Thursday, November 24, 2005

2005, The Year In Review - The Person Of The Year

There were several people eligible to become Person Of The Year. Hugo Chavez Frias, president of Venezuela is a very strong candidate, giving an example of bravery in the face of overwhelming odds being against you, surviving a coup d'etat that had the endorsement of the most powerful country on earth. Mr. Chavez was elected president for the fourth time proving to the world that he is the choice of the majority of people of Venezuela. With over 7,000 election observers from all over the world it was impossible for his enemies to make claims of foul play. External forces (primarily those connected with the US Endowment for Democracy had done everything in their power to dethrone him) yet he is still standing and the rest of South America is taking notice.
Another strong candidate for person of the year is Robert Mugabe. The oft maligned leader of Zimbabwe brought forth the first ever meaningful land reform in sub-Saharan Africa. The white land owners who controlled practically all of the valuable farm land that their ancestors stole from native Zimbabweans were forced to give some of it back. This bold action has angered Tony Blair and George Bush, but to most people around the world it is seen as justice fulfilled after too long a period of time.
The person I actually chose as person of the year is someone who was not a head of state, in fact she was not even a politician. She was just an ordinary housewife who was determined to find out why her son was killed in what seemed to her to be a meaningless war. She wanted answers and she wanted them from the top, so she went straight to the source, President George W. Bush. She went to Crawford, Texas, the president's home away from home to get answers. Although she never was able to speak to the president she did get the attention of the American people when she set up camp near the Bush residence in Crawford. Even the administration friendly media had to cover the story. Because she woke up the American people to the realities of the Iraq War and because she challenged Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and other establishment Democrats (who almost secretly support this illegal war) to come out and make a stand with the majority of the American people (63%)
and the majority of the Democratic party(allegedly 70%) to set a timetable to return our troops home. What most people don't realize is that this woman's group was one of the few to successfully penetrate the walls set up to keep help from coming into New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina crisis. It is for these reasons that I choose Cindy Sheehan as the 2005 Person Of The Year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

2005, The Year In Review - Politics

In 2005 the nation finally had a chance to see how the Bush Administration operates. The ethically challenged administration and its supporters finally came under scrutiny after years of having a press that was in denial. The final verdict is not in but at least Tom Delay was indicted for extortion. Bill Frist had to explain why he pulled out of a business deal just before it went belly-up. I. Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff was also indicted for playing a role in the outing of C.I.A. against Valerie Plame. Ohio governor Taft ( a descendent of the former president) was allegedly involved in coingate (investing worker's pension funds into rare coins). The G.O.P. at this particular point in time does look very vulnerable with 63% of the people opposing the war and the way the Bush Administration has handled it. The Bush/Cheney team's strongest appeal to the American people was its readiness to protect the American people in time of crisis. Hurricane Katrina proved that this administration was NOT able to do the very thing that they were elected to do. Hurricane Katrina showed the world how "racist" the Bush administration and many people of the state of Louisiana actually are. A conscious effort was made to keep supplies from going into the affected areas. The neighboring counties of Gretna and Jefferson had the space and the supplies to help the Katrina victims but they didn't do it because most of them were black. With this administration we see "cronyism" at it's worst. The clean-up contracts were given to Halliburton, Mr. Cheney's former company instead of going to local businesses in the Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas areas. Hayley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi said NOTHING when he found out that Mississippi firms would not be given contracts to do clean up work in Mississippi. The Bush administration tried to eliminate the Beacon Act which guarantees a reasonable wage for locals involved in the clean up. The president has the unamitigated gall to go on national television and say "Good job Brownie" to the man who was head of F.E.M.A., the government agency most responsible for dropping the ball. Mr. Brown had no previous experience in rescue work and prior to his post at F.E.M.A. was fired from his job of overseeing the care of Arabian horses. It was reported that Mr. Brown got his job as head of F.E.M.A. because he was the former roomate of a major Bush fundraiser, Mr. Olbeau.
Michael Brown had the audacity to go before a Republican sponsored investigation and blame the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans for the Katrina tragedy when the governor sent a urgent message to the president requesting help BEFORE Katrina hit. Mr. Brown LIED under oath.....and nothing happened to him. He paid no consequence. With the Bush poll numbers continuing to go south (38% approval rating) it is going to be a real challenge to regain the confidence the American people once had in Republican leadership. The sons and daughters of his middle class and lower middle class supporters are dying in Iraq or coming back maimed for life. These people are slowly but surely coming to the realization that they backed the wrong guy. But what will happen if the 2008 G.O.P. candidate decides to follow the policies of Bush/Cheney? We have seen first hand how votes can be compromised or manipulated as evidenced in Ohio and Florida. What will happen when and administration wants to go one way and the people want to go another? Will the democracy that we as Americans cherish be non-existent? The U.S. government already has in its power the ability to arrest huge numbers of people. The tricks used in 2000 and 2004 will be anticipated in 2008. Several states including California have told Diebold they will not be using their voting machines in the 2008 presidential elections. We may be on a collision course. We must also be weary of Democratic candidates who support the war in Iraq. They must be carefully scrutinized because if two pro war candidates (one from each major party) run against each other the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz dream of world domination will still be very much alive.

