Archive | April 2009

Stop Fake Fundraising Reform

Fake version of Obama

Fake version of Obama

Being fake is like driving the wrong way on the freeway: dumb, dangerous, and destructive. This is true in life, relationships, and public policy.

Stop Fake Reform

Last week I signed a letterto the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) calling each out for stopping the acceptance of PAC & lobbyist money for one day — the day President Obama comes to fund-raise for them.

Why this is a problem

Private money perverts politics. It destroys electoral integrity by weighting the outcome in favor of moneyed interests. The DSCC & DCCC are perfectly fine with this. President Obama is not. I’m not either.

Campaigns & elections should be publicly financed. Our taxes pay the salaries of elected officials already, so why don’t we pay for their selection too? That way, things won’t get too out of control (we won’t waste money), and we’ll be more likely to hold people accountable (because we literally paid for them to be there).

Join me, several other prominent Black & progressive bloggers, and 2,400+ other people  in signing this letter and stopping this madness.

Stop Fake Reform now.

Remember: nothing changes until something changes.

One Love. One II.

Photo Credit: tideswimmer on Flickr

Domestic Tool of Torture: The Taser

This post is part of: A day of blogging for justice: Standing up against the police pre-trial electrocution of black children, women and men by taser.

Tasers are instruments of torture.

Tasers are instruments of torture.

Torture talk has been all over the news recently. The unfortunate [yet understandable] focus of the conversation is on torture in a military & international context.

This causes us to overlook the torture and murder of citizens here at home, victims of racial profiling, police brutality, and excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement.

This issue is not new, but the instruments of this type of torture are ever-evolving. While military torture involves tools like the waterboard, our domestic version uses the taser. 

Torture mentality has perverted our entire system

What happens at the top always impacts the bottom. Lawless leadership leads to lawless practices on the ground. When the Bush Administration OK’d torture, low-level interrogators became torturers. On the local level, when police chiefs embrace tasers as “non-lethal” alternatives to guns, people get killed unnecessarily.

Leadership complicit in torture and murder must be held accountable at all levels.Further, we need to preemptively demand that our leaders craft policies that prevent death, not enable it.

Our wars here at home on petty criminals and the disenfranchised should not be ones that result in capital murder.

What you can do

Contact your local police chief and ask whether officers are carrying tasers. Look up their contact information by searching for their zip code on USACOPS. If they’re using tasers not, thank him or her. If they are carrying, do the following:

  • Sign this petition calling on the Congressional Black Caucus to investigate this phenomenon.
  • Ask: Is the entire force armed with tasers?
    If not, which units have them?
  • Ask: Do officers carry both tasers and guns?
    Ask what the motivation is for this policy.
  • Ask: What’s the usage protocol for tasers?
    This will answer the question “when should tasers be used in place of guns?”
  • Suggest: Stop carrying tasers
    Direct them to our site documenting taser abuses in the US. Let them know that you’ll feel safer if police enagaged in non-lethal ways whenever possible. You know that the officers are well-trained and highly professional, and you just want them to do the best they can without taking lives.

Simply asking these questions will cause leadership to reflect on their policy. Reflection is the first step to change.

Let’s prevent this from spreading further.

One Love. One II.

Photo Credit: strangedays on Flickr

Be smarter next Earth Day

Green Thumbs Down

Green Thumbs Down

“Eighty-five percent of consumers have this intention to save energy, but only three percent do. What the hell is this massive gap between intention and action all about?” (Thomas Scaramellino, founder of Efficiency 2.0)

Today is Earth Day. This year needs to be Earth Year. This decade needs to be Earth Decade. This life needs to be Earth Life.

Why isn’t it?

Maybe it’s because the way we encourage people to get “green” is broken. Counter-productive. Wrong. The next time you see the promo during 24 that points you at a Fox website about how to get “green”, think twice.

Our approach to increasing environmental awareness is so devoid of nuance that what it gains in accesibility it sacrifices in effectiveness. Hearing “green” tips without context is like taking showers without water: nothing gets cleaner.

Yes, we all need to use real towels instead of paper ones. Yes, we all need to turn off the bathroom light when not in the bathroom. But we need more. We need better. We need smarter.

Take time next month to figure out what your environmental impact actually is. There are lots of ways to do this:

  • Everyone can see what their personal environmental impact is by answering the question: What’s my Carbon Footprint?
  • Consumers can use GoodGuide to find out the environmental impact of the things you buy.
  • Businesses can use Earthster to find out the environmental impact of their supply chains.

By taking stock of your environmental impact, you can then focus your efforts to reduce it in the most productive way. Better information opens the window to understanding. Understanding opens the door to action. Action opens the floodgates of change and progress.

One Love. One II.

Image Credit: iampiri on Flickr

Obama not standing up for Black farmers?

Over on my man’s Field Negro blog, he wrote some fire today regarding Obama not fighting for a bill he introduced while in the Senate that would give justice to Black farmers. And rather than put it in my own words, I am going to re-post his thoughts in full. Please visit his site on a regular basis, he spits hot fiyah. (Dylan accent)

Why are you black farmers whining? Didn’t you pick cotton for free back in the day?

