Can I Be In The Room?

I heard today that Clinton will be introducing Obama to her top fundraisers this week.  You know, they could raise bundles of cash if they just decided to do this publicly, maybe at some place like Radio City or even Madison Square Garden.

"Barack, this is Bob Johnson; Bob - Barack Obama."

Oh sure, there would be other interesting ones - Lanny Davis comes to mind - but this one would be the money shot.

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Ta-Nehisi might be onto something with this one

Looks like an interesting discussion Mr. Coates has started with Ms. McArdle on ex-cons and how to put them to work - instead of just recycling them back to prison. I had to post my own riff off hid closing line: "dare I say, cultural?"

Not much of a dare. Here goes one:  

It is beyond a doubt that our prison culture has its origins in the post Civil War era of an end to slavery. A simple example like Angola prison in Louisiana shows that (plantation to prison in one easy step). If you prefer more rigorous and studious material, then you should read any of Angela Davis' work on the prison/industrial complex.  

I said pretty good list, but in fact it is a great list. What it needs is actual human effort to progress from concept to reality. Our current system is not just unsustainable it is inherently one that dehumanizes both the people jailed and their jailers, us.  

Or perhaps you think Abu Ghraib was just a few "bad actors"?

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Is it me, or is it strange to hear . . .

. . . the Speaker of the House of Representatives - second in succession to be President of the United States of America - profess ignorance about just what are the particulars of a bill before her chamber?

"I could argue it either way, not being a lawyer, but nonetheless, I could argue it either way.", so says Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Before I read this statement - and those damning words "not being a lawyer" - I had supreme respect for Speaker Pelosi; that respect is now dissipating by the second.  She is not a lawyer?  She is a legislator for goodness sake!  Not just any ordinary legislator, but the most powerful legislator in the House of Representatives of the United States of America! 

Now, I came of age during the heights of Schoolhouse Rock!, so I have at best a rhyming understanding of how a bill becomes a law, but with that modicum of knowledge, I have learned that the best way to understand a bill is to read it.  And if your goal is to not enable the breaking of a law by the President of the United States of America, then you do not include any words, phrases or sentences that so much as even appear to do so.

Of course, the counter part is true as well; that if you do wish to countenance the breaking of a law by the President of the United States of America, then you include as many words, phrases or sentences to reach that goal as possible.

This bill - as I read it (and I am not a lawyer - contains an entire section with 139 words in one incredibly long sentence with at least 15 phrases (depending upon your sentence diagramming rules) that countenance said breaking of the law by our President.

Why is this bill being proposed now?

It just came to me in the midst of typing this post - and I would need to read the claims to be sure - but is this an end run around the articles of impeachment that Dennis Kucinich has filed?  Is this the Democratic Party leadership conducting an end run around the law, to obviate the fact that Dennis has shamed them for calling out their dereliction to do their Constitutionally directed duties?

Shame on you, Nancy Pelosi.  Shame on you.

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R. Kelly and what it means to be a man / Juneteenth 2008 / 'Bout Damn Time

Statement of Black Men Against the Exploitation of Black Women

Six years have gone by since we first heard the allegations that R. Kelly had filmed himself having sex with an underage girl. During that time we have seen the videotape being hawked on street corners in Black communities, as if the dehumanization of one of our own was not at stake. We have seen entertainers rally around him and watched his career reach new heights despite the grave possibility that he had molested and urinated on a 13-year old girl. We saw African Americans purchase millions of his records despite the long history of such charges swirling around the singer. Worst of all, we have witnessed the sad vision of Black people cheering his acquittal with a fervor usually reserved for community heroes and shaken our heads at the stunning lack of outrage over the verdict in the broader Black community.

Over these years, justice has been delayed and it has been denied. Perhaps a jury can accept R. Kelly's absurd defense and find "reasonable doubt" despite the fact that the film was shot in his home and featured a man who was identical to him. Perhaps they doubted that the young woman in the courtroom was, in fact, the same person featured in the ten year old video. But there is no doubt about this: some young Black woman was filmed being degraded and exploited by a much older Black man, some daughter of our community was left unprotected, and somewhere another Black woman is being molested, abused or raped and our callous handling of this case will make it that much more difficult for her to come forward and be believed. And each of us is responsible for it.

We have proudly seen the community take to the streets in defense of Black men who have been the victims of police violence or racist attacks, but that righteous outrage only highlights the silence surrounding this verdict.