2005, The Year In Review - Film

Although I saw a considerable amount of movies in 2005 there are only two that I would consider outstanding. Crash, featuring Matt Dillon is the type of movie that one would say the people who really need to see it would never go to see it and those who did see it were expected to see it. This movie tells the truth about the true racial environment that most of us deny exists in the United States of 2005. President-select George Bush, while commenting on the death of Rosa Parks "This marks the end of a chapter in American History." as if racism, cronyism and nepotism all died and Ms. Parks and Dr. King killed them. This film tells it like it really is and many of us know this reality all to well. At times we ask ourselves do we go to the movies to be enlightened or do we go to the movies to entertained? Perhaps the Spiderman, Batman, Star Wars and Disney crowd would benefit most from seeing a movie like "Crash"
The other outstanding movie of 2005 was "Good Night and Good Luck" Which shows us the courage of the media in the 50's which helped dethrone a right wing tryant named Senator Joe McCarthy. This is something we were very much in need of in 2005. Newsman Edward R. Murrow relentlessly went after McCarthy, challenging every untruth, every misdeed and every convenient manipulation and reporting it to the American people. Mr. Murrow is the type of journalist so badly needed today when we have a president who shares so many of the ideas of Senator Joe McCarthy while we have a media that purposely looks the other way.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

2005, The Year In Review - Sports

2005 was the year fan-player violence reached a new level when a fan threw a bottle at Indiana Pacers Ron Artest and Artest immediately reacted finding himself heavily fined and missing quite a few games. The NBA initiated a new dress code shortly after the brawl to give the NBA a better image. In baseball New York Yankees Outfielder Gary Sheffield was also hit by a fan, but Sheffield showed restraint and didn't retaliate, which may have been the smarter move. Baseball's image was also hampered by the increase in the number of superstars accused of taking steriods. The asterix will forever be beside the names of such "greats" as Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro because of alleged steroid use. A tell all book written by former big league star Jose Canseco in which he admits using steroids and gives the names of others in the game who also use steroids has brought the issue to public scrutiny. Stars of the past have expressed their displeasure for those who may have tarnished the integrity of the game. This group includes hall of famers Henry Aaron and Frank Robinson.
The New England Patriots won their third consecutive super bowl in a razor-thin victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. At this date (November 24, 2005) it doesn't look as if they will win a fourth consecutive super bowl, but they haven't been eliminated yet.
Ozzie Guillen was a chessmaster with the Chicago White Sox in 2005. The 14 year shortstop turned manager knew the strengths and weaknesses(apparently very few) of a team that made winning such a habit in the beginning of the year that they were able to hold off the challenging Cleveland Indians in their division and then go on to be American League and World Champions. Choosing Ozzie Guillen as American League Manager Of The Year was a no brainer.
The American League won another All-Star game and for the second year in a row the American League winner(Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox) sweep the National league Champions (St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros). When I was a teenager the National League always won. Although I am a fan of the New York Mets (3rd place tie, NL East) and the Cleveland Indians(2nd place, AL Central) I am enjoying the turnaround :-). Sportswise, it wasn't a bad year.

