Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day Twenty Six: Libations

These don't look like depressants to me.

Is it a bad sign that I'm looking more forward to drinking alcohol (in particular, a slew of delicious white Russians) on Thanksgiving than I am to eating?

It's been a rough year and I fully intend to tie one on tomorrow without guilt or fear of repercussions. Here's hoping you all enjoy your "holiday" as much as I will mine.

Blaxplanation Disclaimer: Drink responsibly (as I, despite all suggestion to the contrary, intend to).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day Twenty Five: Alms For the Well-To-Do

Some people at my job just don't seem to get it.

Or maybe I just don't get them. Perhaps that's it. It's just that they regularly, casually do things that I would never consider doing. Often, they even plan to do these things.

For example, a woman who works a couple of cubicles down from me started a monetary collection for a birthday gift for one of the directors. She suggested that everyone donate $20 so that we could present this director with a gift certificate for an overpriced massage package at one of her favorite spas. Needless to say, I had ALL kinds of problems with this.

Problem #1: Twenty dollars is a whole hell of a lot to ask of each person. You don't ask a group of people to contribute that much money per person unless you're collecting for a rent party.

Problem #2: I'm broke.

Problem #3: Even if I weren't broke, I can't imagine a scenario in which I would willfully part with a hard-earned $20 bill so that a woman who makes over three times my salary (and who, in my eyes, is primarily responsible for my being broke) can go get a glorified backrub.

Problem #4: The same chick who happily went around on the gimme for her boss routinely gives her other coworkers jack shit for their birthdays.

Problem #5: Not to be petty but I recall that my own glorious birthday, The Ides of July, came and went without my receiving so much as a Hallmark.

Problem #6: I'm not especially fond of this director. I guess I don't hate her. But if she were to somehow combust and I was holding a big ol' glass of water, I don't know that I wouldn't quench my thirst before I decided to douse the flames with whatever was left over.

Problem #7: As you may have already figured out, I'm fundamentally opposed to giving money to those who already have more than I. This is the opposite of charity, which I imagine might correctly be identified as stupidity.

Surprisingly, of the small group of employees who were solicited (about twelve of us) nine people ponied up the cash. I was not among them. At any rate, the Asskissing Nine, as I've come to call them, presented the director with a $180.00 gift certificate to the spa of her choice. I'm told that the director was appreciative, and has promised to feel genuinely sorry for them when she has to lay them off in about two months.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Day Twenty Four: So It's Come To This

The Object of My Disaffection: Pictured Here, No Doubt Wondering What That Noise is Between Her Ears

This shit has officially gone too far.

Would someone care to explain this to me? Why, when I do a Wikipedia search for "African-Americans," does a page appear with Harriet Tubman and Beyonce placed side by side? I'm beginning to believe the Birthday Girl now when she says that Beyonce is one of the harbingers of the Apocalypse.

And since this can't be my fault, I blame all of you people who have inexplicably propped this dummy and her divisive, airheaded songs up for the last few years. Shame on you for not realizing that your mindless fandom has its consequences.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day Twenty Three: Turkey Pardoning

Somehow I have a feeling that this man will be unjustly left off of the list

Sarah Palin's latest embarrassing episode - obliviously answering questions during a turkey pardoning while turkeys are violently meeting their maker - reminds me that we're close to the Pardoning Sweepstakes. At the end of every presidency, the exiting incumbent releases a slew of well-connected rakes from their well-earned sentences. This, the ability of the President of the United States to pardon convicted criminals with impunity, is, perhaps, one the most overlooked Presidential powers. Before he left office, Bill Clinton went a little apeshit, pardoning 140 people including his ne'er do well half-brother.

The following noteworthy felons have received Executive clemency for their misdeeds:
  • Richard Nixon - This crook was pardoned by Gerald Ford, apparently to help a nation heal. At least that's the official reason that was given. My belief is that this pardon was granted so that men in power would not bring their entire self-perpetuating system of political inequality into question. But I guess I'm just cynical like that.
  • Caspar Weinberger - Pardoned by Bush the First. I was with my uncle when this happened. When the news broke, I remember him almost choking on his Baby Ruth and asking no one in particular, "Ain't that a bitch?"
  • Elliot Abrams -Another Bushman. He and Weinberger were the most visible members of the Iran-Contra scandal.
  • Marc Rich - A Bill Clinton Special. Rich (by no means a misnomer) was a brazen tax evader and oil runner. He was no fool, however, and he also contributed mightily to the Clintons and the Democratic party.
  • Mark Felt and Edward Miller - Pardoned by Nixon. Deep throats, deep pockets and strong ties to right wing power.
  • George Steinbrenner - Pardoned by Reagan. Loved by Nixon. The owner of my beloved Yankees was indicted on 14 criminal counts in 1974. I'm sure his countless donations to the Nixon campaign had little to do with his clemency.
  • Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory - Pardoned by Clinton. These pardons were literally bought and paid for in the form of $107,000 worth of unpaid loans to the one and only Hillary Rodham Clinton. But I'm sure Magic Johnson knew nothing of that when he campaigned for her.
  • Jimmy Hoffa - Pardoned by Nixon. If he had any idea what was in store for him, he would probably have preferred to stay in the pen.
Next up? Among others, one Lewis Libby. Just as sure as I'm typing this sentence, Scooter will scoot by way of a Bush the Second pardon. And the wheel just keeps on spinnin.' Here's a thought: If both of them are still alive in 2016, maybe we can convince Obama to pardon Mumia.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day Twenty Two: Self-Esteem Blvd.

Folks Need More Than Just Dead Heroes

Local Hispanic community activists in Arlington, TX are attempting to get four streets renamed after several Latino icons. Not very long ago, a similar attempt was shot down in Dallas due to lack of support and resistance from the usual suspects.

I'm not sure what to say about this. I guess I can see why some folks feel that this is important. Since this country's inception, white Americans have patted themselves on the backs by naming everything - from streets to cities to mountains - after their forebears. I also can see how this has implanted a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and entitlement, in those white folks who've been paying attention. This should work for minorities as well, right?

