OP-ED: New York Times Columnist - Time Is Running Out

Bob Herbert

We’ve now lost 8.4 million jobs in this recession, and a vast majority of them are gone for good. The politicians are clambering aboard the jobs bandwagon, belatedly, but very few are telling the truth about the structural employment problems in the U.S. and the extremely heavy lift that is necessary to halt our declining living standards and get us back to an economy that is self-sustaining.

We don’t hear a lot that is serious about the sorry state of the nation’s infrastructure or the trade policies that crippled so many American industries or our inability (or unwillingness) to compete effectively with China when it comes to the new world of energy for the 21st century or our abject failure to provide a quality public education for the next generation of American workers, scientists, artists and entrepreneurs.

Speaking at a conference here on Wednesday, Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania said that if we don’t act quickly in developing long-term solutions to these and other problems, the United States will be a second-rate economic power by the end of this decade. A failure to act boldly, he said, will result in the U.S. becoming “a cooked goose.”

Neither the politicians nor much of the mainstream media are spelling out the severity of these enormous structural problems or the sense of urgency needed to address them. Living standards are sinking in the United States, and there is no coherent vision or plan for reversing that ominous trend over the long term.

The conference was titled, “The Next American Economy: Transforming Energy and Infrastructure Investment.” It was put together by the Brookings Institution and Lazard, the investment banking advisory firm.

When Governor Rendell addressed the conference on Wednesday, he used words like “stunning” and “unbelievable” to describe what has happened to the nation’s infrastructure. His words echoed the warnings we’ve been hearing for years from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which tells us: “The broken water mains, gridlocked streets, crumbling dams and levees, and delayed flights that come from failing infrastructure have a negative impact on the checkbook and on the quality of life of each and every American.”

The conference was sparked by a sense of dismay over what has happened to the U.S. economy over the past several years and a feeling that constructive ideas about solutions were being smothered by an obsessive focus on the short-term in this society, and by the chronic dysfunction and hyperpartisanship in much of the government.

I was struck by the absence of grousing and finger-pointing at the conference and the emphasis on trying to develop new ways to establish an economy that is not based on financial flimflammery, that enhances America’s competitive position in the world, and that relieves us of the terrible burden of reliance on foreign energy sources.

I was also struck by the pervasive sense that if we don’t get our act together then the glory days of the go-go American economic empire will fade like the triumphs of an aging Hollywood star. One of the participants raised the very real possibility of Americans having to get used to living in an economy “that won’t be number one,” an economy that perhaps is more like Germany’s.

Rescuing the U.S. economy will require a commitment, and undoubtedly sacrifices, that need to start now. And it will require leadership that pulls together the best talents from all sectors of the society — not just business, not just government, but from everywhere.

Bruce Katz, the director of Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program, discussed some of the steps that need to be taken to remake an economy that has been thrown completely out of whack by frantic, debt-driven consumption, speculative bubbles, exotic financial instruments, and so on.

A new, saner, more sustainable economy will have to be more export-oriented, powered by cleaner fuels, bolstered by innovation that comes from a renewed focus on research and development, and committed to delivering a better-educated, more highly skilled work force.

Mr. Katz believes this is doable, but by no means easy. The nation’s infrastructure, he said, will have to “shift from 20th-century models of transport and energy transmission to rapid bus, ubiquitous broadband, congestion pricing, smart grid, high-speed rail and intelligent transport.”

New ways of financing such transformative changes will have to be developed, linking public and private capital, preferably through the creation of a national infrastructure bank, among other things. The nation’s political leaders and the public at large will have to grasp the difference between wasteful spending and crucial investments in the future.

It’s time for serious people to step forward and help lead on these critically important issues. Time is short.

More Articles in Opinion »
A version of this article appeared in print on February 6, 2010, on page A19 of the New York edition.


INFO: new cds from sista flame



These are Sista Flame?s new 2010 CD release, HOTHIPNUTIKKONSCIOUSNESS, LOVE JOINT, and POPCORN N POETRY. Purchase CD?s @ www.cdbaby.com and www.amazon.com. The CD?s include smooth mellow jazz, R&B, and neo-soul. The CD?s also include poetry, and singing. You can also listen to samples of the CD?s @ cdbaby.com. You can view Sista Flame?s bio @ www.sistaflame.bravehost.com.

