Sunday Open Thread

Good Morning. I hope you’re enjoying this weekend with family and friends.

Some Gospel with Whitney Houston.

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“Just Mercy”: Bryan Stevenson on Ferguson, Prison Reform & Why the Opposite of Poverty is Justice

Hat tip: Democracy Now

LIZA: “This is an excellent interview with Bryan Stevenson. Amy Goodman deserves much credit. She is the only TV reporter with anything close to a national audience who consistently reports truthfully on Ferguson and many other cases of police brutality and killings. She covers topics that our corporate media wouldn’t even consider airing.

I keep thinking about this simple yet very poignant statement posted by DeRay McKesson on Twitter awhile back, “We will protest until we can live.” We know that at the very core of this movement is a demand for the most basic of human rights, the right to live. And the evidence is overwhelming that the right to live, even now in 2014, is being denied to so many people of color in this country, mostly black men. The list of stolen lives seems endless. Protestors carry signs that say, “Stop killing us.”
So, yes, we know this is “bigger than Ferguson.” What is significant about Ferguson is that these protestors have put their bodies on the front lines of a populist movement that is essentially about human rights. And we are in awe of them.

The good ol’ white boys may have their militarized police force and their useful idiots in corporate media to spread lies for them, but the truth is that we are witnessing the last gasping years of white power. Make no mistake, they know this, and everything they do is about prolonging the time they have left. A major populist movement shortens that time.

Therefore, the movement must be put down. The police are supposed to scare the hell out of everyone with their military tactics, tear gas, rubber bullets, and real bullets so that people who are engaged in peaceful protest just simply become too afraid to face them. Corporate media’s role is to inform the good, white, Christian, salt-of-the-earth folks that all of this force being used against the protestors is justified. Their job is to keep people as far away from the truth as possible and to believe that these are isolated events, that what happened to Trayvon Martin has nothing to do with what happened to Michael Brown. The ultimate goal of those who collude to prolong white power is to weaken or delay the movement because they know who owns the moral high ground.

In this interview, Bryan Stevenson talks about the lies people have been told about people of color and the need to start telling the truth about history. I can say from my own experience that one of the most significant cultural differences between blacks and whites in this country is that black people know their history. When it comes to their own history, most white people in this country are not truth seekers. I don’t understand this because I want to know everything, and I want the truth. You don’t have to be a genius to realize that history is one long continuum and what is happening today is intrinsically linked to the past. This is why so many problems do not get solved or even defined correctly because of this refusal to acknowledge the importance of knowing our history, the factual version not the revised. Corporate media preys on this ignorance.

Bryan Stevenson is optimistic that people in this country would be outraged if they knew the truth. Of course, he said this in relation to his own work with wrongful convictions and excessively harsh treatment of people, especially children, in the criminal justice system. Perhaps he’s right that in these individual cases of proven and extreme injustice there would be outrage. I’d like to have at least that much faith in the goodness of humanity. But what about Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and God knows how many others? Where is the outrage for these brutal race killings? I think about Oscar Grant and the video of his murder by the BART cop who served ten months, not even a year. How much more truth could there possibly have been?

I hope that everyone appreciates the brilliance President Obama’s timing of the executive order for immigration reform. Populism is contagious. And it is populism, these major groundswell movements that will strike the blows at white power and lead us forward to justice and equality. But there is so much work to do. It is 2014, and there are black folks in Ferguson demanding the most basic of human rights, the right to live, and there are opposing forces that would still deny them that right.”

ENOUGH SAID

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Saturday Open Thread

Good Morning. I hope you’re enjoying this weekend with family and friends.

Published on Nov 21, 2014
This week, the President visited Burma for the second time in his presidency, attended the G20 Summit in Australia, worked to expand access to broadband and 21st century technology in our schools, and addressed the nation about the steps he is taking to fix our broken immigration system. That’s November 14th to November 20th or, “Mingalarbar!”

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Friday Open Thread: Whitney Houston Week

Her voice is so missed.

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1995–97: Waiting to Exhale, The Preacher’s Wife, and Cinderella

In 1995, Houston starred alongside Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon in her second film, Waiting to Exhale, a motion picture about four African-American women struggling with relationships. Houston played the lead character Savannah Jackson, a TV producer in love with a married man. She chose the role because she saw the film as “a breakthrough for the image of black women because it presents them both as professionals and as caring mothers”.[136] After opening at number one and grossing $67 million in the US at the box office and $81 million worldwide,[137] it proved that a movie primarily targeting a black audience can cross over to success, while paving the way for other all-black movies such as How Stella Got Her Groove Back and the Tyler Perry movies that became popular in the 2000s.[138][139][140] The film is also notable for its portrayal of black women as strong middle class citizens rather than as stereotypes.[141] The reviews were mainly positive for the ensemble cast. The New York Times said: “Ms. Houston has shed the defensive hauteur that made her portrayal of a pop star in ‘The Bodyguard’ seem so distant.”[142] Houston was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture”, but lost to her co-star Bassett.[citation needed]

