Monday, April 30, 2007

Super Size Me - Remix

Is it just me or are people getting bigger? I think so, especially our people. Part of the reason why (though hotly disputed) may be the prevalent use of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in so many of the things that we eat and drink. I recently ran across an old article from 2004 about HFCS that brought a lot of information to light for me. For example, it's prevalence in our food supply. Why does that matter? Well for one:

The body processes the fructose in high fructose corn syrup differently than it does old-fashioned cane or beet sugar, which in turn alters the way metabolic-regulating hormones function. It also forces the liver to kick more fat out into the bloodstream. The end result is that our bodies are essentially tricked into wanting to eat more and at the same time, we are storing more fat.

...In this manner, HFCS contributes to weight gain since it stops our brain from getting the signal that we are full. More on that here.

In 1966, the average American consumed approximately zero pounds of HFCS annually. Today, that number is up to more than 60 pounds per person with no corresponding reduction in our intake of other sugars. The USDA recommends 10-12 teaspoons of sugar a day, but our average intake in 2000 was up to 31 teaspoons daily. It's probably more now. The food processing industry basically switched from sugar to corn-based sweetners in the mid-1980's, corresponding with America's obesity crisis. a single can of soda now contains the equivalent of as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar in HFCS form.

The food processing and corn refiners industry have a different take of course, disputing the HFCS/obesity link;

...the authors of "Highs and Lows of High Fructose Corn Syrup," conclude, "Currently, there is no convincing evidence to support a link between HFCS consumption and overweight/obesity... The escalating rate of overweight/obesity coincides with many more credible explanations than increased HFCS consumption."

And touting its benefits.

HFCS is used in foods and beverages because of the many benefits it offers. In addition to providing sweetness at a level equivalent to table sugar (1), HFCS makes foods such as bread and breakfast cereal "brown" better when baked, and gives chewy cookies and snack bars their soft texture. It also protects freshness. HFCS actually inhibits microbial spoilage by reducing water activity and extends shelf life through superior moisture control.

More on corn refining (a fascinating industry and worthy of its own post) later. The obesity crisis is hitting the Black community particularly hard, with the resultant health related issues. And with HFCS so prevalent in products aimed at our children the results are visible for all to see.

"The bodies of the children I see today are mush," observed a concerned chiropractor recently. The culprit is the modern diet, high in fructose and low in copper-containing foods, resulting in inadequate formation of elastin and collagen--the sinews that hold the body together.

My wife put the family, kicking and screaming, on a diet last year; eliminating sodas, fast food, nonorganic vegetables, and most other processed foods unless absolutely unavoidable. By definition, that eliminated a lot of HFCS from our diet. Coming from a line of long-lived Black folks on both sides of the family who ate all of the things that are supposedly so bad for us now, this took some adjustment. Since that point however, we've all felt in much better shape, with more energy, and a lot less weight fluctuation. Overall while I'm not sure if HFCS is the sole reason for the obesity crisis in this country, I feel that reducing the intake has been beneficial for my family. Additionally we're learning to cook what we like while being much more aware of the content of our food. In that respect, I feel it's past time to look not at what we eat, but how what we eat is produced.

Speaking of Katrina

Just in case you aren't already convinced that we're dealing with a special kind of incompetence (or negligence) in the current administration, the Washington Post reported this weekend that most Katrina aid from overseas went unclaimed.

...Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent. In addition, valuable supplies and services -- such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships -- were delayed or declined because the government could not handle them. In some cases, supplies were wasted. read more...

First the incompotent.

...Administration officials acknowledged in February 2006 that they were ill prepared to coordinate and distribute foreign aid and that only about half the $126 million received had been put to use. Now, 20 months after Katrina, newly released documents and interviews make clear the magnitude of the troubles.

Now for the negligent.

...In one exchange, State Department officials anguished over whether to tell Italy that its shipments of medicine, gauze and other medical supplies spoiled in the elements for weeks after Katrina's landfall on Aug. 29, 2005, and were destroyed. "Tell them we blew it," one disgusted official wrote. But she hedged: "The flip side is just to dispose of it and not come clean. I could be persuaded."

