Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Watching the Byrd-ie!

White Power Salute?The passing of Senator Byrd plunges the Black Blogosphere into a morass of mourning. Well, I exaggerate. Actually, I'm exaggerating a lot.

The senator's passing is, however, being marked by black bloggers, in much the same way that James (Strom) Thurmond's passing was marked, with a looking back over the lives of those who, at some point in their lives, supported a way of life that made life a living hell for many.

The thought comes to mind: The good die young, while evil live long, and from life the last drop is wrung, before we can truly say they're finally gone.

Tupac looked at this phenomenon of the young dying young, as did Billie Joel, Joel's lyrical observations speaking seductively of postponing sexual gratification, and Tupac speaking regrettably about the vicissitudes of life.

I'm reminded, too, about a famous passage from one of Shakespeare's plays, delivered by one Mark Anthony:

Mark Antony:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar ...

This, too, will probably be true for Senator Robert C. Byrd.

I'm not sure what Byrd's legacy will be--what will stand out, whether it'll be his political legacy, or his racial legacy, or both. Many in the press and the media marked his passing, if not with flourishes of praise, certainly not with damning criticism. Several noted his evolutionary, transformational progress--from that of a former Klansman to one who opposed the war in Iraq, and had several civil rights voting achievements under his belt.

For my part, I'll let Byrd's life speak for itself--those long and short passages with which he elevated his life, and those with which he plumbed the depths of racial animus. At one point in his life, Byrd is quoted as saying:

"I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side…Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."

I left the following observations at another blog. I debated whether I should include them here, even though it seemed appropriate. I rarely discuss my encounters with racism, and the incidents that follow will be familiar to whites and blacks, alike, but these examples are "tip of the iceberg" instances, and I could have, just as easily, presented more horrific examples. Although, over my life, I've become rather adept at spotting racism, I rarely dwell on the subject.

Here's the black reality as I have lived it, and continue to do so:

In this country, even before we're accused of anything, we're guilty of something: We're guilty of being black.

We're told in our legal system: We're Innocent until proven guilty.

For blacks the reverse is too often true: We're guilty until proven innocent, or until we can prove our innocence.

We were born guilty. We grow to manhood, and womanhood, guilty, and, for many us, we die guilty.

That's why we're followed around in stores by white store clerks. It's because we're guilty.

That's why whites cross the street, rather than come within an unsafe distance of us. It's because we're guilty.

That's why whites yell out the invective, Nigga, when they drive by. It's because we're guilty.

That's why the job we're seeking, and is qualified to do, is given to somebody white, instead, who is not as qualified as we are. It's because we're guilty.

That's why the customer service to which we're entitled, oftentimes comes up grossly lacking. It's because we're guilty.

If, for years, whites treat a people as though they're guilty for existing, they shouldn't expect a "thank you" for it, black cooperation for it, or an adoption of their white value system, or ideals, for it--just because they, and other blacks, say it's good for them.

Living guilty is hard to live down.

If you think that the incidents I cited above happened in yesteryears, you'd be wrong. Most of them happen periodically, several within the last year, and a couple within the last month.

No, I don't live in the Deep South. I live within a liberal stronghold, an area in which you'd think racial enlightenment has come. No, not all my encounters are racist. Many whites with whom I have contact, give respect, and show civility. But there is an element that's still waiting for the memo from the front office.

There is a white supremacist gang in my area that's at war with the police department, and have done damage to police property, setting booby traps to inflict bodily harm, but it has been my good fortune not to meet up personally with the group.

Frankly, I'm mostly inured to these behaviors, and actions. And those whose purpose it is to demoralize me, fail miserably.

I'm long past the times, however, when these racial and racist taunts and behavior can disturb my spirit, other than evoke the deepest of pity, and my concern for the future of our country, and the flagging outlook for humankind.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The latest update from the Gulf is a bit disheartening, but not surprising.

I reported within my last blog entry the existence of a growing opposition to the six months oil-drilling moratorium imposed by the Obama administration. It seems a Federal judge has lifted it.

"A judge has blocked the offshore drilling moratorium imposed by the Obama administration after the devastating Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

"The six-month moratorium halted the approval of any new permits for deepwater drilling, and suspended drilling at 33 existing exploratory wells in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Pacific.

This block makes a salient point even more salient: When safety concerns and bread-and-butter issues clash, you quickly learn which side of the bread is buttered--bread-and-butter issues will invariably win out.

