Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Obama Boards the Peace Train

Though the recession and other pressing domestic issues are the prime focus of the Obama Administration it has been an active week for foreign policy issues as well. Moving with dispatch to show that his administration has turned a page on how America engages the world, Obama has made some important moves to show the global community of nations a different face of power.

During the week, Obama signed orders to close the Gitmo internment camp. He has asked the military to develop an exit strategy from Iraq. He has appointed retired Sen. George Mitchell as a special envoy to the Middle East to revitalize the art of diplomacy in the region for the US. He has instructed Mitchell to listen and not to dictate. Most significantly, in his first post inaugural interview, Obama spoke directly and plainly to the Arab world through the Al Arabiya network. President Obama seems intent on becoming an arbiter of peace in the clash of civilizations.

It is a new day and a new way in Washington DC. The trains at the station. We hope everyone gets on board this train.

As Salaam Alaikum

You Tube Video: Yusef Islam, Peace Train

Risk: war,

January 28, 2009 Posted by | folk, Obama, Palestine, war | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Welcome The Year of the Ox.

The Year of Ji Chou is the 4706th year in the Chinese Calendar.

The celebration of New Year’s Eve in the Chinese calendar will be observed tonight with several popular traditions meant to attract good fortune and health, prosperity, closer family ties, and peace in every household.

Festivals, parades, dragon and lion dances, fireworks, family gatherings, and visiting friends and relatives traditionally mark the celebration of the eve of the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays.

We wish all prosperity, happiness and health during this Year of the Ox.

You Tube Video:  Song for the Year of the Ox

Risk: Forgetting our cultural history

January 25, 2009 Posted by | China, folk, holiday, seasons | | Leave a comment

President Obama Tastes First Blood

Its been a week of firsts for our country and an endless succession of firsts for the new Obama Administration. So it is with sadness we post the melancholy news that Obama has recorded his first kills as a President. A number of news reports are surfacing announcing that today unmanned US spy drones have launched missile strikes within the sovereign borders of Pakistan killing 8 people. Weather these reports are true and weather those killed are Al Qaeda operatives could not be determined.

As it was under Bush the grim toll of death continues with Obama.

You Tube Video: Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Battle Hymn of the Republic

Risk: war, national sovereignty, peace

January 23, 2009 Posted by | folk, Obama, terrorism, war | , , , , | Leave a comment

Aztec Two Step

Moses
Frida Kahlo

President Obama has rescinded the Mexico City policy which seeks to block funding to foreign family planning organizations that also provide abortions. The Mexico City policy was first signed into law during the Reagan administration. It was rescinded by Clinton, reenacted under George W. Bush and will now be rescinded by Obama.

Pro Choice supporters hail the move, while the Right to Life proponents are dismayed about Obama’s decision to continue this Democratic party legacy. Protesters voiced their concern during the The March for Life demonstration in Washington DC. The protest is an annual event that is usually held on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

The fight to maintain legalized abortions, the right to choose one’s reproductive rights and the Right to Life movement continue a struggle where opportunities to find common ground and compromise seems forever elusive.

You Tube Video: Mariachi, Viva Obama 2008

Risk: civil rights, respect for life

January 23, 2009 Posted by | art, Civil Rights, democrats, folk, Obama, politics, religion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When I Was a Child

On Thanksgiving Day in 1973 I trotted off a football field knowing I played my last game. In my mind I kept repeating the words, “when I was child I acted like a child and now its time to put away childish things.” Like many teenagers, athletics had been a very large part of my life and comprised a good portion of my identity of who I was as a person and how I defined myself. I was a good athlete but a not so good student. I intuitively realized that if I were to succeed in college I would have to devote the energy and attention to academics that I had previously given to athletics. So as I walked off that field with my team as league champions I knew it was time to put away childish things if I were to progress to the next stage of life as a young man. It was a turning point where a teenager begins a journey to manhood by stepping away from the loves of his youth.

