Sunday, February 15, 2009
Uncle Killa is on HBO!!!

I told you earlier that a film I'm writing was adapted and used as a short for a friend of mine's thesis project at Columbia University. Well it just so happens that the film has won a few awards and is on HBO onDemand All February until March 2. Its beautiful to see something you create make its way to HBO. Please order it OnDemand, its free if you hav HBO ondemand, and i'm sure they keep records of how many times its been viewed. I may need to put that on my resume onde day!!! Oh and feel free to let me know how you feel about it, good, bad or otherwise. 

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Thursday, July 10, 2008
Obama: The Sleeper Cell Theory

If we look at Obama’s positions on the Israel-Palestine conflict, Cuba, Foreign Spy legislation (FISA), Troop expansion, and his love of ‘free’ markets, the picture that we begin to see is one of a centrist politician. All of these relatively recent developments have made it clear to the world that he is not the change agent he has presented himself as, even in the luke-warm way that liberals define change. So why are there still so many Obama supporters who offer him support unconditionally? Why is there still virtually nothing Obama can do or say that they cannot excuse or overlook as he fights to become the first black president of the United States? The Sleeper Cell Theory is why.

The Sleeper Cell Theory holds that Barack Obama has to lean to the right, even if it contradicts the things that he truly believes, in order to appease a particular interest group and win the election. Once he is elected he will, much like a hijacker, commandeer the oval office and use it as force for progressive/liberal/black causes.

Since most of Obama’s supporters believe this thoery or some variant of it, anything he does which contradicts their view of him as progressive, is labelled 'pragmatic.' Afterall, they say, he doesn't really believe those things, he's just saying that to get elected. Even those who think they can vote him in and pressure him leftward, subscribe to the notion that Barack actually believes in some core progressive values or that he is somehow more willing to work with them (whatever that means). In other words, they think he's their Sleeper Cell. Apparently, for them, the change they can believe in is outlined in the the things he's not saying.

A large part of the appeal that the sleeper cell theory holds, hinges upon the fact that Obama is black. When you are from a group which has historically been oppressed, there is a tendency for people to think that every member of said group is very critical of the system. While I agree that members of oppressed groups ought to be especially critical of the system, believing that things ought to be a certain way does not make them so. Barrack's blackness is no more an indicator of his political positions than Condoleeza Rice’s or Colin Powells is of theirs.

Another reason people gravitate towards the Sleeper Cell Theory is that politicians do habitually lie and pander in order to get into office so it isn't totally irrational to assume that Obama is pandering. However, if you look at the class nature of his pandering, you will understand the picture more clearly. Politicians typically lie to the working class about how they are going to work in their interests and make life better for them, and when they get into office they operate on behalf of the ruling class like every other politician has before them. What makes the Sleeper Cell proponents so crazy is that they believe that Obama is promising the ruling class that he's their guy, and once he gets in office he'll be our guy. This way of thinking contradicts even a rudimentary understanding of the influence that money exerts on our ostensibly democratic process.

The Sleeper Cell Theory is the product of a desperate and politically naïve populace, who know little about capitalism, politics and how change, even minor reforms, occur in society. Thinking they have been left with no alternatives, the progressive/liberal left, either hope that Obama will become who they want him to be, hope that they can pressure him lefward once elected, or have resigned to voting for him as the lessor of 2 evils. In all 3 scenarios, Obama still has a kung-fu grip on their vote and the ruling class wins again. More importantly, the working class is left no better prepared for the next liberal misleader that shows up with promises of hope and change.

However, the silver lining in all of this is that Obama's game of pretend, has energized millions of young people, who have demonstrated, by being suckered into a pseudo-movement, that they desire change and can be won to a real movement. However, these disillusioned Obama supporters will need to understand, rather quickly, that their major mistake was not simply supporting a candidate who pretended to be a liberal reformer. The critical error was in thinking that liberal reforms can change a system that exists to serve the profit interests of a small ruling class, into a system that serves the interests of the working class. That is a huge hurdle to get over, but when enough young people come to that understanding, then whole nature of what ‘change’ means and how it is achieved becomes something radically different.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008
Nader 'goes in' on Obama

Ralph Nader had this to say about Obama or watch him say it here:
"There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American… I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn't want to appear like Jesse Jackson?"

"...the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor…and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended…Haven't heard a thing."

