Commentary by Max Benavidez for The American ShowThe death of Osama bin Laden is a symbolic turning point in what’s been called the “war on terror.” After the horrific events of 9/11, Americans wanted to bring the chief perpetrator to justice. That’s been done. It was also the main reason that we invaded Afghanistan.
If anything the bold and successful operation that took Bin Laden’s life shows us the type of approach that we need to take in the battle against terrorism.: strategic, laser-focused special ops not massive operations with 100,000 soldiers on the ground who are smack in harm’s way.
This week Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns (R) said that Bin Laden’s death should be the beginning of the end of the ten-year Afghanistan campaign, the longest war in American history. As the Florida Times-Union reported, Stearns said, “Most people I talk to say that we need to address our nation’s budget deficit, and we are spending a lot of money in Afghanistan,” he said. “Now that bin Laden has been executed we must go home.”
I agree. We need to declare victory and bring our troops home.
The Pentagon says we spend over $300 million a day on that war. That’s more than $100 billion per year. This is in a poor country that has an annual GDP of $16 billion. There’s a serious imbalance here. The definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again. It’s simply crazy for the U.S. to stay in Afghanistan.
According to a recent CNN/Opinion Research poll, 63% of Americans are opposed to the war. It’s draining our treasury and even worse we have had 12,000 American troops killed or injured while on duty there.
If something as critical to the American people as Medicare can be on the table so should the Afghanistan war.
This is the debate that we need to have now as we look hard at our budget priorities. Earlier this year Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, who chaired the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for years, told The Huffington Post, “This is a debate we’re going to have in the next five months or so.”
As far as our foreign policy is concerned, we have other pressing issues before us. Obviously, Pakistan needs our attention. We’re already involved in the hot mess in Libya and we’ll need to provide a steady hand to help the transition to democracy in Egypt, Tunisia and perhaps even Syria.
The time has come. We need to leave Afghanistan and concentrate on the big problems and challenges here at home.
We can no longer afford our involvement in Afghanistan in terms of blood and treasury and, let’s face it, we’re not going to make a huge difference by staying. We need a rapid draw down of U.S. forces.
Osama bin Laden is dead and we need to move on sooner rather than later. It’s as simple as that.
A version of this post is also available on The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/max-benavidez/end-afghanistan-war-_b_857271.html
Wesley Morris, film critic for the Boston Globe has an interesting view about the newest film in the Fast and Furious franchise, “Fast Five.” He tells NPR in a story headlined “Fast Five”: A Progressive Force?” that “Basically it promotes race as this very normal thing. Around these cars are these very different types of people, but it’s not the subject of the movie like it is in most Hollywood movies. Race is just a matter of fact.” Race, Morris says, “has just sort of exploded into such a thing in these movies that it almost doesn’t even matter.” Morris guesses that Vin Diesel, the movie’s multi-ethnic star and producer, “may have been behind the film’s progressive approach.’
He goes on to say: “I think he’s one of those people who’s frequently annoyed by having to deal with and answer questions about ‘What are you? What background are you?’ And I think one of the things he wants to try to do with these movies — whether consciously or not — in achieving that effect is to sort of eliminate race as a point of conflict and use race as a sort of point of normalcy, which I think is a really revolutionary thing to be able to try to do and achieve.”
In his review in the Globe, Morris, writes, that “Fast Five” is “so far, the most honest Hollywood movie of the year. It’s also the most fun.“ He continues by noting that, “The movie beats you over the head with money even as it takes it from your wallet, and the lack of shame, as loathsome as some might find it, is refreshing for the brutal blatancy of crashing poetry into literalism: Money destroys everything.”
Well, well, an old biblical message packaged inside a speed flick filled with cartoon violence and car chases that The Onion jokes was written by a 5-year-old. Go see it and judge for yourself.
Max Benavidez for The American Show
Judy Berman from Flavorwire
re: Last Night’s Episode of “Treme”
Warning: If you don’t want Sunday’s most recent “Treme” episode spoiled for you, stop reading now.
