Heard this on Countdown.

2 people, so far, have been fired for illegally accessing Barack Obama’s State Department Records.A third employee has been disciplined. It happened in January 2008 – Obama only recently found out.

Who knew what?
Why did they access it?
Who did they tell, WITHIN the State Department and OUTSIDE of the State Department?
WHY did it take so long for the State Department to tell the Obama Campaign?

Article I found through a link at DailyKos:

Obama demands probe over passport breach
Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor
March 20, 2008 08:21 PM

Barack Obama’s campaign tonight is demanding a full investigation of reports that his passport files at the State Department were viewed without authorization.

“This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy, even from an Administration that has shown little regard for either over the last eight years. Our government’s duty is to protect the private information of the American people, not use it for political purposes. This is a serious matter that merits a complete investigation, and we demand to know who looked at Senator Obama’s passport file, for what purpose, and why it took so long for them to reveal this security breach,” Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement.

NBC News is reporting that several low-level State Department employees have been fired over the January incident, and the department is conducting an internal investigation.

UPDATE- From DailyKos:

Barack Obama’s passport file was breached without his consent, in violation of the Privacy Act, at least three times this year (on Jan. 9, Feb. 21, and Mar. 14). On Thursday night State Department spokesman Sean McCormack blamed the snooping on mere curiosity. Two of the three contract employees of the Bureau of Consular Affairs reportedly involved were fired, and the third disciplined.


On Thursday evening, the Obama campaign emailed to Daily Kos the following statement.

“This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy, even from an 
Administration that has shown little regard for either over the last eight 
years. Our government’s duty is to protect the private information of the 
American people, not use it for political purposes. This is a serious 
matter that merits a complete investigation, and we demand to know who
looked at Senator Obama’s passport file, for what purpose, and why it took so long for them to reveal this security breach,” said Obama campaign
spokesman Bill Burton.

Update: Some interesting questions found at DailyKos (debatablepolitics’s diary):

The State Departments explanation is lacking. Here are 5 questions that need to be asked:

1. If these 3 incidents were purely innocent curiousity why no access breach of Clinton, McCain or any other candidate?
2. Who is this contractor employed by the State Department?
3. Who sits on their board? Who is the CEO?
4. Is there any link to other political campaigns to this contractor at any level?
5. Why were these guys fired prior to the proper inspector general investigation?

cross-posted to goodCRIMETHINK

I am sad. I am angry. I am weary, and I am ashamed.

I hardly know where to begin writing about this five year travesty called the Iraq War, but I do know that it must end.

I was one of those people that didn’t need to read a top secret National Intelligence Estimate to know that this war was a terrible idea, but knowing that I was right doesn’t make me feel any better. It makes me feel worse for I’ve done not nearly enough to bring an end to the tragedy. None of us has.

I’m sure you’re busy. We all are. But we owe it to our servicemen and women and to the Iraqi people to pay attention to what’s happening. Please, stop what you’re doing, and read this.

No one in my family, nor any of my close friends are in the military. When I do get a chance to listen to soldiers, I do so with great attention. Three years ago, I ran into a returning U.S. Marine at the Philly airport. Here’s a segment of what I wrote:

“Ok, then the opposite question: what’s the most scared you were?”

This required no time for Joe to give me a response.

“Mortar fire. It’s as loud as an airplane.”

I thought that was it, but then he told another story. When he finished, I realized at some point, that I had stopped breathing.

“Also, when someone yells ‘gas!’ that means we suspect a chemical weapons attack, and we have to get suited up.”

All the troops get suited up in their chemical gear — huge, heavy rubber suits with full face masks. This is in 120 degree desert heat. Then they wait. To me, of the F-U-Philly-Airport crowd, “mortar fire” qualified as most frightening. When he upped it with “gas!” I could see that yes, thinking you might melt from the inside, was more frightening than loud explosions. But, Joe wasn’t finished.

“When it’s over, the commanding officer has the youngest, most junior marine take his mask off… to make sure the air is ok. I was the commanding officer, and I had to look into these kids’ eyes and tell them to risk their lives by taking off a mask. The medics were standing by with [instant treatment of some sort] but I’m 22 looking into an 18 year old’s eyes, and he’s scared. It’s hard thing to do.”



I did not expect that. I’m not sure what I expected, maybe fears of a roadside bomb or some sort of ambush, but not some deep, emotionally scarring event. That’s war. Right there.