Those workers in opposition to the moratorium work on oil rigs, or service oil rigs in some way or another, and their livelihoods were being threatened, but to no greater degree than those who make their living in the oyster, shrimping, fisheries, hotel, motel, and restaurant businesses.

I understand that people need to work. I understand that food, clothing, and shelter are important, but so is safety, the environment, and our long-term survival.

In a sane world, we'd pay these workers to suspend work while safety issues are examined, and assurances are given that the rigs are safe enough for drilling to continue.

But ours is not a sane world.

What we've learned is that bread-and-butter issues trump safety; bread-and-butter issues trump the environment. If that's not the case: Why else would Mineral Management Service (MMS) permit BP to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, 5000 feet down, without provable, demonstrated means to prevent a catastrophic blowout of the magnitude that's taken 11 lives, and will soon leave our marshes, estuaries, and beaches awashed with the smelly goo we say we can't live without.

The Deep Water Horizonoil rig blow-out preventer (BOP), we've now learned, was riddled with "critical flaws".

Here's a brief summary. The previous link provides a more detailed accounting:

"Oil wells both on and offshore have contraptions called blowout preventers.
Those iconic old images of oil well gushers? The blowout preventer stops that
from happening, saving much cleanup and money given all the oil that used to
spew randomly all over the place before it could be brought under control.
According to BP's CEO Tony Hayward, the blowout preventer should have kicked in
the day that the explosion occurred, but failed to do so. They don't seem to know why."

Since that time, when BP's CEO Tony Hayward feigned ignorance, much has come to light about the cause, or causes:

"BP,Transocean, and Halliburton avoided standard tests and inspectionson the blow out preventer stack. The stack apparently does not have a top-kill mechanism, forcing the crews to improvise on the battered BOP stack on the sea floor. We also learned that three days before the disaster, the crews took an economic short cut by pumping free seawater instead of expensive, man-made drilling mud into the well to try to close it. The crews apparently knew, or should have known, that the seawater was not countering the pressure in the well. The crew knew for at least an hour before the explosion that the blow out preventer was failing. This much we know, even before the formal investigation ordered by the White House gets going."

I support Life. This position represents my philosophy, and my politics. It's a principle that I adhere to, but not blindly, since, on occasions, other concerns may take precedence.

I distrust principled stances that are so rigid that they violate commonsense, and the exigencies of the moment.

Further, I don't believe we're locked into a future where the options are as narrow as they are currently presented. If we don't "drill baby drill," they tell us, we may lose our American way of life, we'll take a backward step in lifestyle, and we'll assure for ourselves a bleak future.

What's missing in our future is a lack of will. Why call for sacrifices when things are going so swimmingly--our cars run, our houses are lighted, and our ranges and ovens heat and cook our food.

The fossil fuel industry (oil, coal, gas) would like nothing better than to lock us into a future where the only energy options we have are theirs. But that's no option at all, and it's becoming clearer, that on the energy front, we'll continue to rob Peter to pay Paul.

The evidence is mounting, our dependence on fossil fuels--which emits carbon dioxide (CO2) into our environment--is responsible for the weather-altering phenomenon referred to as global warming, and climate change.

I'm convinced that the "change" can be placed at the feet of humankind, at the feet of developed countries, and developing countries.

When asked what we can do, I wrote elsewhere:

First, we have to stop believing that the threat isn't real--that all of this is going to go away.

Second, we have to stop lying to ourselves. We have 2% of the world's resources
while using 20%. This American lifestyle, which we mistakenly call the American Dream, is not sustainable, nor is it fair to the rest of the world's people to use up gluttonously that which belongs to all.

The naysayers of the world, and this nation, have to be pushed aside. We have to
replace these agents of propaganda, and delusions, with proponents of truth, facts, and a strong tower of realism.

If we continue in the direction we're going, all is lost. And it's not just the energy crisis, and the lack of an energy vision of which I speak.

This world is on a collision course with a hell of its own making.

Third, those of us of a like mind, must mobilize, and agitate for the future we wish to create.

I learned today that BP has leases in the Arctic, and is preparing to drill there in the near future. How many disasters does BP get to create at the expense of the world, and humanity, just so we may continue to drive gas guzzlers, and spew more carbon dioxides into the air, a gas generated by fossil fuels.

If we don't drown out the voices of naysayers, by presenting alternatives to their clear and present push to keep the status quo, and augment it, then we have no future--at least not one that we'll recognize.

