Archive | January 2007

2007 State of the Union: A Translation

Here is my real-time analysis of G. W. Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address. This is a shortcut for anyone that did not watch the speech on TV or listen to it.

First, an omission. He did not say a word about Hurricane Katrina. That made me so upset that I nearly shed tears.

Madame Speaker…

This actually started well. Hearing this reminds me of how historic it is for Rep. Nancy Pelosi to be the Speaker of the House, the most powerful woman ever in the United States Congress. I wonder if Mr. Bush was sincere in his words to her during his opening remarks.

Decisions are hard, and courage is needed…The will to face difficult challenges…Congress has changed, but not our responsibilities…

These guarded statements are said to try and disarm his opposition within the Democratically-controlled Congress. What these statements basically mean is, “I will give lip service to working together, but expect nothing different out of me and my administration.”

3 Economic Reforms that deserve to be priorities…Balance the Federal Budget…We can do so without raising taxes…What we need is spending discipline in Washington…EarmarksEntitlements…Commitments of Conscience…Fix Medicare and Medicaid, and save Social Security…

This was the first “meat” of the speech. He spit typical conservative banter about “fiscal responsibility,” and it is simply banter because this administration has been arguably the most fiscally irresponsible administrations in history. A key example of this irresponsibility: Iraq. The “we can do so without raising taxes” part is consistent with Bush’s insistence on cutting taxes while we are at “war,” something that has never happened before.

The stuff on “earmarks” is a joke because those will not go away any time soon since Republicans and Democrats use them all the time.

Conservatives use the term “entitlements” to deceive people. They need to do this so that they can make you feel bad about the government doing things for you. They play up this farce so that people feel bad taking things from the government that they select & elect. Funny how there was no mention of corporate entitlements in the form of war profiteering or the Bankruptcy Bill a.k.a. the worst piece of legislation since the Patriot Act (which a certain person voted for, and that really bothers me).

The future of opportunity requires that all of our citizens have affordable and available health care…For all other Americans, private health insurance provides the best option…Standard Health Insurance Tax Deduction…Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care available to all Americans

I don’t even know why this man fronts like he wants all Americans to have health insurance. If so, he would at least put a dent in the 40+ million people who don’t. He and his friends still think it is a bad idea to realize Universal Health Care through what’s called a Single-payer system. Basically, single-payer means that only one party negotiates for the price of health insurance and services: the government. Every citizen would then have their health costs covered through what they pay in taxes. This would result in higher taxes for the citizens, but those increased costs probably would not add up to the amount that people overpay for health services every day, month, and year. The idea of trying to get everyone to go private is as ridiculous as the privatize social security plan that he had a while back (and still has). This is also consistent with the way that the “war” in Iraq has been privatized. These pro-business, anti-citizen types always think private is the answer so that they can take money away from public institutions and services.

Extending hope and opportunity in this country requires an immigration policy that is worthy of America

I won’t say much on this. I think that Bush’s guest worker idea sounds a whole lot like new school indentured servitude. For those that don’t know, this was the precursor to slavery in this country. I do not think that the parallel is coincidental.

Reduce gasoline usage by 20% in the next 10 years…

How??? His mandatory fuel standard statement was weak at best, especially in the midst of his administration and its energy policy.

Global climate change…

He can’t say global warming because that does not exist. So rather than being a flip-flopper (we know how much he hates those), he has decided to use a different term: global climate change. This is his backwards way of admitting that there is a problem. I guess a small first step is better than no step at all. Is the next step for him to watch this?

To win the war on terror, we must take the fight to the enemy…

This was the opening statement to his surprisingly long section on Iraq, Iran, and foreign policy. There was too much B.S. here to sift through. Take a look at some of our analysis to get an idea of the truth. Suffice it to say that this strategy is questionable at best.

Darfur…Fight AIDS on the continent of Africa…Dikembe Mutumbo…

He really mentioned Darfur? That’s a surprise. Too bad he didn’t refer to it as a genocide. Again, I guess a small step is better than no step at all.

It is sad, but the “fighting AIDS in Africa” phrase is being rendered absolutely meaningless. It gets paid so much lip service that people forget that there are actually humans living on the continent of Africa who exist for reasons other than making someone feel good being a philanthropist.

One Love. One II.

Foreign Policy
State of the Union
So-called “War on Terror”


Katrina never mentioned in The State of the Union

I have a long play-by-play analysis of the State of the Union speech that I will put up shortly, but my initial reaction to the speech sums up my overall impression of it:


I guess Kanye was right. I never liked G. W. Bush, but I for damn sure cannot stand him now. He talked all this noise about helping people, and about helping Iraqis, and about helping Africans. Why no talk about helping “AMERICANS?”

This is disgusting. I dare someone to defend his purposeful exclusion of Hurricane Katrina in a speech on domestic policy.

Any presidential hopeful that does not call out and talk about how terrible this is will not get my vote in 2008. Period.

4 Traits of My Ideal President[ial Candidate]

There are a whole lot of people who have said that they are running for President in 2008. While d@mn near all of them would be better than the current occupant of said office, this “choice” leads me to wonder: what would the perfect president/presidential candidate look like? Before I weigh in on a specific candidate, I think that this is an important question to think about, and I would encourage all voters to do the same (we’re all voters, right?). I want to take a look at what makes an ideal candidate to me.

1. A Leader that is a Servant
2. A Thinker and a Doer
3. A person of Integrity
4. A Populist

First, Presidents must be leaders. Sure, that is obvious, if you have a simplistic definition of a leader as “the person ‘in charge.'” To me a leader is really a servant. They serve their constituents, the people that they are “in charge” of, the people who put them in that leadership position. They meet the needs of people and organizations. They solve problems. They put forth a concerted, honest effort to make things better. My ideal candidate would subscribe to the servant definition of leadership. They would not see leadership as a title, but as a responsibility. They would not see leadership as an opportunity to exert power, but as an opportunity to induce positive change. They would not see leadership as work, but as service.

(The question then is, who would this servant be serving? In the context of the President of the United States, this person should be serving the citizens of the US. The modern-day election process has made this…complicated. Elections cost money, and most of the time elected officials end up serving the people that pay them money during their campaigns, and them alone. This problem is only solved by taking the money out of politics and returning elections to the voters, but I digress.)

Secondly, Presidents must be both thinkers and doers. Effective Presidents cannot be one or the other, but must be both. The current holder of the office represents the antithesis of thoughtful action. For example, Herbert Hoover was a thinker and Richard Nixon was a doer. They were both failures as Presidents, Hoover due to his impractical yet unwaivering belief in the Efficiency Movement and its theories, Nixon due to his short-sighted and dishonest decision to do just about anything to stay get re-elected. An example of a thinker and a doer is Franklin Roosevelt, who [was by no means perfect but] rethought this country’s economic landscape and laid the foundation for what we now call the Middle Class. My ideal candidate would create through thoughtful action. They would understand the implications and nuances of any actions that they take, and determine how to deal with them before acting. They would be proactive, not reactive. They would consider and consult with all stakeholders in any action that they take.

(One could argue that this is not much of a test because even Nixon thought about what he was doing before he did it. The truth is, this can only apply to leaders that can be trusted, which is the next part of this ideal leader.)

Third, and most important, Presidents must have integrity. Not only do they need to be trusted by the people of this country, but they need to be trusted by everyone throughout the world. They need to be consistent but not bull-headed. They need to be fair but not weak. They need to be conscientious but not indecisive. The difference between someone who has true integrity and someone who is simply a loyalist is that everyone trusts the person with integrity. Those that agree and those that disagree with a person with integrity both know that they will be told the truth, and they also know that a lesser person would likely not be straight with them if they were not on the same side. Nowhere is this more true than in foreign policy, where American distrust is something that far too many nations have in common across the globe. I go back to consistency as part of the integrity of a leader because people have to be able to trust you to do the right thing no matter the situation’s degree of difficulty. My ideal candidate would be trustworthy in the eyes of all Americans and citizens of the planet. They would see the truth as a non-negotiable necessity and not a sliding scale. They would see full-disclosure and transparency as a tool of a functioning democracy and not an enemy to their plans. They would see honesty, especially when it is uncomfortable, as a sign of strength and not of weakness.

(No caveat to this one, other than the obvious one that says it is difficult to find a politician you can trust.)

These first three traits are indeed pretty broad, and I think pretty easy to agree on.

The fourth and final trait my ideal president[ial candidate] would embody is a belief in populism, which means that they believe that people, not entities, should run this nation. They believe that power and influence should be driven by people and what they want, not money and what it can buy. They listen to everyone and are willing to make decisions that will help those that need it most. They are not afraid to ask themselves or other people to sacrifice to benefit another human being. They are empathetic to people’s needs and able to articulate those needs and ways to address them. My ideal candidate empower people by making their voices matter, for real.

That’s my leader. What embodies your ideal candidate?

One Love. One II.


The Weekly Dream: The Land Of Make Believe

Question of the Week: How Can you use your imagination more?

As a child, I loved watching Mr. Rogers. My favorite part of the show is when he would go to the land of Make-Believe, with the hand puppets and all. It was a place where anything was possible. But it did not stop at Mr. Rogers; I spent much of my childhood in a fantasy world. Rather than watch television, I opted for books on fairy and folk tales from different cultures. I loved stories, to believe that anything was possible and nothing was too absurd.

But something strange happened. The older I got, the less I used my imagination. Until one day, I found myself exiled from the Land of Make Believe.

The Peter Pan Syndrome

The rise of the Information Age, Reality TV and All-Access technology has ruined our imagination. There is nothing that cannot be known about anything, at any moment of the day. Let’s face it, there is not much wonderment left in the modern world. What is even sadder is that no one seems to care.

I believe that this is because we have forgotten what an imagination is for. Furthermore, in this fast paced world there is no time for Make Believe. We have all been exiled to the Land of Grown-ups.

What is an imagination for? Well, to me it is to explore not only your creativity but also what is in your subconscious. For all of our knowledge, very little is known about the subconscious mind. But we do know this, it is always on, soaking up everything we are exposed to. Too often our subconscious is only active at night, in our dream state, but day dreaming and imagining can be a powerful way to approach problems if we bring it under the discipline of our conscious.

Free Your Mind

What happens is that your conscious mind is constantly laboring under constraints imposed upon it from the outside world. We are always jumping from what is possible to what is not possible and back again. As such, we tend to get boxed in. Using our imagination opens up a world of possibilities and offers fresh eyes to the situation. Spend more time imagining things, absurd things, silly things in order to shake the shackles from your mind. Give yourself a little mental release; because quite frankly, reality can get a little drab. Remember to dream big, if you remember to dream at all. However, as Rudyard Kipling said, “You must dream, but not make dreams your master.”

I don’t know about you, but I am and forever will be a dreamer. And who knows, maybe I can win my citizenship back to the land of Make-Believe.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

The Weekly Dream

Collective Action and The Talented Tenth

“I love black people, but I hate niggas”
-Chris Rock

Right now, I am watching the Colts receive the AFC Championship trophy. However, one of the major things the commentators kept bringing up was that this is the first time that two African-American coaches will be in the Super Bowl. Before they would bring up the games, the win, their intelligence as coaches-race was the primary focus, as this was a milestone for all African Americans. And it was. However, it got me to thinking: “Will African Americans ever stop being considered as a collective, homogenous group and is this necessarily a bad thing?” Just as we are quick to appropriate the good, what about the bad or less than spectacular aspects of our community?

I have long been of the opinion that there are two characters in African-American society, African-Americans and Niggers. And the gulf between the two is growing so wide that soon we will not be able to hide behind skin color anymore, and it will come down to economics, which is what race has been a red herring for all along. But I digress. African Americans are known to complain that niggers make the rest of the race look bad and are holding us back by their ignorance (read: Bill Cosby). And Niggers say that African Americans are too uppity, self-righteous and tame. As such, there is no small amount of animosity between these two sub-groups in African American society. And this concerns me deeply.

First, to answer my own question, I believe that African Americans will never stop being considered a homogenous group in America and as such, the actions of the few will forever reflect on the majority. We do not have the luxury of Caucasians, who do not concern themselves with hillbillies in the Appalachians. Unlike them, we have African-Americans and Niggers often sitting at the same table, in the same family. So, for those individuals who wish it would not happen, and think it should not occur anymore where we are viewed as a collective, do not hold your breath, it aint gonna happen (my thoughts as to why is another post in and of itself). We are so mixed together that we can hardly tell the difference between the two. We still unconsciously view ourselves as a collective.

However, here is a little insight that Bill Cosby and others of the Black intelligentsia might not understand. In fact, it is borderline heretical, as a member of the progressive African-American constituency: African-Americans need Niggers and Niggers need African-Americans. It is the yin and yang of racial politics. God creates duality for a purpose. In every African-American, there is a part of him willing to “burn this so and so down” if he feels like he is being disrespected, and it goes past being assertive. And it goes the other way also.

Now, here is the million dollar question: “How do we help each other as members of this collective ethnic group?”

I will not lie; I was supremely frustrated with certain aspects of the African American community. And my frustration culminated in a heated discussion with Garlin. At that point, I was ready to turn my back on the Niggers, and like Noah, focus on saving my own family from the impending doom and finality of the decimation of the middle-class and the haves v. have-nots. We knew all too well the threat of some segments of our ethnic community being a permanent underclass in America. And we could not understand why more people did not see it and why we seemed powerless to stop it.

Even in my own family, I could not understand how some of my family members chose not to follow my example. I tried in vain to encourage various cousins to go to school and consolidate the gains of my aunts and uncles so that we could make that power play to prosperity.

But on the other end, when I would speak with middle to upper class blacks and listened to their characterization of those perceived as Niggers, I was not satisfied either. It was a characterization that lacked compassion and understanding. Only then could I understand why we cannot come to the table and collaborate. Somewhere down the line, we received a distorted view of one another.

So, I pose the question, what is our place in this mess? How do we help our brothers and sisters who are characterized as Niggers and how can they help us, since they are here for a reason? I don’t have the answer. I have not even figured out how to get those who are not like myself to listen to me. But I do know that I have to check my self-righteousness, ego, and frustration at the door. I do know that I need them and they need me, and I will always go back to the ‘hood, whether they want me there or not. And no matter how high a barrier my education and professional achievement erects between us, I will be there. No matter how some of us glorify the Thug Life and our impoverished backgrounds as a badge of honor, and others of us who believe money entitles us to special treatment. We need each other. Why? Because at one point, in American society, we all were Niggers. Whether we like it or not, we have and probably always will be treated as a collective group in America. But only now, do we have the benefit to refer to ourselves as African Americans.

The Consigliere

P.S. For more commentary, go to this link.

Black Issues

Senator Barack Obama is running for President!!!

Senator Barack Obama announced his intentions to file presidential exploratory committee and said he would talk announce more details on February 10th. This means that for all intents and purposes, the Senator will be running. I am excited about this campaign because if win or lose, we may be able to realize a paradigm shift for thinking about race, class, and opportunity. I hope that the ensuing debates over his running will spark substantive debate over his proposed policies.

And a note to my Black people:
1) Please don’t decide you like or dislike the Senator because of his identity
2) This is a critical time that we really start to collectively stamp out the crab bucket mentality
3) White people liking Senator Obama does not mean that he is a sell out
4) Read his books, study his voting record, go to his website, and be conscious of what sources are informing your opinion of him
5) Senator Obama is not the leader or spokesperson for all Black people and be critical of people that paint him in this light
6) Pray for the Senator and his family
7) Senator Obama will make mistakes. He is human and therefore fallible. Don’t hold him to unrealistic expectations

Stay up fam,

Senator Barack Obama

The SuperSpade Interview on Radio Nation with Dr. Laura Flanders


Here is the audio (1 min 51 sec, wav file) from my brief interview on Radio Nation with Dr. Laura Flanders this past Saturday night while I was in Memphis, TN at the Free Press National Conference on Media Reform. I used this time to describe what the mission and vision of The SuperSpade is to a broad audience.

This gathering was one of the most inspiring and energizing assemblies that I have ever attended. I will reflect more on the conference, who I met, and what I learned a bit later. The SuperSpade was very well received.

I am back in Seattle for all of one day before I go to Detroit for a few days this week.

Happy MLK Day everyone. Use this as a day of learning and not of laziness.

One Love. One II.

Radio Interview