Thursday, January 29, 2009

Is Rush Limbaugh on Drugs Again, or Simply the World’s Biggest Ego Trip?


Is Rush Limbaugh on Drugs Again, or Simply the World's Biggest Ego Trip?

Ultra Conservative Political shock jock, Rush Limbaugh, seems to have finally slipped off the reservation. It is hard to know whether he's back on drugs, or if the recent election returns have caused him to lose his mind all together.

In his latest bloviation he's challenging President Obama to enter into negotiations with him on an "Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan," which would divide up a trillion dollars earmarked for stimulating the economy, according to the election returns. Limbaugh reasons that since the President has pledged to take a bipartisan approach to governing, in Limbaugh's view, that entails the president controlling only the percentage of the bailout funds that reflects his margin of victory in the election. In other words, since President Obama won the election by 53% of the vote, he should only control 53% of the bailout funds. The remainder of the funds, that percentage that reflects Sen. McCain's percentage of the vote, should be controlled by none other than Rush himself, to be applied to the economy as way he sees fit.

Limbaugh said the following:

"As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions, under the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009, $540 billion of the one trillion will be spent on infrastructure as defined by President Obama and the Democrats. The remaining $460 billion, or 46% that voted for Senator McCain, will be directed towards tax cuts, as determined by me."

Then he goes on to say,

"Congress wants to spend -- think of this now -- $1 trillion that they don't have until you and I go to work and pay taxes. They want to spend this on a stimulus plan. They want to take it out of our pockets and redistribute this money in their way to their constituents and to their make-work projects like schools, roads, bridges, blah, blah, blah."

Is the man insane? First of all, since when has it been required for the winner of a presidential election to have to share executive power with the losing party? And even if he did, who elected Rush Limbaugh to assume control of the Republican Party? The man is absolutely delusional. The Republicans have allowed him to develop a Messiah fixation over his own importance.

But with regard to Limbaugh's cavalier dismissal of the president's initiative to address America's failing infrastructure as a stimulus to the economy, maybe I'm wrong, but isn't congress's constituents, the people? And doesn't spending this "make-work" money on "schools, roads, bridges, blah, blah, blah," going to benefit you, your children, your communities, and the lives of your family?

So what does Rush want to spend the money on? One guess. That's right–"just the announcement that $460 billion will go toward paying for tax cuts, capital gains, and corporate tax rates -- we could throw in some personal income tax rate reduction in order to make sure that the voters don't think it's all about helping the big guys. But we need jobs, do we not?" Isn't this kind of thinking exactly what caused the problem in the first place?"

But even if we choose to ignore Limbaugh's maniacal greed, selfishness, and unmitigated arrogance, it is abundantly clear that he is either blind or completely oblivious to reality. He's advocating the recycling of Reagan's discredited supply-side economics, which virtually guaranteed Bill Clinton historical fame for simply having just dug us out of the hold that it left.

Limbaugh is claiming that if we give Gucci a big enough tax break, he'll hire people to make Gucci bags to sell in a homeless shelter–which, thanks to Rush and his cohorts, is exactly what America is becoming. But the fact is, the only way you're going to get Gucci to create jobs to make more handbags, is by providing more funds to the people in the homeless shelter to buy his bags. Otherwise, Gucci is simply going to take his tax cut and buy a Ferrari with it.

We've been through this before many times before with the Republicans. Supply- Side Economics was a scheme hatched by U.S.C. Economist Arthur Laffer and the Reagan crowd which was supposed to cut the deficit and balance the budget. The theory behind this scheme, came to be known as "Reaganomics." The theory was, if you cut taxes for business and people in the upper tax brackets, and then deregulated business of such nuisances as safety regulations and environmental safeguards, the beneficiaries would invest their savings into creating new jobs. In that way the money would eventually "trickle down" to the rest of us, and the resulting broadened tax base would not only help to bring down the deficit, but also subsidize the tremendously high defense budget. When the plan was first floated, even George Bush Sr, Reagan's vice president to be, called it "voodoo economics."

Reaganomics, for the most part, sought to undo many of the safeguards put into place during the Roosevelt era and created a business environment similar to that which was in place during the Coolidge Administration. What actually took place, however, was even more like the Coolidge era than planed. Instead of taking the money and investing it into creating new jobs, the money was used in wild schemes and stock market speculation. One of these schemes, the leveraged buy- out, involved buying up large companies with borrowed funds secured by the company's assets, then paying off the loan by selling off the assets of the purchased company. This practice cost the citizens of this country an untold number of jobs. In addition, the bottom fell out of the stock market. On Monday, October 19, 1987 the Dow-Jones Average fell 508.32 points. It was the greatest one-day decline since 1914 - fifteen years before the Great Depression.

We must also not forget that during the Reagan era the good Senator John McCain played a leading role in undermining the public trust, and our economy, as part of the infamous Keating Five. He was a leading player in the Lincoln Savings and loan scandal in 1987–a scandal that bears an uncanny resemblance to the one that's currently being played out on Wall Street today. He was one of a group of senators dubbed "The Keating Five" involved in a scandal by the same name.

In 1976 Charles Keating moved to Arizona to run the American Continental Corporation. In 1984, shortly after the Reagan era push to deregulate the savings and loan community, Keating bought Lincoln Savings and Loan and began to engage in highly risky investments with the depositors' savings. In 1989 the parent company, which Keating headed, went bankrupt, and it resulted in over 21,000 investors losing their life savings. Most of the investors were elderly, and the loss amounted to about 285 million dollars.

After having received over a million dollars from Keating in illegal campaign contributions, gifts, free trips, and other gratuities, the Keating Five--Senators John Glenn, Don Riegle, Dennis DeConini, Alan Cranston, and Sen. John McCain--attempted to intervene in the investigation into Keating's activities by the regulators. Later, they were admonished to varying degrees by the senate for attempting to influence regulators on Keating's behalf. Charles Keating ended up being convicted for fraud, racketeering and conspiracy, for which he received 10 years by the state court, and a 12 year sentence in federal court. After spending four and a half years in prison, his convictions were overturned. But prior to being retried, he pled guilty to a number of felonies in return for a sentence of time served.

Then in 1988 another prominent Republican name pops up in the Silverado Savings and Loan collapsed, costing the taxpayers another $1.3 billion. It was headed by Neil Bush, brother of George W. The investigation alleged that he was guilty of "breaches of his fiduciary duties involving multiple conflicts of interest." The issue was eventually settled out of court with Bush paying a mere $50,000 settlement. So while the Republican Party continue to tell the American people that they are best equipped to handle our economy, the same Republican names keep popping up repeatedly in connection with economic incompetence, scandal, and disaster–and each time, it takes the Democrats to come to the aid of the American people.

And what about Ronald Reagan's promise to balance the budget and lower the deficit? By the time he left office he was not only the most prolific spender of any president in the history of the nation, but he also added more to the deficit than all of the other presidents from George Washington to his own administration combined. And what did the Republican Party propose to do about that? One of the Republican proposals in their "contract with America" was again, a capitol gains tax cut--for the rich.

