Every once in a while you meet the unspoiled American. He's the guy, she's the woman who for some simple yet seemingly inexplicable reason is always polite, completely guileless and implicitly trustworthy. There isn't a phony bone in their body. They are cool, calm and collected. Some of them exude strength. Others radiate warmth. Don G., one of the best people I know is like that, except that he makes quiet. In a noisy room, all is calm around him. He has been successful as a personal counselor and now he is at a new beginning. As he explains it:
In a very short time, I'll be launching my new web site around the concept of Prosperity Coaching. Prosperity Coaching is a unique approach to coaching that activates the "mental wealth-creation engine" by exploring on the unconscious relationship with money, wealth, prosperity and abundance, identifying and removing limiting beliefs, and aligning actions with values around prosperity. Once this new engine is primed and ready, my clients will need to build their "success team"--that group of experts and professionals who help them create and execute their wealth-building strategies.Consequently, I need your help building a list of professionals in various fields (financial planning, lending, money management, estate planning, law, investing, accounting, tax planning and preparation, real estate, etc.) to whom I can refer my coaching clients. Quality is better than quantity, so please refer professionals that you have either worked with and consider to be very knowledgeable, successful, and entirely trustworthy.
He's a good man, and considering some of the discussions we've been having about moving people up Maslow's hierarchy, I can't think of anyone better suited to the task. So I invite you to contribute to his success by passing through me folks of some repute who will ultimately lift some bit of our society up a notch.
We've been talking about Empowerment Temple and various hucksters and jacklegs who would take advantage of people's insecurities. Don would never be like that. He's a peaceful dude, and I'm proud to support his new venture. Let's get this network started. Remember that I'm at LinkedIn.
The Simpsons Movie is the first movie I can remember since "There's Something About Mary" where I have to go back to hear a third of the jokes because the audience is still laughing at the last joke. It's that funny.
Not only that, it is the only movie where a dozen jokes you already saw in the trailers are still funny in the movie. Furthermore, the audience is telling the joke as it comes on the screen and it's still funny. Everybody (and we were sitting in the fifth row, it was that crowded) was singing 'Spider-Pig'. The Simpsons is America, and this is America's movie. It made me laugh, it made me cry. It made me cheer. It made me sorry that I'd criticized the Simpsons before.
Homer Simpson is the dumb American that proves America doesn't have to be the land of the yuppies, so long as it remains the land of the free.
On our way to the theatre, we knocked off about 25 Simpsons characters that we could name. Of course there were more, but here's what I can remember off the top of my head:
Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Santa's Little Helper, Flanders, Todd, Willie, Barney, Moe, Carl, Lenny, Smithers, Burns, Apu, Milhouse, Selma, Patty, Otto, Skinner, Wiggum...ahh you get the picture. Everybody is in the film. I love the Simpsons and the movie is that good.
Not since Kent Shockneck dodged a falling spotlight during a California earthquake have I seen such a break in broadcast news demeanor as I have witnessed this past week.
I studiously avoid local news, and really haven't watched for years. But this week I was in a cheap hotel that didn't have Discovery. So I happened upon the coverage of the explosion of a truckload of acetelyne drums in Dallas the other day. I was blown away by the inarticulateness of the folks off script. But what really blew the lid off was the obscene coverage of the obscene helicopter crash which was the result of the obscene coverage of a car chase.
If I go to Hell for laughing at others' tragic misfortune, this will probably be the sin at the top of the list, but I hope God understands my shadenfruede in this instance. How long have we been complaining of the mendacity of this kind of news coverage? And when it finally blows up in their faces... but what really killed me was the extraordinary burst of emotion coming from these reporters who suddenly opened up some measure of genuine human sympathy when they realized that somebody they actually knew had died. All of a sudden we started hearing who used to work with whom in what little market affiliate how many years ago. It was just a shocking revelation of how these folks operate and the thin veneer of human emotion they report like so much makeup when they read the news from their cue cards. I cannot think of when I ever imagined television news could be so transparently venal.
I wasn't going to publish this note until today when I learned of the death of Tom Snyder, who was one of the very last evening news reporters I ever watched. Snyder was the real deal as far as TV news goes, and coming from Los Angeles, I've seen my share of those the industry considers best. Jerry Dunphy, Hal Fishman, Dr. George Fishbeck, Jim Hill and first among them all Warren Olney all represent to me what broadcasters could be. As the years went by you could see the stress and disgust on their faces as they had to handle more and more shallow versions of the truth, except perhaps in sport where everybody knows the rules.
As usual, Spook86 has a fascinating dossier on the ways and deeds of Snyder. One day, with any luck, we'll have some of his real video to add to the foolishness that passes as informing the public. Where do old newscasts go anyway?
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.
Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.
I know it's difficult for people to believe. Then again you need to know whom to hear out and where to listen.
This is the most important story yet for this year about progress in Iraq. I am looking to see what the candidates have to say about this. There are a great number of talking points that are going to have to come out of this piece and the John Burns interview with Hugh Hewitt.
What does 'Support The Troops' mean today? is my scurrilous question to the anti-war crowd who have been saying that defeat was pre-ordained.
If you ask me who I'll vote for today, the answer is the Republican nominee whom I hope will be Fred Thompson.
The reasons are twofold and simple.
#1. America needs a unifying leader who speaks to the people with wisdom and clarity. Fred Thompson does that.
#2. America needs a leader who is clear on the issues of the day. Fred Thompson's blog does that. For the past three weeks, he has put forth concise explanations of his positions on a wide variety of issues. He is prompted by current affairs and controversies, which he handles with aplomb, but also with matters of long standing concern without prompting. I like what I read on the Fred Thompson blog.
Day after day, issue after issue. He nails it.
In my estimation, Thompson has a much better chance than McCain or Romney to become and stay number two among the front runners.
I like that Thompson is a Senator with a long track record and experience in Washington. He strikes me as someone who can and will get to the bottom of things, but whose experience teaches him how to and what to expect before he gets there. He has deftly handled misrepresentations of his record and character thus far. I say this in direct contrast with Giuliani whose experience in NYC, although commendable and significant, is still outside of Washington. We've already had GW Bush show how to piss off everybody outside of the White House.
I'm also impressed with Duncan Hunter and I hope that he leaves this race with the higher profile he needs to rise in California politics. I will start paying a bit more attention to Ron Paul who strikes me as the kind of truth teller who would be a fine head of any of the major Federal Agencies. But I don't think we need a big reformer in the White House right now. We need somebody who can nudge the country back together and get rid of this Red vs Blue nonsense. I'm very interested also in Thompson's capacity to do so vis a vis his relationship with Dick Wolf, who walks on water in Hollywood to the extent that he can deflate the magic of the fifth estate. I have every expectation that President Thompson will be as much in our faces as President Clinton was, and it won't be slick.
It is not love at first sight with Thompson. He's edging into things sideways as if he were Citizen Kane. He's going to have to, at long last, go full frontal and start fighting like a candidate. We await such moves here at Cobb.
I will never get used to the aw shucks goodness of Father's Day. It's the one season of the year when television commercials actually grow up for a moment. This year was no exception. The Spousal Unit, Boy, Scholar and F10 all did a bang up job. They gave me just the right balance of slavish attention and peaceful solitude. So I went and bought myself a tie.
This evening, they brought back the Tyler Perry flick, 'Daddy's Little Girls'. I wasn't really in a mood to see it, but I figure most anything is better than the alternative given, a Bernie Mac film. I am sick of his mug. Anyway, this was a neat little package that had all of the trimmings of the kind of movies we wanted Spike Lee to make 20 years ago, where the good guys won, the bad guys lost and everything was dipped in the dialect. No loose ends in this bad boy.
I''m a stranger to the Perry oeuvre. From this deally alone his work seems likable. I wouldn't expect to find the likes of Forrest Whittaker in a Perry film. That's too bad, but not all bad. I grew up before this genre got going. I suspect that the Spousal Unit has seen her share of Morris Chestnut and Gabrielle Union films, but I think I've seen just two. This was one that took itself seriously without being too ham-handed although there were clumsy moments. I think it dealt with class in a bit of an in-your-face manner, but it wasn't particularly overwrought.
Good story, nice work. Rough around the edges. Worth a look.
Mordaxus speaks out on the safety of flying in grunge mufti.
I was thinking about this the other day as I sat in first class. I do so much enjoy flying incognegro. I have a standard flight suit. Cargo pants, a long sleeve black surf shirt, ball cap and shades. Recently I've switched from the Samsonite computer bag to the Targus backpack. On my wrist is the G-Shock. I rarely talk to seatmates although I tend to say a kind word or two when I'm in first.
I tend to think that the watch is the key, and since I'm still in the market for my next bling article, I've been studiously observing men's watches as I see the guys in first class coming and going as I travel each week. Since I generally go through Denver to Texas, I have four opportunities a week to eyeball the first classers and it's a mixed bag. I've seen very few watches or styles of dress that speak to me directly. I have noticed a larger number of polo shirts with corporate logos than I expected to find.
The trick, it seems to me, is to convey enough status so that the TSA and other airport staff recognize, but that you don't appear to be a dilettante. On the way home to vacation a couple weeks back I actually stopped at WalMart to pick up some steel toe work boots and camo shorts. I've been debating the cowboy hat but that's just too conspicuous.
"Are you going to be the first President in US history to meet personally and shake hands with Fidel Castro?"
All indications from the YouTube debates (it's come to this) indicate that the answer from Obama is 'Yes'. He can put that on his grave. This is not an oops moment. It's a brain dead moment posing as 'change'. Right about now that's all he can really do in 2nd place, is really charge up the Dems to determine whether or not they are actually for change.
If I was Obama's campaign director, here's the bumper sticker he needs "No More Dynasties". Aside from all of that, he's geopolitical toast.
I don't like being called a contrarian because I consider myself a responsible person. Yet most of the time I remain apart, solving problems without sponsorship, going where others don't go, simply because those places would remain mysterious without my impulse. On matters of black politics and culture, I'm out there, so it seems. When I find that I have company, I scoot over a bit and go on another tangent.
It is that constant variety and analytical bent that marks me. But I am always more comfortable when I know that there is another covering areas I've covered before, especially when they're better than me. On the other hand, nothing annoys me more than prescriptions that others think I should follow for my own good, even if that might actually apply. I'm no caged bird. And when I think about the prospects for me I want to find them infinite even if that infinity is way beyond my grasp. I am particularly aware and sensitive to people second-guessing me and putting me in my place. I'm not a contrarian, you just don't appreciate where I'm headed.
And so I've made an enemy of the 50 Page Book Man in his many instantiations. You know the 50 Page Book Man. He's on Venice Beach in LA telling fortunes, reading palms and speaking with a mystical tone of voice. He's on Amsterdam Avenue in NY with a table full of incense, Afrocentric paperbacks and Kente Cloth. He's at the Little Five Points Mall in Atlanta selling The Final Call and telling you that you don't know your *self*. He's in the 5th Ward of Houston sitting on a milk crate puffing herb telling you the whole system is corrupt and you cannot see that without the power of ganja. More often than not, he's painfully aware of his position as an outsider and thus sees society as a conspiracy against him. But sometimes the 50 Page Book Man grows up. He survives. At long last he has an actual lesson to pass on which is not complete anti-social mumbo jumbo.
I don't know what to call that grown man, because he is not my enemy. Yet I get awfully uncomfortable around him and his prescriptions. He is like Fagin, a crooked shepherd with a heart of 18 karat gold. Not entirely pure, not entirely corrupt, but bearable to the extent that he's willing to watch over the street urchins of our society.
I imagine the king of such Black Fagins would be Juwanza Kunjufu, author of 'The Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys'. Or perhaps it might be Nathan McCall. Both are ministers of a church of Black Male Original Sin. In their gospel there is something essential and permanently alien about the species of 'Black Male', and it is their mission to show the way.They have inherited the hopeless many who have been reduced or have reduced themselves to this classification of skin and gender.
In that vein I have seen others. Jesse Lee Petersen's BOND is another organization of similar ambitions. And today I will add Makheru to the group as he accounts for another group of younglings:
Into this breach step Reggie Singleton, Keith Cradle and their male support group. Thirty Black males, aged 12 to 18 attend programs once a week and extra-curricular activities on some weekends. Singleton says, “Our goal is to provide a safe haven where Black males can be socialized and trained to be educationally, socially, and culturally conscious, disciplined young men who are maximizing their individual abilities.” Over 90% of these young men come from single parent homes, with little, if any positive male involvement in their lives. To fill this void Singleton and Cradle have assembled a team of positive role models, who come from a variety of backgrounds, committed to help the young men in the program succeed.