The film’s accompanying soundtrack, Waiting to Exhale: Original Soundtrack Album, was produced by Houston and Babyface. Though Babyface originally wanted Houston to record the entire album, she declined. Instead, she “wanted it to be an album of women with vocal distinction”, and thus gathered several African-American female artists for the soundtrack, to go along with the film’s message about strong women.[136] Consequently, the album featured a range of contemporary R&B female recording artists along with Houston, such as Mary J. Blige, Brandy, Toni Braxton, Aretha Franklin, and Patti LaBelle. Houston’s “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” peaked at No. 1, and then spent a record eleven weeks at the No. 2 spot and eight weeks on top of the R&B Charts. “Count On Me”, a duet with CeCe Winans, hit the US Top 10; and Houston’s third contribution, “Why Does It Hurt So Bad”, made the Top 30. The album debuted at No. 1, and was certified 7× Platinum in the United States, denoting shipments of seven million copies.[61] The soundtrack received strong reviews; as Entertainment Weekly stated: “the album goes down easy, just as you’d expect from a package framed by Whitney Houston tracks… the soundtrack waits to exhale, hovering in sensuous suspense”[143] and has since ranked it as one of the 100 Best Movie Soundtracks.[144] Later that year, Houston’s children’s charity organization was awarded a VH1 Honor for all the charitable work.[145]

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In 1996, Houston starred in the holiday comedy The Preacher’s Wife, with Denzel Washington. She plays a gospel-singing wife of a pastor (Courtney B. Vance). It was largely an updated remake of the film “The Bishop’s Wife” (1948 in film|1948), which starred Loretta Young, David Niven, and Cary Grant. Houston earned $10 million for the role, making her one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood at the time and the highest earning African-American actress in Hollywood.[146] The movie, with its all African-American cast, was a moderate success, earning approximately $50 million at the U.S. box offices.[147] The movie gave Houston her strongest reviews so far. The San Francisco Chronicle said Houston “is rather angelic herself, displaying a divine talent for being virtuous and flirtatious at the same time”, and she “exudes gentle yet spirited warmth, especially when praising the Lord in her gorgeous singing voice”.[148] Houston was again nominated for an NAACP Image Award and won for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture.[citation needed]

Houston recorded and co-produced, with Mervyn Warren, the film’s accompanying gospel soundtrack. The Preacher’s Wife: Original Soundtrack Album included six gospel songs with Georgia Mass Choir that were recorded at the Great Star Rising Baptist Church in Atlanta. Houston also duetted with gospel legend Shirley Caesar. The album sold six million copies worldwide and scored hit singles with “I Believe in You and Me” and “Step by Step”, becoming the largest selling gospel album of all time.[citation needed] The album received mainly positive reviews. Some critics, such as that of USA Today, noted the presence of her emotional depth,[149] while The Times said, “To hear Houston going at full throttle with the 35 piece Georgia Mass Choir struggling to keep up is to realise what her phenomenal voice was made for”.[150]

In 1997, Houston’s production company changed its name to BrownHouse Productions and was joined by Debra Martin Chase. Their goal was “to show aspects of the lives of African-Americans that have not been brought to the screen before” while improving how African-Americans are portrayed in film and television.[151] Their first project was a made-for-television remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. In addition to co-producing, Houston starred in the movie as the Fairy Godmother along with Brandy, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bernadette Peters. Houston was initially offered the role of Cinderella in 1993, but other projects intervened.[152] The film is notable for its multi-racial cast and nonstereotypical message.[153] An estimated 60 million viewers tuned into the special giving ABC its highest TV ratings in 16 years.[154] The movie received seven Emmy nominations including Outstanding Variety, Musical or Comedy, while winning Outstanding Art Direction in a Variety, Musical or Comedy Special.[155]

Houston and Chase then obtained the rights to the story of Dorothy Dandridge. Houston was to play Dandridge, who was the first African American actress to be nominated for an Oscar. Houston wanted the story told with dignity and honor.[151] However, Halle Berry also had rights to the project and got her version going first.[156] Later that year, Houston paid tribute to her idols, such as Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and Dionne Warwick, by performing their hits during the three-night HBO Concert Classic Whitney Live from Washington, D.C.. The special raised over $300,000 for the Children’s Defense Fund.[157] Houston received the Quincy Jones Award for outstanding career achievements in the field of entertainment at the 12th Soul Train Music Awards.[158][159]

 

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Video | President Obama’s Remarks on Immigration

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Transcript: Obama’s immigration speech

My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.

For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities – people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.

Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.

It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.

When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.

Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

Tonight, I am announcing those actions.

First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.

Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.

I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable – especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.

But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants – in every state, of every race and nationality – will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.

As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: “They are a part of American life.”

Second, I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.

Now here’s the thing: we expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.

That’s what this deal is. Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive – only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.

I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.

That’s the real amnesty – leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose – a higher purpose.

Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. I know that some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw end of the deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.

Because for all the back-and-forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.

Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?

Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs, businesses, and industries right here in America?

That’s what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration; we need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears.

I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it. Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs, without taking a dime from the government, and at risk at any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in a country they love. These people – our neighbors, our classmates, our friends – they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.

Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to the other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mother cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school for fear the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant – so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows – until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.

Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid – or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in?

Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.

That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

HOUSE GOP’S HEADS

Hat tip SG2

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Thursday Open Thread: Whitney Houston Week

I hope you’re enjoying this week with Whitney.

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1992–94: Marriage to Bobby Brown and The Bodyguard

Throughout the 1980s, Houston was romantically linked to American football star Randall Cunningham and actor Eddie Murphy, whom she dated.[96] She then met R&B singer Bobby Brown at the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards. After a three-year courtship, the two were married on July 18, 1992.[97] On March 4, 1993, Houston gave birth to their daughter Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown,[98] her only child, and his fourth. Brown would go on to have several run-ins with the law, including some jail time.[97]

With the commercial success of her albums, movie offers poured in, including offers to work with Robert De Niro, Quincy Jones, and Spike Lee; but Houston felt the time wasn’t right.[96] Houston’s first film role was in The Bodyguard, released in 1992 and co-starring Kevin Costner. Houston played Rachel Marron, a star who is stalked by a crazed fan and hires a bodyguard to protect her. USA Today listed it as one of the 25 most memorable movie moments of the last 25 years in 2007.[99] Houston’s mainstream appeal allowed people to look at the movie color-blind.[100]

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Still, controversy arose as some felt the film’s advertising intentionally hid Houston’s face to hide the film’s interracial relationship. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1993, the singer commented that “people know who Whitney Houston is – I’m black. You can’t hide that fact.”[26] Houston received a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actress. The Washington Post said Houston is “doing nothing more than playing Houston, comes out largely unscathed if that is possible in so cockamamie an undertaking”,[101] and The New York Times commented that she lacked passion with her co-star.[102] Despite the film’s mixed reviews, it was hugely successful at the box office, grossing more than $121 million in the U.S. and $410 million worldwide, making it one of the top 100 grossing films in film history at its time of release, though it is no longer in the top 100 due to rising ticket prices since the time the film was released.[103]

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Wednesday Open Thread: Whitney Houston Week

More from Whitney.

Whitney Houston Wallpaper @ go4celebrity.com

1987–91: Whitney, I’m Your Baby Tonight and “The Star Spangled Banner”

With many expectations, Houston’s second album, Whitney, was released in June 1987. The album again featured production from Masser, Kashif and Walden as well as Jellybean Benitez. Many critics complained that the material was too similar to her previous album. Rolling Stone said, “the narrow channel through which this talent has been directed is frustrating”.[58] Still, the album enjoyed commercial success. Houston became the first woman in music history to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and the first artist to enter the albums chart at number one in both the US and UK, while also hitting number one or top ten in dozens of other countries around the world. The album’s first single, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”, was also a massive hit worldwide, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and topping the singles chart in many countries such as Australia, Germany and the UK. The next three singles, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, “So Emotional”, and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” all peaked at number one on the US Hot 100 chart, which gave her a total of seven consecutive number one hits, breaking the record of six previously shared by The Beatles and the Bee Gees.[59][60] Houston became the first woman to generate four number-one singles from one album. Whitney has been certified 9× Platinum in the US for shipments of over 9 million copies, and has sold a total of 20 million copies worldwide.[61]

At the 30th Grammy Awards in 1988, Houston was nominated for three awards, including Album of the Year, winning her second Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”.[62][63] Houston also won two American Music Awards in 1988 and 1989, respectively, and a Soul Train Music Award.[64][65][66] Following the release of the album, Houston embarked on the Moment of Truth World Tour, which was one of the ten highest grossing concert tours of 1987.[67] The success of the tours during 1986–87 and her two studio albums ranked Houston No. 8 for the highest earning entertainers list according to Forbes magazine.[68] She was the highest earning African-American woman overall and the third highest entertainer after Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy.[68]

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Houston was a supporter of Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement. During her modeling days, the singer refused to work with any agencies who did business with the then-apartheid South Africa.[69][70] On June 11, 1988, during the European leg of her tour, Houston joined other musicians to perform a set at Wembley Stadium in London to celebrate a then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday.[69] Over 72,000 people attended Wembley Stadium, and over a billion people tuned in worldwide as the rock concert raised over $1 million for charities while bringing awareness to apartheid.[71] Houston then flew back to the US for a concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City in August. The show was a benefit concert that raised a quarter of a million dollars for the United Negro College Fund.[72] In the same year, she recorded a song for NBC’s coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics, “One Moment in Time”, which became a Top 5 hit in the US, while reaching number one in the UK and Germany.[73][74][75] With her world tour continuing overseas, Houston was still one of the top 20 highest earning entertainers for 1987–88 according to Forbes magazine.[76][77]

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