Archive | January 2007

Sabre rattling with Iran

If you haven’t noticed, Iran comes up just as often as Iraq. Of all the problems that is complicating some notion of success in Iraq, Bush and the peanut gallery have decided that Iran’s interference (which is not spelled out, just like the weapons of mass destruction) is a primary role in preventing Iraq from standing on their feet.

Iraq has stated on multiple occasions that they want a dialogue with Iran. So if we are there to help the Iraqis and the Iraqi government thinks it is wise for them to talk to their neighbor, then why has Bush authorized killing Iranian officials who are found in Iraq? The main problem is that focusing attention on Iran is the only way Bush can justify keeping a military presence in the region. Just so we are clear, we are trying to either start or maintain a so-called war in Afghanistan (which you never hear about), Iraq, and Iran. This is idiocy at its finest.

For more on this topic, read this article.

Stay up fam,

So-called war on terror

Education reform pt 1: Context

What’s up fam,

My heart is heavy. Recently, the board of Detroit Public Schools announced plans to close 52 schools by next year. Their rationale for this decision was in part to have school capacity reflect the rapid decline of school enrollment due to the growing exodus of families either moving to different cities or sending their kids to charter schools (or using a family member’s address to enroll in another district). I have had enough! Our school system as a whole is not where it needs to be and I am tired of hearing about how we need to reform our schools without policies in place to inform those discussions.

So I went online and I googled school reform report and I came across a report entitled, Tough Choices or Tough Times, created by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. (All subsequent quotes are from the executive summary of this report that I can’t link to because it is in pdf format)

We often hear about how we are living in a global economy and how our kids need to work hard but the way that we run our schools don’t reflect this new paradigm. But before we get into the proposals put forth, we should first understand one of Garlin’s themes for 2007; context.

The first commission released a report in 1990 that discussed how a worldwide market was developing in low-skill labor and that the work requiring these skills would end up in the countries where the price of low labor was the lowest. As a result, the commission pointed out that the United States could go one of two directions; “it could first try to compete in the low skills market and experience declining wages over time or it could try to compete in the worldwide market for high-value-added products and services. Aiming for the latter would require us to benchmark our curriculum to international standards, ensuring our children were competitive for jobs requiring advanced skills.”

Fast forward 15 years and we find ourselves in a situation where countries like India and China can offer large numbers of highly educated people willing to work for low wages. The report adds,

“Whereas for most of the 20th century the United States could take pride in having the best-educated workforce in the world, that is no longer true. Over the past 30 years, one country after another has surpassed us in the proportion of their entering workforce with the equivalent of a high school diploma. Thirty years ago, the United States could lay claim to having 30% of the world’s college students. Today that proportion has fallen to 14% and is continuing to fall.”

What I really hate is that even now, our industrialized schooling models largely corral our kids toward getting a “good job” after matriculating through high school and possibly college. What’s worse is that if we don’t make drastic changes, more and more students will find that the doors they thought education could open, will be closed. This is being aggravated by the flattening of the world economy. The report points out that

“Every day, more and more of the work that people do ends up in a digitized form. From X-rays used for medical diagnostic purposes, to songs, movies, architectural drawings, technical papers, and novels, that work is saved on a hard disk and transmitted instantly over the Internet to someone near or far who makes use of it in an endless variety of ways. Because this is so, a swiftly rising number of American workers at every skill level are in direct competition with workers in every corner of the globe.”

But here in America, we are led to believe that influxes of Mexican immigrants are taking away domestic jobs. And while corporations pull the wool over our eyes, they are outsourcing work to places like China and India. In other words, someone doesn’t have to live in the U.S. to compete for your job.

Next time, we will delve into the recommendations of the report.

Stay up fam,

Education Reform

Rev. Al Sharpton might be running for President

On today, I read an article that discussed Rev. Al Sharpton’s threatening to run for President of the United States if Democratic candidates do not “commit to focusing attention on civil rights issues.” Strategically, does it make sense for Rev. Al Sharpton to play that role in the 2008 election cycle? Why or why not?

And please do not confuse this question with whether or not you like or dislike Rev. Sharpton.

Stay up fam,

Al Sharpton

A Girl Like Me, and 3 Ways that we can Change Kids’ Images of Themselves

I was sent a video today that really bothered and inspired me. A high school student in New York made a documentary called A Girl Like Me (see below, linked here) that brings the question of our children’s images of race are affected at a young age.

This is reminiscent of the famous Doll Test that was part of the Brown v. Board of Education case against segregation.

How do we reverse this? There has to be a way to let Black children know that Black is good and not bad. But how? Since the idea of “white being better than Black” is learned/taught like everything else that a child absorbs, we have to think about what we are doing specifically to get Black boys and girls to think like this.

With this in mind, we need to be careful what we say and do. Here are 3 Ways that we can Change Kids’ Images of Themselves:

1. Be careful how we talk with, talk about, and acknowledge Black people
This means cleaning up our intra-racial dialogue. This means being careful about how we say things when criticizing one another (why do we have to say “you are a sorry excuse for a Black man” and not “sorry excuse for a man). This means no longer saying n!gga/n!gger to one another or anyone else, especially around children [of any race]. I would bet that even if a kid did not know what the word meant, they would know it was bad.

