Wednesday, October 30th, 2002


That’s how death seems to roll. Radio is now reporting Jason Mizell, better known as Jam Master Jay, was shot in the head and killed in a Queens studio just a couple of hours ago.

I also got word this morning that a towering Asian American, Dr. Chang-Lin Tien, passed away. Dr. Tien was a shining role model for many of us. He fought many difficult battles for justice on behalf of Asian Americans and oppressed people with the greatest of integrity. He was always the embodiment of grace, style, and joy. He will be deeply missed.

Here’s the AP wire this morning on Dr. Tien’s passing.

HEADLINE: Former Berkeley chancellor dead at 67

BYLINE: By MICHELLE LOCKE, Associated Press Writer



Chang-Lin Tien, who became the first Asian-American to head a major U.S. university in his seven years as chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, has died. He was 67.

Tien, who had a debilitating stroke after surgery for a brain tumor in fall 2000, died Tuesday at Kaiser Permanente hospital in Redwood City, Berkeley officials said in a statement released Wednesday.

An internationally known expert on heat transfer and thermal science – he helped developed the insulating tiles for the space shuttle – Tien was also famous for his support of social causes, speaking out in favor of affirmative action before and after UC’s governing board of regents dropped race-based admissions in 1995.

“His energy and optimism, his willingness to fight for the principles he cherished, and his loyalty and love for this campus made it stronger and better,” Berkeley chancellor Robert M. Berdahl said in a statement.

A small man with a big smile, Tien was well known on campus as an unabashed Cal booster. He was a cheerleading, fist-pumping fixture at Berkeley games and rallies and was apt to squeeze an ebullient “Go Bears!” – delivered with the Chinese accent that never left him despite decades in the United States – into speeches and conversations of every stripe.

The 5-foot-6 Tien, who for one year played semiprofessional basketball in Taiwan, used to joke that his one frustrated ambition was to play in the NBA. “I worked really hard but my height never changed in the upward direction,” he told Asian Week in 1997.

Born in Wuhan, China, on July 24, 1935, Tien’s family fled the Japanese to Shanghai during World War II. In 1949, after civil war put Chinese communists in control, they fled again, this time moving to Taiwan.

In 1956, Tien traveled to Kentucky to get his master’s degree at the University of Louisville. Living in the south in the 1950s, he felt discrimination firsthand, an experience he never forgot.

In a 1990 interview with The Associated Press he recalled standing in confusion before water fountains labeled “whites only” and “colored.”

Which one, he wondered, was for him?

A professor took to calling him “Chinaman.” Tien told him to stop.

Tien got his Ph.D. degree from Princeton University in 1959. He finished fast, 20 months. He had an incentive. His family had forbidden Tien and fiancee Di-Hwa to marry until the doctoral degree was his.

That same year, Tien joined the Berkeley faculty, where he would spend 38 of his 40-year teaching career, leaving briefly in 1988 to serve as executive vice chancellor of UC Irvine. In 1990, he was appointed Berkeley chancellor.

In his first year Tien dealt with a fraternity house fire that killed three students and a hostage taking at a hotel bar near campus in which a gunman killed one student and injured seven others before being fatally shot by police.

In 1992, a local activist with a history of mental illness broke into Tien’s campus residence wielding a machete. Police shot and killed the woman.

In one of his less serious crises, he also dealt with the Naked Guy, a student who briefly led a go-bare movement until Tien countered with a nudity ban.

One of the biggest challenges Tien faced was financial, as the California recession of the early 1990s shrank state education funding. Tien put his formidable fund-raising skills to work, helping bring in millions in donations.

In 1995, Berkeley and the rest of the UC system plunged into the national spotlight with the regents’ tense 14-10 vote to drop UC’s affirmative action programs. Tien argued for keeping race-based admissions and later publicly lamented the drop in the number of black and Hispanic students at Berkeley following the vote.

In 1996, Tien submitted his resignation as chancellor, saying he had accomplished his goals.

Later that year, he was in the running for Energy Secretary in President Clinton’s cabinet. But that did not materialize after it was reported he had helped relatives of Mochtar Riady, an Indonesian businessman at the heart of a controversy over Democratic campaign financing involving Asian money.