"He wants to show that he is not...another politically threatening African-American politician…He wants to appeal to white guilt. You appeal to white guilt not by coming on as black is beautiful, black is powerful. Basically he's coming on as someone who is not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it's corporate or whether it's simply oligarchic. And they love it. Whites just eat it up."
Let me get this out of the way first: Obama has in fact tried hard to run as the non-Black, Black candidate, he has purposely stayed away from so-called Black issues/venues, and he has failed to make any meaningful effort to talk about poverty and poverty-related issues, even in the liberal way that John Edwards did. I believe these are the things that Nader means when he says Obama is ‘talking white’. However, the notion of ‘talking white’ is troubling in a number of ways.

First, to accuse a black person of engaging in any verb (dancing, talking, acting) in a ‘white’ way, is to suggest something that has deeply negative connotations in the Black community that I don’t think Nader is fully aware of. His use of the term, which I believe was meant to be controversial, will do far more to overshadow his mainly valid criticisms of Obama, than anything else.

More importantly, ‘talking white’ implies that predatory lending, payday loans, asbestos, lead and poverty are ‘Black’ issues. The things Nader is outlining are nothing more than forms of exploitation aimed at those who are politically and economically vulnerable. IN other words, these are class issues, not 'Black' issues. Race is not the primary factor in any of those issues although obviously, like most social maladys, blacks, the poor and people of color in general are affected by them at higher rates. Class. Got that Nader? Use some next time.

Obama isn’t ‘talking white’ by ignoring the issues of the poor, he is ‘talking corporate.’ Obama ought to be addressing those issues as American issues, and it would seem to fit in perfectly with his crafted image as the ‘post-race’ candidate (whatever the hell that means).
Obama is a liberal politician, which by definition means he can only offer small, easily reversible reforms to the system. That he isn't even promising to reform these more egregious forms of exploitation should tell you alot about the 'change' that candidate of 'change' is bringing. I have to agree with Nader in the sense that having a black president oversee our exploitation seems to be the only change he's offering.

This election is a circus, and this system is organized crime. The crime heads change, or kill each other off, bet the rackets remain the same.

Update: I revised the last 2 paragraphs.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008
More Gangsterism: ExxonMobil says fuck your jury...

...and your livelihood and your environment.

Remember the Exxon Valdez supertanker that spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaskan waters in 1989? Yeah, you remember, the one where the captain of the ship was a known drunk and they let him man the supertanker anyway? Let me refresh your memory:
The Exxon Valdez spill was the worst in American history, damaging 1,300 miles of shoreline, disrupting the lives and livelihoods of [at least 32,000] people in the region and killing hundreds of thousands of birds and marine animals.
Yeah, that spill and as usual, the New York Times gives you just enough info so that you think you know what happened, but no clue about how sisnister and diabolical Exxon has been in manipulating that situation over the last 18 years. Gotta love those establishment liberals.

A jury decided in 1994 that Exxon was required to pay about 5 Billion dollars in punitive damages, but when you are a gangster, you don’t wory too much about what jury’s say. Exxon didn’t pay, appealed the ruling, and eventually got it reduced to 2.5 billion in 2006. But even 2.5 billion dollars, which is about 3 weeks of profit for them (seriously), didn’t quite feel right. I think they still felt like their gangster was being tested. They now have the damages reduced to 500 million dollars or about 4 or 5 days worth of profit. In other words, fuck your jury, we pay the lawyers to have the judges fix it how we want it. It would be interesting to compare the percentage of criminal defendants that get this kind of love on appeal to the percentage of corporate defendants. I think it would be an interesting lesson in how money controls allegedly 'impartial' social processes.

You have to also take into account that this payment, which still has not yet been paid, has been fought in court over the course of 19 years!! Can you imagine you were a fisher and had your livelihood destroyed 19 years ago, and the damages you expected to recieve, went from around 165k, to around 80k, to about 16k?!?! What is 16k after you adjust for inflation? It’s a trip to Disney world and a wild night on the town with 2 of best friends. Its also less than $1,000 per year since the spill.

Whittling 5 Billion dollars down to 500 million dollars is a 90% reduction. Just to put that in real world terms, can you remember the last time, or any time you have paid 90% less than the price of something, like say a pair of shoes or a shirt? Let me help you. You can’t!! Not unless you stole it, because 90% off just doesn't exist in our world.

