Archive for April, 2009

shine your light on the world

18.April.09

note: i began writing this post on 4/16

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spring will be here soon, I hope. that also means allergy season! yes.

I happen to be listening to umi says by mos def right now, at work. (hence the title of this post) It has been more that a week since my last post, so I thought it time to put some more stuff up. I have been collecting some articles that I have read online since I posted last. And I would like to share them with you now.

This article on Gay Iraqis from NYT is not suprising, but still disheartening. For the first time ever (or at least in many many years), a gaysubculture exists in certain cities of Iraq.  However, it is actually illegal to be homosexual and the police and local Shiite leaders have encouraged the “punishment” and killing of any gay or lesbian Iraqi.

Clerics in Sadr City have urged followers to help root out homosexuality in Iraqi society, and the police have begun their own crackdown on gay men.

“Homosexuality is against the law,” said Lt. Muthana Shaad, at a police station in the Karada district, a neighborhood that has become popular with gay men. “And it’s disgusting.”

For the past four months, he said, officers have been engaged in a “campaign to clean up the streets and get the beggars and homosexuals off them.”

Gay men, he said, can be arrested only if they are seen engaging in sex, but the police try to drive them away. “These people, we make sure they can’t get together in a coffee shop or walk together in the street — we make them break up,” he said.

Gay men and lesbians in Iraq have long been among the targets of both Shiite and Sunni death squads, but their murders have been overshadowed by the hundreds of overall weekly casualties during the height of sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007.

In 2005, the country’s most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a religious decree that said gay men and lesbians should be “punished, in fact, killed.” He added, “The people should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.” The language has since been removed from his Web site.

What is even more sad and disturbing, is the fact that many of these killings may be at the hands of their own families:

“Our investigation has found that these incidents are being committed by relatives of the gays — not just because of the militias,” he said. “They are killing them because it is a shame on the family.”

He said families typically refused to cooperate with the investigation or even to claim the bodies. No arrests have been made in the killings.

We think that here in the United States we are making progess with both Iowa and Vermont’s recent rulings on same-sex marriage, but homophobia is still EXTREMELY strong is most parts of the country and will not just disappear with a few court rulings. Many Americans’ mindset on homosexuality may not actually be far from some Iraqis, who are participating in this “cleansing”.

Another article that does not surprise me, as I am not a huge fan of the military, and this is one of the reasons. On Salon, there is an article on how the US military strongly encourages its psychologists to NOT diagnose veterans with PTSD. There happens to be an actual recording of a clinician telling a Sergeant, in secret, that he has been encouraged, along with other clinicians, to instead diagnose veterans with an anxiety disorder, instead of PTSD. Just another way for the military to screw its veterans over by not providing the medical care due to them for risking their lives, family, and often sanity, for their country.

For more than a year he’s been seeking treatment at Fort Carson for a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, the signature injuries of the Iraq war. Sgt. X is also suffering through the Army’s confusing disability payment system, handled by something called a medical evaluation board. The process of negotiating the system has been made harder by his war-damaged memory. Sgt. X’s wife has to go with him to doctor’s appointments so he’ll remember what the doctor tells him.

But what Sgt. X wants to tell a reporter about is one doctor’s appointment at Fort Carson that his wife did not witness. When she couldn’t accompany him to an appointment with psychologist Douglas McNinch last June, Sgt. X tucked a recording device into his pocket and set it on voice-activation so it would capture what the doctor said. Sgt. X had no idea that the little machine in his pocket was about to capture recorded evidence of something wounded soldiers and their advocates have long suspected — that the military does not want Iraq veterans to be diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that obligates the military to provide expensive, intensive long-term care, including the possibility of lifetime disability payments. And, as Salon will explore in a second article Thursday, after the Army became aware of the tape, the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to investigate its implications, despite prodding from a senator who is not on the committee. The Army then conducted its own internal investigation — and cleared itself of any wrongdoing…..

“OK,” McNinch told Sgt. X. “I will tell you something confidentially that I would have to deny if it were ever public. Not only myself, but all the clinicians up here are being pressured to not diagnose PTSD and diagnose anxiety disorder NOS [instead].” McNinch told him that Army medical boards were “kick[ing] back” his diagnoses of PTSD, saying soldiers had not seen enough trauma to have “serious PTSD issues.”

“Unfortunately,” McNinch told Sgt. X, “yours has not been the only case … I and other [doctors] are under a lot of pressure to not diagnose PTSD. It’s not fair. I think it’s a horrible way to treat soldiers, but unfortunately, you know, now the V.A. is jumping on board, saying, ‘Well, these people don’t have PTSD,’ and stuff like that.”

