Worth Repeating

Racism doesn’t require the presence of malice, only the presence of bias and ignorance, willful or otherwise.

–Charles M. Blow, NY Times Op-Ed piece, a day after “a New York grand jury refused to indict a police officer who choked and killed Eric Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk.”

Worth Repeating

There are no soul mates. Not in the traditional sense, at least. In my 20s someone told me that each person has not one but 30 soul mates walking the earth. (“Yes,” said a colleague, when I informed him of this, “and I’m trying to sleep with all of them.”) In fact, “soul mate” isn’t a pre-existing condition. It’s an earned title. They’re made over time.

–Pamela Druckerman, in a New York Times Op-Ed

The Ignorant Among Us

No wonder the debate on health care reform is not going so well.

Not only do we have the right-wing forces and special interests lobbyists blasting the reform efforts with lies and conspiracy theories, we also have progressives spewing nonsense.

Congresswoman Diane E. Watson, (D) California
Congresswoman Diane E. Watson, (D) California

Exhibit A — Rep. Diane E. Watson (D) California’s 33rd Congressional District. She must be one of the few people left in America that still defends Castro and Guevara. And her praising of the Cuban health care system I find completely baffling coming from someone that seems intelligent and well informed. I guess not that well well-informed. Sounds like she believed what Castro told her on her recent guided-tour of Havana.

Dear Congresswoman:

There are two classes in Cuba, just like in any dictatorship: those that are in power — and are willing to do anything to keep said power — and the rest of the population. The power elite in Cuba has access, privileges and benefits that are denied the average citizen. Those benefits include travel, consumer goods and better health care. It is well documented that foreigners receive care — many in fact travel to Cuba for this specific purpose — that is not available to the locals. Everyone knows — or should know if they just read the mainstream media — that Cuban nationals were even forbidden from vacationing at popular Cuban resorts that were reserved for foreigners paying with dollars.

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Behind Every Great President

stands a great Mom:

Running through Dr. Soetoro’s doctoral research, as through all her work, was a challenge to popular perceptions regarding economically and politically marginalized groups; she showed that the people at society’s edges were not as different from the rest of us as is often supposed.

Continue reading Dreams From His Mother. Great insight into President Obama’s late mother from someone who knew her.

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You Don’t Need a Sign to Send a Strong Signal

Turn off the stupid sign. Turn on the smart diplomacy.

Photo By Enrique De La Osa/REUTERS
Photo By Enrique De La Osa/REUTERS

According to Matthew Lee, Associated Press Writer:

The Obama administration has turned off an electronic sign at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana that had displayed pro-democracy and human rights messages to Cuban passers-by and riled the government for the past three years.

The State Department said Monday that the sign, a news “zipper” on the fifth floor of the sea-front American Interest Section in the Cuban capital, was shut down last month amid the administration’s ongoing efforts to engage with Cuba’s leadership that has already seen some U.S. sanctions eased.

My first thought, after reading the first couple of paragraphs of the article, was a pretty simple one: What diplomatic brain-trust came up with the brilliant idea of installing a sign inside the fifth floor windows of a building touting the virtues of democracy to a few people riding by on bycicles? Who would consider such a device, beaming messages to an empty boulevard, a good use of tax-payers dollars?

Well, lets see…the sign was first erected in 2006…and who was in charge of our foreign policy then? Oh, that diplomatic brain-trust. These are the same folks that planned and executed — after lying about it first — the Iraq War; this is the administration that oversaw, because of neglect and arrogance, the embracing of leftist governments by most Central and South American countries; they’re the geniuses that so damaged our reputation around the world and our relationship with our friends and allies, that it will take decades to repair.

What’s needed is effective communication and clear purpose, based on an understanding of our opponents and a refusal to repeat the mistakes of past administrations. More than anything we must deny the Cuban government the opportunity to portray the American government as insensitive, hypocritical or meddling. How did the Cuban government respond to this diplomatic graffiti?

The sign, which frequently displayed quotes from leading human rights activists and pro-democracy supporters, outraged Cuban authorities who had in 2005 erected billboards outside the mission emblazoned with photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners and a huge swastika overlaid with a “Made in the U.S.A” stamp.

It is refreshing to see the Obama administration using a sensible and smart approach to the relationship with Cuba.

President Barack Obama‘s decision in April to allow U.S. telecommunications companies to do business with Cuba would do more to boost the flow of information to the island.

and

Since he came into office, Obama has sought to reach out to Cuba by easing travel and financial restrictions on Americans with family in Cuba. But he has said he wants to see political or economic reforms before going further.

Besides, why would you need a crappy billboard to promote democracy? less than 90 miles north you find the LIVE version of the original, with all the joy and the celebration — and the imperfection — of an outdoor concert. Cubans don’t need to read a message on a window. They need to interact with Americans. They need to see our students and our athletes and our musicians. And we need to be with theirs.

We need scoreboards, not billboards. We need to play baseball more often.

The rest will take care of itself.

Stars Don’t Die Like You and Me

I wanted to hear the latest news on President Obama’s trip to Russia, but when I turned on the TV it was MJ all the time. A mild annoyance came up then at the live coverage of the memorial which followed a couple of weeks of non-stop idol worshiping.

Here are some of my favorite quotes of the event, according to Alessandra Stanley in this New York Times article:

“There was nothing strange about your daddy,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said, addressing Mr. Jackson’s three children, Prince Michael, 12; Paris, 11; and Prince Michael II (a k a Blanket), 7. “It was strange what your daddy had to deal with.”

Nancy Giles, an actress and CBS News commentator, said on MSNBC that he was “a trailblazer in the same way President Obama  is.”

and my favorite:

Shepard Smith of Fox News, speaking over the music in almost syncopated beat, noted: “He was a lot of different things to a lot of different people. There were days when on the cover of The New York Post, he was just ‘Wacko Jacko.’ But today, just moments ago, his daughter reminded us all he was also, Daddy.”

I recognize Mr. Jackson’s talent and I understand the pain that his early death must have caused his family — especially his children — and the sense of loss to his many fans. I didn’t join in the mourning or the celebration. Most times when I drive by the scene of an accident, I refused to look.

Certain things about the events surrounding Mr. Jackson’s death I don’t understand. I don’t understand the way some people, a great portion of them grown men and women, left friend, family, jobs and other responsibilities in far-away lands to travel to LA to be a part of the event. I don’t understand why no one spoke of the facial disfigurement, bordering in self-mutilation, that took place before our eyes over the last two decades. I don’t understand why a young single mom would categorically deny that Mr. Jackson molested a child, accusing the kid’s parents of greed instead, as if she had first hand knowledge of what had transpired behind closed doors. I don’t understand a black preacher claiming Mr. Jackson opened some doors for black Americans when it seemed that Mr. Jackson was rejecting his own blackness by transforming himself into a white man. And I certainly fail to see the benefit of allowing a young, grief-stricken daughter to face an audience and the cameras to talk about how much his father meant to her in the presence of his casket.

Superstars and their families live in a slightly different world than most humans. A world of incredible privileges and benefits which are sometimes paid for with sanity and a piece of soul.  The success that MJ achieved in his lifetime seemed to carry with it a price he couldn’t afford. All the material and creative assets that he possessed were obscured by the liabilities. These bankrupted him in the end. And a worldwide audience was watching.

I was finally able to see a report on the President’s trip to Russia, along with the latest from the unrest in China and an update on the New Orleans school district improvements on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. They also did a piece on the memorial service for Mr. Jackson. At the end of the show.