Monday, November 20, 2006
Bupkiss. Alfonso Soriano is coming off a fantastic season with the Nationals and is a good player. He is not worth 136 million dollars and he certainly will not be worth even close to that at the middle of, let alone the end of this multi-year deal. This deal will cement the Cubs as losers. Why? Because their two big signings this winter are the anti-David Ortiz/Derek Jeters.
Trust me. I watched Soriano in NY and he choked big time in the offseason. Keith Olberman said it best on Dan Patrick's radio show yesterday: Soriano feasts on bad pitching, but when facing good pitching: 0-4. I had A-Ram on my fanstasy team the last two years. Both times I picked him with a high pick. Both times I watched him do really well when it didn't matter (like the beginning of our fantasy season when everyone pulled away from me) and tank whenever the Cubs were in contention. And now besides having the worst rotation in all of baseball (who's pitching behind Zambrano: will they put together 15 injured pitchers in the hope they can get a game a month out of each?) and the worst pitching coach in baseball history, the Cubs just got significantly worse in the field. A-Ram is the worst fielding third baseman I've ever seen. He has pop-ups bounce off his head. The Cubs outfield is now going to be Jacque Jones, Matt Murton, and Soriano? Wow. Let me tell you from observing the White Sox in 2005 and in 2006. Centerfielders matter (where have you gone Aaron Rowand!!!) If you're going to have a terrible pitching staff, having a terrible fielding team is adding nitroglycerine to an already raging car fire.
Bad news. Throw temper tantrum Lou Pinella in and at least it'll be interesting on the North Side next year.
Friday, November 17, 2006
The gold standard for pizza in my mind is either Gino's in Rockville Centre or Vincent's in Lynbrook, but that may just be for nostaglia reasons. Regardless of the effects of the glow of memory, I often grave the 16in flopply gooey goodness of a good New York pizza. This craving can not be cured by Giordano's, Home Run Inn, Bacci's, Gino's East, Edwardo's, Aurelios, Rosati's, Pizzza Capri or other pizza joints here in Chi-city and the 'burbs. And while my favorite pizza in Chicago(land) is not a thin crust masterpiece like Vincent cooks up, its darn good. It's similar to Edwardo's in that it's not the giant tilt your jaw open pie of Giordano's, but not the square cut thin crust of Aurelio's or Home Run Inn. Luisa's on 139 and Cicero (yes Mike Doyle that's actually in Chicagoland) in Crestwood.
The crust: fantastic: crunchy, buttery, like a good pan pizza from Pizza Hut, only 50 time tastier and more consistent
The sauce: deliciously different: sort of sweet, but not cloying (Yes, my food reviewing skills could use some work).
The cheese: it's pizza cheese, come on, you know it's good.
It's a trek to Luisa's from Woodlawn, and so we don't go that often. Our car happened to be getting fixed at the wonderful J & J Auto Rebuilders on 137th in Crestwood (I hope you never need for their services, but if you do, they are incredible kind and excellent at their jobs). Two blocks away: Luisa's, were a grouchy old Italian lady (Luisa) will move you along with your take out order if you're watching the TV too long. We've done takeout, eaten at the place (great and attentive wait staff: although they do cocktail glasses for their sodas, not a fan), and generally love it.
The best pizza in Chicago(land). Luisa's. Here's metromix's and roadfood.com's take on it.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I imagine most people being shived by the "new economy" looked at this situation and saw a major betrayal of the New Deal and the American dream. So why not vote your social and religious values, instead of still voting for the party that claimed to represent your economic interests, but acted differently. In other words, 1994 was like 2006 in one respect: the Democrats core constituency actedmuch like James Dobson and other Christian conservatives have talked about acting recently: if they take our votes for granted and don't move forward on our issues, what's the point of voting for them?
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Yes, a liberal Democratic is happy about the moderate, socially conservative Democratics elected. I'm sure the media will spin spin and spin some more about the conservatism of the Democrats elected, but if you really look at people like John Tester and Sherrod Brown, it's a more complicated story. As Joe Conanson notes in salon.com, these men and women are economic populists whose wins validated the What's the Matter with Kansas" thesis of Republican dominance (for an unsympathetic reading of this trend, see this article in slate.com). These winning Democrats spoke to people's legitimate fears and anxieties about the "New Economy." What upper middle class intelligentsia types (myself included) don't realize is that the New Economy that so benefits them is killing the broad middle class that used to exist in America. We're rapidly created a Third Worldish, two-tiered economy in which the hyper rich, globalist, hyper-educated urban elite are served by an increasingly larger low wage economy. Conservatives have been able to tap into this anger by framing it as a "heartland" vs. "costal" values issue. What the Browns, Testers, and McCaskills have done is broke open that frame: it's not just about effete snobbish values. It's about the public policies that are facilitating this erosion of the middle class.
I'm excited about the possibilities. All of a sudden we've got people in the Senate, in Congress, who can talk honestly about the economic hollowing out of middle america without being vulnerable to attacks on gay marriage, abortion or whatever "issue de jour" the cynical manipulators of the right come up with. I'm hoping that Democrats take this opportunity to reveal the true nature of the right and its program for America.
Of course, do I think Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, New Democrat Rahm Emanuel and Chuckie Schumer can do it?
Monday, October 30, 2006
There are hints of an alternate reality in the Times piece at least, where part of Heath Schuler's appeal to voters in a socially conservative North Carolina district are the increasing economic difficulties of the working class. But that doesn't fit the mainstream media's Herculean effort to convince us that only moderates who skew right can win elections now a days in the new economic and political reality they have defined for us.
I'm often skeptical of "There are no Children Here" esque social criticism, that attempts to put a "human face" on poverty and other social issues. These accounts can often have the odor of individual pathology that allows readers to avoid asking the real and hard questions of systemic injustice and bad policy as opposed to bad behaviors and bad circumstances. Seven days, and especially the Mike Doyle interviews, strenously avoid that trap. The articulate women interviewed by Doyle frimly grasp that they are trapped in what is more and more the reality of the post-industrial economy in the United States (if you don't believe this to be the case, ask me and I'll send you some of the research on this).
We are rapidly moving towards a two-tiered labor force: the highly paid workers jet-setting through the global economy and the low wage workers who serve them. Moving up from low wage to medium wage to medium high wages is becoming less and less of a possibility because of the disintegration of what are called internal labor markets or job ladders in firms. While we've been distracted by intern oral sex, wars in the Middle East, and a booming stock market, the strong middle class job generating economy that sustained the United States in the 20th century is disappearing.
This is not an inevitable economic pattern nor is it necessarily make good macro-economic sense. Which is why campaigns such as Seven Days are so important. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the heart of social justice is economic justice. While a higher minimum wage won't solve these issues, it's a great first step on the high road to economic development. We've seen the low road, and boy is it wanting.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Here we go again. Washington Park is NOT a frayed, downtrodden park. It is not Douglas Park or Humbodlt Park, the large parks most yuppie decision and opinion makers are familiar with. It is not a breeder of crime and drug sales and is heavily used by members of surrounding communities and is an important meeting space and asset for the Mid-South Side. Yet again, Daley is showing his uncanny ability to exploit the structures of race and exclusion to push through his pet projects. I'm positive that opponents of the stadium (which has been described as collapsible... !) will be painted as pie-in-the sky hippe greenies who are blocking economic development for the South Side.