Riady asked Tien for help getting three relatives into Berkeley and also donated $200,000 to Cal. The donation, which was part of $8.5 million from several Asian philanthropists, was legal and Tien was never accused of any impropriety, but there was speculation the connection sank Tien’s chances.

Although he never held a cabinet office, Tien earned international recognition for his scientific work in radiative heat transfer. He worked on the Saturn rocket boosters developed in the 1960s to send machines and man into space, helping estimate how much the exhaust plume would heat the base of the rocket. In the 1970s, he worked on the problem of keeping the thousands of insulating tiles glued to the space shuttle to withstand the heat of reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.

Tien was a visionary in the field of thermal sciences, said Richard O. Buckius, a former Tien student and now head of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“He marked out new high-impact areas, he did seminal work in those areas, and then he led everybody to the next area,” Buckius said.

Tien became a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1976 and was elected in 1991 as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1999, the International Astronomical Union approved the naming of an asteroid after him.

Tien is survived by his wife; three children, Norman, Phyllis and Christine, and four grandchildren.

posted by @ 8:09 pm | 0 Comments

Friday, October 25th, 2002

This just in. Paul Wellstone is dead in a plane crash. He was in a hotly contested race for the Senate, which the Dems currently have a majority in. Wellstone was one of the most progressive, principled voices in the Senate. It’s a huge loss. If you ask me when I’m not thinking straight, I might tell you I think there’s something really fishy about all this. In any case, here’s a fine memorial and analysis from AlterNet’s Don Hazen.

posted by @ 1:17 pm | 0 Comments

Friday, October 18th, 2002


The San Francisco Weekly Says Yes

It’s a rare article in the corporate media—even the corporate “alternative” weekly media—that takes visionary radical youth work with more than a grain of salt. More often than not, today’s young social justice leaders are treated with more ironic eyebrow-raising than genuine respect. Take Peter Byrne’s hit-piece in the San Francisco Weekly this past week on School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL), a nonprofit group of under-thirtysomethings based out of West Oakland’s Mandela Village who train hip-hop generation youths to build a movement.

SOUL functions with a simple premise: to raise hell effectively, you not only need to organize your rallies, you need to organize yourselves. In this day and age, that means not only developing cutting-edge skills and issue-frames, it means keeping your organization funded and your staff stable. Environmentalists have a term for this: sustainability. History is littered with the corpses of well-meaning organizations that ran out of dough.

Byrne takes SOUL’s need to sustain progressive work through fund-raising as “a contradiction”. He writes, “A score of gold-plated, capitalist foundations regularly pump large sums of money into Mandela Village, even though SOUL promotes anti-capitalist ideas—including the redistribution of the world’s wealth to the poor—that, if made real, would mean the end of private property, not to mention philanthropic foundations.”

Instead, Byrne sides with SOUL’s critics, whom he tellingly describes as “old-timers who are wary of those who feast from the hands they are supposed to bite.” These baby boomers finger-wag at SOUL’s apparently money-grubbing revolutionaries. One old hippie compares the women activists to “poverty pimps”. But while 60s poverty pimps paid for fur coats and high-heeled shoes with government subsidies, SOUL schoolers might be happy to get free promotional T-shirts from their favorite major-label conscious-rap artists. Byrne’s article is utterly devoid of context. It’s easy to take cheap shots when you conveniently leave out 30 years of corporate globalization, governmental disinvestment and civic disengagement.

But Byrne is not merely a fallen liberal nostalgic for the supposedly radical 60s. He’s out to discredit these hip-hop generation rebels, P.J. O’ Rourke style, by trotting out the old tropes geezers used to use to delegitimize the long-haired rebels of the 60s and glazing them with a thick coat of irony. Tropes like:

*Activists are merely confused, guilt-ridden kids working out issues of family and authority on someone else’s time and dime. After detailing each of the SOUL sisters’ personal stories—often marked by tragedy and family strife—he notes that SOUL pays its staff salaries and offers them health benefits and paid sick leave. Horrors! That’s not suffering for The Movement! He then cites Maria Poblet—”SOUL’s ideal of a leader for the 21st century: young, female, intellectual, immigrant, idealist…and salaried”—who worries that she makes a bit more than some of the families on General Assistance that she organizes. Judging by paltry New Times standards, Mr. Byrne likely still makes at least 50% more than these organizers do. But it’s not his guilt that’s in question here.

