Monday, March 02, 2015

A Brush With Immortality: Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, And Jackie McLean

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

A Brush With Immortality: Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, and 
Jackie Mclean 

Playthell,
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I went to Shelly's Manhole with some older brothers to see Thelonious Monk one night, and I noticed that Monk kept looking over at me as he was playing. It made me nervous because I was under age and I thought he was gonna to gave me up and tell 'em to kick me out. They already knew me at the clubs around town. I knew damn near every waitress in this city. Sometimes they'd let me stay, and other times they'd kick me out - I never did figure out what made the difference. And they'd never serve me drinks, so I'd have to order something non-alcoholic and bring my own. But I wanted to be accepted as a sophisticated adult more than anything in life, so sometime I'd put the bass in my voice and try to casually order Scotch on the rocks. But the waitress would just look at me sideways like, "You're lucky I'm letting you stay here, so don't push it, buddy."
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One or two of the waitresses who'd been around for awhile knew my mother when she was working as a greeter at Dynamite Jackson's, and I think they put the word out on me. So they'd tolerate me, but they just wouldn't let me be the man that I wanted to be so desperately, because I wasn't. It's sort of funny when I look back on it.  Had I been sophisticated enough to know what adulthood actually entailed, I would have been more desperate to hold on to those precious years than was I to become an adult.  
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So I just kept coming back and braving the humiliation, because from the time I was 12 years old I loved everything, and everybody, associated with jazz. I got that gene from my father. As I've said many times before, my father thought the only reason the Sun came up was to keep Bird's reeds warm. I had to fight the preacher at his funeral to have Jackie McLean playing "Love and Hate" in the background. I told the preacher if they don't have jazz in Heaven, the Pearly Gates would constitute the entrance to Hell for my father. The irony was, when I was done reading the eulogy that I'd written for my father (Blues For Mr. C), with Jackie Playing softly in the background, that very same preacher came up to me and asked me for a copy of it.
 
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On that particular night, however, after his first set, Monk walked up to me and TOLD me, "Come with me." He took me back to the musician's lounge where Nelly was, and asked, "Who does he remind you of?" And she said, "TOOTIE!" - Monk's son.
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He saw me as a young wide-eyed joke, and I was. I was 16 and on a roll (I had just seen John Coltrane a couple of weeks earlier). Monk asked me, "What you know about jazz, boy?" And I started telling him about all the urban legends that I'd heard about him. As he was listening intently to one of my stories he asked me, "Damn! What did I do then!!!?"  You have to know how Monk was to know why I look back on that as being so funny, because he was dead serious. He got into the story like I was telling him a story about someone else. I never did find out whether the story was true or not.  But When I was done, he told his wife, Nelly, "Shit, he knows more about me than I do," and they started laughin' their asses off.
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I spent that entire night with them, because I was so young that Nelly was worried that I was gonna be picked up by one of those,"Hollywood perverts." Monk told Nelly, "Shit,who you should be worried about is Blank" - his drummer (I''m not gonna give his name because he's famous and he's never been outed as gay).  But for the rest of the night I sat in the front row next to Nelly, and after the gig I went to their hotel room with them and we grubbed and talked.  I told him how I planned on becoming a great saxophone player someday, and I  asked him everything I could think of about Bird. I remember him telling me, "Naw, you don't want to be Bird, unless you like bein' broke. How much money you got?"  I had about five dollars in my pocket. And he said, "Shit, you already richer than Bird was half the time,"  and then started laughin'.  Nelly said, "Don't say that, T!"  They dropped me off at my mother's door just as the Sun was coming up.  It was a night I will never forget.
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After that episode, the OGs made me a celebrity in the hood. I've never had that much attention before, or since. I had attracted the interest of THELONIOUS MONK.  EVERYBODY wanted to know EVERY detail of what went down, and every detail about Monk that they could give - everybody, including Jimmy, the brilliant dope fiend that my father had hired to teach me to play the saxophone.  There are a lot of details that I've left out of this story, and I remember every detail like it happened last night, but I do intend to write about it, and every nuance of that great man in the most minute detail in the near future, because it's of historic significance. People STILL don't realize how great that man was. You can listen to "Ruby My Dear," or "Round Midnight," and they constitute a MASTER'S CLASS on what contemporary music is all about. I could appreciate that even back then. So I thank God that I had the sense to know that I was in the presence of immortality.
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I also intend to write about an entire New Years weekend that I spent with Dexter Gordon during the 70s. He grew up two blocks from my mother and they both went to Jefferson High School here in Los Angeles. She graduated; he went on the road with Lionel Hampton at 17 years old. During that weekend Dex made a passing comment regarding how I idolized him that ended up becoming the guiding philosophy of my life - "Learn to become your own hero, because you're the only one who won't let you down." He also  told me, "Whenever you hear me play a lick, your very first thought should be about how you could go about playing it better." He was right, and that was the key to his greatness. Lester Young was his main man, and you could hear Lester in him, but he wasn't Lester - he was Dexter, and nobody did it better. But he was wrong about one thing. He never did let me down.  He blew the lights out until his very last breath. But I've taken him at his word, nevertheless, and he became my last hero. That's turned me into a severe cynic over the years, and that very cynicism has been of tremendous value to me as a writer.  I don't trust the word of nobody, so I start off every piece I write by probing for lies.
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A Swingin' Affair
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I