And again, the Mayor and his bootlackers will be wrong. Stadiums do not necessarily provide immediate or even long or short term benefit to surrounding neighborhoods (US Cellular anybody?) . The beautiful Great Meadow of Washington Park is a community asset that would be destroyed by the collapsible stadium (are we talking about pick-up stick construction?). I'm neither solidly pro nor anti stadium. What I would like to see, and what the racial reality and political machinations of the Mayor prevent, is an honest debate that takes into account the real costs and benefits of such a project.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Crammed into a corner bar on 26th and Lawndale was the entire progressive Mexican leadership of Little Village. Chewy Garcia of LVCDC and a veteran independent politician in Chicago was greeting people at the door. Jamie De Leon, the NCP organizer for Little Village was smiling more than I’ve ever seen him before. The last great hope of the Little Village Violence Prevention Collaborative was telling me he loved me. Young, 1st and 2nd generation, college educated, progressive activists were getting down to some of the best live Latin jazz I’ve heard in a long time.
And Alderman Munoz, perhaps the most progressive and independent alderman in Chicago was buying me a beer.
26th Street has always been for me the grown up and responsible older brother of 18th Street in Pilsen. It doesn’t have the trendy art galleries, bars, book stores and night life. It’s the place you go to buy groceries, clothes for your kids and have tacos. 26th Street last night was alive with the pride and strength of the Mexican immigrant community in Chicago. Cars and pick-ups filled with people waved the Mexican flag shouting and honking at each other and pedestrians. The less fortunate rode by on their bikes and rang bells or clown horns. Gang bangers donned non-color coordinated clothes and mixed into the crowd.
And in Jacaranda, the best and the brightest, the strongest hope for an end to the violence tearing the community apart and an independent small-d democratic politics in the City of Chicago were all getting down to Oye Como Va and My Cheri Amor latin style.
When you step out of your comfort zone and the fixed paths given to you by society because of your privilege, skin color or class, life is beautiful.
Viva Mexico! Viva La Villita! Viva la gente luchadora!
The article was extremely controversial and initiated a storm of protest and debate, with many detractors playing the “white outside liberal agitator” card against the Reporter and the Community Renewal Society. It’s pretty obvious to me (and to my African-American co-workers: yes I am playing the “I have a black friend card”) that the pastors are dancing with the devil for crumbs of charity instead of working for the cake of justice. It is quite disingenuous for the pastors to uniformly claim that there are “no strings attached” to the assistance. Presumably, the most political of mayors just helps certain black pastors who turn out voters and press conferences for him out of the goodness of his own heart. Right.
This quote summed up the “representative nature.” of these pastors and their churches:
“Reid, who is currently a presiding elder with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, endorsed Daley over Rush in 1999. Now Thomas wants to earn the mayor’s attention and respect, he said. He wants community members to be able to own, rather than rent, their homes, and he believes church members should have the option to move back to the area.” (emphasis added)
You mean they don’t? So.... who are you really working for?
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I had little hope that the veto proof majority would hold. Daley and the big box stores, while not sitting atop a vast and omnipotent political machine like his father did, still have formidable tools of persuasion at their disposal. Two of the defectors, quoted in the New York Times, represent the power of those tools. Geogre Cardenas, who represents the eastern portion of Little Village, said he had to consider all the good the mayor had done in his ward. In plainspeak, the mayor reminded Cardenas that he was put into power by the Daley controlled HDO (Hired Truck anyone?) and that if wanted to continue as alderman, let alone run for higher office, he’d better play ball. Shirley Coleman, a South Side African-American said she changed her vote because one of the retailers offered a store in her ward. I’m willing to wager the triple digit figures left in my checking account that campaign donations were involved, at least implicitly. As previously reported here, Emma Mitts, the West Side Alderwoman who led the opposition, received $6,000 in 6 months from Wal-Mart after a store was opened in her ward. That may not seem like a lot of money in the million dollar Senate race cycle, but for an alderman representing a cash-strapped district, it’s pirate’s booty.
But what is most detestable is Daley’s “playing of the race card.” I need to bullet point or number my points because his claim that the unions didn’t start complaining until big box stores opened in black and poor neighborhoods is ludicrous on multiple levels.
First, Daley’s got his movement history wrong. The ordinance was the culmination of months and years of hard organizing by UNITE-HERE and SEIU local chapters. Like any bill, you don’t introduce it until it has a good chance of passing. That couldn’t happen until serious organizing and advocacy efforts accomplished their mission. The move towards living wage laws on the local level is a recent strategy that was developed independently of the co-incidence of the geographical locations of Wal-Marts in the city of Chicago.
Second, Daley is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black here. UNITE-HERE and SEIU locals in Chicago are some of the most diverse and inclusive unions in the country, if not the world (in terms of members of color). The racist, exclusionary unions are the ones that have been in the Daley family’s corner since the 50s: the craft and trade unions.
Third, if this is true, then why was the black caucus spilt on the bill? Why were grassroots black leaders for the ordinance? I know for a fact that many of the black pastors who Daley trots out like a Greek chorus when it’s convenient are pastors of absentee churches: their parishioners do not actually live in the neighborhoods the churches are in. Meaning: they don’t have a whole lot of credibility when it comes to representing poor blacks on the South and West sides. Regardless of that inconvenient fact, the fact that there is debate across the spectrum of black Chicago makes his race-baiting laugable.
Fourth, Daley (and unfortunately other supporters as well) sounded like Bull Connor in his blaming of “outside agitators.” Yes national attention was drawn to this debate. No, Ald. Moore does not live on the South or West Side. Yes, ACORN bused in people from out of state, but it does that for many campaigns (which is why ACORN is as controversial among community activist as it is among right-wing big city mayors). But Alderman Ed Smith is from the West Side. Alderman Burnett is too. Give up the canard of outside agitators, please.
Mr. Daley also knows this is not about economic development in black neighborhoods. It’s about power, plain and simple. Mr. Daley does not want to cede any to an activist city council. Wal-Mart and Target do not want to cede any to workers. Using poor blacks as pawns in their political games is execrable.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Problem 1: It’s Randolph Ave? It’s Washington Ave? Since when?
Problem 2: You are not actually where they claim you are.
Problem 3: Where’s the information desk? You know, the place to go to make complaints and ask questions? Not there.
When Mike of chicagocarless and I walked through Marshal Fields, we were cutting through to get to his hallowed home at Marina City to pick up a camera for a work assignment and to see how the transition from Chicagocentric icon to New York transplant was going.
Apparently not so well. It seems that Federated in lieu of hiring a proofreader stocked up on bright red markers. What makes Chicagoans like myself most nervous about a local icon being converted into a franchise of a national chain is what Federated has avoided so far: the downgrading of an important local institution into a excessively profit driven outpost of faceless corporatism. Marshal Fields, the store, the man, the family and the Marshal Fields Foundation have long histories of supporting community development and organizing efforts in Chicago. (some of Saul Alinsky’s earliest work was financed by Fields IV). Federated seemed to be making strong steps towards the goal of maintaining and improving the viability of a local institution. You would think the internal store maps would be a simple detail.
This is the embodiment of every Chicago-centric anti-Macy-ite’s worst nightmare. From the day it was announced that Marshall Fields would become Macys, the whispers were of the tolling of the funeral bells for a Chicago icon.
You know, if they can’t even get the street names right or the location of their own information desk, maybe the doomsayers were right.
The transformation of the bulk of Chicago’s commercial areas into Anytown Strip mall is entering its endgame.
There’s always Woodfield Mall, I guess.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Big box stores have saturated the suburban market and have few growth opportunities there.
City dwellers will generally travel to stores between 2.5-5 miles away from their home.
Given #2, Target is potentially missing millions of dollars in sales in neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, Hyde Park and the far Southwest Side (Beverly and Morgan Park).
I am loathe to say I told you so, but on the face of it, these facts lay out a pretty convincing case for why I supported the big box living wage ordinance. The outcomes, despite what opponents and proponents claimed, are far from pre-determined. It is not 100% certain that if the City Council and the Mayor stick up to the threats of Target and Wal-Mart what the retailers will do and what the effects of their actions may be. Potentially, they could avoid the city of Chicago. Just as likely is that they would crunch numbers such as those presented in Crain’s and see that it makes sense for them to take on the extra cost of doing business in Chicago, even with slightly reduced profits. Again, it is worth “running the experiment,” especially if it means higher wages for low wage workers.
