Friday, July 17, 2009

The Sotomayor Experience

For reference:
“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life." - Judge Sotomayor

The Richness of Her Experience

Without question the easiest road to a successful life in this society begins by being born an upper class white male. Any one of us can think of numerous examples of very successful people who appear to have little else to explain their success. George Bush for example.

The problem with this road to success is simply that what it offers in ease and comfort, it takes away in richness of experience. Although he may well know richness when it comes to cultural, education and food, he may find himself detached from the real world, like a President that doesn’t know the price of bread, because he will not be rich in experience. Such a person may never know hunger, or pain, or the bad side of the police, or the righteous criminal, may never know what it's like to be kicked to the curb, may never really know how the other half +99% live.

But just such experiences are the furnace in which the character is annealed, knowledge of the practical realities of the world is gained, empathy and a love of fairness are learned, and a truer understanding of the very terms of justice are forged.

What these rich white men in the Senate don't want to have to face though they have managed to hang on to the vast majority of judgeships and Senate seats for so long, it that here too:

As something is gained, so something is lost.


And all other things being equal a black man, a poor man, a women, a cripple, an immigrate, anyone that has been forced to face special challenges and special prejudice and overcome them will be a better person for it, will be informed by that experience and without question be a better judge than one who by virtual of birth, has been handed the proverbial silver spoon of the upper class white male and, in Sotomayor’s words, “hadn’t lived that life.” There was absolutely nothing racist about Sotomayor citing her life experience as a Latina woman nor can we pretend it is just as easy for a Latina woman to make it to the bench of the Supreme Court as it is for a white male.

Richness of Experience Part II

They should be asking her just what does she mean when she refers to "the richness of her experience” but they don't get it. They want to dwell on her statement that she came to these conclusions as a "wise Latina women" with the focus on "Latina” because they are intent on using her nomination and confirmation process, which they know they can't defeat, to sow confusion about racism.

After all, the capitalism economy’s in the toilet. Poor people will need to pay. Opposition to the policies of more war, less health care and cutbacks is bound to increase, so time to shore up that tried and true technique for dividing the people, racism.

So they boldly call her a racist. As if there are Latino racists and black racists, along with white racists and so on and we can all agree that any kind of racism is bad. As if racism is just a matter of personal opinions or even less, of personal expression. As if... As if white racism wasn't forge in the last 500 years of the white European's brutal conquest of the natural world and the colored peoples of it. White racism has also benefited from a certain 'richness of experience’. In this country, it developed with the genocide of the indigenous people and was brought to a much keener edge than anywhere else in the world through the importation and exploitation of African slaves. It was annealed by white terrorism of the KKK and Jim Crow laws and continues to be polished till this day. These Senate confirmation hearings give many examples of such polishing.

Here in North America, white racism has without question had a certain 'richness of experience' as its foundations and supports that no so-called Black or Latino racism can claim. Only white racists have ever run the country, determined it laws, the basis of its culture, its economics, its politics, government and been in such a position to develop and promote their ideas and make them the controlling ideas.

The people attacking Sotomayor as a racist want us to forget about that and adopt a definition and understanding of racism that is divorce from its historical roots and its continuing economic, social and political supports. The facts are that after more than two hundred years were have been very few women or people of color on the high court, and there has never been a Latina women on the high court and these people want us to pretend that racism, by which I mean institutionalized white racism, is a thing of the past.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rest In Peace Michael Jackson

'All I really want to say is "They don't really care about us."'
-- Michael Jackson


Michael Jackson was one of the most significant musical talents of the last century. He changed popular music and world culture in ways that it would be difficult to exaggerate. He showed the music industry how to combine hits and albums and concerts and music video and marketing and cartoons and, of course, dance in a number of whole new combinations. He sold over 750 million records. Three of his albums are among the bestsellers of all time, and one, Thriller, remains the biggest-selling album ever. His performance during the 1993 Super Bowl half-time show drew the largest TV audience in American history and he broke the color barrier on MTV with his Billy Jean video. He touched deeply hundreds of millions of people around the world with his art, which is why they are turning out in such massive numbers to celebrate his life.