A year after meeting Joe, I went to a panel at the progressive Yearly Kos blogger convention (summer 2006). It was a panel of those who had served in Iraq, and more than one story moved me to tears. The panel was sponsored by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Again, here’s an excerpt of what I wrote at the time under the title, YearlyKos Day 2: “Listen to me. They come home from war, and they kill themselves”:

IAVA hosted a panel with veterans from Iraq talking about their experience over there, but most horribly, their experience here in the US, once they returned.

The quote in the title was from a female vet who joined the military at age 17. She was describing the heart-breaking, back-stabbing and outright cruel lack of resources available to veterans once they get back, especially psychological help. She told of how she was sexually assaulted by a major when she was 19 (a subject I’ve blogged about before), traumatized by her experience in Iraq, and forced into nearly 9-month delays once she returned. She was officially noted by the military health staff as having suicidal tendencies. If it weren’t for IAVA, she said, she’d be another statistic.

“I know people who came back from the war and blew their brains out because they couldn’t take it. Listen to me. They come home from war, and they kill themselves”

And one year later (June 2007), I wrote about the tragedies waiting to happen as trained killers return home in Let’s Talk About The Monster’s We’re Creating

It’s 2008, and we are still over there, still murdering and maiming and displacing countless Iraqi people. We’re still murdering, maiming and psychologically scarring American servicemen and women. Yet, our leaders, for the most part, tell us to be patient. Victory is attainable. They are wrong. We have already lost.

Two weeks ago, I watched No End In Sight, an infuriating documentary which chronicles the extreme arrogance and carelessness with which we planned, launched and prosecuted this war. The people behind this misadventure are criminals, in both their conscious behavior and their negligence.

But this is not all I’ve been thinking about this week.

I have spent the past several days listening to the testimony of servicemen and women who have returned from Iraq. They’ve been speaking openly about their experiences in the Winter Soldier testimonies, modeled on events of the same name post-Vietnam.

Every American citizen must take the time to listen to at least some of these stories. You owe it to the people we have sent over there to know what is being done with your money and in your name. It’s practically the least you can do.

I have pulled together four stories in the video player below

  • Mike Prysner talks about the deep-seated racism he witnessed and was a part of
  • Camilo Mejia speaks eloquently and painfully of the loss of humanity that is necessary in dehumanizing the enemy
  • Kevin and Joyce Lucey had to tell their son’s story because he is no longer alive to do so. He returned from Iraq but was overcome by the emotional wounds and killed himself as the VA hospital refused to admit him, despite pleas from his family
  • In the most disturbing testimony, Tanya Austin talks about the widespread rape and sexual assault that occurs in the military and how victims are further victimized by the system. Check out Stop Military Rape.

You can move through the clips using the big arrows on the side of the video player.

The clear message I have gotten from listening to returning soldiers is that what hurts them is to come home and see a society that has forgotten them, a society preoccupied with the most trite of interests, a society that by its willful ignorance, devalues their experiences.

Don’t be that person. I guarantee that whatever you think you must do in the next few hours can wait. We owe it to the people serving in your name. We owe it to the people of Iraq.

As for action, please check out the newly-released Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq. End U.S. military action, use diplomatic tools, address humanitarian concerns, restore our constitution, restore our military, restore independence to the media, create a new, U.S.-centered energy policy,

A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq - Click here to add your support

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a former writer for the Village Voice among other pubs and has a new book coming out. I also know him from way back in the day in DC/Baltimore. (No, I don’t know everyone I link to, but it can help :)).

Anyway, he’s written an excellent piece on the debate about Obama’s speech and Why Black People Won’t Join The Republican Party. An excerpt:

My point is that the Right really doesn’t understand black America, and is much more interested in lambasting it then going out in the field, reporting and learning. Cosby has commanded large crowds of black people, pulling on a conservative tradtion that stretches from Booker T. Washington to Louis Farrakhan. The crowds who come to see him understand his message of hard work and “not blaming the white man,” but they also find him credible and don’t think he’s trying to sell them out.

The same can’t be said of Ward Connerly black conservatives, and there’s a good reason why. The conservative position on black people is essentially a negative one. I don’t mean that in a value sense, but in the literal sense. The idea is to either dismantle all elements of government which explicitly attempt to heal the old wounds of slavery and Jim Crow, and then do nothing. Of course one could argue that this is of a piece of conservative, small government ideology. Except that black people aren’t stupid. They know, for instance, that most conservatives think that government should ban abortion, and some don’t. They know that most conservatives are anti-illegal immigration, and some aren’t. They know that many conservatives doubt global warming, but some don’t. They know that many conservatives believe in standing strong with Israel, but some others don’t. There even are a few David Brooks conservatives who believe in gay marriage.