So in light of all of these easily verifiable facts, I'd like to close this piece with a personal message to Limbaugh:

Rush, the president has much too much class to say this, but fortunately, I don't. You're nothing but a drug ingesting windbag. You're neither intellectually qualified, nor do you have the authority to negotiate with the president. So leave the thinking to the people with the intellectual resources to handle it, and go drop a few tablets and fantasize about being an astronaut instead.

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Argument Against a Post-Racial Society


The Argument Against a Post-Racial Society

I recently read a letter to an editor suggesting that race should stop being used as a descriptive element in news stories. While I fully understand the writer's sentiment, isn't the fact that President Obama the first Black leader of the free world news? And beyond that, I don't think our goal in this country should be to do away with difference, but rather, to embrace and promote it.

The primary characteristic that makes the United States different from virtually every other country in the world is that we are a quilt as oppose to a blanket, and that very patchwork of varying cultures is what makes us more, rather than less. That isn't to say that we're the only country that's made up of different cultures, but rather, we are the only country that is defined by difference. Thus, one of the greatest gifts that America can contribute to the world is the understanding that "difference" is a good thing rather than the reverse.

It is a given that all cultural groups have identical intellectual potential, but to confuse that with thinking that different cultures don't have differing culturally developed skills to bring to the table is a fallacy. To say that Blacks tend to have "soul" is a fact. But that isn't the same thing as saying that soul is innate to Black people and not others. The reason that Black people tend to have soul, and a highly developed sense of creativity, is because that's an area that has been culturally rewarded in the Black community due to the limitations that's been placed on Black people in other endeavors.

But as Barack Obama is clearly demonstrating, creativity is an associative quality, and it's not limited only to a twelve bar blues. The very same creative that goes into the making of a Ray Charles, Areatha Franklin, or John Coltrane, can easily be transferred to finding a cure for cancer, or indeed, leading the free world--and the very same unique cultural assets are true of every culture.

But this nation, and this world, is being divided by a minority of people who, due to their own personal insecurities, feel the need to validate themselves–not based on their level of individual development, but by virtue of the fact that they are part of a group that has distinguished itself.
In short, these people take the position that, I may seem to be eminently mediocre, but proof of my personal value is that I'm wearing the same color shirt as Thomas Jefferson, or Malcolm X, or Moses. The stupidity of such an argument should be as transparent as the claim that a golden cocker is superior to a black cocker spaniel, but the human need to validate one's self has had an overwhelmingly negative impact on our common sense.

But it's only when we consider the true insignificance of the differences in man that the true silliness of this mindset comes into focus. Consider the fact that, in just the vastness of our solar system alone, the entire planet Earth constitutes nothing more than a dust particle from a grain of sand, and with respect to our galaxy, our solar system is but another particle of dust. Then when you go on to consider the fact that in just our galaxy alone there are a million billion times the number of such solar systems than there are grains of sand on every beach on the planet Earth, it is only then that the relative insignificance of the differences in man really begin to take focus.

But it goes even farther than that. If you lined up all of the "grains of sand" in our galaxy side by side so that they're almost touching, it would take us four years and four months, traveling at 136,000 miles per sec, just to get to the next closest grain of sand–and even with those vast distances within our own galaxy, our galaxy is but yet another particle of dust from a grain of sand in our universe (which scientists suspect is only one of many, many other universes).
Thus man's need to hate and kill one another based on who's superior and who God likes most, suggests much more about his unmitigated arrogance and limited intellect than his superiority. If it weren't for man's arrogance, he would clearly recognize that it is mathematically impossible that we're the only beings in this universe. The universe, in fact, our galaxy, has to be literally, teaming over with intelligent life.

The only things that keeps us separate from other beings who are REALLY different, is that the vast distances in time and space serve as a barrier. But our oceans here on Earth also once served as a barrier, but eventually those barriers were conquered, just as the barriers of time and space will eventually be conquered.

So man needs to wake up, grow up, and stop wasting his time arguing over whose navel is the prettiest. We need to start using our limited intellect in contemplation of the big picture, because eventually someone's going to show up at our front door and show us what being different really means–and we can only hope that they're not the cosmic equivalent of Terminix.

But in the meantime, we could make life here on Earth a lot more pleasant by simply recognizing that just as President Obama is demonstrating that the Black experience has contributed to unique qualities in Black people that can benefit the world, the very same thing is true of Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Native Americans, and every other cultural group.

So why would we want to downplay the beauty and unique qualities of cultural differences? God painted the beauty of difference into his creation, so the contrast of difference is clearly his will. He painted males different from females, the planet Mars much differently than the planet Earth, and he painted the bright and expansive sky with a much different hue from the mysterious fathoms of the sea. So man’s attempt to second-guess God, and interpret his masterpiece in a way that meets man’s liking over God’s, not only represents the height of human arrogance, but the very depths of human ignorance, and stupidity.

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Revs. Lowery, Wright, and the Black Church


Revs. Lowery, Wright, and the Black Church

It was about 3:00 in the morning, and I was somewhere between browsing the Internet and dozing into never-never land when I read the following post from one of my more conservative White friends regarding his interpretation of Rev. Joseph Lowery's benediction at President Obama's inaugural:

"Please dear Lord, make those white pricks embrace what is right.

Suddenly I was wide awake and laughing until tears came to my eyes. I was laughing harder than I'd laughed in years, because I knew exactly what, "Sawdust", the poster, was referring to. But I don't know whether it struck me so funny more because of Sawdust's good humored, but bottom-line take on Rev. Lowery's benediction, or more because of the seeming inability of a stately old war-horse to mask his past experience with White people even through, what I'm sure, was his deep appreciation for what they had helped to bring about.

But as funny as the situation seemed to me at the time, it also points back to an issue that needs to be clarified from the campaign. You see, while Rev. Lowery was actually being conciliatory, his words clearly demonstrated that Jeremiah Wright didn't exist in a vacuum. The fact is, with all the battles that Rev. Lowery has fought in his close to ninety years of life, if that old man really wanted to get loose up there during the inaugural, he undoubtedly could have made Jeremiah Wright sound like a Christian conservative. What much of America fails to understand is that in Lowery's day, Black people didn't just go to church to hear the word of god, they also went there to vent, so through tradition, the hot and passionate sermons of a Jeremiah Wright are routine in the Black community.

The bitterness attendant to racism didn't just go in one direction. In Rev. Lowery's America, Blacks would go all week having to smile in the face of White people while being treated like dogs--in fact, dogs were treated better. So what kind of preacher do you think was most popular and brought in the most money to the collection plate on Sunday? That's right–the one's who were most effective at draggin' the behavior of White folks through the mud–and back then, they had some real superstars in that art, and Rev. Joseph Lowery was one of the best.