Michael Jackson proved to be an astute businessman as well. For Thriller he got approximately $2 per album royalty, then the highest rate ever paid in the music industry. He had the likes of John Singleton, John Landis, Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee direct his videos. His total lifetime earnings from royalties, solo recordings and music videos, revenue from concerts and endorsements have been estimated at half a billion dollars. He also owned a patent for a stage shoe device that allows performers to lean forward and appear to defy gravity. In 1984, the New York Times said Jackson was a one-man rescue team for the music business. He never stopped producing. He'd just wrapped up filming of the "Dome Project" at Culver Studio two weeks before he died.

He worked on a number of projects with Paul McCartney and they became friends. Paul told Michael how he had gotten into the music catalog business and was now earning $40 million a year off of other peoples songs. Soon Michael Jackson was in the music catalog business - buying, selling and distributing publishing rights to music from numerous artists - eventually including ATV Songs - a music catalog holding thousands of songs, including most of the songs written by Lennon-McCartney between 1963-1973. He paid $47.5 million for it. According to Forbes, Mr. Jackson was still making as much as $75 million a year from that publishing partnership with Sony alone, but that never stopped Media reports of his bankruptcy and imminent financial collapse like this one: Jackson Nears Financial Ruin, December 16, 2005, Fox News - and it never stopped efforts by Sony and other Media giants to squeeze him for more of the pie. They wanted us to think he was broke because they had every intention of breaking him.

Ever since Michael Jackson started playing Monopoly with the big Media giants, they have seen an advantage from media 'questions' about his health, financial or otherwise. This story from the NY Times on Jan 21, 2004, "NBC Offered Jackson Deal to Pre-empt Documentary Criticizing Him" is just one of the more blatant examples of how this worked. In that case NBC business exec Marc Graboff offered [in an email - that was his undoing!] to cancel a very negative "Dateline" segment on Jackson if he would let NBC have certain properties it wanted for $5 million. Well, Mr. Jackson turned them down and got more than $5 million for less properties from Fox. Thank you! What did NBC do? They expanded the "Dateline" segment to a two hour special titled "Michael Jackson Unmasked." I call that sort of thing black mail with a vengeance. There are many more such examples involving many other corporations, including Sony. I picked one involving NBC because I wanted you to have a little window into the past business dealings of NBC with the "King of Pop" when I discuss Keith Olbermann's recent bashing of Michael Jackson below.

Michael Jackson may have been rich like a corporation but he gave a lot more back than the corporations. After he was burned and settled with Pepsi for $1.5 million, he gave the money to Brothman Medical Center in Culver City where he had been treated. They named the "Michael Jackson Burn Center" in his honor. The single "We Are the World" he co-wrote with Lionel Richie and recorded with 39 music celebrities to aid the poor in Africa and the U.S. sold 20 million copies worldwide and raised millions of dollars for famine relief. In 1984 President Ronald Reagan gave him an award for his support of charities. During his 15 month Bad World Tour in 1988 he did a total of 123 concerts for 4.4 million people. He invited underprivileged children to watch for free and gave donations to hospitals, orphanages and other charities. From Wikipedia:
From 1985 to 1990, Jackson donated $500,000 to the United Negro College Fund, and all of the profits from his single "Man in the Mirror" went to charity.

Jackson founded the "Heal the World Foundation" in 1992. The charity organization brought underprivileged children to Jackson's ranch, to go on theme park rides that Jackson had built on the property after he purchased it. [ Put those ugly thoughts away, in many cases Jackson wasn't even at the ranch.] The foundation also sent millions of dollars around the globe to help children threatened by war and disease. The Dangerous World Tour began on June 27, 1992, and finished on November 11, 1993. Jackson performed to 3.5 million people in 67 concerts. All profits from the concerts went to the "Heal the World Foundation", raising millions of dollars in relief.

Following the illness and death of Ryan White, Jackson helped draw public attention to HIV/AIDS, something that was still controversial at the time. He publicly pleaded with the Clinton Administration at Bill Clinton's Inaugural Gala to give more money to HIV/AIDS charities and research.

