will be picked up and submitted by the Obama campaign. We had several calls about this exact scenario, that an Obama campaign rep. called and knew they had an absentee and is willing to come to the house and pick it up. Unbelievably, a colleague next to me received a call from an elderly gentleman that asked that if he was voting for McCain would the Obama campaign pick up the ballot? My colleague encouraged him to vote for Obama anyway. We checked with some higher ups and indeed the Obama campaign would pick up his vote. This was told to me early, the Obama campaign does not discriminate as to voting. They are not out to stop anyone from voting. This seemed outwardly and foolishly selfless to me, but impressive nonetheless.
This all leads to where I am going. Predictions. The Obama campaign's GOTV strategy and volunteer structure is something I have never seen or heard about before. It is sophisticated, energetic and motivated, if not sometimes a bit chaotic. But, all of my time spent in the field this week in Florida, in Hillsborough County I saw one McCain volunteer. This is a county Bush won handily over Kerry (so the vote said). He showed up nailed in a few signs and left. But, Obama volunteers were everywhere and they are ALL willing to go the extra mile.
This will prove to be the difference between a win and a landslide (these predictions are based on the hope that no shenanigans will take place, but this is a highly suspect proposition). There are several states to keep our eyes on early. Florida's polls close at 7 PM and I don't believe it will be called until late, but I believe Florida will go blue for Obama this year based solely on GOTV operations. Obama will win Virginia as well and Pennsylvania. These two states are the states to watch tomorrow night early. If both Virginia and Pennsylvania go for Obama early the election is over. Pennsylvania, however scares me for one reason and one reason only. McCain is making his last stand here. I do not think he has enough to win it, but why is he spending so much time there? Is he planning on stealing it? Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but 2000 had Florida, 2004 had Ohio, and I wonder is Pennsylvania this year's stomping ground?
Still, I do not think it is enough. In my humble opinion Obama will win the following Bush states: Ohio will go blue, New Mexico and Iowa. I think Florida will be close, but he will pull it out. Colorado and Nevada will also go for Obama. This leaves Missouri, North Carolina and Indiana. I do not believe that these states are really leaning Obama though it is the prevailing opinion in many polls. I will believe it when I see it. What gives me pause, however is the night could prove to be a watershed moment in American elections and maybe Obama's GOTV is so good this will occur. I don't know. My prediction is these states stay red, but barely. Missouri probably by a 51-49 margin and Indiana and North Carolina by a four point margin. Still, the victory will be sizable and he will have his "working majority for change" that he talks about and it will be time to get down to work. If Montana and North Dakota go for Obama I will lay in shock and it will mean the landslide is in full swing and we are looking at something truly historic. New Hampshire will also stay blue. Here is my map.
Obama ends with 338 electoral votes and McCain with 200. With only 270 to win this will be a landslide. This map is a huge win and he could easily win without Pennsylvania. Here is hoping for President elect Obama at about 9 PM tomorrow!! I will leave you with a choked up Obama eulogizing his grandmother Toot:
For the five or six people that regularly read, or at least open, my blog BND, I am back today. After three weeks of unfortunate silence (or fortunate), I am back on the day before one of the most important days in recent American history.
And I am in Brazil. I have been, as some of you may know, and for almost five years. My wife, who is Brazilian, and I have been taking care of our two sons here in Bauru, in the state of Sao Paulo, and beofre that lived in the very poor city of Nova Iguacu, outside of the crazy and famous Rio de Janeiro.
For the last year and a half, I have been able to witness another country, namely, Brazil, size up the American race for the White House. I have read in Brazilian newspapers, watched Brazilian reports from the US about how the vote might go, and all the varied candidates. And I have seen some amazing things in a country that has been neglected, overall, by the US, since the military dictatorship finished in 1985.
To give the reader a little example of how big the election has gotten down here in Brazil, or at least in the state of Sao Paulo, the richest and most advanced in the country, in downtown Sao Paulo, Obama T-shirts are all the rage. To the point that Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest and best daily newspaper, ran a piece about how popular the shirts are, and how impossible they are to find, after selling out in a matter of days.
