Monday, November 8, 2010

Dear Dems: Gimme A Reason to Vote For You

This is a repost from the blog for Let's Talk About It! Radio.

Dear Democrats: Give Me A Reason To Vote For You Again

by Subhash Kateel, 1/2 of Let's Talk About It! Radio. (Tune in Wednesday's 7pm EST at or 880 am in Miami.)

Let’s Talk About It! is a weekly Miami based radio show that tries to talk about real issues that affect the lives of real people. This past Wednesday, the focus of our radio show (check it here) was: Does It Matter Who Won the Election? But in my hardest of hearts, I wanted the topic of the show to be: Do the Democrats Suck? And Should We Keep Voting For Them?

On the show, we talked with Gihan Perera from Florida New Majority, Tobias Packer from Equality Florida , Bradley Gerber from the Miami Young Republicans, Rosa Clemente from the Green Party about this idiotic term that I just added to the list of some of the dumbest things I have ever heard in my life: the enthusiasm gap. You see, some folks have actually decided to blame voters for the Democrats not winning because they where not “enthused” with their candidates. They wondered out loud why the same folks that came out for the 2008 election (read: Black folks, Brown folks, young folks, Queer folks, first time voters) didn’t come out this time.

If the 2008 elections taught us anything, it is that people who believe in who they are voting for, will try by any means necessary to get to the polls to vote for that person.

On election day in 2008, I was a volunteer outside one of the polling stations in Liberty City, Miami. Liberty City is a great community that had the misfortune of having a Grand Theft Auto video game made in its image so it is now considered the “hood” of all “hoods” in Miami. My volunteer job was to explain to first time voters what a ballot looked like and how to fill it out. The stuff I saw that day is sketched in my mind forever. I saw city workers, teachers, formerly incarcerated folks, guys that hung out on the corners and one woman that seemed clearly strung out determined to cast their vote. One young kid in the neighborhood, not affiliated with any campaign, took several trips from his neighborhood in a pick-up truck, taking people to and from the polls, including homeless folks. For the first-time voters in the bunch, you saw this glow in their eyes as they finished casting their ballots, as if their voice and vote finally counted.

So why didn’t that happen this time around? Ok, maybe it was because Obama wasn’t running. But it was also because most democrats that were running just sucked. And I am done making excuses for them. They sucked at articulating a vision that anyone cared about, they sucked at talking to the base of folks that stepped up and got them elected in 2008. They sucked at paying attention to anyone but the Tea Party. And during a recession (and I will keep saying this) in which people are literally killing themselves and losing their livelihoods, they sucked at feeling the pain of people. And where they sucked at feeling the pain, republicans succeeded in harnessing the anger...

To read the rest of the article click the link below

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Somebody Stole My Bootstraps!

Thoughts About Foreclosures and the Homestead Act while driving on 27

"I Need A Roof Over My Head" Sugar Minot

I know I owe my friends a post on immigration. And every time I keep writing, it becomes like 10 pages. But it is coming, I swear.

Anyway, I was driving back to Miami from my mother’s central Florida neighborhood. She moved there to retire in a community that was supposed to be vibrant, up and coming, and all those other words that should raise red flags. Families from all over the country moved into a bunch of small towns on the I-4 corridor that connects Tampa and Orlando on the premise that one day the entire region was going to merge into one big metropolitan dream world. Think of it as a giant Cigar-smoking (Ybor City) Mickey Mouse (Orlando) with a Buccaneers (Tampa) hat-on…listening to Salsa (Kissimmee)…or something.

But in the process, a lot of my mom’s new neighbors fell into foreclosure. Seeing new friends come and go and seeing people suffer the humiliation of losing a home is enough to affect anyone. But it is hard to record any of the real suffering of real people in statistics or numbers: the mother who loses her first home, the father who lives in his first homeless shelter, the Sheriff forced to oversee an eviction, the depressed son who drinks himself to death over the depression of losing all he ever worked for.

And like every crisis before it, there is always that League of Extraordinary A$$holes that tell us to put the primary blame on working and poor folks themselves. Because they should have known better, they should have invested better, taken more PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. As I was driving back down to Miami on Highway 27, passing more empty homes and boarded up businesses. I started thinking about the ghosts of social mobility, and those damn BOOTSTRAPS.

Ever since I was young, when Rakim was the greatest rapper alive, and when my mom accidentally took me to see “Fatal Attraction” in the theaters, poor and working people have been lectured into pulling themselves up by their BOOTSTRAPS.

“You have to own your own home…by any means necessary” was the typical scolding. As if having a mortgage was the equivalent of the March on Washington, or the Catholic Sacrament of Baptism. Every community forum, every talk on economic development, every discussion that had people with money talking to people without money made it seem as if renting was one of the seven deadly sins. The message was always loud and clear: To break into the middle class you have to own your own home. And contrary to popular opinion, the folks I grew up with listened. Many took out loans, saved a lot of money, did what they had to do, by any means necessary, to own a home. They thought they where being proactive. All of this was in the name of economic independence and PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY and of course, those damn BOOTSTRAPS.

Whenever anyone second-guessed the wisdom of trading their souls for their own home, everyone from their pseudo financial advisor (i.e. their cousin Rufus) to that dude Cramer on CNBC would tell them to suck it up and pay way too much for a way too shitty home. Because home prices never go down…Ever.

As the housing market crashed…well I don’t need to tell you what happened. Over $10 trillion dollars of home wealth was lost. After the Banks and Wall Street got their trillion-dollar bailout, many homeowners thought help was just around the corner. But the same people that told poor and working people for years that they had to pull themselves up by their BOOTSTRAPS and own their own home, were now telling them that they should have been smarter, should have been more RESPONSIBLE when trying to buy their own/first home.

So even though I am told by people a lot smarter than me that it would have probably cost no more than $400 million dollars to help bailout homeowners that were losing their primary residence to foreclosures; even though Banks received almost a trillion dollars of taxpayer money to cover up their own mistakes in screwing over our entire economy; the only help that homeowners received was the equivalent of a token to ride the subway…after the subway stopped taking tokens.

But even after witnessing the transfer of trillion dollar welfare checks to Wall Street, the same League of Extraordinary A$$holes kept saying that bailing out homeowners was irRESPONSIBLE, even un-American. I mean what is our economic system, if people can’t pull themselves up by their BOOTSTRAPS?

If you haven’t figured out by now, I freaking hate the words BOOSTRAPS and PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Because most a$$holes that use these words in a sentence mean it for everyone beside themselves (I mean, who the hell has BOOTSTRAPS anyway?). But I also hate it because anyone that took more than five US history classes will know that the Federal Government helping homeowners is as American as…well as American as stealing Native American land…or apple pie...or baseball…or something.

Whenever you watch those old Western movies, you sort of take for granted that people just went out West with no help from anyone…just a whole bunch of BOOTSTRAPS pulled up. But the West would not have been settled to the extent that it was without THE HOMESTEAD ACT (and the US Army declaring open war on Native Americans after trying to push them west of the Mississippi…other story, other post).

The Homestead Act
, first signed into law in 1862, basically granted Federal lands in the West to almost anyone that wanted them for FREE, provided that they file an application, improve the land, and file for deed of title. Oh and they couldn’t have ever taken up arms against the US government. As a result of the US Government basically giving land away for free, 1.6 million homesteads where granted (mostly in the west), about 420, 000 square miles. This means that about 10% of all land in the United States was settled by people who were given land for free! What’s more, the last state to give up Homestead land grants was Sarah Palin’s own Alaska, in the 1980’s!

So all this sh*t about the rugged West full of pulled up BOOTSTRAPS was a lie to hide what was probably one of the biggest socialist welfare giveaways of American history. A welfare handout that built the West and helped inspire a generation of movies about rugged individualism.

As families are suffering everyday in the worst economy since the great depression, as some five million homes fall into foreclosure, there are no big ideas: no Manifest Destinies, no Wars on Foreclosures, no Homestead Acts to offer a basic way out for families. Those big ideas where reserved for the rich, the too big to fail. But on the I-4 corridor, and in communities across America you see working people that bought the whole BOOTSTRAP bit and built their whole lives around it. Only to learn that someone else stole their BOOTSTRAPS.

I leave you with “A House is Not a Home” by Sugar Minott

Questions, comments, concerns? Get at me

Spread the word and spread the love…

In Love and Struggle

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What Do Shirley Sherrod, the Klan, and South Africa have in Common?

What Do Shirley Sherrod, the Klan, and South Africa have in Common?

Hypocrisy and Redemption in a “Post-Racial America”

Robert Byrd, the recently passed Democratic Senator from West Virginia was a vocal opponent of the War in Iraq and a good friend of Ted Kennedy. There was some stuff admire in the man. But he was, until his recent death, the only currently serving Senator to have the distinction of once belonging to one of the oldest, biggest, and most violent terrorists groups in American history-the Ku Klux Klan. To his credit, he has frequently distanced himself from his actions as a young “boy from the hills.”

Robert Byrd seems like a nice guy, but how he converted from a racist, anti-Semite, anti-Catholic terrorist sympathizer that said some of these things to, well Ted Kennedy’s friend, seems a little vague. What makes it more vague is that he tried to block the Civil Rights Act’s passage after he left the Klan. But you really don’t get an understanding of what led to his redemption other than the fact that he was trying to stay in office during a changing political time. Nevertheless, judging from the lack of nooses in his office and the absence of racial rhetoric in his [recent] speeches, and the fact that Bill Clinton told us he is cool, most of us were sort of forced to take his posthumous (means after your dead) word for it. I mean he was the first Black President (until we got a real one, and realized he wasn’t so great and wasn’t so Black afterall).