*Young radicals are hypocrites who practice exactly the opposite of what they preach. Byrne says the SOUL borrows “techniques and language from the corporate business world”. He cites no proof, but presumably is referring to words like (duh) “empowerment” and techniques like (double duh) workshops, whose allegedly corporate provenance he doesn’t note either. But even worse, they take money from foundations whose endowments were built on the backs of those who still struggle to be free. Funny, back in the 60s, they used to call this “the redistribution of the world’s wealth to the poor”.

It is a bizarre notion that requires one to bite a hand only if it is doing nothing but slapping you silly. This is a bourgie idea, of course, but there are havens for it on the left, often amongst young, upper middle-class romantics whose main struggle in the morning is choosing which Birkenstocks to wear with which Patagonia. If they can throw a rock for anti-capitalism, who says old rich farts might not want to give money to them and their poorer, urban counterparts to do it some more? And why, on the face of it, is that always wrong?

More to the point, since the 60s, right-wingers—philanthropists or activists—haven’t worried about little things like ideological purity. Instead they have poured billions of dollars—billions, mind you—into building up activist, organizing, academic, and media institutions to implement a vast agenda. They have taken that money to push for the corporatization of the public space, the defunding of social services, including youth programs, the deracination of education, and the criminalization of young people and people of color. According to a study done by the People for the American Way, they have also used that money in order to, as one conservative put it, work toward “extinguishing” the funding sources of progressive groups. And so-called liberals (and some of their so-called “alternative” weeklies) have jumped on the bandwagon, supporting reactionary initiatives like Propositions 209 and 21, while reducing their charity to progressive causes.

And yet Byrne asks if these social justice activists—who fund five vibrant organizations, staff dozens of organizers, and train thousands of activists on less than $700,000 a year—are hypocritical for receiving money from the relatively teenier progressive foundations. The real question Byrne should have asked is this: How shall we fund The Movement? Until the left builds individual donor networks that can rival those on the right, foundations will—of necessity and not without tensions—play a role in supporting work for social change.

If Byrne has a better idea—we can reasonably assume that he doesn’t—he isn’t telling. And you’re not likely to find one soon in The New Times’ owned San Francisco Weekly, a chain which has become a haven for ex-liberals who are defining the political “alternative” to alternative. This article, in fact, is a good example of how far some “alt”-weeklies have fallen: it uses the investigative tools once deployed to uncover corporate greed and government corruption to bring down po’, broke, social justice activists. Byrne’s article might read like a parody of the once-mighty alt-weekly expose if it weren’t so malicious.

This question of funding the movement is not merely an ideological one. It has to do with real day-to-day choices activists inevitably have to make. If I give my life to The Movement, an activist must always ask, what will it give to me? Inevitably, far too many progressives flee political work because they decide, for a variety of reasons—money not being an inconsequential one—that the activist life is not sustainable.

Organizations like SOUL are correct to model the democracy they would like to see in their own work practices. It’s a process that is not only about participatory decision-making, but about how we value work and working. An organization that mistreats its workers by starving them and overworking them and psychologically battering them is not revolutionary, whether it’s a corporation or a collective. Shall the rest of the progressive community continue to exploit people who work for social change? Would we be moving toward a better, more just world if all the progressive activists were starving and burnt out? If you, like Byrne, believe so, you too are part of the problem.

posted by @ 3:48 pm | 0 Comments

Friday, October 11th, 2002

This Alternet piece, “Labor Champions Reform as Big Business Squirms”, is a bit dated, but drops one very interesting fact: “In July the Gallup Organization found that 38 percent of Americans consider big business to be the “biggest threat to the future of the country,” the highest figure in 48 years of polling.”

Is there any wonder why Bush is in a mad dash to go to war? And, as usual, the Democrats (thanks DiFi) would rather play chase-the-idiot than actually try to represent where the people are at.

It’s a shitty day. Thank god for Doonesbury, Ted Rall, and my man Lalo Alcaraz .

posted by @ 9:11 am | 0 Comments

Monday, October 7th, 2002


Ok so maybe this isn’t taking the high road…but since I just got back from a weekend conference discussing the ills of media monopolization, this article in the New York Times, “Alternative Weeklies Divide Turf” gives me a nice reason to vent some steam I’ve been gathering in over a decade of writing for alt-weeklies.