Throughout June 1999, Jackson was involved in a number of charitable events. He joined Luciano Pavarotti for a benefit concert in Modena, Italy. The show was in support of the non-profit organization Warchild, and raised a million dollars for the refugees of Kosovo, as well as additional funds for the children of Guatemala.[112] Later that month, Jackson organized a set of "Michael Jackson & Friends" benefit concerts in Germany and Korea. Other artists involved included Slash, The Scorpions, Boyz II Men, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey, A. R. Rahman, Prabhu Deva Sundaram, Shobana Chandrakumar, Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti. The proceeds went to the "Nelson Mandela Children's Fund", the Red Cross and UNESCO.[113]

In 2000, Jackson was listed in the book of Guinness World Records for his support of 39 charities, more than any other entertainer or personality.[114] At the time, Jackson was waiting for the licenses to the masters of his albums to revert to him; this allowed him to promote his old material how he liked and prevented Sony from getting a cut of the profit. Jackson expected this to occur early in the new millennium, however, due to the fine print and various clauses in the contract, this revert date is still many years away. Jackson began an investigation, and it emerged that the attorney who represented the singer in the deal was also representing Sony, creating a conflict of interest.

He was playing a high stakes game with the big Media companies and early on they tagged him as "Wacko Jacko." It may have started because Jackson thought he could play the media with a series of publicity stunts such as the pictures the National Enquirer published in 1986 of Jackson lying in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber or reports he spread that he had bought the bones of the Elephant Man. By the time he realized his mistake and stopped leaking false stories, there was too much money to be made off of "Wacko Jacko" so the Media started making up their own stories. As Michael Jackson himself once said "Why not just tell people I'm an alien from Mars. Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight. They'll believe anything you say, because you're a reporter." but he would have been better served had he followed his own advise from Billy Jean "Be careful what you do because a lie becomes the truth."

The the mid 1980's Michael Jackson's skin gradually began to get paler. It was discovered that he had Vitiligo and Lupus, both diseases made him sensitive to sunlight, and the treatments he used further lightened his skin. Rumors persisted that he was bleaching his skin and the truth is that he did have a lot of plastic surgery.

When Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse by thirteen year old Jordan Chandler and his father Evan Chandler in 1993, the Media had a field day. Evan Chandler was later to be tape-recorded saying amongst other things, "If I go through with this, I win big-time. There's no way I lose. I will get everything I want and they will be destroyed forever...Michael's career will be over" and nothing was ever proved, but by the time the dust had settled, the damage had been done. From Wikipedia:
Jackson began taking painkillers, Valium and Ativan to help him cope with chronic pain a consequence to an accident involving the collapse of stage rigging during the Dangerous Tour and for joint inflammation from Lupus. Jackson started taking Xanax for panic attacks and stress stemming from the allegations made against him of child abuse. By the fall of 1993, Jackson was addicted to the drugs.[88] His health deteriorated to the extent that he canceled the remainder of the Dangerous World Tour and went into drug rehabilitation for a few months.[89] The stress of the allegations also caused Jackson to stop eating, and he lost a significant amount of weight.[90] With his health in decline, Jackson's friends and legal advisers took over his defense and finances; they called on him to settle the allegations out of court, believing that he could not endure a lengthy trial.[89][90]

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, PhD, wrote about this in his The Assassination of the Black Male Image (1994):

I hope Michael Jackson has learned his lesson. His wealth, success, fame, Casper the ghost looking bleached skin, nose pinch job, eye shade, straight hair and gyrating hips can't erase two words on his birth certificate, black male. He may have forgotten this, but the press didn't. All it took was the unsubstantiated word of a thirteen year old boy that Mike was a child molester and sex abuser to slap him back to reality. The press pounced on him like vultures picking over carrion. The charge was sex molestation. For a black man who makes his living grabbing his crotch before millions, he was done in from the start. The equation looks like this: black man + sex + perversion = guilt. Jackson and other black men who wind up on the sexual hot seat reminded me of the luckless Americans during the McCarthyite purges of the 1950s. Their personal lives were picked apart by congressional inquisitors. They were battered in the press. Their careers and reputations were destroyed. To escape the shame, some fled the country, others committed suicide. All it took was the unsubstantiated charge that they were a Communist, "fellow traveler" or knew someone who was. It made no difference whether the charge was true. The witch hunters howled for blood. Politicians, the press and the public tried, convicted and condemned the accused. Years later, a lucky few would be vindicated. Some even resumed their careers. But, the damage had been done. The stigma could never be erased. We look back on those disgraceful years and swear to the high heavens that it could never happen again in America. But it can. Today, being called a Communist may bring laughter, being called a child or sex abuser, however, will damage a career. It began with the child abuse revelations in the McMartin Pre-School case. It gathered steam with the sex abuse charges leveled at Clarence Thomas by Anita Hill. It came full blast when Michael Jackson was accused of both. The media quickly displayed its magnificent talent for turning trivia and gossip about Jackson into the "big story." So what if the police didn't find anything? So what if no one bothered to do a background check on the accuser and the alleged witnesses? So what if the District Attorney did not immediately press criminal charges? So what if no one cared now many luggage bags Liz Taylor carried on the plane when she went to meet Jackson on his world concert tour? With Hollywood Madam Heidi, I mean Jackson, the media happily titillated the public with countless "insider" interviews, features and reports on Jackson's alleged shenanigans. It worked. Based on an unsubstantiated charge the press got the tongues of the public wagging.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Jackson wound up in the docket. He was always ripe for pickings. Besides being incredibly rich, he's also obsessively reclusive. The press easily turned the privacy he's spent a lifetime guarding into a damning weapon against him. Even when he bowed to the critics, and tried to show he was a real person by venturing an opinion or two, his words came to back to haunt him. In 1992, he told Ebony Magazine, "Children are loving, they don't gossip, they don't complain, they're just open hearted, they're ready for you. They don't judge."

Oh Boy! "What did he REALLY mean by that?" asked a critic for the Nation turned amateur psychoanalyst. He frothed at the prospect of discovering something murky in those stray remarks. Stuff like this probably made Jackson wish he had kept his trap shut and stayed hidden on his ranch.

They even made a public spectacle of Michael having to expose himself to the police to resolve that case! The psychology of racism as a pathology of white sexual fantasies and fears was all over this case. The whole underlying subtext of all of this, that Michael Jackson is a pedophile with a thing for little boys, lives on only in innuendo because it could never stand a serious examination in daylight. Pedophilia, like other sexual appetites, requires continuous satisfaction. Some pedophiles get away with it because they have the Church to move them around when appropriate, others exist in relative obscurity until they are caught. Michael Jackson has had to live under the close eyes of the paparazzi and tabloid investigators all his life, if there was any 'there' to the lore about Michael Jackson and young boys, they would have long since collected on it. Even that obsessed D.A. in Santa Maria, CA that took him to trial for child sexual abuse in 2005 lost, and he wins 97% of his cases!

Now that he is dead, the Media is once again showing "its magnificent talent for turning trivia and gossip about Jackson into the 'big story'." Four other celebrities died within a week of Michael Jackson. Each passing was noted with the usual dignities attend to such occasions and the long tradition of not speaking ill of the dead was adhered to. Not so with Michael Jackson.

I have seen Michael dangling his baby over the balcony four times in one hour. There has been endless speculation about his will, his drug use, his children's real parents, his ability to perform, you name it. Even on Keith Olbermann's NBC show Countdown, we hear denigrating stories about Michael Jackson based on what "the website TMZ.com is reporting that sources have told it." What ever happened to fact checking a story before publishing?

Monday, June 29th on Countdown [my comments in brackets]:
OLBERMANN: Died intestate you say -- $500 million in debt and three kids and no will? [stupid Michael!]

Tuesday June 30th on Countdown there were false rumors about a memorial at Neverland reported as fact and more unfounded speculation about who's children they really were:
OLBERMANN: Michael Jackson is reportedly not his kids‘ biological father, but we may know who is. Debbie Rowe is reportedly not their mother, but she contests that.

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, let me say this again, this carnival‘s going to be in town for a while. According to TMZ, the King of Pop is not the biological father of any of his three children, and the ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, is not the biological mother of the two oldest, although that is being disputed by Rowe‘s lawyer.

And the requisite memorial is forming at Neverland Ranch. The reports say the fallen icon‘s body might be taken some time Thursday.

OLBERMANN: Andrew Blankstein continues to cover all of this for the “Los Angeles Times” and continues to be generous enough to join us with the latest. [ Keith, Does that mean he's not being paid? ] Thank you for all of that, sir. How much more of a legal mess is custody here, if Jackson never adopted those kids? [ Kids he should have adopted because TMZ says he's not the father? Never mind that the kids were born in wedlock, a term they don't like to use in connection with a black father, so legally he is their father regardless of what the DNA says. That's the law here in California. ]

On Wednesday, July 1st Countdown had a substitute hatchet man. By then a will had been filed by Michael Jackson's attorney [ it had 'surfaced' in the parlance of the Media] so now the speculation turned towards hope for multiple wills and possible illegal use of or prescriptions for drugs:
SHUSTER: As we mentioned, TMZ.com is reporting a dangerous drug used for surgical anesthesia was found in Jackson‘s home. What do you make of that, first of all?

BLANKSTEIN: Well, obviously, this is something that the Los Angeles Police Department—which hasn‘t said specifically about what drugs were taken out—is going to be taking a close look...

SHUSTER: Andrew, when can we expect of the results of Jackson‘s autopsy and an official cause of death will finally be released?

BLANKSTEIN: Well, they said four to six weeks for the toxicology, and that‘s still pretty much on target. And again, the whole investigation, police investigation, is going to hinge on what the results of that are. I mean, there‘s been a lot of speculation to different drugs and even the latest revelations, [ note how what TMZ.com said someone told them is now labeled a 'revelation' ] but we still don‘t know, and the coroner‘s office said that there were multiple prescription drugs. So, it‘s still an open question. [I have multiple prescription drugs for high blood pressure, but what the hey.]

Soon the DEA would join the [non-criminal] investigation at the invitation of the LAPD, increasing the speculation that there was something very sinister and drug related about the death of Michael Jackson without producing, as yet, anything like a shred of evidence.

The illegal drug problem in America is often portrayed as a black problem, and it doesn't take a visit to a prison to see that it is prosecuted as a black problem, even though the majority of illegal drug users and dealers are white. What I find absolutely amazing is that while the over prescription of certain legal drugs has long been a part of the drug problem in American, it has been an overwhelmingly white problem. The easier access to the doctors and the money required has most certainly given whites an edge when it comes to the abuse of prescription drugs, yet big Media and the government clearly intend on making a black man the poster child for this drug problem too.
SHUSTER: A lot of people, of course, really care about the Beatles catalog that Michael Jackson bought off many years ago. There‘s some speculation there might be some resolution of what happens to the Beatles catalog. It was not mentioned in the will. Where does that stand tonight?

BLANKSTEIN: I think that‘s one of the other things that‘s going to unfold in court. Because we still—we have some documents filed but we have obviously—others that could come forward and lay claim to a number of these assets. So, there‘s still a lot that we don‘t know as far as who has a claim to them and who might come forward.

Then the Olbermann show spins a tail from the web site The Daily Beast about how Jackson may have intentionally overdosed on prescription drugs to get out of his upcoming concerts. “Like a child who doesn‘t want to go to school,” Posner's source tells him. “Michael thought he could get away from his obligations if he had a note from his doctor.”
SHUSTER: Knowing what we do about Jackson‘s death, his physical frailty, his mental stability—does the final panic theory sound plausible to you?

WAXMAN: I‘m really sad to say that it kind of does. Everything that we knew about Michael Jackson was that he was signing up to do these concerts. We knew that he was doing it out of financial under—out of financial strain that he was under. We also knew that the people close to him in the weeks coming up to the concert knew that it was unlikely that he was going to be able to do this.

Why have they taken this gentle soul, to whom they owe so much, and smacked him around so badly with innuendo and rumor after his passing? It's a crime.

But the real crime that is being covered up with all this incessant Media babble about Michael Jackson is taking place in Afghanistan. On Thursday, a U.S. Marine offensive named Operation Khanjar [Strike of the Sword] started sweeping through the southern Afghan province of Helmand. The Media might have mentioned that if they weren't so busy taking down Michael Jackson. When they do find time to mention the war, we are told of bold victories against the "Taliban." And you know who they are? The Taliban is an isolated band of Islamic extremists. On the other hand Afghanistan is populated by a very independent people that have always fiercely fought against foreign occupation. But everyone we fight against and kill is "Taliban" or so says the Media when they take a break from giving us the 411 on Michael Jackson.

On Thursday AEG Live released video of the Michael Jackson rehearsal at the Staple Center two days before his death and it powerfully and graphically refuted all this talk about how weak and frail and mentally unstable he was. Nevertheless, his assassination by the Media continues.

Clay Claiborne, Producer
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