Yet when it comes to black folks, for decades the most impoverished demographic in America, the policy is essentially (excuse my language, but it’s appropriate)–Fuck them niggers. The saddest thing about Obama’s speech is that there really is not a conservative rebuttal. Peek in over at The Corner and you’ll hear a lot of folks taking issue with the speech, but virtually no counter-proposals. That’s because conservatives believe that black America’s biggest problem is itself, and thus they see no role for government. There basic ideology is if black people would start getting married and parenting, they’d be fine. There may be some truth to that, but from there perspective–despite decades of racist policies enacted by the government–there’s absolutely nothing government should do to help.

Sometimes, you see stuff on other blogs that’s deep and you want to share.

Hat tip: Prometheus6

I yield the floor to ptcruiser:

A Talking Point For Obama Supporters
Posted March 19th, 2008 by ptcruiser

Many of the alleged pundits and so-called analysts who appeared on television and radio yesterday to offer their interpretation of Obama’s speech were quick, in fact, too quick, to decry the analogy that Obama drew between his relationship with his maternal grandmother and his relationship with Rev. Wright. Many of the talking heads and far, far too many of the black males and females who appeared on these programs dismissed this connection because, as they stated, one can easily choose to find another minister as opposed to finding a replacement grandmother.

This line of argument has a certain logical appeal because the church one chooses to join is a matter of choice. That is, one can choose to belong to this church or that church or no church at all. Whereas one has no choice over selecting one’s grandmother. People are continually born into a world that is always older than they are and they have no choice as to who is their grandmother. Natality and chance rule over this process.

The problem here is that this way of looking at Obama’s decision tree ignores the very specific circumstances of his life and biography. When Obama likens Rev. Wright to an uncle and describes him as being a member of his family he is quite sincere and, more importantly, he is, psychologically speaking, correct. Obama’s biological father was entirely absent during his formative years and he was dead by the time Obama became an adult. In addition, Obama had no contact with his father’s male siblings and adult male cousins. In other words, he had no older adult black males in his life with whom he could form close and enduring bonds until he met Rev. Wright.

Consequently, when Obama says that Rev. Wright is like an uncle to him and that he could no more disown him than he could disown his maternal grandmother he is expressing a deeply felt and psychological true statement. Rev. Wright may or may not be crazy (I don’t believe that he is crazy or intemperate although I disagree with him about the origins of the AIDS epidemic.) but he is someone who Obama has chosen to be his uncle.

What Obama did is no different from what tens of thousands of gays and lesbians have had to do when they were rejected by their families because of their sexual preferences. They went out and over time created their own families. I met a young sister, for example, in graduate school who later came out to me. She and I became very close friends and when she unexpectedly died several years ago I felt as if I had lost one of my own biological sisters. I miss her a great deal. She considered me to be a member of her family because her own family looked askance at her sexual preferences. The human need for familial association and acceptance is an evolutionary fact.

Obama’s relationship with Rev. Wright should and must be seen in this context instead of through the superficial and grossly over simplified choice of simply switching ministers. His bond was with Rev. Wright and the community he found at Trinity United Church. Expecting or demanding him to sever those bonds would be tantamount to asking him to exile himself. Cutting off all of his ties to Rev. Wright would be exactly like asking him to kill his maternal grandmother. Blood may be thicker than mud but the ties that are created when you choose to call someone family are no less thick and lasting.

The creator of The Root has some interesting things to say about Obama’s big speech yesterday.

As one of the 80% of African-Americans who thought the war was a bad idea from the get-go and the over 80% who still believe we should not have gone there and should get out, it’s painful to talk about the war at this point. I have strong feelings about the traditional media’s overall failure to expose fully the horror of the Iraq War — the deaths, the errors, the lies, the crimes, the waste — all of which should be seen as impeachment-worthy. Check out Healthy Bag of Politics (one of our frequent commenters) for more on the media’s abdication and what often appears to be an overall cavalier attitude towards the war and the real issues facing Americans today.

What might $500 billion over 5 years have done for America’s real problems with crumbling infrastructure, inadequate educational systems, injust and inefficient healthcare “system”?

This CNN poll that 71% of Americans are making a connection between the ballooning war spending and the sinking economy re-assures me that as a nation, we are ready to act like grown people instead of bullies flailing their fists indiscriminately.