It is true that the cycle of despair must be broken. I have always called this 'The Sound of the Drum', and there has been, to my reckoning, no better exemplar of this sound than that of the original, Carter G. Woodson. Yet I am always amazed and discombobulated when I find there are so many out of earshot.
The sad fact is that there are those who suffer far out of earshot of the Sound of the Drum, and how many sorrows they must endure for not having a proper upbringing is beyond counting. And I can't help but sound to my self Dickensian upon reflection of their fate. But it is not Dickens or Oliver Twist in particular that brings me to observe what manhood might be missing from such youth, but Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Yes that is exactly what you think it is, an endangered species branded candy bar. $3.50 a pop. As a conservative, I must say however, that I much prefer this kind of activism. I'd much rather see people who care enough about monkeys to buy the luxury monkey bars and have proceeds go where they wish rather than to hijack large chunks of the tax burdens of people who don't care. I think it's a perfectly bourgie solution and I encourage it.
Back in the days when I was still bragging about China, I met several blackfolks in the entertainment business whose eyebrows went up. Hell yeah they knew that the burgeoning Chinese middle class was starved for some black entertainment. Hell yeah they wanted to get in on the action. Unfortunately I've been unable to throw any business their way, but I'm still on the email list. I just got one of those emails today and that and a clip I saw on TV reminded me about the new film "Who's Your Caddy".
As often as I get to see dialog peppered with derogatory stuff like "knee-grow" and "Negroe" and various other coonifestations of tom-calling, I expect there to be moderate to severe criticism of this farce flick coming soon to the blackosphere and the Kwaku network near you. But only if it gets popular, I imagine.
As Cobb readers know, as part and parcel of my respect for blackfolks, I don't second-guess them and I don't bother myself with the maintenance of 'positive black images'. Especially not when it comes to Hollywood films. Although I am in general agreement that Hollywood could use an enema, I'm not up in arms about it and it's not part of my political agenda. It's surely disturbing but I'm not running around like Chicken Little saying "Something Must Be Done". It's a free country. Be that as it may I am not beyond taking a swipe at those folks who do indeed think that Something Must Be Done.
They say only a real man can wear a pink shirt with confidence. I have two. Then again there are dudes who think I look hot. I ignore them and all those who don't ignore them. As well, I really dig Hollywood action flicks and never expect any great redeeming values from them. That's because I get my redeeming values elsewhere. And, truth be told, my kids still have the ability to get me to crack up over farts and boogers. I suppose that's because I have had enough of my share of densely sophisticated cultural elucidation to appreciate the Alexandrian sword of scatology against the Gordian knot of pedantry.
So I ask. Can 'we as a people' stomach "Who's Your Caddy?"?
I leave the question unanswered. I think it's foolishness, but I'm not so sure that it's special foolishness. Who knows, it might actually be hilarious. I can remember absolutely hating Anthony Anderson finding him to be a talentless parody of talentless parody. Then one day I actually saw him act. Then I saw it again and I had to correct myself. There's a reason that man gets cast. He's doing the work.
I've met some good people in black Hollywood and I like them. Why shouldn't they have fun?
I have paid absolutely no attention to Ron Paul or his candidacy for President on the Republican ticket. But I have noticed that he gets a lot of hits on Technorati. Still, he ain't gonna get the nomination so who cares? I am vaguely aware that anti-Republicans like him for some strange reason. Well look what I just found.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government unprecedented power over the hiring, employee relations, and customer service practices of every business in the country. The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society. The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties. The rights of all private property owners, even those whose actions decent people find abhorrent, must be respected if we are to maintain a free society.
This expansion of federal power was based on an erroneous interpretation of the congressional power to regulate interstate commerce. The framers of the Constitution intended the interstate commerce clause to create a free trade zone among the states, not to give the federal government regulatory power over every business that has any connection with interstate commerce.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society. Federal bureaucrats and judges cannot read minds to see if actions are motivated by racism. Therefore, the only way the federal government could ensure an employer was not violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to ensure that the racial composition of a business's workforce matched the racial composition of a bureaucrat or judge's defined body of potential employees. Thus, bureaucrats began forcing employers to hire by racial quota. Racial quotas have not contributed to racial harmony or advanced the goal of a color-blind society. Instead, these quotas encouraged racial balkanization, and fostered racial strife.
Paul bloviates with some expediency. He's not altogether misstating the facts, but he's pretty unsubtle in the details. I mean really. There was no massive violation of private property rights or any fundamental change in the way contract law is run in America. There might have been a potential for that in terms of the way the law was put together, but that certainly wasn't the intent - it just addresses the scope of civil rights, which is massive. To suggest that quotas were the only mechanism Civil Rights enforcement for is downright deceptive, but it's an old trick and we've heard it before from Clint Bolick.
Is this the stuff that has got people talking about Ron Paul? Not that I care about Ron Paul.
So the real irony is that should Petraeus stabilize Iraq, if Korea really has given up its weapons, if the world comes together on Iranian proliferation, Afghanistan gets quieter, and either bin Laden or Zawahiri gets captured—while the economy stays strong and an immigration fence is built, then mirabile dictu Bush will leave office in a good position to be praised in 10 years for preventing another 9/11, removing Saddam and the Taliban, decimating al Qaeda, and stopping nonproliferation. He needs some luck, must not listen to his short-term politicos who always choose apparent advantage over principle, and must keep his resolve. I told all that to some prominent Republicans—and was laughed at for it.
Funding Universe is an interesting free site with 7000 business histories. I found it while looking up information on the company that loaned my father the money he needed to buy our first house. I've always subscribed to the idea that some companies were conspiratorial in their support of white flight and the relative ghettoization of formerly white residential neighborhoods, but I've never had any evidence. It would be interesting to determine, were I an academic of any sort, exactly which companies did and which didn't.
Who was the Branch Rickey of real-estate, for example?
It goes without much saying that the Civil Rights Movement was a success. As well it goes with much saying that racism still persists in America. And of course Progressives spend a lot of time talking about institutional racism and just as often the legacy of slavery on black thought and culture. When you get closer to the actual history of these changes, you generally hear the same names. If I were born yesterday, and as far as the mainstream media are concerned, you could probably boil it down, according to the great man theory, to a couple dozen black men and women who did the whole thing.
We may never know the name of that man who was the target of that firehose attack we've seen a hundred times on the History Channel. Likewise it surprised me to find the name of Judge Frank Minis Johnson Jr. who seemingly singlehandedly desegregated the South with his rulings. I put up a page of his decisions many years ago when I was more focused on race, but that's done little to increase his fame. And of course it's always news to a portion of my detractors when I tell the tale of Dirksen's legendary clout swinging, because we Republicans are supposed to have such antipathy to Civil Rights.
There will not likely be, in the annals of American race relations, much press on the matter of the Branch Rickeys of business. I happen to know that David T. Kearns was one of those men, perhaps the godfather of more black corporate execs than any. Even in thinking about him, he seems to be of a bygone era of corporate chiefs whose values and leadership extended far beyond the bottom line.
I remain curious about the histories of businesses. It is a thing we don't hear much about with regard to the people and decisions that are made with respect to their impact on society. We should know implicitly that such matters are near at hand to those who are the captains of industry, but it isn't often reflected in the shallow ways our current conversations go.
People with a few clues and a few grudges against all things Bush seem to be delighting in telling us how bad things are out here in California and how that augers ill for the economy. The keyword of disaster is foreclosure.
I've been seeing ads on telephone poles for many months that promise 100,000 cash on seconds for something like 400 bucks a month. That sounds very tasty, and in fact I have been restraining myself from asking Pops to put up his house so I could have that kind of cash for less than the price of my Beemer note. Alas when I called the 800 number on that telephone pole ad, nobody answered. So I put the notion out of my head. Something fishy is going on.
And yet the advertisements on the AM radio persist, and while I think that the Mortgage Minute Guy is above board, there has been a lot of fakery going on. It's easy to get lost in the fine print and it's in almost nobody's best interest to decipher all that for the average Joe. Still, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand 'buyer beware'.
The California real-estate marked defies description and common sense. That's because there are some of the richest people in the world here, and some of the nation's poorest. The house that I grew up in was purchased in 1966 for about 30,000. The payment, which went to a mortgage company called Lomas & Nettleton, was $177. That house today would sell for something like half a million dollars. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, except in California. I had a chance to buy it for 180K back in 1989, but I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. In retrospect, I can say that was a financial mistake. On the other hand I know somebody was murdered on that block that year. I rented on the beach instead.
When the king of subprimes, New Century went under a couple months ago, we started looking at the problem seriously. At the time, subprime was about 20% of the market and the default rate was about 13%. The last figures I saw was that they are now about 18% of the market and the default rate is up to about 18%. Even though this is a small part of the overall mortgage market, there are evidently a goodly amount of mortgage backed derivative securities that are at risk and this is hurting the big boys. Over at Tigerhawk, they are saying that the health of all lenders may be in question, but it's too early to tell if this is a big deal that requires tweaking from the Fed or something we can get through without a heavy hand.
So the crisis isn't about foreclosure itself, but my inclination to
say that foreclosures are a blip may be premature. I know the craziness
in California and so take stories about foreclosures in Northern Cal
(having lived through the Dot Com Boom) with a grain of salt. There's
more to it than that. It is the cascading effect that foreclosures have
on big lenders that should concern us.
How long will it take for a Democrat to invoke Orwell if you poll him on the following question:
"The best way to insure peace is through military strength."
Spook86 has some answers, as does the Pew Research guys. I didn't check out the youTube debates, but there's a simple question to put to the Democrat candidates.
I talked with The R this weekend about his school. I learned a couple things.
The R is my cousin and he is the principal of a new charter school in NYC. He's running up against some interesting problems. As we heard him talk about them there was an interesting mix of things tossed into the air for me. I hope I do them justice as I reflect.
The first thing that was a stunning aspect of the difficulties he encountered and the first thing he talked about was apathy. Let's call it academic apathy. Everything his school could be is competing with a sense of 'so what' on the part of a good portion of his kids. He communicated that there is a palpable sense of "yeah yeah I know I know but what does that have to do with me?" on the part of the kids who are failing. Intellectually, they get it. They understand the entire trope of high school dropouts and all that dysfunction. There are none of them who don't recognize the creek they're up, but that recognition is not enough to make them want to paddle.
He lays the blame for this problem at the foot of parents which is a matter of some controversy because it so plainly follows a Conservative narrative. The R is no conservative, he has no reason to see that narrative used other than the reason that it applies truthfully to the situation of many of his failing students. There is in reality a cycle of despair at work which eats away at the ambitions of these youth. They need a great deal of assistance in changing their own assessment of their possibilities.
Just in writing that sentence, what must have been obvious to a million Liberals has been made plain to me. For millions, schools are a place to make for self-esteem and that has become the primary goal. But what is not said is that that goal has been put in place of academic achievement. The R has 17 year old freshmen who are hitting on girls in their same grade who are 14. When social problems outweigh the academic problems, any kind and considerate teacher must adjust. But The R's school is a charter school. He has the ability to boot kids out at will. Public schools do not, and thus they have becomes something other than schools. Certainly they have become something other than that which prepares students for the rigors of upward mobility in a competitive society.
I don't mean to suggest that The R's school is failing its students. There are successes of all sorts. But rather like the inverse of the happy family rule, the successful students are successful in many different ways, but the failing students fail very similarly. This is what makes his charter school unique, and unfortunately illustrates the complexity of the problem. You see although the failing students are 'typical', what it takes to get them out of there failing ways are unique. This is The R's great challenge, and ours as well.