The Our Town column in the August 4th Chicago Reader (can’t find it online, sorry) details the political machinations surrounding the big box vote. What is most interesting is that it relieves me of the spectre of “paternalistic white liberalism.” Apparently, Mayor Daley has a suitcase full of black pastors he trots out to pressure the council into voting his way. I would be fascinated to see the churches these pastors lead and see how many of their parishioners actually live in the surround neighborhoods.
Hopefully, that’ll be it on the Big Box for a while.
Many may see this as a congressman wisely distancing himself from a potential conflict of interest, since, well, he is sleeping with the 3rd in command and chief public spokesperson (think Roy Blount or Charles Schumer) of the largest opposition party in Guatemala. Perhaps. There is a quote, buried at the end of the article that offers an alternative explanation. Carlos Gomez, who works for the Foundation for Human Rights in Guatemala says this: “it is the FRG (Rios’ party) that opened the door to drug trafficking and organized crime in Guatemala. So he can’t attack the same party as his wife.”
The line from the generals, colonels, and other officers who perpetuated the genocide of the 1980s in Guatemala to the leaders of the drug gangs, kidnapping crews, and murder for hire syndicates of the new century is about as straight as Lance Bass is not. The FRG, Rios Montt’s personal vehicle for political party, is neck deep into the booming drug trafficking economy in Guatemala, so much so that the FRG’s president, Alfonso Portillo, was opposed by both liberal and conservatives in Guatemala, a rather unusual political occurrence. For better or for worse (in sickness and in health…) Weller has entered the world of the Guatemalan mafia.
Admittedly, these are strong accusations, and in the absence of footnotes or official sanction, they seem a bit farfetched. For a large proportion of educated Guatemalans, the information presented here is taken as point of fact, much like we in the US take for granted the political power and connectedness of the Bush or Kennedy family. One incident is illustrative. Violence against women has reached epidemic proportions in Guatemala City. Before a march against this violence in 2005, unknown assailants killed a woman and cut up her body in a number of pieces and placed the pieces along the route the march was to take in a grotesque carbon copy of the military regime’s intimidation tactics of the past.
It may seem unfair to accuse Zury Rios of being a narcolady. At the very least, (and its not a little) she was, is, and potentially will continue to be, the chief dissembler and apologist for her father. Rios Montt is a fascist with a messianic complex that would make even the most ardent neo-conservative democracy promoter blush. By all accounts, he is so convinced of his own righteousness and indispensability to the nation of Guatemala that laws put up in his path are regarded as biblical trials and tribulations that the righteous man must overcome. The article in the Reader only hints at Zury’s defense of and advocacy for her father during the shameful riots (known as Black Thursday in Guatemala) engineered by the FRG to force the courts to allow Rios Montt to run in spite of the law prohibiting him from doing so. Zury was the screeching apologist for the mobs of paid, manipulated, angry, drunk “protestors” who were part of an attempt to gain the election for Rios Montt by re-creating the atmosphere of fear the pervaded the country during the 1980s and 1990s. Zury was her father’s Goebbels, using the airwaves to attempt to build up the atmosphere of fear and anxiety that would translate into a win for her father. It didn’t work. Guatemalans refused to give into fear (as many of them would say to interviewers after voting) and Rios Montt is finally finished as a political force in Guatemala.
It is my suspicion, reinforced by a missionary friend who has been close to Rios Montt and his family for years, that the old man is a dottering figurehead who has no real day to day control or input into the FRG machinations. This makes Zury Rios’ role in the deteriorating situation in Guatemala potentially even more nefarious and makes Weller either look naïve or complicit.
The controversy surrounding this political marriage goes beyond the usual “conflict of interest” line pursued by the Reader article. Weller’s greatest act of public service may be that of turning American interest towards the FRG, Zury Rios, and the mess they are making of the land of the eternal spring.
Monday, August 28, 2006
I’ve got a lot of catching up to do from my two week baby hiatus, so forgive me if my commentary is not as immediately topical as it should be. I was not so cocooned that I was unaware of the brouhaha surrounding the plot uncovered in England or the subsequent clamp down in security. The way things are going, within a few years we’ll all have to change out of clothes and into standard issue robes before getting on our planes blindfolded. Patrick Smith, who writes the “Ask the Pilot” column on Salon.com is highly critical of what he perceives to be massive overreaction in airline security (check out his columns from 8/10, 8/17, and 8/25 here: http://dir.salon.com/topics/patrick_smith/). In his words, terrorists don’t even have to actually do anything to cause chaos and panic: they just have to threaten to or talk about doing it.
The rash of plane delays, rerouting, and other snafus that have occurred since the plot was uncovered, plus the arrest and subsequent exoneration of two separate sets of Arabs selling cell phones (no, they weren’t going to blow up the Mackinac Island Bridge) does appear to lend credence to Smith’s critique, which he sums up by saying:
Meanwhile, the ultimate and destructive irony is that we've responded to news of the infiltrated terror plot not with increased confidence -- confidence in knowing that most would-be bombers are unskilled fanatics whose plans are prone to failure, and confidence in our abilities to outwit such people -- but with yet more fright and self-defeat.
In other words, the only thing we really have to fear is how our fear causes us to overreact and cause us major problems.
I’m hard pressed to disagree with Smith, but at the same time, I’m reluctant to pish-posh the terrorist threat as well. Not because I’ve drunk the “clash of civilizations” kool-aid, but because I just don’t know. Some of my existential doubt stems from watching the events of 9/11 from 1,000 miles away. I wasn’t in the states on 9/11 and I have no idea how it felt to be under attack. I do know that I was angry and upset, and was really hoping that some (small) person would pick a fight with me on the bus, so that I could whip someone’s behind as a substitute. Some part of me thinks that if I had been in the US, I would have taken things more seriously. At the same time, some part of me thinks that I’m better off for having avoided the emotional pressure cooker that was the US after 9/11.
I don’t know if there are hordes of “Islamo-fascists” out there with the desire, capability and means to do great damage to America. I know what happened on September 11th and in Bali, Madrid and London. I also know that thousands of Americans and other Westerners have been kidnapped, killed, and otherwise terrorized by Islamic, Arabist, anarchist, and communist terrorists and guerillas since the 1960s without the declaration of global war on terror. I don’t know (besides the scale and geographical location of the events of September 11th) what is so fundamentally different now.
My suspicion is that a large measure of my doubt comes from disbelieving the messengers of doom. Alberto Gonzales and Michael Chertoff and whatever other alarmist Bushite that steps in front of the microphone have long lost credibility with me. I know terrorist threats exist. I also know we’ve stopped a good number of them and that it is patently obvious that the Bush Administration has manipulated the timing and tenor of announcements for political gain. Part of my skepticism has to do with other factors influencing my distrust of the Bush Administration. But it can not all be laid at the feet of lefty paranoia. Remember, Bush had a 90% approval rating after 9/11 and hardly anyone (the Boondocks’ Aaron McGruder and Noam Chomsky are notable exceptions) questioned the rush to war. The politicizing of the war on terror and the headlong, headstrong, and foolish charge into war with Iraq evaporated much of that goodwill in a divisive oven of partisan hate. I remain grateful to the men and women of law enforcement that have kept us safe thus far, but still wonder what’s really going on.
And if I can bring my toothpaste on the airplane this Thanksgiving.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
But I do want to give much love and respect to the staff of Provident Hospital of Cook County. Because of the University of Chicago Hospital’s decision not to take our form of insurance, we stumbled upon Provident in the hopes of merely getting a pregnancy test to qualify for Illinois’ All-Kids Program of mother-child health insurance. Turns out that Provident is one of the few hospitals in Chicagoland to offer nurse-midwives in their maternity unit. That, plus the friendly staff’s assurance that we would not have to pay out of pocket to deliver our child made Provident the obvious choice.