The short answer is, "Not Really." Successful moves to rename streets after Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X all over the country haven't exactly led to the widespread ethnic self-awareness and black empowerment that backers had envisioned. On the contrary, it's become a long-running joke that those streets that are named after our black civil rights leaders are often the most dangerous and violent in the city. The same is true of the Cesar Chavez Drives that are somewhat common to Western and Southwestern American cities.

To some degree, I hope that the Arlington agitators are effective, and convince Arlington's white officials to rename a few of the city's streets. But I don't think I'm being terribly cynical by suggesting that it won't make a great deal of difference to all the Hispanic cats who need jobs, better education and fuller opportunities. It's almost as if minorities are so caught up in trying to be accepted by the dominant culture that we aren't focusing on the real issues. People should know by now that symbolism doesn't trump substance.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Day Twenty One: Message to Jason

Sancho Panza's Got Some Advice For You

A Green Party candidate will never win a meaningful election.

That's not all. The Greens, and other progressive groups, will never have a significant impact on the feckless centrists that now refer to themselves as Democrats. I appreciate your maintaining your True Believer status, especially as we get older and so many of our peers have begun slouching toward middle of the road, doing-what-I-gotta-do-for-my-family apathy. But there comes a time when we have to grow up and face the facts. I'm certainly not suggesting that you abandon all of your progressive ideals, I just think now would be a good time to start aligning them with the hard-to-swallow realities with which we're currently faced:

Reality #1: Most of us aren't concerned about anything that doesn't affect our own, personal, easily identified bottom line. As a result, we don't care that the Earth is dying, or that every cancer is a homicide, or that wealth is continuously being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. As long as we can have our televisions, and our SUVs and our fast food, and our unfettered access to instant gratification, we're good.

Reality #2: Most of the "progressives" that I know are misanthropic. Further, they tend to believe that people, in general, are stupid. This is one of the primary reasons why the momentum of the progressive movement is not unlike that of a beached whale. Conservatives learned a long time ago that the majority of us don't want to be reminded that we don't know much about the world. Hence, conservatives wage successful mass appeals, often to the lowest common denominator. Progressives are too busy being disdainful of the great unwashed to come up with creative ways to win us over.

Reality #3: White progressives still have a problem with race. This is because they're just as oblivious and arrogant as white conservatives.

So, my friend, instead of continuing to joust at political windmills, I think it's time for you to adopt a more pragmatic approach. The Greens and other leftist political groups aren't the answer now, nor were they ever. Perhaps you need to consider changing your mind about the way things are before you go about changing the world.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day Twenty: Death of a Bellwether

Ground Zeroes

I was hoping for this.

As we all know, on the night of November 4th, Barack Hussein Obama (I've taken to including his middle name just to incense anti-Middle Eastern bigots) thoroughly thrashed the fossil that passed for his Republican challenger to become the President-elect of the United States (insert applause here). Remarkably, and unlike the previous two presidential elections, the race was over in relatively short order - Barack easily beat his opponent and was announced the winner just prior to eleven o'clock Eastern time. What we didn't find out, at least not until yesterday, was which candidate with which Missouri chose to throw in it's lot.

Apparently, Missouri is a McCain state. For me, this is great news because I grew tired of hearing how Missouri had voted for the winning candidate in every election except one for the past century. This inconvenient truth tended to give rural Missourians (who pretty much guide the state's vote) a little too much credence. Based on what little I know, Dems typically get St. Louis, KC and a few other clear-thinking counties, and the rest of the state goes to the GOP.

The Missouri situation neatly encapsulates what generally happens in the rest of the country as well, with urban areas usually supporting the left and rural and suburban areas going right. That's why right wing pundits can laud the good sense and down home decency of "middle America" (ALWAYS code that is exclusively reserved for white folks) and be critical and dismissive of America's snobbish "latte drinking" cities (which are heavily populated by minorities).

Observers from near and far have noticed for many years that Missouri has been a remarkable indicator of the direction in which the country will go with regard to picking the President. Political scientists struggled to provide an explanation for the phenomenon but failed to reach a consensus. Given that Missouri had become a solidly red state over the past few election cycles, GOP mouth pieces, of course, had all of the answers. Missouri was, according to them, a snapshot of the "real" America. It represented the conservative values of Richard Nixon's and Ronald Reagan's Silent Majority.

Well, as Sergeant Waters said, "Not No More." Apparently, America wasn't listening. This time around the Show Me State blew it. I couldn't be happier because, as a black person, I never felt that Missouri's red voters spoke with my voice. This election marked a point at which black folks' desires and voting patterns were not subjugated in favor of rural interests. No longer is an entire nation made to suffer because rednecks and hillbillies who don't know any better can't quite get it right. Indeed, as Missouri goes, so too go the dummies who voted to make the same mistake not one, not two, but three elections in a row. It's time for the inmates to hand back the keys to the asylum.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day Nineteen: Training Day

"I'm not listening to a word this man is saying."


I don't really have time to submit a proper post today. I'll be in training for the rest of the week and, on Friday, I have to take a test to prove to my supervisor that the money that she authorized to be spent on me was worth it.

BUT...I do have some good news. I have an interview Friday morning with a director who's interested in helping me get out of my current department before the layoffs hit. I'll keep you updated.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day Eighteen: Bailing Out Buffoons

One space for me. One space for my asshole.

Today as I was making my approximately 47 minute commute home from work - most of which was spent crawling at 19 miles per hour behind a Cadillac Escalade - it occurred to me that I don't necessarily feel that it's fair to pay for the US auto industry's mistakes.

Of course, by now, anyone with access to a radio or television should be familiar with all of the arguments supporting an economic bailout for the "Big Three." According to economic experts, "Higher car prices, the end of incentives and vehicle shortages could occur if GM and other Big Three automakers don't get bailout.." I understand this and also realize the human toll - an estimated loss of 2.5 million jobs by those who are paid directly or indirectly by a robust auto industry. But, like many others, I also see a great deal of stupidity linked to the current situation in Detroit.