Was told as a child
Blacks had no worth,
Not a nickel’s worth of dimes.
I believed that myth
‘Til Dex rode in
With his ax
In double time.
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His
Horn was soarin’,
The changes flyin’,
His rhythm right on time;
My heart
Beat with the pleasure
Of new found pride,
Knowing,
His blood
Flowed through mine.
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Dex
Took the chords
The keyboard played,
And danced around each note;
Then shuffled ‘em
Like a deck of cards,
And didn’t miss a stroke.
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B minor 7 with flatted 5th,
A half diminished chord,
He substituted a lick in D,
Then really began to soar.
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He tipped his hat
To Charlie Parker,
And quoted
Trane with Miles,
Then paid his homage to
Thelonious Monk,
In Charlie Rouse's style.
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He took
A Scrapple From The Apple,
Then went to Billie’s Bounce,
The rhythm section, now on fire,
But he didn’t budge an ounce.
.
He just
Dug right in
To shuffle again,
This time
A Royal Flush;
Then lingered a bit
Behind the beat,
Still smokin’
But in no rush.
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Then he
Doubled the time
Just like this rhyme,
In fluid 16th notes,
tellin’
Charlie and Lester,
"your baby boy, Dexter’s,
On top of the
Bebop you wrote.
.
Wailin’
Like a banshee,
This prince of saxophone,
His ballads dripped of honey,
His Arpeggios were strong.
.
Callin’ on his idles,
Ghost of Pres’
Within in the isles,
Smiling at his protege,
At the peak of this new style.
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His tenor
Drenched of Blackness,
And all the things we are -
Of pain, and pleasure,
And creative greatness
Until his final bar.

*
So we've been blessed, Playthell, and I intend to share that blessing, just as you have with your piece on the Duke. We're old schoolers. We've had the opportunity to be up close and personal with the kind of greatness that this world may never see again. So we have an obligation to share it, because after us, it will be lost forever.
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Did I ever become that great saxophone player that I told Monk that was going to become?  No. Because I never reached the caliber that I demanded of myself, and I wasn't raised to be a member of the dime-a-dozen club. I'd rather entertain myself in my bedroom and DREAM about being great than just being "one of the boys." If you can't be the best, it ain't worth doing. But sometimes, on a good day, Dex will step in and help me to make my eyes moist. I live for those days, when I don't think theory, notes, or chord progressions; when I just close my eyes and pour out m soul. Those days, as fleeting as they are, are good enough for me. So while I still love playing my horn, I became a writer instead, because that's what I seem to do best. Thus, when I can substantiate my beliefs, I put them in the form of an essay.  When I can't substantiate what I believe, I express my impressions through poetry. But during those times when I'm feeling the kind of passion that I can't express in words, I pickup my horn.
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But 52nd Street is always tugging at my heart., because that's who I am.  There are two brothers playing all over the world today that I taught to HOLD the saxophone, to play their chromatic scale, and I taught the musical theory behind  ii, V, Is ( you musicians will know what I'm talking about), and honestly, that brings me much pain. Even if I became lauded as the greatest writer who ever lived, I still wouldn't be able to escape that pain. My problem has always been that I was TOO well schooled in jazz, and at much too early an age, so I've never been able to appreciate baby steps, as every good musician should. Instead of taking pride in how far I've come, I agonize over how far I have to go. That's a curse.  But my blessing is, unlike most people who hear something they like and say, I'm going to go buy that, I can say, I'm going home and play that. Oh yes, I can play any tune, and in any key - Gb is just like C to me - but from the time I was a child, I've always known what it meant to be a GREAT musician, and I'm just not there . . . yet.
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Show 'em what I mean, Dexter, Jackie.
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Jackie Mclean
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When Jackie McLean first appeared on the scene he swung it like nobody else;
He stood all alone, with that bittersweet tone, owing nobody, only himself.
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With his furious attack he could take you back to the beauty of Yardbird’s song,
but that solemn moan made it all his own, as burning passion flowed lush from his horn.
Hearing “Love and Hate” made Jazz my fate, joyous anguish dripped blue from his song. He both smiled and cried and dug deep-down inside, until the innocence of my childhood was gone.
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As I heard this new sound, and embraced the profound, childish eyes now saw as a man; 
I stood totally perplexed, but I couldn’t step back, from the hunger of my mind to expand. I saw Charlie and Lester, and a smiling young Dexter, as I peered into Jackie’s sweet horn; 
 it was a place that I knew, though I’d never been to, but a place that I now call my home.

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That's jazz. That's greatness. That's world-class excellence and what it means to be Black, and we should never forget that.


Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com
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Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Presenting Ms. Rita Edmond - Meet The Contemporary Face of True Jazz Royalty

