July 28, 2004

The Future

Just in case you didn't see the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention last night...

Ladies and gentleman, I give you the first Black President of the United States: Barack Obama.

The son of a Kansas mom & a Kenyan dad, raised in Chi-town, and the former editor of the Harvard Law Review, Brother Obama is currently an Illinois state senator. This spring, he was one of six candidates running in the Democratic primary for Illinois's open seat in the U.S. Senate.

Against 5 other white candidates, Obama got 53% of the vote statewide.

And then, Obama's Republican adversary in the general election, Jack Ryan, recently imploded. Why? Because he was running as a family values conservative until the paperwork from his divorce from Jeri Ryan (yes, THIS Jeri Ryan)....

...revealed that part of their separation was her objection to his desire to take her to a sex club for public nookie.

Oh, and THEN the Republicans tried to recruit Mike Ditka (yes, THIS Mike Ditka)...

.....to run against Obama. Ditka declined.

If elected, Obama will be only the 3rd African American to serve in the Senate in American history.

The man has the juice. Look for him to take the Oath of Office in 2012 (after Kerry/Edwards are re-elected).

Don't believe me?

Check out the brother's speech.

"It’s not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga.

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief—I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper—that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. “E pluribus unum.” Out of many, one.

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America—there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."

He's the real deal.

July 11, 2004

"Meet my FIST!"

On Friday, July 9th, on National Public Radio, Ralph Nader is going to debate Howard Dean.

Maybe now someone will publicly defrock Nader for the megalomaniac he's become, especially since it's mostly Republicans propping up his campaign as a Kerry spoiler.

Personally, I can't wait.

Check your local listings.

[UPDATE]: So, here are the goods - a streaming audio of the debate.

I'd like to say that the moderator, Margo Adler, should be fired. Her attempts to defuse the debate with her frivolous questions just as it was getting juicy were really starting to tick me off.

The more I listen to him, the more Nader sounds like Rorschach from Watchmen:

"No. Not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise."

Then again, most of Nader's big checks are also coming from people who've contributed to Bush this year, too. I guess his principles do have a price.

But I think Dean said it best:

"When the house is on fire, it's not the time to fix the furniture".

July 08, 2004

The Piece Maker

So, last night, I saw my man Joe Hernandez-Kolski's solo show, "You Wanna Piece of Me?" at the Electric Lodge in Venice, CA, where it will be running for the next 4 nights.

Digression: Can I say, I never knew there really is a street called "Electric Avenue"?

Back to the subject at hand....

The show is awesome.

Yes, the music is off the hinges - from the jaw-dropping turntable skills of Joe's DJ, Jedi (on loan from HBO's Def Poetry) and the smallest taste of Josh Silverstein's human beatbox onslaught.

Yes, the poetry is fluid and insidious - sometimes you don't even realize that Joe's performing a poem because the flow is so natural and conversational until he pulls the ripcord on the verse and it blows up like a balloon right before your eyes.

Yes, the dancing is out of this world - beyond the usual breaking and poppin' & lockin' you'd expect from a former club dancer, Joe finds ways to tell entire stories without a single word, but only the movement of his body. A piece in the middle of the show where he depicts the mind-numbingly grinding rat-race of a super-overachiever's life at Princeton is one of the most expressive performances I've ever seen.

But, at the end of the day, what makes it all work is the fact that Joe absolutely empties his soul onto that stage floor for the world to see - his own internal demons over his mixed racial heritage; the way he debunks the way men belittle women, and then debunks his own debunking as simply a means to get women; own desperate quest to make the rest of the world give as much of a damn as he does, and then his realization of the deep personal costs he pays for having the arrogance to be a self-appointed savior of everything from hip-hop music to a lost generation of Lation kids who look just like him - it's all there.

It's not every day I get to see a friend perform a vivisection on himself so he can entertain and enlighten.

Understatement of the week: He gets my props.

And the good folks at Venice Magazine, LA Weekly, and Latino LA all seem to agree with me.

The show is running for the next four nights. I cannot recommend it stronger. Go to his site (click the main link for this post or just go to Pochojoe.com).

And I, for one, am hoping he and Jedi are recording some of this to put out a bootleg mix-tape soundtrack or something.

Oh, and did I mention that Joe is also going to be one of the featured poets on Def Poetry Slam, airing on September 19th on HBO? So, those of you who miss out won't have to miss out completely.

Taking The Fifth

When asked to comment about the recent indictment of former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, a man who was the biggest contributor to Bush-Cheney 2000 (he even let James Baker use the company jet to fly to Florida to stop the recount) and who was more than likely at the head of Cheney's energy task force, the President of the United States did this:

Yes, Bush walked out and refused to take anymore questions.

Silence can speak volumes.

July 04, 2004

In Context

Just so no one misunderstands where he's coming from, here's the entire transcript of Senator Rick Santorum's (R-Pennsylvania) interview with AP where he weighs in on homosexuality, which he equates with bigamy, polygamy, incest, sodomy, and adultery as sexual activities that undermine the institution of marriage and, consequently, the society as a whole.

So, where to begin?