Sista Flame & Rubie Wilkie : HothipnuttikkonsciousnesSista Flame : Love JointSista Flame : Popcorn N Poetry



by Rubie Wilkie


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Paperback, 90 pages 

EVENT | Dr. Imari Obadele Memorial Tribute (DC Area)

Dr. Imari Obadele Memorial Tribute (DC Area)


In Honor of the Memory of Brother Imari and Malcolm X
Sunday, February 21, 2010
5:00pm - 8:00pm
KIMA (parking lot entrance)
2nd & Peabody Streets, N.W.
Washington, DC


On January 18, 2010 genius giant of the New Afrikan Independence Movement, Dr. Imari Abubakari Obadele I transitioned to the ancestral realm. It was the Washington, D.C. community that welcomed Brother Imari after his release from unjust incarceration orchestrated by the once secret and illegal COINTELPO (FBI counterintelligence program against the Black Liberation Movement). He spend several years living and rebuilding in Washington, DC.

Brother Imari was an ardent follower of Malcolm X, indeed it was Imari and his brother Gaidi (formerly known as Richard and Milton Henry) who brought Malcolm to Detroit in 1963 when he delivered his prolific speech, "Message to the Grassroots." Malcolm often said that if the Henry brothers ever needed him, he would be right there.

Obadele is a founder and former President of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, and a founder and leader of NCOBRA - National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America. He received his PhD after imprisonment, and retired from teaching at Prairie View in Texas, living in Baton Rouge with his wife, Johnita. He is the author of numerous books and pamphlets, including Foundations of the Black Nation, War in America, Free the Land, Reparations Yes, The Malcolm Generation, America the Nation State, and others.

Join the Washington, D.C. area community in a Memorial Tribute to Dr. Imari Abubakari Obadele, on the day of the assasination of Malcolm X -- Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 5:00 p.m.

If you are interested in saying a brief reflection at the Tribute through words, song, or poem, please contact 888-245-4789 and leave your contact information and a representative from the committee will get back to you.

** see video of January 30 Obadele funeral service in link below.

In the words of Brother Imari ... FREE THE LAND!


EVENT: South Florida Caribbean News



Saturday, February 6, 2010  




Author Pam Mordecai Reads at the Diaspora Vibe Gallery

MIAMI - Pam Mordecai, a pioneer in the movement to expose the writing of Caribbean women, will be reading at Diaspora Vibe Gallery, 3938 North Miami Ave, Miami, on March 23, 2006 at 6:30pm.

Dr. Mordecai will read poems and short stories, including work from her most recent collection, The True Blue of Islands. The event, another in the JAMPACT Culture Series, is a fundraiser in aid of JAMPACT's five adopted basic schools in Jamaica: Coles, Crescent Road, Maxfield Park, Mt. Olive, and St. Stephens. JAMPACT's mission is to use our collective energies, intelligence, and resources to make positive contributions towards the improvement of social and economic conditions in Jamaica.

A prolific anthologist, Dr. Mordecai has edited five ground breaking anthologies including Jamaica Woman (with Mervyn Morris), Her True-True Name (with Betty Wilson), and From Our Yard: Jamaican Poetry since Independence and, most recently, Calling Cards: New Poetry from Caribbean/Canadian Women. She has also published sixteen textbooks, four collections of poetry, and five books (poetry and stories) for children. In 2001, Goose Lane Editions published, Certifiable: Poems, which received enthusiastic reviews in Canada, the Caribbean, the UK, and the US. In that year also, Greenwood Press (CT., USA) published Culture and Customs of Jamaica, a reference work co-authored with her husband, Martin.

Pam and her family emigrated from Jamaica in 1993, and are the principals at Sandberry Press in Toronto, Canada.


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VIDEO - SaraTavares_interviewlokaalmondiaal_09.flv

Sara Tavares. She makes me feel beautiful, i.e. feel the beauty of our people and also feel the beauty of the moment I'm living in. Even in the midst of shit, if we are alive, there is always some morsel of beauty to sustain us, somewhere there is always beauty even if we can not see that beauty or be that beauty. Always there is beauty. Somewhere. And Sara Tavares reminds me that the "somewhere beauty is" can always be inside whomever we are, living under whatever conditions with which we struggle.

Sara also has this enchanting sound. Her voice makes me smile.


EVENT: Facebook | Sisterspace and Books presents Sister Souljah

Sisterspace and Books presents Sister Souljah

Booksigning and Discussion with Sister Souljah!