Rev. Lowery was born Joseph Echols Lowery on Oct. 6, 1921. He’s a Methodist minister and was the pastor of the Warren Street United Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama from 1952 through 1961. When Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955, Lowery helped to lead the Montgomery bus boycott, and headed the Alabama Civil Affairs Association, which was dedicated to the desegregation of buses and public places. He, along with Martin Luther King, Jr., Founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and he served as its president between 1977 and 1997. Also, at the behest of Martin Luther King, Lowery headed the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965, and was among the first five African Americans to be arrested at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C. during the Free South Africa Movement.

Now don’t get me wrong, Black preachers like Rev. Lowery didn’t just rant, rave and protest, they were quite dedicated to preaching the word of God, and they were also quite emphatic in discussing the virtue of loving thy neighbor. But in addition to that, they were both profoundly and prolifically eloquent when it came to graphically describing the "evils" of racist White behavior–they had to be, in order to be effective in organizing against it.

In that regard, Americans should ask themselves, where do they think Jesse and Al Sharpton learned their craft? When it came to preaching the evils of racist behavior, some of those old Black preachers could put Jesse, Al Sharpton, and Jeremiah Wright to shame, and all on the same Sunday morning and without bustin' one sweat bubble–and that old man that you saw up there giving that inaugural benediction was one of the best of them. In fact, he was so good at fighting and preaching the evils of racism that in Georgia, they have streets named after him.

But political campaigns are all about political positioning and sound bites, so Obama couldn't take the time to try to explain to the nature of the Black church to America. If he could have, he would have explained that Jeremiah Wright was just one of a community full of preachers that not only preached the word of God, but also the realities of being Black in America .

So when conservatives asked how Obama could sit up and listen to Rev. Wright spew hatred against America for twenty years, there was two answers to that question. The first is, Rev. Wright wasn't spewing hatred against America--he loves America--he was spewing reality. After all, Rev. Wright served this nation in both the United States Marine Corps, and the Navy, while Bush and Cheney did everything in their power to avoid any military service at all, and Cheney succeeded. And the second is, the only way that Obama could have avoided the realities of Rev. Wright's message in the Black community was to stop going to church altogether.

The fact is, preachers like Jeremiah Wright, and that stately old man that you saw up there at the inaugural, actually performed a public service by helping their congregations to vent their frustrations. If it weren't for preachers like them, there would have been a lot more violence coming out of the Black community, so the nation actually owe them a debt of gratitude. Yes, they deal in hyperbole, but if you closely examine that hyperbole, you'll find that it also contains, often painful, but unmitigated truth.

That said, I must also admit that Jeremiah Wright did crossed the line–but not in the way that many White folks think. Initially he was a political victim, because it wasn't his fault that political operatives dug up thirty seconds of hyperbole out of a lifetime of dedicated service. When Rev. Wright crossed the line was when he allowed his vanity to jeopardized the hopes and dreams of millions of Americans across this country, both Black and White, in order to pursue his ten minutes of fame.

But Rev. Lowery wasn't going to make that mistake. While he comes from a tradition of speaking his mind, he had worked too long and too hard for that moment, and probably recognized better than any of the millions of people watching and in attendance, the awesome significance and gravity of the moment.

But on the other hand, knowing that old Black preacher's background, in spite of how appreciative I know he was to all of the White people across this land who contributed to making his life's dream a reality, I was virtually certain that he had a second sermon in his pocket and at the ready, just in case Rick Warrne decided to act a fool.

That's what was funny.
Eric L. Wattree
A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Slave's Prayer



I was stole from Eden, an innocent soul,
crossed seas and centuries, chained and cold;
My mother was raped and beaten to death,
my daddy was sold, and my sister is kept.
How they praise God and brag dat they free,
and sing songs about freedom, 'din look upon me?

I was chained to 'dis land, 'dis "Land of the free,"
by people with a God, who sho must can't see.
But a change is a comin', Tho I won't no mo be,
but when it get here, Dear Lord,
please let my soul see.

I Now stand firm. My dedication to the power of knowledge is the platform upon which my podium rests. I stand firm, strong, and now free--free of anger, free of self-delusion, free of the folly of empty vanity, and free of the pernicious bane of meaningless pride without substance.
I now stand free to look upon the eyes of other men, reflecting dignity over sorrow, and accomplishment over pain; I stand with a burning passion, fueled by the very flame that forged ancestral shackles, with a deep sense of pride, and a pride that flows deep.
I now stand erect! The steel that once degraded my father, that chained him in bondage to this bitter Earth, now reinforce my character, making me more, rather than less; and the blood and sweat that once drenched his brow, and oozed from the yoke around his neck, now rage with resolve and a sense of purpose, and tremble with passion, within my burning breast.
I now stand as a new being–-neither simply African, nor simply American, but a hybrid forced to transcend the sum of my parts; no longer simply African, since being torn away from the African motherland to suffer and toil in the fields of America, and more than simply American, after being forced to be more than simply American, Just to survive within the bowels of this prosperous land.
Thus, I stand now armed—-armed with the wisdom of deprivation, the courage of my conviction, and a deep conviction of my courage; and fortified–with the confidence of a survivor, the empowerment of knowledge, and a ravishing hunger for greatness.
I now stand the product of love, struggle, and sacrifice; a witness to man's inhumanity to man, and a monument to the hopes and dreams of a million slaves. I stand embraced by my creator, as God now smiles upon my people.
Yes, I Now Stand Firm--Firm, Black, and Free.