For years now, the Big Three have ignored calls to discontinue their love affair with the tacky, gluttonous, gas-guzzling SUVs and big dumb trucks that currently clog up American roadways. In the 1980s and 90s, US automakers were concerned primarily with manufacturing cars (remember them?) Since the late 90s, however, they've been more and more obsessed with hoisting inefficient behemoths upon the American public. In fact, in 2006, 70 to 75% of Ford's production was SUVs and trucks. Anyone with half a brain could have seen that this couldn't sustain itself. High gasoline prices are and will be the death knell of the SUV culture. But instead of gradually weaning us off of these monsters, the Big Three greedily squeezed as much blood from the stone as they could.

Further, American cars have had a justifiably bad reputation for decades now. I don't know about you but I certainly don't buy American-made automobiles, and when my faithful, gently-used Camry finally gives up on me, I intend to replace with with another Toyota Camry. Foreign, specifically Japanese, automakers have been running circles around American brands with regard to dependability and owner loyalty since the mid 80s. If one thinks of a lemon, one almost invariably thinks of an American car. Instead of choosing to address this head on, and making cars that matter, the Big Three, in their self-satisfied conceit, continued to churn out an inferior product. They figured that Americans wouldn't choose foreign products over their own. They were wrong.

Many critics are blaming unions for this mess. They feel that auto companies have been capitulating to unreasonable union demands over the years, leading to complacency and bloated contracts. While this may help explain why the Big Three can't dramatically cut production costs, it doesn't explain why such shitty ideas and products keep rolling down from the top. Unions aren't responsible for the creative and productive missteps that Ford, Chrysler and GM have taken for the last decade. This is more of an issue of poor management than it is of union bullying.

So here we sit. On the verge of a depression. Stuck between the almost equally terrible decisions to bail out the imbecilic US auto companies or to allow them to collapse under the weight of their own horrible judgment. My feeling is that no matter the decision, we're all going to end up getting the raw end of the deal. Given the current state of the economy, and my own precarious employment, I find it somewhat ironic that these thoughts came to mind during a commute that I might no longer have to take.

Blaxplanation Disclaimer: We - the American consumer - are to blame as well. I read recently that with gas prices on the decline, sales for SUVs and trucks are back on the rise. We've learned nothing, and part of me believes that we deserve what we're going to get.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Day Seventeen: Bad Moon Rising

"I asked for a day off. Not a lay off."

It's never a good sign when your boss feels the need to pull you aside and convince you that neither you nor your coworkers are in danger of being laid off.

Yesterday, my supervisor did just that. Why she singled me out I don't know. Perhaps she's mistaken me for the office gossip. What I do know is that the day before yesterday, the entire HR staff was told, at a Thanksgiving luncheon, that a person was being brought in to help us improve our processes and that this person was an expert in "organizational restructuring." This news, which, I guess took the place of some sort of company grace was followed up quickly with, "Alright. Let's eat!"

As you might imagine, everyone began worrying about their jobs. I, for one, saw signs of this happening. Our company has about five thousand employees with an HR staff of approximately 70. Frankly, our function is begging to be streamlined. I've actually mentioned this to a few of my coworkers in the past.

So now comes the wait. The hatchetman that they're bringing in starts the second week of December. Predictably, everyone is nervous. I imagine it'll be sort of like the movie Office Space, when the efficiency experts show up and meet with everyone to have them explain what they do with their time. Too bad my name's not Michael Bolton.

By the way, I'm still trying to locate a Human Resources law mandating that an employee has to endure a morning commute and work a full day before he or she gets fired. I, like many, would rather be terminated via telephone, from the comfort of my own home.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Day Sixteen: Southern Hospitality

White Dems: Here's What They Think of You

When I first began this blog I wrote critically of James Taranto and his Wall Street Journal op-ed page. I haven't really paid any attention since then but, while perusing the refuse that passes for Taranto's commentary, I spotted this:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jim Galloway calls attention to an NAACP press release alleging 'acts of intimidation and retaliation' rising out of the election of President-elect Barack Obama:

-African-American parents are reporting that their kids-from elementary to high school-are being verball and physically harassed by their white classmates while their teacher turn the other way.

-Teachers and principals have told student that they cannot in any way discuss President-elect Obama and the election or they face disciplinary action, even though prior to Nov. 4, teacher held regular class discussions on the upcoming election..

-Both African-American students and employees are reporting that they're receiving all kinds of slights, cold shoulders, and uncomfortable stares from their white classmates and colleagues.

Slights, cold shoulders and uncomfortable stares! Oh, the humanity!

Leave it to white right-wingers (try to say that three times in a row) to be completely dismissive of black concerns, and of their own cruelty. Of course, if their kids are in any way inconvenienced by school administrators, teachers or students, look out! But when our kids are catching hell based on their skin color, it's a non-issue.

Yet, there's always something worth salvaging from hate. I've always argued that white contempt can be used as a learning experience. People, this world, this country, can be ugly, particularly when white folks feel slighted. The negative, widespread, Obama-victory-related experiences of African-Americans should remind us all that the color line is still an issue for many. My feeling is that black parents ought not to be celebrating Barack's victory so much that they neglect to prepare their children and themselves for white animosity. Our kids need to know what's in store for them, black Pres or not. Leading up to November fourth, one of the things that I kept telling friends and family is, in the event of Obama winning the election, a whole lot of white folks are going to run back to their only source of comfort: white supremacy.

In spite of the fact that Barack is only one man, I believe that a whole lot of white Americans, particularly those in the undereducated South, are looking at this in much the same way that they viewed Reconstruction. Many of these whites are frightened. They can't believe what just happened. They assumed that white guilt hadn't reached the point at which a black person could actually make it to the White House. I was listening to the radio the day after the election and the local public radio station was interviewing disappointed McCain supporters. To hear them, you would think that Satan had won. One man actually said that he was "afraid for my country." Another woman said that we were headed for a socialist society. They said everything but what they meant, which was, "I can't believe a nigger is going to be the President of the United States."

