Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mayor Bloomberg and words

It's never boring in NYC. I would say that Mayor Michael Bloomberg would agree with that more than most lately. The reason why is due to comments made by the mayor during the recent transit strike.

The week of Dec 19, 2005, transit workers for the city conducted a 3-day strike, which was illegal. The strike was due to a disagreement over pensions and a pay increase. Whether or not the pay increase is deserved, nor if the union responsible for the illegal strike should pay 1 million dollars for each day of the stike, what is in the news now is the fact that union leaders were said to be acting "thuggishly" by Mayor Bloomberg. This is where I start getting agitated.

It seems a civil rights lawyer, among others, feel that the term "thuggishly" is racial and should not have been used. Perhaps I've suddenly lost a couple of dozen points of IQ recently, but I don't see it. The question of racial motivation is always a 'hot' topic, and even moreso when in a city as divided and compressed as New York. So I thought to look up the meanning of thug to make sure it meant what I knew it to mean.

Thug, or Thugee in its orginal form, refers to a religious sect that killed the English in India and worshipped Kali. The term was later used to refer to hoodlums and/or gangsters especially if they were involved in violent acts. Neither definition directly applies to the meaning of the term used by Mayor Bloomberg. Yet the second, and more widely used definition does seem appropriate when it's common usage in American english is concerned. Sudden loss of services in the public mass transportation system, during the winter and shortly before a major national holiday, can be inferred as coercive and therefore "thuggishly" acting. Seems simple enough that anyone with the ability to pass high school with minimal grades should concede this definition.

Yet that is not the case. Individuals have seized upon the colliquial meaning of the term "thug" and are using that to claim a racial bias. I may be mistaken, but to my knowledge Mayor Bloomberg is hardly a hip-hop fan [derived from the word fanatic - but that is a different post]. I am unaware of his spontaneous use of American slang or more directly hip-hop slang in speeches or public announcements. So his use of this term, by itself and without other reference, under the colliquial meaning seems absurd.

But what does "thug" mean in this manner? Some men are known to claim to be this and some women want men of this character. For those not familiar, the term is based in gangsta (mainstream) rap. Coined by Tupac (possibly first) it means "persons who are ruthless and who will do whatever it takes to get ahead." In a less gentle, more honest and non-PC manner I feel it means a 'person who actively engages in criminal activity, violence and/or acts in a manner that takes no regard for the impact of their actions on other individuals or society. In addition violence is not only required but is praised and actively pursued in most every activity. And the treatment of women as only a means for sexual gratification is omnipresent.' Effectively a "thug" is a lifestlye choice more than anything else. Why anyone would like to, or be involved with any individual that aspires to, be regarded in such a manner is far beyond me. I can only attribute such thoughts to "Ignorance is Bliss." That is to say that without knowledge anything can seem right, even when it is considered absurdly wrong by those with any knowledge whatsoever.

So do the words of Mayor Bloomberg convey that he believed that the union leaders were acting in a criminal manner, without regard to the impact of their actions, with the implication of degrading women and causing direct viloence. I don't think so. The fact that a "thug" is more of a lifestlye choice makes it inapproriate for the term to be used in that manner. The further fact that a thug image is glorified and thought to be a positive attribute [if you doubt that look at any rap video, or listen to the songs, or watch a rapper-driven movie ect. or ask a kid into rap] would also make it unusual to be used to admonish an individual, let alone a group.

Considering these facts, and knowing that this is common knowledge especially for those in New York, how could the mayor's words be viewed racially. I am even more concerned that one of the outspoken propponents of this line of thinking is a civil rights attorney. I am left with one conclusion, that this is yet another attempt to create and use soundbite politics to promote the political agenda of a group. I hate soundbite driven agendas, as those who have read my previous posts know.

Even worse, and the cause of my irritation, is the fact that by trying to attribute a colliquial meaning to words used by the mayor the implication of its basis as being a enthnic (in this case black african american) term is cemented. It reinforces the validity of the argot [yes I looked that one up] usage. Words are power, and their use is the weilding of power. Why waste time and energy creating problems that don't exist, fueling tomorrows problems that shouldn't exist, rather than addressing real issues that do need to be addressed. Why not spend more time trying to ensure that the youth (and the not so young but uneducated) learn more and understand what they are saying rather than relying on created meanings for words that already exist. Perhaps removing the bliss of ignorance for the radiance of knowledge is a better pasttime?