"Thank you, Lord. I knew a change was a comin'. That boy talk wit enough schoolin' to live in town someday if they ever let 'em.
What?!!! . . . President!!! . . . of dese United States?!!! . . . Georgia too?!!! . . .
Oh, my God! How long I been dead?"
Barack Obama: A Unique Historic Figure
Politicians will be politicians, and we should hold EVERY politician’s feet to the fire. But when you consider that Black people have been trudging all through history for generations in an attempt to find people to show that we too have a significant history that’s competitive with other cultures, President Barack Obama is uniquely significant.
While we’re looking back 5000 years to find great Black kings, queens, and conquers, we have one of the greatest men in history – and not just Black history, but in ALL of history – walking right here among us. In yet another 5000 years people will be talking about Barack Hussein Obama, because he’s accomplished something that NO other man in history has accomplished. He’s a man whose father came to these shores from a little village in Africa, seeded him, and then he went on rise from the dust to become the equivalent of the emperor of Rome. You don’t get no greater than that.
When Barack Obama is seen in that light it becomes clear why an attack on Obama is not just an attack on a politician, it’s an attack on the potential greatness of Black people as a whole. Obama haters recognize that fact, that’s why they’re leaving no stone unturned, and sparing no expense in a desperate attempt to drag this Black man down. They understand that since we are what we think, Obama represents the destabilization of the lie that’s been holding Black down for centuries - that we’re incapable of greatness. 
The exact same kind of attacks were lodged against Dr. Martin Luther King, by the very same kind of people, and for the very same reason. Simply because he had an innovative way of seeking justice for our people without getting thousands of us slaughtered in the streets, they used to call him "Martin Luther Coon." But in the end, it turned out that what made him great was his ability to out-think his opponents, which is true of nearly every man with a monument attributing to his greatness in Washington, D.C. So what are we hearing now? "Obama ain’t no Martin Luther King." But believe me, the cards are stacked against the haters, because regardless of what the haters say, President Barack Obama has already proven himself to be a great man. In fact, that's what they hate about him most.
When we begin to recognize the pride that young Black people will take in pointing to Barack Obama as a prime example of greatness for EONS to come, only then does the absolute treachery of today’s Black, Obama haters begin to sink in. Just think how they’re going to look to the young people of tomorrow - and unlike the haters of the past, they’re not going to have the benefit of having their identities drift into the shadows of history. Due to the flawless memory of the internet, their names, pictures, and videos will be available to posterity in all their flaming treachery with the touch of a button.
Just imagine what the families of these people are going to have to go through. "Hey Corny, I was checking out your old wooly-headed great granddad on the net last night. What an idiot! How does it feel to be the great grandson of one of the biggest turncoats in history?" So the families of the haters are certain to take great pride in them - probably to the point of having their names changed.
In order to understand their attitude - and many of our attitudes today - you have to consider the gravity of Obama’s story. In spite of the fact that the Statue of Liberty was designed to represent a freed slave, as attested to by the broken shackle that was attached to her left leg, some of the very same people whose ancestors this great lady’s flame shined upon as she welcomed them to this great land practiced hatred, racism, and allowed discrimination to run rampant within her very shadow. But in the midst of all that hatred and turmoil, the lady welcomed yet another young man to our shores, a solitary and unassuming young man from Kenya. He sailed quietly into America beneath her burning flame and presented papers bearing the name Barack Hussein Obama. As the immigration official looked at his jet black personage, he undoubtedly laughed as he examined the papers and said, "Who!!!?" But little did he know that in another generation the entire world would be able to answer his question. "You mean, Mr. President."
So unless President Obama goes completely off the rails, any Black person who doesn’t support this man is a fool. That isn’t to say that you can’t disagree with him like you would any other president(, but your disagreement should be with great respect, because to disrespect President Obama is to disrespect the Black culture as a whole – and any scholar who doesn’t recognize that fact needs to turn in his diploma, because he hasn’t learned a thing.
Eric L. Wattree
Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Bush Cannot Be Allowed to Get Away With What He’s Done to America


Bush Cannot Be Allowed to Get Away With What He's Done to America

I'm in total agreement with Obama's sentiment that it's time for America to heal itself and move forward, but I certainly hope he's not so fixated on that sentiment that he allows the Bush/Cheney gang to get away with the damage that they've done to America.

Of course, there are those who are going to insist that we have so many challenges before us that we can't be distracted by engaging in vengeance, but this is not a matter of vengeance, it's a simple matter of governmental housekeeping.

Just as it is necessary to refurbish and restore our national monuments from time to time, it is even more important that our American ideals be maintained in pristine condition. Thus, by allowing the Bush/Cheney administration to get away with what they've done to those ideals, and the damage they've done to America's image around the world, allowing them to walk away with impunity would be the moral equivalent of allowing them to leave graffiti behind on the Statue of Liberty.

It is extremely important to the future of America that we establish once and for all, and without equivocation, that no one is above the law. Without establishing that fact as one of the unequivocal and definitive pillars of the American ideal, every other syllable and comma in our founding documents become meaningless.

The primary reason that we find ourselves in the condition that we're in today, is that we stood by without comment as President Ford short-circuited the law with his pardon of Richard Nixon. That made it just that much easier for Ronald Reagan to thumb his nose at our laws during the Iran/Contra episode, and the allegation that he flooded our inner-cities with drugs in pursuit of his shortsighted and illegal crusade.

Assuming the latter allegation is true, and a congressional investigation into the matter strongly suggests that it is, Ronald Reagan's lawlessness was responsible for wiping out close to an entire generation of inner-city youth, resulting in many of their children in the current generation leading lives of crime, as oppose to being productive members of our society. While Reagan assuaged his conscience in this matter by saying inner-city youth had the option to "just say no," some of the very arms that he traded to Iran during that same episode could very well be the ones killing American troops today–and they couldn't just say no.

Had America maintained its expressed ideal that no one was above the law, Reagan would have been impeached and jailed over that episode, but instead, his legacy has been spun to the point that I recently heard one pundit describe him as "one of America's greatest presidents."

It's time we set the record straight. America is paying a severe price for the luxury of indulging in that kind of hypocrisy, because our rationalization that it's less divisive to move on since the offending rodent can do us no more harm, neglects the fact that there are baby rodents cocooned within the government infrastructure, watching, and being instructed on the impunity of power, and the ease in which the American people can be manipulated.

Both Cheney and Rumsfeld were key players during the Ford administration, and while technically outside the Reagan administration, were key players in what was, literally, a shadow government per Reagan executive order. In a March 2004 Atlantic article entitled "The Armageddon Plan," James Mann wrote the following:

"Rumsfeld and Cheney were principal actors in one of the most highly classified programs of the Reagan Administration. Under it U.S. Officials furtively carried out detailed planning exercises for keeping the federal government running during and after a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The program called for setting aside the legal rules for presidential succession in some circumstances, in favor of a secret procedure for putting in place a new "President" and his staff"–with, yes, Ollie North as "action officer". "The idea was to concentrate on speed, to preserve "continuity of government," and to avoid cumbersome procedures; the speaker of the House, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and the rest of Congress would play a greatly diminished role."

Thus, in their arrogance, these are men who always felt they had a better idea for running America than our founding fathers, and therefore, have no qualms about circumventing the law of the land when THEY feel that it's necessary. So it is incumbent upon us to demonstrate to such men that America is a land where the LAW is supreme, not their own personal vision of what's in America's best interest–and as a part of this effort, we should initiate a constitutional amendment that allows congress to overturn any presidential pardon with a two-thirds majority vote in congress.

George Bush's commutation and literally certain pardon of Lewis "Scooter" Libby is nothing less than a blatant obstruction of justice. If it hadn't been for the fact that Libby was certain he was going to go scot-free, chances are he would have provided evidence to show that Dick Cheney was guilty of treason for the outing of Valerie Plame. That one petty, vindictive, and irresponsible act was not only, and undoubtedly, responsible for the death of individuals operating in defense of America, but may very well result in the sacrifice of additional American lives in the future, due to the needless loss of badly needed intelligence.

Thus, while simply "moving on" may in the short run be the easiest thing to do, recent history has shown that it will undoubtedly come back to bite us in the future. Because the fact is, you can't move away from precedent. If we hadn't moved on after Watergate during the aftermath of the Nixon administration, chances are, we wouldn't have had the excesses of Iran/Contra during the Reagan administration. And if we had prosecuted Reagan to the letter of the law for Iran/Contra, we may have saved close to four thousand American lives, and several hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives in Iraq.

Therefore, this may very well be America's last opportunity to reinstate the rule of law, because if history is indeed instructive, the Bush administration has clearly demonstrated, that IT CAN HAPPEN HERE.

   Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Discussion on Zionism


A Discussion on Zionism

After submitting an article on the Daily Kos entitled, "Do You Really Want Peace in the Middle East", I became engaged in a discussion with a gentleman who identified himself as "Fischfry". He took the position indicated in quotes. You'll find our initial discussion in the first four paragraphs. The final two paragraphs sums up my position.

"You're stuck in ideology. It may not be the ideology espoused by Israelis or Palestinians, but it is an ideological position. Nothing moderate about it. You've changed one ideology -- that the events of 1948 justify continued Palestinian outrage -- to another ideology that denies anyone's right to a nation there. Interestingly, both ideologies deny the validity of Israelis' claim to even as much the pre-'67 borders. Way to be consistent."

So I take from your position that anyone who doesn't support Israel's position is engaging in ideology over thought. That's a very open-minded position indeed. With that kind of thinking, there's no wonder there's a blood bath taking place in the region.

"I didn't say ideology precludes thought. And, there are multiple positions that could be characterized as Israel's position. However, I would say that anyone rejecting the starting point -- that Israelis have some right to a Jewish state in their ancestral homeland -- is taking an ideological stance against Zionism."

I don't see that as an ideology--I'm also against the United States as a WHITE homeland. Is that an ideological stance? And by the way, I am against Zionism--Zionism and racism are synonymous terms, at least, with respect to the state of Israel. There's only one difference--racism promotes racial supremacy, and Zionism promotes religious supremacy.

Thus, I don't consider my stance against either of these "isms" as an ideological one at all--I consider my stance a moral one. Zionism can only be justified if one accepts the legitimacy of either one of two arguments. The first argument is, the world should return to the geographical boundaries as established in the Bible; or secondly, that the Palestinian people should have to pay for the German persecution of the Jews.

While I have much respect for the Jewish people and what they've contributed to the world, I find neither of those arguments either reasonable, rational, or justification for one additional drop of human blood--on either side.

Eric L. Wattree

P.S. By the way, all Hell is breaking loose over there over the issue. No wonder so many people are dying in the Middle East. People just can't seem to discuss the subject rationally.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Epiphany


An Epiphany

I recently engaged in a correspondence with Rabbi Nachum Shifren regarding the situation in the Middle East. As a direct result of his timely, very diplomatic, and enlightened response to my inquiry, I began to Rethink my previous position on the both Gaza, and the overall conflict in the Middle East. In fact, my thinking on the matter has become so radically different, and has come about so fast, that I can only characterize it as an epiphany of sorts.

During our correspondence I related to the Rabbi that his response to my inquiry regarding the situation in Gaza has gone a long way towards causing me to re-think my previous position on this matter. While I continue to believe that what took place in the creation of Israel in 1948 was unfair to the Palestinian people, his response had caused me to reconsider my position on European Jewry. I've now come to believe--over night, actually--that my previous position was counterproductive, and in itself, only served to contribute to the hostility and political posturing that has caused the loss of so many lives around the world.

I now take the position that no group of people can "own" any part of this planet--it ALL belongs to God. We only serve as custodians. I do, however, recognize the need to setup governments to manage the parcel of land that we're blessed with inhabiting.

Thus, while my new position is consistent with my continued belief that the Palestinian people were treated unfairly, it also suggests a solution--though a highly unlikely one, considering man's current state of barbarism. I have not come to believe that Israel, Palestine, or whatever one chooses to call it, should be considered God's land, for which no man, or group of men, should be able to claim exclusive ownership. In fact, that should be the case for every nation throughout the globe.

But again, while I do recognize the need for geographical boundaries and governmental administration, no land should be deemed the exclusive domain of any one religious, ethnic, or racial group. All lands across this globe is the exclusive domain of our creator, and no man is anything more than a, very temporary, caretaker. Even as I speak, the continents shift, the snows drift, and the oceans surge to reclaim that which only he is mighty enough to hold claim.

As for what it says in scripture, that's grist for another debate. After all, does scripture actually constitute the word of God, or is scripture actually the words of the men who wrote it? Personally, I think God was much too efficient in his creation for man to require an owner's manual–especially one that has caused so much dysfunction among those it was created to instruct. Because the fact is, even if an entity as flawed and unholy as MicroSoft had created such a problematic user's manual, it would have long since been withdrawn from the market.

One must ask one's self, what kind of user's manual would cause more problems than it addresses? But to me, the most telling indicator that what many consider "the word of God" may actually be the word of man, is the fact that I don't need a user's manual to inform me that it is wrong to covet my neighbor's wife. The minute I begin to indulge in such activity, and I have, I can hear the voice of my creator whispering into my ear-- "Eric, what you're doing is wrong."

Thus, while man insists that we must have "faith" in these matters, is he asking me to have faith in God, or is he actually asking me to have faith in what he's TELLING me about God? Because it seems to me that if God created a universe where I can observe the electrons and protons orbiting around the nucleus of the tiniest atom, in the exact same way that the solar system orbits around the Sun, and the Sun orbits around the center of the galaxy, and the galaxy hurls through space and time in search of the center of the universe, he's done enough. That alone should be enough to demonstrate his awesome existence.

But if that's not enough, how about when I can my finger, then watch the stuff of life ooze from the wound to spontaneously repair itself as good as new, or when two lovers come together to love and comfort one another in the frigid cold of Winter, only to create a third bundle of love in the Fall; how can one witness these things and not see the face of God? Yet, after he has done all of these things, and then went on to create birds that fly, fish that swim, and man with the ability to think, it can only be attributed to the epitome of human arrogance for man to then require him to have Moses part the Red Sea to demonstrate his existence. What makes man think that he is so special, that he can require God to jump through hoops, and perform cheap parlor tricks, to gain his respect?

Therefore, it is my point of view that we can only know God by what he has done–and again, he has clearly demonstrated his will by making birds fly, fish swim, and man to think. How do we know this is his will? Because if any of these creatures fail to remain true to their nature, they cannot survive, and by strictly adhering to that nature, they're allowed to thrive.

In that regard, man burst upon this planet as a necked ape. He was completely at the mercy of a very hostile environmen –he wasn't as mighty as the elephant, as ferocious as the lion, nor could he soar among the clouds with the majesty of an eagle. But it was God's will to protect this fragile creature, so provided him with a brain–cognition, logic–and it was precisely that quality, and that quality alone, that allowed man to survive. He was given the ability to assess, evaluate, and manipulate his environment. As a direct result, man can now build machines that are mightier than any elephant, more fearsome than the most ferocious lion, and can soar far beyond the eagle's domain.

Thus, God has demonstrated through what he has DONE, just as surely as he gave the mighty whale dominion over creatures at sea, and made the lion king of beasts, that he created man to be a logical, thinking being. But now, man comes along in his newly acquired hubris and, REQUIRES, that other lesser thinking men give up this most essential God-given quality in return for what HE claims will be a glimpse of God–and what makes this the perfect scheme, is that he will never have to worry about anyone ever coming back to refute his claim.

That is why you'll find that the suspension of intellect in lieu of simply having FAITH in what MAN tells us is God's will is an essential part of most religions. It is absolutely necessary to circumvent God's protection mechanism in order to accommodate their wild, supernatural claims, in order to exploit and manipulate the fears of man.

Thus, it is only through cherishing, and selfishly protecting, the intellect that we KNOW that God gave us as an essential part of our nature, that will allow to see through the evil and foolish folly of man's weak justification for the slaughter of other men. And it is through that very intellect, even as I write, I can hear God speaking in my ear:

"When man says to set aside the logic that was my exclusive gift to mankind , and have "faith" in what HE tells you about me, he's demanding that you ignore my will, and have "faith" in HIM. You don't have to have faith in the fact that you sit here and you write–you know you now sit, and you know you now write, thus, faith is not required. Faith only has relevance where there is doubt. Look around you, my child. Can you doubt my existence? Then, what is this thing about faith?"

So to even acknowledge man's prescription that you must have "faith" in God, is indeed a slap in my face of God. It is nothing less than an acknowledgment that you are more prone to worship what man says, than what God has actually done.

"This, is the evil of man–in his arrogance, he tries to speak for me."

Ok, so maybe the voice I hear is simply a delusion, and not God at all–after all, I also suffer from the frailties of mankind. But is your intellect a delusion?

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Do You Really Want Peace in the Middle East?


Do You Really Want Peace in the Middle East?

Try Starting The Peace Talks With, "I'm Sorry"

Well, "God's chosen people" are raising unholy hell in the Middle East again. And please don't buy into the nonsense that it's about Israel being attacked, or the defense of democracy, or Israel having the right to exist—it's not about any of that. What this is about is hubris, injustice, and greed. Sure Israel has a right to exist--if that's what the indigenous people decide they want to continue to call it. But whatever it's called, be it Israel or Palestine, Europeans have absolutely no justifiable right to be making demands in the Middle East. They don't even have the RIGHT to be in the Middle East at all. That's the two-ton gorilla that needs to be appeased, but Israel, the United States and Western Europe are bringing up every other issue on the face of the Earth to avoid having to address that very simple fact.

But those who seek the destruction of Israel are being unrealistic as well. Yes, the Palestinians were robbed during the creation of Israel, but the fact is, as funky as that was, what's done is done. They can no more expect the current Israelis to just pack up and leave Israel than Native Americans can expect Americans get on a boat and return to Europe. So there must be a compromise--but the onus of that compromise rests squarely on the shoulders of the Europeans, because regardless to whatever argument you decide to indulge, there's one fact that will always remain constant--there would be no Middle Eastern conflict if the Europeans had stayed in Europe.

The dispute over Israel is nothing less than "The Manifest Destiny" being re-enacted. When the Europeans came to America and began to strip the indigenous people of their land, they justified their unholy atrocities by declaring that it was God's will that they settle, and bring his word to this "uncivilized land"–it was their manifest destiny. So in true civilized Christian fashion, they began to spread the Holy word of God, through the muzzle of a Gatlin gun. It was a brutally unconscionable and gruesome event, but what could these good Christians do—after all, it was God's will that they slaughter those "Godless savages." That is the exact same scenario that is currently taking place in the Middle East today. It began with the "creation" of the state of Israel in 1948, and the campaign continues as I speak—but this time, it's called Zionism.

In 1882, while Jews were being massacred throughout Russia, Leo Pinsker, the founder of the Zionist movement, published a small booklet entitled "Auto-emancipation". It pointed out that Jews would never find equality in Russia, so it was necessary for world Jewry to establish their own homeland. At first, he didn't care where it was located—in fact, the area encompassing Zaire, Africa was even considered. But later, Pinsker recognized that in order to get Jews to immigrate in numbers large enough to establish a homeland, he needed a location that would inspired the Jewish soul, and no location in the world would suit that purpose like Palestine, the land of Zion–the land that God had promised the Jews. The fact that there were indigenous people already living in Palestine never even crossed his mind.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines Zionism as follows:


(zÂș"…-n¹z"…m) n. An organized movement of world Jewry that arose in Europe in the late 19th century with the aim of reconstituting a Jewish state in Palestine. Modern Zionism is concerned with the development and support of the state of Israel." Thus, Zionism, by definition and design, is a doctrine dedicated to the taking of Palestine–and on May 14, 1948, European Jews did just that.

Between 1944 and 1948, due to their experience with the Nazi's, Eastern European Jews wanted to get off the European continent by any means necessary, so various Zionist organizations created the Bariha (escape) Organization that helped close to 200,000 Jews to leave Europe and settle in Palestine. Prior to that time, in July of 1922, the League of Nations (the progenitor of the United Nations) gave Great Britain a mandate to protect the people of Palestine, but on November 29, 1947 when the U. N. General Assembly passed a resolution to partition off Palestine between the Arabs and Jews, Great Britain announced that it was terminating its mandate. The end of the British mandate was to go into effect on May 15, 1948, but on May 14, 1948 the Zionists declared the creation of Israel, a Jewish state.

But in order for the new State of Israel to have any legitimacy, it had to be recognized by the United States. The U.S. State Department was less than enthusiastic about creating a Jewish state in Palestine, but shortly after President Truman took office, European Zionist, Chaim Weizmann, convinced the president that it was only just that the survivors of the holocaust would be given their own homeland. Truman agreed, and recognized the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, and all hell's been breaking loose every since.

The Israeli-American alliance is a match made in Hell–they don't even trust each other. One of the largest units in the CIA is dedicated to the prevention of Israeli spying on the United States, and one of the biggest spy scandals in U.S. History involved an Israeli spy name Jonathan Pollard, an American of Jewish descent, born in Galveston, Texas. But in spite of that, Israel receives more U.S. Foreign aid than any other country in the world, and we've made them one of the most formidable military forces in the world. The reason for that--oil. Israel stands as an extension of the United States in the Middle East, within easy striking distance of Middle Eastern oil fields. So what we have in the Middle East is an unholy quid pro quo–The United States will help the Israelis steal Arab land, and the Israelis will help the United States steal the oil beneath the land.

So the Israeli claim that their slaughter of the Arab people is simply an attempt to defend themselves, is nothing but a farce. Granted, when someone invades your home you do have a right to attack them, but Europeans have about as much right to call Israel their home as I'd have of tearing off a part of China simply because I converted to Buddhism.

Far be it from me, however, to say who's a Jew and who's not, but I think we can all agree that European Jews are not the same Jews that were spoken of in the Bible. But, of course, you're not suppose to even whisper such sentiments here in America. To say that European Jews don't belong in Israel, or to speak out on any atrocity that the State of Israel might commit, is considered anti-Semitic in this country. But even that's a farce. There's a big difference between being anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist–to be anti-Semitic is to be against a people, while being anti-Zionist is to be against a philosophy. After all, all Jews are not Zionist. But there's another issue here as well. How can you be anti-Semitic towards Europeans? They aren't even Semites.

So as I said, all of the killing in the Middle East is about hubris, injustice, and greed. But it's also about opportunity and racism. Think about it-- as bad as the Germans and Russians treated the Jews over the years, you'd think the Jews would have been given part of one of those countries. If they'd done that, European Jews wouldn't have even had to leave home. But White folks don't play that–no matter how much they hate each other.



I try to Avoid addressing the same issue in consecutive columns–that's my only defense against my natural tendency to be tedious and predictable. But this past weekend a young man, let's call him Rob, came up to me and said, "Brother, I got to give you props–you really stuck it to those damn Jews last week." As soon as the words came out of his mouth, I knew I was going to have to clarify my message by revisiting the issue of Zionism. I didn't have the time, at that moment, to stand there in front of the store and explain to the young man that my article wasn't against Jews, but on the other hand, I wanted to make sure that he understood the distinction between hating a philosophy, and hating a people. So I asked the young brother to be sure to pickup this week's paper, because this article was going to be written especially, and specifically, for him. So Rob, as promised, good brother–and I sincerely hope, just this once, that God gives me the skill to make my point:

Rob, while my last article had to do with a segment of Judaism, it wasn't intended as a diatribe against Jews. I'm not against Jews. I'm not against any group of people, because as I see it, it would be a pity to go through the pain and suffering that we've experience here in America and not come out with at least some measure of wisdom. One would think that we would have learned through the blood, sweat, and tears that we've shed that trying to paint any group of people with the same broad brush, whether it's to say that they're all good, or they're all bad, is not only the height of stupidity, but is the very mindset that has caused Black people so much misery here in America. How can I claim to detest racism, only to turn around an embrace that very same ignorant philosophy?

No, I'm not against Jews, I'm against the injustice of Zionism–a philosophy which dictates that one group of people are entitled to the land of another by virtue of their religious beliefs alone. But while I argue passionately that Zionism is a gross and unjust philosophy, I always keep in mind that all Jews are not Zionists. In fact, some Jews are more adamantly opposed to Zionism--at least, as currently practiced--than non-Jews.

It's important to recognize that fact, because efficient thought requires that we always recognize subtle distinctions. While knowledge is power, knowledge can only yield its power when combined with the wisdom of truth. Evident of that is the fact that one of the most prolific problems that we have in this vast world filled with knowledge, is our tendency to circumvent that knowledge through thinking with our brain stems. Instead of using our higher cognitive abilities and taking the time to be precise in our thinking, we find it easier to lob preconceived generalizations at every problem--and more often than not, those generalizations cater to the very darkest side of our nature. Look at what we're doing with our knowledge in the Middle East. Instead of using that knowledge to enhance the quality of life for all of humanity, we're using it to spread death and destruction around the entire world.

So we've got to learn to stop thinking in terms of Black and White, Jew and Gentile, or whether a person is Gay or Straight. As long as we think in those terms and continue to antagonize one another, we sabotage every opportunity to form coalitions to fight for our common good. That's why people like Bush and Cheney thrive in a hostile environment. They love keeping us ignorant, because ignorance keeps us divided, and that very division allows them to step in and conquer all of our hopes and dreams as a people. It is a must, therefore, that we develop the wisdom to understand that there are only two kinds of people in this world–good people, and bad people.

Now, I'm not suggesting that Black people forget their history and engage in a rousing chorus of Kumbayah, that would be fool hearty. But it behooves Black people to not only understand, but remember, that while malevolent White men did indeed place us in chains, it was malevolent Black men who made us available to be shackled. We must also recognize that we commit a gross injustice by forgetting the sacrifice, and the families, of the thousands of White men of good character who gave their lives to unlock those shackles.

So while we witness the horror and atrocities that the state of Israel is committing against the Palestinian and Lebanese people, and we lean toward condemning all Jews, we must keep in mind men like Joel Elias Spingarn, also a Jew, and a prominent literary figure of his time. He not only gave great support to the Harlem Renaissance, but helped W.E.B. DuBois to establish the NAACP as a driving force for change in America. Spingarn also established the Spingarn Medal in 1913-- and to this day, it's awarded annually for Excellence in African American Achievement. So as we're formulating our opinions about Jews, we should remember this man, and his contribution to the African American people as Chairman of the Board of the NAACP from 1913 until his death in 1939. We should also consider that during that period the NAACP board was predominantly Jewish–W.E.B. DuBois was the only Black man on the Board of Directors. In fact, the NAACP didn't elect its first Black president until 1975. Think about that.

But it's become less than politically correct to bring up issues such as these–probably because many of us are afraid of becoming associated with Black opportunist, turncoats, and White apologists like Clarence Thomas, Alan Keyes, Larry Elder, and the like. But it's important that we keep these facts in mind and pass them down as part of our history. Facts such as these represent valuable knowledge to our youth. It's a source of knowledge to young people that says, as the three misguided Black men mentioned above clearly demonstrate, everybody that looks like you is not your brother, and conversely, everybody that doesn't look like you is not the enemy.

That's an invaluable lesson, not only for Black people, but for all of America, because we will never truly overcome until all people of good faith come together as a coalition–and that will never happen, until we begin to recognize that true brotherhood is not of the skin, but of the soul:

Rabbi Shifren,

I thought you might be interested in this--it's in two parts. The first part discusses my view on Zionism and its impact on the Middle East, and the second part instructs a young man on the importance of being able to oppose a philosophy without opposing an entire group of people. I think that's the key to finding piece in the Middle East.

Please feel free to correct any errors in my assessment of the politics involved. If I've missed something, please allow me the benefit of your specialized knowledge in this area. I would much rather be proven wrong than to remain ignorant.

Dear Eric

I truly admire your search for truth and more than that, your ability to be independent and not in lock-step with prevailing views in America, regardless of color or background. And while I'm at it, I want to reiterate how thoroughly I enjoy your column in the "Sentinel". Something tells me your voice at times might feel "lost in the wilderness" with all the apologetics we get in this city.

As an orthodox Jew, having received my ordination from Jerusalem and studied the scriptures thoroughly, perhaps some perspective might be in order. BTW, don't think that Gentiles are, in many cases, unaware of the politics and background of the present. THE VAST MAJORITY OF JEWS ARE ALSO CLUELESS!
Like many Jews, growing up in the 60's was a process of finding out who I am, where I "fit in", in America. Coming from a totally assimilated family, I had nobody to show me which path to follow. Irony of ironies, it was the BLACK PANTHERS that gave me my first feeling of "peoplehood", of "belonging"! Just as the Black man necessarily sought out a way of self-expression and identity, so I too, in like fashion needed to remove my self from the often times confused Jewish community, that seemed to me to be just copying their "gentile neighbors."