And those of you who might remind me that if not for white voters, Obama wouldn't have won anything, ought to keep in mind that these same white voters aren't about to receive my congratulations for doing something that they should have done a long time ago. Suddenly white folks want to receive credit for voting in favor of their own self-interest. Voting for the reform candidate when the incumbent party has spent the last eight years flushing the country down the toilet is the least that you can do - and is certainly not tantamount to challenging the bigots among you.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day Fifteen: Message to Dewey

The Subdivision that Fear Built

Per our earlier conversation: An influx of black folks into a predominately white neighborhood doesn't bring down property value. White flight precipitated by racist paranoia brings down property value. I just thought you should know. What I find interesting is that white flighters tend to get fed up with commuting, and return to gentrify the very same neighborhoods from which their parents fled a generation or two ago. I guess urban blacks and Latinos just don't know how good they have it.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Day Fourteen: Book Review - The God Delusion

"Am I the only one seeing this shit?"

I just finished having an extremely frustrating conversation with a "free thinking" friend of mine. We were having an argument about religion and, to my surprise and his, I found myself in the position of defending the faithful. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while should be familiar with my thoughts about organized religion and its various and sundry practitioners. Although I'm no Bill Maher, (who spits in the faces of the pious every opportunity he gets) I am also, by no means, a proponent of blind faith. However, to be honest, I normally grow weary of those who share my irreligiosity. More often than not, these folks, like my buddy, are the kind of angry, virulent atheists that delight in intentionally offending people of faith. That's really not my bag. I prefer not to engage in that kind of unremorseful douche-baggery.

Our conversation brought to mind a book that I read some time ago. Since I've been meaning to get around to including book reviews on this blog, I figured now was as good a time any to provide a very quick and dirty review of Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion.

In his latest book, The God Delusion, (which could reasonably have been subtitled F_ck God and the Idiots Who Believe He Exists) world-renowned British evolutionary biologist, author and enthusiastic atheist Richard Dawkins traces the arc of religious-oriented aggression – from the Crusades to 9/11 – and determines that all religious belief, no matter how personal, is both delusional and perilous.

Dawkins begins by circling the wagons around atheism. In four "consciousness-raising" declarations, he defends non-belief as evidence of a healthy, intelligent and independent mind. Had he chosen to stay on this path The God Delusion may have been a welcome addition to the socio-religious debate. But Dawkins’ coherent defense of atheism quickly devolves into a slanderous rant – one that indicts both religious moderates and dogged fundamentalists alike.

The tragedy in this book lies in its rigidity. Dawkins laments the fact that Southern slave-owners used religion to justify their pro-slavery position, but refuses to acknowledge that enslaved African-Americans and abolitionists used religion to bolster their arguments against human bondage (most African-Americans, as a point of fact, continue to find strength in religion today.) Indeed, Dawkins’ rejection of religion as anything but a tool of oppression or opiate of the masses is the major irredeemable flaw of the book. It is not enough that Richard Dawkins is himself an atheist. He wants everyone else to be one too. Dawkins comes across as intolerant and unyielding – an absolutism that is usually the terrain of the very zealots whom he derides.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day Thirteen: Grand Opening/Grand Closing

"Don't look in the window, Honey. It only encourages them."

Peace to One and All:

I apologize for the negative, cryptic tone of yesterday's post. The "doldrums" to which I referred was simply a metaphor for my running out of steam with regard to my posting. The November Project has taken a great deal out of me. Speaking of which, a very special thanks goes out to LadySol.

An area, black-owned business from which I purchased my vast array of fly Kangols recently closed it's doors for good. This bothered me. What disturbed me even more, though, was the fact that I was only slightly surprised by this turn of events. When it comes to African-American owned operations, I've almost come to expect premature closures. Many of us who have patronized our favorite black businesses have been disappointed to learn that, for one reason or another, they were calling it quits. Often, it comes as much of a surprise to the owner as it does to the customer. This phenomenon got me to wondering why such should be the case. Black folks, weaned as we are on consumerism and deprivation, are just as desirous of separating ourselves from our hard-earned cash as anyone else. So why do the places that pop up in our neighborhoods struggle? I've come up with a few reasons.

First, I believe that integration has a great deal to do with it. Black businesses did infinitely better when white businesses didn't cater to us (not that they do now, but at least white store operators allow us to use the same restrooms as their white customers these days). Once integration became the law of the land, black folks couldn't wait to pay for the merchandise that Jim Crow had denied us. This consumer migration sent black-owned stores in predominately black neighborhoods into a permanent tailspin from which they still haven't recovered.

Second, the loss of the black middle class dollar left only those businesses that were able to serve needs that white stores couldn't. These days (and, frankly, I don't know this to be true though I suspect so), a black business owner it is more likely to run a salon or a barbershop than a tax firm. There are still some services that black people only trust other black people to provide, and taxes ain't one of them. This leads to a glut of businesses that provide the same function, which, in turn, produces a situation in which one black business cannibalizes another.

Another reason I believe many black businesses fail is their owners' over-reliance on the idea of black self-patronization. Often, African-American business owners are motivated not only by the spirit of capitalism but by the idea that they are serving their communities' needs. They feel that black folks will support them in their endeavors in part because of the pride that comes from buying from our own. When it comes to the free market however, buyers are motivated by a different desire: to pay less for more. Black businesses, restricted as they are by limited capital and a desire to keep overhead as low as possible, aren't able to compete with pricing bottom dwellers like Walmart. Cash-strapped buyers, no matter their race, are much more likely to buy a $10 DVD from a white-owned retail leviathan than a $20 DVD from DeAndre.

Finally - and I know that we are not alone in this - some people who wish to own their own business simply shouldn't. I can't count on one finger the number of people who've expressed a desire to run a business but have asked themselves whether or not they have the fortitude to do so. Running a business successfully means sacraficing, putting the customer first, succesfully managing employees, having a finance background, being able to create a business model and breathe life into it, putting one's trust into the right people, and acting professionally. Contrary to popular belief, there's very little that is intuitive about running a business. Many black business owners strike out on their own because they desire wealth and autonomy but they don't know the first thing about making a business work. I've seen a store's operations grind to a screeching halt because the cat who is supposed to be handling his business to too busy trying to get a woman's phone number to wait on the customer. Again, this is not endemic to us, but knowing that makes it no less frustrating or forgivable.