2005, The Year In Review: Census

In Memorium: Rosa Parks, Nipsey Russell, Johnnie Cochran, Pope John Paul III, Oscar Brown Jr., Luther Vandross, Renaldo Benson, John Johnson, Ibrahim Ferrer, Frances Newton, Peter Jennings, Wellington Mara, Donn Clendenon, Constance Baker Motley, August Wilson, Ossie Davis, John Hess, Pat Morita, Eugene McCarthy, Jack Anderson, Jack Spencer and Richard Pryor.

Late Night Session of Congress leaves more questions than answers

Last night's late session verbal brawl in Congress left most progressive Democrats in a state of confusion. From what I understand the Republicans introduced legislation to immediately send the troops home. Now, that in itself sounds very unusual, but the Republicans know the Democrats in Congress better than I. So I assume this tactic was put into motion to embarrass the Democrats. Maybe the Republicans did succeed in reaching that goal because the final tally was 403-3 in favor of the Republicans.....who voted against the measure. If members of each party were shouting at each other and calling each other names until the wee hours of the morning, why was the final vote result so one sided? Is it that Republicans expect Democrats to blow off some steam but in the end vote exactly the way Republicans want them to. Pennsylvania's John Murtha is a man who has seen combat and served his country admirably. The Democrat has been viewed as a hawk. Ohio Representative Jean Schmidt introduced a letter from a Marine constituent who wanted the war to continue and implied that Murtha was a coward. Democrats at this time booed Schmidt for the Murtha insult, then in the end voted right along with her. Democrats are soooooooooooo afraid to be considered unpatriotic....even when it is an established fact that a little more that 60% of the country opposes the war.

Friday, November 18, 2005

2005, The Year In Review - Music

I can't say that I am overly impressed with the new music that I've heard this year because eventhough a lot of great music may have been made
2005 was a year of many format changes. Most notable in New York the end of WCBS-FM. This station had good ratings, never finding itself in the number one spot but still maintained a rather large listening audience. Many R&B and particularly Motown Golden Era tunes were played frequently. This station will definitely be missed. The R&B listener still has a few choices in New York City that feature classic R&B (as opposed to today's R&B, which is not the same). Pioneer Hal Jackson puts on a fantastic program every Sunday morning on WRKS and Imotep Gary Byrd can be heard on WBAI on Friday nights. This show features interviews with the people who made the music what it is. I also must mention Felix Hernandez, who also has a high caliber program heard on WBGO on Saturday mornings. As a lover of classic rhythm and blues it was an unpleasant experience to see how the genre seems to have disappeared from the earth. But one of the new artists who came into his own in 2005 was John Legend, whose poignant "Ordinary People" was among the most requested songs on national airwaves. An indication of the disappearance of R&B was that in 2005 you could no longer find Jet Magazine's Soul Brothers top 20 for singles. Bonafide R&B artists are still out there doing their thing but they are not nearly getting the exposure that they so rightfully deserve. Recently I checked Billboard Magazine's assessment of the top R&B songs and found that most of them were not even today's so called R&B but Hip-Hop, which really rules the airwaves. Although I am not a fan of hip-hip I do realize that change must come. In 2005 we see the first emergence of a hip-hop variation called "Crunk" which is coming from the Atlanta area. Although I find most(but not all) hip-hop distasteful I find "Crunk" or possibly"Crump" much worse. Thank God for Alicia Keyes and Angie Stone who are two R&B exceptions that are getting some decent airplay. It was also nice to see Mariah Carey make a comeback. Though she has changed her "sound" to be more appealling to today's young people she is once again a superstar. The surprise source of showcasing new mainstream artists suprisingly comes from Fox. The program "American Idol" has given us the likes of Fantasia, Kelly Clarkson, Reuben Studdard and Bo Dice, who although not necessarily an R&B singer does make one think of a young David Clayton-Thomas when he performs songs popularized by Blood, Sweat & Tears and Ides Of March. The year's best song would have to be "Dance With My Father", the late Luther Vandross and Richard Marx created a masterpiece. Through most of his career Luther longed for the #1 hit single that always seemed to be just out of reach eventhough he consistently recorded platinum albums. With "Dance With My Father" he finally got it, but unfortunately could not enjoy the fruit of this particular labor during his lifetime. The year's best live performance had to be R. Kelly's "Step In The Name Of Love" on the Grammy Awards where Kelly proved himself to be a great dancer as well as a very good vocalist. It is not an easy task to do both at the same time the way Kelly did on that show. In my opinion the year's best album was Earth, Wind & Fire's Illumination. EWF has come back in a big way. This is their first CD release on a major label (RCA Victor) since Millenium on Warner/Reprise in the late 90s. It was good to hear Maurice White's voice again after his battle with the debilitating Parkinson's disease. Of course Philip Bailey continues to be the standout performer that he has always been on the jazzy "The Way You Move" which features solos by Kenny G. Musically 2005 may not be as memorable as other years but it did have its unforgettable moments.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Off-year election results send strong message to GOP