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Reparations for Black African Americans

I ran across an article today while engaging in my business activies. This article has stirred many harsh feelings and my further research on the subject has fueled rage. My feelings are not unlike those of millions of others.

The article is Black Buying Blackout - Christmas 2005. I had never before heard of this demonstration, 2005 being the second year it has been called for. I can say that I think the limited number of days should be increased to truely drive home the impact to corporations and businesses, and thus ultimately via taxes and other causes to the U.S. Govenment, what the lack of roughly 38 million Blacks' $700 billion-a-year buying power can do.

The goal of this 'Blackout' is to bring attention to the ongoing question of reparations due to black african american, descended from the slaves taken from Africa and brought to the U.S. [I will add here that I am aware that on my mothers' side of the family tree stops in 1863, with no information going beyond the fact that the family were slaves.] the exact issues are:
1) to demand reparations to compensate for unpaid labor by African slaves from 1619 to 1865, and for legal segregation and the Southern peonage system from 1865 to 1965;
2) to create pressure on the political-economic system;
3) to begin a process of unifying people of African descent for political purposes.

The Blackout and its goals are supported by multiple groups and individuals including: Bennett J. Johnson of the National Black Political Convention, the NDABA [Great Sit Down], Nation of Islam, National Black United Front, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Global African Congress, Fernwood United Methodist Church, Black Lawyers for Justice.

Beyond the Blackout and those that support it, I came to think about the statement 40 Acres & A Mule. The question of where it came from and its impact on reparations. While there is alot of information on it I found this item by Gerene L. Freeman to be most informative. Not only due to the wealth of information but also due to the fact it delves into the social conciousness about slavery. Many still do not wish to discuss slavery in America. I feel it is the one national taboo that though while addressed on a cursory level many times it has never been dealt with. It is so ingrained in people of this nation that neither Blacks, Whiters or anyone else wishes to discuss it on a national level, and even in smaller more personal groups the subject is shunned and dismissed rather than spoken about. This amounts to mass denial on a national, and due to the interconnected manner in which the world operates even global, level in my opinion. Obvisouly to me this means that something must be wrong, since it is so deeply entrenched in the American psyche not to discuss it.

But as to the 40 acres, many of the youth as well as adults (White or Black Americans) have no idea what this means. A smaller group understand it as only the name of the production company for Mr. Spike Lee. Reparations is what is being directly referred to when the 40 acres and a mule is brought up. As mentioned in the goals of Blackout, it is directly part of the compensation for unpaid labor by African slaves from 1619 to 1865. More fully it is linked to General Sherman and War Department, Special Order No. 15 - "The islands of Charleston south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering St. Johns River, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of [N]egroes now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States." Additional reference to First Freedmen’s Bureau Act, which stated “shall have authority to set apart for use of loyal refugees and freedmen such tracts of land within the insurrectionary states as shall have been abandoned or to which the United States shall have acquired title by confiscation or sale, or otherwise; and to every male citizen, whether refugee or freedman, as aforesaid there shall be assigned not more than 40 acres of such land.”

While the order by General Sherman did in fact provide for land, the above mentioned First Freedmen’s Bureau Act was shot down by Congress, this was later rescinded by President Johnson, even though it was argued that "...In my opinion this order of General Sherman is as binding as a statute." Reparations have been discussed and propased to Congress since that time for roughly 138 years, and has not been resolved yet.

Starting in 1989, U.S. Representative John Conyers Jr. began annually introducing legislation calling for a study of the lasting effects of slavery and possible reparations. Why some would ask? What benifit could it bring?

Well there is NO question that America was built largely due to the efforts of slaves. The U.S. was an agriculture based economy and the cash crops of cotton, tobacco, staples such as corn and rice, were grown in the south with slave labor.
Estimates of the value of the unpaid labor and/or the above mentioned land has been placed from $9.7trillion to $24trillion, with other estimates slightly lower and many higher. Such estimates only confirm the absolute value and impact slave labor had on the formation of this nation. The foundation of this nation, upon which all other advances and acheivements have been accomplished, is based in that fact.