For much of “Treme” Season 1, we saw the people of New Orleans coming together to salvage their lives and bury their dead. There were casualties, like John Goodman’s increasingly frustrated and irate Creighton Bernette, but there were also small victories: Big Chief managed to reassemble his tribe for what may be their final parade; Annie broke free of her heroin-addicted boyfriend, Sonny, and launched a more successful musical career; DJ Davis found purpose in recording an anti-government anthem; and Toni helped LaDonna find out what really happened to her brother.
Several months later, in Season 2, things are different. The initial spirit of unity has broken down, partially due to the egregious failure of local and federal relief efforts. Crime is through the roof, and wealthy opportunists, including “Treme‘s” new, amoral “rainmaker” Nelson Hidalgo, jockey for government contracts. While some, like chef Janette, have been forced to find work outside New Orleans, those who refuse to leave are slowly breaking down; even Big Chief has become an dead-eyed shadow of his former self.
Throughout all of this, one character has remained strong and spirited: Khandi Alexander’s LaDonna Batiste-Williams. Now that she has put her brother’s body to rest, she could easily retreat to Baton Rouge, where her dentist husband and family live comfortably. But, as this season’s first few episodes remind us, she is happiest in her New Orleans bar, bantering with regulars. Amid all the devastation, this dive is LaDonna’s haven — until this week.
As she’s closing down for the night, a young guy bangs on the bar’s gate. He wants her to give him directions somewhere, and he wants to come in and use her phone. LaDonna is too smart to fall for this. She tells him that maybe the NOPD can help him out, and he disappears as she calls 911 to report the suspicious character. Of course, the operator advises her to call back on a non-emergency line.
Law enforcement still hasn’t arrived when LaDonna tries to leave a few minutes later. He shows up as she steps outside and locks the door, and he’s got a friend with him. She retreats back into the bar, but they kick down the door. When they won’t stop at taking the money she throws at them, LaDonna grabs a bat and starts swinging. A few scenes later, a good Samaritan carries her into the hospital, her face bloody and bruised. David Simon spares us from having to watch the assault, out of what feels like respect for both the audience and LaDonna. We find out slowly that not only has she been beaten and had her bar stripped of anything potentially valuable, but she’s also been raped.
Matt Zoller Seitz has a few problems with how this plays out: He observes that the men who rape LaDonna and plunder her bar are portrayed as “almost literally faceless” — a move that’s out of chracter for Simon, who so rarely resorts to simple, “good guys vs. bad guys” oppositions. Although I agree that “Treme,” and “The Wire” before it, tends to succeed because it doesn’t operate this way, there’s a solid reason for what we see here: We only see these criminals through LaDonna’s eyes. I assume this case won’t end here (in fact, I’m thinking Toni will eventually get involved), and that’s when we’ll get a bit more complexity. Even if we don’t, let’s remember that LaDonna’s attackers are rapists, not guys stealing bread to feed their starving families. Is there really a lot of space for moral ambiguity there?
Seitz’s main complaint, though, is that we see too little of LaDonna in an episode where other subplots should have receded to accommodate the enormity of her trauma. “I wanted to see more of her valiant struggle against her attackers,” he writes. But that we didn’t drives home what’s so depressing here — that even this tough, vibrant woman was powerless to stop what happened to her. In the real world, which Simon is always trying to depict, resourcefulness and a good attitude can’t always save you.
We don’t see enough of the aftermath either, says Seitz, who believes “the hospital and recovery scenes were meager and perfunctory.” I disagree. Khandi Alexander is one of TV’s most powerful actresses, and we didn’t need to see more than her mangled face to feel the attack’s impact. LaDonna is so injured, inside and out, that she barely speaks. Almost immediately, she’s confronted with a rape kit and someone looking to question her about the assailants. We understand her unearned shame when she refuses to talk about her sexual assault in front of her husband. In one long scene, LaDonna takes pill after pill to prevent STDs (tellingly, we don’t see whether she takes the Plan B she’s offered), and we’re forced to process the potential fallout of rape. Especially compared with what we see on other TV dramas, this hardly seems like a disrespectful portrayal of the character’s recovery.