Provident is a public, Cook County Bureau of Health Services system hospital. Sarah and Anastasia were quite possibly the only white patients. The physical plant of the hospital is not state of the art and the cafeteria is not gourmet. It is clearly an underfunded and overburdened health care institution. With all that being true, we could not have asked for a better experience. The midwives were extremely competent and caring. The nurses were excellent. The support staff, such as the security staff, dietary services staff and just about everyone we ran into throughout the corridors of the hospital combined competence and exemplary customer service skills. I left Provident feeling extremely blessed by a group of people dedicated to providing top-notch service in a challenging environment.
As we near the Cook County Board election and budget battles, I want as many people to know as possible that the money (not) lavished on Provident is money well spent.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Whatever may be the case in Cuba (Christopher Hitchens thinks it's a coup :read here http://www.slate.com/id/2147243/), Fidel's removal from power is the last act in the tragedy that is the Cuban Revolution. I want to write a longer post about the situation, but I also need a picture for my profile, so here it is.
Bask in the glory of what was and the potential and the myth and the glory days of what could have been.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
So what is the problem? Is it the confusion of two trains coming through? Is it improper signage? Is it the bland and confusingly general announcement (your attention please, and outbound train from the loop will be arriving in approximately one minute) delivered in a voice that if repeated enough would force Jack Bauer to crack? Is it inexperience? Maybe the CTA should paint the train’s entire outer body with their respective line’s colors as they did with the pink line.
On the other hand, maybe people are really just not that intelligent. The orange line trains have (granted, somewhat small) orange signs on them that say Midway (the name of the airport for the non-Chicagoans) with a little plane logo. The green line trains have green signs that say Ashland/63 in white lettering or white signs with green lettering that say East 63rd. No orange. Nothing about Midway. No planes.
Oh yeah, I can see why it’s so challenging.
What would Republicans do if one of their sitting Senators was a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, anti-Iraq war, pro-union backer of President Clinton?
An example is the primary election in Michigan, where pro-choice moderate Joe Schwartz was defeated by a pro-life candidate supported by millions of dollars of outside money.
Hmm. What's up Mr. Pot? I'm the kettle. Guess what, you're black too!
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
As my readers (I assume that Greg, Christine and Sarah are still the only three) know, I work at a rehabilitation hospital. My co-workers all use wheelchairs and we often ride the CTA together. We exclusively ride buses.
Title II of the ADA mandates that public services must be accessible to people with disabilities. The CTA's compliance with Title II is frankly pathetic. Let's go through a point by point examination of how the CTA claims it is working towards compliance in its March 2006 "CTA Accessible Buses and Trains."
1. "As of April 29, 2005 CTA reached 100% accessibility on all of its bus routes. All CTA buses are equipped with lifts or ramps."
I know that this is technically true. All CTA buses have some sort of mechanism for assisting those who use wheelchairs on to a bus. To say that there is 100% accessibility on CTA buses is laughable. 100% accessiblity means that 100% of people who are in wheelchairs can get on 100% of buses operating on regular routes. I have traveled with my wheelchair using co-workers 10 times. 3 times we waited at least 15 minutes for the driver to figure out the ramp. Twice the bus driver flatly refused to pick up my co-worker, claiming that the lift or ramp didn't work, even before trying. Twice the bus driver let the ramp off in such a way that my co-worker had to pop a 75% wheelie to avoid running into a mail box or fire hydrant. 3 times it went smoothly. Let's be generous and say that my experience is something more along the lines of 50% accessibility. The excuses of a bus driver not knowing how to work the lift or ramp or mechanical failure do not elicit much sympathy from me. Would a driver leave the bus depot without knowing how to operate the blinkers, AC or gear shift? Do they not check at the beginning of a bus's run to see if everything works?
2. "88% of train cars have accessible doors and there are at least 72 rail stations with elevators or ramps."
It is admittedly a complicated procedure to make the L accessible. But CTA congratulates itself on making 72 stations accessible, seemingly at random. New service schedules (such as the Pink Line) often make transferring and getting to work even more complicated for people who use wheel chairs because the Loop L is about accessible as the top of a Mayan pyramid. Accessibility on the L should be a priority, but it is not for the CTA.
Read this longer paragraph:
3. "There are times when a bus will be too crowded to board or where customers already in the priority seating decline to move. A bus operator can only request -not require- other paying customers to vacate the priority seating. Customers with disabilities face the same option as anyone else when a bus arrives without room to board- wait for the next one."
Condescending- yes. Filled with wriggle room for a non-compliant CTA bus driver to make excuses- you bet ya. Customers with disabilities do not actually "face the same option as anyone else" when a bus driver or passengers are uncooperative. We who do not have a disability can wedge ourselves into a spot standing and can balance ourselves. Title II and common decency suggest that a little more proactive approach would be in order.
The CTA needs to be 100% accessible for people with disabilities. It's not.
Monday, August 07, 2006
http://www.latimes.com/features/magazine/west/la-tm-gonewild32aug06,0,2664370.story?coll=la-home-headlines. Discretion is advised. It's deeply disturbing.
I know that many think that Girls Gone Wild (I confess to only ever seeing the commercials on late night TV for it) is relatively harmless and that the women and girls who get filmed are sort of "asking for it" or just joyfully expressing their sexuality, but when you read Hoffman's piece you are bound to have two reactions:
1. Mr. Girls Gone Wild is a sleaze ball
2. Claire Hoffman is an incredibly brave woman
3. Porn and adult entertainment is not harmless fun.
Joe Francis is a perfect example of how the porn industry objectifies women to the point that it sex becomes intertwined with violence and degradation. Mr. Francis is unable to deal with any woman who is outside of his notions of women as dumb exhibitionist sluts who just need a bit of encouragement (via liquor, promise of fame, and cheap gifts) to become pliant sex objects. I've become more and more dismayed at how mainstream porn is. The very title "adult entertainment" is a misnomer that attempts to mainstream the objectification of women as sex receptacles and sex as an arena for power, submission, and cheap thrills. Adults do not need to watch others have sex to be "entertained." Adult entertainment is a rock concert where the entire audience is singing along, feeding off the energy of a great band. Adult entertainment is a beach party where the beer is flowing freely, the waves are just high enough to have fun, the grill is giving off some fine scents and the volleyball games are hot as the sand beneath the party goers toes. Adult entertainment is sitting around a table with old friends, making wisecracks and inside jokes, with or without the props of card games, tobacco or alcohol. Adult entertainment is made and enjoyed by people who are secure in who they are and what station they are at in life and don't need the accoutrements of a fantasy world of some wacked out misogynist to have fun.
Please don't get me wrong. I have nothing against sex or sexuality. Sex is the greatest gift that the Creator gave to humanity. But porn is not fundamentally about sex, sexuality or the mysterious connection between two people that we all enjoy. It's sexual crack: a cheap thrill that is a mere shadow and shade of reality that inevitably leaves one worse off for the experience. It is about power and the reduction of women and men into mere animals engaged in a mere biological act of dominance and submission.
Peace to all
The executive director of NeighborSpace, the organization I’m working with this summer and during the year as an intern, had an interesting solution of sorts to the controversy. In Chicago we have what’s called Open Space Impact Fee Fund. Certain developers building in certain areas that will negatively impact open space or increase building density are required to pay into an open space fund. That fund can then be used for any open space related project. NeighborSpace often has applied for funds from this source for land acquisitions and other projects.
So why not have something similar for big box stores called the Big Box Impact Fee? Every new Wal-Mart or Target development would pay a certain amount of money into a new fund that was run independent of City Council influence, much like the Open Space Fund. It would be used in the community area (not the aldermanic ward) that the big box store was opening in to fund job training, business development, or commercial area revitalization programs.