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

Presenting Ms. Rita Edmond - Meet The Contemporary Face of True Jazz Royalty
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If you’re a jazz lover and want to look upon the contemporary face of jazz royalty, take a moment to go check out Ms. Rita Edmond on Youtube. She's the jazz world's best kept secret.  She's currently working on her third CD, but even on her first CD, she made it abundantly clear to this writer that she hit the ground fully seasoned as one of the greatest jazz singers alive today. I know, that's a mighty lofty claim to heap onto the shoulders of a relatively new artist, but I'm not given to hyperbole, so I fully intend to back up my assertion with the contents and attachments to this piece.
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Ms. Edmond moves between sultry sophistication, hard driving swing, and childlike innocence without any effort at all. There are many great singers out there , but from the very first bar of anything Rita does, she clearly distinguishes herself as one of those rare individuals who was born to do exactly what she’s doing, and nothing else. She swings with the effortless grace of a Sliver Shadow cruisin' down Pacific Coast Highway, and her ballads are lush with sultry passion, personal depth, and individuality.
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You can't "learn" to sing like Rita Edmond. You either have it, or you don't, and there's only one or two lucky few in a generation who do - but Rita, like Ella and Sarah, is one of those lucky few. But don’t just take my word for it, go check her out for yourself and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that she’s a once in a generation talent, and clearly the heir apparent to some of the greatest divas that jazz has ever known.
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Along with this piece I'm attaching three links to make my point - ‘Here’s to Life,’ ‘Embraceable You' (Live at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) , and ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’ - and each tune shows a different side of her tremendous, and still growing, musical personality.
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‘Here’s to Life’ is a beautiful ballad that’s been done by some of the greatest singers who’s ever lived, yet Ms. Edmond’s version is as good or better than any version of this tune that’s ever been recorded. The soaring passion that she brings to this tune makes it almost impossible for anyone who’s ever had to struggle through life’s adversities and then managed to survive to continue to fight the good fight, to listen to with a dry eye.
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'Embraceable You,' (featuring Harold Land, Jr. on piano) demonstrates the ease in which she can establish the mood of a song and captivate an audience. It also shows an artist who is so comfortable in serenading an audience that it seems like she was born on stage. And after the piano solo, notice the effortless spontaneity in which she throws in a lick that's so exquisite that it sounds like it should have been written into the tune. You won't be able to miss it, because the audience places an exclamation point of approval immediately afterward, as she casually, and routinely, moves on to the next phrase, as though it's all in a night's work. 
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Finally, she does ‘It Might As Well Be Spring,’ a tried and true jazz standard. Not everyone can do this tune well, because it’s such a jazz staple that it’s hard for a singer to put their personal stamp on it, and whenever they try, they either over sing or under sing the tune.  But Rita swings through it effortlessly and makes it her own. King Pleasure himself would smile at her rendition.
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I also wanted to add Ms. Edmond's rendition of ‘This Can’t Be Love’ as an attachment, but unfortunately, it's not available on Youtube. Nevertheless, it deserves a mention. On that tune Ms. Edmond displays yet another part of her musical vocabulary - her growing chops as a scatter and her ability to swing with the best of them. In this case, she scats in unison with yet another powerhouse, tenor sax player Ricky Woodard, and they’re pushed forward by the hard driving rhythms of Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath of the illustrious Heath Brothers on drums - and when it comes to the aristocracy of jazz, they don’t come any more blue-blooded than Tootie. She's also regularly accompanied by Nancy Wilson's keyboard player, Llew Matthews, who has also played with legendary jazz giants such as Jackie McLean and Woody Shaw.  So Rita is regularly being tested by fire, and she literally dances through the flames with blissful abandon.
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So in spite of Ms. Edmond’s unassuming manner, whenever she picks up a mic, her tremendous confidence, individualism and flawless delivery seems to say, “There’s a new diva in town” - and I say, it’s about time! 
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Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
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Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

TO BLACK AMERICA: OUR HISTORY LIES BEFORE US

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

TO BLACK AMERICA:
OUR HISTORY LIES BEFORE US
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I read a snippet in an old article in Essence Magazine indicating that researchers have uncovered new information suggesting that Cleopatra may not have been Black. The article brought back to mind a piece I read by Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson many years ago entitled, Whose Black History To Believe? In that very insightful article Dr. Hutchinson points out that black history tends to be given either short shrift by traditional historians, or is exaggerated beyond all recognition by historians of a more Afrocentric persuasion. His premise is that both approaches do a disservice to African American history. His analysis shows that African Americans would be better served by a more balanced interweaving of African American history into the fabric of American history as a whole.
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While I'm in total agreement with both his premise and analysis, I think it's important to take this issue one step farther. We need to explore why so many of us feel the need to exaggerate our history in the first place. We also need to understand how this game we find ourselves involved in distracts us from the bigger picture.
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The importance of cultural history is that it contributes to the collective self-esteem of a people. It brings cohesion by giving the members of a given group something in common to rally around as their own. A culture, much like an individual, is so much in need of a feeling of self-esteem that it invariably manufactures its own history, which often bears little or no resemblance to reality. For those very reasons, therefore, much of history is a lie. In fact, history itself has been defined as "A lie agreed upon."
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A concrete example of that process at work can be seen by looking back at the Vietnam War. Having never lost a war at that time, upon entering the Vietnam War the United States had already geared up for manufacturing a history to justify its presence in Vietnam, much like we're struggling with today in Iraq and the Middle East. The U.S. Finally came up with what was called "The Domino Theory". According to this theory, the North Vietnamese were merely fronting for Communist China, and if the United States allowed South Vietnam to fall to the North Vietnamese, people in that part of the world would be slaughtered, and all the rest of the countries in the area would fall like "dominoes" to Chinese communism.
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If the United States had won the Vietnam war that lie would have become an official part of world history. Young children all over the world would have read it as gospel for eons. But since the United States didn't win, this would-be "historical fact" has been left without a home, and now, over forty years later, the lie stands as a glaring example of how nations manufacture lies to justify their conduct.  Thus, ALL of history must be consumed with a box of salt, and looked upon as the dubious accounts, glorification, and whitewash, of ordinary men engaged in routine atrocities.
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The United States is not unique in fabricating history, however. All nations and all cultures do it. If Germany had won WWII the history of that war would have been written from an entirely different perspective; if Great Britain had won The Revolutionary War, the esteemed forefathers of the United States would have been remembered as a group similar to the way the United States currently view The Black Panther Party, or Cinque and the Symbionese Liberation Army.
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An example of this principle at work on a cultural level can be found in the White culture's touting of Benny Goodman as "The King of Swing", or Elvis Presley as "The King of Rock n Roll." We know that's not true today, but as time passes, and there's no one left to attest to the inaccuracy of such claims, eventually it'll become a "historical fact"-- or factoid (something repeated so often that it is seen as a fact).
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So it is clear that the history game is just that - a game. But it's a game that Black Americans should only play quite sparingly, if at all, since due to the unique position of the African American in legitimate modern history, we come to this game with a decided disadvantage.
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The African American culture is a relatively new culture, thus, our history is verifiable. Therefore, African Americans don't have the machinery in place to effectively promote the hype necessary to fully participate in the history game. But since, in any event, the game only serves to divert our attention from what is really important - getting on with the business of building true viability as a people - black participation in the game is nothing more than an exercise in me-too-ism.
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But it seems that whenever I hear a discussion on Black pride, someone always brings up the issue of Egypt, and whether or not Cleopatra was Black. Black people have got to understand that the issue is not important – in fact, it's academic. While it is always good to stay in touch with one's roots, the fact is, the African American culture has long since ceased being purely African - even though the continent of Africa will always define the core of our being -and any connection that we may, or may not have had with Egypt and/or Cleopatra is remote at best, at least, in a strictly cultural sense. It's as though we're going around, hat in hand, desperately searching for a piece of history to call our own. We shouldn't place ourselves in that position – it's undignified, pathetic, and wholly unnecessary.
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We must begin to understand that we are a new culture. We ceased being Africans when it became necessary to adapt to the fields and ghettos of America.  Neither are we simply Americans - we became something more than simply Americans when it became necessary to become more than simple Americans for our very survival. We are a brand new culture - a culture conceived in pain, delivered into turmoil, baptized in deprivation, and weaned on injustice. And since adversity is experience, and experience translates into knowledge, we don't have a thing to be ashamed of. The uniquely pointed adversity that we have experienced makes us more, rather than less. Thus, we are a culture that is only now in the infancy of its development. For that reason, we cannot hope to compete, lie-for-lie, with ancient cultures relative to history, since our history is only now being written. But for that very same reason, we don't have to try to compete.
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The fact that we are a new culture doesn't mean that we are anything less than the older cultures; it simply means that our greatest contribution to man lies before us. We don't have to look back to antiquity to find a source of pride, all we have to do is study the life and times of our parents, our grandparents, and that generation of black people born between the turn of the century and WWII.
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In less than 50 years, the Black people of that generation went from housekeepers and flunkies to the boardrooms of multinational corporations. In less than 50 years, they went from playing washboards and tin cans on the side of the road, to becoming some of the greatest musicians the world has ever known. In less than 50 years these people have gone from the defenseless and nameless victims of public lynchings, to laying a foundation, along with their White supporters (who must not be forgotten), that led directly to Barack Obama becoming the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth - and that is a chapter in history that is verifiable.
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The most cursory glance demonstrates that there is something unusually unique about this new culture. While social scientists have postulated that all minority cultures must assimilate, dilute, and subordinate themselves to the dominant cultural soup, there is clear evidence that the African American culture has had a much greater impact on the dominant culture than is the reverse.
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Members of the dominant cultural group under fifty years of age have more in common with the African-American culture in terms of attitudes, style, and personal taste, than they have with their own grandparents. Black music - Jazz, Blues, Rap, and, yes, Rock n Roll - is the predominate music, not only in the United States, but in the entire world. Every time a Rock group goes on stage, they sing a tribute to nameless slaves moanin' in the fields - and just to turn on a radio or television set anywhere in the Western world, is to pay a tribute to Duke, Bird, Miles, and Diz.
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In addition, the United States of America has honored only four men in history by declaring the day of their birth a national day of celebration - Jesus Christ of Nazareth, widely accepted by many as the father of all mankind; President George Washington, the father of this nation; Christopher Columbus, the man credited with discovering the Americas (along with the native Americans who were already a part thereof); and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man whose forebears were brought to these shores in chains.
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That says a lot about that humble black man - and it says just as much about his people. In spite of the fact that Dr. King began his life burdened by the inherent disadvantages of being blessed with black skin in a Jim Crow environment, his words, his intellect, and his deeds so inspired the heart and soul of humanity that America saw fit to set aside a day for this nation - this world - to thank God that he was allowed to walk among us. His was a soul with such strength that it served to lift the rest of mankind to a higher level of humanity. That's not only a testament to one black man's ability to pull himself from the dust of his humble beginnings, it's also a testament to the capacity of his people to meet the test of greatness - and that's a history that is verifiable.
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So, we must also take pride in our own personal journeys, and realize that in our own journey through life, history is also being made. You don't have to be a world conqueror to have an impact on the history of mankind; you simply have to make decisions in your personal life that helps to enhance and move your people forward towards their appointment with destiny. And every time you face life's obstacles with courage and perseverance, you meet that challenge. After all, you don't make decisions in a vacuum - every decision that you make in life becomes a public decision. People are watching, your children are watching, and if you nurture your children properly, they will make the character of your decisions an indelible part of the public record.
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Thus, the character that you reflect in your daily conduct carries the seed that your children will carry with them for generations. For that reason, I don't regret one moment of my youth that I spent stumblin' through Watts on whatever drug happened to be convenient. Those years were part of a personal journey that stands as a monument to who I am today. Of course, I related those struggles to my children as stumbling blocks to be avoided at all costs, but they were also related as examples of perseverance, and the determination to overcome the obstacles in my life, and by overcoming those setbacks, it allowed me to relate those experiences with just as much pride as the White culture relates the experiences of General Patton to their children. George fought his battles, and I fought mine, and as far as my children are concerned - as far as I'm concern - one was no less heroic than the other. Thus:
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Neither scholar nor the head of state,
The most common of men seems to be my fate;
A life blistered with struggle and constant need,
As my legacy to man I bequeath my seed.
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More fertile, more sturdy these ones than I,
This withered old vine left fallow and dry;
The nectar of their roots lie dormant still,
But through their fruit I'll be revealed.
And that, is verifiable.

Eric L. Wattree
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Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Evil-Doers Are Not Determined By Race - They're Determined By The Power and Opportunity To Do Evil

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

Evil-Doers Are Not Determined By Race - They're Determined By The Power and Opportunity To Do Evil

Reality_Check says:
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"Dr. Wattree, I understand you mean well, but I respectfully disagree. History and current events simply do not support your assertions. The reason why is because the majority of white people are either racist themselves OR they know people who harm others through racism and they remain SILENT of such atrocities. This is the commission vs. omission principle. Most white people are guilty of racism by omission, meaning that they are aware of racism, when and how it is applied, and the victims of racism, but they do NOTHING to either speak or act against it. This is because white people are keenly aware that they benefit from white supremacy and racism, so they are not willing to sacrifice their privilege to act against racism. They know too well which side their bread is buttered on. This is why they do not oppose racism en masse. You cannot benefit from and simultaneously oppose racism. That is illogical.
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"I don’t want to hear about what whites have done in the past because the truth is, despite this, the majority of them say and do nothing to act against the every day racism that they know to exist. What you are referencing is a very small faction of white people that protested and demonstrated side by side with blacks during the Civil Rights. Those whites certainly did not represent the average white person during that day. Don’t even get me started on the Vietnam War. Whites were protesting because they did not want to see THEIR sons killed in the war. Their protests had nothing to do with black people. That was a terrible example to underscore your point. The average white person’s silence where racism is concerned makes them just as complicit as the rabid racists who use their influence to oppress others. If this were not the case, then you wouldn’t see such discrimination in employment, housing, education, medical treatment, and the legal system where blacks are concerned. In order for racism to survive and THRIVE it takes more than just a few rabid racist to make it work. It absolutely requires the complicit approval of the MAJORITY of the white race to make it a success.
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"Now, don’t let this suggest that I’m speaking in absolute terms by saying that ALL whites are racist. This isn’t what I’m saying. I am, however, saying that the majority of whites (meaning the average) practice racism either through action or inaction. If this weren’t the case then you wouldn’t see such disparities in the areas of life mentioned above and you’d see a lot more vocal opponents to the “system.”'
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Wattree:
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First, I want to point out right off the bat that I’m not a doctor. I haven’t earn that title so it would be a disservice to those who have put in the effort to allow that point to pass without comment.
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But with respect to your "Commission vs. Omission Principle," it's invalid, so I have to respectfully disagree with your point of view. People are individuals, and ALL people should ALWAYS be assessed on their own individual merit. That’s one of the primary arguments used to invalidate White racism, so it would be inconsistent, hypocritical, and disingenuous not to adhere to it with respect to White people. One of the angriest complaints that comes out of the Black community is regarding the tendency by some to broad-brush and profile Black people as being all alike, so we shouldn't 'profile' others in that way.  If we fall into the trap of making that mistake it will eventually be used against us.  Let me give you example of that.
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If we use  your argument that White inaction against racism is in itself a form of racism, logical consistency will demand that we also accept many of the arguments made by bigots against Black people.  Specifically, you said, “Most white people are guilty of racism by omission, meaning that they are aware of racism, when and how it is applied, and the victims of racism, but they do NOTHING to either speak or act against it.”
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If we use that standard, we also tend to validate many White bigots' contention that ALL (or MOST) Black people are criminals by virtue of the fact that they KNOW about crime yet do nothing to act against it. So through extension that implies that White cops are correct in profiling ALL Black people. I'm sure that's not your position, but logical consistency demands that you take that position in order to embrace your "omission" theory.  So the fundamental problem with trying to indict ALL White people (or all of ANY group) as being the same is that the sword cuts in both directions. Any argument that we use alleging that White people are ALL alike, contradicts our insistence that all Black are NOT alike.
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In addition, many White people don't speak out about racism (on the job, for example) for the very same reason that Black people are not calling the police and going out on the block pointing out who's dealing drugs, or who robbed the liquor store - they want to survive. self-preservation is their number one priority, and it trumps any civic-minded proclivities they may harbor. They see their first responsibility as protecting themselves and their family.  It's human nature not to rock the boat, so to read anything else into it is based on an unsubstantiable assumption.
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There’s only two kinds of people in the world – good people, and bad people, period.  I've heard some make the argument that the White man has PROVEN his tendency toward brutality by his very history.  That argument SEEMS to work, until it’s closely examined.  Because if you look at the history of man as a whole, it'll become immediately clear that we all have a history of brutality.  The only thing that distinguishes one group from another is the power, resources, and opportunity to be brutal..  Even as we speak, Black people are in Nigeria killing one another with the kind of brutality, and in numbers, that we can’t even imagine over here:
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"YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — The Nigeria-based extremist group Boko Haram on Monday threatened neighboring countries Niger and Chad, warning the fighters were prepared to carry out suicide bombings in the countries sending troops to help fight the militants.
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“The Islamic extremist group has fought a five-year insurgency against Nigeria’s government, leaving 10,000 people dead last year alone. The violence has forced some 157,000 people to seek refuge in Niger, while 40,000 others have gone to Cameroon and 17,000 are in Chad, the U.N. said. Almost 1 million Nigerians are internally displaced, according to the country’s own statistics.”
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So again, people are people; some are good, and others are bad. What seems to separate us in terms of evil and brutality is not so much the color of our skin, but the power and opportunity to carry out acts of evil and brutality.
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Finally, I've had this discussion many times before with Black people who want to insist that White people are somehow uniquely flawed. Then when I bring out the issues that I've mentioned above they want to know, "Why are you going to such lengths to defend those people?" But the fact is, I'm not trying to defend White people at all; I'm defending logical and efficient thinking, as I always do.
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We must always give truth priority over ideology or what tends to make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, because fuzzy thinking is the primary weapon that's been used against Black people for the past 400 years. Thus, truth is the very best defense of both ourselves, and humanity as a whole. We must ALWAYS follow truth, regardless to where it leads, and who's ox it gores, because truth will tell us - and everyone concerned - that racism is no longer the war. At this point racism is merely a weapon of war. We are now in a class war, and the enemy doesn't care any more about poor and middle-class White people than he does Blacks. So if we are to survive, it's time for ALL like-minded people to come together and put all other issues aside, because DIVISION is the enemy's most potent weapon. That's primary reason that Rush Limbaugh and Fox News even exists.
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Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com
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Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

It's Time To Enact A Workers' Bill Of Rights - And Boot out Any Politician Who Refuses To Go Along


BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

It's Time To Enact A Workers' Bill Of Rights - And Boot out Any Politician Who Refuses To Go Along
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The American people have been sold a bill of goods. We've allowed the one-percenters to convince us that completely unrestrained capitalism (or greed) is "the American way." Says who, the one-percenters? The "American way" should be what's good for America, not just a handful of industrialists, political cronies, and Wall Street manipulators.
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Think about the average American's response to the word "socialism." Corporatists have conditioned us to revile even the mention of the word. Most Americans react to it like Count Dracula reacts to a cross. We've been so thoroughly conditioned that it's used as a pejorative to slur President Obama.  It conjures up images of dictators, Red China, the former Soviet Union, the government taking over our lives, and the loss of freedom, but it doesn't actually mean that at all. What it actually means is giving the average citizen a fair shake and not stacking the deck against them by promoting unfettered greed.
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Yes, socialism has undoubtedly been used as a pretext to take away freedoms and create closed societies, but that was the ABUSE  of socialism, just like the abuse of capitalism led to slavery and the extermination of over a hundred million Native Americans. So it is not the economic systems that are  evil; it's the closed-minded and self-serving motives of the people who implement the systems who are evil.
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Child Labor During Great Depression
Capitalism Run amok
Thus, with that understood, common sense would seem to dictate that the best system for America would be a democratic socialism that is based on capitalistic principles. That is, we should continue to pursue our current capitalistic system, but with an eye toward not allowing unfettered greed to run so amok that it brings misery upon the American people, as it did under George W. Bush, and continues do to this day
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Entrepreneurs should be free to make as much money as they can manage, but responsibly. So we need  a workers' bill of rights in this country. If a company wants to do business in the United States it should have to pay workers a living wage and  maintain a level of employment based on, and commensurate with, the amount of profits that they're pulling from the economy. If the company doesn't want to do that, they should clear out and go do business in another country.  That will open the market up for others who are willing to settle for a mere one billion dollars in profit instead of a hundred billion.

REAGANOMICS AND THE GOP CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE MIDDLE CLASS

Our economy (for the average worker) is currently depressed because, starting with the Reagan administration, it has been based on unrestrained greed, and the average American is being constantly squeezed by the one-percenters to give up an ever larger share of America's pie.  The GOP used Ronald Reagan, with his "Aw shucks, Ma'am," John Wayne-like persona, to convince the American people to buy into "Trickle-Down" Economics - or in other words, "Give us your money and we promise to take care of you." That was the biggest scam ever perpetrated against the people in American history, and we should be mad as hell about it.
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They not only stole our money, but destroyed our industrial base by breaking up and selling off some of our most important corporations. In addition, they tripled the national debt in the process! As a direct result, the American middle class has been careening downhill for the past 35 years, or every since.
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I've related the GOP's grossly irresponsible economic history in several articles, but the head-scratching result of the 2014 midterm election clearly suggest that the American people are just not getting it, so it bears repeating.
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The Great Depression
From the moment that Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put "The New Deal For the American People" in place to rescue the American people from ever having to suffer the ravages of the Great Depression again, the GOP and conservatives have been determined to dismantle it - even as I write they're mounting an assault on Social Security, Affordable Health Care, and every other program designed to bring relief to the poor and middle class. The closest they've come to succeeding started during the Reagan administration with Supply-Side Economics, or, "Reaganomics" - and the battle is currently raging in Washington D.C. as we speak.
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Supply- Side Economics was a scheme hatch by U.S.C. economist, Arthur Laffer, and the Reagan crowd which was supposed to cut the deficit and balance the budget. The theory behind Reaganomics was ostensibly, if you cut taxes for business and people in the upper tax brackets, and then deregulated business of such nuisances as safety regulations and environmental safeguards, the beneficiaries would invest their savings into creating new jobs. In that way the money would eventually "trickle down" to the rest of us. The resulting broadened tax base would not only help to bring down the deficit, but also subsidize the tremendously high defense budget. When the plan was first floated, even George Bush, Reagan's vice president to be, called it "voodoo economics."
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Reaganomics, for the most part, sought to undo many of the safeguards put into place during the Roosevelt era and create a business environment similar to that which was in place during the Coolidge Administration. What actually took place, however, was even more like the Coolidge era than planed.
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Instead of taking the money and investing it into creating new jobs, the money was used in wild schemes and stock market speculation. One of these schemes, the leveraged buy out, involved buying up large companies with borrowed funds secured by the company's assets, then paying off the loan by selling off the assets of the purchased company. This practice cost the citizens of this country its industrial base. In addition, the bottom fell out of the stock market. On Monday, October 19, 1987 the Dow-Jones Average fell 508.32 points. It was the greatest one-day decline since 1914 - 15 years before the Great Depression.
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And what about Ronald Reagan's promise to balance the budget and lower the deficit? By the time he left office he was not only the most prolific spender of any president in history, but he also added more to the deficit than all of the other presidents from George Washington to his own administration combined. And what did the Republican Party propose to do about that? One of the Republican proposals was their "contract with America," a capital gains tax cut - for the rich.
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Heaping ever more money on the rich seems to be the GOP's answer to everything, and as they're doing it, they're telling the poor and middle class that if they had just a little more, the economic conditions in this country will turn the corner for everyone. They've been telling the people this lie for 35 years, and the conditions for the poor and middle class is getting ever worse with every day that passes.
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Due to the continued freewheeling fiscal policies of conservative Republicans, between 1986 and 1989, spanning the presidencies of Reagan and Bush Sr., the FSLIC had to pay off all the depositors of 296 institutions with assets of over $125 billion.
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Then in 1988 Silverado Savings and Loan collapsed, costing the taxpayers $1.3 billion. It was headed by Neil Bush, brother of George W. The investigation alleged that he was guilty of "breaches of his fiduciary duties involving multiple conflicts of interest." The issue was eventually settled out of court with Bush paying a mere $50,000 settlement.
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Then there was the Lincoln Savings and loan scandal in 1987, involving John McCain. He was one of a group of senators dubbed "The Keating Five" involved in a scandal by the same name.
In 1976 Charles Keating moved to Arizona to run the American Continental Corporation. In 1984, shortly after the Reagan era push to deregulate the savings and loan community, Keating bought Lincoln Savings and Loan and began to engage in highly risky investments with the depositors' savings. In 1989 the parent company, which Keating headed, went bankrupt, and it resulted in over 21,000 investors losing their life savings. Most of the investors were elderly, and the loss amounted to about 285 million dollars.
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After having received over a million dollars from Keating in illegal campaign contributions, gifts, free trips, and other gratuities, the Keating Five - Senators John Glenn, Don Riegle, Dennis DeConini, Alan Cranston, and Sen. John McCain - attempted to intervene in the investigation into Keating's activities by the regulators. Later, they were admonished to varying degrees by the senate for attempting to influence regulators on Keating's behalf. Charles Keating ended up being convicted for fraud, racketeering and conspiracy, for which he received 10 years by the state court, and a 12 year sentence in federal court. After spending four and a half years in prison, his convictions were overturned. But prior to being retried, he pled guilty to a number of felonies in return for a sentence of time served.
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Then came the George W. Bush administration that caused close to a million people to die uselessly in an illegal war in Iraq, robbed the American people blind, whose fumbling ignited the longest war in American history in Afghanistan, and whose greed came very close to sending the nation into yet another Great Depression.
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Now, after all of their repeated efforts to deplete the national treasury, they're unanimously voting against every piece of legislation that the Democrats propose to repair the damage they created and to bring relief to the American people. Then they have the audacity to claim that they're doing it because they're concerned about deficit spending.
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They're against affordable health care for American families; they're against any kind of spending to put Americans back to work, and they're against extending unemployment insurance to relieve the burden of America's unemployed. What's particularly telling, however, is they're also against any kind of strong legislation to prevent the financial community (them) from being able to rob the American people in the future.
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The fact is, what they really want is to maintain the status quo, and make damn sure that the American people remained miserable, hungry, and divided until 2016 elections so they'd have a better chance to regain power and raid the treasury again. Republican Senate minority leader (now majority leader), Mitch McConnell, was frustrated and reckless enough to say it out loud prior to the 2012 election - "Our No. 1 priority is to make this president a one-term president" - not to save America, or to bring relief to the American people, but to make Barack Obama a one-term president. Flag pens in lapels and patriotic rhetoric notwithstanding, that says it all about the GOP's lack of concern for America, or the American people.
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After they lost the 2012 election, their agenda has shifted to making sure that President Obama is not successful, because if he is, and you combine that with the rapidly changing demographic, that could spell doom for the future of the GOP - and it should, because they're grossly out of touch with reality, and, America's best interest. They're out to create a corporate feudalist society. The government shutdown, their repeated obstructionism, and their unconscionable attack on voters' rights clearly demonstrated that they have absolutely no respect for democracy.
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And this is not just political rhetoric. Here is the activity of the Republican congress who ran in the 2010 election on their claim that their number one priority was to bring economic relief, and create jobs for the American people.
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History is clear. The conservative Republicans don't mind spending money, they just don't want to spend it on those who need it - us. Remember, they're the party of Alexander Hamilton, one of this country's founding fathers who believed that only those who owned property should even be allowed to vote. He also said:
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"All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and wellborn, the other the mass of the people.... The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct, permanent share in government. They will check the unsteadiness of the second, and as they cannot receive any advantage by a change, they therefore will ever maintain good government." Debates of the Federalist Convention (May 14-September 17, 1787).
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In 1965, CEOs were paid only 20.1 times more than the average worker. Today they make 231 times the average worker (http://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2012/09/redistribution-wealth-has-gone-upward-not-down-early-80s).  As a direct result, the top 5% of the population now controls 82% of the wealth, while the bottom 80% only controls 7%. That's dangerous, and a direct threat to our democracy.  As a matter of fact, a study by Princeton University declares that the American government can no longer be called a democracy - it is now an oligarchy that's controlled by the rich.
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So again, we need to stop buying into the ridiculous proposition that if we just make the one-percenters just a little bit richer they'll take care of us. We need to take care of ourselves, and our lower and middle-class workers. Thereafter, when they spend their money on goods and services, they'll create a thriving economy again. When we put money in the pockets of the poor and middle class it circulates - they go on vacations, which creates jobs; they buy their children toys and clothes, which creates jobs; and they buy new homes, which creates jobs. When we give our money to the rich, it goes into offshore accounts and we never see it again. That's why the bottom 80% of the people now only have 7% of the wealth.
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We're being sold a bill of goods.  Corporations are making more profits than they ever made in their history, so there's no reason for unemployment to be so high. The reason that it is, however, is because the corporatists are purposely keeping unemployment high in order to strangle the American middle class into accepting a lower standard of living that will be more in keeping with the global economy.
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Thus, we need to vote many of these demagogues out of office and vote people in who are willing to pass a Workers' Bill of Rights. Then we need to inform these corporatists that they're going to have to dance to a different drummer if they want to do business in the United States. If they don't want to comply, they'll have to do business elsewhere and make room for others who will happily take their place, and for far less money.
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Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com
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Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Sunday, February 08, 2015