As for whether the incident and its aftermath deserved more screen time, Seitz raises an interesting question. He argues that Simon’s refusal to break his patchwork style, giving all story lines equal weight, cheapens LaDonna’s suffering. For me, it felt more like a reminder that, in the grand scheme of post-Katrina life in New Orleans, her rape is just one more item on a police blotter already hopelessly overcrowded with murders and robberies. If anything, this only adds resonance to LaDonna’s plight. Switching back over to her after lighter (if never exactly fluffy) scenes reminds us of how quickly individual tragedies can get lost in the shuffle. But after the credits roll, it’s Alexander’s expressive face — those sharp eyes, that pulpy, quivering mouth — that stays with us. By sticking to his structure, Simon ensures that we comprehend LaDonna’s tragedy on both a personal and a systemic level.
First posted on Flavorwire.
Guest blogger Mo Kelly on the 2012 election and the African-American vote
*There’s a pearl of wisdom that’s been passed down in African-American households over the years. As to attribution, not quite sure. After a quick internet search, the inimitable Dr. Maya Angelou seems most often credited:
“When someone shows you who they are…believe them.”The Grand Old Party, the supposed “Party of Lincoln” has repeatedly and consistently shown itself to be completely disinterested in meeting the political needs of the African-American electorate base. It wants our votes to be sure; but in the way the philandering husband never intends to legitimize his mistress but likes the privilege of stopping by on occasion when convenient. We know when and why you come knocking in the midnight hour of the election cycle; the routine is rather staid and superficial.
Time and time again the GOP has shown America who she is. It’s about time we start believing them.
Former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman was quite astute in his contention that the GOP needed to do more than simply ask for the African-American vote come election time. It must be about the business of consistency and sincerity.
Epic fail. Notice the L-sign with my thumb and index finger in the middle of my forehead.
This is about more than any singular email sent by a random, GOP staffer which celebrated the worst depictions of African-Americans. (And believe you me, there have been a bunch.) It is about the party that is complicit in its promulgation and its reticence in condemnation. It is always a struggle for the GOP to not do the racist thing, to not do the homophobic thing, to not get an attitude after the fact when we remind you to do the right thing in response. It is a tiresome struggle to remind the GOP that we are Black, we are Brown and we are even gay and lesbian in this 21st century America.
You don’t like us…any of us. We get it.
We know, we know. “Some of your best friends are (insert minority).” Yes, you will be quick to remind us how good of a relationship you have with “The Blacks.” But it’s time for you to hear what your relationship really is; instead of condescending and misguided Heritage Foundation talking points alleging something it’s not.
No, you don’t have a good relationship with “The Blacks,” “The Browns” or anyone else unlike you.
This is not about any singular candidate who confuses a coherent political agenda with a call-to-arms to question the President’s birth certificate. It is about the party in support of the legislation in Arizona born of such transparent silliness. We judge you GOP by the bills you write, the bull you speak and the Bush Doctrine you support.
“When someone shows you who they are…believe them.”
The Republican Party is still promulgating the lie that it is “The Party of Lincoln,” while gleefully disavowing documented civil rights history. The reasons why African Americans have been so loyal to the Democratic Party are inextricably linked to the progressive legislative legacies of President Harry Truman through President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Some credit to be sure to Eisenhower but let’s not rewrite history.
The signing of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act signaled the mass exodus of then-Democrats to the Republican Party. The Democratic Party cratered itself because of its support of the movement. The political upheaval led to the birth of the Dixiecrats; the ancestral forefather of the Tea Party.
The Republican Party of 2011 is a direct descendant of the push back to the Civil Rights Movement, not the linear progression of the Abraham Lincoln legacy. For example, former “Democrats” Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms come to mind for starters. The present day Republican party is a reflection and evolution of the Dixiecrat vision and all of its segregationist splendor. The lies have gone on for far too long. It is time to tell the truth for the sake of those so easily caught up in anti-immigration and birth certificate disinformation.