It seems that Wal-Mart and Target would be most amenable to such an approach. What Wal-Mart and Target fear is not the increased costs of doing business that a wage ordinance brings but the precedent and the change in power dynamics it brings. Big box stores in the Wal-Mart mold survive and thrive because they have a large pool of desperate people who need any work they can get. Wal-Mart and Target hold the upper hand in the labor market. They are more than willing to bear increased non-wage costs (see the promise to run shuttle buses from Chicago to suburban Wal-Marts) to maintain the power status-quo. An impact fee, even if it were similar in costs to higher wages, would likely be readily accepted by the big boxers.
Short a regional or state level big box wage ordinance, creative proposals such as this might be the best way forward.
Friday, July 28, 2006
They hide among civilians.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
What was most unexpected for me (besides the lopside vote) was the large number of West Side and South Side aldermen who voted for the ordinance, as well as near unanimity among the aldermen of the Latino caucus. Of the aldermen representing the four wards that make up the most disadvantaged part of Chicago's West Side African-American community, two voted for the ordinance and two did not. It's hard to know how to parse that data, especially in contrast with the Latino caucus's votes on the measure. I would hypothesize that the strength of community organizations in different wards might make the difference: in Emma Mitts 37th ward on the West Side there are no really strong community organizations. In Walter Burnett's 27th ward, there are.
The local media (and our friend Mike Doyle at chicagocarless.com) consistently spun this as an issue that pitted poor South and West side blacks who just looking for jobs against somewhat misguided liberals. I'm not so sure. I'm not sure that Mitts' opposition was due to her concern for jobs in her ward or the $6,000 she's received in campaign contributions from Wal-Mart in the last year. I'm very suspicious of why my alderman (Arenda Troutman) was finally able to get the street lines painted on local streets in our neighborhood 2 hours after she voted against the ordinance. Very suspicious. Grateful, but suspicious.
Some lessons from this debate:
1. El Potentate, Wal-Mart and the so-called liberal media are not strong enough to defeat a movement that does its homework by working from the grassroots up to create momentum for change.
2. Not every black leader speaks for every black person. Ald. Burnett, Ald. Smith and others believed that they were representing their mainly black constituents well when they voted for the ordinance. Others believed differently. Some pastors were for it. Some were not. Here's a tip: BLACK PEOPLE DO NOT ALL THINK ALIKE.
3. Somehow we've got to get people to realize that the black parts of Chicago are not endless blocks of misery, poverty, crime, divestment and sadness waiting for just the smallest crumb of anything to make it through another day. There are middle class people, businesses both local and chain, people living the American dream and living in good homes, not in spite of their neighborhood, but because and with it.
Let me close with some bitter satire:
1865: In related news, a group of freed black pastors wrote a letter to the Republican leaders in Congress asking them not to vote for the 13th Amendment. Slavery provides a good job for so many of our people said one. You get 3 square meals a day, living quarters and some clothes. Our people need that. Only the cotton industry is willing to invest in black areas and take on black employees.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Jonathan Kincaid, whose blather I listen to in the showers on Sunday mornings before church usually is just annoying. This Sunday, though, the Philly native was bashing us Northeast sports fans. Sure, we're passionate, he said. But are we really intellligent? How many emotionally fragile yet supremely talented athletes do we run out of town to the detriment of our teams? He put up Ron Jaworski as an example and A-Rod to come.
A-Rod will never be David Ortiz and nor will he hit 1.000 with 250 home runs and 900 RBIs. It is not A-Rod's fault that the Yankees choked in 2004, everybody and everything got foosed. Rivera got rattled by Dave Roberts. It rained. Kevin Brown sucked at pitching. Curt Schilling faked an injury and somehow escaped karmatic retribution.
Do you really want the Yankees to trade A-Rod and be forced to rely on Melky Cabrera's bat?
Sunday, July 23, 2006
This is where the current crisis fits, I think. I in no way condone Hamas or Hezbollah. If anything, both play right into the hands of the Zionist narrative. But Israel bears at least some complicity for the situation. Democratic, thriving Arab states on Israel’s borders are not in there interests. It is in Israel’s interests to have failed states on its borders that it can demonize as terrorist regimes. I find it disingenuous to imagine that no one in the best intelligence service in the world (Mossad) could have Israel’s campaign against Fatah would cause the more extremist Hamas to win. (remember Fatah and Arafat had made moves to recognize Israel’s right to exist as early as the late 1960s). This current war has completely destroyed the possibility of creating a moderate, democratic Palestinian state, at least for the foreseeable future. Depopulating southern Lebanon and destroying the fragile infrastructure of a nation that had just begun to turn the corner after almost 20 years of civil war seems to be the wrong strategy to engender moderate, pro-Israel feeling in Lebanon.
The moment Hezbollah puts down its arms and fully joins the democratic process in Lebanon or the Palestinians work out their differences and create some sort of stable government in Gaza is the moment that Israel has to deal with both as equal partners. Dealing with the Palestinians as equal negotiating partners is an anathema to most Israelis in power. It goes against the fundamental founding myth of the state of Israel.
Let me draw a perhaps poor analogy. Numerous federal agents have been killed and kidnapped by Mexican drug gangs operating along the southern US-Mexico border. Many along that border feel threatened by worsening security. As a result, the US and Mexico have stepped up partnership on cross-border security issues (for the most part). The US does not invade northern Mexico or bomb Valladolid in the south to root out the criminals. That is how two sovereign states handle issues of common concern. Some may say that Israel is more threatened by Hezbollah or Hamas. As I recall, the massive cross border bombings by Hezbollah were in response to Israel’s bombings (not to excuse the kidnapping of the soldiers) and that Israel held multiple Palestinian citizens it accused of terrorism (both moderate and radical) before Hamas stupidly kidnapped their soldier.
Another analogy: Say someone takes over the first two floors of your home and the attic, relegating you to the unfinished basement. Some of your family members do not fit in the basement, so they must flee to neighboring homes. Those neighbors do not really want you around, so they force your family to squat on the parkway between the sidewalk and the street. To go upstairs to get food from the fridge or to leave the house to go to work, you must pass through checkpoints set up by the new occupants of your home. Sometimes they let you through, sometimes they refuse. After repeated attempts to do so, you realize that you cannot throw out the new residents, and, pressured by your neighbors who never like you anyway, you grudgingly admit that the new residents belong there and can not be moved. You attempt many strategies, violent and non-violent to gain more of the house or to loosen restrictions on your movement in and out of your basement. Finally, compromises are reached. You get overexcited and claim more than you should and immediately are denounced by your neighbors and the local housing authority for not taking the basement and one exit. The head of your family is demonized and trapped in the utility closet by the new residents. Finally, he dies and in the scramble to find a new leader, the new residents and the neighbors denounce your choice.
So that’s a brief sketch of how I approach Israel-Arab conflict in the Middle East. There a raft of “multiplexities” (to quote Grandpa from the Boondocks) and I’m sure the comments section (if anyone choses to read and comment) will be filled with invective and rebuttal.
If there ever was a time to pray for peace in the Middle East and cooler heads to prevail, it is now.
Now more than ever:Peace. To all. Right now, no matter what color, creed, or nationality
This whole blog thing consistently strikes me as a bit narcissistic and sometimes futile: i.e who is really reading this and why should they care about what I have to say. So when someone actually asks me to write about something, it makes me somewhat excited and somewhat fearful. Excited because it means someone actually cares about my opinion and fearful because of the specific question they’ve asked me to write about: the Middle East.