2. Watch what we watch, Listen to what we are listening to
Pay attention to subliminal messages in our media. Look for things that are being “said without being said.” For example, take TV shows like MTV’s The Real World. The majority of [straight] Black male characters on that show over the years have had non-Black girlfriends. The majority of the Black female characters on that show have been highly temperamental and standoff-ish. They did not outright say that “Black men want any woman that is not Black,” or “Black women are impossible to get along with.” The thing is, they did not have to say it. Take BET as another example, with their insistence on pushing music videos that push ignorant interpretations of Black masculinity and hyper-sexualized interpretations of Black femininity. They are telling you that this is what Black folks are. Kids aren’t stupid, and if they see a bunch of [Black] men smacking around Black women on TV, they are going to start wondering whether something is wrong with Black women. If the media that you consume is pushing this garbage, STOP CONSUMING IT!

3. Educate young people by talking about why you love your people
I am not talking about educating through school, which of course is necessary. I am talking about educating by talking with kids. When was the last time you, Black man/father, told your Black son/daughter or any other Black child why you love Black women or Black people? Black woman/mother, when was the last time you told your Black son/daughter or any other Black child why you love Black men or Black people? We spend so much time telling kids negative stuff: don’t do this, don’t touch that, don’t go here. Why not spend some time telling them what to do: do love your people.

Any other ideas?

News coverage and a brief interview with the filmmaker are available here.

One Love. One II.

Black Issues

Should the Congressional Black Caucus accept non-Black people?

I read an article today about Stephen Cohen, a white Democratic congressman from Tennessee, who gave up trying to join the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) because they would not let him in.

I have always been in favor of groups that are all-something: all-female, all-Black Male, etc. I will use a quote from Malcolm X to show why:

There can be no black-white unity until there is first some black unity…. We
cannot think of uniting with others, until after we have first united among
ourselves. We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first
proven acceptable to ourselves.

I believe that this thinking applies to other groups beyond Black people as well. Because the Caucus is a private entity, I think that they should be able to do what they please in terms of membership. More importantly, I also think that Rep. Cohen can serve and support the interests of his Black constituents in many ways; this is only one.

Do you see it as a problem for the CBC to not have non-Black members?

One Love. One II.

Congressional Black Caucus
Black Issues

What the Democratic State of the Union Response Lacked

I think that the Democratic response was a decent speech. I think Jim Webb is setting himself up to be somebody’s Vice Presidential candidate next year, but who knows. I do believe that the speech lacked two key things:

1. Katrina Response
I will kick this horse until my foot falls off. This was a tremendous opportunity to talk about what needs to be done and what will be done. This was a great opportunity to differentiate the Democrats and the Republicans on this issue. This was a prime opportunity to help out poor people who are on the bottom end of the “two americas” rhetoric. Sadly, this did not happen. This hurts the Democrats ability to be able to say that they care about poor people [and Black people for that matter].

2. The Post-100 Hours Democratic Agenda
Democrats could have used this as a stage to lay out to everyone what their next steps will be to follow up their successful execution of their “100 Hours” plan. What are the priorities now? Will they turn towards foreign policy thru diplomacy? Impeachment? Health care? This would have been a chance to keep the attention on actions.

One Love. One II.

State of the Union
Hurricane Katrina

Democratic Response to the 2007 State of the Union

Newly-elected Senator Jim Webb from Virginia gave the official Democratic Response to the State of the Union last night. I’d like to break down what he said here.

First, a slight omission: Bush did not give Katrina one sentence; Webb gave it gave it one phrase. I guess that is better than nothing, but it still sucks.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President’s message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and health care for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

This was a good opening statement, and I agree with all of it it except for the last phrase, which doesn’t make any sense. To say that the Democrats hope “that this administration is serious about…addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans” is not needed because it is clear that this is not a priority. It would have made more sense to phrase this part as a challenge followed by a Democratic plan for the Gulf Coast.

The fact that Webb said “it would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President’s message, nor would it be useful” is good because it says “we don’t want to argue, we want to act.” I pray that that is more than just rhetoric.

When one looks at the health of our economy, it’s almost as if we are living in two different countries…In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy – that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.

This was the strongest part of the speech. It focused on the need to remember that the Middle Class is critical to the success of our nation for both economic and emotional reasons. The economic reasons are relatively obvious in terms of the amount of money that these people can spend. The emotional reasons should be relatively obvious too because this gives those who are poorer something to aspire to. Unfortunately, as Webb points out, there are people in this country who want to eradicate the Middle Class by engaging in class warfare, using the weapons of high education and health care/insurance costs to push those who are currently middle class down to a lower level of economic vitality.

With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years…they owed us – sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

Though obvious to some, this statement cannot be repeated enough: we made the wrong choice when deciding to invade Iraq, and we are continuing to make the wrong choice by staying there. The voters made this clear in November, and the government must pay attention. The Congress must do everything within its constitutional mandate to protect us from a heavy-handed, non-thinking executive. This was not happening when everyone was a Republican. Perhaps that will change now that a different party is running the House and Senate.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction…an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq’s cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

Note the words “immediate” and “short order.” These can be translated to mean “Get out, and get out now! No ‘surge.’ No ‘staying until we achieve [the yet-to-be-defined-state-of] victory.” This is what voters told their government in November that they wanted. The government needs to respond to the will of the people.

One Love. One II.

State of the Union