Monday, December 14, 2009


“As a black member of the media, I know what I’m expected to do today — shout that Gill’s hiring as Kansas’ new football coach is a bold step for college football mankind, a terrific hire by Lew Perkins and the culmination of Martin Luther King’s dream.” – Jason Whitlock

I just finished reading Jason Whitlock’s column in the Kansas City Star concerning the recent hiring of Turner Gill as the new head football coach at the University of Kansas. Many of you might know Mr. Whitlock as the controversial sports writer who has weighed in on some very controversial topics such as the Jena 6, the Don Imus affair, and the Mark Mangino firing. I wrote a diary concerning Mr. Whitlock’s Jena article and thought that he had reached his lowest point as a journalist. However, his column concerning the hiring of Coach Gill I think has taken him to a new all time low.

Mr. Whitlock is entitled to his opinion as to the qualifications of Coach Gill, but as his quote demonstrates Mr. Whitlock has decided to forego journalistic integrity for the sudden fame he has received as the Morton Downey Jr. of sportswriters. He begins his article looking for controversy and a fight and if one isn’t present he wants to create one. My guess is that Mr. Whitlock has witnessed the rise to fame of another former radio sports personality Rush Limbaugh and has decided that controversy can also be his ticket to fame and fortune. The only problem with controversy is that it is a double-edged sword and certainly in today’s newstainment market controversy does sell and gets you page hits but it also comes with polarization. Mr. Whitlock after beginning his column with the decision that he wants to be controversial goes on to state that Coach Gill has had a lackluster career at the University of Buffalo where he was the head coach. Based on Mr. Whitlock’s analysis one could conclude that Coach Gill’s hiring is another example of affirmative action going haywire.

As a former student at KU when I heard the news of Coach Gill’s hiring I was excited for two reasons. The first is that I think Turner Gill is a rising coaching talent he took a program that hadn’t won in 10 years and made them respectable, even defeating Mr. Whitlock’s vaulted Ball State undefeated squad in 2008. The second reason to be honest was that my school had hired a black coach for a BCS school. For those who are not familiar with the pathetic hiring record of college minority football coaches; there are 121 division I schools and out of those schools only four of them have black coaches. Now black kids make up 50% of kids playing college football and yet only four black men are qualified enough to coach them? For the sake of black folks everywhere I hope this is not true.

The problem I have with Mr. Whitlock and other black men like him is that they show a certain ambivalence towards their own racial identity. They are willing to accept the benefits of being black but are not willing to accept that there are disadvantages for other people who are black. These are the men who take, “you are not like those other black folks” as a complement, not realizing that it is in fact an insult. Mr. Whitlock is fond of mentioning all of his rapper friends and his “street cred” but he has no trouble throwing other black folks under the bus for the sake of his pursuit of controversy. While there is a lot of internal work that black folks need to do to overcome their continuing to undermine the opportunities that we receive, but a crucial component of this work is to have symbols of success that they can look to for inspiration. Whether it is a black president or a black head coach it is something to take pride in and a goal to strive for. God knows we need all the positive role models we can get. One of the major challenges for black folks especially for those living in our crumbling inner cities is the lost of successful role models due to integration and the desire of some to believe that I got mine and the hell with those left behind.

Is Coach Gill going to be the next great coaching phenom? I don’t know, but what I do know is that he deserves a chance. The problem with Mr. Whitlock and blacks like him is when white coaches or white folks fail they don’t question the ability of white folks to continue to have opportunities presented to them. My question is since Coach Weis failed at Notre Dame why is Mr. Whitlock not calling for no more white coaches at Notre Dame? It is hard enough for black coaches to get shots in NCAA football the last thing they need is another black man questioning their abilities to coach.

Ability is of little account without opportunity. - Napoleon

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Republicans & Big Pharma

(By my count, there are still 24 Republicans in the Senate who voted for the drug benefit, including such alleged conservatives as Jim Bunning and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jon Kyl of Arizona.) - Bruce Bartlett

While hypocrisy is not confined to one political party or the other what the Republican senators who are now defending Medicare and fiscal responsibility are doing is beyond the norm even by Washington standards. The Republicans who were standing at the podium with Senator John McCain should have been ashamed. While Senator McCain can stand up and say that he opposed the Medicare Part B plan and voted against it many of his Republican counterparts supported the largest public giveaway in decades. Medicare Part B was George W. and Karl Rove’s attempt to buy the seniors for the 2004 election by providing unfunded prescription drug coverage to seniors.