Make no mistake: This is war. We're fighting for democracy, and for the future of humankind[Our democracy is degrading as the political strength of corporations grow exponentially, thanks to the Supreme court, and a bribed congress.].

We can continue to allow our pursuit of livelihoods, and the amassing of great fossil-fuel fortunes to be our focus, but we do so at great risk to the planet, and to our quality of life here.

There are other potential catastrophic events looming on the horizon, but this one is now a visible and present danger--and we still lack the collective will do anything about it.

Bread and butter, anyone?

Image used courtesy of : Free Images - Free Stock Photos

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hard Pill, Heavy Spill, Halting Will

A Hard Pill To Swallow.Disillusionment can be a hard pill to swallow.

The president is being tarred and feathered over the Gulf oil spill: He's either doing too little, or too much.

The Brits are up in arms because they see President Obama as being too passionate, unfairly attacking their favorite-son company, British Petroleum.

Some in Parliament are urging the Prime Minister to scold our president, to tell him to put a sock in it. If British Petroleum was an American company called U.S. Petroleum, and the English coastline was the first line of defense against an oil spill of the magnitude we're experience here, I don't think that our congress would be urging our president to tell the Brits to tone it down. Further, I don't think that the American people would be jingoistically attacking the Brits, just because an American company was single-handedly destroying their fragile coastline.

I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

Ironically, the president, here at home, is seen as too dispassionate over the oil spill. He's not showing enough emotions .

Many pundits see this oil spill disaster as part and parcel of a Bush-Cheney oil policy, their cavorting with Big Oil, a frolicking that President Obama was more than willing to join--although in a limited fashion--an acquiescence to offshore drilling, coming a mere few weeks prior to this oil-spill disaster, now calculated as the worse in our nation's history.

President Obama's presidency will be judged as much by his cleaning up the mess that Bush-Cheny-Republicans had a hand in making--two wars, torture, Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Iran's nuclear bomb ambitions, a faltering energy policy, an economy teetering on a depression, a deteriorating national image around the world--as by his cleaning up of another mess, the Gulf oil spill that's threatening livelihoods, a fragile ecosystem, and is poised to be put additional strain on an economy already struggling to rebound.

Along with the tar balls rolling up on coastal beaches, we're now seeing an all too familiar picture of the damage to wildlife that and oil spill can produce--our fine-feathered friends drenched in the sticky goo that's preventing flight, restraining movement, and destroying their natural food source.

Figuratively tarred and feathered, the president is fighting the political fight of his life, as he takes full responsibility for this oil-spill disaster--and it's becoming clearer, that there's little that he and congress can do, but appoint a commission, and hold hearings.

But the tarring and feathering doesn't end there. A recent article, by Dorothy Rabinowitz, for the Wall Street Journal, is casting the president as not quintessentially American--going so far as to calling him an "alien," one who is "wanting in certain qualities citizens have until now taken for granted in their presidents. Namely, a tone and presence that said: This is the Americans' leader, a man of them, for them, the nation's voice and champion."

Frankly, blacks have always been seen by most in the majority as "alien," and not quintessentially American. Americanness was peculiar to whites, and not even native Americans could share in that Americanness, a sense and presence that came into existence upon the formation of this nation, but were seen as something to be dealt with, something to be cast out, or thrown away.

Because, I, to this day, after living in this country all my life, continue to feel outside of the American mainstream, in exile, as it were, I don't fly the American flag, and only say that part of the Pledge of Allegiance that I feel is relevant, and leave out the other. Lest you see me as not patriotic, let me disavow you of that notion--because you'd be sorely mistaken.

I'm ultra-patriotic, a true son of this Republic. I believe in the Constitution, perhaps more than those who do wave their flags, and give lip-service to their allegiance. I believe in "liberty and justice for all." I believe in the American Dream, the dream that the founding fathers dared dream, when they formed this country, and declared their independence from England and the Crown, with these words:

"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Yet, how many times have we seen red-blooded Americans, so-called "real patriots," and true Americans, flout these "unalienable Rights"?

These were the things I used to believe that America stood for. I don't anymore. And although for many years I was deprived of these things, and because of that deprivation prized them more, I've learned that these Rights aren't the things that this country value most, not at the heart of her, not deep within her bosom, the locus where patriotic fervor live, flourish and flow, where the heart and soul of this country reside, within a collective body, multiracial, multicolored--with many colored plumes of cultures representing most of the cultures of the world.