Sour Grapes Update: A good friend of mine shared a story with me. He was talking with a white man in San Antonio when the man uttered the following phrase: "You all think you can do anything you want now that you've got a black President." I guess he didn't believe Obama when the Pres-Elect declared that he was "your president too."


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Day Twelve: The Doldrums

Please check back tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day Eleven: All Apologies

I'm not a bad man.

At least I'd like to think not (granted, usually if you have to begin sentence with a character defense you're fighting a losing battle). Often, I can even fool myself into believing that I'm actually a really good person. But, like most, I've certainly caused my fair share of harm and I've got some apologizing to do. To that end, I offer my sincerest apologies, without reservation, to the following people who, to one degree or another, I've offended during my slow lurch toward maturity.
  • My mother - For being reckless, ill-mannered and slow to learn
  • My father - For legacy, and for perpetuating some of your more regrettable habits
  • My sister - For failing to jettison the sibling rivalry mentality in a more timely fashion
  • My spouse - For the last nine years (including Sunday)
  • My older son - For not being more involved in your life
  • My younger son - For not being as good a parent as your mother
  • Mrs. Rivers - For not becoming a physician
  • Mrs. Mask - For not becoming a writer
  • That sister who I turned down at the Summer Camp dance - For projecting my insecurities onto you
  • My older son's mom - For not walking away sooner
  • My high school sweetheart - For mistaking 19 years old for 17 years old
  • My college sweetheart - For them all
  • My students - For failing to prepare you properly
  • 1914 - For not speeding our cause on it's way
  • The Cat Lady - For seeing you through the eyes of others
  • Claude - For taking the coward's bait
  • Nat - For overlooking you
  • Denise - For getting your car towed, and for the airport
  • Bruce - For making your problems my problems
  • Troy - For not being your brother
  • Floyd - For taking the easiest route
  • The Kid I Pushed Away - For pushing you away
If I've allowed any misdeeds to go unmentioned it is only because I can't remember them at this time. If aging has one saving grace, it is forgetfulness.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Day Ten: Goliath Responds

"I hereby celebrate the brilliant, unparalleled mind of Another Conflict Theorist."

So incensed was I by Richard Cohen's LBJ column that I shot off my blog entry, in it's entirety, to the author at his Washington Post email address. I've done this before. I've countered Jason Whitlock's unabashed foolishness at for a couple of years now. I also, regularly, submitted rebuttals to the local newspapers in DC, NYC, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Apart from having a few letters published, I've never really heard back from any of the objects of my righteous indignation. Until now. Today, I was checking my inbox and, to my surprise, found a response from Mr. Cohen. It read as follows:

I agree with everything you say --without, of course, the smug sarcasm --and I've never thought otherwise. But it is often overlooked that LBJ did not do what he was forced to do, but what he wanted to do. He and MLK both had their roles. To salute one is not to denigrate the other although, to be fair, my column could have used a reference to MLK. For that, I am sorry.

Richard Cohen
The Washington Post

Of course, I focused a great deal more on the acceptance of my words as the gospel than on the somewhat factual accusation of "smug sarcasm." It is wrong that I had to force myself to not respond by asking for a job?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Day Nine: Prop 8 and The Black/Gay Divide

There's Nothing New about Homophobia

OK. After having 24 hours to process Dan Savage's wrongheaded, finger-pointing column, reading infinitely more intelligent analysis about homophobia in the "black community," and organizing my own thoughts about the matter, I've finally decided to post my position on the Proposition 8 fallout.

As I mentioned yesterday, exit poll data broken down by race has shown that some 70% of African-American voters in California voted yes to Prop 8, a bigoted proposal to amend the California state constitution so that marriage is strictly defined as a union between a man and a woman. Gay whites, and supporters of gay rights, still reeling from the blow, of course began taking black folks to task across the blogosphere - some in patently racist terms - for our ironic complicity in this (given that, on the same day we realized our dream of electing an African-American president.) I have a few things to say about all of this:

  1. Proposition 8 and the entire family of anti-gay legislation that seeks to "protect" marriage is an outright assault on the principles that African-Americans helped establish during the Civil Rights movement.
  2. Just as I am pro gay rights, I am also inflexibly opposed to ANY form of blanket, legislated discrimination. I stood against Proposition 8, just as I stood and voted against Texas' Proposition 2 in 2005. Unfortunately for angry gay whites, African-American Texans couldn't be scapegoated then, as every single Texas county except one pushed it through.
  3. I find it interesting that suddenly African-Americans, roughly 13% of the US population, and less than 7% in CA, have become the targets of gay white contempt. Suddenly, it has come to light that our homophobia has gummed up the machinery of gay equality. This, of course, is bullshit given that organized homophobia in the US almost always has whites at the forefront.
  4. Thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex marriage is not federally recognized. There are only two states in which gays have a legal right to get married. Same sex marriage restriction amendments have been developed and passed in 41 states, including now, California. African-Americans aren't responsible for this.
  5. Thanks to the hard work that African-Americans and others have put in for well over a hundred years, the path to gay equality is infinitely shorter. Despite awful setbacks like Proposition 8, gay rights are crystallizing a whole hell of a lot faster than it took for African-Americans to realize SOME of ours. Like it or not, it would appear that black homophobes have already done a great deal of the heavy lifting.
  6. Whites don't have a monopoly on gayness. There are gay minorities also.
  7. Just as bigotry is bigotry, irresponsible journalism is irresponsible journalism. Savage's column got a lot of people riled up. This anger and disappointment quickly boiled over into unapologetic racism. After the shit hit the fan, Savage, having successfully let off steam, disappointingly ran for the same refuge in which bigoted pundits have been securing themselves for centuries: ignorance. From Savage: "Of course I don’t endorse any of the hostile, racist comments posted here. I stopped reading this thread, though, early yesterday afternoon; I couldn’t keep up." This, instead of writing another column which defused the situation, or even making his disdain for racism perfectly clear. Guess what, Dan? You are responsible for the tone of the comments left in response to your angry column. Just as you're responsible for helping to clean up the mess.
  8. Clueless, arrogant whites like Dan Savage seem to believe that African-Americans secured our rights by begging white people for them. Memo to Savage and his ilk: There was a whole hell of a lot more fighting, dying, demonstrating, petitioning, and sitting in than there was pleading. I'd thank you all to keep that in mind when you stupidly utter phrases like the following: "To the African-American community, my only recommendation is to remove the mote of bigotry in your own eye before you squawk too much about the oppression you experience by virtue of race." Those of you possessed of any amount of intelligence ought not to identify our multi-generational struggle for equality as squawking.
  9. I feel the need to say this: gay whites never struck me as seeming to have much of a need for black folks. It is, therefore, unsurprising that Prop 8 would engender in so many of them such hostility toward African-Americans. What I do find surprising is the willingness with which so many of them would fall for Divide and Conquer. While I do understand their anger, I find it regrettable that it manifests itself against us instead of the real enemy.
  10. Finally, it occurred to me that folks like Dan Savage aren't as concerned about exploring the overstated black/gay divide as they are using it as focal point from which to broadcast their hurt feelings. Yes, it's unconscionable that so many black voters supported Prop 8. It's ridiculous and it's ugly. However, it's just as unfortunate that white folks like Dan, instead of recognizing the complexity of the African-American community, view it as a simple ignorant monolith.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Day Eight: Blacks Hate Gays?