We believe that our judgment has been clouded by celebrity-worship; we believe that we are a community in crisis and that our addiction to sexism has reached such an extreme that many of us cannot even recognize child molestation when we see it. 
We recognize the absolute necessity for Black men to speak in a single, unified voice and state something that should be absolutely obvious: that the women of our community are full human beings, that we cannot and will not tolerate the poisonous hatred of women that has already damaged our families, relationships and culture.

We believe that our daughters are precious and they deserve our protection. We believe that Black men must take responsibility for our contributions to this terrible state of affairs and make an effort to change our lives and our communities.

This is about more than R. Kelly's claims to innocence. It is about our survival as a community. Until we believe that our daughters, sisters, mothers, wives and friends are worthy of justice, until we believe that rape, domestic violence and the casual sexism that permeates our culture are absolutely unacceptable, until we recognize that the first priority of any community is the protection of its young, we will remain in this tragic dead-end.

We ask that you:

o    Sign your name if you are a Black male who supports this statement:



o    Forward this statement to your entire network and ask other Black males to sign as well

o    Make a personal pledge to never support R. Kelly again in any form or fashion, unless he publicly apologizes for his behavior and gets help for his long-standing sexual conduct, in his private life and in his music

o    Make a commitment in your own life to never to hit, beat, molest, rape, or exploit Black females in any way   and, if you have, to take ownership for your behavior, seek emotional and spiritual help, and, over time, become a voice against all forms of Black female exploitation

o    Challenge other Black males, no matter their age, class or educational background, or status in life, if they engage in behavior and language that is exploitative and or disrespectful to Black females in any way. If you say nothing, you become just as guilty.

o    Learn to listen to the voices, concerns, needs, criticisms, and challenges of Black females, because they are our equals, and because in listening we will learn a new and different kind of Black manhood

We support the work of scholars, activists and organizations that are helping to redefine Black manhood in healthy ways. Additional resources are listed below.

Who's Gonna Take the Weight, Kevin Powell
New Black Man, Mark Anthony Neal
Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot, Pearl Cleage
Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality, Rudolph Byrd and Beverly Guy-Sheftall

I Am A Man: Black Masculinity in America, by Byron Hurt
Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, by Byron Hurt
NO! The Rape Documentary, by Aishah Simmons

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High Gas Prices? We Don't Need No Stinkin' High Gas Prices!

This is such a good post, as that "open up offshore drilling rights" is as big a canard as the gas tax holiday. Not only does it take years to find oil, put in place the deep-water drill and then remove it from the ocean floor - any oil retrieved is going to be a rounding error when compared to escalating global demand.

Whenever anyone questions the high gasoline prices we are currently paying, ask them what their stance was on the consolidation of our oil industry? The reconstitution of Standard Oil into ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaxo and ConocoPhillips not only allowed them to increase their profits (the whole point of mergers), but it also allowed them to shutter dozens of oil refineries across the country. So when people pull out that chestnut about "no new refineries have been built in the last 30-years - ask them how many refineries (and thus refinery capacity) has been closed by the same oil companies as part of their consolidation efforts.

Now, should you find someone willing to engage in this conversation and knowledgeable enough to continue to debate, they will most likely reach for the chestnut that says refined product has actually increased across all of those refinery closures, as processes and tooling upgrades have made gains for remaining refineries. But this belies the point that had the other refineries not been shuttered, they too could have taken part in those improvements, so that even more refined product - gasoline and diesel - would now be on the market.

Increased supply drives down the price as well as the profits.

That should end the discussion, allow the pivot to solutions to take place:

1. Do not allow the integrated oil companies to spin-off their refinery capacity.

2. Treat refineries the way regulated utilities used to be treated. This is not a competitive market. Most regions of the country have mandates that specify the fuel blend allowed, so the search for profit here is useless. Mandate refiners sell their product to retailers at cost.

3. Consolidate the hodgepodge of regional fuel blends into one, so that refiners can produce for a nationwide market without needing to produce one-off specials. This will raise the cost for some areas that do not have air quality mandates, but the overall savings will lower average prices for all.

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Democracy Ain't Easy

It may just be me, but when I hear people say - "Americans are not happy with the progress in Iraq, but we still want to win" - I have to resist the urge to shout: "You are confusing the question!"

Of course Americans want to win, winning is imprinted onto our DNA.  It is part of who we are, it is what we mean when we say we strive for "a more perfect union".  What Americans need to know is not whether we want to win or not - that goes without saying.  What Americans need to know is how can we win in Iraq?  Can we win with the same strategy George W. Bush was put in place - instead under the guidance of John McCain - or do we need a new strategy altogether?  Do we need something that places us on a completely different vector to reach our stated goal?