Fast forward to this week and to Shirley Sherrod. Sherrod, an African American woman, was a USDA (Agriculture Department) Director of Rural Development in Georgia. She got caught on video this past week by a right-wing pr**k saying this to an NAACP gathering:

“I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So I didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough. So that when he, I assumed the Department of Agriculture had sent him to me, either that or the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and he needed to go back and report that I did try to help him.”

So if you just heard this it sounds like one of those reverse discrimination things (one of the stupidest terms ever invented). The entire world, including the NAACP and the USDA, lose their sh*t about the comment. Then the USDA Under Secretary Cheryl Cook forces her resignation, and the USDA quickly accepts, saying they have no tolerance for bigotry. Case Closed. After all why would an opportunist right-wing pr*ck that helped sink ACORN lie about anything? Right?

Well it seems like she was telling that story for a reason (please see the whole video here). And the reason wasn’t so people would know that Barack AKA MUGABE Obama was a new sheriff-in-town and he was takin names and takin white folks farms. She was telling the story to demonstrate, that in 1986 (yes more than 20 years ago) she ended up HELPING that white farmer, becoming friends with him, and realizing that white farmers suffer economic oppression too. It was a story about how we all have to work together.

Add soundtrack here (start singing “One Love” with me…now stop)

So the NAACP apologizes and joins the ranks of Glenn Beck to call for her reinstatement…wait… WTF???? Yep they UNITE to call for her reinstatement. And the White House realizes that she shouldn’t have been fired, and apologizes, partially because she is blowing up the spot of everyone that demanded she call it quits.

Robert Gibbs basically attributes it to a “culture… in this town where everything is viewed through the lens of who wins, who loses, how fast, by what margin," basically admitting that some folks in the administration have the spine of a fly (flies are invertebrate in case you are checking.).

I want to be clear; I have deep respect for the President, most of the time. I feel like he has more potential than any President in recent memory to be a real progressive. And he is blowing that potential faster than Earl “the Goat” Manigault blew his basketball career on…well “Blow.” I also respect a lot of the friends of the Administration that have become targets for character assassination (that is another post).

But this story tells me two things. One, there is a huge hypocrisy in which Redemption stories are valid in the bullsh*t called a “Post-racial America.” This is an America in which a Black woman clearly articulating the point in which she transformed her views is second guessed far more than others whose transformations seemed far more politically or economically convenient (add Dog the Bounty Hunter and Don Imus to the list with Robert Byrd). In fact I feel this whole “Post-Racial America" sh*t makes real reconciliation and redemption much harder.

Let’s look at “Post Apartheid” South Africa for a minute. Under its Truth, and Reconciliation Commission, it did what any country would do to people that admitted to the worst types of racist acts (torture, death, disappearances), it forgave many of them and reincorporated them back into the country once they acknowledged in detail their past crimes.

So you might be thinking, “what does South Africa know?” Don’t they call Soccer “Football”? And didn’t they build a big stadium that pushed a bunch of poor people out of their homes to host a big soccer game that was almost won by one of their former colonizers (the Dutch)? And aren’t there tons of debates about the effectiveness of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Sure. But it was a far cry from the repeated attempts to just wish racism away with nothing more than “Post-Racial” ness.

The final moral of the story is that Mrs. Sherrod probably won this battle because she did what anyone attacked would do, (especially if she had a childhood where her father was murdered) she fought back and defended her name and her beliefs. She fought back smart, hard, and decisively. There have been many casualties in the Right’s character war against Progressives. Every battle they win is not just a battle that ruins careers and characters. It attacks the communities that we are fighting for everyday, that struggle with real shit that is still left out of conversations on the hill, in the media, and among the Democrats and Republicans. If we don’t fight back when attacked, then we are in a sense giving up on our communities and ourselves.

I truly believe every story is told better by reggae. So I leave you with Redemption song and Get Up Stand Up.

Forward In Love and Struggle,

A Crazy Indian

How do you like my blog? If you think I’m crazy or not, get at me on email ( or follow me on twitter crazyindian001

Please spread the word and spread the love.

Other articles I wished (but still might) I blogged about today.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 4th Thoughts on Social Forums, Tea Parties, and Communicating to Scale

I woke up today feeling tempted to write a post about how full of shit the media is. But since it’s Fourth of July and little over a week since the US Social Forum in Detroit ended, I keep comparing the Social Forum this year in Detroit to the Tea Party Convention last year.