After the slaves were freed, which happened with the 13th Ammendment and not the Emancipation Proclimation [you can see President Lincolns' thoughts on this matter in my post to a comment at History in America comments], Jim Crow and other equally repressive laws and actions hindered Black African Americans. Incidents have occured even in the 20th century and include the Tuskegee syphilis experiments in the 1930s, the destruction of Tulsa’s Black neighborhoods in 1921 and the loss of life and property when the all-Black town of Rosewood was destroyed by a white mob in 1923. The need to have a civil rights movement clearly states that there was massive widespread and constant repression of black african americans over many decades at the least.

Even with the many individuals and groups who have actively supported reparations, including Mr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and U.S. Representative John Conyers Jr., there still has been no action. Yet reparations have been made to Japanese Americans and Native American Indians, at least to some degree. Remorse has been expressed by the Government to both groups. Yet the United States Govenment has never apoligized nor acknowledged the wrongs done with slavery and its actions/attitudes in the over a century since that time.

It seems incredible that any government or institution could overlook such actions, I think. The world could not abide a lack of reparations for the Holocost, yet the unknown numbers of black african americans that died (as damaged goods lost in transport for sale, or by slave owners as useless property, or from acts of cruelty) for centuries is something that can't even be discussed. I have a major problem with that.

Why reparations? In my mind it is simple... the nation has never healed, and never will until admission of its actions up to and including the civil rights movement is made. Monetary repayment is due, made perhaps in other manners besides direct cash payments [perhaps a fixed tax credit that is used over a lifetime and transferable to offspring until used], but denial of the fact of how this nation came to be is no excuse. We will never get beyond the nations largest and most subtle activity which is the division of Americans based on race, if we cannot come to terms with the past.

Not quite the cheerful Christmas thought, but then again for centuries there are many who never enjoyed it either. Your momentary discomfort will pass.

This is what I think, What about you?

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Patriot Act and Politics

In the last several days there has been alot of talk about the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. Several republicans have joined democrats in blocking passage of the provisions and time is running short. The President and several key Republicans are trying to garner support but are having trouble. The fact that any vote is nessesary is what alarms me.

Now I do not mean that I agree with the Patriot Act. I cannot agree with any law that allows roving wiretaps and secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and organizations such as libraries. Why in the world does the government need to know what citizen X, who has no connection to any political organization or any cause for suspicion, is doing on their computer, their health records or library books. This is not a small thing. The fact that the Government has and wishes to continue "to obtain Americans' business, medical and other records — including patron information from libraries — without judicial review; without informing the targets or suspecting them of wrongdoing or even of having any contact with people who are under suspicion; and without the ability of the demand for records to be challenged. To make all of that overreaching even worse, the information-holder presented with the "national security letter" that contains the demand is prohibited from telling anyone about it — forever."

Does this ring of the times in the past? Government agents actively involved, and in some cases instigating action, with various groups both political and religious. The Black Panters, Martin Luther King and more. Sounds alot like how the "N.S.A. eavesdropped without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time." This is a problem.

The Government should never have blanket authority over any actions that involve its citizens. The Government needs the checks and balances that exist in all levels in America. Without such safeguards a slippery slope away from democracy is created. Think of what would happen if a 'McCarthy-ish' attack were started within the Government. Individuals accussed of aiding 'terrorists' would have their assets frozen overnight. Rights could and would be stripped, and they would be detained without a right to a lawyer for an indefinite amount of time. Sounds similar to a Russian gulag, or South Africa's actions against Apartheid-opposition groups, like Nelson Mandela, except it could be any person in the U.S. The mere act of freezing all assets is enough to possibly bankrupt many, and can easily force anyone into homelessness in short order. And that is without the need to provide a court any cause. Its almost what can be done now.

"If the Constitution stands for anything, it's that government does not have the power to peer into our private lives without evidence of wrongdoing, '' commented Laura Murphy of the ACLU. I have to agree with this. Why the Government needs the ability to have secret searches of homes, businesses and personal property and access to library, medical & firearm ownership records and expanded powers of surveillence (as shown by the New York Times above) without evidence of wrongdoing, or providing a case to a public (not secret) court is absurd and dangerous. Someone once said 'Power corrupts and Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely,'and when discussing human beings history has shown it to always be true. Without reguard to intentions or just cause, given time my above hypothetical will happen to someone, and probably many of them.