But wait, let's add criminal to the list.

...while television sets worldwide showed images of New Orleans residents begging to be rescued from rooftops as floodwaters rose, U.S. officials turned down countless offers of allied troops and search-and-rescue teams. The most common responses: "sent letter of thanks" and "will keep offer on hand," the new documents show.

According to the article;

...Of $454 million in cash that was pledged by more than 150 countries and foreign organizations, only $126 million from 40 donors was actually received.

...Overall, the United States declined 54 of 77 recorded aid offers from three of its staunchest allies: Canada, Britain and Israel, according to a 40-page State Department table of the offers that had been received as of January 2006.

So in summary, while people were dying or struggling to survive before being scattered to the winds with no prospect of returning, the Bush Administration at best played politics with aid donations, and at worst displayed downright incompetence, and indifference in responding to the disaster itself and the needs of those affected. Anyway you look at it, this is pathetic. More to come.

Meanwhile, Back at TSU

First a warning; the following post is long!

Well, the ongoing saga that is Texas Southern University continued through the weekend. On Friday, conceding to Gov. Rick Perry's request, the Board of Regents resigned in mass. However:

...a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry said the resignations are not what the governor wanted, and asked the Senate to remove the chairwoman.

Regents Chairwoman Belinda Griffin wrote Perry today on behalf of the entire board, saying they would resign when he named a replacement board. Perry had asked earlier this month for the entire board's resignation immediately so he could try to place the troubled historically black university under conservatorship.

"It looks like a pretend resignation," Perry spokesman Ted Royer said. "Continuing to function as a board is not a resignation by any means."

Now while all of this was going on, the legislature is getting busy itself, with Black lawmakers State Rep. Garnet Coleman and State Senators Rodney Ellis and Royce West introducing a bill that

... would allow Perry to dissolve a board of regents in times of financial or administrative crisis, and appoint a smaller board to institute a reform plan during a one-year tenure and submit frequent progress reports to the state. The bill was framed as an alternative to Perry's conservatorship plan, announced earlier this month.

According to the same Houston Chronicle article

Several lawmakers and many at TSU opposed the conservatorship idea because it would put the historically black university's accreditation at risk. A conservatorship is essentially a one-person board, giving the conservator the power to make managerial and financial decisions. That setup would violate an accreditation requirement that at least a five-member board govern over colleges and universities. The new legislation calls for an interim five-member board to meet that rule.

Besides degrading the value of a degree, losing accreditation also would mean that students attending the open-enrollment university would not be able to receive federal financial aid. The vast majority of TSU students receive such aid. read more...

Having his wish left unfilled, Gov. Perry moved late on Friday to impeach the Chairwoman of the Board of Regents becuase she called for a meeting of the board today (which was cancelled due to lack of quorum). Ms. Griffin had stated in her letter to to the governor on Friday that all regents would resign once their replacements had been appointed and confirmed by the Senate. That didn't sit to well with Perry obviously. His spokesman stated that:

..."It's inappropriate for the chair to move forward with a meeting that could lead to more expenses for the university," Perry spokesman Ted Royer said. "Those are the types of decisions best made by new leadership."

This, by the way, is the first time during his six year tenure as governor that Rick Perry has initiated such an action despite other opportunities to provide such "leadership."

Ms. Griffin responded by saying

...the governor's office had told her as recently as Wednesday that the regents should continue to run the university until a new board is in place.

"Why they're acting all surprised is dumbfounding to me," she said in an interview. "I'm incredibly, incredibly disappointed in the governor's office."

Meanwhile, the Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement that they oppose the compromise plan introduced by Rep. Coleman, a Caucus member and Sens. Ellis and West. They said that they have seen no proof of gross financial management and that the crisis has been overblown.

..."We haven't seen any proof this university is going to implode because of the financial situation," said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston.