The current crisis in the Middle East is a subject I’ve tried to avoid because I’m no expert on Middle East affairs and because it brings a whole shopping cart full of emotions with it. I’ve posted some links to Juan Cole’s essays on Salon.com which I find especially illuminating. With that said, let me dive into my “meta-narrative” (to use the fashionably dense academic term) for the Israeli-Arab conflict. True to my contrarian self, it is not the mainstream media’s meta-narrative of a democratic Israel beset by crazy Muslims, a narrative I have slowly dropped. I recommend the work of Edward Said as a counterpoint to the pro-Israel American media and a more complete exposition of what I’m about to say.
Here’s how I see things in the Levant:
1. In 1948 the State of Israel was created in an area that had a large population of Arabs (who later became known as Palestinians) that had lived there for a fairly long period of time (at least 2 generations). Through a variety of extra-legal means, the original Zionist forces expelled the vast majority of this population. There is documented evidence from the files of the British that this was the case, and that the land that became Israel was not uninhabited or barren as the Zionist narrative would have us believe. These communities were well-established agriculture and trade communities.
2. The divisions between Arab and Jew in the Middle East are not necessarily the results of deep rooted historical enmity, but rather a direct result of the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948. (There’s an Arab word for it that I don’t recall, but in English it means the Catastrophe).
3. The Palestinians are the most forgotten and oppressed people this side of the Jews during the Holocaust. There is no major or minor power that looks out for their interests. They are homeless and ally-less.
4. Up until the 1967 war, the vast majority of Arab states and the Palestinians had the goal of eradicating the state of Israel. After that war and especially after the 1973 war, most Arab states and the PLO recognized the right of Israel to exist (at least implicitly) and began to make overtures to Israel to work out a solution to the crisis. (If you don’t believe me, check out this book: Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question. by Edward W. Said (Editor), Christopher Hitchens (Editor).
5. The policy of the Israelis has consistently been to view the Palestinians as Arabs who could live anywhere. From Begin to Meir, the Palestinians have been called Arabs who could as easily be citizens of Jordan as of Saudi Arabia.
6. For whatever reason, whether it is guilt over turning a blind eye to the Holocaust (a shameful episode in American foreign policy history), gratuitous wish-fulfillment on the part of the military industrial complex in the US that sees Israel as a model for a militarized quasi-democratic state (Noam Chomsky’s theory), the strength of the Israel lobby (John Mearshimer’s argument) or the cultural familiarity of Israeli Jews and the otherness of the Palestinians (Edward Said’s theory) Israel is essentially a client state of the United States. The United States has played the key role in the survival of Israel as a Jewish state. Only once in my memory has the US attempted to change Israel’s behavior: George H.W Bush threatened to withhold aid money if Israel did not attend the post Gulf War I peace conference in Madrid. Israel promptly sent a representative. Said claims that by the early 1980s, each Israel received something on the order of 6-7,000 dollars from American tax payers.
7. The 1982 war in Lebanon and the first intifada were both shocking and frightening for the Israelis. No longer could Israel depend on its overwhelming conventional military strength to maintain the status quo and expand its territory to the full Zionist mandate. Israel has since adopted a more flexible policy, similar to the South African apartheid regime. This policy includes:
- Maintaining Israel as a Jewish state by moving non Jews to the occupied territories or a rump Palestinian “state” that is neither economically, politically, or militarily viable (somewhat like the Bantustans in South Africa). This is not conspiracy theory; it comes straight from the mouth of the late Ariel Sharon.
- Maintaining friendly or at least neutered regimes on its borders that it can easily demonize as terrorist or non-democratic.
Friday, July 21, 2006
The idea that singling out big box retailers is somehow discriminatory or unique in the history of urban politics is inaccurate. Municipalities, states, and other levels of governments routinely provide special tax incentives for individual firms (Boeing in Chicago is one example) or for specific industries in order to attract or keep big ticket firms to a locality or to create what economists call agglomeration economies. The flip side, regulating specific firms or industry sub sectors at the local level is also not unprecedented. Blue laws and smoking bans with exceptions are two examples.
2. All levels of government have a compelling interest to regulate firms that are causing what economists call “negative externalities.” Negative externalities are social and economic costs not reflected in the price of the goods and services offered. Wal-Mart, as a recent article in Harpers brilliantly elucidates, is an example of a monopsony, a consumer version of a monopoly. Neoliberal economics has poisoned the conversation around what is a monopoly, leading us all to believe that if you can shop someplace else or buy someone else’s product it’s not a monopoly. Wal-Mart, by virtue of its extreme market power is able to dictate the behavior of suppliers, even large ones like Proctor and Gamble. The question then is how much negative externalities Wal-Mart injects into the market. The article in Harpers indicates there a quite a few. In other words, Wal-Mart especially, does not occupy a “niche” in the retail market. It is a monopsony that is skewing the natural functioning of many productive sectors of the consumer product market.
3. To push this off on the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department, the State of Illinois or the Republican Congress or some other non-municipal level is disingenuous. There is no momentum there for any anti-trust or pro-worker legislation. As Rage against the Machine says “it has to start somewhere, it has to start now. What better place than here, what better time than now?”
4. The question of employment versus living wage employment and your somewhat cynical playing of the race/South Side card are complex and most troubling for advocates of the measure. South Side neighborhoods are notoriously underserved by retail business, not necessarily because of economic reality. The buying power of South Side residents is comparable to other regions of the city, but is just ignored. It is great that Wal-Mart wishes to work outside of outmoded racist thinking, but there are a number of cautions. As Nickled and Dimed and the work of Susan Lambert and her associates at the School of Social Service Administration show, it’s not just the wages that are problematic at Target and Wal-Mart. The whole nature of low-wage labor is high turnover, poor working condition jobs that do not allow people to get ahead. It is well documented that it is in low wage labor employers’ interest to maintain a pool of workers who cycle in and out of their jobs and do not “move up the ladder.” Hence the appeal of Chinese manufacturers. I’m glad Devyn was able to move from minimum wage work to success. His story is an exception, I’m afraid. Current economic patterns have turned low wage workers like those quoted in your story into beggars who just want any job. The long boom in the American economy was facilitated by jobs that not only paid decent wages, but allowed for longer term employment, on the job training that led to possibilities of advancement and an unwritten contract between workers and management. Short term bottom line thinking and the ascendancy of the middle class consumer as the most important actor in the economy have destroyed this. Can’t we do better than a “let them eat the cake of crappy Wal-Mart jobs?”I think so.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
This stain is not just the emotional and physical effects on the individuals directly affected by the torture. The details of these cases were long taken as fact in the African-American community and have contributed to a deep mistrust of the police and public officials in the community. I can’t tell you how many times my African-American former gang member co-workers have told groups or individuals that the gang life is just an extension of the corrupt politics of the city of Chicago. The difference is that they have the veneer of legality and don’t get their hands dirty.
But it goes deeper than that. Underneath it all is a disturbing answer to the question, why haven’t African-Americans “made it” in American society and why is the ‘hood so bad? Neighborhoods like the Woodlawn, Washington Park and Englewood communities that surround my home were once middle class white neighborhoods. African-Americans “moved in” and the neighborhoods “went downhill.” There exist a multiplicity of historical reasons for why this happened, but the general answers in the body politic today are welfare dependency and “culture.” A variant of this question, why is the Latino community in Chicago so organized, mobilized, active and led by strong leaders while the African American community is not has preoccupied us in the McCormick Tribune Fellows Program.
Answers like culture, welfare dependency, or “sell-out leaders” are ultimately dissatisfying because they do not pass the “Archie Bunker test.” A plausible answer would look to African American communities in the early 1970s before the scourge of crack hit the streets. These communities (including those in CHA housing projects) were organized, mobilized, active and led by strong leaders. One by one those leaders (like Fred Hampton) were killed, marginalized, or co-opted by the machine. Efforts to organize and create change were resisted strongly by the powers that be in City Hall. White politicians did everything they could to steer city funds to their wards at the expense of black ones. And the police were brutalizing young black men. Top it off with Harold Washington’s untimely death in office and you have the recipe for disillusionment and nihilism.