Part of the great challenge of turning students around is understanding that they are still kids. For the most part they don't have the experience of turning their lives around or finding themselves in different circumstances. One student who performed on stage for the first time in a poetry competition broke down in tears afterwards. Never in her life had anyone given her applause. She was completely overwhelmed. The day before it happened, despite all assurances of the quality of her work, she couldn't believe it might be possible. I believe what kids face is doubly challenging because of what we all face, which is a limited ability to maintain relationships of all different sorts. We all travel, for the most part, in small circles. Kids in smaller still. Certainly kids from ambitionless families have very little idea of what it is like to succeed - their daydreams reside outside of their experiences. They know how to put themselves in the shoes of only a few archtypes. They don't know how to *be* other than what they are. They don't even know how to envision that. Obviously I am speaking about the kids who don't have the outsized egos and tenacious willpower who would be so bold as to deny the reality of their poor surroundings. We know what winners look like. But kids who are not need that individual attention that leads to the breakthrough.
The R is giving that attention, but it's extraordinarily difficult and time consuming. You can't know how you are going to breakthrough and programmatically and structurally it's damned hard to have marching orders for the staff of a school. It's no wonder then that so many altruistic folks are so consumed with 'at risk' interventions. I have come to understand the nature of that shock to the system - kids headed for so much trouble that teachers jaws drop. For certainly out there in the nation there are head-slapping problems that somebody at a school feels obligated to alleviate. The thing is that their middle-class instincts say, there is no way out, you just don't *do* that. When you have a 17 year old freshman who goes to one class a day and then spends the rest of the time just walking around the hallways mumbling to herself, when you interview a parent who when confronted with a behavior problem says "See? I told you. Sounds just like him", then rolls her eyes and walks away. What do you do?
There is no roadmap or rubric. There are just hundreds of kids in your school whom you are supposed to be preparing for life.
Business Week has some very interesting paragraphs about Fannie and Freddie's portfolio. Emphasis mine
Driven by market competition and regulatory mandates, the two have become big buyers of adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, and MBSS that include them. Those items accounted for 18% of Freddie's volume in 2006 and 22% for Fannie in 2005, the latest data available. That's up from virtually nothing in 2001. A large chunk comes in the most exotic flavors, such as payment-option ARMs and interest-only loans.
With home prices falling, ARMs, both prime and subprime, are especially scary. Some $300 billion in ARMs guaranteed by the agencies will automatically reset through 2011, according to Banc of America Securities. The unknown is just how many homeowners will default. By Fannie's own estimates, 18% of the subprime ARMs industrywide that reset in the first three months of 2007 have gone south.
The two have also moved more prominently into low-documentation loans, which require little or no proof of the borrower's income. That segment has proven to be rife with abuse in recent years. A study by the Mortgage Asset Research Institute found that 90% of borrowers with so-called stated income loans upped their annual incomes falsely to qualify for more money. In almost 60% of low-documentation loans, the borrower's income was inflated by more than 50%.
Much of Fannie and Freddie's shift into riskier parts of the mortgage market has been driven by the government's affordable housing mandates, which require the two to fund a lot of loans for low-income borrowers, first-time buyers, and people living in mobile homes or economically distressed neighborhoods. Their regulator, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, estimates that Fannie holds $292 billion of such mortgages, or 40.6% of its portfolio, on its books because the loans are less liquid and can't easily be repackaged and sold to investors. Freddie owns $68 billion of those loans, some 9.5% of its portfolio.
This is exactly what I'm talking about. A transfer of wealth in pursuit of social justice which disregards matters of virtue put parts of the entire system at risk.
Drezner notes that EU sentiment against genetically modified fruits and veggies runs counter to scientific consensus about their safety and benefit. I've been thinking a bit about the extent to which feudalism is a useful social organizing principle, especially in the ways it conflicts with projects borne of the research of social science.
The idea that GM crops or any such public improvements *ought* to be accepted or respected by the public assumes something we are losing which is some automatic national consensus. I happen to think that this is a consequence of high literacy rates sustained over generations but that's another debate. Without the national consensus that experts and elites are acting in the public interest, all such products of that professional class are suspect. There is no attachment, there is no loyalty, and also because there are alternatives (I mean if there weren't already 8 kinds of potato we wouldn't be having this discussion, it would be THE potato) the marginal benefit of the GM version can be disregarded. But this is also again a consequence of alternative social narratives in society which would not exist in a feudal hierarchy.
Thus the life of the professional is at risk because he doesn't produce the King's potato and there is no intellectual or market force great enough to sway the masses one way or another in an environment of surfeit.
Scientific consensus, is thus, not King. And nobody can make it king whether or not it is accurate. This is probably a useful equilibrium. I would not want to see application of force or dirty tricks to "make the public know what's good for it". But I also would not want to see the intransigent masses undermine scientific consensus. Therefore, scientists must eat their own GM potatoes and have their kids beat up the masses' kids. That ultimately will be more effective than commercials and PSAs about 8 essential vitamins and minerals and what's part of a complete breakfast.
I've been waiting patiently to butt into this conversation as I've caught pieces of it on my PDA from the wilds of New Mexico. Now I am home and can type.
I think firstly, that positive social science cannot game society. That is to say that it is generally understood that social science has imperfect knowledge of society, and I think this is reflected EC, in our mutual difficulty to appropriately categorize the deserving poor vs the undeserving poor several weeks ago. I'm sure I brought up the argument at that time that any hard lines defined by a government program sufficient to alleviate any known problem would itself ossify definitions. In order to gain the benefits people would conform all descriptions of their problems to those of the guidelines. And so I default (am I becoming libertarian?) to those negotiated by people themselves within market contexts. IE Horatio Alger's story becomes a recognized avenue of success and all parties look for such character attributes in those they would call the deserving poor. I happen to believe, however, that such qualities of human measure are constant: they are the virtues, and society itself improves by rewarding virtuous men. This is the fundamental key. But what does social science tell us about the virtue of men? It cares little. It only sees what it measures, and social scientists do not measure virtue.
I think this is something Conservative understand in trying to order a politics around 'values', which it certainly means to be virtuous values. To take any other demographic and select for improvement runs the great risk of stealing from the virtuous and giving to the horde. How can that be intrinsically beneficial? Why indeed should the meek inherit the earth? Of what good is any Leviathan which is indifferent to virtue? Is that actually not the most destructive thing we might create?
The only weakness in this line of thought is the assumption that those who have thus far triumphed have done so virtuously. I would say such guesswork is at least as accurate as any that presumes the status quo is corrupt. Corruption certainly cannot be the simple assertion of inequality. Surely men a unequally virtuous. Why shouldn't they likewise unequally profit? If it stands to reason that the fair man profits best in a fair society, and a dishonest man profits best in a corrupt environment, then I think any honest assessment of the status quo of American society would rightly tell that justice prevails. And so therefore the Conservative is not off the mark in asserting that all experimental forms of wealth redistribution which do not calculate the virtue of the beneficiary are destructive of society. Indeed this is our general view of high taxation.
I think you'll not find many Conservatives who prize law and order who would not have ill gotten gains confiscated or assets seized and resold in the interests of justice. Our constant problem with the Left is that their presumptions against capitalist contracts are that they are immoral from the start.
My greater point is to underscore the fact that any duBoisian project for the lifting of boats of a particular race require the kind of social science which is A) not yet perfected and thus gameable and B) not tied of necessity to virtue.
The consequence of this is that for me, to use the term 'black', there must be some value-bearing basis for this. Of course this was the intent of the Black Power and Black Consciousness movements as I read them. But I think such theories have fallen to simplistic racial denominators and are thus no longer supportable as nobody disciplines the blackness of the common [black] man to theoretical ideals.
It is within this context that Cosby-esque and other 'anti-black' social criticisms are found. It is not that we are insensitive to the fate of the Forty Percent, but we find them undeserving of any program of uplift owing to their direct inversion of social rules. If they will not conform to virtue, why should they be rewarded? Simply because of their economic, moral and spiritual poverty? Simply because of their skin?
I would imagine that there is a Liberal stipend which, in a world of affluence, might be permanently renewed to offset the economic poverty of the ghetto beneficiary. But I think we already know that this stipend has in fact been maintained to such a degree that the very existence of 'ghetto fabulous' culture is practically permanent. It is merely a degenerate middle class - no wonder their franchise is constantly sought.
I would not hope for any sort of social science to be perfected so that there might be some profession of grading the worth and station of mankind. I am satisfied that our own native faculties suffice, and thus I underscore again my belief in Natural Law. Although we all profit from some basic and classic literature on such eternal subjects, I would not prefer to live in a world in which we are constantly subjected to any number of rubrics which measure some 'objective' attributes of our person against which we are ultimately taxed or benefited according to some master scheme of 'equality'. What kind of justice is that? It certainly defies that which any arbitrary group of humans might determine on their own. Moreover, I am not given to trust the administration of any such scheme at the scale appreciable to those who would wish to raise a race or a religious group for that matter. It is the constant failing experiment of liberal democracy, a kind of reverse-eugenics, which must ultimately be suppressed.
I have been of the sort of ethnic chauvinist who would claim that those methods which might have worked for Jews or Italians or Irish here in America are their business. Let the blacks do as they wish in their own best interests and let the chips fall where they may. But I am not so certain that the success of any fraction of any ethnic or religious group is all so different aside from the time frame in which it takes place. But then what else is there? Every man must meet the challenges of his time and it is upon that basis that we should judge him, punish him and reward him.
(from the archives, June 1993)
Jane: This weekend I read a 'teen' editorial by a young (high school) black man in my local paper. The thrust of his comments were that public education would benefit from a more racially diverse teaching faculty. However, he opened his piece relating his experience at reading 'To Kill a Mockingbird' in school. He commented that his white teacher seemed oblivious to some students (I assume black) reaction to the use of the word 'nigger' in the book. He didn't go into much more depth on the subject, but proceeded to something else.
My question is - do books such as 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'Huckleberry Finn' have a place in education (high school or university), or do their use of offensive language negate any other redeeming qualities the books may offer? My personal opinion is that they can be used as timepieces, and confront people with the ugly attitudes people have (and still do) harbor. That is basically how it affected me when I was younger. I would like other peoples' opinion on this. Anyone have a personal experience with these or similar books? -Jane
Mike: One of the most important things I remembered about Harper Lee's ONE contribution to American fiction (whose authorship has actually been a matter of some controversy) besides the fact that I did actually find it enjoyable (for the usual pre-teen reasons) is how very much my teacher *wanted* me to enjoy that particular book. So much of her acceptance to her students depended on my ability to perceive the fact that white people *can* have insight to questions of racial justice. I was her best student and the most advanced reader in the class and I do remember so much how she wanted me to encourage other students to read. Beyond the usual comic books and 'afro-bets' there was, in the early 70s, very few titles available to teachers for their black students.
What I have read in more recent criticism, has alerted me to very startling awareness to the content and context of books I read earlier in my life. I cannot begin to recount what I might have felt at the time besides the standout points and books my teachers thought would 'be good for a young man like you'. I also don't think it's entirely necessary to go over them. What's done is done. As everyone expects to get wiser, certain assumptions of youth are foregone. As an individual, I may have been offended subtly by this word and that word in the 'classics', but what was more offensive was the genre which was supposed to be good for me. I can recall refusing to read 'The Cross and the Switchblade' for just such reasons. And although I enjoyed reading books like 'The Contender' by Robert Lypsite, after a time it became entirely too tiresome. I knew that white students would never be encouraged to read such books, instead they would read the Danny Dunn or Hardy Boys series. I read both of those in their entirety (and some Nancy Drew too) and although I know it sounds corny and reactionary on one level, painting those same characters black would have meant a great deal to me as a young reader. Interestingly, when I speak of multiculturalism, I do so as one who from the beginning read more books than I was supposed to. In time, the content of one book with respect to racist speech, becomes near moot. There are simply too many excellent books without such idiotic flaws to get bogged down in criticising them. In short, I was of the attitude (and still largely am) that if white folks call blacks 'nigger' in books it's because whites call black 'nigger' in life. Neither is more or less offensive. It's really not the speech that is so offensive as WHY I must listen.
What then makes this subject worth persuing at all is the same problem that faced me as a 10 year old in Miss Milliken's class. Should I read this book because it is a good book, or should I read it because it signifies something to you and somehow validates you as an authority if I accept it. The point is not so much in the reading but in the acceptance of the book as important to your education, but then where exactly is the boundary? Was 'To Kill A Mockingbird' a book about race or a book about murder? When I read it am I learning something of value or am I simply supposed to enjoy reading it? All these are part of the many questions that such an issue raises.
So now as an adult reader, I would probably barf at the
passages I had to accept as a student in books like 'Robinson Crusoe' and 'White Fang'.