"There's no need to give him more power to just go in and take over," said Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston.

Coleman acknowledged his bill could be drastically changed. "We all have the same goal," Coleman said. "We're going to have to do something to protect the students and the future of the school." read more...

Confused yet? Well stay tuned, I'm sure there's more to come. In the meantime, I tip my hat to everyone out there fighting to keep this institute of higher education in the position to fulfill it's vital role. The potential loss of accreditation is serious, as the university could basically be reduced to the status of a community college if it occurs. That would in turn devalue the degrees of everyone who has attended TSU over the years, and that's a lot of folks.

Additionally, there are the questions of why TSU, why now, and why this plan and only this plan is good enough for the governor? As stated in a comment received from my earlier post on this issue;

..."It seems as if no one has taken note of the contrast between the Governor’s and the Legislature’s response to the scandal at TSU and their response to the scandal at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston? The scandal at UTMB involved a lot more people, a lot more wrongdoing and a whole lot more money. It also resulted in a lot of innocent people losing their jobs. TSU is going to be put into conservatorship. UTMB? Well, the Legislature dumped literally tens of millions of EXTRA dollars into the laps of the corrupt incompetents at UTMB to mismanage, and the Governor hasn’t had a word to say about that particular scandal, let alone try to hold the people responsible accountable. I wonder what the difference is?"

I think I know, but decide for yourself.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Whither Broadband?

It seems that American broadband penetration rates are falling, rapidly, behind those of the rest of the world.

From MuniWireless:
...OCED (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) data has tracked a steep decline in the growth and consequent use of broadband in the United States since 2001 when it ranked fourth in the world. In the last six months alone, the nation has dropped from 12th to 15th among the 30 industrialized member nations in the OECD.

..."The growing digital divide between the United States and the rest of the world will have real-world consequences," said S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press. "The growth trends indicate that the United States is likely to continue to fall behind the rest of the world in broadband penetration, which will have lasting and significant effects on U.S. economic performance on the global stage."

All the stats are here.

It's not just the rest of the world, there's a digital divide INSIDE America too. There are still far too many people who cannot afford computers, much less broadband. At the same time, wireless internet projects are springing up all over the place. For example, Houston just signed a deal with Earthlink to throw up a network covering the 600 square miles of the city within the next two years. An aspect of the plan calls for up to 40,000 subsidized subcriptions to be provided to low-income users annually. What the plan doesn't address is where those same people are going to get computers to enjoy that access, but perhaps it should. According to the authors of this report;

...The benefits of higher broadband penetration accumulate exponentially. Thus even a minor increase in our ranking has a tremendous positive impact on American consumers. If broadband penetration were 50 percent of all U.S. homes, economists estimate that consumers would realize a $38 billion annual surplus. If household broadband penetration were at 95 percent, the consumer surplus would be $350 billion.

So does it matter to you? How about your community? The basic supposition here is that computer and internet access leads directly to economic benefit and development for American consumers. I agree to an extent. The internet has made possible different ways of doing business and created many new classes of businesses. Not to mention the impact on quality of life issues such as being able to work from anywhere at anytime, which allowed me to spend this morning with my daughter's class at the zoo and still stay on top of the office. I suppose you could call that increased productivity because without such access, I would have taken the whole day off instead.

But that's just me. I'm willing to bet that most of people are not so fortunate to have such a choice due to their income levels, the type of work that they do, broadband redlining, etc. But that's a story for another day.

Katrina at (almost) 2

We learn today that rental assistance has been extended for the next 18 months for the nearly 120,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees still residing in the Houston area.

...Thousands of families displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita will receive housing assistance for 18 additional months but must begin contributing to their rent next year, federal officials said Thursday.

...Evacuees, their advocates and local officials welcomed the news as a realistic acknowledgment that many families still need help but must prepare to assume more responsibility for their own lives.