Alt-weeklies mostly emerged as a way of meeting great goals: 1) providing a progressive foil against the mainstream, 2) representing lefty politics, and cutting-edge arts and culture of local communities through covering stories never told by the corporate mainstream media, and 3) building an enlightened business model — by becoming a marketing vehicle for local, small businesses, and people-connecting mechanisms (i.e. personal ads!) — in other words, being a manifestation of the whole “small is beautiful” ethic.

That era ended about a decade ago. Now, as the Times notes, the Village Voice Media and the New Times–the two monsters left in the game–have slowed down their competition. These $100+ million companies have declared a truce by each agreeing to close one of their magazines in areas where they have been going head to head. Specifically, New Times agreed to shut down the New Times LA, which has been going head to head with the Voice’s LA Weekly. The Voice agreed to shut down the Cleveland Free Times which has been fighting the New Times’ Cleveland Scene. Can anyone say collusion?

In radio, of course, Clear Channel has been buying up radio stations to remove competition and either sterilizing or changing the formats. Newspapers, same story. Alt-weeklies, which should have remained independent voices, have gone the same route.

In the short run, of course, the shutting down of New Times isn’t going to send the editors of the LA Weekly on a dead run to the right. But in the long run, this is f-ed up news for freelancers, especially younger voices. There are less venues for new writers to break in, magazines have no incentive to keep competitive freelance rates, and editors can afford to get lazy. Hell, they already are! When’s the last time you read an article in an alt-weekly about a band you really cared about, let alone one that was *interesting*? In Los Angeles and Cleveland, your long odds have been doubled.

As it is, freelancers get treated horribly. Rates have gone down with many magazines in the past three years, and outlets have dropped. Accounting people take much longer to pay these smaller checks. (Not to mention the indignity of chasing after piddly checks from these disrespectful, brain-dead jerks.) Very nice, fresh interns are exploited to do more copy for free, squeezing out older, seasoned freelancers who get disagreeable about the increasingly shitty treatment they suffer.

Even before New Times jumped on the scene–a chain whose editorial content has shifted right to match its labor policies, alt-weeklies have discouraged, harassed, or destroyed unionizing in their shops. The biggest offenders include some of the most editorially liberal papers in the most liberal cities whose nice, liberal readerships would be shocked to know about their alt-weekly publishers’ shady history and continued thievery.

Readers who deserve outlets for what remains of independent weekly journalism (another topic for another screed) have not been helped by the corporatization of the field. The Village Voice Media company has eliminated a third of its titles in the last three years. And this rush towards economies of scale is not over. As one COO admits, “Maybe we’re just dumb, but we have never seen the economies of scale.” Bottom-line vultures believe the industry will only reach those economies when one company owns most of the papers. The article asserts, “banks and private equity firms backing the respective chains will expect to cash out within several years and one or both of the chains could be sold.”

Yeah, I’m kinda angry. Shouldn’t you be?


A funny note in the ongoing hip-hopization of the world. These guys at Headline News clearly have not read Fab 5 Freddy’s “Fresh Fly Flavor”.

posted by @ 8:59 am | 0 Comments

Thursday, October 3rd, 2002


Here is information on the new LAPD police chief, William Bratton, from anti-police brutality activists from New York City’s communities of color. He is considered a “liberal” by police chief standards, especially considering he was ousted by former Mayor Giuliani. But Bratton’s history is not clean, as you’ll see…

William Bratton was NYC’s Police Commissioner from Jan. 10, 1994 to April 14, 1996. He was just appointed Police Commissioner in LA. Below are flyers/statements that were put out by the Justice Committee, summarizing his history in NYC.




Police Commissioner Bratton frequently speaks about “community policing” and his commitment to root out corruption and brutality in the NYPD. Let’s look at his record.

Cases he inherited and has done nothing about

The Giuliani/Bratton administration came into office and inherited a number of cases that had occurred earlier but had not yet been resolved. Some cases, like the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum, have been given maximum attention. Others, involving people of color, have not received intense police attention. This is a racial double-standard.