Not only did they simply attach it to a federal budget that went from a surplus to record deficits they also provided the pharma industry with millions of new customers without requiring any cost reductions or anyway to pay for it. For these same senators to now claim to be fiscal conservatives is laughable. Senator McCain is once again displaying why his “Country First” campaign slogan was empty rhetoric by allowing members of his own party to stand behind him as if they had shared his concerns about the Medicare legislation. If Mr. McCain was the “maverick” he claims to be he would speak out against the hypocrisy being displayed by his fellow senators. It is one thing to be against legislation that is seeking to be budget neutral on philosophical grounds, but not if you voted for the Medicare Part B legislation.

Somewhere in a cave between Louisiana and Mississippi some Republican strategist came up with the strategy that the way you prevent spending on social and domestic issues is by bankrupting the federal coffers through tax-cuts, fighting two wars, and drug giveaways. The thing we have to remember is that by starving social programs there are groups who benefit. If you can reduce the number of middle and low income kids going on to college then your kids have a better opportunity to attend a prestigious college and in turn you reduce the number of graduates that your kids will have to compete against for jobs. The same can be demonstrated for healthcare, jobs, and many other social programs that could benefit the masses. It plays out in the healthcare debate by rationing care to those who are unable to afford the high cost of health insurance thus insuring better healthcare for those who can.

Once again the Republicans are demonstrating their utter lack of regard for average Americans by attempting to block legislation that would begin to free Americans from the yoke that the insurance companies have placed around our national necks. To turn what is clearly a moral issue into a financial issue after you have given away the whole barn would be farcical if it wasn’t so criminal. The way you balance the budget is by spending all of the money? I guess it’s like the joke we had in college for balancing our checkbooks, “You’re not out of money until you run out of checks.” The Republicans have not only run out of money and checks but have also run out credibility.

How are these hypocrites being allowed to stand before the American people without the media presenting the complete story is unconscionable? The American people deserve a media that is willing to call out the hypocrites publicly especially on issues of this magnitude instead of this false objectivity that all voices are equal and all seek what’s best for the majority when in fact this is not true. It is one thing to be against legislation on principal, but you can’t selectively apply these principles when you are in or out of power. If when you were in power not only did you not hold your party to these principles, but you violated those principles you now hold up as sacrosanct then how sacred can these principles be? A famous Republican once stated that the definition of hypocrisy is the man who murders both parents and then ask the court for leniency because he is an orphan. This appears to be the strategy of the current Republican party they were against Medicare before they were for Medicare before they were against it and then for it, etc. etc. How ironic it is to see Republican lawmakers claiming that they are the defenders of a program they have for decades sought to eliminate.

Hypocrite: the man who murdered both his parents... pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan. - Abraham Lincoln

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Commander in Chief

This review is now complete. And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan. – excerpt from President Obama’s speech

From the “be careful what you wish for” department we have the previous statement from the first US President to invoke the “Powell Doctrine.” Ever since the Vietnam War we have been inundated with the oft repeated chorus of “don’t send in troops without an exit strategy”. From Reagan to Bush II it has been the same refrain and to a man none of them heeded the warning. Each one of them to a man committed American troops without consideration of how they will be extracted. The closest to come to observing this doctrine was the elder Bush with the Gulf War when he went against conventional wisdom and did not allow US troops to enter Baghdad.

How anyone could be surprised by the president’s decision is beyond me. Even as a candidate Senator Obama stated that he wasn’t against all wars, just dumb wars and that he felt the trouble with Afghanistan was a lack of resources. So he decides to provide the resources for a limited amount of time and see if this will provide the impetus needed to reverse the momentum loss caused by the previous administration’s lack of focus. We must remember that there were no good options. The thing that troubles me about many of the critics of the President’s policy is their seeming naiveté concerning what those options were. They provide the false dichotomy of only two options: escalation or retreat. This President would be damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. If he had chosen to remove our presence from Afghanistan and there would be another terrorist attack on American soil as so many of the wing-nuts is hoping for, he would receive a mortal wound and not just him but the Democrats as a whole.