The student who protested is a beneficiary of the example of of black critics who have
rightly questioned the authoritative position of the narrow list we all eat as the gruel
of our upbringing. But his and our intent is likely identical. We don't want to be
force-fed. Why teachers insist on such books is pure lazy prejudice. But should we be
surprised that their content is found to be repulsive after several generations of
'At last he lays his head flat on the ground, close to my foot, and sets my other foot upon his head, as hea had done before; and after this, made all the signs to me of subjugateion, servitude, and submission imaginable, to let me know how he would serve me as long as he lived.' -- Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
'The problem of internalizing the master's tongue is the problem of the rescued. Unlike the problems of survivors who may be lucky, fated, etc. the rescued have the problem of debt. If the rescuer gives you back your life, he shares in that life. But if as in Friday's case, if the rescuer saves your life by taking you away from the dangers, the complications, the confusion of home, he may very well expect the debt to be paid in full.' -- Toni Morrision, 1992
'We were in Catholic School, safe from those Crips and Brims at Mount Vernon and Miss Sweet would not let us forget that. We were the chosen, and could even be God's favorites. Not 'Jeeeesus', but the God of the Holy Trinity and the Virgin Mary... There was nothing she liked more than having us all sing 'To Sir With Love' to her. I had never seen the movie, but she said that Sidney Poitier was the perfect teacher in it. Even though I thought Sidney was a little bit okey doke, I could see her point. Then again, I didn't have much choice. We sang, it seemed, almost every day. I was sick enough about 'crayons to perfume' and the Act of Contrition, to stop singing and praying but not enough to go to Mount Vernon.' -- Michael Bowen, 1993
Jane: Ok, if you don't mind, let me see if I understand correctly some of the things you said in your message: Your teacher wanted you to enjoy the Harper Lee book, and you feel she had some personal investment in whether you liked it or not?
Mike: Yes. I was her favorite student.
Jane: She wanted to show you that whites could have insight into racial issues, and that the book would prove that to you?
Mike: It was something that she, as a young white woman teaching at an all black elementary school, had to prove. In some ways it wasn't difficult for her because she was adopted by black parents. In other ways it was because of the ways she represented herself. This particular teacher was much better than Miss Sweet, however. And I did very much admire Miss M. 'To Kill A Mockingbird' represented the best common ground that she could find. The book meant a great deal to her.
Jane: You said she wanted you to encourage others to read. Do you mean to encourage other students to read books *like* Lee's book, or just to read in general?
Mike: I read all the books before every other student. The books I would recommend would then be read by other students. Of course, this teacher, Miss M. would provide my reading list. I was the junior role model. If I was to say, out loud, that I am sick and tired of reading stories about white people, where would that leave the class? I was not only supposed to like reading, I was supposed to like reading particular books. The 'good' books, the challenging books. The books that could make me smart, like my teacher. This is what all students were supposed to do, the good students especially. Lee's book was one of her favorites, so she wanted it to be one of my favorites; of course it could never mean the same thing to me as it did to her.
By the way, the other book she found for me was 'Call It Courage'. At first I hated it, because it was a story about a black kid on an island. I recall that it involved headhunters, but I can't be sure. At any rate, the kid was loinclothed and had his own spear. I refused to read it, then I read it and liked it very much despite myself. I wonder how I would feel about the story today. Would I give it to my son?
Jane: Were the white students in your class reading To Kill a Mockingbird? or did your teacher pick this book for you only?
Mike: There were no white students in any class I ever attended until the 9th grade. I would go to her father's bookstore sometimes and ask for more books. I would be looking in particular for books about kids my age and intelligence. There were none which were black-oriented. Thus, the standard list. All of these books were 'extra-credit' and a majority of the other kids were reading SRA. Miss M. brought revolving bookracks to the classroom and the books that I and other students read were placed there for the rest of the class's extra reading after they graduated from their SRA color groups.
Jane: You resent now that you were directed as a youngster to books like Lee's. I'm not familiar with the other two books you mentioned -'Cross and the Switchblade' and 'Contender.' No matter, I'll look into them sometime. I'm sorry this response is so choppy. You've brought up a lot of issues, and I'm trying to understand your views and experiences. In your last paragraph you question the fairness of having to read things like 'White Fang' and 'Robinson C.' because they contained passages demeaning blacks in some way. Do you have similar feelings about having to read Harper Lee's book and others like it?
Mike: I resented it then, but felt quite confident that I was doing the absolute best that could be done. As far as everyone knew, books with the wit and character of the Danny Dunn series were simply not written for black kids. I frequented Hall's and the Aquarian Bookstores, both legendary black bookstores in Los Angeles. I went to the city and county libraries and my father had, and continues to have a great library in house. I fairly much accepted that this was the burden of intelligent black folks. Just as my father and I would curse out Huntley-Brinkley on TV, we would have to watch it anyway.
By the time I reached the 7th grade, I was told that if I was to be college material, I would have to read Bronte. Miss Sweet offered up the Bronte sisters and Mary Shelly and really nothing else. I dove into science fiction and Lipsyte. The only other assigned books that I read in the 7th & 8th grades were 'Hiroshima' and the beginnings of 'Silent Spring', the details of which I figured were obvious to an inveterate hiker such as myself.
Hersey's book left a tremendous impact on me, as I was already fascinated by science. I read this about the same time as Watergate was going on and I was in Catholic School. Having accepted by 8th grade, the black man's burden in social/literary matters, I would of necessity discount all these wrong white folks. They just didn't get it.
It wasn't until the 11th grade that I was exposed to 'Big Boy Comes Home', 'Dry
September' and 'Battle Royale' in Short Story. I read Roots and was simply overwhelmed
that year. My father pointed me to 'Simple' and 'Beale Street' but most of his books were
over my head. I always recall attempting to read 'Blues People' and finding it far too
difficult. That it was written by a black man was awe inspiring to me and that it sat with
hundreds of other books by and about blacks was also impressive. Still, there was very
little in between the very simple books for young black readers at the elementary school
level and the more complex works like 'Native Son'. So in developmental reading, gathering
skills, you have a bunch of books like 'Tom Sawyer' in between.
As a young teenaged boy, there is a fairly standard raft of readings one gets. I found few worth persuing. By the time I was in high school, I was highly literate but found few things of interest. Books such as:
Were, in the main the order of literature. I only read Golding. That again was Jr High assigned. I did read 'Red Badge of Courage' and 'Billy Budd' as well as 'Bride Comes to Yellow Sky' in High School. Mishima's short about the soldier coming home to commit seppuku was an assignment I liked. Quite frankly, I think short stories are the best for teaching. Anyway you get the flavor of the whitish maleish. Oh did I mention Nathaniel Hawthorne and Poe? Lot's of that. The main problem is that one is assigned reading which is supposed to make you a more intelligent and better person and it is all done at the expense of who you actually are as you read. If reading about Oliver Twist makes me smart what does reading about Kunta Kinte make me? What does reading about Huckleberry Finn make me? What about Boo Radley? When reading about black folks in my educational process comes at the expense of me having to deal with stereotypes or disrespected / tragic characters it says that my discomfort in sympathy is to be expected. Somehow I am manipulated.
Literature did not become interesting to me until 'Big Boy'. By then I was a tech weenie. It could have been taught four years earlier. Nobody ever teaches any of the other Stephen Crane and I have heard great words for his insight on America. Teachers tend to gravitate towards 'The Great Gatsby', another book I have avoided.
I am forgetting (wow!) Steinbeck, whom after a time also depressed me. I remember reading and re-reading passages to try and figure out what kind of white man he was. I recall the contempt in which he was held by many of my prep-schoolmates. I came entirely prepared for the Reagan era backlash.
Getting back to the subject of racist speech. I overheard the other day in Faneuil Hall a white woman talking presumeably to some co-workers something about 'sexist remarks' with a scowl. By the time I had finished at the ATM and walked by, she was laughing and joking with these same folks. This tempers, yet again, my weighing in against it. Not only because I just finished reading 'Japanese By Spring' and because of my early acceptance of th 'burden' but because I know clearly that racist speech is so easily identified that its identification can be misused. By concentrating on the speech what license do we give to hacks?
Again, white folks calling blacks 'nigger' continues and will continue. It's offensive and plain. But reading Toni Morrison's compilation is so much deeper than simply watching Clarence and the Senators belch filth in public. It's not so difficult to eyeball and disparage the ugly parts; that's not the skill needed, nor is the surface offense so offensive in the long term. Gettin at the reasons we must sit through it and the ideas which motivate the presenters is the critical duty. How can we be sure that the new sentries are also warriors?
I can see how well meaning folks like Miss M. can disrupt the direction of a legitimate complaint. It is not simple nor obvious what I lack from not being able to speak in the same environment as the young black teen who voices my same complaint 20 years later. Yet I feel it and know it. I have recovered, and what was obvious then remains obvious now. There is something wrong with black students having to read the books they do without a healthy amount of their healthy selves as subjects. More importantly there is something very wrong about the unquestioned authority of teachers in presenting such materials as *the* avenue to intellectual success. This was something I was incapable of saying aloud back in the day, such an argument was unacceptable. We were still Negro in that respect.
- I will write as long as you ask and as long as I feel there is something of interest to say. Isn't it fascinating that all this goes unwritten in all of us until now?
Zheng Xiaoyu: Dead
OK what I need to hear, just to give me a little bit of confidence is the phrase 'convicted of murder', but I don't think I'm going to hear that. What everybody is hearing loud and clear is that the former director of China's State Food and Drug Administration has been executed. Maybe they made him eat the dog food.
Live Commercials Comeback?
Roger Schlesinger does live commercials, almost. But every day on KRLA he has a different story to tell about how his company might be able to save me money on my home financing. They are some of the most informative commercials available anywhere, and it's a great way to do business.
I don't know who was the guy who suggested it, but it seemed a brilliant idea when I first heard how the networks might be able to beat Tivo. Live Commercials. If we had some idea that something new and spontaneous might be said during a commercial break, we might not fast-forward past them. Now the people I talked to about this the other day said not in a million years. Money spent on television commercials has to be reinvested. If you can't run it twice, it doesn't make sense to air it. I don't agree. I think there is a new kind of spokesman in the making in the mold of Roger Schlesinger, the mortgage minute guy. This is somebody who is capable of going straight to the geek level of a product in 30 seconds and tell a different aspect of the product or service on a regular basis.
You know who else does this on TV? Computer Professor.
I've been noticing the trend for some time now and I must say it's just about to get on my nerves. It starts with the eSurance chick. What is it with ballsy chicks?
If the term 'ballsy chick' offends you, then you're probably the kind of confused pseudo-feminist I want to poke in the chest. I think this portrayal of dramatic gender-bending is a little bit too twisted to be normal, and as an alternative view of 'empowerment' I think it's not as useful as some people may think. Now on the one hand, there's nothing wrong with comic book heroism, and quite frankly if the graphic artists at eSurance weren't peddling something so stupid, it might be a halfway decent anime. What concerns me is the extent to which we see stuff creeping into sitcoms.
So the thing that irks me are two, and the first was some dumb sitcom I saw the other night in which the teenaged girl challenged the teenaged boy to a wrestling match. 'Naturally' the girl won. That's just wrong and stupid, not to mention how obvious it was during the filming that they used a stunt double.
I'm enjoying my vacation immensely. It is so good to have good family and I'm meeting new members I wish I'd known a long time ago.
We took the kids to the midnight opening. Although we were number 309 in line, we got the book in fairly short order after the appointed hour. I had a butterbeer in the cafe next door which was delicious, but not quite the drink for July in Albuquerque. I should have had a Cornelius Fudge Sundae instead. The book's opening poems are an interesting choice.
All parties within earshot are disgusted beyond belief at this foolish cruelty. It is, as far as we're concerned, the sports scandal of the decade. Drowing puppies is simply unforgivable. Kobe can relax.
Marley & Me
Speaking of dogs, this is a fairly interesting story. We listened to the audiobook on the drive from California through the desert. Very charming, very 'native' American. I'll describe that term later, but I will have to only describe it as the world outlook of people in the permanent now - fresh out of Sherwood Forest. It's a rather astonishing perspective and I wonder how much I adopt it.
