Friday, August 29, 2008

At 100 Centre Street

I told someone I was going to 100 Centre Street on Thursday and they said primly, "Your second home, eh?" but on this occasion I was helping a friend who is an attorney with some court work, and at one point I went outside to get a coffee, and I ran into the photographer behind this blog, Courthouse Confessions. It's interesting and a great idea -- as I was not a defendant or on a jury, I was not a candidate for being photographed, but photographer Steven Hirsch clearly found plenty of material in recent days...

North Korean propaganda posters

Next time there's a baby-down-the-well story from Pennsylvania on CNN, this North Korean poster suggests one should blame the Great Satan, Uncle Sam!

Second thought: is that evil G.I. drowning the child, or worse, baptizing it?

Via Kottke.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I am for reparations

NYTIMES.COM: Top Black Donors See Obama’s Rise as Their Own


DENVER — When Gordon Davis, a top fund-raiser for Senator Barack Obama, made partner at his white-shoe law firm in New York in 1983, it was a vastly different world for aspiring black professionals like him.

At the time, there were just five black partners at major law firms in New York, Mr. Davis recalled. That group had a tradition of taking each new partner out to an intimate congratulatory lunch. Today, more than 200 take part in the ritual at the Harvard Club.

The change over just a few decades offers a glance at the advances that have enabled a cadre of black elites like Mr. Davis to emerge as a force in the most successful fund-raising operation in presidential campaign history.

Mr. Obama’s acceptance of his party’s nomination on Thursday, on the 45th anniversary of the speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the March on Washington, signifies a powerful moment of arrival for blacks. But the milestone is especially telling for this upper-crust group, which has mobilized like never before to raise mountains of cash to power his campaign.

“There’s a sense of not only pride but of a point in the culture we’re a part of, the society we’re a part of, that this is different,” said Mr. Davis, now a partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf. “It’s a measure of how far we — and I don’t mean just black people — how far this country and the business world have come.”

There are 57 blacks out of the roughly 300 people on the Obama campaign’s national finance committee. Each member commits to collecting at least $250,000, a formidable task that typically requires deep business networks, something relatively few blacks had until fairly recently.

The list of top Obama bundlers includes John W. Rogers Jr., the founder of Ariel Investments, the country’s first black-owned money management firm; William E. Kennard, the first black chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; and Mr. Davis, who drove across the country 45 years ago as a newly minted college graduate to take part in the March on Washington, and went on to serve as the first black parks commissioner of New York City and the first black president of Lincoln Center.

Mr. Kennard and Mr. Rogers are among a half-dozen black bundlers who have raised more than $500,000 for Mr. Obama, putting them in a select group of just three dozen fund-raisers.

Most of Mr. Obama’s major black donors are new to big-money political fund-raising, but there are signs that at least some could go on to become players in Democratic circles. Some, for example, have already begun flexing their muscle by raising money for politicians who endorsed Mr. Obama early on.

At 67, Mr. Davis is something of an elder statesman for the group. Most are part of a younger generation that has benefited from the new vistas opened by the civil rights movement but had not participated directly in those struggles. Like Mr. Obama, they have learned to navigate white-dominated fields, climbing through the ranks by earning approval not among fellow blacks but among whites. Yet they remained keenly aware of the sanctums that were still inaccessible.

Now they have witnessed a breakthrough at the highest levels of the political realm, a culmination in many ways of the long struggle for acceptance that many of them have spent their professional lives waging.

“When you grow up living in a white corporate world, there’s always a part of you that thinks, ‘Gee, if I sold out,’ or ‘How can I do this and also stay true to myself and true to my own identity,’ ” said Jeh Johnson, another top fund-raiser and New York lawyer who today serves as the informal chairman of the group of black law partners.

Of Mr. Obama, Mr. Johnson said, “Here we have a guy who’s running for president and managed to do it in the political world and managed to do it so well.”

When Mr. Johnson became the first black partner in 1994 at his firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, he was part of a wave of blacks earning the same distinction at other major New York firms. What was happening in law was unfolding elsewhere in corporate America, on Wall Street and in other rarefied circles, with blacks finally penetrating the ranks of money and influence in increasing numbers.

“This is now a situation where many of us have arrived at a certain level — lawyers, doctors, professional people,” said Ralph Dawson, who is in charge of African-American donor outreach for the Democratic Party and is himself a black law partner. “And all of that is coming together around this very special individual.”

Valerie Jarrett, a close friend of Mr. Obama and one of his most trusted advisers, pointed out that her experience had been vastly different from that of parents’ generation. Her father, who was the first black medical resident at his Chicago hospital, was asked to enter through the back door on his first day of work, she said.

“There hasn’t been the kind of overt, in-your-face discrimination my parents experienced,” said Ms. Jarrett, who is now the chief executive of one of the country’s largest real estate firms.

Nevertheless, stories of slights, or a nagging sense of “otherness,” are prevalent even among this accomplished group.

Mr. Kennard, who was general counsel to the F.C.C. before he became chairman in the Clinton administration, recalled his first day on that job. He deliberately went in early to his new office. When he arrived, a secretary asked in a snippy voice whether she could help him.