Salon offers some other problems with recognizing mental health problems in vets:

Many publications, including Salon, and even some government agencies have documented other instances of reluctance to recognize mental wounds caused by war at bases across the country.

  • A recent weeklong series in Salon showed how apparent resistance to identifying combat stress ends up grinding down the lowest-ranking troops, sometimes with deadly results. Those articles included, for example, the story of Pvt. Adam Lieberman, who suffered with severe symptoms of PTSD. For two years, the Army blamed his problems on a personality disorder, anxiety disorder or alcohol abuse but resisted diagnosing him with PTSD until after his suicide attempt last October.
  • The Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, last October questioned why 2,800 war veterans were labeled with personality disorder diagnoses, another cheap label the Army has been accused of plastering on soldiers instead of PTSD.
  • In November 2005 the Department of Veterans Affairs halted a review of 72,000 veterans who receive monthly disability payments for mental trauma from war. The department wanted to make sure the veterans were not faking their symptoms. Salon first exposed the review that August. Then Daniel L. Cooper, the V.A.’s undersecretary for benefits, told Salon at the time that, “We have a responsibility to preserve the integrity of the rating system and to ensure that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are going to those who deserve and have earned them.”  The department stopped the process a month after a Vietnam veteran in New Mexico, agitated over the review, shot himself to death in protest. .
  • In early 2005, Salon exposed a pattern of medical officials searching to pin soldiers’ problems on childhood trauma instead of combat stress at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

To listen to a clip of the recording that Sgt. X obtained, click here.

Michelle and her mother, Mrs. Robinson, in the May issue of ESSENCE

Michelle and her mother, Mrs. Robinson, in the May issue of ESSENCE

Countless articles and commentaries have been written about Michelle Obama, even before her husband became the 44th President of the United States of America. Whether about her clothes, her parenting, or her revealing biceps, everyone who is anyone has an opinion of the First Lady. I have tried reading the numerous posts on Michelle Obama (go to Michelle Obama Watch to get your fill), but I found one article from the Nation, written by the amazing Katha Pollitt , that wrapped up everything I think and feel about our first black first lady:

Someday we’ll get beyond obsessing about first ladies–and by “we” I mean the sort of journalists who use “we” to mean “the vast majority of Americans” when it is usually just themselves and their friends. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama is getting more bouquets from the media than any woman in public life since Mother Teresa. Her clothes, her looks, her height (six feet!), her curves, her delightful combination of warmth, simplicity, charm, dignity, humor and smarts. Gone are the days when National Review put her on the cover as “Mrs. Grievance,” when Maureen Dowd wondered aloud if Michelle’s wifely jokes about Barack’s foibles were “emasculating” and when Christopher Hitchens wrote in Slate that her undergraduate thesis, “Princeton Educated Blacks and the Black Community,” was not “written in any known language” and used it to tie her to Louis Farrakhan, a pair of African dictators and the Holocaust. Remember how Obama supporters fumed about that New Yorker cover cartoon of Barack as an Al Qaeda terrorist and Michelle as a rifle-toting Black Panther? People wouldn’t get that it was satire! Seems pretty silly now, doesn’t it? Yesterday’s fist-bumping radical is today’s mom in chief….

click here to read the rest of the article

Malikah

Malikah

As a self proclaimed hip-hop head, I am always interested in learning about hip-hop around the world, and how different cultures make hip-hop their own. The LA Times published an article on Middle Eastern rappers, what they rap about and the types of censorship they deal with. Like the “conscious” rappers in the US, many rap about politics and poverty. One of the rappers they wrote about is the female Lebanese hip-hopper, Lynn Fattouh, or “Malikah”:

“We’re struggling,” says Lynn Fattouh, also known as Malikah, a 23-year-old Lebanese rap star who is one of the most famous female artists in the Arab hip-hop world.

“We’re living a very hard life,” she says. “We’re witnessing war. We’re witnessing hunger. We’re living in countries where they don’t even follow human rights. All the pain and all the stuff happening around us pushes us to express ourselves.”

All eyes turn to Malikah as she hits the stage. Her taut frame, exuding toughness, sways hard back and forth, her fist curled tight around the microphone as she flows in Arabic:

I am talking to you woman to woman.

It’s time to face up

It’s time to plan.

Cry out for freedom . . .

Men have decided to manage your life and destiny.

Don’t live in despair.