President Obama’s Inaugural Address cited the same verse from Corinthians. Apostle Paul’s words are often cited at Christian weddings as testimony to the supremacy and power of love.  President Obama’s purpose in citing St. Paul was to wed Americans to his clarion call to come to the service of the nation in a dire hour of need. Yet on a deeper level the citation is more of a transformational call that asks us not to reassemble the vestiges of a broken past but to engage in the earnest work to grow into a more mature, sober and steadfast nation.

In the history of civilization the USA is a very young nation. Its been only 234 years since the America declared its independence to end colonial rule. As political cultures go we are but a precocious adolescent. Our adoringly daring and quixotic youthfulness has marveled the nations and people of the world. For the last century America has roamed about the aisles of the globe like a bull in a china shop at times seemingly ambivalent to the collateral damage the path of its will has wrought. The ego of an unrestrained adolescent is a difficult bull to tame. President Obama’s call to leave the childishness and sometimes foolish selfishness of youth is a call most worthy of our attention and may help to preserve this more perfect union for the future generations of citizens.

The stultifying behaviors Americans need to leave behind are numerous. None more so then the selfish sense of entitlement that warps our value system and cripples our sense of a shared humanity. Too many people believe that the pursuit of property is a divine right encoded into our cultural DNA entitling American’s to anything they can grab. Many believe this is codified in some celestial capitalist manifesto bill of rights that assures that we must be first in line, receive the greatest portion, can go through anyone or any thing to realize desires, can rationalize aggressive behavior with a socio-religio creedo “that God helps those who help themselves”, is recused from answering the question “when enough is actually enough”, and will act on the principle of “never ask permission because you can always apologize later”. Like a child tethered into a shopping cart seat grabbing everything off the supermarket shelves as his perplexed parent wanders down overstocked  isles  we need to recognize these behavior flaws and learn not to be slaves to them.

Many believe this sense of personal entitlement is the well earned dividend of American exceptionalism. But American exceptionalism is more a gift of grace then an entitled dividend. Yes America is an exceptional place because of its democratic ideals, affirmative culture and freedoms protected by our constitution. It is not about being above the rules all others must live by. American exceptionalism is about responsibility. This exceptionalism requires us to be stewards of our natural abundance and guardians of liberty’s light. The Pilgrims understood this well and thought that this would be the celestial yardstick by which the Beneficent One will judge the recipients of these divine gifts.

As a culture we have badly confused the meaning of freedom as a society with freedom to consume and acquire material things. Americans need to take only what one needs and bless their equitable share of apportionment. We need to share in the reward for responsibility that others assume while affording patience to let others equally deserving have their earned turn and make a genuine effort to give something back for the general good.

A definition of adulthood is one who accepts responsibility for choices. If American’s want to fight wars in Iraq we must be prepared to suffer the loss of opportunities the cost of war surely brings with it. If American’s don’t want to pay taxes they better be prepared to suffer the closing of the local firehouse, poor roads, dangerous bridges, decrepit schools, lax regulatory protections, no social security and masses of people falling through safety nets creating social discord and displacement. Mature adults prioritize what issues are most important and live with their choices. Americans need to make sober assessments of what is needed and discern wisely how it will act.

The healthy soul of a mature nation treasures the meaning of democracy and the responsibility its protection places on its citizens. That means serving on jury duty and voting in elections. That means getting involved in the schools and communities. That means preserving and strengthening public schools because the defeat of ignorance is liberty’s surest sentinel. That means transparency in government and an undying commitment to civil discourse and the protection of  liberty for all citizens.

Adults believe it is better to desire mercy then demand sacrifice. Americans must understand that the projection of its power as a nation is not measured in military capabilities but how effectively it can mitigate conflict with diplomacy, arbitration and the relentless pursuit of justice. Our nations expenditures and exertions in pursuit of war denigrates the respect for life, erodes our world leadership, bankrupts our treasury and defies the spirit of the people.