Because, apparently, this shit is all our fault


Today I was planning on tackling Prop 8, and all the discussion surrounding the news that 75% of African-American voters supported it. I decided against it. After reading Dan Savage's opinion on "Black Homophobia" and some of the unapologetically racist comments of his supporters, my draft took on a tone that was far too vitriolic. Frankly, I have to admit that my thoughts about this topic aren't organized enough. So I refer you to L-Boogie, who writes Blackrageous, for her take on things. Maybe I'll have something tomorrow. Maybe.

But, just so you get an sense of what I've been thinking, I'll leave you with a message that I left on Dan Savage's Slog:

"Frankly, I'm not terribly surprised by the vitriol being spewed in this thread by (understandably) frustrated gay whites and supporters of gay rights. I've noticed that race is what things generally end up boiling down to. It's been said repeatedly throughout this thread but it bears repeating: Black folks are generally a great deal more religious (and religiously conservative) than other groups. If you compare the "70%!" stat about which so many of you are screaming with the voting patterns of religious conservatives, I'm certain you would find a similar percentage. But you all just can't avoid envisioning Negroes keeping you oppressed, can you?

And Mr. Savage: I find it interesting that you are suddenly concerned about how "Black Homophobia" affects GLBT African-Americans, when you've shown zero interest in the subject up until now. Your completely pathetic attempt to cocoon yourself from criticism by claiming that you're starting dialogue notwithstanding, I'm not buying it. Frankly, believe it or not, this discussion has been taking place among African-Americans for decades. We certainly don't need the likes of you to get shit going."

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Day Seven: Parting Shots

"How could I have ever considered cutting off those beautiful balls."

Now that the shock and unabashed delight of the Obama Victory is beginning to wear off a bit, I think I'm finally at a place where I can begin focusing on the absurdity surrounding it. I'll be using this post as an excuse to provide a little bit of color commentary on some of the things that went down the night of November 4, 2008, and fire a few rounds at the clowns who participated in the circus.

a) McRedneck - I KNOW that I wasn't the only person who peeped that mean-mugging, mustachioed hillbilly holding his son at the McCain concession speech. My friends, that wasn't just disappointment on his face. He looked like, at any minute, he was going to pass his son off to the nearest person, go to his Ford F150, pull out his shotgun, and shoot the first black person he saw. That man was seething. My hope is that the Secret Service interpreted that look the same way I did and had a long talk with Billy Bob.

b) Sarah Flailin' - What Now? That's the question that media outlets collectively posed regarding the pointlessly ambitious, high-heeled bag of potatoes that currently (and thankfully still) governs the state of Alaska. I'm not sure why so many white folks are attempting to attribute a complexity to her that simply doesn't exist. The perennial love affair that whites have with themselves never ceases to amaze me. So, what now? I'll take a stab at it. She'll sink back into her Alaskan purgatory with the First Dude, her kids: Tractor, Truck, Trailer, Trick and Tramp, sit on her back porch monitoring Russia with a pair of binoculars, and dream about a time when a woman who didn't know that Africa is a continent almost made it to the White House.

c) "O" Most Famous - Dave Chappelle once mused that he didn't realize how famous a president could be. He said of Bill Clinton that his fame was so great a person could fellate him and then she would become famous. She could even go on to write a book about her knee-chaffing experiences, for the simple act of servicing a presidential penis had turned her into a qualified author. No one, according to the Chappelle, had a pick up line quite as compelling: "S_ck my d_ck, there's a future in it for you!" Not until Oprah Winfrey leaned on a stranger's back in Grant Park and instantly made him a sought after celebrity did I realize just how spot on Dave Chappelle had been.

d) Will I. Am - I didn't really expect to see Dude.

e) The Tears of a Clown - Perhaps I've been a bit too harsh. I'd initially interpreted Jesse Jackson's public weeping in Grant Park as a cynical, last ditch attempt to place himself in the headlines. I thought, surely, that a man who'd whispered malintentions toward Barack Obama only a few short months ago could not have undergone such an extraordinary change of heart. These tears were simply a put on - a present day version of staining his shirt red with MLK's blood to pretend that he was more connected to the moment than he actually was. But I think now that I may have misjudged Jesse. I think now that his tears were genuine. I think he considered that he would no longer have backdoor access to a Democratic White House. I think he realized that he would no longer be on standby to soothe the soul of a libidinous president. I think he knew that he'd been unceremoniously removed from the gravy train. I believe that this series of realizations led him to cry like he'd lost a loved one. I guess, in a sense, he had. The night of November 4th, Jesse Jackson finally came to the conclusion that many of us reached a long time ago - he'd lost himself.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Day Six: Expect It