The worst for me is that we are so very good at counting American lives lost, yet we speak as a country (in the media at least) quite rarely about Iraqis’ lives lost or Iraqis displaced from their homes. That says something unfortunate about us as a country and about our media’s preoccupations. It’s time that Americans take full stock of the war — not just it’s impact on us, but its impact on others as well. Iraq Body Count estimates over 80,000 Iraqis have been killed since the war began. Wow. Those are the ones they can document. Is there anything left to gain in Iraq or is there just more to lose?

Lay it on the line though — what do you think?

Update: the videos are now working at Culture Kitchen. Must have been a problem with my browser

Now that the press has unearthed a few minutes of controversial commentary from Obama’s pastor, we can expect this question to be posed to McCain by our responsible media establishment right?

Tip of the hat to Liza Sabater over at Culture Kitchen who launched this great piece

An excerpt from I have four words for the GOP : John Hagee, Rod Parsley:

So the so-called “white” media discovered Jeremiah Wright’s fire and brimstone style of Liberation Theology and have sought out to vilify it as the work of a racist and traitor. Hence, the lynch party to bring both Wright and Barack Obama down since, if Obama approves of the “scary negro”, he must be one in waiting.

Well, to all those people who fear Black Power or Liberation Theology separately and see their expression in Black Theology as an abomination, I have some choice words for you : Get over it.

The United States’s foreign policy did create the political conditions that led to 9/11. The United States did create the tyrant and moster they called Saddam Hussein. The United States, YOU, ME AND EVERY OTHER CITIZEN IN THIS COUNTRY is responsible for the atrocities that happen all over the world in the name of “Made In The USA” democracy.

Definitely worth checking out. In the meantime, I found two from Rev. Parsely to be quite interesting. Who knew he cared so much about black people?

So let me play this like they played Obama:

Oh my god! He’s so angry. Did he just say that? Why was he screaming that way? Does McCain think Planned Parenthood is equivalent to the KKK? He must because his spiritual guide said so. There’s no way I can vote for McCain now. The beliefs of his spiritual guide clearly represent McCain’s political beliefs. Why does John McCain hate America?

For more on this nonsense, see Pam’s House Blend on the subject.

cross-posted to goodCRIMETHINK

I’m just so proud of my folks. Yall remember Derrick from the now-infamous (900,000+ views) set of YouTube videos featuring him discussing Obama. This past Monday, the NY Times business page featured him on the front.

Today, CNN.com has his response to the Obama speech. An excerpt:

Like many Americans I watched Sen. Barack Obama deliver his speech titled “A More Perfect Union.”

I watched in a state of minor shock, not so much at the deftness with which he defused the sophomoric conflation of his call for national unity with the inflammatory rhetoric of the retired head pastor of his church — a conflation that would imply that we must each swallow whole the entirety of views expressed by our friends and associates.

It was not his repudiation of small thinking that struck me. It was the fact that here we had an American politician speaking with both candor and compassion about the proverbial elephant in our national living room.

Race is an issue that continues to confound this country. It is an undercurrent that paints our description, understanding and valuation of people in American society whether spoken or not. It is the subtext that places NBA star LeBron James and Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen on the cover of Vogue, in uncomfortable caricature of brute and ingénue.

It is in the minds of some the very reason a person of color would even be considered a serious candidate for the presidency of the nation — never mind that three centuries into the American experiment there has been to date, only one such person.

More Derrick Ashong. Less Pat Buchanan!

Be sure to check out the closing line. It echoes what I’ve been saying for some time, which is that in most elections it’s the candidates being tested, but this time around, it’s America that’s being tested. Will we pass or fail?

Follow Derrick’s Take Back The Mic initiative, and see the resulting winners on health care.

I would like to thank the posters here at JJP for a great discussion down below on the speech.

I knew that Obama would HAVE to give a speech like this one day. I believe HE knew that he would have to give a speech like this. I believe he thought it would be later on, in response to the REPUBLICANS. I don’t think that he thought he’d have to give it in response to race-baiting that began with a fellow DEMOCRAT.

For me, the moment that I began to cry was this:

He (Wright) contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.

To be honest, I realize this was all I wanted from this speech.

In these two sentences Obama stood up for Black Humanity.

What was wrong with the Wright statements weren’t that they were made – we have freedom of speech, he could say whatever he wanted. What was wrong with them was that White folk heard them, as Mama told me.