The time is now America. We must put away the childish things that prohibit our national growth. The clothes of our former selves no longer fit. We must don a new golden fleece that we alone can weave. As we take up the call of our new president to set aside childish things we will begin to perceive as we peer through the glass darkly a new vision of what we are capable of becoming. It is then that we will rightfully reclaim our birthright affirming that our nation is that shining light of liberty and freedom that cannot be extinguished.

That will be something to behold.

You Tube Video: Song of the Sirens, Go To Sleep Little Baby

Risk: refusing to grow up

January 23, 2009 Posted by | culture, democracy, folk, Obama | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barack Hussein Obama 44th President of the USA

Maps
Jasper Johns
No longer a nation of blue states and red states.

No longer a nation comprised of real Americans and the others.

No longer a nation of us and them.

No longer a nation ruled by fear.

No longer a nation steeped in suspicion and xenophobia.

Now One Nation Under God.

Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

Now a government answerable to its citizens.

May strength through peace be our watchword.

May freedom from fear be our blessing.

Let liberty and hope be the lamp that lights our path.

May knowledge, forbearance and faith
be a grace we confer upon a dark world.

May America rejoin the community of nations
as a practitioner of peace.

We salute our 44th President.

We wish him God Speed.

We pray for his success and his family’s safety.

May God bless the work of his hands and guide his mind.

May our nation cherish this blessed day.

You Tube Video:
Bruce Springsteen Seeger Session Band,
Jacobs Ladder

Risk: failure, partisanship, fear

January 20, 2009 Posted by | art, folk, holiday, Obama, politics | , , , | Leave a comment

Victory for Republic Workers

workers41MASSES

AMONG the mountains I wandered and saw blue haze and red crag and was amazed;  On the beach where the long push under the endless tide maneuvers, I stood silent; Under the stars on the prairie watching the Dipper slant over the horizon’s grass, I was full of thoughts.

Great men, pageants of war and labor, soldiers and workers, mothers lifting their children–these all I touched, and felt the solemn thrill of them.

And then one day I got a true look at the Poor, millions of the Poor,
patient and toiling; more patient than crags, tides, and stars;
innumerable, patient as the darkness of night–
and all broken, humble ruins of nations.

Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems

The laid off United Electrical Union workers who took over their shuttered Chicago workplace to receive separation compensation due them under the Federal WARN Act have been offered a settlement by Republic management. According to breaking stories, The Bank of America and JP Morgan have created a fund that will provide each Republic worker 8 weeks pay, any accrued vacation time and a continuation of health and welfare benefits for the next two months.

We thank the banks for making the funds available to redress the just grievance of the Republic workers. Unfortunately the close of this incident signals the beginning unemployment for the 300 Republic workers. In this economy the availability of well paying jobs will be difficult to secure. We wish them well in their search. We once again commend the Republic workers for standing up for their rights. Their steadfast commitment in the fight for justice is a courageous example of speaking truth to power and a lesson that power concedes nothing without a struggle. You are the salt of the earth. You are a light to the world. Thank you.

We wish the Republic workers a holiday filled with abundant joy.

You Tube Music Video: Pete Seeger, Union Maid

Risk: labor unions, bankruptcy, credit, unemployment, banking,labor unrest

December 10, 2008 Posted by | banking, bankruptsy, folk, poetry, unions | , , , , | Leave a comment

To The Barricades!

Thomas Hart Benton
Mine Strike
1934

Workers in the heat of struggle throughout the history of the labor movement have often cried “to the barricades” as a last resort to defend their rights, freedoms and protect their means of living. It is a signal that the interests of labor and capital are at distinct odds with each other. When an impasse is reached and the irreconcilable requirements of both parties are unable to be resolved through negotiation, workers take direct action with slowdowns, strikes, sit ins and takeovers as the only means to exert their will and protect their interest.