Now In Season

Our great, collective, symbolic prayer has been answered. We are understandably euphoric. Brothers and sisters who I barely recognize are smiling knowingly at me and giving me the 'We Did It' thumbs up. This is all good. But we need to be watchful. We can not underestimate the extent to which some of these stupid, salty-assed crackers will attempt to pee in our lemonade. A couple of recent examples from my state:
  • In Terrell, Texas, the local newspaper, The Terrell Tribune refused to carry the Obama win as a headline. The editors chose, instead, to go with an area race. Not surprisingly, local blacks, as well as others, who were desirous of obtaining a keepsake were confused and outraged, and decided to picket the headquarters. Staffers, unburdened by a sense decency, actually walked outside and snapped pictures of the protesters. When local media picked up the story, the Tribune saw fit to issue the following response: "We are a newspaper, not a memory book service. We covered the local comissioners race. We felt that was more important." Additionally, they added that this insulting omission could not be attributed to racism because the winner of the commissioner's race was black. Frankly, I almost would have preferred that the Tribune come clean: "We felt this was an opportune time to stick it to you convivial, uppity Negroes."
  • The students of Baylor University (an overpriced, overrated college in Waco, TX) were gifted with a noose sometime during election day. I've written about this cowardly phenomenon. Apparently, some white folks (I believe we can safely assume this of the noose-givers) can only find self-fulfillment by reminding themselves of a time when they could kill niggers with impunity. The times appear to be a-changin' a little too much for their tastes.
I predict that this will continue, at least for the short term. We should not be caught off guard by it. Historically, racist whites have, without fail, responded to African-American progress with violence or the threat thereof. Sadly, it is inevitable. My advice: Screw your courage to the sticking place and ride out the foolishness. I hate to differ with the title of one of my all time favorite albums, but not even a nation of millions can hold us back.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Day Five: The Now

The Unbelievable, Beautiful Reality of the Moment

I'm not going to focus on any negativity today (that means I won't bother to let you know what I think about Jesse Jackson and his scripted shedding of crocodile tears). No. Today, I'm happy for my people. Today, I'm happy for my country. Moreover, I'm happy about being wrong. For this one day, I'm not focused on the past or the future. I'm focused on the moment - and what a beautiful one it is. We're certified, baby.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Day Four: If Not For The Generosity of the Powerful..

White America's Message to Itself

Today, one of the directors at my job presented an article to me that she thought I might like. Entitled, "The Election that LBJ Won," it links Obama's probable victory to LBJ's signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This is, in and of itself, not terribly problematic. But the author, the Washington Post's Richard Cohen, actually takes it quite a few steps further and uses the occasion of Barack's impending triumph as cause to celebrate LBJ's progressiveness - even going so far as to include the following sentence: An Obama win would complete a journey begun 40 years ago.

Here we go again. During the Democratic primaries Hillary Clinton (who, as I've written, almost certainly cast her vote for John McCain this morning) placed former President Johnson's importance to the Civil Rights struggle above that of Martin Luther King Jr. This bit of stupidity, in part, cost her a great deal of African-American support. I'm sure Hillary and Cohen are expressing what millions of white liberals assume to be true, but here's the problem: Apart from being tacky, arrogant and oblivious, the idea that LBJ is primarily responsible for the 1964 Voting Rights Act is just plain wrong.

One important truism that the self-congratulating Clintons and Cohens of the world don't seem to get is a basic axiom that Frederick Douglass realized over a century and a half ago, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." Any form of Civil rights legislation that has been passed in this country, or around the world, is the direct result of a ceaseless barage of activist agitation. You're not working a 40-hour week because the aristocrats who owned the means of production suddenly decided to lighten up on your forebears some 70 years ago. Union organization made that possible. Women all across the country aren't voting today because Woodrow Wilson woke up one morning and decided that the 19th amendment just had to be ratified. That was the direct result of the suffering of suffragists. The same is true of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Johnson didn't hand over the South to the Republicans with the stroke of a pen because he was feeling charitable. He signed because he recognized that the writing was already on the wall.

Of course, by now, anyone paying attention should come to expect this kind of clueless arrogance. Those who, for whatever reason, feel a kinship with the powerful will often attribute kindness to them when history doesn't. You see this when white Southerners pat themselves on the backs for ending slavery, or when men congratulate themselves for deigning to allow women to enter the workplace. Recently, I received an email from a good friend. He'd shared one of my blog entries with a white person. This white person wanted my friend to remind me that "if it wasn't for white people, Obama wouldn't be where he is today." So there it is. Whites, having created and long benefited from this country's still-functional system of racial injustice would like to receive credit when a black person manages to successfully navigate it.

At any rate, despite what Richard Cohen and people of his ilk may wish to believe, the journey to African-American freedom and equality began a great deal more than 40 years ago, and, even with a Obama victory, it is FAR from complete. Further, it did not start at the behest of powerful men like Lyndon Baines Johnson. If Mr. Cohen, stricken, as he appears to be, by liberal, 60's nostalgia, is feeling the urge to thank those responsible, he need only take a drive down I-95 and visit the final resting spots of those who paid the ultimate price for equality.