Right, wrong or indifferent we invaded Afghanistan and as a result of that invasion we owe it to those folks to give them our best effort and after that effort if we fail then at least we tried. To say that we are packing up and leaving at this stage was a viable option was not only disingenuous but also foolish. No rational person would advocate limitless war as many on the right seem to be doing, but at the same time we have an obligation to make an effort to meet our goals. The problem previously has been that there were no goals, at least now we have goals and a strategy. No one knows if they will succeed, thus the need for an exit strategy.

A legitimate concern is that this escalation could lead to a more protracted conflict; after all we have been there for almost eight years. In this instance we have to trust the man elected to be commander in chief to stand by his word. The question then becomes do we have reason not to trust this president? This is a question every American has to answer for themselves. I for one have not received enough evidence to the contrary not to at least give him the benefit of the doubt. Undoubtedly there will be those who would argue the opposite and they are entitled to their opinion, but where are the facts?

The bottom line remains the same as it is in Iraq and that is if the Afghanis are not willing to support our efforts and themselves then no amount of troop increase or expenditure of wealth will make this effort a success. The key to this or any military action comes down to the folks who will be left behind when we finally leave and make no mistake we will leave. Too often our past foreign policy decisions have been based in the false premise that all nations want our form of government and our capitalistic society. The truth is that there are many nations who are not willing to accept our excesses as their own, who have historical cultures that predate our own that are not conducive to democracy. Does that make them wrong? Maybe, but that is not an issue for us to decide but for the citizens of that country. Our goal should be to provide them with the opportunity to choose for themselves and the wherewithal to defend those choices.

I for one applaud the President’s decision making process and his willingness to take the political hits to be thoughtful and deliberate. I applaud the fact that he did not make this decision in the heat of the political winds and that he realized the gravity of this decision. I may not agree with the exact decision, but I respect how he arrived at it enough to give him the benefit of the doubt and I think the men and women in our military feel the same way. Part of the greatness of America despite the fear mongering of the wing-nuts is our ability to have debate without fear of reprisals, such as being called traitors or un-American. Thank God those days are over, so even if you disagree with me and the president I promise I want dismiss you as being unpatriotic.

“The first quality for a commander-in-chief is a cool head to receive a correct impression of things. He should not allow himself to be confused by either good or bad news.” - Napoleon

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

A More Decent Society

Reform would make us a more decent society, but also a less vibrant one. It would ease the anxiety of millions at the cost of future growth. It would heal a wound in the social fabric while piling another expensive and untouchable promise on top of the many such promises we’ve already made. America would be a less youthful, ragged and unforgiving nation, and a more middle-aged, civilized and sedate one.David Brooks; NY Times

I never thought I would see the day when I would agree with David Brooks, the syndicated Conservative columnist from the New York Times. But when you’re right, you’re right. This health care debate is about the values we hold as a nation and those things we think are important. However, after that point our views are markedly different. You see Mr. Brooks believes that wealth should only flow upwards from the middle and lower classes to the wealthy. He believes that by taxing the wealthy we stifle future growth and make ourselves a less vibrant nation. I would be curious as to how he would explain the Bush tax-breaks for the wealthy and how removing the regulations from Wall Street made us a more vibrant nation?

You see what Mr. Brooks fails to divulge is that giving money to rich people has never stimulated anything except profits made from capital manipulation and not the profits made from manufacturing anything. The goal of the wealthy is not to spend money but to hoard money; this is how you get to be wealthy by not spending your own money. His premise that if we continue to funnel money upward that this will insure the future growth of this nation is false and has historically been proven to be false. What has stimulated growth in our nation’s history have been those expensive promises that he and so many other compassionate Conservatives have been opposed to from their inception. It was not the robber-barons that made us a vibrant society; on the contrary it was those programs put in place that created the middle-class. If Mr. Brooks and his cronies had their way we would have two classes: the very wealthy and the rest of us.

But beyond the economic benefits of these “promises” there is also the moral imperative of a society to provide basic services to all of their people. Just once I would like to completely shut down this evil government for one week. For an entire week the government stops providing all the services it now provides and then see how these anti-government wing-nuts would respond. My guess is they would do rather well considering the have the funds to replace government services, but what about all of those folks without a pot to piss in or a window to throw out who turn out for these anti-government rallies? I remember during the Presidential campaign at McCain rallies when he would say Obama wants to raise taxes on those people earning over 250,000 dollars a year and there would be boos and then they would pan the audience and no one at the rally appeared to make over 50,000 a year and it was amazing to me to see their responses to policies that would benefit them.

Another thing that troubles me about the column is its inherent divisiveness. Mr. Brooks is attempting to appeal to the young to choose greed over compassion. As if money and the acquisition of stuff is all that defines a nation and a person and this conversation has come to dominate the health care debate in our country. What’s in it for me is the new mantra of our society. There was a time not long ago when sacrifices for our country was more than a bumper sticker; when having compassion on your fellow citizen’s did not have to be justified by a bottom line. It’s funny whenever we discuss helping the least of us we become suddenly fiscal hawks, but where were these fiscal hawks when Mr. Bush was funding two wars and giving tax-breaks to the richest among us? Why weren’t these expenditures scrutinized to the level that health reform has been?

The bottom line is that our systems are failing not just the least of us, but all of us and until we come to that conclusion jointly as people it will continue to do so. This debate isn’t really about right or left, rich or poor it is about what is best for us as nation. We have seen firsthand what the politics of greed has wrought us. Every twenty years we are brought to the brink of self destruction by a financial industry that puts profits not only before people but also our nation. But why should we believe our eyes when we can take the word of shrills like Mr. Brooks and believe beyond reality that the rich folks will take care of the rest of us once they get enough money. The only problem with that theory is that they will never get enough money and so it goes.

Wisdom: to live in the present, plan for the future, and profit from the past – Unknown
The Disputed Truth

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Monday, November 9, 2009

The Forgotten

From the outset of the healthcare debate I have been amazed and deeply troubled by the tone of the debate. I was not troubled by the tea-baggers and town hall crazies; they can be explained by the history of our country’s corporate takeover of any serious debate concerning changing the status quo. I wasn’t even troubled by the Republican’s complete abdication of their responsibility to this country’s future by deciding that short-term political expediency trumps long-term engagement in the political process. No, the thing that has troubled me the most is how this healthcare reform debate has focused not on those who have needed it most (the uninsured) but on those who currently have healthcare. Somewhere a political calculation was made that the best way to pass reform was to downplay the moral imperative of having at least 46 million uninsured and thousands dying every year from lack of healthcare.

I wonder what does it say about a country when you have to frame an issue like this in what’s in it for me? Have we become so selfish and insensitive that we have lost the capacity to care for our fellow citizens who happen to be not as fortunate as we are unless there is something in it for us? Granted with the current economic downturn we all could use some relief and it is only human nature to seek out our own self-interest, but this latest trend of everybody for themselves is a little disheartening. It appears that the only folks who have been the recipients of charitable giving are the ones who least need it, i.e. bankers, CEO’s, etc.

Not since the death of Senator Ted Kennedy has anyone in politics spoken of our moral obligation to one another to give everyone in this country healthcare. It is amazing to me how the Republicans and health insurance companies have frightened the Democrats into abandoning the argument that people are dying every day from a lack of healthcare coverage and not only that but people’s long-term health is being seriously affected by their lack of access today. Rather than treat a cough today we prefer the current system that waits until it becomes pneumonia before providing the highest cost and least effective treatment available. I don’t understand how anyone can get traction from the argument of screw your neighbors because it is going to limit or ration your care. Would this argument be persuasive if we were stranded somewhere and had to rely on each other’s provisions or would we setup “death panels” to decide who was worthy of compassion and who was not? This argument that there is only so much healthcare to go around and that if you share it you will lose what you have goes to the heart of something dark and sinister in the human soul.