I leave you with a quote from the most comprehensive article on this that I’ve found, (which is in indy media, not the NYTimes btw):
The American justice system is predicated on several underlying assumptions, most of which are not valid...Equal treatment under the law? Not possible when those with money use it to influence the laws and public perception, or manipulate courts of law to make punishment moot.

Impartial judges? Not possible when judges are human and often former corporate lawyers.

Decisions based on whole truth and facts? Not even close: Jurors receive only selective information from judges or court masters as gatekeepers, and facts are grossly distorted through corporate-sponsored "science."
What they have said here is applicable to every aspect of society, the super rich, write the rules and we all have to play by them. Even the slanted rule book they play from isn’t sufficient for the capitalist super-gangsters, who then re-rig and undermine it more to suit their needs. This system is built around the power of capital (hence the name capitalism) and anything else we are trying to make it d, or not do, is at best secondary. This is not a system we should be trying to reform, it is one we should be fighting to replace.

Capitalism is Organized Crime.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008
American Gangsters

No, not Frank Lucas, and not some young black man who wears his pants below his boxers. These are the real American gangsters, the elite corporate business men who, in this case, sit on the board of directors, of the world's richest, most powerful corporation ExxonMobil. These men make decisions that affect our lives, you will respect their gangster. If you ever doubted that the Iraq war was a war for oil, the following is either the smoking gun, or another really crazy coincidence (depending on how many functioning brain cells you have):
Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power… Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields.

And this:

There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.

You’ve got to love the detached way the New York Times reports this, and by detached I mean, from reality. It wasn’t only in the Arab world, and in any event, the biggest anti-war protests in the history of the world should not be characterized as 'suspicion' in the first place. Protesters had a very clear understanding that the war against Iraq was a transparent move by the US ruling class to gain control of the world’s 2nd largest oil reserves, and history has proven us (I was there) correct.

This is what the war costs:

click here to learn more

Who Pays?
The American Working Class finances the war with their tax dollars or 'Public Money"
The American & Iraqi working class with their lives.
Who Profits?
Private Corporations, most notably, ExxonMobil and Haliburton; with no-bid contracts just because they got it like that. So much for the competition you read about in economics class.

Capitalism is Organized Crime.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Capitalism is Bananas

I go to the corner store to buy the bananas that I give to my daughters each morning. I pick 2 bananas, give him a dollar and wait for my change but none comes.

Kai: Yo Ak, how much were those bananas?
Clerk: 50 cent each.
Kai: What?!? Is there gold inside them shits? They were 35 cents a week ago and 25 cents before that!
Clerk: They are the best bananas in the world!!
Kai: [skeptical] Where are these bananas from?
Clerk: Kluma.
Kai: Where?
Clerk: Ah-Kluma.
Kai: Where the hell is that?
Clerk: Ah-Klah-Uma
Kai: Oklahoma?
Kai: They dont grow no fucking bananas in Oklahoma, what they hell are you talking about?

Me, the clerk, and several other people who witnessed the exchange busted out into laughter and I walk out with my high priced bananas, assuming its all about the increase in gas prices.

Its important to realize that we have to be trained to think about where things come from, and how certain relationships have come to exist. When we are younger, we live in the world and think that things must have always been just the way they are now, give or take an iphone and the internets. If we mature in our understanding of the world, we realize that in the United States, most of what we take for granted as normal, is usually the result of some carefully orchestrated corporate plan to infiltrate our lives with their products.

When this process is successful it is usually called development, and I agree with that term, if by development they mean something like the transformation that takes place between HIV and AIDS. Capitalist development is not unlike HIV/AIDS, in that it spreads ever faster and will eventually kill us all if we do not take serious, dramatic measures to eradicate it.

Of course eating Bananas wont kill us, but the profits and politics that surround them have caused many others to die. The New York Times ran an Op-Ed piece by Dan Koeppel that sheds light on the bloody, exploitative history of the fruit my girls love. Here is a highlight:

Once bananas had become widely popular, the companies kept costs low by exercising iron-fisted control over the Latin American countries where the fruit was grown. Workers could not be allowed such basic rights as health care, decent wages or the right to congregate. (In 1929, Colombian troops shot down banana workers and their families who were gathered in a town square after church.) Governments could not be anything but utterly pliable. Over and over, banana companies, aided by the American military, intervened whenever there was a chance that any “banana republic” might end its cooperation. (In 1954, United Fruit helped arrange the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Guatemala.) Labor is still cheap in these countries, and growers still resort to heavy-handed tactics.