Predictably, there is outrage in some quarters, as many Houstonians believe the evacuees have had enough help, an attitude fueled in part by reports that a few have committed violent crimes here. This opinion is clearly expressed in the comments submitted to the web-based article Houston Chronicle. Here's a sample:

Miniman wrote: First, they were Katrina "victims". Since this stigmatized them as being helpless, they became Katrina "evacuees". But, honestly- TWO YEARS??? And now, two more? Perhaps a more appropriate term for those who never really worked before in their lives and are now reaping a never-ending windfall might be Katrina "beneficiaries".

Whatever I guess, but I think that the fundamental issue here is that if people are mandated to evacuate a city, then some type of plan should be in place to facilitate their return. That hasn't happened and the result is that a lot of people were dropped off here and are stuck.

In that respect, the fingers should be pointing at Federal and Louisiana State and Local leaders for their failure to articulate any type of vision in regard to the rebuilding of and the repatriation of the citizenry (who want to return) of New Orleans. In any case, it's better to provide housing assistance over the short term than to put a bunch of people out on the streets with nothing. I'm sure we'd really see some angry comments then. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Po' Folks; Not Just in the Hood Anymore

This post and article is a few days old but well worth a read. You can find the original post by (and a Hat Tip to) Darren Hutchinson over at Nice work, and and very nice site. Check them out when you get chance.

The New Suburban Poverty

...The result is a historic milestone that has gone strangely ignored: For the first time ever, more poor Americans live in the suburbs than in all our cities combined. read more...

The article is deep enough, but the comments to Mr. Hutchinson's original post are even better.

Speaking of Great Music

Almost forgot, we caught George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars this weekend at the International Festival in downtown Houston.

They played extended versions of quite a few of the hits, including Flashlight, Aquaboogie, and Atomic Dog. The lineup included quite a bit of new stuff too, which is as funky as it ever was. Click here for a pretty weak review from someone who has no clue the significance of P-Funk's role in modern music and live performance. I'd write my own if I had time, but suffice it to say that the show was off the chain, and had young, old, black, white, and everybody in between bouncing for 2 hours.

Not bad at all for a $10.00 ticket to the festival. And for anybody who happened to be there; Oh Yeah, BOOTY!


Texas Southern University is a HBCU located in Houston that is going through a crisis of sorts. The President was fired for misappropriating funds and is awaiting trial. In the meantime, the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, has announced a plan to place a Conservator in charge of the University, bypassing its Board of Regents, whom he has asked to all resign. His stated goal is to get the university back on track, something that he feels can't be done through the current board structure.

Sounds reasonable until you discover that TSU can lose its accreditation if there is not a board in place. With a powerful alumni base that includes politicians, athletes, business leaders, and activists, you can imagine the governors plan is not exactly going over that well. For example, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said that

...she wants the U.S. Department of Education to intervene, alleging that conservatorship would be a strict violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, imposing "undue burdens on black students." read more...

Rep. Jackson Lee's opinion is echoed in an Op/Ed from this Sunday's Houston Chronicle cowritten by former TSU President James Douglas, that states:

...conservatorship would result in the destruction of the university. According to the school's accrediting agency, conservatorship would destroy the university's accreditation and eliminate all federal financial aid programs. These programs provide necessary funding that more than 70 percent of the TSU student body relies on to fund their education. read more...

Douglas and company then hit the nail squarely on the head with this point:

First, it is not the governance structure at TSU that is broken; it is the system of selecting the board of regents. For the past 60 years, it has been the governor, with the advice and consent of the Texas Senate, that has appointed the regents who hire the president. Thus, the problem of university governance lies on the doorsteps of the Texas governor and Senate. If they are dissatisfied with the caliber of their appointments, then perhaps it is time that they establish better criteria for filling these positions. read more...

Hmmm, I smell politics with a little bit of race thrown in for good measure. I didn't attend TSU, but I appreciate the value of this great HBCU in the heart of the city. It's historical role and the fact that its an open enrollment school means that if it were to lose its accreditation as a university, for many area students there would be no place else to go. That alone seems to be worth fighting for, and props to those leaders who are doing so.