I should be spending a couple hours writing about what an awesome sight this place is, how extensive and large is the system of caves and how surprising it is to get all the way deep in there. But I know that nothing verbal is going to do this place justice. I may try later anyhow. All I can say now is that it is much, much more dramatic, large and awe inspiring than you might imagine.
Sekou Sundiata is dead. I was looking for him just a few weeks ago but I had forgotten his name.
Of all the afrocentric artists, poets and other creatives who got any credibility during the 90s, Sekou Sundiata was the only one who ever impressed me as being a genuine and excellent talent. He was a real artist and his work was very well thought out. He wasn't mysterious. He wasn't aiming his work at children. He wasn't trying to be slick or clever. He wasn't trying to be rich or famous. He simply excelled at what he did and that was to make inventive performances of wisdom and beauty.
My New York years have become something of a blur of poetry readings, off-off Broadway shows, book signings and seminars in memory. Every day I lived in some part of that world which was punctuated by the critical chops of Greg Tate and the blistering columns by Lisa Jones. When I was of the persuasion that I might be one of the writers who would save hiphop from itself. When I sought out a connection in a world of black artists that I assumed held down the fort in New York. When there was inside my head such a thing as a New World African aesthetic, Sekou Sundiata was one of my few inspirations. He showed that there was something out there to be done and that it could be accomplished. All it took was one performance, and I knew. He was far and away more talented and grounded than anyone else on the scene.
I cannot quite recall the idea that made me seek him out again, but I knew that he was at the New School. Perhaps I was looking for Marshall Blonsky or thinking of Bob Kerrey and that took me to the New School website. I kept looking and looking for an African name among the hundreds of staff there and never found it and left the website frustrated while still marveling at the fact that there are so many people there that teach violin and piano. Violin and piano are old instruments Sundiata was a new, fascinating and exciting voice.
Richard T Davis was my driver.
When I was in high school, one of the most thickly rich metaphors for young urban black life in Los Angeles was the bus. The RTD. Every bus line had a character and a flavor, which are metaphors for clowning, catching and danger. It was our milleu, our place to be out of the house and on our way someplace. Whether it was an everyday thing like the round trip to and from school, the Sunday trip to the roller skating rink in Hollywood, or the only way to get to your secret girlfriend's house when you were supposed to be at the park, the bus was the metaphor for life in the 'hood.
Today I am regretting not writing down all the RTD stories I had stored away in my head. Like NY subway stories, they are a slice of life, easily gotten and not easily forgotten. Yet I'm sure that I'll only scratch the surface as I reminisce. I'll remember the categories, but I'll disremember the specifics. I guess they'll all boil down to a few hardboiled tropes.
The Roughnecks In The Back
You get on the bus, you head to the back, but not too quickly. You see one, then two. You try not to make eye contact and you stop at the back door steps, because there are only a few more seats between them and you. Whatever the hustle, the hustlers were always at the back of the bus, hanging in the last sideways benches over the back tires and the fat wide back seat under the air conditioner. There are multiple variations of this danger and intrigue. Maybe there's a three card monte game going on. Maybe one of them is scratching some grafitti on the window.
The Suit is the man everybody can't wait to see on the bus. It's a setup and the Suit is bound to lose. It's like quicksand. The more he struggles, the deeper he sinks. He's sitting there, minding his own business, and some hardhead starts talking smack for no reason. Maybe he harassed the young lady next to The Suit. Maybe he curses out the bus driver. Maybe he tells a dirty joke. But it's all for a purpose: to get a rise out of The Suit. These are variants on the opening gambits. The Suit is safe if and only if he doesn't take the bait. Sometimes the gambit is direct. "Damn. I'm glad I don't have to wear no monkey suit to work." Sometimes the gambit is taken direct. "Oh you don't have to worry your broke ass about that." Now we are in the middle game. It's all about the exchange. Did the hardhead (playing black) put too many pieces out? (In this game of chess, black makes the first move). Can white counteract without losing his cool?
Sooner or later somebody has to get off the bus. I've never seen it end up in a fight, but the crowd always gets involved. There's got to be some serious clowning going on. If white can sway the crowd, then they are likely to get black to get off of the bus. But the Suit will always and only get off at his stop. Everybody waits for The Suit to deliver his deathblow, "You are a disgrace to black people." In turn everyone waits for the hardhead to deliver his counter smackdown, "If you're so cool, then why are you riding the bus?". I've only heard one Suit recover from this: "Same reason you are, I just got out of jail."
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was almost very satisfying, instead it was merely satisfying. Here we finally have a brooding Potter moping all over the screen, and because we know his character so very well, we put up with dozens of stultifying boring non-verbal time wasting scenes. What we really want to see, and do get a glimpse of, is a bunch of heavy duty magic battles.
The magnificence of the Order of the Phoenix itself is completely sublimated to the inner conflict of Harry himself. The word 'auror' isn't even mentioned, and so we get no real introduction to Tonks or Shacklebolt or any of the others in the Order.
Where the film shines is in its portrayal of the much loathed Dolores Umbridge, Arbiter of the Nanny State. Her syrupy cruelty is realized so very well by actress Imelda Staunton that you're ready to hate her as soon as she speaks. Of course author Rowling was fully aware of the political implications of her characterizations. I'm interested to see how Left critics might interpret the willingness of the youth of Hogwarts to fight the enemy whose very existence and agenda is denied at the highest levels of government.
The film, in the end, felt rather rushed and the visual effects really did not help it as much as it might have, which only goes to show how good a novel Order of the Phoenix actually was.
Six unbreakable habits of mine.
Cookies and milk
Bedtime past midnight
QTips for my ears.
Leaving the stereo blasting.
Never locking the car doors.
Six qualities of my worst enemy.
Six favorite parts of town.
The seafood restaurant on the pier.
The hotrod parking lot at the burger joint.
The luxury hotel jazz piano bar.
The corner office in the skyscraper.
The quiet pew in the cathedral.
The fireplace at home.
Six songs that make me cry.
Isley Brothers - For the Love of You
Marvin Gaye - Save the Children
Stevie Wonder - Knocks Me Off My Feet
Frank McComb - Phoenix
Prince - Sometimes It Snows in April
Boyz II Men - End of the Road
Six dreams that keep repeating.
Me flying trying to evade telephone wires / power lines.
Me running naked with hundreds of people following.
Me busted by my wife with an old girlfriend.
Various events in my old house.
Me playing basketball or soccer in top form.
Me spontaneously composing piano concertos.
Richard Clarke's Breakpoint is a thriller of bizarre proportions. Reading it on the heels of Michael Crichton's Next makes me feel that perhaps there certain fairly interesting ideas out there that makes the future full of interesting possibilities. It is one of the more entertaining books I've read this year. I recommend it.
Richard Clarke is another person whose material contributions to the country have been completely obliterated by the politics of vicious ripping and staunch defending of the Bush Administration. As I parse back through a large number of unfinished posts, this pattern is emerging - details that have become politically insignificant as the MSM, opposition, loyalists and blogosphere move their debates to new ground.
These days Petraeus is about to become another symbolic goat or hero in the same way. I am rather ashamed at how juvenile our democracy can become.
It suddenly occurred to me, that as a matter of fact, any American president could probably get away with spending some number of billions of dollars on Reparations. And it is with a healthy heaping of snark that I hatch the following scenario:
Jesse Jackson: I have come here today to announce that the United States Government, through a special arrangement, has delivered on the unspoken promise of equality to African Americans. We have been repaired.
Reporter: You mean Reparations are going to be paid to black people?
Jackson: The deed is done, and we have won.
Reporter: Why has nobody heard about this before?
Jackson: Well, as you can imagine, this was something that could not, owing to the racism of American society, be done in public. And so I have been working for the past 12 years with various attorneys, corporate heads and Presidents Bush and Clinton in secret to arrange this agreement.
Reporter: Remarkable. All this time you were working on it? That's got to be the biggest secret.
Jackson: You don't know the half, nevertheless, it is a great victory for America, and payments will begin next January 15th.
Reporter: So how much money is there and how will it be distributed? Are there conditions?
Jackson: All monies will be distributed through my organization.
Reporter: Operation Push?
Jackson: It is now called Operation Payback. We will be operating a completely black owned and operated network of distribution in every major city.
Reporter: OK I've waited long enough, I want to get to the real goodies. How much?
Jackson: We're getting a small percent..
Reporter: ..How much is the settlement for.. you're getting what?
Jackson:..Oh Oh in total? Yes. In total we are getting from the Reparations Consortium about 50 Billion.
Reporter: Wow I'm shocked.. that's a
Jackson: Not bad eh?
Reporter: .. a lot of money. How did you come up with that figure? I mean..
Jackson: The point is that we have finally made the breakthrough necessary and we have accepted this token amount..
Reporter: We? You realize that Charles Ogletree was trying for a lot more, you know there will be people who will complain that you must have sold out early.
Jackson: You're the first person to say so. But we at Operation Payback consider this a very healthy settlement .
Reporter: When you say 'settlement' do you suggest to say that there will be no future deals?
Jackson: As part of this agreement, both myself and the Reverend Al Sharpton will be retiring our positions as 'black leaders'. We feel that this money, which represents about 10% of African American income can be considered a final negotiation.
Reporter: You've taken a great deal upon yourself to accept this on behalf of the African American community. Seriously, who died and made you king?
Reporter ..no you didn't..
Jackson: But seriously, you need to look at this as my generation's contribution to the advancement of black people. Never in the history of this nation has such an enormous benefit gone directly to African Americans. 50 billion dollars is world changing money.
(from the archives June 1995)
i am researching this area, but preliminary stats tell me that poor whites much are more well integrated into middle class neighborhoods than are poor blacks. which means essentially that you are not comparing black with white neighborhoods but largely poor with largely middle class neighborhoods and substituting race. this is proven for maryland, and more studies are under way.
the statistics which exemplify this are as follows:
Hood 1 - Mixed race, mostly middle class
Hood 2 - Mostly black, mostly poor
Hood 3 - Mostly white, mostly working & middle class
this is a very important model because i beleive it more accurately represents how americans actually live. i will refer to this model from now on. in this example, blacks are overrepresented (by 3.5 points) in the total population but the important numbers to view are the following:
my overall point in this is that racial segregation in housing is the single largest contribution to social problems. that's tangential here but keep it in mind. (c.f. Massey & Denton)
if there is *any* correlation between race, income, geography and crime such a model as the above should be taken into consideration. i will provide average crime rates below. when i say compare them to your areas, i mean for you to create a model such as that above by zip code or police precinct where you live and work.
I'm cleaning out my closet, and setting a week's worth of blogging to auto-post as I hit the road tomorrow. Blogging will be lighter, but there will be something every day. I haven't watched the news since the Dow hit a record high and Rio Tinto made their buyout bid. So I don't know, nor care much about what's going on. And 2 hours from now I won't be able to find out. But Cobb will keep chugging along, some of it live-blogged.
Drezner calls Drum's bluff on the rise of economic populism among Democrats.
The trouble with populism is (mostly) not about the remaining 10% of barriers to trade (though see below), it's about efforts to f$%& up the 90% of barriers that have been dismantled. The Baucus-Grassley-Schumer-Graham bill, for example, isn't about halting new trade openings -- it's about finding new ways to clamp down on existing openness.
Ezra Klein jokes about the good news on teenage sex and pregnancy. It's more interesting to me to disaggregate the teenage sex from overall birthing. Is it an independent trend down, or part of Americans have fewer babies?
Lester Spence evaluates the prospects for Black Power in the 21C through a dialog between some old radicals.
This year represents the 40 year anniversary of the Newark and Detroit riots. Next year will be the 40 year anniversary for Baltimore. One of my former students forwarded me a discussion that relates to our discussions about the local and the global. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed Amiri Baraka, Larry Hamm, and Grace Boggs about Newark and Detroit respectively. They were on two separate interview tracks until near the end, where Baraka and Boggs had a back and forth that was telling.
Reader Tyrell gets his wish, I am no longer ignoring the nude negro law.
Apparently some rumor that went around in August of 2005 (as my 10 minutes of Googling proves). that some wack Floridians had proposed a 'nude negro law'. This law would make it perfectly legal for blackfolks to walk around butt naked in this town. The idea was twofold, according to what I can determine. On the one hand it would satisfy an Afrocentric desire to return to nature, and it would cut down on crime since black crooks would have no pockets. Or perhaps the law could be interpreted as to force all blackfolks to wear no clothes, thus keeping potential crooks off the streets. Well that's just brilliant.
I can't find out the name of the town in Florida, nor does Snopes have a listing for this. Chances are that this is the most respectable website to even talk about the rumor. Anyway, if you have further information about this incredibly ridiculous story, feel free to inform us sane people.
"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat forever."
-- Old Proverb
Teach a man to fish and he'll fish from the shore and feed his family. Hire him as a fisherman on your boat and he will feed the village. Sell him a boat and he can hire more fishermen. Teach him how to build a boat and your village will have a fleet and be able to trade fish for goods in other villages.
Your typical Leftist cannot see past the welfare state. The first two sentences of the old proverb are as far ahead as they ever think. They think of the world in terms of poverty and education. That's why it's important for them to keep New Orleans as a symbol fresh in everyone's mind. The problem is that they are no good at talking about hiring fishermen or building fishing fleets. The only good they see in that is taxing the single fisherman in the old proverb's scenario. They're not good at exhorting the landlubbers to seek a career in shipbuilding. This is why it comes as such a shock when they are confronted with their own shortsightedness.
The money for the rebuilding of New Orleans should go to the people of New Orleans. What a novel idea. Teach them the skills to rebuild their own city and then give them to money to do it. Keep the money from international corporations.
International corporations are the entities that have survived, for better or worse. They survive because they handle their business. They are not extortionists, they honor contracts. This seems to be a rather unthinkable proposal, but why not send the work to be done to the people who do that work for a living.
It is certainly the inefficiency of teaching all the new fishermen with on the job training, that keeps New Orleans from being self-sufficient in this regard. That margin, between doing the job and doing the job well, is the difference between good intentions and running a business. When it comes to making a business survive, that margin is all the difference.
The opportunity certainly exists for the windfall of government relief and philanthropic aid to allow projects to be run at a low margin or even at or below cost. That inefficiency / boondoggle combination ought to be exploited for the express purposes of OJT. I don't think it is reasonable to believe that any majority of the workforce, even in the best of conditions, is going to be comprised of those people who are dispossessed. It would have to be lead by those businesses who do this best, with slow indigenous, expensive subcontractors pulling some weight. If I were czar, that's how it would work.
Nobody is talking about torture at the moment. The meme is dying because all of the candidates have made their little speeches and people are satisfied for the moment. In this silence I observe that really the only interesting debate about torture is one of semantics. It's rather like racism. Everybody's against it, but nobody can agree on what it is.
Semantically speaking, there is basically one difference between torture and interrogation and that is intent. I your intent is to punish the subject then you are a torturer. If you intend to get information then you are an inquisitor. Whatever is aimed towards the goal of interrogation is not torture by definition. The intent doesn't mean everything, but it means most everything.
The Bush Administration has said flatly, "We don't torture", and the contentiousness of this issue has dissipated over time. I bring it up at this point because while the matter of impeachment has still been on the lips of the opposition and I have been asking point blank what charges would be brought, this was precisely one of the questions in my mind. So if I'm guilty of entrapment, sobeit. But I think I have made a convincing case that the matter of torture has not been one that the opponents of the Bush Administration have been willing to press legally.
Today it is a null issue.
What is anyone going to do about waterboarding? I expect that the Democrats will simply say that they won't do it, and never raise the issue again. And since there is zero momentum on the legal front, there is no reason for the issue to come to the fore again. You would think that the Congress would take this opportunity to actually pass a very specific law during this null period. I doubt they will.
(from the archives July 2003)
Whenever you sneeze in mixed company, it's interesting to hear the responses. They vary from silence, to 'God Bless You', or just Bless You. Sometimes people say "gesundheit". Keep that in mind.
Keith Boykin meditates on the media images of black men:
It's easy to dismiss high-profile black men when the white media control the information we know about them. We can dismiss Rev. Al Sharpton because the media portray him as an ambulance-chasing buffoon, or we can dismiss Jesse Jackson because the media see him as a rhyming, hypocritical adulterer.
Despite the fact that he's just talking about the background noise of American life and uses the examples of the Fungibles in his argument, I fundamentally agree with him. America uses black men as Grimm fairy tales, to frighten the naive and teach lessons about good and evil. But that doesn't mean one shouldn't dismiss Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. We all have our reasons, but we're not all brainwashed by the Man's media circus simply because we agree from time to time.
Taking it one step deeper, Boykin suggests that there are many things that we oughta do to counteract this media siege. I have my own suggestion, and that is that we shutup about "what black people ought to do". Count me as one of those people who responds to "There goes your people" with "I didn't raise 'em".
You see I suffer (mildly and it gives me very little pain) from the same problem about identifying who is my brother, who I should respect and for what reasons, as a black man. I don't have any black problems, as black problems are construed in the general public.
My brother is dead. He committed suicide about 12 years ago. I don't hear very often that suicide is considered a black man's problem, but it was his. I say this because I enjoy the passions attending this discussion of the role of the black man, and I don't want it suggested that I am being dismissive of real black men's real problems. My daughter is anemic but it's not Sickle Cell. I've got family and I understand some of their problems, but they are not about much of anything else that passes muster as a 'black problem'.
It amazes me how contradictory the 'each one teach one' philosophy is when applied to uppity negroes such as myself. I believe it is because folks who preach it are more brainwashed by the Man's media circus than they let on. My classic example was about the flack over the Million Man March. To make a long story short, nobody bothered to respect the investment that blackfolks had made in their own educations already when they made loud suggestions that the Million should have stayed home and contributed $100 instead to a giant college scholarship fund. It turned out that some large percentage of the marchers were already college graduates, which implies many billions had already been spent on successful college educations - which nobody bothered to respect.
So when I tell you that I'm not interested in teaching some ghetto brother to fish because my cousins in Alaska already own a commercial fishing boat, I expect you to say right on. But I know what I'm going to hear. When I tell you that I have no interest in teaching elementary school kids computer literacy because I build systems for the Fortune 500, I expect you to say wow that's great. But I know what I'm going to hear.
What I'm going to hear, in the end is a backhanded compliment, like "You are Blessed". There's a but at the end of that and some implication of social responsibility. I won't dodge social responsibility, but I just might tell you that yours makes no sense and I really don't want to have anything to do with it.
If you sneeze and someone says "God bless you", you should accept the courtesy, but it doesn't mean you need to acknowledge their god.
If someone looks at you as a black problem, er black man, and suggests ways for you to become healthy, likewise accept the courtesy.
I've overstepped the bounds of a measured response because I'm thinking a bit about such matters this week. This seems a bit outsized and defensive considering that I agree with Boykin and am arguing past him. He is saying 'God bless you' and I am deconstructing parts of his creation myth. I'm yelling, I DON'T HAVE PNEUMONIA IT'S JUST DUSTY IN HERE OK? I DON'T NEED YOUR DAMNED BLESSING.
My running buddy, The Playa, and I hit the streets last night, and I experienced something almost completely unique. It was basically the surreal scene at a Beverly Hills after-hours hangout. After spending the past couple of weeks in Fort Worth Texas, I can tell you that it sent a shock to my system.
The first thing I need to do is get a picture of Selma Hayek. Did it. OK that was her, but blondish. It must be a new look for her or perhaps a bit of a disguise.
The thing that I've learned about myself over the past week is that I am very immune to other people's drama, and that I am very strategically conservative. These two personal traits came into focus under unusual circumstances on two occasions. The first event was on Friday the 13th trying to get my ass out of Dodge. Of course you just read about that. The second was at Berri's last night.
Berri's is not about the food, although you will find that their
deserts are perfect. Berri's is all about attitude. This, my friends,
is the zombie capital of night of the blinging dead.
Understand right here, right now, that there have only been a few phenomenal places at which you recognize in a matter of moments that you are in the midst of something you cannot quite describe, but you know that it is beyond ghetto fabulous and more like urban fantastic to the blingth power. Think of the first time you heard Eminem. Think of standing in line to see Do the Right Thing when it first came out. Think of when you saw Vin Diesel in that fur in XXX. That's about 1/3 of the Berri's vibe, after two in the morning on a Saturday night.
If Dan Tana's is the capital of cute & rich and 30-50, then Berri's is the capital of rude & rich boys & girls 21-35. Berri's has the Second & Third World mix. Africans, Koreans, Eastern Europeans, Latins and all the Cali crew were present and accounted for. They came in Bentleys. They came in Hummers. They came in Escalades. They came in Benzos. They came in Maseratis. They came in Lambos. They came in blacked-out M6 Bimmers. One came in a flourescent orange blown '68 Camaro with 24 inch rims. They stopped in the middle of the street and made the valets stop traffic in both directions.
And oh the flesh. It could have been Vegas. It could have been Prague. But the drunk vacant looks on some of the babeage was as unmistakable and universal as their Fendi ho bags. Somebody that somebody else called 'Selma' stepped out of her Maserati and eyebrows zoomed up everywhere. There were women here that made spandex work.
What struck me about this crowd which was so completely different from any other of its sort I may have witnessed growing up, was it was unmistakably comfortable with itself. This is not an aberration on the margins of pop culture, this is an International rude boy elite. It's hiphop + punk + rock + trance + tattoos the entire casual gangsta scene all rolled up together. This is not new, it's evolved, and it's making Berri's a ton of money, not to mention Tiffany and Mercedes Benz of Beverly Hills. There were European double kisses and pounds. There were rock fingers and fists pumped in the air and BFF hugs all around. Never have I seen such roughneck poses give each other so much love, and it stands to reason. A good third of the people here had all the appearances of scions of the rich and famous.
The thing to do here is get in just after one.. We arrived at 1:30 in the AM just before the 2AM rush when the bars close. So there was no patio seating to be had and we had to eat inside. But what you want to see is the parade lined up to get in and the spectacle that is someone with two carats in each ear explaining the alarm system on his Bentley to the frantic and harried valets. You want to see the women falling out of Hummers, and the rude boys and their boys give pounds.
Obviously I have no idea who these people are, but they look like something I've seen before, during the 80s, in my generation. But unlike the zombies of Bret Easton Ellis' world, theses folks were happy. There was no fighting, no yelling, less smoking and no obvious cocaine use going on here. Yet they managed to evoke all of that decadence while eating healthy slices of pizza and seafood pasta. I stood out there for about 45 minutes just taking in the scene, and it struck me, as I descended into alien observation mode, how important it is for me to have protocol when dealing with people and how certain forms of ambition have become transparent to me.
I mention this in the context of other goings on, as MIB intuits, are impinging on my consciousness - something that makes me orient myself in a different way. In one way it's exciting, in another rather tragic, and yet I think inevitable for a man damned near 50. For those parsing such subtexts closely the keyword will be 'vector', evocative of another such revelation in my life several years ago.
US Airways is now officially in my book, the world's most fucked up airline. I haven't had the occasion or need to shout at anyone for any reason. US Airways gave me several. Basically because I booked a flight through them and Frontier, I had to use paper tickets. You know, like the old days. That big ugly Hollerith card with codes and whatnot from the 1960s computer technology. Not like what you can do with United or other modern airlines which is check in on a website and actually print your own boarding pass. No, this time every change had to be made at the 3rd level of Hell, the ticket counter. My trip was changed on Tuesday so that I had to leave on Friday instead of Thursday. So I had to drive to DFW and make the change at the USAir counter - to get rid of the Frontier flight and get on a USAir flight one day later. It took the goof behind the counter 20 minutes to give me one piece of old TTY paper with my new flight on it. Keep those paper tickets, she said. Fine. I left the airport on Tuesday, with a moderately good feeling, because essentially she didn't charge me for the change. My agent had told me, when I tried to change through him that it would cost about 300 bucks, but he couldn't do the change with his system because of the paper ticket. That's why I had to show up at the counter in the first place on Tuesday.
I arrive at the airport 2 hours early on Friday. I go to the USAir ticket counter. It takes LaVonda two trips and 10 minutes to finally come and tell me that I have to go back to Frontier and get some kind of ticket exchange. What? Fine. I go over to Frontier, but I get in the first class line because I don't time for this shit. I get up front and the chubby chick with the red hairbows walks over to her supervisor. I watch them and the supervisor gives a "no they didn't" look. So chubbs strolls over to me with some determination and we walk back to the USAir counter. By this time its about 30 minutes before departure time. Frontier Chubbs jumps behind the counter and some kind of fracas ensues. LaVonda throws up her hands and finally I get Mr. Elmazi who is rather blithely taking control of the situation. He puts a red stamp on the paper ticket, signs it and hands the package back to me with yet another piece of TTY paper. This time it has an American Airlines flight on it. USAir at this point has no more flights that can get me back to LAX today. That means I have to get over to Terminal C for a 3:45pm flight. Shit. Well. At least I'm done with USAir.
DFW is one of the world's largest airports. You can get some sense
of this if you merely drive from one end to the other. There are even
different freeway entrances, one from the north and one from the south.
So actually getting from terminal to terminal is not a walking affair.
There are about four ways. Either you drive your car throught the maze
of narrow on-ramps and off-ramps that resemble nothing so much as the
Autorama at Disneyland. Or, if you're already through security, which I
wasn't, you could take the new monorail. The primary means for people
without cars is the inter-terminal shuttle bus. They are green and they
have very green bus stops with electronic signs that tell you when the
next bus is due. Mine was due in 1 minute. Good, because it was 90
degrees and 90% humidity and I was dragging my luggage in a thick black
long-sleeve pullover which is perfect for flying in cold airplanes, but
not for outdoors in the Texas summer.
Five minutes. No sweat. No bus.
Ten minutes. Sweat. No bus.
Fifteen minutes. Anger. Sweat. No bus.
Twenty minutes. Rage. Sweat. No bus.
About this time is when my Treo saved lives. If I hadn't had about
90 songs playing full blast in my headphones, I would have been ready
to swing on somebody. I go back downstairs and take the Rental Car
Shuttle back to the Rental Center and then another one to Terminal C
and the American Airlines Terminal. I show up at the AA ticket counter.
I'm exactly 45 minutes ahead of my flight, the very last minute. The
agent at the AA ticket counter informs me that they cannot accept the
paperwork from USAir. They didn't include something called an FIM and I
will have to go back to Terminal E to get that piece of paper from
them. OH HELL NO.
Right about now, I've got Katrina, Krakatoa and the KKK going off inside my head. I'm not going anywhere until you people get USAir on the phone and get this shit right. And I'm realizing that I have dealt with four different monkeys at USAir over 5 hours on two days and none of those fuckwits have given me an ounce of satisfaction. I practically snatch the phone from the AA agent which now has a USAir 'supervisor' on the phone. Mind you, all of this is about one leg of a $500 round-trip. I have dealt with 7 airline personnel and none of them have yet had the authority to fix this situation. The ESL graduate on the phone purrs mincing excuses with a Japanese accent, but she has no way of finding who the supervisor is at USAir and no way of contacting them by phone. So now I'm yelling into the phone. So two of your idiots already gave me worthless TTY papers. How do I know the next one won't give me some worthless paper? I unload on this one for a good five minutes. I've had it. I storm out of AA thinking of ways to get loud without getting arrested.
This time the green buses are running on time. I arrive at USAir and the entire staff has changed. They've been playing football with me without giving me the FIM knowing that I have to bounce all over. I was ready to tell LaVonda or Elmazi, yeah you know who I am don't you. You didn't expect to see me back but I'm back. You better get your real boss down here. Instead, there are nothing but new people. Damn. Damn Damn. So I jump the line again, and I dare any of you to say shit, and I now deal with 'Marge'. I call her that because she's the spitting image of the woman in the Palmolive dishwashing liquid commercials. Plus she was wearing her ID badge backwards so I couldn't read her name. She's got this laughing attitude about the whole thing like USAir is getting screwed because those assholes at American are demading the FIM which allows them to charge USAir full fare for the flight. She punts to an associate to go find some. The associate can't find any. Who would know where there are more? Oh he's gone for the day.
I'm now at the very end of my patience and the realization comes to me that I have already made too many demands out of context for a video recording of this bullshit circus to make sense at YouTube. At this point, having unloaded one barrel at the AA counter on the phone and being deflated by not finding any of the conniving bastards who sent me off without my FIM, I put on my dark sunglasses and wait while she finds one. I decide against filming her mug and broadcasting it all over the internet to make her the symbol of USAir's indifferent, insufferable incompetence. That honor rightly belongs to Elmazi who was aware of my entire situation and yet chose to send me away from the ticket counter without everything I needed. Marge completes her scribbling on the FIM. I snatch that golden ticket and split. I know Marge knows that I'm that guy, and she didn't apologize once. USAir service is for shit and I think most people in the industry know it.
On my way back to American at Terminal C, there's a girl who looks to be about 21 sobbing at the back of the green shuttle. She's explaining to someone on the phone that she's stranded in Dallas for at least two days. Her flight from Seattle to London should not have been rerouted here and nobody anywhere can do anything for her. In my dark shades, behind my headphones blasting Stone Temple Pilots, with my precious slip of paper in hand, I know I'll be home tonight. She is crying and I know there's nothing I can do to help. I know I should be rich. Me being rich and connected means I know exactly who to call to make things work. I know I could have used the force of my personality to humiliate people today. I had no moments of weakness and contained most of my fury. But I'm not quite there for the crying girl. In my luggage is a stuffed animal for my youngest daughter. I try to think of something I could say to the crying girl while giving it to her that might cheer her or give her comfort. But I can't bring myself to do it for her. It seems to me an empty gesture, and while I muster the sentiment I can't execute that small thing. What she needs is a hotel room and a way to London. I can't spare that kind of change. It is my nature to want to fix things that are broken. I know there are people who can fix things - people like me. But I can't fix it for her. Fixers are hard to reach so people wait and suffer until they arrive and make things right. I'm indisposed. I'm stuck in Dallas on my way somewhere else. If something went wrong with what I've been building this week, they'll have to wait until the Wednesday after next. I'm on vacation. The doctor is out.
The fine folks at American Airlines had already reserved two seats for me on two different flights so that as soon as the madness was over with USAir, I'd be assured a seat no matter how long it took. I took the later flight so that I could decompress over a leisurely meal and recharge my cell phone. I had a Wendy's Baconater and I updated the Spousal Unit once again once my battery level reached 39%. At the end of the day I arrived in Los Angeles only one hour later than I had originally planned. American was able to get me a direct flight and an aisle seat instead of the two middle seats and the stopover in Vegas that USAir promised but couldn't deliver. Hell is relative.
I've been noticing commercials recently, notably from Hilton Hotels and from Liberty Mutual that speak to the values of fixing things that are broken and paying favors forward. At every level of society we must be aware of what expectations we set and the lengths we are willing to go to deliver what we promise, not only for that which is expected of us, but for that which we are able to do for others. It has always been my ambition to be a big man, and I am often reminded of how difficult it is to maintain that ambition when there are little things left undone that I might have done were it not for my particular focus. Surely there are more noble acts than filling out the right form at the right time, or buying somebody a much needed hotel room, or bringing home a gift. In light of what this world needs, such things seem trivial.
I've spoken of fixing here, but in my lexicon I often come back to the difference between healing and curing. I'm not much of a healer. I tend to focus on the cure. Almost immediately I think of Dr. House, the TV character portrayed by Hugh Laurie. He's rather what I'd like to be, recognized for curing while forcing people to heal themselves. Deep down I think I'm very unsentimental. I don't have a great deal of patience with other people's drama. I just want their problems fixed.
I only know how to get ass-backward into this subject because I'm really not good at describing states of mind. It may be something I have to get more familiar with as I get fascinated with stuff like murder mysteries. That is to say that I want to write a certain kind of fiction so I may have to learn more about the subject as well as portrayal of the subject.
But the thought crossed my mind as I was thinking of presumptions against the underclass, as well as the possible psychology of people inclined to defend them for other than political reasons. As well, some consideration of Maslowe's theory of self-actualization is in mind. But here is the actual picture I have in my head.
There was this young black dude at Knott's Berry Farm last week who was tall and slim. He wore Gabbana wrap-around sunglasses and some gold jewelry. The thing that struck me however was his black T shirt. It read 'Get on your knees and give me head' in bold white letters. So I stared him down once and then saw him once or twice on later occasions in the park, and I wondered what kind of mentality makes you think that you can go out in public with that kind of message on your t-shirt? My rationalization of this is that to a certain extent, there are a group of men in our society who really don't care what people think about them primarily because they don't expect mutual respect.
So that's my key word here, mutual respect.
Actually, I'm going to just open it with a bunch of questions, and I can pontificate later. Do you think that there is a common enough definition of respectable manhood in America that men of all ethnic backgrounds share? Is a certain level of decorum necessary in our society or is law sufficient? How permeable are class boundaries and who owes respect to whom? Is it possible specifically for black men to attain mutual respect without some kind of psychological subjugation going on? Who's more powerful in that regard when it comes to archtypical battles? Has anyone here read Iron John? Is there a particular flavor of black manhood that is more capable to communicate a specific decorum of manhood?
I think that should get things rolling. Surely there are more questions, certainly about womanhood too.
In this weeks show, we handle a few topics.
I pub up Michael Yon's story on the 1920s and Abu Ali, the Iraqi militia who joined the Surge to fight AQ. The Surge is beginning to deliver some good results so let's let it happen. This is what counter-insurgency is all about and this is the war we should have been fighting. Now let's fight it; we know how. There is no better example of winning the battle for hearts and minds than this. Impatience in the Congress is deadly stupid.
This time I want to give the NAACP a break. When they're not kissing corportate butt or R Kelly's for that matter, sometimes that squirrel finds a nut. Don't let them become the next N-Word. They need dramatic reform.
Who wants to watch? I think Latinos. One of the things I couldn't speak to was the reality of going to a ball game means facing larger Latino crowds than ever, and what nobody wants to say in LA and Orange County is it's true that baseball doesn't seem 'All American' any more, if you catch my racial drift.
Right now, I could kill George Bush. No, I don’t mean that. How could you
nonviolently kill somebody? I would love to be able to do that.
-- Betty Williams
Much is being made of the fact that this Nobel Peace Prize winner is yapping against the Iraq War, but at least she's being honest. The problem is, of course, she's wrong. I want to file this one under feminism because I don't doubt that some of her celebrity has come from the fact of her womanhood vis a vis the old saw that women are inherently less violent than men and their leadership style.. blah blah..
Here's another nugget of truth. It's not the first time she said it.
Speaking to an audience of schoolchildren at the Earth Dialogues forum in Brisbane, Australia, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Betty Williams said she would “love to kill George Bush.” (Hat tip: aussiemagpie.)
“I have a very hard time with this word ‘non-violence’, because I don’t believe that I am non-violent,” said Ms Williams, 64.
“Right now, I would love to kill George Bush.” Her young audience at the Brisbane City Hall clapped and cheered.
“I don’t know how I ever got a Nobel Peace Prize, because when I see children die the anger in me is just beyond belief. It’s our duty as human beings, whatever age we are, to become the protectors of human life.”
In order to have peace, prepare for war. The problem is always figuring out who the enemy is. I would pay to see her logically slapped around by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
There are three words I use frequently that I think most people misinterpret slightly. Being a writer, I enjoy the nuance and fiercely defend my use of them. They are 'retarded', 'fabulous' and 'fantastic'.
Some of us are too young or too un-mechanical to recall how to adjust the timing chain on an automobile. But those of us who've had the pleasure of using a timing stobe know what it means to have one's valves five degrees retarded. With enough of that retardation you'll find that you won't be firing on all cylinders. Which is rather what I mean when I say an idea is retarded. Not that it is irrecoverable.
This brings to mind a couple things. The first is that I learned at a deep level in the 10th grade that people are vessels of ideas, and one should always criticize another's ideas with the assumption that the person can be retuned and refueled with the proper mix. And another is that there are actually degrees of stupidity which cannot be adjusted. I went into that in detail one day. The post was called Three Degrees of Stupidity. In that post I broke out the differences between Fools, Idiots, Stooges, Doofuses, Airheads, Twits, Spazzes, Dolts, Imbeciles, Morons, and Cretins. I would add Schlemeil and Schlomozle but I tend to forget which is which.
Whenever I say that something is fabulous, I mean that it's overly fabulous. It does imply a bit of gay huzzah. Which is fine if you're talking about meal presentation, floral arrangements, furniture or someone's costume jewelry or ideas about the same. But if somebody's asking me a business question and I say that's a fabulous idea... now you know.
Even worse is 'fantastic' as in something akin to fantasy. Although the first image in my mind was the tagline to some baseball marketing, or was it the NBA which was fan-tastic? Fan being short for fanatic, I imagine any idea that is fantastic as some kind of wishful thinking that only people who paint large letters on their bellies would cheer mindlessly for. Rather like the candidacy of Ned Lamont.
A thoughtful reader passed along this article by John Derbyshire which prompted this thought for the day:
Along with the proscribing and replacing of familiar terms has come a whole new vocabulary employed to deal with violators of these taboos. A recurring feature of our public life is the stylized drama played out when some person of significance utters a word like “faggot” or asserts that black people make good sprinters. The little pantomime that ensues—condemnation, apology, penance, forgiveness—is dressed up in a jargon as prescribed and artificial as Oriental court ritual. The violator is guilty of “hate,” “bigotry,” or “prejudice.” If he uttered taboo words, they were “epithets” or “slurs.” He did not, in fact, utter them: he “spouted” or “spewed” them. (There is a Ph.D. thesis to be written by some student of linguistics about the fondness for “sp—” verbs in this context.) The noun “epithet” is preferentially qualified by one of a small set of adjectives now set aside for this purpose, being hardly ever used elsewhere: “vile,” “abhorrent,” “repugnant,” “hurtful.”
I have had some significant nits to pick with Derbyshire before but the substance of what he says is correct. I'm generally impressed by his observations, I'm just not always sure his conclusions are correct.
In this piece he rather throws up his hands in the PC air and rather for good reason I suppose as his intent is to show how we've gotten here from there. I sometimes share his frustration. But I do take some comfort that there are those of us who can tell the difference, and that is the connection that must be stressed.
The important thing, as Dr. Johnson said, is to clear our minds of cant. We may say cheery falsehoods to each other, in contexts where we all understand that it is only “a mode of talking in Society” that is being employed. In the interior of our skulls, however, we should not entertain cant nor any other kind of detectable falsehood.
So there is a right thinking which is compatible with a wrong talking. I can live with that in practice, but here in the blog I will not indulge that. As a writer, it's certainly my obligation to make my intent clear and to illustrate my thinking precisely. Which is I can be rather blunt with people and ideas I don't like.
But wait, there's more. Derbyshire hits on some age old stuff that I was just about to write about, namely the metaphysical disaster that is feminist thought:
Much energy has gone into a sissifaction of the schools—an effort to get boys behaving like girls. Fighting—a normal activity among small boys—is now considered an offense so horrible as to justify suspension and psychiatric intervention. “Use your words,” our sons are told, when they would rather, and would be better and healthier, using their fists. Schoolyard confrontations that would once have been taken to the gym to be decided with boxing gloves on now end with clenched-teeth apologies and grudging handshakes under the anxious eye of some senior staff member, usually female. Repeat offenses are dealt with via tranquillizing medications.
The converse thing—getting girls to be more boyish—has, where it has been attempted, mainly worked to the further disadvantage of boys, as with the ruthless application of Title IX of the 1972 education law to destroy athletic opportunities for male students.
The language of education is even more punctiliously PC than that of society at large. I have just returned from the annual field day at my son’s school, the events terminating in a, yes, “tug-o’-peace.” Talking to my son, I contemptuously called it a “tug-o’-mayhem, massacre, and blood-spattered death.” He laughed. He liked that. He’s a boy.
That's absolutely delicious. Anyway, Derb gets a big thumbs up from me today. Now I've got a meeting that I've got to attend, then I'm flying back home to vacation. See ya Saturday.
The Headline: Hot Ghetto Mess
The Subtext: [Some] Black folks are agitated about this embarrassing portrayal of [some] black people.
The Git: Grow up, please.
[The new] BET has a new show based on the popular website. I visited the website when it first hit and it cracked me up. My take on this one is simple. Somebody black deserves to make some money off of this, sooner or later.
I am specifically recalling one of the best interview shows I ever saw between Spike Lee and Delroy Lindo. And they were saying that one of these days, African Americans are going to grow folks who are naturals in the film production business, but for now and for always, this is a rich person's game. You can't even play until you have the wherewithal to play with millions every year, year in and year out. That's just not a lot of people, period. But clearly the days are coming where there will be plenty of black money in the entertainment business, it just hasn't happened yet. But as those days arrive, Tyler Perry will be just another name in a long list. And that list will be able to satisfy the scope of black entertainment hunger. Maybe.
In the meantime, it's better than Hollywood Shuffle, and people ought to be happy that some of the exploitation dollars.... nah I'm not even going to say that. Oh well. It aint as bad as hiphop.
I haven't been pontificating about the war in Iraq. I support the mission, there's not much else to say, and not many people qualified to say how that's going. Among the few is Michael Yon of course, and today he brings some sparkling news:
I was standing there with Abu Ali, with American soldiers and 1920s people milling all around. We had certainly killed a lot of his people, and the 1920s certainly had killed many American soldiers. During severe fighting with al Qaeda in April 2007, the 1920s reached out to American soldiers, and together they have been dismantling al Qaeda here in Baqubah and other places. If we had to fight an allied force of 1920s and al Qaeda, there is no telling how many soldiers we would have lost.
Al Qaeda’s ultimate failure in much of Anbar and now in parts of Diyala relates back to one of the pillars of success—or failure—in this war: Values. People who understand how to tamp down this war realize the critical pillar that values can play into success or failure in counterinsurgency, or COIN.
Why do Abu Ali and the 1920s fight Al Qaeda?
I asked Abu Ali why he and the 1920s turned against al Qaeda in Buhriz. Speaking through LT David Wallach, a native Arabic speaker, Abu Ali said that “al Qaeda is an abomination of Islam: cutting off heads, stealing people’s money, kidnapping . . . every type of torture they have done.”
The recent stories of baked children came to mind. I asked if Abu Ali had heard about children being baked. Ali said no, he had not heard such a story, but he would not be surprised if it were true because al Qaeda had done so many crimes, such as cutting off a man’s head, putting it up on a stick and parading it around town.
Read the whole thing.
Mr. Garnett is President of iAM Solutions, LLC (iAM). iAM is a woman and minority owned business enterprise. iAM provides consulting in the areas of: Technology, Go to Market Strategies, business development for start ups, and the development of end to end solutions in the XML, biometric and digital office environment that unite Communities of Practices. iAM’s targeted market is Government, K-16 andFortune 100 clients.
In August 2002, iAM acquired the "Minority Online Information Services" database (MOLIS) from ScienceWise. MOLIS is a one-stop source of in-depth information about the research and educational capabilities of 118 HBCUs and 176 Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The MSI group is comprised of 130 Hispanic-Serving Instutions (HSIs), 30 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other 16 Minority Postsecondary Institutions (OMPIs). MOLIS provides information on the institutions' research centers, research interests and capabilities, facilities, equipment, faculty profiles, statistics on the number of degrees awarded and enrollment figures, scholarship and fellowship information, and federal opportunity alerts. Federal agencies use MOLIS to identify an institution's capabilities so that they can help them build capacity in the area of grants and contracts. In June of 2006 iAM launched its "Communiversity" initiative that extends its database to other webbased tools to uniquely connect the HBCU/MI community to the small business, entrepreneurs, professionals, and Faith Based Organizations.
Prior to iAM, Mr. Garnett was President and CEO of Chrystal Software, a member of Xerox Technology Enterprises (XTE). XTE is a business development arm of Xerox Corporation chartered with the identification, development and successful commercialization of new technologies. David was appointed to this position in January of 2000.
Prior to Chrystal Software, Mr. Garnett was Senior Vice President of Global Accounts where he was responsible for the strategy and operational direction for Xerox’ top 500 accounts worldwide. These accounts represent 52% of the United States revenue and 37% of the worldwide revenues. The strategy comprehended the global delivery of Xerox's entire portfolio of solutions, services and products. During Mr. Garnett's tenure in this assignment the revenue grew at an annualized rate of 10% on a base of $1.7B.
Mr. Garnett joined Xerox in 1978. Since then he has held numerous field positions which included: Office Systems Sales Representative, Midwest Region Systems Training Manager, Branch Manager Systems, Region Systems Operations Manager, Region Agent Manager, District Manager-Oakbrook, National Systems Sales Operations Manager, Western Region General Manager of North American Systems Sales, Vice President of Field Operations - Mid-Atlantic Area, Vice President Xerox Professional Document Services and USCO Vice President of Field Operations - North Atlantic Area.
Mr. Garnett was born in Buffalo, NY. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a member of the Omega Psi Phi and Boule’ Fraternities. He is involved with a number of community activities, including: Children’s National Medical Center-Director, DC Public School Foundation – Former Chairman, Washington Board of Trade- Former Director, Historical Black College Visitation Program-Sponsor, Xerox Foundation. - Former trustee, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education – (NAFEO) - Chairman of Corporate Advisory Council, Metropolitan A.M.E. Church Senior Steward Board, 2001 Distinguished African American Alumni – University of Pittsburgh; Man of the Year Metropolitan A.M.E. Church 2000; Northern Virginia Urban League – Board of Directors. In November of 2004 he received a "Distinguished Varsity Alumni Award" from the University of Pittsburgh.
He and his wife Sheila, reside in Clifton, VA. They have two sons, Kevin and David and three grand children
Back when I first got onto the internet, before most people knew such a thing existed, I got into all kinds of debates about what black people might do here. There was a time, believe it or not, when nobody expected blackfolks EVER to get online. Then of course there were those who believed, like me, slightly, that online would open up a world of possibilities. So we set up websites.
In the first days of the internet there wasn't a black service-oriented website anywhere that didn't have the keywords FEDIX and MOLIS. These were 'publically' available databases which had data about government grants for minorities. Guess what, they still exist.
But today there are various companies set up to show potential candidates the ropes and how to apply for and successfully wrangle said government grants. It might actually be a healthy business. I'm going to check it out.
Millions Of Dollars In Government Grants Recently Released For Minorities! Thought Affirmative Action was dead? If you did you thought wrong. Though many of the catch phrases are no longer in use most of the money that was available still is.
Every year Congressmen and Senators make promises to the people that put them in office. Many of those promises are made to minority groups in specific areas but most are made at a National level.
So should you.
The Jungle got its name in a positive light in the 60s. It was a neighborhood of brand new apartment buildings just adjacent to Baldwin Hills. When they first opened, they were 'themed' apartments, mostly with tropical and island themes. They had swimming pools and banana & palm trees, so it was affectionately named The Jungle.
Around the mid 70s it started to go downhill, like the rest of America at the time, and then they opened up some of the apartments to Section 8. By 1980 it was ugly. Shortly thereafter, during the Crack Wars, it got dangerous as well as ugly and became the defacto headquarters of the Bloods.
The Jungle singlehandedly reduced the demographic profile of South West LA and negatively affected all of the surrounding middle and upper middle class communities. Affluent residents of View Park and Baldwin Hills during the 70s wanted to shop somewhere closer to home and lobbied to get an upscale shopping center built at what is now the Baldwin Hills / Crenshaw Plaza which was one of the very first shopping malls built in America.
Infamously a politician named Ruth Galanter lobbied for a new shopping center to be built in largely white Culver City, a couple miles to the west. It wasn't until Magic Johnson became a force in local politics and real-estate that the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza was upgraded. Still, the high end anchor tenants pulled out because of the Jungle. Instead of an Ikea or a Nordstrom, both of whom announced early interest because of Baldwin Hills, we got Sears, and later Wal-Mart.
Upscale black families continued to shop at the Fox Hills Mall, where I got one of my first summer jobs as a teen, but 'The Element' was never far behind. In more recent times, it has been taken over by the Westfield company and updated, but people still call it the Fox Hills Mall and you are very likely on any weekend to find styling black teens (and their cell phones) hanging out.
Magic Johnson did finally bring a first-run movie theater to Crenshaw. After the loss of the long lamented Baldwin Theater which was catty corner to one edge of the Jungle, the community waited for about 15 years to get those black dollars recycled.
About 7 years ago, a serious economic revival took place in the Crenshaw district spearheaded by Magic's investment as well as Wells Fargo and Bank of America and some of the promises made by Rebuild LA, the organization founded after the riots. The Jungle is still what it is, dangerous and dirty, but other parts of the Crenshaw community are doing better including Leimert Park Village.