And, a kneejerk reaction, as is wont by those who have never wanted to understand any CONTEXT behind any Black Anger that could be considered justified. Condemn the remarks, wrap yourself in a flag, and of course, use that tried and true accusation of unpatriotic that can get thrown towards a Black person in a nanosecond. Collapsing a 36 year career of preaching into a 5 minute soundbite, AS IF that is the sum total of a man’s life’s work.

Obama stood up and said no, I won’t let you collapse this man into this soundbite.

No, I will not let you dismiss the anger and the background from which is springs forth.

No, I will not let you turn the strength and the best of the Black Christian Tradition into something to be ashamed of, just because YOU don’t understand it and have not bothered to try and understand it.

He stood up for Black Humanity – in all of its complexities.

Roland Martin (who did yoeman’s work yesterday) kept on making this point: for all the talk about politics and religion, Barack Obama displayed his Christianity full force with that speech. Obama, in the above lines, mined one of the most persistent overarching themes in the Black Christian Church:


Redemption is what makes Mama welcome home Pookie, Ray Ray and Big Boy back into her home after ANOTHER stint in prison. Because Mama is hoping that the prayers of her, Big Mama, and the women in Bible Study have reached his heart, and this time, he will become The Prodigal Son.

Redemption is what makes this community so unwilling to throw away anyone…after all, some of y’all are still holding out hope for Uncle Clarence (STOP, he’s lost) and OJ (though I think you’ve come around on that one).

Redemption is a cornerstone of the Black Christian Tradition.

Barack Obama’s candidacy was always, if it lived out its potential, going to be a turning point for America. Going to be that Racial Rorschach Test. Thrown into a crucible and pushing forth. Obama could have gone safe and conventional with his speech. He didn’t. He put it out there, and chose the harder road. It was the most Presidential thing I’ve seen in a candidate in my lifetime. I feel like I’ve been waiting for it my whole life.

I want to thank Senator Obama.

I thought this image was powerful and wanted to end with it:

Michelle Obama in Philadelphia Yesterday

Today is the five year anniversary of the Iraq War. One of our longest-standing community members, D, wrote an op ed in support of our continued presence in Iraq. Most folks here, including me, don’t agree with that position, but I wanted to cross-post to D’s piece because he’s been a valued member here, and the exchange of ideas is important.

Unlike many who come through the comment boards spewing ignorance and hiding their motivation, D is open and respectful. He’s a McCainiac (is that a word?) but is constructive.

I’ll post something later today on a plan to get us out of Iraq, but in the meantime, listen to D, and share your comments as always.

Here’s an excerpt below. You can read the full post here.

This week marks the 5th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. As we approach the anniversary, many antiwar organizations will take their cause to the streets, the media and the internet. Undoubtedly, they will state their case that the war has been mismanaged, that too many lives have been lost, and that what we’ve lost in the conflict far outweighs what we’ve gained.

I served onboard the USS CONSTELLATION during the opening days of the war in 2003. For me, while it is important to acknowledge the views of those against the war, it is equally important to acknowledge the progress that has been made in Iraq, and why we must see its citizens through to stability and a strong self-governance.

I take encouragement in our cause from the fact that Iraqis are taking an ever increasing role in the future of their country. For example, Iraq’s security forces-which now hold responsibility for security in nine of Iraq’s 18 provinces-grew by more than 100,000 in the past year, and now boast over 500,000 personnel. Volunteers calling themselves the “Sons of Iraq” have stepped forward to secure their own neighborhoods.

Update 11:25pm ET

  • The NY Times Caucus blog has some comments from people in the room in Philly, including my friend Sozi Tulante
  • Fellow rabble rousers and artists over at The Message Show take Amy Holmes to task for completely missing the point in Anatomy of a Hater
  • Here’s a single YouTube clip of the speech

Update 2:20pm ET
here are individual links to part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5
may do embeds later. seems like embedding five video screens is a bit much.

Original Post
I don’t have time to comment. Will leave that up to yall, and I’ll update with video shortly

“A More Perfect Union”
Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
Constitution Center
Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

As Prepared for Delivery

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Paterson Is Sworn In
Published: March 17, 2008

ALBANY — Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson ascended to New York’s highest office on Monday, pledging civility and unity in government to an ecstatic and palpably relieved gathering of state lawmakers and officials.

Mr. Paterson was sworn in as the state’s 55th governor almost exactly a week after revelations emerged that his predecessor, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, had patronized a prostitute and faced federal investigation.