In that last sentence, labor is contrasted with 'growers' but um...What the hell is a grower? lol. Its a liberal euphemism for boss, capitalist, or owner, but other than that minor quip, I find the information in the article fascinating.

If you were in anyway familiar with the history of the banana trade or capitalism, none of this information about it's turbulent history is shocking, although it is still incredibly outrageous. The more you read, the more you realize that whether its bananas, cotton, cocoa or oil, the history of seemingly benign commodoties, is routinely full of murder, exploitation and corruption. During the course of your studies, you will also inevitably come across many instances of gov't militaries, advancing very-private corporate interests. This, my friends, is what capitalism is, and the sooner we all accept that, the sooner we can get on with the business of replacing it, before we are all gone.

Capitalism really is Bananas.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008
Parenting: A Stochastic Process

My father always said, "Babies dont come with instructions, you just do the best you can with what you have." His statement rings with a truth that is as obvious as the sky is blue. I'm still extremely grateful to him for being the best father he could be to me throughout my years. Thats truly all you can ask for from your parents. What he did and still does as a father continues to help me grapple with life's challenges generally and fatherhood specifically. But, even if there were a manual which came with babies and taught us the 'right' way to raise children, it still would not work every time for every child, because parenting is not an exact science. This reality is what makes parenting a stochastic process:
Stochastic crafts are complex systems whose practitioners, even if complete experts, cannot guarantee success. Classical examples of this are medicine: a doctor can administer the same treatment to multiple patients suffering from the same symptoms, however, the patients may not all react to the treatment the same way.
Although there are no 'right' ways to raise children, I think there are methods which lead to 'success' more often than not. The approach that my wife and I employ is what most people I know view as the correct approach: love your children, develop their self-esteem, and expose them to a wide array of arts, sciences, and other experiences which you think will stimulate their intellectual curiosity and development. As I've said before, parenting is typically a difficult job for anyone, and I think it's important enough to require a license. But being black and radical in a capitalist society, which is stubbornly white supremacist, means that some of the things we teach our children deal specifically with that reality, even at their tender ages of 1.5 and 2.5 years old.

Raising 2 black girls, means that addressing their self-esteem needs includes a belief in gender equality, and a healthy love of their brown skin and kinky hair. I'd hope that these efforts mean that our children would pass the doll test and would have them unafraid to tackle 'male' subjects like Science and Math. I would not teach them that they are princesses, because the notion that they are royalty, means that others are peasants. If I want to teach them they are special I can do that without reinforcing Bull#$%* notions about class status, privilege, and other bourgeois myths that the rich use to justify their position as exploiters.

As black parents, I feel we especially need to balance the importance of them having the freedom to explore, against the need for them to have disciplined behavior; because I believe society is less forgiving of black people who make mistakes. (Side but important note: I'd emphasize the need for discipline more strongly if I had a boy, because the challenges Black boys face on the path to manhood, more often steer them into prison or early graves). Most of these needs can be addressed rather easily while they are still very young, but as they grow older, the way they perceive the world becomes more complex, and our responsibility to train them grows with it.

We will eventually teach them that their public behavior, academic achievement, and personal relationships reflect not only upon themselves, but on their family and community as well. We'd teach them that blackness shouldn't be measured by the 'black' books, artwork or dashikis you posses, but instead by the degree to which you use your talents and resources to deal with the problems that Black people face in the United States and throughout the African diaspora. I'd teach them that their value as a woman isn't connected to whether or not men find them attractive. I'd also teach them to avoid the empty consumerism which has so many black women sporting the almost obligatory Gucci, Fendi or Prada handbags as status symbols. Rich, white people's names on your personal items do not make you special either, got that princess?

There are so many other critical and mundane things I hope to teach my girls as we grow together. I'd like to teach them how to respect their bodies, how to drive a car, and how to demand respect from others. But in the picture above, while she struggled on the toilet with a stomach ache and sleepiness, the lesson I taught my 2 year old daughter was simple:
Daddy loves you and will always be there for you.
Thats probably one of the most important lessons I'll ever teach her. Happy Fathers day.

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