I say, I used to think so. But not anymore.

Whether we all did once, I can't say. But here's what I can say:

At some point we lost our way. We began to put money ahead of everything--our conscience, our integrity, and our American values of "liberty and justice for all." And to add insult to injury, we used the people's money to bail out wall street. We learned later, that certain financial institutions had become too big to fail, and that their failure would have brought down the whole economy; at least that's what we were told, and I've no reason to believe otherwise. What we got in return was something called TARP. TARP sounds a lot like the word, "tar," those tar balls that waves are washing up on our Gulf coast beaches. TARP. Toxic (or Troubled) Assets Relief Program.

Let me ask you a question: Do you know what those toxic assets are? How forthcoming was our government in telling us what "relief" was provided with our money, and the nature of that relief? Here's a list of those companies that received TARP, and how much, but we still don't know the specifics: How many malls did we take possession of? How many office buildings, and where are they located?

We know why we did it (the bail out), and we know how and why we fell in this economic sinkhole we call a recession, but what is our Federal Government doing about it now, now that those toxic assets that blew up in its face much like the Deep-water Horizon, and toxic assets washed up upon our national shores, much like the oil in the Gulf?

Well, the fear is that congress won't do much about it at all. The problems that created the problem will be allowed to remain, much like the oil gushing in the Gulf and the carcasses of wildlife.

Follow the Financial Reform Bill here, U.S. Congress : Financial Reform Watch, as it works its way through the congress.

Just as BP had no real response to deal with a catastrophic explosion upon its deep-water platform, or know how to repair a blow-out preventer that failed, our congress is crafting an economic response that fails to address the problems that precipitated the economic crisis--a lack of transparency, too big to fail (this nation's six largest banks control assets equivalent to about 60 percent of our gross national product), and the derivative market (a shadow banking system valued at around 600 trillion dollars, an amount larger than the collective GNPs of all the world's nations, including our own).

Are you beginning to see a pattern here. We have a government colluding (by not regulating, or failing to regulate various industries) in order to keep business thriving, corporations sound, oil companies drilling, and coal companies digging, notwithstanding the cost to taxpayers, the ecosystem, or the toll in human lives.

It's not by happenstance that, in recent years, we've seen our august Supreme Court take a mostly pro-business, pro-corporation stance in its rulings, placing corporations either above the people, or on an equal footing with.

It's not by happenstance that lobbyists with the most influence on Capitol Hill are those with the most money--and, that too, spells corporations.

It's not by happenstance that congress repealed laws, and created new ones to enable the economic fleecing of America--and won't do what it takes to prevent another economic collapse, a collapse similar to the one that we're now witnessing.

It's not by happenstance that the oil-drilling moratorium established by President Obama has met with stiff resistance by effected businesses along the coast, and by their workers--those whose livelihoods depend on Gulf-oil drilling, deep-water or otherwise. So, as complaints pile up, and dwellers along the coast tear out their hair, and rend their clothes over this oil-spill disaster, others are ripping Obama for the moratorium. I've seen Catch-22s, but this has to be the pappy of them all.

It's not by happenstance that green energy projects are slow to take hold, and even slower to be embraced, when so many of us are dependent on the money that comes to us by way of the coal and oil industries.

Here's the thrust of it, the hard, but indisputable truth: Money, the pursuit of prosperity, as though it and happiness are one and the same, money, that green lubricant of industry--and I bet you thought it was American ingenuity--is the real oil that greases the wheels of our giant industrial machine, our vast industrial complex. Money greases the palms of congress. It greases the palms of just about everyone. And anything that prevents the flow of that money--moratoriums, for example--will meet with an untimely demise, whether it's drilling for oil, developing businesses that provide jobs, or supporting those governments you believe belong to you.

Money owns the government. Money calls the shots. Money makes the decisions, sets the agendas, establishes the policies, and enforces them. Money owns us. We dare not complain, or do what's necessary to stop the flow of that green stuff, or stop digging for it. We dare not regulate. We dare not pass laws that are too draconian, that actually address the problem, for fear that the problem will grow worse--and businesses, and corporations will fail, people will lose their jobs, capital will become scarce, governments will founder, and America will lose her greatness.

Disillusionment can be a hard pill to swallow.

Pill image courtesy of: Free Images - Free Stock Photos