Last week, while presenting at a privately hosted DNC fundraiser in Washington, D.C., First Lady Michelle Obama was heckled by a gay rights advocate. And, Instead of ignoring her and continuing on, Mrs. Obama instead walked off the stage, confronted the heckler, and threatened to leave the event. In other words, Michelle Obama’s proverbial, “don’t come for me unless I send for you” card came out. The poor heckler didn’t stand a chance. Listen to the soundbite below starting at 1:20:
The heckler, who was later identified as Ellen Sturtz, a pro-LGBTQ activist representing the GetEQUAL organization, was demanding that President Obama follow-through on his campaign promises to provide equal rights for the LGBTQ community. She was asking for an executive order from a President... who wasn’t even present at the event. Yeah, good luck with that. Mrs. Obama had a direct response for her. She made it clear that heckling was something she would not tolerate, saying, “One of the things I don’t do well is this. Do you understand?” She then walked up to Sturtz and said, “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.”
Garnering the ire of the audience, Sturtz continued to cause a scene as she was forcibly removed. She shouted that she was simply a “lesbian looking for federal equality before I die.” While her actions may have seemed a bit outlandish given that this was a private event where guests had paid large sums to attend, some have expressed support for Sturtz. It is true that President Obama has fallen short as it pertains to equal rights for the LGBTQ community. But for me, the manner in which Sturtz conveyed her message undermined her cause.
Given the fact that Mrs. Obama has enjoyed relatively high approval ratings amidst a political storm in DC, it appears odd that any group would blatantly disrespect her in such a manner; especially since Mrs. Obama has no direct impact on public policy. In essence, Sturtz had nothing to gain from heckling Mrs. Obama aside from negative press and an embarrassing escort out of the event, as well as a financial loss on the ticket she purchased to be there.
Lastly, something must be said for the way that the First Lady handled Sturtz. It isn’t everyday that anyone literally walks toward a heckler during their speech, let alone a person of Mrs. Obama’s standing. Would any other First Lady have to contend with such grandiose disrespect? Likely not. Some have credited racial differences for this disturbance.
One thing's for certain: Sturtz had no idea who Michelle Obama really was until that day. Born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, this First Lady made it clear that she is not one to be messed with. And I bet hecklers will be wary of testing her again.
In recent weeks, antagonistic behavior from North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, has threatened to undo the truce held between the United Nations (UN) and the small country since the Korean War ended in 1953. North Korea has performed three unsanctioned missile tests in the past few months. And, in response to sanctions from the United Nations Security Council, they have threatened to lethally attack United States forces in the province. Whoa.
Many have questioned if the threats are real or pure propaganda. In either case, the ongoing altercations between this aggressive nation and the UN have left both allies and opponents befuddled.
These threats have not only been worrisome for the United States and the UN, they have also put South Korea on the defensive. Officials in Seoul, South Korea have been prepared for a potential attack since “North Korea's hint to foreign diplomats in Pyongyang to send personnel out of the country.” Pyongyang is the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or North Korea. Reportedly, the intelligence South Korean officials received indicated that an attack would occur on April 10th.
Some in South Korea believe that the posturing from North Korea could just be a scare tactic. Calling the threats a “headline strategy,” a spokesperson for the South Korean government stated clearly that South Korea is prepared to respond “many times over” if needed. But, the spokesperson also noted that North Korea’s actions appear to be superficial. For the most part, both North and South Korea appear to remain poised to strike at the mere hint that the other has increased its threat level in a meaningful way.
The United States regularly performs missile and military exercises in the region. Since the tensions with North Korea have escalated, the Obama Administration made the conscious effort to diminish a pronounced military presence. US officials have reportedly attempted to reduce the imminence of war in the tense region by delaying previously scheduled military tests. Simultaneously, the Administration publicly released photos of military vessels in the Korean Peninsula supposedly to demonstrate their readiness for a potential attack.
Surprisingly, these actions have spurred soaring praises from bi-partisan politicians. Prominent Republican leaders have spoken out in support of the President’s actions towards North Korea. While previously in disagreement with President Obama’s international defense acumen, US officials appear to be standing behind him during this precarious dispute.
A key player in this equation is China. The fledgling relationship between the Communist nation and the United States has been well-documented over the years. But it is China’s wariness of the United States’ role in Asia which could potentially change the outcome of North Korea’s military threats. The Obama Administration has become increasingly concerned that China’s support for North Korea could be shifting. As a result, the Administration increased their communication with China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, confirming that either Mr. Xi will have to admonish North Korean military actors in Pyongyang, or they will face even more American military in the area. Only having been in office for a few weeks, Mr. Xi has much to prove to the United States. To date, Chinese officials have been relatively silent in regards to their support or disdain for North Korea’s recent rhetoric.
In the end, China’s enforcement of sanctions placed on North Korea will decide how the United States proceeds with its allies and enemies in Asia. Since the United States and China have the most to gain or lose if North Korea truly does “go nuclear,” each nation’s countermeasures and nuclear prevention efforts will either usher this quarrel to completion, or signal a major international conflict. The hope is that the former will prevail.