Mo’Kelly is here to tell you GOP, African Americans by and large are not appreciative of your paltry trinkets of disaffection. You want our votes, just not us. We get it. Trust me we do.
Well you can’t have them. And you surely don’t have us.
You’d let your party go straight to hell in a hand basket, riding the coattails of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, rather than acknowledging the obvious; your president is a Black, American born man of Christian faith. You’d rather have your then RNC chair Michael Steele apologize and in effect “kneel” to radio host Rush Limbaugh than putting Limbaugh and his historical racism in its proper place.
You’ve shown us who you are…we believe you.
Not only that, Latinos are here to stay and there are more gay people in America than just an “unfortunate” Idaho senator in a Minnesota airport bathroom or a handful of closeted right-wing hypocrite ministers. Hopefully I’m not the one who had to break the news to you, but your track record suggests otherwise.
You want an America that reflects the vision of its founders, except for when it includes religious freedom for Muslims. You desire one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all; except for those of Latino descent and averse to proving citizenship on demand. You want an America for the pursuit of happiness, except for those who are gay or lesbian.
Trust me…we get it.
It doesn’t matter if you talk until you’re blue in the face about the alleged political inadequacies of President Obama, because you couch it within disrespect of his race, his wife and even his birthright. If that weren’t enough, you’re now alleging that our President was a “terrible” student and didn’t deserve a spot at an Ivy League school. This is despite the fact that President Obama’s grades (like his birth certificate) are available and above reproach. This is also despite the fact that George W. Bush was clearly a mediocre student at best. If you want to allege that a particular President of the United States received an undeserved Affirmative Action pass into the Ivy League…pick the right one. It wasn’t President Obama.
The bulk of your complaints are not politically principled, they’re just plain old pitiful. No, I’m not interested in hearing your arguments about the supposed excessive spending of this Democratic administration as long as you give equal respect to those carrying poster boards depicting that same President and First Lady as chimpanzees or savages with bones through their noses.
You don’t offer a reasonable political alternative, you only reaffirm why Democratic apathy (although unappreciated) will always be a lesser evil than Republican ignominy. We suffer no illusions, we are in a loveless marriage with the Democratic Party. But collectively trading down for a vindictive Republican mistress is not a viable option.
In the words of Johnnie Taylor, “it’s cheaper to keep her.”
You want the votes of African Americans, just not all the fuss of having to respect those of us casting them.
I get it.
We collectively get it and we believe you. Re-election for President Obama in 2012 and thank you for your part in solidifying our decision.
The Mo’Kelly Report is an entertainment journal with a political slant; published at The Huffington Post and EURWEB.com. For more Mo’Kelly, http://mrmokelly.com. Mr. Mo’Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
twitter – @mrmokelly
Guest Blogger Oscar Garza (Senior Editor at Los Angeles Public Media) on the L.A. Sign, Street Gangs and the DodgersMajor League Baseball has dealt with one problem at Dodger Stadium—the McCourts’ wayward ownership—and now someone else will have to deal with another huge issue at Chavez Ravine: a decline in the atmosphere there bought on by thugs who have made it a less friendly place.
According to the LA Weekly: Over the last five or six years under [Frank] McCourt’s ownership, the LAPD sources say, cheap ticket prices promoted in some sections, including outfield pavilions, helped add to the number of thugs and gang members. It wasn’t long before the 18th Street Gang and others became a more prominent presence, operating with the knowledge that a typical penalty for bad behavior was merely “getting kicked out,” one of the LAPD sources says.
It came to a flashpoint on Opening Day of this season with the parking lot beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow, who remains in a coma. His attackers, described as Latinos with gang-like tattoos, have eluded capture.
Amid outrage in the community and the media, the Dodgers and the LAPD have stepped up security and they’ve vowed to once again make the stadium a family-friendly destination.
Of course, we’re all troubled by the gang presence at one of the most beloved ballparks of our national pastime, and we fret about the gang tags in virtually every L.A. neighborhood, but we don’t stop long enough to think about how complicit we are in the pervasiveness of gang culture in popular culture.
The über-example is the love-hate relationship we have with the Mafia, which reached a new prominence through Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” trilogy and many of Martin Scorsese’s films. Their progeny include Snoop Dogg’s “Doggfather” persona and “Mafia Wars”—one of the most popular video games ever created.
We watch NBA players seemingly throw gang signs during games. (The Celtics’ Paul Pierce, who grew up in Inglewood, was fined $25,000 for such an instance.) We embraced gangsta rap and the “artists” who brazenly boasted about thug life, and the music industry still promotes rappers who are compelled to come hard (whether they really are or not).
Latinos have our own love-hate relationship with gang culture. Cholos are the modern-day pachucos—social outcasts who rebel against their bi-cultural disconnect. But there’s a distinct line between being a victim and a victimizer, which is sometimes overlooked in popular appropriation of gang behavior.
Take, for example, the LA hand sign. It’s not associated with any particular gang, but it’s certainly inspired by the habit of bangers flashing the sign of their set.
If you’ve never flashed the LA sign, I bet you know someone who has. Inner city kids do it, as do suburban kids. Hipsters do it. George Lopez recently did it on national television from his courtside seat at a Lakers game. Nike released a t-shirt with Kobe Bryant’s puppet character flashing a cartoonish “LA.”
It’s cool. It’s funny. Harmless, right? Until a couple of real LA gangsters beat an innocent fan within an inch of his life.
So, yes, let’s hope that Dodger Stadium gets cleaned up and managed better. Let’s pray for Bryan Stow’s recovery and hope that his attackers are caught and brought to justice. And let’s hope that communities can make progress against our deeply ingrained and seemingly intractable gang problem.
But let’s look in the mirror too–and ask ourselves if flashing a pseudo-gang sign is the best way for Angelenos to represent.
[This commentary was originally published at laforward.org]
Guest Blogger William Nericcio from The Tex[t]-Mex Gallery Blog
In “the hardest to read”* chapter in Tex[t]-Mex, the fourth chapter on Lupe Vélez entitled, “Lupe Vélez Regurgitated; or, Jesus’s Kleenex: Cautionary, Indigestion-Inspiring Ruminations on “Mexicans” in “American” Toilets,” I play with the idea of celebrities in the early 20th century as newly minted “saints,” with la Lupe a kind of early 20th century martyr–of no little assistance in this vein are the findings of Jeffrey F. Hamburger on the vera ikonor “Veronica” (that scene in the new testament, immortalized in the stations of the cross, “station 6″, where Jesus leaves his face on a “Veronica’s” handkerchief, aka, the first snapshot).
You can see this idea reappear, with post-modern trappings, in this compelling interview with Russell Brand on boingboing.
“I’m not a huge Russell Brand fan (I’m don’t dislike him either, but most of his media came out after my daughter was born and I essentially embarked upon a half-decade adult TV and movie fast), but this is a remarkable interview. Brand gets some tough questions from the interviewer, and while he gets excited and even rants a little, he is consistently cogent, intelligent, and well-spoken. This is practically a master class in how to talk about celebrity while being a celebrity without sounding like a snob.”.
Cory Doctorow from BoingBoing
Whenever I get a missive to “Like” someone’s page, my memory goes back to high school. This was before the Internet, when the push button phone replaced the rotary, when “call waiting” meant your sister stood over you like a vulture waiting for you to get off the phone in the basement where you didn’t have to whisper.
Back then you “liked” someone by being their friend, a true show of friendship meant sitting at the same table in the school cafeteria. Now, you don’t even have to meet a person to “like” them; all it takes is a click and there you are, another “fan.” We used to judge the popularity of someone by the number of friends at their lunch table, now we judge by the number of “likes.” Is it any wonder that Facebook has taken off with the Baby Boomers? (See chart below.) We’re back in high school, with the fantasy of doing it right this time around.