Blaxplanation Disclaimer: A friend introduced to me the possibility that, when I write critically of white America, what I'm really doing is railing against the powerful. I quickly reminded him that in this country, to have white skin is to automatically enjoy advantages that non-whites don't have. This white privilege, as it has been labled, is nothing if not power.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Day Three: The Precipice

Peace to One and All:

I'd like to go on record as being the 97th million person to remind you all to go out and vote tomorrow. I'd also like to mention a few other things...

a) I'm definitely NOT going to lie to you and tell you that 'It doesn't matter who you vote for as long as you vote.' I'm not sure why people bother saying that trite shit. Perhaps because it makes them feel objective and magnanimous. I don't know. What I do know is that if you're inclined to vote for four more years of the same deplorable situation then I'd rather you stayed your ass at home and not participate - thank you very much.

b) Black folks in battleground states (Namely, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Virginia) who, for some reason or another, are choosing not to vote need a potent dose of strong reconsideration. We're on the precipice of placing an African-American man of whom we can be proud in the White House. This ain't your father's black presidential candidate. This guy is bonafide. Let's give our kids a measure of proof that, despite overwhelming odds, they can achieve whatever goal they set their minds to. Also, as Chris Rock joked, I'm tired of giving my sons that speech when I hardly believe it myself.

c) Speaking of Jesse and Al: Can we now, at long last, admit to ourselves that these cats are the self-serving, self-glorifying, shameless, running-to-the-front-of-the-pack leeches that many of us thought they were? Their conservative critics have always accused them of being "race hustlers." Can't we admit that, on rare occasions such as this, right wingers can actually be correct? Al has, at least, done the decent thing by keeping his mouth shut and not (God forbid!) endorsing Obama. But Jesse? Appearing on Fox News (of all places) and audibly admitting that he'd like to castrate Obama? That was completely disgusting and should be, if we've got the good sense that God has given most of us, inexcusable. I think November 4th should be the day that we make two extremely progressive moves on behalf of black America: Put a black man in the White House and put these two jokers out of work. Who knows. Maybe these "Men of Faith" will actually have to get real jobs.

d) And finally, could someone tell me why people afix bumper stickers to their vehicles? Who do you think is being convinced to vote one way or another based on the slogan attached to the back of your '97 Accord? What happens if/when your candidate loses? And even if he or she wins, don't you suppose that you might want to sell your car one day? What if the potential buyer votes to the left or right of you? As much as I support the Obama candidacy, unless homeboy is willing to buy my Camry for above Blue Book, I'm not gluing his name to my car.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Day Two: An Enigmatic Death

When Being Young, Gifted and Black Just Isn't Enough

Day Two of the November Project begins with my thoughts on the suicide of DEF Jam Executive Vice President, Shakir Stewart.

I often don't know how to respond to suicide. It's an extremely difficult situation, not only because of the person's death but because of the uncomfortable circumstances surrounding it. Based on everything that I know and have read, Stewart's was an enviable life. He was young, accomplished in his career, intelligent, talented, driven and desirous of helping those who were willing to help themselves. The world was his oyster. Yesterday, Stewart decided that this unique combination of gifts weren't enough to keep him tethered to this life and ended it all with a gunshot.

Generally, I've noticed that folks have a similar reaction to suicide: Dismissal. People start out by saying all the right things. They openly wonder what went wrong. They dole out "Rest in Peace" pronouncements. Well wishers are sorrowful and respectful. But there's also some hidden judgment as well. When pressed about their feelings, people speak in terms of 'giving up,' 'selfishness' and 'cowardice.' They speak of all the responsibilities that the departed has left behind. They ask how the person could do this to his or her loved ones. They express a deep disappointment with the deceased. This usually also goes hand in hand with some sort of a religion-fueled damnation - after all, suicides have condemned themselves to the lake of fire, or so the belief goes.

What's usually missing is a general discussion of mental illness in the form of depression. I don't know much about Stewart's situation but it sounds as if he could have lived if he had received help from a mental health professional. Like other groups, black people don't like to acknowledge mental disorders, particularly when they're close to home. I speak from experience. I've battled depression for most of my adult life. Since first being diagnosed with depression in the mid-90s, I've been on some form of medication. This was difficult, not only because I had to admit that I needed help, but also because of the stigma attached to depression. Not long after I found out that I was depressed, I went to my mother and sister with the news. My sister's advice to me was to "cheer up." My mother told me that I needed to get right with God and start going to church again. In their minds, there was little possibility that the help I needed couldn't come from within, or be received from the pulpit. I don't fault them for their responses, but I think they illustrate a greater point. Neither my mother nor sister are foolish people. What they are (or were) is completely misinformed about what depression is, and what it means to be stricken with it. So many people are not aware of the disease that many of those who need help simply aren't getting it.

An arduous navigation of this country's inequitable terrain can be made nigh impossible if one also has to grapple with mental illness. My hope is that we can reach a point at which depression and other diseases can be identified and treated before they snuff out more promising lives. We should look at needless, premature deaths like Stewart's as reminders that there are millions of us who are struggling with disease, and who don't deserve to be marginalized because of it.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The November Project


There are three bloggers, each with his/her own unique voice, who I find consistently inspirational.

The first is Harold M. Clemens, the author of Ghetto Uprising. Truth be told, if I hadn't happened upon his blog, Blaxplanation would probably not exist. A couple of years ago, I read one of Harold's articles on After I read it, I made a beeline for Harold's blog and was so impressed that I thought I should start my own. Harold's writing, as well as his analysis, is ridiculously on point. So much so that after I read it I feel that I need to scrap some of my own inadequate ideas and go back to the drawing board.

The second blogger is Cliff, who brings his love for his people and community to life in Cliff's Crib. I've never met Cliff but he strikes me as one of those cats who you meet and immediately feel as if you've known your entire life. Cliff is the kind of cat who, if you don't like him, something is wrong with your ass. Cliff's writing is equal parts criticism of and affection for his people. Cliff's story is one of rebirth, rebuilding and commitment. When reading his words, I often feel as if I'm having a conversation with an old and dear friend.

Last but certainly not least is...well, I'm not exactly sure what alias to use. All you need to know about Mel is that soon enough, you will be reading one of her novels at two in the morning, red-eyed, depressed about how exausted you're going to be at work the next day, but completely incapable of putting it down. Mel's that sister who you see at the job everyday doing her thing. You may be astute enough to realize that she's intelligent. You may even have picked up on the fact that she's multilayered. But you'll never know the full story. It won't be until she makes moves and becomes your former coworker that it dawns on you that you were once in the presence of greatness on a daily basis.

Mel also has inspired me to blog once a day, every single day, for the entire month of November. I figure if she can write 2,000 words a day I can supply some meaningless meanderings for a short month. So this November, I write in solidarity.

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