So it is with great sympathy that we hold up the workers and picketers at Republic Window and Door in Chicago. Last week the management of Republic informed their workers that due to the slowdown in the housing market they are going out of business and that the company cannot pay the workers any separation compensation due to lack of funds. In a radical action to protect separation benefits owed to them in accordance with federal law, Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN); workers have taken over the factory in a desperate attempt to secure a just separation settlement. The workers, many of Hispanic decent and members of the United Electrical Union, have barricaded themselves inside the factory in a kind of Battle of the Alamo of the US labor movement.

The timing and circumstances of Republic’s closing is unfortunate and is symptomatic of the country’s severe economic malaise. Ironically the projected severity of the economic downturn facing the US economy is the direct result of the deconstruction and dismantling of America’s manufacturing base. The rationalization of the US manufacturers that began in the 1980’s with Micheal Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert accompanied by a storied SWAT Team of vulture capitalists had to battle and undermine the political clout and power of labor unions to achieve their objectives. The erosion of union power accelerated as membership dropped and the demonization of unions became a political tool used by the Republican’s to attack their rivals in the pro labor Democratic Party. As Republican trickle down economics grew in ascendancy quality of life, wages, heath care and employment benefits for working people have fallen precipitously. The political attacks against unions continue as a large lobbying effort is underway to defeat The Employees Free Choice Act. Without strong unions working people are at risk and remain extremely vulnerable to the debilitating effects of the current recession.

Historically, Chicago has played a central role in the formation and development of the US labor movement. Chicago’s Haymarket Square Riots is a seminal event that propelled the development of the organized labor movement. It was critical to the rise of the American Federation of Labor and endowing unions with the political power to secure the 8 hour working day, better working conditions, decent wage scales and employment benefits. Today as the workers at Republic have walled themselves inside their perishing workplace in an attempt to be rightfully compensated for their exertions and service, Republics management must find a way to meet its commitment by respecting the dignity and economic well being of its former employees. Lets hope that this struggle going on in Chicago represents an awakening for Americas new found respect and support of unions and hopefully not its death knell.

Our prayers and best wishes are with the Republic workers; as they stand in defense for the rights and well being of all American workers. May God continue to bless them with dignity and may the unity of disenfranchised workers serve to assure a prosperity for themselves, their families, and our nation. For truly as it is written in the Gospel of Luke, the laborer is worthy of his pay.

May the Lord continue to bless them and keep them.

You Tube Video: Rachel Maddow, Republic Window and Doors

You Tube Music Video: Pete Seeger, Which Side Are You On?

You Tube music Video: Natalie Merchant, Which Side Are You On?

Risk: labor unions, recession, social safety net, manufacturing, WARN,


December 9, 2008 Posted by | folk, manufacturing, social unrest, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Odetta Crosses Over

Odetta Holmes
12/31/30-12/2/08

We extend our sympathies to Odetta’s family
and friends on the loss of this great woman.

We mourn the death of one of America’s great folk singers,
troubadour, artist and activist.

Odetta dedicated her life and art to serve the dispossessed
and those whose voices and stories are seldom heard and often ignored.

She will be missed, but her righteous life
and beautiful art will serve as an example for all who follow.

Odetta and her spirit will live on in our hearts and thoughts for evermore.

She is at peace and may God welcome her presence
adding her angelic voice to the eternal divine celestial chorus.

Peace and Prayers

You Tube Music Videos:

Newport Folk Festival

Waterboy

Midnight Special

Cotton Fields Back Home

Bourgeois Blues

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho

Amazing Grace

God Speed Sister Odetta

Risk: Ignoring Gods Call

December 4, 2008 Posted by | folk, obituary | , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude

An attitude of gratitude 

we need more of this

we strive we fret

we want to know bliss

look about you

see the glory of the day

share the abundance

fall down and pray

thank you dear lord

you have given me much

appoint me to help you

heal and too touch

the Friends often say

all God hast is thou

the harvest is great

help me steer the plough

Happy Thanksgiving

You Tube Music:

We Gather Together

Risk: selfishness

November 27, 2008 Posted by | faith, folk, holiday | | Leave a comment