As part of my discoveries, I became fluent in Hebrew. I mean, REALLY FLUENT. I didn't want some dude TELLING ME what to think, I wanted to read it in the ORIGINAL (The Bible). For I believed, and believe now, that every people that wants to survive, must know where they came from, their roots, in order to know where they shall go.

There I found the following: "....and G-d said, ' I shall give this land to you and your seed as an eternal inheritance.'"

Now, this is our (truly, mine as well as yours) challenge. Interestingly, it is only the JEWS that have a problem with this. I have not met one believing Christian that misunderstood the above quoted passage from Genesis. After the latest exile (70 AD), we have been driven to the four corners of the globe. But wherever we were, we recited in our prayers 3 times daily, despite pogroms, inquisitions, crusades and massacres big and small: "..may our eyes witness your return to Zion." Truly, this applied to the Jew in Germany or Russia, as it did to the "black" Jews of Ethiopia and Yemen. I have to tell you that no matter how I, with my ignorance and boorish prejudices, would attempt to define "who is a Jew," I'd always end up with mud on my face! The Jew that we see here in Los Angeles has absolutely nothing in common with a Jew from Algeria or Izbekistan. Nothing at all, except this: the same Torah that was given on Mt. Sinai.

So I guess I will keep being amazed about the fact that we have survived all these years and are, despite all odds, thriving. When I pass on, I will do so quietly, knowing with absolute certainty, that my children believe as I do, and will pursue and follow that which was bequeathed to Abrah am so many years ago.

Hope you found some relevance in my words, though they be written simply and without embellishment.

Keep up the great work. I know that our paths were destined to cross.

Blessings to you and yours,

Rabbi Nachum Shifren

Lecturer and Author, "Kill Your Teacher: An Expose of Corruption and Racism in LA Schools" & "Surfing Rabbi: A Kabbalistic Quest for the Soul"

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

When is Being Cool, Too Cool to Survive?


When is Being Cool, Too Cool to Survive?

As a young man growing up, dividing my time between the Pueblo Del Rio projects and Watts, in South/Central Los Angeles, one of the first things I learned about survival in the Black community was the importance of being cool. To be cool meant to gain popularity through a well developed sense of style, while at the same time maintaining an air of feigned indifference. The key to being cool was to be able to play it off as though the very demeanor that you were dedicating every waking hour trying to perfect, was absolutely meaningless to you. If a young man could pull that off, it would go a long way towards keeping him safe in a very dangerous environment. Thus, in a very real sense, one of the most important qualities for a young man to learn in order to survive in the Black community, was how to become the most effective phony that he could be.

That continues to be the case today, among many of the weak in the community, because it is primarily the weak, those youngsters who lack parental support, who find it necessary to turn to the street and gangsterism to find a sense of identity. The only difference between when I was growing up and today is, the sense of style, the first component of what it meant to be cool (and the very characteristic which often made it possible for a young man to escape to a better life), has been completely overwhelmed by the latter, feigned indifference, an attitude that all but guarantees that many of today's young people will be trapped in a downward spiral for life.

The problem is, feigned indifference has become, actual indifference–an indifference towards life, dignity, knowledge, responsibility, and all the social tools and resources that are necessary to establish any kind of viable lifestyle in a modern society. Social indifference has become so much a part of these young people's lives that they go out of their way to corrupt even the most routine social conventions, like tying their shoes, pulling their pants up, or wearing their caps straight. The message is, I don't have time to be bothered with such nonsense. But unfortunately, that's exactly the kind of nonsense that goes into being able to raise and support a family.

Ordinarily one would be safe in saying, ok, each to his own. If they don't want to tie their shoes or pull up their pants, that's their prerogative. But it's not as easy as that. We're not just dealing with the chosen lifestyle of one individual, or even a handful of individuals–we are now tasked with having to stamp out an attitude that is permeating our entire community.

This attitude of gross indifference towards society is perniciously insidious, and due to its widespread dissemination through the hip hop and gangster rap culture, it's affecting an entire generation of young people. And I'm not only talking about a dress code here--this antagonism towards social convention is also having a negative impact on our young peoples' ability to speak business English–"What it is?"; "What it be like?!!!" Verbal constructions such as these can all but guarantee that a young man won't be able to get through a job interview, or support a family.

Our young people aren't born with an antagonism towards society, they are taught these attitudes early in life as a defense mechanism against the lowered self-esteem attendant to their early failures. Due to the Black community's low priority for education, many of our young people don't have the support either in the home or the community to become effective learners. As a direct result of that lack of support, if (make that when) they fall behind in school, they stay behind, and as the material becomes progressively more complicated, they see it as impossible to catch up.

Once that downward spiral begins, these young people become frustrated, and start looking for a defense mechanism to salvage their self-esteem. Then with the able assistance of those in the community who insist that their "inability" to learn is a "White plot" to keep the Black man down, our young people are given both a convenient excuse for failure, and a foundation upon which to build a lifetime of hostility towards society.

But before I go on, I'd like to make several points abundantly clear. First, it is not my contention that the larger society is completely blameless in this scenario, but Black people are not helpless children, so in the final analysis, it is primarily our responsibility to salvage our own community.

In addition, since knowledge is free, while we can blame the White man for a number of atrocities over the years, trying to blame him for our failure to educate ourselves stands as a direct assault on our own credibility. Education is a proactive endeavor. One cannot BE educated--one must educate one's self. And since there is just as much knowledge in the corner library as there is at Harvard University, if one is undereducated, it's one's own fault.

And finally, I'm not so old-school that I don't realize that with every generation the older generation brings up some of these same issues, but sometimes they're right. They were right, for example, about some of our excesses in the sixties. Many of the problems that we're currently having with crime, drugs, the disrespect of our women, and political corruption is a direct result of our laissez faire attitude towards social convention during that generation. Think about it–if Richard Nixon had done anything close to what George Bush has done over the past eight years, he would have been impeached, and maybe even jailed. But George Bush is literally getting away with murder, and a flagrant assault on the United States Constitution–and the reason he's getting away with it is because our society is rapidly slipping down the slippery slop of decadence, due to the apathy brought on by society's growing tolerance for ignorance.

So now is an excellent time for Black people to level the playing field, but in order to do so, it is incumbent upon us to step up to the plate to curb the excesses in the Black community. We must start by refusing to settle for the status quo, and insisting on a lot less talk, and a lot more action from our churches, politicians, and others who benefit from our community's support. Our churches do an excellent job of spreading the word, now we need them to become just as prolific at spreading the deed–we must insist upon it. We must also insist that these institutions initiate, encourage, and support programs in the community that assist low-income families, promote the education of our young people, and thereby, lift their self-esteem.

And finally, we must begin to lavish our props and rewards upon those who bring excellence, knowledge, and honor to our community over those who simply bring entertainment. Because, to paraphrase an old sports announcer from years past, if life was a department store, you'd find music and sports in the toy department.

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology.

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