You can’t analyze the current situation of the inner city or propose solutions without dealing with this reality. It’s not something people can just “get over.” Little about how Chicago or America has treated its ex-slaves engenders hope or trust.
Links to some of the coverage:
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
This is a photo of Israeli girls writing messages on shells destined for Southern Lebanon. I'm incredibly curious to know what they're writing. I also am hard pressed to imagine an image so devoid of blood, gore, death and destruction and yet so powerfully evocative of the evils of war and revenge and violence.
It’s been a long way down for Mr. Pinochet, aka Henry Kissinger’s favorite right wing dictator. I remember in classes as late as 1998, we were talking about how the “economic miracle” that happened in Chile under Pinochet was a counter example to the idea that democracy and economic progress go hand in hand, much like the Chinese economic explosion. In other words, despite human rights abuses, mass killings, and suppression of dissent, it seems that strong hands that those of Pinochet could make people’s quality of life better.
What the latest accusations against Pinochet and his cronies reveal is the moral bankruptcy of those arguments. The cost of dictatorship is lives lost and a lack of transparency that hampers economic development. Vibrant democracies have “efficiency” problems when it comes to achieving maximum economic growth when measured in terms of GDP per capita and trade balances. But what takes longer ultimately grows deeper and avoids (for the most part) the abuses of power that lead to Southeast Asian financial crises, indictments, and torture-based economic growth.
It seems to be an informed, reasonable treatment of the situation that respects the complexity of the situation and goes beyond the “Israel is defending itself from crazy Islamic terrorists” soundbite.
Monday, July 17, 2006
The heat index in Chicago today is predicted to be 105 degrees or so. That’s not a disaster for those who have air conditioning or live right by the water. But for those who live on the third (top) floor of a brick building with no A/C whose front windows face west to the afternoon sun, it’s a bit of a crisis. Last night I slept on my couch with my feet in buckets of cold water. Felt very Cannery Row or The Jungle-esque. I actually look forward to the doors of the Green Line train opening and letting out their blast of Freon-cooled air.
We spent the weekend in Peoria and the south suburbs. Let me say that green space makes a difference. Even the Midway was cooler as I was walking down it than the area around our apartment. I can understand now why earlier generations high tailed it out of their blazing, yet beautiful vintage apartments, row houses, and bungalows for air conditioned ranch homes in the burbs.
Not that I plan to do that, but since we can no longer sleep in the parks or at the lake front (like earlier generations of Chicagoans did) and since Al Gore says it’s only going to get hotter… it’s a tempting escape.
I’ll just have to sleep in the bathtub next time.
I’m also noticing, perhaps for the first time on my own, how Israel routinely destroys the Palestinians and other Arab states in the propaganda war. Consistently, pictures out of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip are off things blowing up: bridges, roads or airports. Pictures out of Israel, where the human and infrastructure toll is much lower, routinely are of people injured or emergency workers. This gives pro-Israel forces a people-less, faceless template on which to protect “terrorist” or militant onto, while at the same time lamenting the woes of the Israeli public. The contrast between Israeli soldier being kidnapped and Hamas “militants” being “arrested” by Israel (even though many were/are cabinet members, bureaucrats, or parliamentarians is another example of Israel’s ability to win the message war.
But thank God our President is on it.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Desde la citada estructura gubernamental se entretejió un plan tendente a
minimizar la etnia maya. Esa violencia se materializó en plurales asesinatos,
torturas, violaciones de mujeres etcétera, haciendo del terror un modus
vivendi”, imputa el juez.
My sister brought this article in the Prensa Libre of Guatemala to my attention. http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2006/julio/08/146335.html. A Spanish judge has ordered the “big dogs” of the Guatemalan genocide to undergo trial for ethnic cleaning again the Mayan majority of Guatemala and the attack on the Spanish Embassy in 1980 (I think that’s the year). While it’s unlikely that Efraín Ríos Montt, Óscar Humberto Mejía Víctores, Ángel Aníbal Guevara Rodríguez, Germán Chupina Barahona, Pedro García Arredondo, Benedicto Lucas García, Donaldo Álvarez or Fernando Lucas García will ever stand trial in Spain (as the article indicates), it’s still a symbolic blow to the military dicatorship’s mythology of protecting the nation from foreign terrorists. No, really, you were trying to destroy anyone and anything that didn’t fit your definition of a “good Indian” or traditional Guatemalan slave labor economy.
There is at least a little justice in this world
Monday, July 10, 2006
I could not have hit on a better time to check out what is known as concious hip hop. 1998 and 1999 were the zenith of concious hip hop. In those two years Black Star put out their album, Mos Def put out Black on Both Sides, the Roots dropped Things Fall Apart and Common put out Like Water For Chocolate. All amazing albums that had something to say. Can you imagine Young Dro or Cam'ron saying things like: "you stopping us is preposterous like an androgynous misogynist?" Or DMX coming up with Mathematics (or a different title for his albums for that matter)? The beats were banging, the flow tight, and the lyrics had meaning.
Block Party is a reunion of sorts of the 1998 generation, plus Mr. It, Kanye West, and a reminder of what hip hop could be if it wasn't so exploited by the big media companies. Fred Hampton Jr. takes the stage to plea for action on political prisoners. Dead Prez, clearly the most dangerous duo in the business rap about turning off the radio. Jill Scott and Erykah Badu bring down the house. There are more postive images of black women at the show than within 50 miles of a Nate Dogg or Eminem show. Chappelle's own comments throughout the show, combined with some searing commentary from ?uestlove and others is dead on and really dangerous, not "studio gangster" (to quote Huey Freeman of the Boondocks) dangerous.
I realize the fundamental inappropriateness of a white man to comment on how a predominantly African-American art form should be. But please, don't tell me that hip hop is not manipulated for its mainly white audience. Do we really need 7,000 crunkers degrading black women and reinforcing thug life stereotypes? Biggie was real. Tupac was real. They were legitimate expressions of what their lives were like, not prepackaged exploitation of a not-so-postive life. People like me and my co-workers have to deal with the consequences of media packaged stereotypes of black life everyday. Chappelle's Block Party is a reminder that it doesn't have to be that way, that hip hop can be a vehicle for making folks feel proud of being who they are and incite them to something else besides wear a platinum chain around their neck.
1. Check out Greg Muhttp://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=30107309&postID=115222576385474123tch's comments on my Mars Hill post. He adds some corrections and fills in some gaps.
2. Interesting article in the New York Times about Rob Bell (Wheaton Graduate, Mars Hill pastor) and his Everything is Spiritual Tour which touched down in Logan Square here in Chi-City. I was surprised by how much the article focused on political Christianity: gay marriage, abortion, etc. Some may see liberal, athestic bias. I hear Malcolm X saying: The chickens have come home to roost. If Christians want to be taken seriously as something other than anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage activists, then they should act that way. Mr. Bell is unfortunately swimming upstream
3. Sorry for the random Jose Reyes picture post. I'm still figuring things out. He's a good baseball player, though, right?
4. Went to Summerfest to see the GooGoo Dolls. Fantastic show, ridicously rainy. I had always heard that the boys from Buffalo had punk roots, but when I heard "Slide" I scoffed. But, no, seriously, they can really rock. Especially the scary bass player.
5. Viva Italia! How about that game? Is Cannavaro the Charles Oakely of international soccer or what? I've never imagined tough, physical defense and any Italian sport or branch of the armed forces being mentioned in the same breath. And how bizarre was it to see Jean-Luc Picard losing his cool?
6. Check out the fantastic post at Chichttp://chicagocarless.comago Carless. It's everything I've felt about NY and home, written plainly, excellently and to the point. I'm working on a continuation post of that.
7. And finally, tommorrow is the day when concious hip-hop may be relevant again. (and no, I don't count Kanye "Chicago's version of P-Diddy puff daddy" as concious. Chicago's own Rhymefest drops his debut album.