Aside: this debate is not about how one side wants to win and the other side wants to lose; no - this debate is about how one side believes we can win by doing what we have been doing and how our side believes that to win we need to "think outside the box."

Pardon my descent into consultant-ese; sometimes these cliches are useful.

By attempting to create a democratic state in the heart of the Muslim world, this administration has embarked upon the grandest of nation-building efforts the world has ever known and at the same time they have professed to be able to do so without the involvement, counsel or assistance of respected subject-matter experts.  Interesting.

This approach - experts, who needs 'em - has never been the recipe for success on any of the countless consulting engagements on which I have either worked or studied and the results to-date confirm the wrongheadedness of this strategy (or lack thereof).  Experts are called experts for a reason and it is not because they always know what works, but because they always know what are the proper indicators of success.  They know what to look for to see if your actions are proceeding in your desired direction.  This is helpful so that you do not wander so far off course and waste so many millions of dollars, before someone shouts: "Stop!"

It seems like it would be so easy to find experts on creating democratic nations - especially in a country that has its history as being the first democratic republic in the modern world.  We should be able to receive an answer just by shouting to the heavens: "what worked for us?"

First, we also needed the assistance of a major power - the French - to defeat those who saw our Declaration of Independence as the bleating of a minor ewe.  So if we accept the framework that claims the citizens of Iraq longed to be free of the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein, then we know from jump that the catalyst for freedom is indeed present.

Second, how did the French help us in our fight and how can we model our actions on theirs?  The French augmented our ground forces; they had a battle-tested army with a professional officers core.  We had a ragtag bunch of volunteers with heart and little else.  Additionally, the French had a rather useful Navy - which was useful as our embryonic republic had not one.  Our modern Air Force is providing much the same type of service for both our ground troops as well as those of the incipient Iraqi Army.

Finally - and this is perhaps most important - once the British were defeated, the French withdrew.  They did not establish enduring or permanent or 'choose-the-adjective-which-best-suits-your-mood' bases amidst our hinterlands.  Of course there were many concerns on the potential for trouble to befall our fledgeling confederation (please open your texts to War, French and Indian).  It was well understood by all of the actors on the world stage that this new nation was going to face troubles both large and small and it was by no means certain that we would survive and prosper.  France still laid claim to vast swaths of territories to our West and Northwest; deadly skirmishes were still being waged with indigent Amerindian populations; and the Spanish Empire was just to our South as well as occupying territory sweeping so far across our western flank as to reach the Pacific Ocean.  And yet, with all of the perils in which they were ensconced, the founders of our republic knew that they must prevail or perish of their own accord.

So must this new nation of Iraq.

None of us know what the future holds in store for either us or them; they may survive as a republic, evolve into an independent confederation of states, return to the tyranny of a dictatorship or be swallowed up in parts by their neighbors.  Whatever their future calls for, only the people of Iraq can call it into being.

That is what democracy means.  

This is the essence of self-determination.

If we truly believe in the power of free peoples and free states to determine their own path, then we must leave the Iraqi people to seek theirs.

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Is there a "Dear Abby" for delusional pols?

I am in need of counseling. Well, really it is for a close friend of mine, a pundit.

All pundits actually.

Yesterday, McCain goes on the Today show and says that having an estimate on when our troops will return from Iraq is not important.

Wow, methinks.

And yet my friend - pundit - tells me that Americans will always trust McCain on "national security" issues more than they will Obama, because he has "a lifetime of service" and that his family has "four generations of military service", which means that no matter the size of the dichotomy between McCain's words and the wishes of the American public - that American public will still choose McCain over Obama.

Now - I just picked up my copy of "Why We're Liberals" yesterday, so I have not made it through all of the conclusions, but I do have this question:

How can the American public be both liberal in nature and at the same time seemingly enthralled to a Republican Party divorced from the reality of the ramifications of the "authorization to use military force" in Iraq (oh - and is an AUMF the same as a declaration of war and if so how and why is it different and if not is it even legal?)

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States Obama Will Win This November

Total Electoral College Votes: 414

Base States: 153

Name Electoral College Votes
HI 04
CA 55
IL 21
DC 03
MD 10
DE 03
NY 31
CT 07
RI 04
MA 12
VT 03

Contest States: 191

Name Electoral College Votes
WA 11
OR 07
NV 05
CO 09
NM 05
MN 10
IA 07
KS 06
WI 10
MI 17
OH 20
PA 21
VA 13
FL 27
NJ 15
NH 04
ME 04

Surprise States: 70

Name Electoral College Votes
TX 34
GA 15
NC 15
MS 06

This is undoubtedly a high-end projection, but I make this prediction with a confidence factor of 0.80 - meaning that at a minimum, Obama will secure 331 electoral college votes.