I am thinking about it today because I am writing from the South on the Fourth of July. Now, depending on who you ask and where you are, Florida is either the South, the northern tip of South America, or a southern enclave of Northeastern old people. But Florida did secede from the Union during the civil war. And if you drive on the I-4 corridor in central Florida you will see the largest flag of your life…a Dixie flag. And you’ll even see throwback shirts of people wearing a Dixie flag with words underneath saying “you wear yours and I’ll wear mine!” Clearly alluding to a time more than a decade ago when young people where wearing Malcolm X shirts as a fashion statement. Yeah…over a decade ago.

Some of my southern friends that come from old school Southern White families tell me that Fourth of July is not too popular in some parts of the South. You know, the whole Civil War and all. To some old-school Southern White families not celebrating the Fourth of July is a form of resistance. Ironic, cause some of my progressive friends don’t celebrate Fourth of July either. For them, it is the legacy of slavery, violence and US imperialism. Two forms of resistance. Can you guess which one is more likely to be called an act of treason? The answer is so obvious that we take it for granted. We take for granted that some social movements have been given a pass no matter their past, present, or intended sins.

I was reminded of this when I attended the US Social Forum almost two weeks ago. The US Social Forum is self described as a ”movement building process. …the next most important step in our struggle to build a powerful multi-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational, diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and changes history.” In sum it is probably the most formidable meeting of Progressive minds in the country. Now, I give it two minutes before Glenn Beck starts blabbing about how it was a convergence of Lenin’s little idiots. Yeah…F**k him.

Organizers estimate the number in attendance at the US Social Forum at 15,000. Even if someone calls bullshit and puts the number at 10,000 I personally saw at least 3,000 people at the afterparty (yes, an after party) to the Social Forum alone. So for argument sake, let’s just halve the estimated in attendance to 7,500. How many people attended the Tea Party convention? The one with Sara Palin as the guest speaker for about $200k? According to the press, about 600. Ok, so the media bullshits and lies. So let me double the number of people at the Tea Party convention to 1200. It still means that twice as many people were shaking their ass on the dancefloor of the US Social Forum afterparty than in attendance for the whole freaking Tea Party convention. And unlike the Tea Party convention, which was about as melanin-rich as a bridge game, and had as many young people as a Depends undergarment commercial. The US Social Forum had old and young; white, black and brown; gay and straight; poor, working, and middle class; immigrants and citizen. It represented virtually every cross-section of society. It wasn’t unusual to see the young Black, middle-class, queer/trans immigrant from the country nor was it unusual to see the poor white straight older white man from Detroit. Both doing serious work in their/our community to make it better.

But if you believe the mainstream media, the tea party is the biggest social movement in the country right now. And the Tea Party talks about itself that way via its mouthpieces such as Glenn Beck. But the Social Forum is barely talked about or talked about disparagingly in most media outlets.

Before you get it twisted though, underestimating the Tea-baggers as a viable social movement, and reducing them to a haven for white supremacists and Sara Palin fetishists is to our detriment. In fact, some of the blame for the growth of the Tea Party is squarely placed on the Democrats and Republicans that have failed to do anything but exploit the day-to-day social and economic realities of white working class communities. I think it is also fair to blame some of us progressives for failing to more deeply engage white working rural and ex-urban communities that feel left out of the political and economic process, but just have really crazy ways of expressing it (but that is another post).

As a person that has been part of two of the biggest modern social movements, the anti-war and immigrant rights movement. I have seen for myself how mobilizations in the hundreds of thousands can produce only a blip in a major newspaper. But there seems to be a paradox amongst progressives. We are really hard on ourselves about not building movements to scale, despite all evidence to the contrary. But then we make excuses for why our ideas don’t penetrate the consciousness of regular folks, and attribute it to a media blackout.

This isn’t the whole answer, but is seems to me that we don’t have a lack of people, but a lack of effective mouthpieces. I don’t mean leaders. For every progressive meeting of 2, we have 3 leaders. But we don’t yet have the adequate “stuff” to communicate with communities that haven’t heard all we have to say about why the world is f**ked and how WE can fix it. America is a huge freaking country. 300 million people, two of the longest natural borders, and plenty of open space. But some of our progressive communications is still stuck in a handful of metropolitan areas. For us to build to scale, we just may need to be able to communicate with the millions of folks that are losing their homes, have families locked up, got kids dying in the war, friends getting deported, or just people that feel they don’t have a voice. And I mean the ones that don’t watch the same shows we watch, don’t read the same books we read, don’t listen to the same radio shows we listen to, but they do feel the same things we are feeling.

The Social Forum proves that we can bring our thoughts to scale. We can think and feel through the problems of the entire planet. Now can we communicate what we are thinking and feeling to scale?


I’m gonna leave you with what my friend left me with today…Fredrick Douglas’ thoughts on July 4th.