Manuel Mayi. A Queens College honor student, Manuel Mayi, was beaten to death by a racist gang in Corona, Queens in March 1991. His murderers are still free. Despite promises by Mayor Giuliani to the Mayi family, there has not been an intensified police investigation. We have the name of two people from the gang that killed Manuel Mayi. One is now a cadet in the Police Academy! No one in the NYPD is interested in this information. No one is in jail for the murder of Manuel Mayi.

Howard Beach Racial Firebombing. In July 1995, a Howard Beach home that was purchased by a Puerto Rican family, was burned to the ground in what was characterized as “racially-motivated arson.” Commissioner Bratton has not spoken about this crime. There has been no on-going police investigation. No one is in jail.

Beatings of officers of color by white cops. In November 1991, police officers Antonio Echevestre and Scott Thompson were brutally beaten by a drunken mob of off-duty cops. One member of the mob, Patrick Brosnan, later became part of Mayor Giuliani’s campaign security team. In the upside-down world of the NYPD, charges were brought against Echevestre and Thompson and not against the drunken cops who beat them. These charges are still pending. Even inside the NYPD, there is violence and discrimination against people of color.

Cases that occurred since he took charge of the NYPD

The Mollen Commission, a government body, documented a link between corruption and brutality. It recommended a strong independent body with full investigative and subpoena power to monitor police corruption and brutality. Giuliani and Bratton oppose this. The 46th Precinct in the Bronx was singled out for attention by the Mollen Commission. One officer there was called “the mechanic” by other officers because he had a reputation for “tuning up” (beating) people. Despite the Mollen Commission’s findings and his claims of “concern”, Commissioner Bratton has done nothing in the 46th Precinct. As a result:

Anthony Baez–killed by 46th Precinct police. Anthony Baez was killed by an illegal police chokehold. Officer Francis Livoti, who has since been indicted, was supposed to be under departmental “observation” because of his history of violence (including an attack on a superior officer). However, the sergeant that was riding with him the night he killed Anthony Baez did nothing while the illegal chokehold was applied.

Anthony Rosario & Hilton Vega–killed by 46th Precinct police. These two young Puerto Ricans were shot in the back, 14 and 8 times. After their execution, the NYPD carried out a character assassination against them. One of the officers who emptied his gun into them was Patrick Brosnan. Again, an “official” police coverup is protecting him. Mayor Giuliani and Police Commissioner Bratton have repeatedly refused to discuss Brosnan’s role in the shootings.

HUNTER COLLEGE STUDENTS BEATEN. A peaceful demonstration by Hunter College Students protesting the budget cuts was attacked by police on March 15. 8 students were arrested. 1 was injured.

Police Brutality. Under Bratton’s “leadership,” police brutality complaints have gone up 37% citywide. In some precincts, however, the increase is much more. “Excessive force complaints in the 46th Precinct dumped 64.5 percent from 31 to 51. Overall complaints there, including excessive force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language, jumped 56%.” (Newsday, 2/9/65)






2,000 Expected at Racial Justice Day Rally 1996

At tomorrow’s RACIAL JUSTICE DAY RALLY (City Hall, 4 -5:30 pm), families of police brutality victims will criticize the policies and actions of the NYPD under the leadership of outgoing Commissioner William Bratton. The criticisms include:

* Police brutality and police killings of unarmed youth of color have increased under Commissioner Bratton.

* Commissioner Bratton claims to have reduced crime, but police brutality is a crime. In the name of “reducing street crime,” we have been asked to accept an increase of police crime.

* Bratton’s “quality of life” sweeps have resulted in more than 98,000 juvenile arrests. 80% of these were for non-violent offenses (such as disorderly conduct, loitering, not having i.d.); and 50% were so minor that only a summons was issued. During these “quality of life” sweeps young people’s civil rights are routinely violated.

* Commissioner Bratton has ignored racial crimes against people of color.

* Commissioner Bratton has ignored bias crimes against gays and lesbians.

* Commissioner Bratton has ignored the anti-corruption recommendations of the Mollen Commission; and has failed to mount a vigorous anti-corruption campaign inside the NYPD.

* Commissioner Bratton has undermined the Civilian Complaint Review Board by refusing to even read their findings in the cases of Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega.

* Commissioner Bratton has ignored the problems of racial and gender discrimination WITHIN the Police Department.

posted by @ 2:48 pm | 0 Comments

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