I am predicting today that Obama carries the core Democratic base of liberals, women, American-Afrikans, Latinos and all of these demographics are augmented by a surge in the turnout of the under 45 age group.

Additionally, the Libertarian candidacy of Bob Barr will receive significant numbers of Republican votes in the formerly solid Republican South.

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Guess Who?

Color is not a hot topic here at Altercation - nor should it be. In fact, it should not be a hot topic anywhere and especially not during this upcoming Presidential election.


At this day and time, to begin a discussion on a topic like "Is Obama Black" or "How would a Black (black?) President be Different" is to begin a conversation all the whilst sinking in quicksand. Other priorities avail. These terms we call color "white" and "black" are too amorphous to hold a serious discussion - even though they have been with us for centuries and form our daily thoughts, if not also our dialog. Still they are troublesome because they are so ill-defined.

Obama is black because he calls himself black - some will say - oblivious to the fact that they would not so willingly accept an Obama self definition of white. Obama is black because of the "one-drop" rule - others will say - regardless of how that de jure definition is no longer on the books. In reality - if I may be so bold - Obama is black because "color", when used to describe people, is purely a shared delusion, with which we amuse ourselves in the 21st century.

Oh - it used to have meaning. In the 17th or 18th or 19th centuries, being "black" meant you were a slave. Do not our history books describe it as "The African Slave Trade"? Does not our own US Constitution define a category of "non-persons" - in whom said slave trading could continue for years after that document was signed into Law? And I know there are many who will tell us that we did not fight a war over those slaves (especially these nice SCV members who plan to erect a large Confederate flag over I75 in Tampa, FL), but there is no doubt that when no less an authority as the US Supreme Court says that black people have no rights which need be respected - it meant something back then to be black. And it would be foolish of me to proclaim that being "black" did not mean something for the rest of the 19th and 20th centuries - what with those friendly young men in those white outfits, seeking to protect their homes from that black peril moving all across this nation - even right next door! (I hear they were even feted at the White House for a movie night - the first movie night, in fact); and onward through the Supreme Court decision you referenced yesterday and through the presidential campaigns of Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

But that was then and this is now the 21st century and we know more about human DNA today, such that we know those outmoded concepts of race and color are just that (and we have known for a long time that our blood, our organs and our cultures are fungible too).

With the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, we can now look at these concepts as the historical artifacts they truly are. In the sub-set of the world that is the United States of America, no one questions that his mother was white; similarly, no one questions that his father was black; the question arises for the child of their marriage. Our discussion varies from black to biracial to multiracial - but it never extends to white.

The one thing we know about Obama, from the very first glance is that he is not white.


It cannot be his color: he is darker than Harold Ford, Jr. and we never question whether Harold is black. It cannot be his curly hair: Charlie Rangel has hair straight and narrow enough for the finest comb and we never question whether Charlie is black. No, Obama cannot be white because "whiteness" in America means entre into the most exclusionary (albeit not very exclusive) club there is. If your access to this club can be questioned in the slightest - then you are out, never to be granted appeal.

The debate over affirmative action programs - "they should be class-based and not race" - subsumes the fact that "class" in our society is as much a function of "wealth" as it is "race". Class in America should be thought of as a matrix - with poor, black as the lower left box and wealthy, white as the upper right. You can be wealthy and black in this nation - just ask Oprah - but although she is now considered to "transcend" race, she knows that she is one mistake away from being re-classified as black and one big mistake away from being re-classified as black and poor.

Michael Jackson learned this: at one point in time he did not know whether he was "Black or White"; get caught doing something criminal (allegedly) and he no longer wonders. OJ Simpson, Robert Blake - each participated in the time-worn tradition of murdering their wives; as upper-class men - wealthy men - they both were absolved of wrong doing. Yet one of these men is still pursued and one is forgotten.

Membership, does indeed, have its privileges.

Only be breaking this concept of "color" once and for all and recognizing the truth that grows clearer every day - there is only one race of people - can we ever free ourselves from this four-hundred year morass into which the lure of profiting from the sale of humans has ensnared us. There are no "white" people. There are no "black" people. There are no "brown" people. We long ago gave up calling people "red" or "yellow".

By all means, we should shift our focus to class, but this focus on class must seek to root out the vestiges of race (color) at the same time. That is the path to a class free society.

Let go of color and embrace humanity. We have so much to learn from one another and so little time.

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