With the historic passage of the healthcare bill by the Congress it is still surprising that to me that we have not had a national outpouring for the right of all Americans to have healthcare. When it comes time to transfer wealth from the bottom up we never see commercials talking about how the corporate welfare system is running our “way of life”, but whenever we speak about transferring some of that wealth down to be shared by all Americans we have commercials and rallies comparing having compassion to communism. So let’s be clear, all of the other industrialized nations in the world who provide healthcare for their citizens are communist? The sad part is that the majority of Americans don’t even know what a communist is and so it’s this red herring used anytime anyone threatens the status quo. We must decide as a nation if access to healthcare is a privilege for just the wealthy or a right for all Americans. This I think is the fundamental question that this debate has failed to ask or to answer and as long as we have not answered that question then we continue to address peripheral issues and not the fundamental question of if it is a right then what is the most efficient and cost effective way to do it.

It is unfortunate that the majority of those 46 or so million of uninsured do not vote, so they are the forgotten or the invisible. Who speaks for those who have no voice? We have ads now asking folks to adopt animals like we use to have for adopting children, but there are no ads depicting the carnage of watching poor folks die of curable and common illnesses because they could not afford proper decent healthcare. Who comes up with this stuff? There has to be some mastermind behind this, I cannot believe that we have become this hardhearted on our own. We are willing to speak up for defenseless animals, but defenseless humans they’re on their own.

Real charity doesn't care if it's tax-deductible or not. - Dan Bennett
The Disputed Truth

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Friday, November 6, 2009

The Soul of the Party?

Many people have described what took place in the 23rd district of New York congressional race as an internal struggle within the Republican Party as an internal struggle for the soul of the Republican Party. I find this analogy difficult to accept and understand because how can you fight for something that doesn’t exist? To say the Republicans are fighting over their soul is akin to saying the Civil War was a fight for the soul of America, while poetically it sounds good the truth is somewhat less pleasant. The Civil War was not about the soul of America, it was about the viability of a nation and its dependence on a corrupt regional power structure. What happened in New York was not about the soul of the Republican Party, it was about the viability of a national party and its reliance on a corrupt regional power base.

What we saw happen in New York and what I predict we will see more of in the coming months is the beginning of a third party. If you notice who the main players were in this debacle it is not hard to understand why they would want to see a third party launched. These are the unrepentant right wing neo-cons who believe that the lesson from the last two elections was that the Republicans were not far enough to the right. They continue to cling to the false mantra of Karl Rove that America is a right of center nation. These are the unapologetic neo-con architects of some of the worst policies in American history and believe that it wasn’t their policies that Americans soundly rejected, but the packaging. They are tin-eared musicians who cannot understand the tune that the American public is playing and so they have crafted a strategy that while it may be personally gratifying and enriching to some of their wallets will not translate into any electoral majority.

If these clowns were not so out of touch they would recognize that the voices they are hearing are not pushing to the right or to the left, those are just the loudest voices. The real voice of change that many in Washington, in Alaska, and in other parts of the establishment circles are failing to interpret is not about party affiliation or cultural warfare. The voice of change taking place in local communities is about watching this nation become a second rate empire and there is a feeling of helplessness on the part of many people. They are watching the wealthy plunder this country without any regard for those in the middle who have been the creators of wealth in this nation. They are watching the vice slowly squeeze them from both ends with mounting debt created by a capital system that socializes risk but privatizes profits and an ever increasing social burden for those who are becoming obsolete in this society. They look into the eyes of their kids and for once they cannot say with any conviction, “That your life will be better than mine.”

The problem with trying to harness the voice of change of this magnitude is that it is easy to misread it. The reason that it is so easy to misread it is because it has not crystallized into a single rational voice. Currently there is just this dissonant cry of anguish that is being misdirected down many incongruent and disconnected paths. What we are witnessing is in the face of unknown fear many people are finding comfort in the ghosts and bogeymen of the past, but these are not the majority of voices again they are just the loudest. The majority are sitting quietly in front of their televisions hoping, praying, and waiting for someone, anyone to hear their silent screams and rescue them and their children from the coming apocalypse. What happened in New York was a group of out of touch and disconnected frauds who tried to stage a coup and at the same time launch their third party strategy. But of course because they were not close enough to the action they completely misread the situation and went down in defeat. You can’t be grassroots and not mow some yards. This thing is not about ideology and moral victories on either side, it is about can we prevent the Armageddon that so many are so hell-bent on bringing about?