“You Like It, It Likes You” – 7 UP
Once a page hits the tipping point, people will like it just because everyone else does; we are only discerning when the number is less than our waist line. There is also the familiar “you pat my back, I’ll pat yours” version on Facebook: Like my page and I will Like yours. The only danger to this is that you might end up liking a lot of pages that could brand you as someone you are not; a clown loving vegan Giraffe trainer with a taste for wild boar.
How real is that emotion of liking someone online? Not that real, we are more fickle than a tween, and our moods mercurial when it comes to something so ephemeral that in a snit we can make it disappear from our lives with the touch of a finger.
And, if Sun-tzu were alive today, he just might say this, ” Keep your friends close and your online friends closer,” and he would also ask you to Like his page.
Welcome to The American Show, a new multimedia blog about life in the USA, the greatest reality show on earth. Ours is a mediated society where nothing seems real until it’s in the media. Watch is what we do. We like “to watch” as Chance the gardener said in Being There. But we’re also being watched as we are more and more under surveillance, whether through webcams, at traffic intersections, by ubiquitous security cameras, or just the ones on our phones. Watch and be watched.
This is a place where we will watch who is watching whom and why. We will report on who’s doing what and where in every area of American life from politics to culture to music to education–wherever our interest takes us. We also want to mirror the real America, the one that already lives and thrives everyday in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. It’s a mix, a gorgeous hybrid of bloodroots, color, race, sexuality, energy, ideas, and personal visions. That America, the New America, is something we want to present here on The American Show.
At launch our initial collaborators already include some of the most gifted people in the blogosphere: William Nericcio, author of Tex[t|-Mex and the blog of the same name that he curates with his “band of semiotic pirates”; Audrey Dolar Tejada, the journalist and gifted artist who blogs at Strange Tango: Life As Art; Wendy Carrillo, radio personality and online editor for Voto Latino; Mo’ Kelly of the sometimes outrageous The Mo’ Kelly Report; occasional posts from the folks at Racialicious; and, eclectic DJ José Galván, who will curate our music (click on Music on the Menu bar and you can hear his inaugural playlist). We’ll also be presenting interviews with some of our favorite people and adding contributors as we grow and move out of the beta phase.
Above all, The American Show is a place for stories. We’ll be showing videos and photos that tell stories about people who live in this state of mind called America. We’ll also have podcasts that you can download. More than anything, we’ll want to hear from you. Join our conversation. Register.
The American Show is the blog as collage, montage, and pastiche. As an online collage, we will bring together variant elements into one place and see how the resulting image, text, or sound becomes something new.
See the image above that accompanies this first post for our blog: Marianne Brandt’s “Our Unnerving City.” It’s a photomontage that comes from a frenetic time and place (1926, Germany) like ours where political dangers lurk in unforeseen places and nothing is as it seems. As Ben Davis wrote about Brandt’s piece, “the collection of fragmented images is anchored by a large face or dominant figure…Rather than producing easy points of identification, however, Brandt’s figures clipped from popular magazines are tangibly fake-seeming and stereotyped, again evincing a certain uneasiness about identifications. This sense is furthered by Brandt’s choices: She seizes on images of dancers, circus performers and movie stars of all kinds — all people putting on a show, on stage, acting, not themselves.”
This is “showtime” and sometimes it’s real, sometimes it’s not but the real and the unreal blend together into something different, something new and hyperreal. That’s our society in the 21st century.
Like montage—what Walter Benjamin called the “major constitutive principle of the imagination in the age of technology” —The American Show is looking for the “infinite, sudden, or subterranean connections of dissimilars.”
We live in extreme times. Our politics are a polarized bloodsport. Economically and educationally, we are fast becoming two Americas. We seem to always be at war. It makes sense that extreme sports are an obsession for many and people crave extreme makeovers. In this spirit we take Base Jumping as a metaphor. This is a blog where freedom of thought and expression can take flight. We will strive to jump from the edge and comment from there about what we see in the world. We want to put on a “show,” something you’ll want to watch. We won’t ask for permission, we’ll just do it and and hope we land in one piece after the thrill. There is so much to say and do. Let’s go!
Producer/Director, The American Show