Now That's Some Paper

A fascinating breakdown of Black Spending Power from the Electronic Village.

...African Americans are projected to have spending power of approximately $1 trillion a year by 2010.

...$1 trillion seems like a number to celebrate. Nevertheless, a whopping 24.9 percent of all Blacks are still officially classified as poor and critics complain that despite its absolute size, Black income is failing to create Black wealth because it tends to flow into Black communities and right back out... read more

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Uh oh

Ahh, democracy. And more war on terror. The difference this time is that the "terrorists" are Black.

Somalia: Fighting Goes On in the Capital for the Sixth Straight Day

...More than 35 people, most of them civilians, were killed in yesterday's mortar and rocket exchanges alone. Shabelle reporter, Hirabe, in the north of the capital where the fighting still rages infrequently says shelling halted around 7:30 PM local time last night.

...the country's Prime Minister, Ali Mohammed Gedi, said the battle continues between government troops backed by Ethiopian troops and international terrorists linked to "al-Qaeda". "The Somali national forces supported by Ethiopian and the African Union troops successfully seized explosives and weapons that would be used by the terrorists...

The prime minister's remarks were, however, contradicted by the spokesman of Mogadishu's major Hawiye clan, Ahmed Derie, who said the prime minister spoke pointlessly. "He repeatedly used the word 'terrorists', which makes no sense when it comes to the real situation in Mogadishu. The rebel forces fighting with the government and Ethiopian troops in the capital are from Hawiye clan and they are clearly opposing the presence of the merciless Ethiopian troops in the country," he said. read more...

So let me get this straight; the U.S. backs an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in order to bring peace and security to the region even though the Somalian Union of Islamic Courts had already pretty much done that. The Etiopian and their Somalian allies clear out the "terrorists" after about a week of combat and declare victory. Weeks later, full scale war seems to have broken out.

Does any of this sound remotely familiar? Or how about:

...while Ethiopian tanks are pounding parts of the Somali capital... ...Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi denied there had been a "large number" of civilian casualties. He also said that most of Mogadishu was "perfectly stable" with only a few "trouble spots".

Well they have the press conference part down. This is by all definitions a proxy war, with Ethiopia providing the boots on the ground in support of American objectives. The problem however is that everything is painted black or white according to our current leaders. Regardless of the fact that the Islamicists had, through their earlier victory, ushered in the longest period of relative peace in Somalia since the late 1980's, the decision for regime change was made because hey, they're Islamic. Unfortunately for the Somalian people, that aforementioned period of peace only lasted for about 6 months.

UPDATE: Scores die in Ethiopia oil attack

Rebel gunmen have killed at least 74 people in an attack on an oil field in Ethiopia's remote Somali region, the Ethiopian government says. read more...

Monday, April 23, 2007

The 20 Most Annoying Technology Products

AOL tops the list and I tend to agree. Thoughts?

...the carpet bombing of free AOL discs was possibly the most annoying (and environmentally irresponsible) marketing campaign ever waged.

Estimates put the number of discs shipped between July 1993 and July 2006 at over 1 billion; we feel like we received that many ourselves. read more...

Hat tip to Dwight Silverman at the Houston Chronicle's TechBlog

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sell Phones?

African-Americans, particularly young ones, are the most marketed to group of people on Earth. Just in case you thought tv, radio, telemarketers and spam email weren't enough, check out this interesting story from Business Week. Hat tip to, where I found the link.

Advertising is about to get very personal. Marketers are taking tools that they already use to track your Internet surfing and are preparing to combine that information with cell-phone customer data that include not just the area where you live but also the street you're standing on. The aim is to target the exact person who is most likely to buy a product at the precise moment they're most likely to buy it. It's the ad industry's dream come true: a perfect personalized pitch. For privacy advocates, though, this combination of behavioral and geographic targeting is an Orwellian nightmare. read more...

Enough's Enough.

Francis L. Holland is on top of this outrage in Atlanta. You know what to do, make some noise.