I believe in fighting for America. I stand with our nation, right or wrong in almost any cause. I believe in removing the threat of terrorism from our daily lives. Yet I am not so foolish as to believe that giving up my rights is worth the dream of safety. I do mean a dream, as several committees have found our nation is as vunerable to attack (domestic or foreign) as it was pre-9/11. We are no more prepared than before. Money has been spend without a plan, in terms of terror attack preparedness nationwide. An attack on Cleveland is as likely as another in NYC or Little Rock. Any idiot can build a car bomb and set it off and there is nothing that can be done if he never told anyone prior. Kids attacking kids in schools, sadly, continues as well.

The dream of safety, like the one the nation has had since 9/11, is not worth any citizens freedoms. My father, my sister and I have all been in the armed forces to defend those freedoms, and would do so again in a moment. But to think that giving up on our rights will make any part of this country safer than Paris, or London, or anywhere else in the world is foolish.

This isn't political. It's not something you debate about and make commercials for during re-elections. It's not about soundbites on TV or in newspapers. It's not about being on a bandwagon or popularity. And its not in the long-term interest of our nation.

That's my opinion, what do you think?

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Friday, December 16, 2005

History in America

"History is the story of the winners," I'm not sure who stated that quote but truer words are rarely said. Equally as true is this statement made by Mr. Morgan Freeman "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history."

Those 2 statment sum up so much for me. It also brings back a question I had in high school, why did black history basically take up one paragraph and a reference to Crispus Attucks and nothing more? My youngest sister (14 years my junior) had a history book that had the equivalent of 1 page, and this is after the strides to make American history more reflective of all the peoples responsible for the creation of this great nation. One page, with little to no mention of who created the number system that is used today [Arabs whom are black or under the classification I learned years ago as being Asian, Causasian, Negroid and Native Indians such as Eskimos] or what is sub-Saharan Africa, or who created the Jenny Coupler, automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks, treat ments for glaucoma and rheumatoid arthritis. Or who people like Granville T. Woods were.

The promotion of misconcepts too, such as Egyptians and those above the Sahara all being white and only those from below being black. Or that the reason for the Civil War was due to slavey [it was an economic decision - the U.S. was an agricultural-based economy then and if I recall correctly the south had more people - Slavery was about 4th on the list or lower].

Why is it that the history of Blacks in America is so incomplete? Who was it that thought that the concept of celebrating the shortest month of the year for Black history is enough and nothing else really need be done? Why did (and perhaps we still do, someone let me know) we teach about WW II, the Marines at Iwo Jima, and what happened to the Jews, but can't mention the breakthroughs of Black pilots in that war? Or how about what were black people doing in this nation after slavery but before the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King or Malcolm X? Obviously the list of inventions and inventors mentioned above give some clue that alot was happening.

Obviously alot needs to be left out if we want anyone to get more out of an education than just the history of this nation, as many peoples have helped to create the nation we live in today. That does not excuse the blatant slap in the face given to the millions who have bled for this country, both in war and in building this nation during peace. I don't need a seperate history or a month of sporadic commercials to remind me that my ancestors were here. My ancestors earned the right for me to be told the U.S. history, a history that includes them.

Just a few of the thoughts that the statement by Mr. Morgan Freeman makes me think of. What do you think?

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Elections for '06 and '08

I want to know something, are people really concerned about the national community? Do most in America feel isolated? According to polls (which I feel are the worst part of politics these days), run by Democrats, these are the key issues facing the American public for the elections for '06 and '08. I think this is a sad soundbite driven platform that shows the Democrats have no ideas that can help right now.

While I agree with most that progress in Afghanistan should be better, and that Iraq is turning into a quagmire, I disagree on plans to 'cut and run'. The Democrats believe that it is politically better to cut our losses and set a time for the removal of our troops out of Iraq without accomplishing what needs to be done to stabilize the region. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is quoted on CNN saying "We believe that talking about the president's failed strategy in Iraq is not unpatriotic. It may undercut the president, but it does not undercut our troops." I disagree. I especially disagree when politics guides the military, a key part of why we had some of the problems in Viet Nam and are having more today (my opinion).

Even Sen. Joe Lieberman states "It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be commander in chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril." Democrats should not make plans to assail the President for political gain because they feel this is their chance. To weaken the President is to weaken the military, as he is the leader of the military. That is not to say that the President should not be held accountable, nor does it mean that a solid plan to win the goals of our conflicts should not be created.

But Gov. Tom Vilsack, Gov. Mark Warner, former Sen. John Edwards and others think that this is part of the solution to win an election. Another part is following polls that say community is the buzz word for America's collective ear. Mr. Edwards stated "There is a hunger in America, a hunger for a sense of national community, a hunger for something big and important and inspirational that they all can be involved in." Gov. Vilsack has said "What's happening in this country is we're losing our sense of common purpose," and "When we work together, when rely on one another, when we care about one another we remove the fear of sharing."

Again I disagree. I believe the fight against terrorism is a unifying goal. I believe that helping to create a stabilized middle-east is inspirational, and answers the desire for national safety. I think that the common purpose of the nation is better served supporting our forces (which means it must include the President who is Commander-and-Chief of our troops) and providing them the means, plans and time needed to acheive their goals. While community is important, America is a global capitalist representative democracy, and the individual is critical. Americans need to take responsibility for themselves, first and foremost.

By that I mean responsibility for raising our children (not teaching them to live on public support as the only means of survival), providing strong moral standards (which is the obligation of the parents, not the masses), maintaining national pride [see my post on Multi-cultural classifications], and economic fortitude for matters pertaining to current (investments,debt and bankruptcy) and future (pension, retirement and legacy) fiscal actions. The government is not here to do these things for us but to ensure that they cannot be taken from us, and we should not be so lackadaisical as to believe that it will all work out without our tending to these factors.

I truly hate soundbite politics. I disagree with polls and anyone who uses them to garner support without convictions to the actual issues. This is as true for republicans as it is for democrats or anyone else. A vote is worth more. Appealing to a sense of community, or taking advantage of missteps, without a clear and defined resolution to the underlying issues is merely an attempt to garner a vote on the cheap. Allowing that process to be effective is to weaken the American people and our entire government. My vote is worth more.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Italian courts, Moorish history and the World

I ran across this article today and I am both stunned and not sure of how to say what I am thinking. The article "Dirty negro" insult not always racist? comes from Rome, and a ruling made by their courts. I am confused by the court's decision, and to make things simple I will translate the situation to the U.S.

A group of white men called a group of black/hispanic women "Dirty negroes -- what are these negroes doing here?" The men then proceed to punch the women. When the case goes to court one of the men says that his words were not racist. The court agrees with him. What do you think would happen in the U.S.?

How the Italian court could say this was a case of "generic dislike, intolerance or rejection based on race, ethnicity or religion" and not "discriminatory behavior for reasons of race, ethnicity, nationality or religion" or "only if it is motivated by real hatred" is beyond me. To verbally assault someone, on the basis of only their color, and then to follow that with a physical assault seems stronger than a mere generic dislike to me. What other motivation is happening here if not motivated by hatred, which the statement made by the men seems to exude?

If someone were to go through Italy, and tell each italian that "your great-great-great-granddaddy was black, go back to Africa" and then proceeded to hit them... The Italian courts would seem to have to find in favor under the above ruling, but I doubt it. In the U.S. lock-up under various charges including racism would happen in a moment. And the fact that the 'grandaddy' statement is based in truth would not matter.

As a side note, many Italians to my experience and knowledge (abroad and in the U.S.) find that any reference to the period of time from roughly 831 - 1061 to be offensive. It was during that time, at least, where the Moors had control of Sicily and major influence in southern Italy [as well as virtually all of Spain]. The fact that interracial marriages and offspring occured and are in the bloodlines of Italy, Spain and other parts of Europe is seen as inciteful. I don't understand why, especially when viewed against the European/American White colonial culture of intermixing with Native Indians, South American Indians, North Africans, African slaves and Middle Easterners. A supposition could be that in the latter the upper hand was held by the Caucasians, as opposed to the Moors having it.

Back to the matter at hand. How can a second-world nation, with diversity and cultural history, and the physical spiritual center of a world religion that calls for inclusion, compassion and understanding, be so seemingly dense? A nation that rose up against Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, and facsism. One would expect better of them.

This ruling, in conjunction with the sexual harrassment issues (mentioned in the same article) and recent behavior at Soccer matches leads one to wonder what is going on in Italy. It seems the ghosts of the past, or perhaps and worse yet visions of a future are peeking at us. With the world growing smaller everyday, due to internet/telecommunications/faster travel, what happens in one place on the globe quickly affects the rest.

This is what I think, how about you?

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