First of all, there are actually many instances of viable and often thriving societies built on bigamy & polygamy, so we can dismiss those from this discussion. Sodomy in and of itself becomes problematic within the context of his argument because, unless he's planning on outlawing anal sex among consenting heterosexual couples as well, then you get into a civil rights violation because you're not providing equal protection under the law to all groups.

Which leaves us with incest, adultery, and homosexuality. Well, there are biological and health reasons why incest is illegal, not to mention the psychological trauma from cross generational sexual activities within the same family (think Chinatown - "she's my sister! My daughter! My sister AND my daughter!"), so, yes, it creates emotionally unstable people which leads to an unstable society. And, because it often involves people who cannot give consent because they're underaged, there's a strong civic reason to outlaw incest.

Adultery is a bit thornier. Clearly, it undermines society because it creates emotionally unstable people, hence the term "Crime of Passion". But, since it involves consenting adults, the act in and of itself doesn't actually injure or damage anyone directly, so it probably doesn't meet the test for being made illegal. But it does constitute a breach of contract, which is why adultery is often figured into divorce proceedings in terms of asset allocation.

But, in the case of homosexuality, no one is being injured. No contracts have been breached (unless one of them is married). No crime has been committed (unless one of them is underaged). So, what are the grounds upon which you base such a decision as to make homosexual acts a crime?

The only thing that the anti-gay lobby can use against them is that gay couples can't give birth without outside assistance, like adoption, surrogates, in vitro fertilization, etc. But, there are plenty of married heterosexual couples who can't either. Should it be illegal for a couple to have sex, for instance, after the woman has undergone menopause?

There is no legal precedent to stand on, other than the fact that Sen. Santorum finds homosexual activities repugnant.

At the end of the day, it's bigotry.

And I'd respect him and others like him more if they would just admit that they don't like them.

And the Bible isn't really an adaquate excuse either. The same section of Leviticus that says a man shouldn't lay with another man because it's a hateful act also says that you shouldn't shave your beard. Why choose to observe one and not the other?

Again, bigotry.

Here's What They Think About You

For those of you who don't know, Andrew Sullivan is a center/left columnist who's work appears primarily in The New Republic. Although he claims to be a progressive, he's been a really aggressive supporter of President Bush, largely because he drank the Bush Kool-Aid that his International Crazy-Man act has actually made America safer from terrorist threats.

And just how many nuclear secrets did our buddies in Pakistan sell while we were wasting our time with Iraq? But I digress.

Sullivan is also gay, so, as you can imagine, he and a whole host of log cabin Republicans have been experiencing a tad bit of cognitive dissonance over this whole "constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage" thing. Amazingly enough, according to his blog, Sullivan & Co. were actually able to maintain a level of plausible deniability right up until the moment Bush actually came out in support of the Amendment.

Now, both he and others like him are facing a fact that most of their friends on the other side of the political spectrum have been telling them all along.

The Republican Party hates you.

And no matter how much you agree with them on other issues, no matter how many times you vote for them, no matter how much campaigning you do for them, no matter how much they pat you on the head like good little boys for a job well done, the words of the incomparable Adolph Caesar, aka Sgt. Waters, in "A Soldier's Story" remain a fact of life:

"They still hate you. They - still - HATE - you"

What I found the most interesting in looking at his blog is the sheer volume of astonished former Bush supporters. And, to a man, they've almost all said that they've looked past Bush's fiscal mismanagement of the nation's treasury because they were so scared after 9/11 and the President made them feel safe. Despite all the prior evidence to the contrary, they trusted him right up until the moment that he spat in their faces.

Of course, for those who had their world view altered by 9/11, I suppose they didn't have much choice but to trust him. After all, it's not like they were ready to impeach him or anything. Things were shaky enough as it is.

But a new thought occurred to me as I read this. Perhaps the very reasons why I think Bush is an awful President are why these folks support him. When you think your life is in danger, I suspect there's something comforting about putting your safety in the hands of an unscrupulous person because you know they're capable of anything, and that they won't let little things like the law stand in their way. As long as that goal is your safety, it's all peachy.

Of course, there in lies the problem with that argument. The unscrupulous person who'll do anything never has your best interests at heart. After all, he's unscrupulous. He'll do anything. That's why he's dangerous.

Either way, I'm heartened to see a broad coalition forming to throw this bum out in November.

But, before I go, I'd like to do two things. First, to the people who are opposed to gay marriage, can I ask a favor? Don't insult my intelligence by saying we have to "protect" marriage because it's a precious institution and that it's for the children or any of that other garbage. Polygamy has been around at least as long as monagamous marriage and all the millions of children languishing in foster care that all the heterosexual couples can't be bothered with would gladly trade two dads or two moms for a cot in a halfway house. Why don't you all just come out and say why you really oppose gay marriage: that you don't want to make sin legal. Just say it, so we can all talk honestly about what the REAL issue is. Everything else they're saying is window dressing.

The real issue of gay marriage for The Right is the legalization of sin.

Case in point: I was really struck by one of the letters Andrew Sullivan received from a supporter of the ban who begged Sullivan to turn his back on his love of sodomy so he could see the err of his ways.