Raynard Jackson: The Cluelessness of Black Republicans

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

Raynard Jackson: The Cluelessness of Black Republicans
 
Raynard Jackson, Republican Activist
I've always maintained that I've never met a Black conservative who wasn't either ignorant, self-serving, lacked character, or all three. Here's proof of that:

Raynard wrote,

"A year ago, I went to see Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), who happens to be a good friend. I wanted his approval for an idea that I had. The previous year, the GOP had just come off of a disastrous election cycle with Mitt Romney losing his bid to become president. Barack Obama had beaten him in every demographic except White males. Reversing recent inroads into the Black community, Romney received only 4 percent of the African American vote.

"Rather than simply bemoan that setback, I suggested that we create an annual Black History Month honor to be called the Black Republican Trailblazer Award. Essentially, it was a luncheon to recognize, pay homage to, and to honor African American Republicans who have paved the way for people like me and others to be active in our party while making a major contribution to America along the way.

"Priebus immediately saw the value of my idea and gave me the greenlight to move forward, though some staffers were not enthusiastic about the idea. I offered to raise money to underwrite the event, but Priebus insisted that the RNC pay for it . . .

"I was able to organize and execute the event in less than 30 days, despite people trying to sabotage me every step of the way. We had more than 250 people in attendance, probably 40 percent of them were Democrats who appreciated our honorees’ trailblazing contributions.

"Fast forward to 2014 when the honorees were former Assistant Secretary of Labor Bill Brooks, former Ohio Supreme Court Judge, Sara Harper and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Louis Sullivan. The keynote speaker was former Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams.

"Though Priebus didn’t know it [What makes him think that?], members of his staff had unilaterally decided that they no longer needed me and organized the event without me or my input" (http://thyblackman.com/2015/02/03/hijacking-a-tribute-to-pioneering-black-republicans/comment-page-1/#comment-271191).

Here’s an excerpt from another article Raynard wrote about a previous encounter when the GOP told him to go sit in the corner and shut up:
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In his article, "My Republican Party has Abandoned Me," Black Republican activist, Raynard Jackson, says the following:
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"For many years, I have approached the party and its supporters about underwriting programs to bring together Blacks who are Republican or lean Republican so we can weave them into every facet of the party structure. The answer is always, No! But, twice this year some of these same people have approached me about funding for some election year tricks that they (White Republicans) have conjured up and simply need a Black face to execute the plan. On these two separate occasions, these funders were willing to spend upwards of $20 million to have me organize a national campaign to identify Blacks who would be critical of President Obama." (http://www.freedomsjournal.net/2012/10/31/my-republican-party-has-abandoned-me/)."

Raynard,

Now I see why you’re a Republican. You just don’t seem to get it, brother! The Republicans neither care about you, like you, or respect you. They’re just USING YOU!!! But like the vast majority of Black Republicans, you either want to be accepted so badly by conservative White folks (who view you like one of the germs under their toilet seat) that you're willing to take a beating, lick your wounds, and then go runnin' back for more, or you have so little common sense that you're absolutely blind.

Again, every time they slap you down you go running back waggin’ your tail, and then rolling over to have your stomach scratched just like a clueless little puppy. So I just have one thing to say regarding your behavior - I sure hope you don’t run into some horny Republican pervert while you’re down at the RNC suckin’ up. If you do, don't let him play you. Make him sign a prenup before you cave. Because I'm absolutely sure of three things - first, he's gonna get what he wants; secondly, you're going to fall madly in love; and finally, you're going to be changing your conservative views on same-sex marriage.

But I'm gonna to tell you right now, he ain't gonna marry you - because first, in spite of what you want to believe, you're Black, and you always will be; and secondly, he can't, because he's a Republican hypocrite so he has to stay in the closet. But I'm sure you'll continue to accommodate him in any event.  And why not? You've got plenty of practice in swallowing your pride, so why not add a little seasoning?

Eric L. Wattree
http://wattree.blogspot.com/
Ewattree@Gmail.com
Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)
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Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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