Let us be clear; there is no soul-searching taking place in the Republican Party. What we have is a group of political hacks who are trying to exploit the fear and uncertainty of some people for their short-term political and economic gain. As this process moves forward it is important not to discount what lies beneath the upheaval which is genuine fear and concern on the part of many well meaning folks and anyone who dismisses this will do so at their own peril. It is important that progressives also realize that many of these voices for change don’t even know what they are looking for so to assume that it is the progressive agenda will be as harmful as the wing-nuts assuming it is in support of their agendas. Right now what we have is this giant blob that is searching for a shape or a form to take and whoever can articulate its goals and direct it will be successful while others will fail. The key in uncertain times like these is to do the right thing for the country regardless of how popular or politically correct it is because in the end that will be the final judge-did it work?

Oh by the way if the Republicans are looking for a soul I understand they can be had pretty cheaply these days on Wall Street and with some insurance carriers it is not considered a pre-existing condition to be without one.

I know well what I am fleeing from but not what I am in search of. - Michel de Montaigne

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Who Said Change Was Hard?

It’s hard to believe that a year has come and gone since then candidate Obama became President-elect Obama and then President Obama. For some reason it seems like it has been longer than that I guess if you listen to the “newsmakers” and other talking heads he has been in office for at least 3 years. I mean after all the war in Iraq is still going on, not to mention Afghanistan and the possibility of its escalation, unemployment is nearing record highs, we still don’t have health-care reform, and gays still can’t serve openly in the military. The list of unfulfilled promises is longer now than it was during the campaign. What has this guy done, besides win the Nobel Peace prize?

The American capacity for amnesia has never failed to amaze me and in the case of this President it has reached a new all-time record for brevity. Don’t get me wrong I have my own concerns that there is still much work to be done, but I think that what has been lost in these calculations was whether the Obamania would translate into actual activism and not just the usual round of after election complaining. So far there has been very little transformation of the electorate into a more activist population. I love it when people tell me they are supporters of this person or of that policy and then when you ask them what have they actually done to bring about the programs or policy changes that they supposedly support, they will often times say nothing. It kills me to see all of the people still sporting their Obama bumper stickers, yard signs, and tee-shirts (oh did I mention their chia’s) as if they are some new sort of chic fashion to say, “whoo I’m still cool.” If all you do is wear a tee-shirt or sport a bumper sticker on your Honda then you are not a supporter and you are not cool, you are someone who is trying to be identified with something you never understood.

Many people have expressed their displeasure with the pace and direction of change taking place in America and are ready to start blaming the President. To those people I say it took 244 years to end slavery in America, it took 144 years for women to vote, and it took 219 years to elect the first black President so change comes slowly to this country. When you add to this mix an entrenched opposition whose only plan is criticizing and opposing your plans then you really have the ingredients for rapid change. Why hasn’t anyone noticed that the loyal opposition has yet to submit a plan for anything since the President has taken office? Shouldn’t they be required to present some sort of alternative plan to be taken seriously? It’s amazing how little we require of our elected officials. I realize that after W. the bar has hit an all-time low but this is ridiculous. The opposition should be required to present an alternative plan within 60 days of the majority party’s introduction of a program. Ok, you don’t agree with this plan or this solution so what are the alternatives? The least they could do is to present the American public with their alternative and let them decide which plan has more merit.

The fact that change is difficult should not be a reason to accept doing nothing; it should be a rallying cry to continue the push for change. As much as I enjoy sitting behind my laptop and pumping out these compelling diaries what I know is that real change does not occur from behind this screen. For change to be real and sustained it must occur in the streets and in our local communities. A perfect example is the “summer of rage” and the “teabaggers” now of course these were Astroturf demonstrations but imagine if they had of been real the effect they could have had. Hell, they almost had an effect and they were fake. The point is that throughout the history of America real change has required people who were willing to get out of their comfy Lazy-Boys and slippers and take to the streets for what they believed in. If it had not been for those types of folks we would still be sending young men to their deaths in Vietnam and black folks would still be dodging fire hoses and police dogs.