The right can't talk about it because they know, from a legal standpoint, it's indefensible. But it's not like they let reality stop them these days.

Secondly, I'd like to address the Black Republicans in the audience. I know you many of you are cultural conservatives and agree with this whole "Make Sin Unconstitutional" mess, but, as usual, I think many of you are missing the larger point.

They hate you, too. Not quite as much as the gays, but they do hate you. And it's only a matter of time before they come looking for you, too.

July 02, 2004

Murder, Inc.

"8000 would have died
at the end of the night
meeting for a month
over the use of their words
as if the slaughtered
were not people
but merely sheep herds"

-excerpt from "Clinton Toe Blood", one of many poems to be found in "Say it! Say Gen-O-Cide!!", Kobina Wright's new book of verse inspired by the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.

Ladies and gentlemen, consider this your official wake-up call.

In the wake of the Holocaust, the newly minted United Nations created a convention in 1948 (in essence, a treaty, because all of the participants were required to pass laws under their own systems of government that legally bound them to the obligations of the resolution) that defined in no uncertain terms the circumstances under which it's member nations would act to prevent such an atrocity from ever happening again.

So, according to this, the legal definition of genocide (i.e. the one that the United States has been legally bound to stop for the last 56 years) is this:

"...any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

After apparently having his ass handed to him in Somalia, Bill Clinton dithered for months over whether to actually use the word "genocide" with regards to Rwanda, because the minute he said it, he was legally obligated to stop it and he no longer had the political spine for it. After all, it's not like he could have just conducted an air war against hatchet men who where killing whole families, house to house. It would have required sending in ground troops as peacekeepers (unlike Bosnia, hence the differences in the interventions).

Say what you will about Monica Lewinsky. Allowing the rape and dismemberment of 800,000 people out of cowardice is a much bigger moral failure than getting a blow job.

Which brings me to Sudan and the Congo.

Now, I can only guess why the Sudan is all of a sudden in the news. I seem to recall seeing something about this back in 1997, but, after a little web research, I see that it was only a civil war that killed thousands then. Nothing for the international community to be concerned about.

Which would be the only reasonable explanation as to why no one has done a damn thing about the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I think the only people in mainstream, apolitical America who have the foggiest idea about Congo are those who watched ER's 2002-03 season finale and 2003-04 season premiere. After their corrupt President fled in 1998, the country collapsed into a civil war that lasted 5 years, involving a bunch of different rebel groups vying for power, as well as the armies of 6 different African countries hoping to influence the outcome so that they could benefit from Congo's natural resources. The shooting officially stopped a year ago with the creation of a jury-rigged transitional government that can't quite bring itself to hold an election.

Five million died over the course of five years there.

Imagine: 2 people on average were killed every minute, for five years straight. I haven't even lived in Los Angeles that long, yet.

But, it was officially considered a civil war by the western powers, so they just let them die. Can't get involved, right?

According to article referenced above from the Washington Post, at least 30,000 Black Africans in Sudan have been systematically killed by the militias sponsored by the Arabic government of that country to squash dissent. Whole villages of Africans have been burned to the ground while Arabic villages only a few hundred yards away have been left completely untouched, and the government is actively working to prevent international aid groups from providing relief to the hundreds of thousands of refugees in an attempt to starve them out.

But Colin Powell says that he's not - quite - sure this is officially a genocide yet.

I'm sure you can understand, right? After all, the US barely has enough troops to pacify Iraq for our new figureheads over there. And, even if the US can't commit troops, it doesn't want other countries to act on the genocide convention in Sudan because they want France & Co. to send their troops to Iraq as well.


Give Colin a call at 202-647-4000 or 202-647-6607 like the good people at Moveon.org are suggesting and tell him about himself. I did this morning. The lady was very polite and agreed to pass my message on. Of course, the 1st number doesn't seem to be working to well right now (and hence, the point).

And call your congressional representatives. I just spoke with Jim Clark, chief of staff for my congresswoman, Diane Watson, and he says that the Congressional Black Caucus is going to introduce a concurrent resolution with the Senate (H Con Res 467 to be exact for those of you who like Thomas, the Library of Congress legislative database) that officially declares what's happening in the Sudan as genocide when the House reconvenes on July 6th.

Not surprisingly, Senator Diane Feinstein's people sounded less enthusiastic about it (i.e. "the Senator is deeply concerned about this issue, blah blah blah...") although her people did say that she plans on issuing some kind of statement.

Senator Barbara Boxer's guy had nothing, but did say he'd pass on any message I had for her. I told him to ask her to support the CBC's H. CON. RES. 467 on her side of the legislature on my behalf.

For the record, today is the first day I've ever called my congressional representatives. Pretty freakin' kewl, huh?

Similarly, Human Rights Watch has a whole list of things you can do about this, such as contacting members of the UN security council, or even yelling at the Sudanese government directly. HRW also has a full site dedicated to the atrocities in the Sudan, so you can learn about it in full detail.

My point is, do something. We don't want to celebrate another 10 year anniversary where we pretended we didn't know that 1000's were dying needlessly.

Moreover, if you do make a call or do whatever, I'd love to know about it. Drop a note here on my comments section by clicking this green text .