On Thursday, outgoing Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, formally announced plans to lift the ban on women in combat. This change to the current male-only restrictions on combat, artillery, and brigade positions will have a drastic impact on the number and level of professional military opportunities available to female soldiers.
Under the Clinton Administration, former Defense Secretary, Les Aspin, issued the 1994 “policy memo” which “excluded women from assignments to units below the brigade level if the unit would be engaged in direct combat.” Championing gender equality and an overall effort to officially give women the credit they have already earned as active service members, lifting this ban is expected to open over 200,000 new jobs to current female soldiers.
Although liberal-leaning members of Congress and President Obama’s administration have nothing but support for this change, other more conservative politicians have major critiques for the radical change. This includes concerns about periods of forced nudity within a dual-gender troop on missions abroad under extreme conditions. In this scenario, women may have to expose themselves at particularly vulnerable times, which could have damaging psychological and social impacts on the entire group.
Many military veterans and experts have cited troop cohesion and trust as imperative aspects of combat success. If these women begin to feel isolated, embarrassed, exposed, or exploited, it could have destructive consequences for the team.
Comparatively, combat members are the most likely to be captured as prisoners of war (POWs). Now, it goes without saying that the horrors of captivity are terrifying regardless of one’s gender. But the possibility of rape behind enemy lines doesn’t exist under today’s current structure. With Panetta’s new efforts, this circumstance could not only exist, but become a regular facet of military service.
To be clear, none of the opponents of this policy change are saying that women are unqualified. And many expect that women will likely avoid many of these positions for the reasons mentioned. Though some have expressed concerns about the requirements which will have to be met by these soldiers, their overwhelming critiques have been about physical proximity to the opposite sex and personal security. The last thing an active duty troop needs is a segmented or “clique-ish” team, right?
So, though this assertion of power is heartening for its efforts to give women equal footing in an institution which has a checkered past of its treatment of women, it does inspire some pause. With high levels of sexual assault and an increase in unwanted pregnancies, these women face extremely unique circumstances which could lead to tribulations down the road.
There is absolutely no doubt that women service members are due an equal amount of respect as their male counterparts. Not only that, it is clear we all agree with equality of opportunity for women who have dedicated their careers and risked their lives for this country. However, does this very liberal move do more for symbolism than it does for the very women it is meant to serve? It is unsure at this point. There is a lot more red-tape to clear before the policy has any real impact on female soldiers.
As such, no one can possibly know today what these decisions will mean tomorrow. But, for the safety and security of our soldiers, one can only hope for the best. Equality is usually a good thing. Hopefully it stays that way.
On April 29, 1992, the city of Los Angeles caught on fire. I was only seven but I still have a few memories from that chaotic time. I remember the billowing smoke near my grandmother’s house in Compton, tanks rolling down Long Beach Boulevard, and receiving three silk shirts from an aunt who swiped them out of a department store. But the strongest memory I have from that time is the sense of fear that took over me and my family. I wasn’t old enough to totally understand what was happening, but I knew one thing for sure: a lot of folks were angry because four policemen were found innocent after they beat a black man – a beating that was captured on tape.
As I grew older, the details about what occurred were made clear. Rodney King became a household name and the charred buildings near my grandmother’s house were replaced with new ones. But the fear that I had as a child still lingers. Mostly because the racial tension and economic conditions that plagued parts of Los Angeles 20 years ago are similar to, if not worse than, what they are today.
While the 1992 riots were definitely about crime and police behavior, poor economic conditions, poor education, and years of frustration over unequal protection under the law were also contributing factors. Today, crime is down and the relationship between the LAPD and the community has improved, but other than that, many believe not much has changed.
“Are we producing a better group of students? No. Are there access to more jobs than in that era? Probably not. Are there higher paying jobs? Probably not,” former LAPD Police Chief Bernard Parks says in a new and gripping VH1 Rock Documentary, “Uprising: Hip-Hop and The LA Riots.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Parks is right. The median income of blacks in South L.A. is lower than it was in 1992 and the unemployment rate is higher. As an educator who spent nearly five years working with teens in South Central, I can attest to the dire state of some schools in the area. Kids are frustrated and failing. And just as tragic, the recent shooting of Trayvon Martin, a black teen in Florida, is as heartbreaking as the 1991 shooting of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, which many believe helped spark the six days of violence following the Rodney King verdict.
Both Martin and Harlins were unarmed when they were killed and both cases sparked national outrage. Thankfully, one glaring difference between the Harlins and Martin case is that while people rioted and looted in 1992, the protests surrounding Martin’s death have been mostly peaceful. All kinds of people rallied together to vent their frustrations in communities throughout the country. The images of folks donning hoodies are remarkably different than the images of four men pummeling Reginald Denny on the corner of Florence and Normandie.
While the protests are peaceful these days, the fact that there is still a need – 20 years later – to march, sing and hold signs for the same issues causes great concern. If the Martin’s shooter doesn’t go to jail like Harlins’s shooter didn’t go to jail 20 years ago, will people forget the costly aftermath of the riots and set the city on fire one more time? I hope not, but only time will tell. If conditions don’t improve for struggling communities, tensions can certainly boil over, again.