Peace to you all.
Friday, July 07, 2006
But I have just one (well multiple actually) beef with CTA buses. It's what I like to call the CTA layer cake. Say for example you're waiting for a bus at oh, Pulaski and Lake or Chicago and Keeler for a bus that's set to pass at 3:15. The CTA Layer cake is when instead of a bus passing at 3:15, 3:30 and 3:45, all three buses pass by at about 3:40.
I've often wondered what is the recipe for the layer cake. Is it drivers drag racing? Can't be traffic, because one bus is early and one is extremely late and the other just kinda late. Is it some sort of traffic management strategy?
All I know is that it's dandy. It becomes almost central american style bus riding as all three drivers are trying to pass one another, to pick up fares, to get back on schedule. All you need are some chickens and M-18 gang members robbing people to make it totally like riding the tomates in Guatemala.
So here's my plea to the CTA. We're an obese enough city. Cut out the cake.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
The church is a daughter church of another large, established church in Grand Rapids. It’s in a converted strip mall. The “sanctuary” is stripped of most Christian icons and the music was contemporary and rockin’. The church was originally founded for younger people (and older people who felt this way) to experience a totally different concept of church and worship. For seven years, it was mainly that: a stereotypical mega-church catering to the felt needs of the po-mo generation.
But this post is about optimism, right? Mars Hill is currently embarking on moving its 3,000 some attendees and members to project their faith in a holistic way out into the community of Grand Rapids. Two days before July 4th, the high holy day of civic religion and patriotism, the young, energetic preacher talked about the US-sponsored, directed, encouraged coup in Chile in 1973 that overthrew the democratically elected Salvador Allende and ushered in 20 years of brutal repression in the Southern Cone. Granted, he didn’t delve into specific details of US involvement (check out Christopher Hitchen’s The Trial of Henry Kissenger for some shocking revelations) but the point is is that this church chose, whether consciously or unconsciously (I’m guessing the first) to not wave the flags and sing God Bless America on July 2nd. Rather, they talked about the God of the oppressed. The preacher held up a sign that said “Donde” or where in Spanish, the sign that the mothers of the disappeared held up in Chile and Argentina during the 1980s and 1990s. He pointed the where at the church and at the people in attendance. “Where are the friends of God when injustice happens?”
Wow. I don’t know if I can fully express the revolutionary implications of what’s happening at Mars Hills. I confess that I’ve become highly burned out on evangelical culture: first from immature contrarianism in college and then, more deeply, from my experience in Guatemala. The sense of the evangelical church fiddling while the world burned was never so strong for me as it was in Guatemala. I kept coming back to passages in Isaiah where God expresses His hate for empty ritual devoid of concern for justice and the oppressed. I saw a movement co-opted by the messengers of hate and oppression and dominated by a cheap grace piety that had no relevance for the poor and downtrodden.
Even in the depths of my cynicism, there were inklings of hope that I should have, and sometimes did recognize. There exists and has existed (Mars Hill being the prime example) an undercurrent of dissatisfaction among younger evangelicals with the church. It was frustrating to see that dissatisfaction express itself mainly in worship styles and coffeeshops, which made me quite leery of the much touted “emerging church movement.” But huge numbers of my graduating class at Wheaton went on to charity, relief or missions work. That made me optimistic because as Howard Zinn so famously claimed, it’s hard to stay neutral on a moving train. Some decry the focus of evangelical groups on charity and their lack of sociological and political analysis. True. But I say, wait and watch and see.
True commitment to radical social change and the God of the oppressed comes through the fire of experience. I went to Guatemala a wishy washy liberal. I came back a committed pacifist and believer in the necessity of grassroots action for empowerment of the poor. While I do not claim that everyone involved in charity, relief, and poverty relief work will become an anarchist, people with good intentions, with open hearts and minds can not help but be changed when confronted with the reality of the world outside our enclaves of wealth and comfort.
So good lookin’ out to Mars Hill. We can only pray that the commitment to being a friend of the God of the oppressed will continue to grow in all of us who have chosen to be part of the task of building God’s Kingdom.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Clips from the documentary “A Year to Remember” about the 1986 Mets!!
It was stunning for me to realize that 1986, a.k.a. Jack Lesniewski’s sports awakening year, was 20 years ago. But then I watched the documentary, and I realized how dated everything seems. No one molded or adjusted their hats in those days, just kinda slapped them on, with the goofy hat nipple sticking up and everything. Weird facial hair. Strange Atari-style bands across the uniforms of teams like the Astros. Skin tight uniform pants revealing more than you wanted to know about Keith Hernandez and Mookie Wilson. Doc Gooden pitching 10 innings in Game One of the NLCS. Ron Darling and Bruce Hurst pitching 3 games during the World Series.
Watching gave me chills. 1984 was the year I began to be a sports fan. My father first took me to a game that year. It was a surprise. Dad packed me into the car with beach towels, a cooler full of beverages and healthy snacks and we took off west on the Southern State parkway. I was totally befuddled because everything pointed to a beach day, so why go west towards the city. I don’t remember exactly how excited I was when I found out we were going to Shea to see the Mets, but I think it ranked somewhere in the top 2 cool events of my life to that point.
There are vistas and sights in my life that are permanently burned under my eyelids, sights that I can call up in full HDTV clarity. Some of these eyelid photos relate to Hannah, Sarah, scenes from Guatemala or faces of long lost friends. One of those sights is coming out of the tunnel that first time at Shea Stadium. The Mets were playing the pre-John Rocker/Bobby Cox Braves in some dark blue monstrosity uniforms. I don’t remember who won that game or what when on, probably because I was too dazed and excited to take it all in (I could make up stuff, but that’d be too Million Little Pieces, I guess).
All of that nostalgic memorializing is to say that no matter what hat I wear these days, I was sports-weaned on the NY Metropolitans. Which is why 1986 was such a pivotal year. The 1986 Mets were an amazing bunch. You had some of the most exciting young players in the game in Strawberry and Gooden, a colorful manager, superstars like Keith Hernandez, gutsy guys like Backman and Mookie, a young pre-HGH Lenny Dykstra, and apparently as we’ve found later, a team whose locker room resembled Animal House. Good times all around. They were an intense bunch of guys who played hard, partied hard, and really only had one chance to win before they inevitably flamed out as a consequence of too much intensity for too long.
Watching the video reminded me again of how intense the 1986 playoffs were. In the NLCS, you had the villainry of Mike Scott’s unhittable split finger (the Mets had to win Game 6 or they’d face Scott again and probably lose), Nolan Ryan throwing heat and most memorable to me, Lenny Dykstra’s walk-off home run in Game 2. I was there. I can still hear the chants of “Lenny, Lenny” as we filed out with 40,000 jubilant fans. You had multiple extra inning games and none of the games w ere decided early. You have Mets rallies based on bloop hits and fly balls that get away from Astros outfielders. You had a game 6 that was played with a game 7 must win intensity.
It was fun, too to watch the celebrations between the NLCS and the World Series. This was pre-1990s Yankees bandwagon explosion, when New York’s loyalties were up for grabs. Can you imagine a celebrity of Glen Close’s stature pimping a Mets game now? Bill Murray was in the front row. Shea Stadium that much maligned oval by the bay was rocking.
The 1986 World Series has been written about ad nauseum, but I’ll just note here that it’s even more dramatic than I remembered. The Mets were done in Game 6, done like K-Fed’s rapping career or New Coke. Two outs nobody on. And then, little by little, the wheels start coming off. Buckner’s error was, despite what conventional wisdom says, was the nail in the coffin, not the start of the rally. The game was already tied by that point. Regardless, it’s every bit as dramatic 20 years later as it was then.
Twenty years later, are the Mets back? More on that and more 1986 memories later.