You Obamaholics might want to skip this next post. I will give you a little time to click away before I start……..
Okay, for those of you who are still reading, Quick, raise your hands if you have ever heard of the Pigford Case. If you haven’t let me help you out a little bit: It was a class action lawsuit filed by a bunch of black farmers because the federal government denied them loans and assistance that went to whites. (Gee, there is a surprise) Anyway, they filed a class action lawsuit, and there must have been some fire to go with the smoke because Uncle Sam settled for damn near a billion dollars with my overall clad brothers.
Happy ending right? Wrong. As is always the case with our slick Uncle, the deadline period to file was so short that thousands of farmers with legitimate claims missed out on the filing deadline and got zilch. So in comes Johnny Boyd and other farmer activist; they started pressing the government to open back up the case and give some of the farmers who missed out on the filing deadline to refile their claims.
Well guess who stepped up to the plate to help them? Yep, you guessed it; his O ness.
Let me give you a little passage from the AP story:
“…The cause gained momentum in August 2007 when Obama, then an Illinois senator, introduced Pigford legislation about six months into his presidential campaign.
Although the case was hardly a hot-button political issue, it had drawn intense interest among African-Americans in the rural South. It was seen as a way for Obama to reach out in those areas, where he was not well-known and where he would need strong support to win the Democratic primary.
The proposal won passage in May as sponsors rounded up enough support to incorporate it into the 2008 farm bill. The potential budget implications were huge: It could easily cost $2 billion or $3 billion given an estimated 65,000 pending claims.
With pressure to hold down costs, lawmakers set an artificially low $100 million budget. They called it a first step and said more money could be approved later.
But with 25,000 new claims and counting, the Obama administration is now arguing that the $100 million budget should be considered a cap to be split among the successful cases.
The position — spelled out in a legal motion filed in February and reiterated in recent settlement talks — would leave payments as low as $2,000 or $3,000 per farmer. Boyd called that ‘insulting.’
Boyd noted that Obama’s legislation specifically called for the new claimants to be eligible for the same awards as the initial lawsuit, including expedited payments of $50,000 plus $12,500 in tax breaks that the vast majority of the earlier farmers received.
‘I’m really disappointed,’ Boyd said. ‘This is the president’s bill.’
‘They did discriminate against these farmers, maybe not all of them, but a lot of these people would prevail if they could go to court,’ he said.
The administration wouldn’t discuss specific budget plans or commit to fully funding the claims. But in a statement to The Associated Press, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the department agrees that more needs to be done and is working with the Justice Department to ‘ensure that people are treated fairly'”
Now I know that his O ness is the President, and he has a lot on his plate, BUT HE SPONSORED THIS BILL! So now that he is the President would it kill his administration to give these farmers a fair settlement? You better be careful O man, these farmers literally have the pitchforks.
“You can’t blame it on the Bush administration anymore,” said John Boyd, head of the National Black Farmers Association, which has organized the lawsuits. ‘I can’t figure out for the life of me why the president wouldn’t want to implement a bill that he fought for as a U.S.

Well I would tell you why John, but I want my Obamaholic friends to come back.

Support Obama's budget

My boy Calvin Williams asked that I cross post he wrote on Daily Kos re: Millenial Generation National Call in Day to support passage of the budget and making sure key priorities are upheld including but not limited to investments in education, sustainability, and health care. Cal, I apologize because I have been ripping and running all day but if you haven’t made that call, the numbers havent’ changed and you still impact change. See below

National Call-In Day April 21st! Millennial Generation calls on Senate to Support the Obama Budget!

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Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 12:22:24 PM PDT

Here in Brooklyn, we’ve been feeling the economic crisis at a personal level…

Between the cuts to MTA services, health care programs and public education; along with increased costs of living at every level,like a $20 increase in monthly MTA passes and a 5-8% increase in gas/electric bills, it can get tough for families on my block to make it through paycheck to paycheck.

I’m sure we all can relate to the economic crunch in our own ways–whether its accessing financial support from student loans and grants, trying to get affordable health coverage, or attempting to live sustainably and green on recession budget.

There is a solution to begin turning the corner on the crisis–we need our Senators to support the investments in health care, a clean energy economy and higher education to both offset these increased costs of living and rebuild a sustainable future for our generation!

On Tuesday, April 21st young people nationwide will call-in their Senators to support the Obama budget. The Millennial Generation voted because we were passionate about issues that deeply affect us like making sure everyone has access to health care, that education is accessible and affordable to all and that there are green jobs that both decrease our dependence on energy and create real jobs in our communities that we sorely need.

This year’s budget will decide how much money goes to the programs that address these issues. This is where we make our vote really count by holding our elected leaders accountable to the issues we care about! The House and Senate passed budget resolutions earlier this month that includes an increase for programs that support young people, students and working families.

Next week they will reconvene to pass a final budget. It is vital that the final budget includes reconciliation so Congress can vote up or down on the budget to support these bold investments in health care, higher education and green jobs. That is why we are participating in an National Call-In Day April 21st with young people across the country.