After two days of jury deliberation, Dr. Conrad Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Like everything else regarding the death of Michael Joseph Jackson, there has been speculation over the actual sentence Murray will receive. It could be anywhere from the maximum four years in prison to a year of house arrest—due to overcrowding in California prisons. But while the fans crowded outside the courthouse yesterday cheered when the verdict was announced, this trial and its verdict seem to fall short of the closure we all were hoping for.
In fact, the evidence presented during the trial brought up more troubling questions than it answered. For example, Michael Jackson had more than six doctors treating him at a time, providing him with drugs and medications, and none of them seemed to be aware of what the other was doing. One of the main tactics of the defense was to place the blame on Dr. Arnold Kline, who they said gave Jackson 900 milligrams of Demerol in three days. The normal dosage for an adult is 50 to 150 milligrams. Doctor Kline denied it (shocker) saying that he was away at the time, but someone else in his clinic may have done it. Word?
There is also the fact that Propofol, the drug that killed Jackson, was being administered to him in his bedroom, and apparently in hotel rooms. Propofol is a very powerful anaesthetic used when people have surgery, and should only be administered in a hospital where a patient can be monitored.
Also troubling is the description of Jackson’s numerous cosmetic procedures and their side-effects—collapsed nose and jaw line, makeup tattoos, Botox injections in places I didn’t know you could get injections….
The totality of the evidence left me feeling like it wasn’t just Dr. Murray who was guilty. It was all of the doctors that had Michael in their care and allowed him to fall to such a state. What about the doctors that gave him extra drugs on the low low just because he could pay? It isn’t just Michael Jackson who was affected. What about the doctors who cater to famous patients with body dysmorphic disorder just to get another check? People always talk about how celebrities get different treatment within the legal system, but it seems like some in the health care system have become predators on the rich and famous.
Dr. Murray was found guilty of negligence, but there were so many others around Michael Jackson that let many disturbing things slide. With the close of the Conrad Murray case, I didn’t feel like cheering like the other fans. Instead, I hoped that the next time doctors everywhere would think twice about making a quick buck when they should be helping people--even the famous ones--get healthy.
In case you missed it, there was a huge protest on Wall Street this past Saturday. An estimated 5,000 people marched through the Financial District in New York, chanting, “We are 99%” and carrying signs that read “Shut down Wall Street” and “End corporate warfare”. The protest, dubbed “Occupy Wall Street”, continues on with five arrests being made yesterday.
Have you heard about this? Unlike the Emmy Awards, there has been little media coverage of the protest and if it is mentioned on air, it’s minimized and attributed to a “few liberals”. But this protest is much bigger than that; it is a rare public demonstration of the outrage many Americans feel about the unchecked corruption by U.S. corporate interests. Like the mean, stingy bully on the playground in grade school, a very small group of wealthy folk in this country control all the money. Rich bankers and (I love this description) “Wall Street fat cats” enjoy their yachts and
bailouts mansions while millions are unemployed, in debt, hungry, broke, etc. If it hasn’t sunk in yet just how greedy those at the top are, check out this infographic of what the richest 400 households--who collectively own $1.37 TRILLION dollars--could buy us. Now examine the current state of unemployment according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (8.9 percent), adult women (8.0 percent), teenagers (25.4 percent), whites (8.0 percent), blacks (16.7 percent), and Hispanics (11.3 percent) showed little or no change in August. The jobless rate for Asians was 7.1 percent.
Dang. Young Blacks and Hispanics should be especially pissed, but that is a different article. This diverse group of protesters is so angered by the control of the rich minority over the rest of us that they plan to sleep on the streets for the next few months until a change is made. And while the mainstream media
has been told to continues to ignore this outpouring of dissent, protesters, inspired by other dissidents in Tahrir Square, are taking to the internet to gain momentum for their cause . The Guardian reports that #OCCUPYWALLSTREET was trending over the weekend and when protesters tweeted that they were hungry, a nearby pizza place received $2800 in orders from supporters in under an hour.
We all have a lot going on in our lives but when we hear that there are 5,000 Americans--of various ages, races, and backgrounds—protesting around the clock to get the attention of those in power, it may be time to check in on the topic. And this isn’t just an American issue. People around the world are watching in admiration of this radical group as they rally against corporate greed. According to Bloomberg News, protests are already being planned for financial districts in Madrid, London, Milan, and Paris:
There is a shared feeling on the streets around the world that the global economy is a Ponzi scheme run by and for Big Finance. People everywhere are waking up to the realization that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system in which speculative financial transactions add up, each day, to $1.3tn (50 times more than the sum of all the commercial transactions). Meanwhile, according to a United Nations report, "in the 35 countries for which data exist, nearly 40% of jobseekers have been without work for more than one year". (The Guardian)
Whatever your opinion on corporate interest may be, we should all appreciate and admire those with the courage to organize and peacefully show dissent. Throughout history, groups that have undergone long periods of time feeling powerless for one reason or another have taken to the streets to get their cause noticed. There have been many times that it’s worked, shedding light on a problem and affecting change. Isn’t it interesting that the mainstream media saw fit to ignore this protest? Share your thoughts below and read more about the mission to Occupy Wall Street here.