“There was just a tone in her voice, ‘You’re really not supposed to be here for an appointment that early,’ ” said Mr. Kennard, who more recently became the first black partner at his private equity firm, the Carlyle Group, and who sits on the board of The New York Times Company. “I said, ‘Well, yes, I’m the new general counsel.’ Her jaw dropped and she said, ‘You’re the new general counsel?’ ”

Indeed, for all of the signs of progress, there remain feelings of frustration about what has not been accomplished.

Mr. Rogers, who was a crucial early supporter of Mr. Obama when he first ran for the Illinois Senate, and helped connect him to others in the black business community, said he looked around at his industry and still saw few black faces at the highest levels.

“I think the good news is, once Barack is elected,” Mr. Rogers said, “he is going to be a beacon of hope for all of us.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A poem by Allen Ginsberg, for today, 08/27/2008

Wales Visitation

By Allen Ginsberg

White fog lifting & falling on mountain-brow
Trees moving in rivers of wind
The clouds arise
as on a wave, gigantic eddy lifting mist
above teeming ferns exquisitely swayed
along a green crag
glimpsed thru mullioned glass in valley raine—

Bardic, O Self, Visitacione, tell naught
but what seen by one man in a vale in Albion,
of the folk, whose physical sciences end in Ecology,
the wisdom of earthly relations,
of mouths & eyes interknit ten centuries visible
orchards of mind language manifest human,
of the satanic thistle that raises its horned symmetry
flowering above sister grass-daisies’ pink tiny
bloomlets angelic as lightbulbs—

Remember 160 miles from London’s symmetrical thorned tower
& network of TV pictures flashing bearded your Self
the lambs on the tree-nooked hillside this day bleating
heard in Blake’s old ear, & the silent thought of Wordsworth in eld Stillness
clouds passing through skeleton arches of Tintern Abbey—
Bard Nameless as the Vast, babble to Vastness!
All the Valley quivered, one extended motion, wind
undulating on mossy hills
a giant wash that sank white fog delicately down red runnels
on the mountainside
whose leaf-branch tendrils moved asway
in granitic undertow down—

and lifted the floating Nebulous upward, and lifted the arms of the trees
and lifted the grasses an instant in balance
and lifted the lambs to hold still
and lifted the green of the hill, in one solemn wave
A solid mass of Heaven, mist-infused, ebbs thru the vale,
a wavelet of Immensity, lapping gigantic through Llanthony Valley,
the length of all England, valley upon valley under Heaven’s ocean
tonned with cloud-hang,

—Heaven balanced on a grassblade.
Roar of the mountain wind slow, sigh of the body,
One Being on the mountainside stirring gently
Exquisite scales trembling everywhere in balance,
one motion thru the cloudy sky-floor shifting on the million feet of daisies,
one Majesty the motion that stirred wet grass quivering
to the farthest tendril of white fog poured down
through shivering flowers on the mountain’s head—

No imperfection in the budded mountain,
Valleys breathe, heaven and earth move together,
daisies push inches of yellow air, vegetables tremble,
grass shimmers green
sheep speckle the mountainside, revolving their jaws with empty eyes,
horses dance in the warm rain,
tree-lined canals network live farmland,
blueberries fringe stone walls on hawthorn’d hills,
pheasants croak on meadows haired with fern—

Out, out on the hillside, into the ocean sound, into delicate gusts of wet air,
Fall on the ground, O great Wetness, O Mother, No harm on your body!
Stare close, no imperfection in the grass,
each flower Buddha-eye, repeating the story,
Kneel before the foxglove raising green buds, mauve bells dropped
doubled down the stem trembling antennae,
& look in the eyes of the branded lambs that stare
breathing stockstill under dripping hawthorn—

I lay down mixing my beard with the wet hair of the mountainside,
smelling the brown vagina-moist ground, harmless,
tasting the violet thistle-hair, sweetness—
One being so balanced, so vast, that its softest breath
moves every floweret in the stillness on the valley floor,
trembles lamb-hair hung gossamer rain-beaded in the grass,
lifts trees on their roots, birds in the great draught
hiding their strength in the rain, bearing same weight,
Groan thru breast and neck, a great Oh! to earth heart
Calling our Presence together
The great secret is no secret
Senses fit the winds,
Visible is visible,
rain-mist curtains wave through the bearded vale,
gray atoms wet the wind’s kabbala
Crosslegged on a rock in dusk rain,
rubber booted in soft grass, mind moveless,
breath trembles in white daisies by the roadside,
Heaven breath and my own symmetric
Airs wavering thru antlered green fern
drawn in my navel, same breath as breathes thru Capel-Y-Ffn,
Sounds of Aleph and Aum
through forests of gristle,
my skull and Lord Hereford’s Knob equal,
All Albion one.
What did I notice? Particulars! The
vision of the great One is myriad—
smoke curls upward from ashtray,
house fire burned low,
The night, still wet & moody black heaven
upward in motion with wet wind.

July 29, 1967 (LSD)—August 3, 1967 (London)