Here are several ways to directly engage your networks and put out the word about the upcoming National Call In Day:

  1. On Tuesday, April 21 Call 1-888-299-1447 and let your representative know you support the President’s budget
  1. Join and Invite Friends to the April 21st Call-In Day Facebook Group:
  1. Recruit 5 Friends to Participate and Forward Along!

This is an opportunity for us to get involved in passing this budget and receive the support our communities need. So on April 21st, join young people nationwide to tell Congress “PASS THE FEDERAL BUDGET & BRING CHANGE TO OUR COMMUNITIES NOW!”

"It's not about race…"

In the car today, I had my attention split between driving, talking on the phone and listening to the BBC World Edition on NPR. On the show, they were discussing that how Britains (I could be wrong) have a more difficult time accepting immigrants into their culture because at least as far as recent history is concerned, Britain is a self-contained country by which those who live their have a distinct view of what being Britain truly entails. This state of affairs was contrasted with America where everyone, minus Native Americans are immigrants, can legitimately claim and believe to be truly American.

The part that jarred me is when an interviewer asks a Britain why its more difficult for Britains to accept immigrants (I should note that there appeard to be a tacit understanding that they were really talking about people of color) and a woman responded dryly, “It’s not about race, it’s about space.” For years now, I have considered how conflicts over land and resources become painted in race/culture specifiic terms in order for the powers that be to misdirect their true intentions. But I think the woman’s response more accurately depicts my thoughts and here is why.

Taken literally and figuratively, what keeps racism thriving is a perpetual denial of accepting “others” into your space. Literally, this “space” can be interpreted by where you live, where your kids go to school, where you hang out, etc. No less important is the figurative sense which can be interpreted via who you do/don’t allow to have access to your emotional space. There are a range of things people do with this void. Some fill this void with stereotypes that can serve as barriers to the type of humanity that God envisioned; Love your brother as yourself. Others are aware of their void and take steps to fill it with love and understanding. In the end, I suppose the takeaway from this post is that you should be mindful of how you filter who gets in your space and the morals and values that under gird these filters. It is impossible to allow poor morals to inform who gets into your space and not think these same values are expressed when you try to enter into another person’s space.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

Asia McGowan, a terrible and unfortunate loss

Asia McGowan, a beautiful, talented, and warm-hearted twenty year-old woman was murdered by a deranged lunatic that murdered her at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit. Anthony Powell, 28 shot Asia, 20 at point blank range and after doing so, committed suicide….like a punk. But Brandon, you don’t understand what he was going through. He killed an innocent woman!!! Apparently, Powell posted some crazy youtube videos where he scorned Black women, discussed suicide, and decried atheists. No one quite knows for sure yet, but according to some youtube comments, (and I wouldn’t be surprised) Powell had a crush on Asia and left scathing comments on her videos.

In her last video, Asia addressed people leaving hateful comments on her videos, which were all innocent, funny, and not worth any hate, whatsoever.

So to everybody, and especially my nieces and nephews, be careful with whom you friend and converse with online. No one needs to know where you are at every second of the day. No one needs to see you do the latest dance, however innocent it may be. I know free speech is important but it is too easy with advances in technology to track and possibly do harm to someone. Just think about twitter, “I am at the coffee shop,” or “I am in history 101.” Please be careful and be wary of people who spew hate at you. Asia, was terribly young and had a bright future ahead of her so I ask you Lord, please provide solace and peace for Asia’s family and friends in their time of loss. Don’t let the day end without a warm heart and clear conscience.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

Healthy: the new health insurance

Today, I was at my mother’s preparing my plate for Easter dinner. I ask my mom if she made the green beans with ham because I stopped eating pork… years  ago. My sisters, whom I love dearly, jokingly tell me that the green beans are safe because mom made them with turkey, not ham. Another family meal, another dish I can’t eat…the innocent jokes continue. But as you well know, health care is no laughing matter.

My experience was probably similar to many of my peers across the country today and that’s unfortunate because this concern (for some, an obsession) with leading a healthy lifestyle belies the new reality in American healthcare; being healthy is the new healthcare. Think about it, insurance companies only want to insure people who are healthy and God forbid, you have any preconditions. The costs of healthcare is simply out of control. More and more, we hear about people who are drowned in medical costs, even when they have health insurance.

So if you have a son or daughter coming of age (early twenties – early thirties) and you give them grief about eating healthy, cut them some slack… for real. The reality is that provided you are healthy, managing your health insurance can be nerve racking, especially when many young professionals are forced to do consulting, stay mobile, and manage the immense debt stemming from undergraduate and graduate school.

Now when you take that stress and add a baby into the mix and the stress levels go through the roof because even if you have a job, you know that a mild emergency can lead to financial ruin. And businesses know that people will be compelled to stay in a job for the sake of medical benefits for their kids. And when you find out your deductible and co pays are going up, complaining is impossible when so many millions of Americans are not covered at all.

We need universal health care like crazy…period. We are living in a world where if you really want health insurance, you need to insure your health. So while it may cost more to eat healthier or join a gym, you really can’t afford not to.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.