Ron and Roy Pettway, Black men in Fulton County, GA, were partying in a bar when an argument broke out with other merrymakers over a verbal insult. Five minutes after the argument ended, the Fulton County Police arrived and ordered Ron Pettaway into the street. His brother Roy followed and saw police beating Ron, and he tried to help his brother. But, police shot Ron Pettaway in the back of the head, killng him, and they shot Roy in the back. read more...

It's All About the Music

There's been a lot of talk about rap music lately, especially the gangsta variety. Oprah even jumped in the mix with a 2-day panel discussion that touched on all the predictable aspects of the topic, i.e., why you calling us names, why can't you stop calling us names, why can't y'all understand this is the reality we coming from, and that old favorite, we ain't talking about all women. The industry types came across looking completely ridiculous trying to defend the rights of foul mouth rappers to be foul mouthed, and the most impressive showing from all participants was provided by the group of young women from Spellman College, who weren't buying any of that crap.

Now full disclosure here; I love me some hip hop music. I have since Rapper's Delight hit the airwaves way back when. I practically grew up with the music, listening to everybody from the Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and Afrika Bambataa; to EPMD, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions; on through Tupac, Tribe Called Quest, and Ice Cube. For those who know, the artists just listed represent a wide range of styles and lyrical content, but as I said in an earlier post, in the late 1980's rap changed from party and/or positive message music almost solely to the glorification of the thug life.

Even with gansta rap as popular as it has been the last 15-20 years, there were still a number of acts that I thought defied the trend, like Spearhead, the Roots, the Fugees, Common, and others. Before anybody says "hey, they cuss on their records too," I already know that. My point is that those groups did not come off as gangsta rap or portray themselves as the hardest mf's on the block. Instead, all displayed a degree of depth and an ability to rap about things other than killing up a whole bunch of folks, how clean their rides are, or how many "ho's" they've got. I for one appreciate that and here, in my long-winded, roundabout way is the reason why.

I spent a good percentage of my formulative years in a city where there were, how should I put this, not very many Black folks. And the one's that were there seemed to have a real disconnect from Black culture overall. To make a long story short, if you went out anywhere to have fun, you basically had to adapt yourself to the majority culture because really, that's all that was there. The end result is that I ended up learning a lot about that culture that I'm not sure I would have got had I been anywhere else. For instance, the music. A lot of the White kids grew up listening to the same music their parents had, groups like Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones, the Who, etc., etc., music that was for the most part older than they were when they began to listen to it. And it's not just rock music. Think about it, you can put on records made by Earth, Wind, and Fire, Parliament/Funkadelic, the Zapp Band, and countless other R&B artists and get the same result, a connection across time through the music. I mean, have you listened to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" lately? If not I encourage you to do so. Now.

If you didn't know any better, you would think that song had just been released this year, the content is still so relevant and the music so tight. The same applies to Reggae music, listen to "Mama Africa" by Peter Tosh, or "Get Up, Stand Up" by Bob Marley.

Black Rockers can even be included in the mix. Now I know that a lot of us don't listen to Rock music much, if at all, but I'd encourage you to listen to some of the stuff by groups like Fishbone and Living Color. Again, still relevant musically and lyrically a decade and more after the records were initially released.

The fact that the music and the lyrical content from these disparate types of music are still appealing all of these years later to me, clearly illustrates the issue with gansta rap today, namely that in twenty more years which gangsta rap acts currently at the top of the charts will you STILL be listening to? My guess is none. The legacy of great Black music being produced for the ages has been disrupted and/or distorted, in my opinion, by this gangsta rap era. R&B has been marginalized, and other forms such as jazz, reggae, and rock don't receive nearly the amount of airplay or attention. However, there is rap music that has been Led Zeppelinized. I can listen to "The Message" anytime, anywhere, or "Fight the Power." I'm sure you all can think of plenty of others. To me, that's encouraging and should be taken as a lesson. Namely, that good music with good lyrical content lives on forever, while a lot of what's being produced today won't be in anyone's rotation even one or two years from now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Matter of Perspective.

Well, as expected, the talk of the nation is the shootings at Virginia Tech yestersday, some for reasons other than what you might think. A sampling:

thefreeslave said: Many of us fear the identification of criminals responsible for high profile crimes - fear one of us will be fingered. Why? Because we KNOW that all of us receive an adverse sentence behind the actions of one of us.

I woke up this morning and saw the picture of a Korean man, the alleged shooter. Conflicted. “I thought it’d be a white student…but thank God it wasn’t a black man.”

Beyond the collective sigh of relief most of us are breathing that it wasn't one of our own committing the crime, there's also a need to keep the crime in perspective, as so very eloquently phrased at

News outlets all over the country are calling the Virginia Tech massacre the deadliest shooting in modern American history.

But as one writer points out, this is another example of how mainstream media works to forget our painful history of race and violence.

I wish that AP, MSNBC and other news outlets would be intellectually accurate and honest. The "deadliest mass shooting" or "deadliest shooting rampage" in our nation's history occurred on June 1, 1921 in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Tulsa Race Riot, also known as the 1921 Race Riot, the Tulsa Race War, or the Greenwood Riot, was a large-scale civil disorder. During the 16 hours of rioting, over 800 people were admitted to local hospitals with injuries, an estimated 10,000 were left homeless, 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire, and $1.8 million (nearly $17 million after adjustment for inflation) in property damage.

The always informative Juan Cole adds additional perspective, from a global war on terror perspective:

Iraq Has Two Virginia Techs Every Day;

The profound sorrow and alarm produced in the American public by the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech should give us a baseline for what the Iraqis are actually living through. They have two Virginia Tech-style attacks every single day. Virginia Tech will be gone from the headlines and the air waves by next week this time in the US, though the families of the victims will grieve for a lifetime. But next Tuesday I will come out here and report to you that 64 Iraqis have been killed in political violence. And those will mainly be the ones killed by bombs and mortars. They are only 13% of the total; most Iraqis killed violently, perhaps 500 a day throughout the country if you count criminal and tribal violence, are just shot down. Shot down, like the college students and professors at Blacksburg.

There's validity in each one of the statements above and as I've said before, this country has some soul searching to do. The issue of race in our society and its affect on things as disparate as sentencing guidelines; the continuing historical narratives and media memory lapses that dismiss or ignore the history of Blacks in this country; and the complete lack of perspective and compassion in respect to Iraq, a country in which we have unleashed Hell on Earth demonstrates again the myth of American, and particularly non-ethnic American exceptionalism. As the country and the world around us changes faster than we can really hope to keep up, doses of reality like those provided above are needed now more than ever.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Planned Obsolescence

Are consumer products made to break? An interview with author Giles Slade

From cell phones to PCs to computer monitors and televisions, every year sees an exponential rise in the number of machines tossed into landfills. In 2003, over 63 million working PCs were trashed, In 2004, that number jumped to 315 million. The same trend holds over a wide array of consumer electronics.

The reasons behind this are many and complex, but Slade hones in on one: companies profit more when products have shorter lifespans - because they sell more products that way. This is no conspiracy theory but, rather, simple economics. Small wonder, then, that product lifespans are shrinking across the board...
read more

My house is the consumer electronics equivalent of an oceanic dead zone; any electronic products brought into it seem to die a rapid death. This includes cordless phones, entertainment systems, and lately, blenders. My wife has purchased two in the last month, neither working well (or at all) for any length of time.

I don't think that's the case with all consumer items however. For instance, my day job involves refurbishing computers deemed obsolete by the corporations that previously used them. In most cases, the technology is still completely usuable when placed in a different environment that doesn't demand the latest bells and whistles.

African-Americans are the most marketed to group of people on the planet so I'm sure we're all doing our part to keep rampant consumerism rampant. For some reason, I not exactly sure that's a good thing. With that in mind, I still found the article to be very interesting. What do you think?

Maybe it's the Rappers Fault.

Racial slur on sofa label stuns family

Mother had to explain to daughter, 7 origin of 'totally unacceptable' word on wrapping of furniture built overseas. When the new chocolate-coloured sofa set was delivered to her Brampton home, Doris Moore was stunned to see packing labels describing the shade as "Nigger-brown."...
read more

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Don Imus

Don Imus is off the air for the first time in 35 years because he couldn't resist partaking in a little good ol' boy humor live on the air for millions of listeners and viewers to hear. That he's paid the price for those comments with his job is being portrayed as righteous retribution carried out by the powers that be at NBC and CBS who were morally outraged by his racially and sexually insensitive comments. In my opinion, the reality is that as soon as the advertisers started bailing, Imus' fate was sealed and it was all over but the shouting.

The talking heads are already apoplectic about double standards, particularly in regard to rap music. "Why can rappers and comedians (aka Black people) say anything they want but a radio host can't? Don Imus is really the victim here of a racial double standard." In other words, it's Black people's fault that Imus said what he said. Talk about blaming the victims.

The reality is that rap music is manufactured, marketed, and distributed pretty much exclusively by White owned and managed corporations. Additionally most of the music is purchased by White youths. In other words, the only portion of this industry not controlled by Whites is the rapping (and beat production) itself. What does that mean? Well, when I was younger, most of the rap music was either party type dance music with nonsensical lyrics, and later politically charged rhymes dealing primarily with themes of Black empowerment. Sometime in the late 80's, that all changed, and rap music transformed to all gangsta's, all the time. So what happened? I'm not sure, but the success of groups like N.W.A. seems to have lead the major record companies to only sign acts with similar drug laden and violent lyrics. It's pretty much been that way ever since, and the results are visible for all to see.

Now the word is out that if Blacks can't get their own house in order, then expect Whites to continue to say whatever they please. I have a problem with that. I'll be the first to say that rappers (and other artists) need to have some sense of propriety and decency when recording their music. However no matter how foul-mouthed they are, it still doesn't give anyone the right to go on the public airwaves and make insensitive comments of the sort Imus made. And it's absolutely pathetic and juvenile that the only rationale offered so far is that "well rappers and comedians say worse than that, so why should he be fired?"


The great unspoken truth about our society is that we have not dealt with race in a way that actually allows us to get beyond our past. I'm willing to bet that no matter how much protesting or angry letters generated, the situation would have been completely different if American Express or the other major advertisers had decided to stand pat. They didn't, and Imus is history, at least until he signs his upcoming multimillion dollar deal with one of the satellite radio companies. In that respect, for Imus and his defenders to resort to pointing fingers at everyone but Imus is a joke.

Friday, April 13, 2007

There... Already


After considering it for a long time, I've finally progressed to creating a blog. This is partially a result of the realization that of the news I receive, the information I seek, the communication I desire, and the activities that I engage in depend more and more on the internet, and the power of this medium cannot be disputed. The ability to access a wealth of information that just a few years ago would have been inaccessible is powerful enough, but even more amazing is the sheer volume of content producers (and aggregators) online that previously would have had a very difficult time having their voices heard. With most media outlets sounding more alike than different, blogs and the internet have basically been a lifeline to sanity in an insane world. Now with this blog I guess I'm joining the club.

So what now? The blog is up, but what to blog about? I'm interested in all kinds of things like politics, sports, computers, electronics recycling, the environment, etc., etc. Will one subject or another rise to the top? Truthfully, I don't know. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. What was easy to decide was the name. Because I'm there, already. I know that needs a bit more explaining, and I will at a later time. Right now, let's just say I'm there, already with corporate media. I'm there, already with my teams collapsing down the stretch or in the playoffs. I'm there, already with politicians from both sides of the American political spectrum. I'm there, already with the current state of global affairs and endless war. I'm there already with planned obsolescence and massive waste. I'm there, already with unsaid truths, and spoken lies. I'm There... Already. So welcome, and I hope each visit here is worth your while.