Here is a video of one of her performances on MTV (MTV Lebanon?):

Many of the best rappers have moved abroad, especially those from the Palestinian territories. Hip-hop artists in the Middle East occasionally craft lighter rhymes about partying with their homies, acquiring Dolce & Gabbana clothes or about who’s the best rapper in town. But they return to themes of war, poverty and repression because often they’ve experienced little else.

“We don’t do it like any other culture does it,” Malikah says. “Not like they do it in the States or they do it France. When we rap, we use our language, our culture.”

pretty awesome, huh.

And to follow up on my previous post about the whole Madonna adopting black babies, I found this piece on Global Comment written by blogger and my twitter friend, Renee Martin. Renee has a way of articulating almost exactly my views on a number of issues. This time, she hit the nail right on the head with her piece on Madonna’s second (attempted) Malawian adoption:

Madonna has constructed herself as the loving earth mother gone abroad to save the African children from a life despair. Though she has invested in orphanages and has started a few programs, her desire to adopt children despite the express wishes of their famillies, evidences her colonialist positioning. In this second attempt to adopt a child, the family has also expressed a desire to block the adoption.

According to The Sun, “the girl’s gran Lucy Chekechiwa, 60, said she has been asked repeatedly by officials if Mercy could be adopted by an “unidentified foreign family” — but was firmly against it. Speaking from her village in Zomba District, Lucy said: “Twice I have told the adoption people that I do not want Mercy to go outside the country. But they keep on at us. Now they say that Mercy will be leaving us, but can return at age 18.”

Even with the express refusal of the families in question, Madonna continued with her adoption plans firm in the belief that her class privilege would offer David and now Mercy a better life. Though a life with Madonna would provide opportunities that would otherwise be denied to Mercy because of her poverty and our decided commitment to maintaining a hierarchy of bodies, these children will lose their cultural links by not being reared within their country. It will not suffice to surround the children with Western blacks as they will not be able to pass on the traditions that are unique to Malawian culture.

Since the first white man stepped foot on the African continent they have raped and ravaged both the land and the people. To justify this history of tyranny the white man’s burden has been employed as a defensive ideology. Africans have been constructed as backward and in need of rescue. Difference has been understood as a signification of a lack of advancement rather than a alternate form of living. By adopting these children, Madonna is only continuing a long tradition of western colonization based in the belief that whiteness is ultimately superior to that of bodies of color.

This was the type of piece I was looking for when I posted about Madonna and Mercy earlier.

Another twitter friend of mine, Sarah Haskins, with her weekly installment of Target Women on Current TV’s show InfoMania. There has been much talk about this commercial, and Sarah makes a funny of it:

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if you happen to have a hankering for some dope old school hip hop, makes sure to visit my new favorite website, The Meaning of Dope . I found this gem there:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

and lastly, I made a floor plan of my studio. Why? It helps me figure out what size rugs and “furniture” i can possible fit…check it out here

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where have you been

5.April.09

Where have I been for the last month or so? You know, here and there. I just moved into my own studio apartment last weekend, so that and work have been taking up most of my time. I realize I didn’t complete my film reviews from the Berlinale. And I don’t think I am going to, mostly because my notebook from the trip is buried in a box somewhere that I have yet to unpack. I’m not sure why I keep this blog, or what I should write. Sometimes I actually don’t want to read my news or political blogs, mostly because almost all of what I read is too damn depressing. So I will visit my celebrity gossip and hip-hop blogs, purely for their entertainment. I think I just need to find a good balance of the two. See, now that I am writing, I have thought of some links to post. Excuse me, I’m a little rusty…

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If you haven’t heard about this yet, you need to crawl out of the cave you’ve been hiding in. I was very surprised that a state in the Midwest struck down a state law prohibiting same-sex marriages. I admit I don’t know much about Iowa as a state. Only that it borders the northern Missouri border. I guess I just assumed it was as conservative as other states in the Midwest. But apparently, Iowa has a long history of being ahead of other sates when it comes to human and civil rights.

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Why did I literally laugh out loud when I found out about Madonna’s rejection to adopt another black orphan baby from Malawi? Probably because it’s about damn time someone puts a stop to the adoption of black/brown/asian babies to use as fashion accessories. Of course Michael K keeps it real and tells it like it is. That is one of the reasons I love Dlisted. And Carmen from Racialicious posted a nice article on antiracistparent.com about how important the issue of race in adoption is.

I think there were more links I wanted to post, but I need to give my full attention to this program I am watching right now.

Oh yeah, and you can also follow me on twitter

aaand this hilarious/cute Kia commercial to leave you with: