Friday, September 29, 2006

Oliver Stone and I disagree - 9.29.2006.1

I don’t understand Mr. Oliver Stone. While I accept that he is quite good as a director of notable films, such as the recent World Trade Center, I do not accept his world views. I respect that he is outspoken in his views. His convictions are without question the cornerstones of his life. That much can be seen from his movies and his public words.

But I have little compassion or agreement with his latest commentary against the President and the nation. I disagree in saying that the U.S. reaction to the 9/11 attacks was disproportionate. I disagree that America has been set back 10 years. I find fault with is his reasoning that "We did not fight back in the same way that the British fought the IRA or the Spanish government fought the Basques here. Terrorism is a manageable action. It can be lived with.”

We should not respond like the British or the Spanish governments. While hundreds, perhaps thousands have died in those long-term struggles with terrorism there has never been an incident that killed so many at one time besides what occurred on our shores. I do not agree that terrorism is manageable, such an opinion strikes me as appeasement. Such a strategy was employed with Germany and it failed. It is the strategy of those afraid to fight, or incapable to do so, in my mind. And I must wonder if Mr. Stone would feel the same if he was in NYC when the planes struck, or had friends and colleagues and family die, or had to run from the towers themselves. I do not know if any of that applies to Mr. Stone, if it does he is a far different man than I am.

There is no living with terrorism. None of those he mentioned live with terrorism, they live with the consequences of it being a reality. I mean that you can live without a car, or a broken window in your house through a winter, being blind, or having the measles. We all live with the consequences of a bomb killing a school bus of children, car bombs, hijacked planes and other such acts. Not one nation on the face of the planet lives with terrorism, accepting it as if it were part of the course of the day. Each nation fights terrorism, through political and military means, every day as best they can.

Mr. Stone may feel “disgraced” and “ashamed for my country” but I do not. I see no reason to. I may disagree with some of the policies and actions of the nation, but I recognize that America cannot just hide from those fanatics that would see us all dead, including Mr. Stone. I recognize that some efforts of the nation are not what we would have preferred; and it is our obligation to elect leaders on local and higher levels to ensure that future efforts are better. It is the people that must guide our leaders, and we do. Voting, polls, letters and calls to elected officials all done without violence is the means to change any aspect of America.

I would say this to Mr. Stone, I have lived overseas as a civilian. I have seen how life is in other nations, and am thankful to be a United States citizen, even with all the problems our nation has. Our nation gives us many freedoms, one of them being choice. I would say to Mr. Stone, and others who feel as he apparently does, that you are free to leave this nation at any time. If the embarrassment is too great, if you feel we are falling back to far, if “a neo-cabal inside our government hijacked policy” then leave. See what nation will accept you and how you are treated there. And don’t complain about returning as it would be a choice you made, and I wouldn’t want you back if you made it.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Education for African Americans - 9.28.2006.4

This is the conclusion continued from part 3...

Even with all this one thing is clear to me. This cannot go on. Complaining about the current situation is not an action. To quote what some would call a silly character in a silly fantasy movie “Do or do not, there is no in-between.” [Yoda, Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back] Allowing things to remain status quo is a death sentence to the minds of the African American youth of this nation. Having compiled this information I am doing something in providing what I have gleaned. That is one part of why I write my posts. The next step is up to the masses.

Higher education is not just an idea for “rich kids” or “white people.” To think so is to delude ones self into a vortex of disappointment and suffering. Knowledge is one of the most powerful tools available to anyone on the planet. Knowledge has allowed me to travel and live in Russia, be a stockbroker, work in investor relations and become the owner of my corporation. I’m not rich, yet, but I can make it and it’s only possible because of what I have learned. Rich is a subjective term though. To live well is a richness, to experience life and cultures from across the globe is attaining richness. To be able to communicate the thoughts in one’s mind to another human being in any format is a form of richness.

Money is a tool to attain the greater riches that life provides, at least to me. Knowledge is a currency that cannot be sold but can be used, invested and profited from. Granting the youth of today and tomorrow the ability to have that currency in the same amount available to any other kid in America is an obligation. I’m not waiting to die to give my nephew an inheritance; I’m helping to give him a currency he will be able to use throughout his life. What are you doing?

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Education for African Americans - 9.28.2006.3

Continued from part 2...

This is why I agree with this statement by University of Illinois professor Walter Benn Michaels, “When students and faculty activists struggle for cultural diversity, they are in large part battling over what skin color the rich kids have.”

So lower income African American students (in particular the males) are still waging an uphill battle. Even initiatives such as the Harvard financial aid program that eliminates loans for students that have families with incomes under $60,000 have not prompted an increase above 10% for students of low income families (in which African American students are predominant).

What is to be done about this I ask? If you are a Democrat, there are promises of reforms to education; yet the same promises have been made since before I was in high school. Inner city youth are decidedly worse educated now than at any time prior. Estimates ranges around 70% of African American males are dropping out of high school. Initiatives to improve this percentage have been blocked as cited by Mike Bowler, former Baltimore Sun education reporter in 1995 “In Detroit a judge declared all-male academies unconstitutional after the National Organization for Women took the district to court. The federal Department of Education killed an experiment in Miami, saying it amounted to gender discrimination. And Philadelphia, school officials canceled a single-sex program that seemed to be paying off in higher school grades and improved attendance after the American Civil Liberties Union complained.” The ACLU and NOW are both strong supporters of the Democratic Party. Republicans have done slightly more, in my opinion, but nothing that would truly stem the tide.

Continued in part 4...

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Education for African Americans - 9.28.2006.2

Continued from part 1...

So the playing field will even out a bit in the future. Of course I do mean a little bit as less than 10% of the student bodies at Harvard and Princeton are African American. In fact a study done in 2004 by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University found that 41% of black students at 28 colleges were immigrants or children of immigrants. By comparison 9% of the entire United States population falls into that same category.

But what does the African American student have to look forward to? When I was in high school, in the Bronx and it was public school, my history book summed up all of African American history as 2 sentences on Egypt, 2 or 3 on Crispus Attucks, and another mentioning that slavery was legal then and will be discussed more in the chapters on the Civil War. That was about it. Perhaps the fact that most of the school books I had were 10 or more years old was a factor [my college-bound physics class had a textbook that was 21 years old, 3 more than me in my senior year] but I think not as my youngest sister (14 years my junior) had a history book that had a total of 2 pages on the subject. So I was interested in taking classes on African American history at my college. Had I gone to Princeton I would have been sorely disappointed. Had I desired to, I could not have majored in African American studies. It has taken Princeton 37 years to create a concentration in the subject.

It’s taken 37 years, and it will still take another 5 to build into a major according to current plans. Some wonder why there is a discrepancy in the highest levels of business, or why the African American middle-class is so small. I think this gives a partial answer to the insensitivities and difficulties of that question. Add to that the fact that in most all colleges and universities the overwhelming numbers of alumni are not African Americans. Recognize that the parents and grand-parents of many students never had the option to go to universities, especially those at the top, Princeton included. For those that could go, we are speaking of a small number of higher income families.

Continued in part 3...

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Education for African Americans - 9.28.2006.1

“These are our children and we will benefit by or pay for what they become.” - James Baldwin

Have you ever had the situation where you are reading an article and it mentions a source or quote and you wanted to find out more about it? In the cases where you are doing the reading on the internet, you then search out the information only to be lead to even more items that enthrall you? I have and when this chain of events starts to unfold for me I generally wind up with a very long night and little sleep. And waking tired the next day is worth it for the knowledge I have gained. Today is one of those times.

I was originally just looking for interesting news in entertainment that was focused on Black African Americans and/or Hispanics from a source other than Yahoo News [Yahoo tends to have a good base of news on most subjects] or the Fox News cable network [which is biased I realize]. What I found had little entertainment but intriguing facts. The start of this trail began with an unrelated article from That lead me to, followed by,,, and ultimately The Journal for Blacks in Higher Education.

What I found is this. In 2004, the last full year where data is available, 4.4% of the higher education enrollments were Black African American males. That’s 758,400 in total. The number is pitiful, but it gets worse. The percentage of foreign-born black males that have a four-year degree in the nation is 28%, White American males are in excess of 28% with four-year degrees. Though the number was not presented in any of my readings, considering that as a guesstimate 10% of enrolled students fail to attain a degree I shudder to think of the percentage of Black African American males with a 4-year degree. Now get ready. This is the highest number of enrollments ever.

The outlook may improve somewhat in the near-term. In a manner of speaking. Harvard has started the ball rolling in getting universities to eliminate early admissions. Princeton has followed and many more are expected to do the same. Why this is important is that early admissions, especially for top-rated universities, tend to have higher acceptance rates. Harvard accepts around 50% of its class in early admissions, Princeton around one third. At Johns Hopkins 77% of all black early applicants were accepted, in comparison to the 36% of acceptance of all black applicants. Early admissions make a massive difference. The reason being is that most universities require commitments for the early admission. Lower-income students often cannot know what kind of financial aid they can receive, either from the government or the university and thus can have a serious income gap. This often prevents access to early admission. Personally, back in 1986, I know this was the case for me, thus there was no chance at Harvard or equivalent institutions.

This is part 1 of a multituple part thought...

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Trans fatty acids are like tomatoes - 9.27.2006.1

Perhaps the fact that throughout my life I’ve been accused of being too skinny has made me insensitive to some weight issues in the public domain. Perhaps as a smoker I am sensitive to the government restricting grown adults ability to make their own decisions. And perhaps I dislike the government involved in the actions of citizens on an individual and personal basis. All these things are pertinent in regard to how I feel about the news that Chicago and New York are considering bans on the use of trans fats in cooking.

Let me be clear on what this means. Every McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken would need to make changes in how they cook foods; pie crusts, margarine, doughnuts and many other foods or items used to cook foods would be banned. Does the scope of this start to catch what is involved? Virtually every one of the 24,000 food service businesses in New York City would be affected to some degree.