The American voter let the Bush administration know exactly where it stood this past election day. All four of Arnold Swarzenegger's initiatives lost in California. Bush's last minute decision to campaign in Virginia actually hurt the G.O.P gubernatorial candidate proving that in the very red state of Virginia a Bush endorsement means absolutely nothing. In a very nasty campaign with oft repeated smears by Doug Forrester and John Corzine's ex-wife against Senator Corzine proved ineffective: in fact many say that they voted for Corzine because of the Forrester smears and intrusion into the private life of his gubernatorial adversary. If this trend continues (and I see no reason why it shouldn't) and more convictions are given to Delay, Frist and Rove. Republicans may lose their
Impeachment-proof Congress. There are several states that were red last year that are blue now.
In Pennsylvania all four of the advocates of teaching the so called "Intelligent Design" theory as a counter to evolution lost. When you keep in mind Harry Reid's courageous move in the senate to force the administration to explain its rush to war, the smoking gun of the Downing Street Memo, the New York Times finally putting some distance between the paper and Judith Miller. This is a great time for Democrats to act. The ball is in their court as the Bush administration finds itself on the defensive. The attempt to have Ms. Hariet Miers become a member of the Supreme Court has put the Republican Party at war with itself since conservatives felt there was no concrete evidence that Ms. Miers endorsed their right wing philosophy, especially when it comes to matters like Roe vs. Wade. The indictment of I. Scooter Libby for playing a role in the "outing" of C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame as revenge for her husband, former Ambassador Wilson saying that there was no evidence that showed Saddam Heussein tried to purchase yellowcake uranium in Niger also tarnishes the reputation of an already ethically challenged administration. In Ohio the indictments of key Republican players like Noe and Taft should further increase resentment against the G.O.P. where many minority Democrat voters claim there votes were stolen. As if these incidents weren't enough. The Bush administration's handling of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma has to go down in history as among the worst ever, epecially when one factors in the racial overtones. F.E.M.A. did its best to make sure help did NOT get to the people most in need. Bush appointed F.E.M.A. director Michael Brown actually lied under oath when he attempted to blame locally elected officials for the tragedy, saying that they hestitated to contact him and go through the proper procedures. The Bush administration has become synonymous with "cronyism"
Michael Brown, with no prior experience in rescue just happened to be the roommate of a major Bush fundraiser and I have already mentioned Harriet Miers. Lousiana companies were not permitted to participate in the clean-up. The contract went to Halliburton, a company formerly headed by Vice-President Richard Cheney. The major task of the progressive democrat is to identify and support the Anti-war, Pro-Impeachment candidates and defeat the pro-war, anti-impeachment Democrats, most of whom are DLC members and sympathizers. Although this has the potential of splitting the Democratic Party it will be well worth it because the grassroots just happens to have the numbers on their side. Democratic presidential candidates who have enjoyed massive Democratic support must be forced to justify their support for a war that has cost over 2,000 lives while being provocated under false pretenses. During the last Democratic convention compromises were made. Anti-war sentiment was suppressed for the greater good of supporting the Democratic Convention nominee. But since it is almost common knowledge that the president "LIED" about the reasons for war. There is no good reason why any self-respecting Democrat can actively support this war. That is why Hillary Clinton and John Kerry MUST clarify their positions to the Democratic voter as soon as possible. As Cindy Sheehan has said on more than one occasion if they choose to support this war then they should not expect to get the support of the Democratic voter. In conclusion all of these factors are complicating the lives of the G.O.P. When their woes mount the more likely it will be that they will no longer occupy the White House. May things continue as they are.