In a relatively brief speech lasting about half an hour, Mr. Paterson offered soothing rhetoric to an audience that clearly ached to move beyond what has been an unusually sordid ordeal even for Albany, a capital well-acquainted with political scandal.

Speaking to a joint session of the state Assembly and Senate, with senior officials from at least three states in attendance, Mr. Paterson alluded briefly to the Mr. Spitzer’s difficulties over the past year in working with the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Republican-controlled state Senate.

“What we are going to do from now on is what we always should have done: We are going to work together, Mr. Paterson said. “With conviction in our brains and compassion in our hearts and the love for New York on our sleeves, we will dedicate ourselves to principle but always maintain the ability to listen.”

But Mr. Paterson’s inaugural remarks were most striking for what was absent from them.

In a speech with so many nods to other elected officials that even a former lieutenant governor made the cut, Mr. Paterson made no mention of Mr. Spitzer, who plucked him from virtual obscurity to join the ticket for statewide office in 2006, and whose powerful and at times overbearing personality were the central fact of political life here for nearly a year and a half.

Mr. Paterson alluded only vaguely to Mr. Spitzer’s resignation, noting that New York had experienced “a very difficult week.” And though he and his staff have sent signals in recent years that continuity would be a key theme of the transition between administrations, Mr. Paterson made no suggestion that the Mr. Spitzer’s core agenda items deserved to survive even if the former governor’s career did not.

Indeed, Mr. Paterson offered almost no specific policy proposals or promises, though an aide said that the new governor would lay out a more a specific agenda in the days ahead. He hewed closely to the theme of partnership, describing himself as Brooklyn-born, Long-Island-educated, and Harlem-residing, to rousing cheers from elected officials who hailed from each of those areas.

Unlike Mr. Spitzer, who in his inaugural address fifteen months ago fired shot after shot across the bow of Albany’s political establishment, Mr. Paterson warmly embraced the capital’s two other major powers, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno.

“Let us grab the unusual opportunities that circumstance has handed us today and put personal politics, party advantage and power struggles aside, in favor of service, in the interests of the people,” Mr. Paterson said.

Rest of Article is HERE.

Congratulation, Governor. May you serve the people of New York well.

Governor Paterson and his family today, at the swearing-in.

I saw Professor Kim’s name pop up from Twitter friends Liza Sabater (blogdiva) and Erin Kotecki Vest (queenofspain). Today Professor Kim wrote this beautiful post.

Here’s a clip but you should check the whole thing

The difference between that time in this, of course, is that people think we are in a ‘post-racial” America, where race doesn’t matter. Others, like former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro,would have you believe that when it comes to Barack Obama’s success, race is all that matters. And still others, watch the “Unashamedly Black, Unapologetically Christian” services at Trinity United Church of Christ, would have you believe that there is something anti-American in this church. It is, to my mind, thoroughly grounded in the progressive wing of the black American church tradition, despite the fact that it is part of a predominantly white denomination, the United Church of Christ. (That last part seems lost on people who want to call the church “racist” or “separatist.”)

I am a 51-year-old black American woman. I watch all of this and wonder whether this means that the time has not yet come for the veil to be rent.

hat tip to JJP community member Nonie. She spotted this in her hometown paper

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should be leery of ever trusting the word of another black person, especially the word of elected officials, celebrities and other elites. She most certainly should never again trust the word of black preachers.

Too many blacks have betrayed Clinton. They have been disloyal. They have lied to her, many to her face.

I don’t expect anything constructive by posting this. This blog post is basically me pointing to an accident at the side of the road. Gawk for a moment, and move on.

cross-posted to goodCRIMETHINK

For years, Doctor Mo of the Danger Zone Show podcast out of NYC has been trying to connect with me. We finally made it happen this past week. Doctor Mo is a funny brotha and gets some good guests on his show.

In addition to the podcast, he does a week in review show via BlogTalkRadio. I called in this past Friday at 10:20pm ET (1 hour 20 min into the two hour show). Mo had a woman named Vita from Philly and a brotha from Austin — Corey I think. They were great. And Vita especially kept it so real. You gotta listen.

Anyway, listen to the show and show Doctor Mo some love. He’s been hustlin on this podcast for some time, and it’s a good, smart and funny show.

Oh, and there’s a decent amount of profanity. It’s not just vulgar for vulgarity’s sake, but I wanted to give you a heads up.

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Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell

Special Contributors: James Rucker, Rinku Sen, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Adam Luna, Kamala Harris

Technical Contributor: Brandon Sheats


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