Saturday, February 20, 2010
3:00pm - 6:00pm
Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ
5301 North Capitol Street N.E. (North Capitol and Missouri)
Washington, DC


Saturday, February 20th, 3:00pm-6:00pm~ Sistah Souljah: A discussion and Booksigning. Location: Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, 5301 North Capitol Street N.E. All books must be purchased on-site by Sisterspace and Books.

Born in Bronx, New York, raised in the projects, Souljah is a fighter who came up from the bottom. A graduate of Rutgers University, she earned a degree in American History and African Studies. She also attended Cornell University Advanced Placement Studies, and studied abroad in Europe at the University of Salamanca.

A global student, Sister Souljah traveled throughout her college years to England, France, Spain, Portugal, Finland, and Russia. Her academic accomplishments were reinforced with first hand experiences. She worked to build a medical center for families in Bindura, Zimbabwe. She worked with refugee children from Mozambique. A major participant in the international student anti-apartheid movement, she helped to create a momentum, movement and fervor with liberated Nelson Mandela and brought about the divestment of millions of dollars from corporations doing business with apartheid South Africa. Her travels in Africa also included Zambia and South Africa. She believes it is essential that African professionals help one another to save our continent, resources, families, and children... http://www.sistersouljah.com/biography.html


INFO: Linguicide: the death of language - Science, News - The Independent

Linguicide: the death of language

A language dies every two weeks. It's a crime, says John Sutherland. And he knows who's guilty

Languages are possibly the most complicated structures the human mind has ever invented but, tragically, our species' most impressive creations are dying. According to the British linguist David Crystal, an indigenous language currently disappears every two weeks. By the end of the century, it is projected, 5,500 of the current 6,000 languages now spoken will join Latin and Greek as "dead languages". Those, of course, were once two of the world's top languages. Sic transit, as they used to say. What we are witnessing is linguicide. A language massacre.

Languages are possibly the most complicated structures the human mind has ever invented but, tragically, our species' most impressive creations are dying. According to the British linguist David Crystal, an indigenous language currently disappears every two weeks. By the end of the century, it is projected, 5,500 of the current 6,000 languages now spoken will join Latin and Greek as "dead languages". Those, of course, were once two of the world's top languages. Sic transit, as they used to say. What we are witnessing is linguicide. A language massacre.

There are no zoos, museums or cemeteries for dead languages. It's technically possible to record them for posterity, in some skeletal form, before the last speakers go to their final reward. One can create sound archives, compile dictionaries, store video footage and catalogue written material. You will lose everything that represents the life of a language: the idiolects (individual styles and quirks of speech), the subgroup dialects, the literary and expressive richness of a living tongue, its infinite capacity to reflect distinct modes of thought.

There's nothing more corpse-like than a dead language. They never come back to life. And, the brute fact is that no government is going to put taxpayers' money into any such project. Save the whale, yes. But save, say, Manx (the last native speaker on the Isle of Man died in 1974) – forget it.

There's no mystery about the root cause of the linguistic holocaust that we're living through. Take a holiday anywhere in the world. Your airline pilot will, as you listen to the safety instructions (in English), be communicating with ground control in English. Signs in the airport, whatever country you're in, will be duplicated in one of the world's top 20 languages – most likely English. You'll see Coca-Cola logos. MTV will be playing on the screens. Muzak will be crooning out Anglo-American lyrics as you walk through the concourse to baggage reclaim. At the hotel, the desk clerk will speak your language, as will, probably, the bellhop. (His tip depends on being polyglot.) Go into any internet café and the keyboard code that will get you best results is what you are reading now: English – the lingua franca of our times.

The spread of English is the product of naked linguistic superpower. If anyone anywhere wants to get ahead nowadays, an ability to speak English is obligatory. We take it for granted. When the premier designate of Afghanistan visited Britain a few weeks ago, the newspapers were entranced by his exotic dress – that colourful tablecloth-like shawl draped on his shoulders. No one commented on the fact that the dapper Mr Kharzai spoke better English than most of the journalists who interviewed him.

Would he have had the prospect of high office, in the Bush-Blair New World Order, had he been a monoglot Pashtun speaker? I doubt it. Power comes, as it always did in the 20th century, from the barrel of a gun. But in the 21st century it also comes, more pacifically, from the Oxford English Dictionary.

How did this happen? How did a dialect, spoken by a backward, semi-literate tribe in the south-eastern corner of a small island in the North Sea spread, like some malign pandemic virus, across the globe? Should we feel guilty that our way of speaking is obliterating so many other tongues? Is it not a more sinister kind of colonialism than that which we practised a hundred years ago? Once we just took their raw materials. Now we invade their minds, by changing the primary tool by which they think: "their" language.