Now many would say, so what. Others may thing, well that’s a good thing because this is bad for you. The local governments say that this will help to reduce the thousands who die prematurely each year. And I say it’s a tomato. What I mean is that up til the 1800’s the tomato was thought to be a deadly and poisonous fruit. I recall (could not find the exact article, sorry) reading how it too a doctor sitting on the city hall steps eating a basket of tomatoes to change public opinion. [As I remember the story, the fear at the time was that if you ate tomatoes you could go insane or die] More recently eggs have been considered harmful to the diet, and then later ok in moderation. On a more broad scale a couple from California (I could have the wrong state) sued McDonalds because their child was overweight.

The fact is that in each case the science or current belief was completely wrong at one point. It’s not the foods that are dangerous but the misguided thoughts of people. Anything is deadly if misused.

A stick of margarine doesn’t kill you but a couple of vats of it might. McDonalds may not be the best food to eat, but it’s the lack of exercise and eating portions for 5 people every meal that will make you overweight. [I do realize that some people are over weight due to gland disorders, diabetes and other diseases. I’m not speaking to that issue.] Banning this item or another, that is not deadly, will not save lives. That is whatever number those who want to enforce such a ban come up with – fact is that determining the number often quoted is a guess made by presuming lifestyle factors are a cause of ailments leading to death. That’s why the numbers are often quoted as ‘tens of thousands’ because the truth is that they have no clue but it seems that such an answer is probable. It doesn’t hurt that it makes it sound important too.

So my point is why the government should stick its nose into something that really is a matter of personal responsibility. The difference, that they might claim in these deaths, compared to the 50’s is more a matter of social behavior. The importance is that the more government steps in and makes decisions on arbitrary matters that are personal responsibility, the fewer personal responsibilities will be left.

Think it’s silly? So far the government, on different levels, is banning smoking (yet still allows them to be sold), certain forms of marriage, and in some parts of the country the type of sex you have [North Carolina, Massachusetts and others].

Plus it just annoys me.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

No votes for Senator Hilary Clinton - 9.26.2006

In the past I have alleged that Senator Hilary Clinton is duplicitous, that she (as the saying goes) ‘speaks out of both sides of her face’. I have shown her voting record in which she has apparently voted according to poll preferences. I have discussed her public attacks on issues that are popular at that moment. And how she has made comments that hint at her greater desire for power. [in posts Vass thoughts on Senator Clinton, Commenting on Sen. Hillary Clinton's Dr. Martin Luther King Day speech and others] But I think the most clear view of her actions can be see now.

I live in Binghamton, a small town or city located in Central New York. In late June of this year massive flooding devastated the city and surrounding towns. The damage was severe enough to have FEMA called in. Even with that many people have lost homes and businesses partially due to actions by FEMA, like providing $500 in help for a home that was destroyed by the flood. The person I know who got that help subsequently lost their house, which was where they spent their childhood.

That was in June as I mentioned, and there are still on-going efforts to correct and fix the damage in some places. Throughout that time Senator Hilary Clinton never said a word to my knowledge. But as mid-term elections are approaching, and campaigns heat up, guess who appeared addressing the short-comings of the Federal Aid. As reported in the Press&Sun-Bulletin on September 26, 2006 by Mr. George Basler Senator Clinton had to add her comments. They are not even worth 2 cents in my opinion.

So why would the Senator suddenly come by to see how the people of Broome county are doing? Suddenly it’s important for her to let the public know about her concern. Roughly 3+ months later the Senator feels it’s time to share her concern and to speak out for the people affected. Of course the front-page photo was just incidental. The other comments she had to make at the time were just filler.

That is her comments about the National Intelligence Estimate, which are based on a leaked portion of the report. It’s been stated that taken in context of the full report the Democrats are misrepresenting the findings. She also attacked the President’s policies in Iraq, of course without a hint of a counter-action to take their place. But these complaints without answers aside, I dislike here ever so late words of concern.

I feel insulted that Senator Clinton, and another Democratic candidate that appeared with her, would piggy-back their campaign desires on the backs of people in need. My vote is worth a bit more than platitudes and Johnny-come-lately concern. So are the votes of those in Broome county and New York State, I think.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Monday, September 25, 2006

If politicians could be like this - 9.25.2006.2

Who would you elect, Arnold Vinick or Mat Santos? Seriously I’d like to know. If you are unfamiliar with who those gentlemen are then you missed the last season of the West Wing. And if you missed it you need to watch the Bravo cable network or buy the DVD’s. The last season is what politics should be at its best I think.

Simply put Vinick is the Republican and Santos is the Democrat. Both are men with strong values, belief in family, and a dedication to America. These men embody the best of each party. Both give detailed intelligent and provocative reasons for their respective views. Most importantly they are clear and direct in their speech.

Why can’t real politicians, who have more than a bit of the theatrical in them, provide the same. Why is it more like a choice of evils and a compromise of which values and issues are important. As media increases the scope of what we know about these people and following their every move, why does it seem more like a badly scripted television program.

Yes real people are flawed, but when was the last time you really felt that a politician, on any level, was passionate about what they were doing? And how much longer was it since you felt that politician was sincere and honest.

Just something I was thinking as the mid-term elections for 2006 are approaching.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Hugo Chavez and the United Nations - 9.25.2006.1

Having had the chance to reflect on the various speeches made at the UN and afterwards I find that the UN is worth less and less to the United States. It’s not that the United Nations is a drain on the economy, nor that in hosting it in New York we create a base for espionage against our nation. These may or may not be true. What is troubling is the fact that since we are the only empire in the world, and we are stronger than any other nation in virtually any criteria, the UN provides a means for those jealous of our nation to collaborate and work against us in a unified manner.

I dislike how some leaders use the United Nations as a platform to make personal attacks on our leaders, and our way of life. While that may be their beliefs, this is not the forum for such comments. I doubt that these same leaders would allow our President to go to their country, appear on their news, and insult their leaders and government openly. Some of these countries don’t even allow newspapers with non-governmental views. Yet they feel that attacking this nation is obligatory. Some even use this opportunity to create further propaganda for themselves, effectively ‘beating their chest’ for their homeland coverage.

President Chavez is a good example of what I mean. Crass enough to call our President the devil, to claim that he leaves a trail of sulfur, and to make no substantive comments throughout his speech. That is a waste of time, and a poor attempt at ego boosting. If president Chavez hates our President so much, and there fore the policies and lifestyle of the American people that the President represents, then why does he allow his nation to sell us oil? Why is it that 1/3 of the GDP of his nation comes from the barrels of oil sold to America. I guess the sulfur doesn’t stick to U.S. dollars. I guess the devil isn’t such a bad guy when he provides food and clothing for your people.

President Chavez would like us to forget that the President is America. I for one do not fail to see the connection. That does not mean our President is perfect, nor an exact representation of all the people. It does not mean we cannot criticize his actions. But it does mean that in terms of interactions between nations around the world, he is all of us. To attack him is to attack you or me. To call the President a devil is to say that to me. And then to go to Harlem, to try to hustle me with the offer of slightly cheaper gas is an insult.

The offer is what I liken to someone spitting on a steak and then trying to sell it to you at a discount. Does president Chavez think us so clueless? If we were to boycott his oil for 1 month, I bet that would change his tune. I bet if he had no US oil sales for a year he wouldn’t be president. Especially since we don’t need to buy the oil from his county. It would not affect our lives, it does theirs. So if president Chavez would like to see evil, when his nation loses 1/3 of its income, and people starve, and when we don’t help out sending food to his nation, or any aid, and we ask to get all the money we are owed back instead of refinancing and pushing the debt to the future or forgiving past due portions, I think then he will get a bit of the idea.

But the UN is a platform for people of this nature. And to hear people rally to this view point is insulting. Especially since when there are ethnic cleansings in a nation, or a famine, or civil wars among warlords, or a natural disaster the UN is the place they all go to ask us for help. The UN relies on our funding, and troops, and backing for anything to happen. Yet we get insulted and put upon. Many of the non-aligned nations could not exist without the intervention and support of the US, via the UN. They need to take a look at where their food comes from, where their banks are supported by, where the technology has originated at. We don’t need fair weather friends, but the UN is filled with them. And as I said in the beginning, I see less reason why we need to be involved in it.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Comments from Pope Benedict XVI -

I know religion is a touchy subject for many people. I am not religious and look at all religions from the same light. All of the major world religions hold several tenets that are the same. That murder is bad, God is good, and treating one another well are just a few of the commonalities. But each has had problems with another on and off for centuries. It seems that co-existence peacefully is a short-lived event, or so history seems to show. And each religion has had actions that it supported that broke with these tenets. Given that I have to wonder about recent events.

Now how is it that the Pope would make a speech and not expect the outrage that has occurred. I’m sure most have heard that the Pope spoke recently and quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor. That may not sound so bad, but the fact is that the quote attacks Islam. It would be similar to those in the past that found slavery to be ok because of statements by St. Aquinas or in the Bible itself. Except this is worse.

The Pope is a scholarly man, a former teacher of theology. What would make him think that a quote that equates Islam with evil would do anything to calm tensions. And how this would relate to the relationship between faith, reason and violence in a positive manner is lost on me. No matter what else was stated the quote is the focal point for everyone. And if the Pope believes his trip to Turkey is going to go well, he has more faith in human nature than I ever would.

I think that addressing the issue of attacking innocents in the name of God is a good thing. The fact that the Pope is doing it is slightly hypocritical though. The Christian church supported the Inquisition, the Crusades, slavery and quite a few other actions. That said though the ideal is worth speaking about. I just don’t understand how insulting the people you are speaking to about peaceful co-existence helps.

Any fanatic that would kill another human being simply because of their religion is wrong, I think. It doesn’t matter if the killer is pro-life killing an abortion doctor or a suicide bomber. It’s the same thing. I can’t see how any religious leader would support that since every major religious tome says the innocents should be protected and murder is wrong.

But pissing of an entire religion by using a quote that you know is insulting to them because you want to address the wrongful murder of innocents, I can’t get my head around that. It just seems counter productive.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Hispanics, and higher education

I was reading an article recently [Hispanics Have Unique Cancer 'Profile'] when I noticed something. Why is it that in various documents from the government Hispanics are compared to non-Hispanic whites? I’m Hispanic (Black African American and Puerto Rican) but the government classified me African American, so does my doctor. Mexicans, Cubans, Brazilians, Ecuadorians and dozens of others are ‘Hispanic’ and many are not light skinned enough to be white. I also know many of all the Hispanic groups that are white skinned, including parts of my family. But none of them are white either.

In fact the only ‘white’ Hispanics I know of are Spaniards from Spain. Of course anyone who has paid attention to medieval history is aware that the Moors controlled Spain for 100+ years. The Moors were from Africa, need I say more? But I’ll take Spaniards as a given regardless. So who else are these Hispanic whites the government is referring to me not being? I just find that whole category annoying, but perhaps it’s just my ignorance on the subject.

By the way, the term Hispanic is dumb and misleading. It is derived from the word Hispania – an old word used to describe Spain. While the old Spanish did do a lot of ‘getting to know the natives’ (or ‘bringing them civilization/Christianity’ whichever you prefer) the native peoples/Indians of the various areas are as much part of the equation as Spain. Why such a term is used I do not know. It’s like the term Latino, which is better applied to Italian since Latin came from the Ancient Romans. While it is a pet peeve, it does annoy me that a more fairly descriptive term was never used. And why would it be a bad thing to call me a Black African American Taino Indian.

As for the above-mentioned article, read it and look at my post The health of this Puerto Rican Black African American. “If you don’t have your health what have you got?” (Bonus for those that know where that quote is from – hint, it’s a movie)

Another interesting article [Rising college fees will cost us in time] is one that hits home. I can definitely attest to the fact that college tuition has been raising since 1986. I recall the increase at Rutgers University; that would ‘only’ cause 11% of the student body to no longer be capable of affording the college as the school board of directors said. Not a big deal if you can afford it I suppose, I for one could not. And that was after taking into account the fact I maintained 3 part-time jobs while going to school.

Higher education has always been difficult to attain for minority students, especially those that are Black African American and Hispanic. Between less support from a family with lower incomes, less disposable income, fewer homes or assets, more difficult social backgrounds, worse elementary through high school systems and other factors – getting to college is hard enough. Of course that is a blanket statement, some of those factors apply to some people others don’t. But they do exist in abundance to many.

So with that said it’s no surprise that America is again becoming an elitist society in terms of education. One based on those with better education, and thus generally better pay, and those without. Not a new revelation, it has been happening since well before the 1980’s. It’s just far more apparent with the advances in technology in the last 20 years.

But that does not mean that higher education is impossible. Nor that anyone should give up. Some education is better than none. Such was true for me. It doesn’t mean that we should open up the colleges to everyone either. There should be some challenge, it makes the journey worthwhile. Making it attainable is a challenge; letting tuition prices continue on this path makes it a dream.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Expanding Vass for everyone

Part of my effort to improve the site. Please bear with me. I need to change alot of links since I just got the new domain. I'll get it all fixed soon. Thank you for your patience.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Final Price of Security thoughts

Continued from Ted Koppel part 2...

But I realize that each of these actions and proposals are meant to safeguard the American people. I do note that as has happened in the past of this nation, some actions have been done that were questionable at the time but in the best interest of the nation. I do not doubt that more will happen in the future, when needed. The key is that checks and balances remain, and that individual citizens consistently debate these actions.

We are fighting an ideal. We are fighting people and there will be costs in lives. I have no problem with that. Much like the one commenter mentioned (I missed her name) we must be clear on what we are doing. Political manipulation of wording is unacceptable. There are no politics when we are trying to continue the way of life we enjoy. Because the fact is that, as the quote was made in the television program the West Wing “…we are free, rich and powerful all at the same time.” This is not the first enemy of our nation, nor will it be the last. And we should strongly defend ourselves from these threats but without losing ourselves in this defense. I realize that we will be in these fights for a decade at least, and that is a fact we need to accept.

We must discuss these things fully as a nation. We must be firm in our resolve. And we should not sway because of a soundbite, or political verbal wrangling. Hiding from the length of the commitment is like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand, the danger still remains. Without discussing these matters, too much can be corrupted and that leads to a loss in the quality and way of life we enjoy today. Reacting without consensus potentially encourages our enemies. I do not condone that. But I do not fear striking strongly when that is needed either.

In essence I think the price of security is action. We cannot be idle, or complacent. The world will no longer allow us to be protected by the oceans that separate us from the rest of the world. We cannot allow those that would strike our children, and innocent civilians to go unpunished lest we invite even more attacks. We dare not fail to discuss how we will protect ourselves, seek out and prevent as many attacks as possible, and ensure the maintenance of the quality and way of life we have today. Apathy is the greatest enemy of this nation, followed by ignorance I think. If we allow them to flourish no number of bombs can protect us. And when we are attacked again, political views will be moot. Questions of what should or shouldn’t happen will be unimportant. Without action in the form of discussion, the environment of fear and anger could place the American people on a path that as Mr. Koppel said becomes North Korea. If there is no other reason, that should be enough.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Continuing Ted Koppel

Continued from Part 1...

The net effect of this ignorance (or perhaps stupidity depending on how you define the term) is that 25% of those polled from this program would allow the internment of Arab-Americans. That is insane. Internment, en masse, of American citizens based on essentially color of skin was wrong in the 40’s, wrong for Indian reservations, and still wrong today. I know of no argument that can support such a view, with validity, and I equate such a view as the same as those that supported slavery. The difference in thought seems to me to be quite slim. And in doing such an action what is there to stop us from sliding all the way back to slavery?

That 47% responded that Arab Americans ONLY should be required to carry an i.d. card or other form of identification is terrifying. I really would like to see someone explain to me how that is different from the stars that Jews were made to wear in Nazi Germany. Can anyone tell me that if either of these actions were done, that there would not be an expansion. Do you doubt that if these acts were done there wouldn’t come a time where perhaps Mexican Americans would be subjected to the same thing, because they could be illegal aliens. Or to Black African Americans because of high inner-city crime rates, or other Hispanics because they could be both. It’s a slippery slope once you start down this path, and the arguments are all without validity that supports it in my view.

On the other side is the over-reaching of the government. The NSA has and continues to invade the personal privacy of American citizens. My blogs, and posts and everyone who reads them have all been recorded by the NSA. That is a fact, and until the government receives a ruling on its appeal on the Supreme Court ruling, it’s legal. I have no doubt that the government has also looked into my bank account, phone records, ECT. even though that is expressly not legal. But in the same way that I would not want anyone to read my mail, nor any corporation having that information, I do not believe the government should have that much information. And to those that believe that the government should be able to scan all emails, would you let the government read all your written mail? There is no difference in the right to privacy.

Continued in Part 3...

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Ted Koppel - The Price of Security

On the eve of the 5th anniversary of September 11, 2001 I am watching Mr. Ted Koppel and his program, The Price of Security, on the Discovery Channel. And I am intently observing what he is saying. One thing that is obvious immediately, this program could never air on regular broadcast television. I won’t say that it is a completely even-handed program; aspects of it are definitely leaning against government policy. But the questions it is raising are important to consider.

Before I say anything else let me mention the following. I am a former Marine, and my father was a Marine who volunteered for Viet Nam (which left him with PTSD and Agent Orange complications). On September 11 I was in Manhattan, in the Helmsley Building one floor below the penthouse. I was a stockbroker and had worked 3 blocks from the exchange for several years, and had been in the Towers or around them dozens of times. I had several friends in or next to the Towers at that time, and had a client that was nearly crushed in her car by a piece of the debris along with her granddaughter and daughter-in-law. Suffice to say I have strong views and memories of that day.

We are in and ideological war, there is no question. We are engaged with an enemy that is fanatical and does not value any life that does not conform to their rigid beliefs. This will be a potentially decade long or greater fight. There will be another successful attack, it is inevitable sadly. Hopefully it will not be nuclear or biological.

That said we must accept several realities. One reality is that Gitmo – Guantanamo Bay – is needed. As in any war, enemies that are captured need to be interrogated to learn more about what is/or will be happening in the enemy ranks. I do not condone torture. But I do realize that just asking nicely where Osama bin Laden is and what he is planning won’t work. And the middle ground between the 2 is very gray. Thus there will be mistakes, and those that make them should be dealt with appropriately. And for those that wish to shout loudly that we should not have this place, show me one hostage that has been taken since the 70’s that has not been tortured or killed. We are pussycats by comparison; the key is making sure we stay that way.

A terrible consequence of all this though is a by-product that seems to be going on without even a comment, or as a whisper when said. Arabs, American or otherwise, are now targets of rage and misunderstanding. The same can be said of Muslims. And in both cases I would say that the majority of people have little to no knowledge at all. Many Americans that I have met across the country can’t tell a difference between an individual from India, a Mexican or other Hispanic, or an Arab. The amount of general information on Muslims is even less, most of that being framed in a negative light (in my experience).

Continued in Part 2...
Final part 3...

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Real news - part 2

Continued from part 1...

Another matter worth real consideration, or at least more focus is the recent report by the Federal Reserve. The Fed has found that Black African Americans and Hispanics pay substantially more for their mortgages than Whites. To be exact 54% more in 2005 for African Americans and 46% for Hispanics. That is a huge figure. Even in 2004 the figures were substantively higher. The figure, derived from over 8,000 financial institutions, was attributed to various factors such as riskier mortgage loans like piggyback loans which have higher rates. A question should be why is there such a discrepancy? Why are riskier loans given in greater quantity to non-whites? It was also found that African American and Hispanic borrowers are more prone to rejection; what is the basis of that?

Given that all things are equal, this report states, as I understand, that I would be denied or given a riskier higher-cost mortgage on the basis of my name and skin. That is very wrong on every level. The fact that this report has been virtually overlooked by most media with a preference to speak on the alleged drunkenness of Paris Hilton is sad. It’s my observation that matters involving finance and economics are often poorly discussed in the black culture, and the media reinforces this ignorance.

Why is it that in my travels I have found that children in their early teens are aware of investing and money management in Asian and White cultures, and to a lesser degree in Latino culture? Yet I know few Black African American youth, even in their early 20’s that know the same degree of information. It is because of this very late start that riskier mortgages are taken, perhaps why they are offered in greater numbers as well. But what causes this aversion to knowledge? That is worth knowing and correcting, yet little is ever said about it. More time is spent on promoting and emulating entertainers like rappers or training to attempt to be the next Mr. Michael Jordan. Talk about mistaken priorities.

So as I stated earlier, there are better things to focus on in the media. Perhaps it’s time we start.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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New things at Black Entertainment USA - custom clothes

I wanted to mention a bit on some new developments on the site. First I want to thank all those that have answered the poll on the site. And I have been paying attention to your ratings. While my writing style is not loved by everyone, the overwhelming majority of my readers do which is a great thing. In addition I know that there have been requests for improved and different Men’s, Women’s and other goods.

It has taken a while but I am working with the first of potentially several graphic artists. Creation Designs, found at has done a wonderful job and there are now several new designs available at my store in each category. Some of the featured designs include the I AM THE MYTH, THE BATTERY DIED, and a revamped WOMAN WITH A MIND lines of clothing. There are also more custom mousepads, mugs, teddy bears and other misc. items. In the near term there will be additional clothing lines added, not to mention a few changes in the look of the site.

Take a look, and keep an eye out. And keep sending out your thoughts about the site. I’m always interested in what you have to say, whether it’s a comment on a post or an email to me about anything else.

And if you do enjoy the various goods, show your support and buy an item. Tell your friends about the site as well. I hate to say it but money makes the world go round and definitely makes my life a touch easier.


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Where is the real news - part 1

There has been a lot of news of late based on comments made by politicians and commentators. I’ve spoken about some comments made by Mr. Pat Buchanan and Mr. Mark Williams [What some on Fox News are saying...] which I feel were truly despicable. Observations and responses to the statements of public figures is something that everyone should be aware of. That is when such figures are in public, or privately deriving public policy.

I say that because of the recent leak of, and subsequent apology by, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his private comments. [By the way what does his name mean? It’s black something right?] Gov. Schwarzenegger was quoted when he was speaking about Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (a Latina of Puerto Rican descent) as saying, "I mean Cuban, Puerto-Rican, they are all very hot have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it." Now when I first read the headline of the article and the first paragraph of the article (stating the apology) I was a bit miffed. But I have told people about my ‘hot latin blood’ in one form or another, as have many Hispanic friends of mine in addition to numerous movies and books. It’s not that serious, and depending on the whole context (which has not been given) quite innocent. There are better things to seek out and comment on than this, so why are the petty things always out there?

Like what various famous Black African American figures have thought about President Clinton’s Administration and time in office. A new book Conversations: William Jefferson Clinton, From Hope to Harlem speaks with nearly 100 of these figures, including Mr. Hank Aaron, former Mayor Bill Campbell, and U.S. Rep. John Lewis. While I am interested in different views on the effect, or lack of one, that an Administration has had on the lives of Americans especially those of Hispanic or African American descent, I have a different question. President Clinton has been oft referred to as the ‘first black President’, a phrase coined by Ms. Toni Morrison. Why? Because he was the debatably first president to carry a large portion of the popular African American vote? That does not confer ethnicity, as if it were a commodity or consumer item like a t-shirt.

With due respect to Ms. Morrison, I do understand where she was coming from with the phrase; I find the usage by the media to be out of context. It dismays me. It implies a commercialization of black culture that I find insulting. It also implies a preferential treatment, as used by the media that never occurred. Of course I may not be the only one that feels this way, and thus the book is of interest to me. If anyone has already read it I’d love to hear their comments.

Continued in part 2...

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Which woman for president?

As the elections of 2006 approach a lot of thought is going to the presidential election in 2008. Democrats are lining up and preparing to test the waters on their chances and several prominent Republicans are being asked their thoughts. In this large group of potential candidates are a couple of interesting names. On the Democrat side there is the ever present talk of Senator Hilary Clinton, Republicans are wondering about Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

I’ve spoken about Sen. Clinton several times [Vass thoughts on Senator Clinton, Commenting on Sen. Hillary Clinton's Dr. Martin Luther King Day speech] in the past. There is no question that she is planning to pursue her re-election, and will likely win it. It is also no secret that her actions have been edging her way towards running for the nomination and presidency in 2008. Recent comments by the senator indicate that she has interest and is feeling for public thought on a female president. In the mean time Sen. Clinton has kept her name in the public eye, though some issues have been quite contradictory.

I don’t care if a qualified woman or man is president. I do care if someone who is driven by what seems a hunger for power is. I would expect any potential president to be strong in their convictions, clear on their position on issues and a capable negotiator. Obviously there have been many presidents that fail on several of these items. Sadly it is often a choice of whomever comes closer to the mark. But blind ambition is never a positive feature.

I distrust any person who’s desire for power causes a ‘say anything’ attitude. While most who maintain such a flip-flop attitude are cut in the nomination race some perservere. I cannot see the most powerful position in the world held by anyone who would blatantly manipulate their words to achieve their goals. Anyone who is that obsessed is dangerous. In the past it was harder to have such people in power. Today soundbites, television exposure, public opinion polls, looks and gender are all used to court specific groups and gain mathematical advantages. Theoretically, by courting a couple of specific groups – like women that are the majority of the population – individuals can be elected that are inferior and detrimental to this nations continue existence.

On the other side is Secretary of State Rice. Ms. Rice is in a position similar to that of Mr. Colin Powell in the past. Intelligent and respected world-wide, in a position of power within the current administration and the fact that they are African American is a positive to many Republicans and others. Yet Secretary Rice continues to downplay and outright deny a potential run.

Secretary Rice is not without flaws, being part of the administration that right or wrongly involved America in the war in Iraq. Also Secretary Rice seems to prefer the thought of being head of the NFL as opposed to America. Why anyone would chose that is up for speculation. What isn’t speculation, to my best knowledge, is that Secretary Rice does match my key concerns for a potential president.

So consider this. If America is ready for a female president (short lived television shows aside) which type of person seems more appropriate.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Immigration and student aid for college

Well a lot is being said about immigration as the next voting cycle approaches. Various senators and representatives are on both sides of this issue. Fear is also high as a factor dealing with the question of what to do. Amnesty, walls, and other compromises are being stated as races move forward.

As I have mentioned before [in post So what about Canada?] all the questions are firmly focused on Mexico and Hispanics with no mention of Canada. I can only assume that the reason is that Hispanics are darker skinned and more easily identified than any other illegal immigrants in this nation. If that is the case it is very sad. The youth of the nation should take note. If this is the reason of the focus, which I think it is or at least the major part, then it is just a very visible expression of racism in this nation. While the youth may deny or not notice racism it still exists. This is just one form of it.

I say it is racist because if we were to truly be concerned about our borders we would have more action to the north. Of course the size of our border with Canada makes it difficult at best to manage. Yet no thoughts of fences have ever been made to the north. Their are no ‘minute men’ or other watchdogs patrolling our larger open spaces in the north with our quiet neighbor.

That is not to say Canada is a hot bed of incursion, but the facts are that several terrorists [let’s face it a large part of the current impetus to restrict our southern border is due to the fear of terrorists entering the nation] have arrived from the north not the south. If we want to act on our fear we should do so in a fair and proportionate manner. Where the greatest threat has appeared the greatest safeguards should exist. That has not happened, and seems unlikely if it will anytime soon.

I am upset by illegal immigration as well. Not for the fear of terrorists infiltrating the nation with the illegals but for other reasons. [As comedian Mr. Carlos Mencia aptly put it, I paraphrase, ‘The Mexicans don’t want any terrorists screwing up their ability to cross the border. One terrorist get thru and does something and the next thing you know the military is on the whole border and nobody will be able to get over. They don’t want that. So if a possible terrorist is in the van he will be pointed out.’] I do not agree with anyone receiving medical treatment, or financial aid that is not a citizen. I pay taxes [and the IRS knows it] every year and with every purchase, to fund programs aimed at benefiting those less capable than myself. Regardless of my qualms on how much should be taken from me, or how much aid is needed by someone trying to better themselves, it is my strong feeling that that money be directed to other citizen who do pay taxes as well (whether those taxes are for purchases or IRS it doesn’t matter). It is not the responsibility of this nation to take care of those in our borders illegally.

Would I support emergency care that prevents imminent death? Yes. But if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, go back to your nation for medication. Do I think children should be able to get proper healthcare? Yes, if you are a citizen. Do I think that an illegal immigrant child deserves to pay in-state rates for state-run colleges? No, they are not citizens of the state or country. They pay out of state fees at best if not foreign student rates. They definitely do not deserve to receive student aid that is for citizens. My taxes are for the betterment of young citizens trying to improve their minds that in turn will help this country continue the quality of life that currently exists into the future.

I cannot fathom the argument that allows my money to benefit an illegal alien in gaining a higher education while denying that right to an African American, Hispanic or other citizen. What is the benefit to the nation? How does this improve America? How does this discourage more illegal aliens from bringing their children? Where does it stem the drain on my taxes.

America is not an open door to everyone. Our immigration policies need improvement, that is a given. We can do better, given. But for those that enter without permission we have no obligation. Nor do we have the need to improve their lives at the cost of our own children. There is only so much money that is available for various programs. Each dollar spent on an illegal alien is money taken from a citizen, and that is not what I pay taxes for. Especially when higher education is involved.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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