Even going back to Hillary v. Obama, the primaries were hugely covered down here. It got to thepoint where letters to the editor were asking why the American process was getting more coverage than the lead-up to mayoral elections around the country. And things have only heated up since.
For the last two weeks especially, my classes have been increasingly interrupted, or started by the question: 'Who will you vote for?" When I tell my English students that I've already voted, by absentee ballot, most are a little amazed and confused, since I tell them I voted a month ago. Here the process is completely uniform throughout the country, and completely automated. The same machine in every single voting venue. U.S. voting seems so antiquated to Brazilians, who look at the U.S., for all its faults, as a relative beacon of technology. Paper voting is just so old-fashioned to your average Brazilian.
I don't know who is going to win tomorrow night, but I do know that it has been really interesting and enlightening to see things from afar, and through the eyes of another american country, far to the south, but in the midst of the madness, too. It has been hard for Brazilians to not get at least a little caght up in the whole circus, and I sure have. I wish I could have done more to help the cause, but it was great to see how this election has galvanized and woken up so many in so many far-flung places, like Bauru.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Yesterday, I didn't know where I was going as I have found the voter protection program here a bit disorganized as to volunteers anyway. So, I got a number of someone who is in the know. I called her and she said meet me at my house early and we will go from there. I got up early and met her at her house in the most beautiful neighborhood in Tampa. It could have been D.C. She was waiting and she happened to be the Vice Chair of the Democratic Party in Hillsborough County and the fastest talking southerner I ever met. She moved fast and furious. We began the day delivering campaign materials to early voting sites around the county and having conversations about why we were progressive, why we supported Barack and not Hillary, why we left the Catholic church and how sometimes family members disappoint us the most. It was enlivening, exciting and awe-inspiring. We kept driving and by 10:00 am we were at the spot I would spend until 7:00 PM when early voting ends.
The lines were tremendous, out the door all day, at least 200 people in line and many more Republicans were out in force. Along with giving advice about voting problems we snuck in some suggestions about voting the democratic ticket especially no on Amendment 2 that protects marriage between a man and a woman in Florida though it is illegal three different ways here. Four times a charm I guess.
The election officials argued with us, but we were clearly behind the 100 foot line and we are allowed to do what we want there. I must have had that conversation with seven different election officials. At Temple Terrace (the busiest of all the sites) yesterday the McCain campaign made a sign that said the folks in blue hats work for the Obama campaign which I didn't think was a secret since Republicans are the ones that steal all the votes. By the time 7 PM rolled around I was exhausted and electioneering(ed) out. I looked around and realized my ride was long gone and I had no way of getting back to my car. I asked two Obama volunteers to give me a ride as they drove to a "Baracktoberfest" party. Thank goodness they were there. Such is the life on the campaign. You meet great people and suddenly they are gone and then others pop right in.
This morning on my way in to the campaign the person that carted me around all day and left me stranded was on the radio talking as fast as she did all day and taking it to the streets. She sounded like she was checking her blackberry as she spoke. Amazing. I called her and got voicemail and asked her where she was and how come you stranded me and what about your cousin who I am supposed to give legal advice to? And you have my sweatshirt in your car!!
I never heard from her again. I did, however hear her talk about a Chris Rock rally for Obama on the east side of Tampa in which the comedian would give a speech and then "march" over with thousands of folks to early vote. Today the lines were tripled and there were enough lawyers around to give everyone advice. Saturdays are a good day to vote. And Chris Rock should be commended. I could not get near his speech, but got near some loudspeakers as he spoke about what Barack means to "us." If you can't vote he said, "find a lawyer." They will show you how. But, at every site I worked this week it has gone relatively smooth and everyone who has wanted to vote has done so. The prediction right now, depending on how well today goes - is between 1/3 and 1/2 of voters in Hillsborough County will have voted before Tuesday. That is unbelievable. Word is Miami_Dade is much heavier. Yikes. Three days until the election.
As for me I am going to sleep. I never did hear from the Vice Chair again, but it sure was good to meet her.