The ethics of language superpower is tricky for "native English speakers", like most readers of this newspaper. We may get dubious bronze medals in the Winter Olympics; we may have lost an empire and not found a role. But, by God, we are the proud possessors of the big language: the top language in the linguistic premier league. It feels great to be great again.

Or are we? Is "English" a misnomer? Would it not be more accurate to rename what we speak "American"? Are we, if we're honest, linguistic colonisers or merely among the more privileged of the colonised? Closest, that is, to the real power, but not the wielders of it.

We are, of course, proud of all those pop groups from the Stones to Coldplay who have launched conquering "British Invasions" of the US pop world. But why, one may ask, do these cultural heroes all adopt American accents and idiom in their singing? Who ever serenaded a honky-tonk woman in Neasden? What top-level American pop groups "sing British"?

It's not invasion, but follow-my-leader. American is, currently, the dominant English dialect. Even Tony Blair says, "I'm a straightforward kind of guy," – just like Tony S (Soprano, that is).

A favourite axiom among linguists is "a language is a dialect with an army behind it". Follow the big armies (Roman, Norman, American, Chinese, Russian) and you'll find the "world languages". The most potent army, in 2002, flies the stars and stripes. If Tony had the Seventh Fleet and 500 B-52s, Dubya would be talking just like the man in Downing Street. Dream on, President Blair.

Another factor speeding the worldwide spread of American-English is the "dialect levelling" induced by modern mass media. Some 40 per cent of British prime-time TV is American originated; cinema screens and MTV-style music channels are even more tilted towards the transatlantic product. The resultant levelling can be measured in the younger population's preferred "discourse fillers": "ya know", "kinda", "sorta", "check it out". You'll hear them as frequently in London as in New York.

Be it a weapon of war or a cultural signifier, language is to Homo sapiens what water is to fish. Take it away and we're neither human nor sapient, as a new book, The Power of Babel by John McWhorter, attests. In this, McWhorter, associate professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, claims that language – sophisticated communication – is singularly and uniquely human. "Neither bees, chimps, parrots nor dogs," he writes, "could produce or perceive a sentence such as 'Did you know that there are squid 50 feet and longer in the deep sea?'"

Sophisticated concept formation is what makes language. Not only is language peculiarly human, no one can be fully human without it: "given the obvious advantages that language confers on the species, it is extremely unlikely that any human groups have ever cut out talking". McWhorter seems not to have heard of Trappists, but he does note that "the Puliyanese of South India barely talk at all after age 40; Danes tend to be on the quiet side; Caribbeans less so." But all naked apes talk. It's a species universal.

There is a running quarrel as to whether our ability to master the incredibly complex machineries of language (not to say our own peculiar dialect) is to be explained by our wiring (an innate propensity) or socio-cultural conditioning.

Do humans have what Steven Pinker calls "the language instinct", in his book of the same title, or do we pick up our language rules, practices and skills as we learn chess or how to programme the VCR?

These two opposed theories have led to decades of quarrel between the TG (transformational grammar) school – in favour of the wiring theory and inspired, originally, by Noam Chomsky – and the descriptionists. The acid test: how is it that we can generate sentences we have never heard before? For example: "the dead fish has a hairstyle just like Posh Becks". Of all the trillions of speech acts that have happened over the past 10 years, no one – I am confident – has said that before. It "means" something (something stupid, admittedly). How do I "generate" what I have never before encountered?

The genetic-predisposition argument is supported by two observable facts. Infants go through a phase in which they pick up language with amazing facility and speed. They could not learn to drive a car at three years old. But they can learn any language. On the other hand, most 17-year-olds who have passed their test with ease pick up languages only with great effort (as any A-level teacher will tell you). We have, it seems, a "language imprinting phase" in our childhoods. Call it instinct.

However, your children will speak differently from you, and their children from them. Our 6,000 (but shrinking) human languages all descend, despite infinite metamorphoses, from a common proto-linguistic African root, and are continuing to mutate, ad infinitum. Dialects die and change. That's how they live. But language itself never wears out. Nor will it, as long as we are human.

Chances are, however, that for a few generations most humans will be speaking English. But don't despair and don't exult. The Romans fondly believed it would be Latin.

'The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language' by John H McWhorter, Heinemann, £16.99, published March 14th