We will only get the change that we are willing to stand up for, not sit around complaining about and if that change does not come fast enough who can we blame for it? One of my biggest concerns following the election would be that too many people would believe that the election changed everything. The truth is that the election changed nothing. It was a nice historic photo-op but the reality is that those who wish the status quo to remain the same are still wielding the levers of power and if you think that one lone black man is going to change that, then you are more delusional than I thought you were. Those levers must be as Charleston Heston famously put it, “pried from their cold dead hands.” Who said change was hard? Change is not hard, the hard part is remembering what needs to be changed and what needs to be changed is our attitudes. Change is not hard. What’s hard is draggin my lazy ass off the couch, now that’s hard!

Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history. - Joan Wallach Scott

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Birds of a Feather

The more I am involved in local politics and neighborhood issues the more I am coming to realize that most people tend to seek out those who share their already held beliefs and look for reinforcement versus critical analysis. Have we become a country that is so entrenched in ideology that facts have become nonessential to rational discussion? My fear is that we have become a nation of intellectually lazy people who would rather have their news and facts spoon fed to them by the likes of Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. It appears that the more technology we incorporate into our society the less many of us read, study, and work to understand the nuisances of different issues. Instead of witnessing accurate and factual discussions we have become spectators to a drunken family brawl, where facts are replaced with family indignation.

To see evidence of this phenomenon one only has to look as far as the popularity of not just “news shows” that encourage cacophony versus discussion but also the daily blurring of the line between entertainment and news. So much of what we call news today is manufactured news designed to sell dog food. Regardless of what you feel about Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and their ilk they sell a lot of dog food. If you are able to garner an audience of 10-20% of 300 million people that makes you a player in this new world of newstainment. Facts are optional and if you misrepresent the truth you can always state that you have been given the ability to read minds and know the hearts of others. Remember, the goal is to sell dog food and once you accept that fact and you still rely on these “news outlets” to provide you with your information then you have gone beyond intellectual slothfulness and have graduated to dim-wittedness.

How many times have we been told by these news insiders that the public option was dead? How many times have we been told that President Obama was not tough enough, not engaged enough, not you “fill in the blank” enough? I am reminded of the news coverage of the past election and how we were led to believe that the election was always in doubt despite huge leads in the polls these pundits continued to tell us how it was too close to call. I wish I could say it is just the wingnuts who perpetrate this fraud on the American public, but all of the networks play this game. They are all in the business to sell dog food. Many people believe that television is about the shows and that the commercials are just the filler, the truth is that the shows are the filler and the commercials are why television was invented and maintained the way that it is. I say all this to say that I think much of our intellectual stupor has been supported by the wealthy and crafted by the media so that our population remains easy to govern and easily deceived.

Even politicians have become well schooled in the art of the sleight of hand. As these health care bills proceed toward passage watch how many of these anonymous small or unpopulated state politicians try to hold sway on the debate in an attempt to elevate their status and take advantage of their 15 minutes of fame.The latest contestant in the health care sweepstakes is Joe Lieberman that stalwart of independence that was all set to become John McCain’s running mate until the demographics proved that the day of two old white guys ruling America had died a fitting and long overdue death. Much has been made by the pundits and the “news outlets” concerning Mr. Lieberman’s intention to side with Republicans to filibuster a health care bill with a public option. Since the election when was the last time any of us have seen Joe Lieberman on primetime anything? He was close to making his “Dancing with the Stars” debut, but like a modern day Lazarus he continues to rise and be the gift that keeps on giving to the Democratic Party. Who among us that is not selling their prescription for Prozac on Craig’s list believes that Joe Lieberman is an Independent? But let no one be fooled, Joe Lieberman needs the Democrats and recognizes like the rest of us that the chances of the Republicans coming out of the wilderness anytime soon is like the proverbial snowball in hell. The Democratic Party and this administration have the keys to the city and will have them for some time to come, so while Connecticut maybe the epicenter for insurance companies, Joe Lieberman has to deliver more than 40 million new customers to the insurance lobby. So despite his proud display of Republican colors not even Lieberman wants to be the one man who blocked healthcare reform in America.

So cheer up folks, there will be healthcare reform this year. Will it be everything that progressives want? Of course not, but what troubles me the most about progressives is that sometimes they are as intellectually as lazy as wingnuts. If you study history and large scale legislation they were all begun with the foundation being laid and each subsequent Democratic majority has added to it to make it what it has become. The social security we have today is not the program created by Roosevelt. What is important here and must be different for real reform to take place is that there must be a solid foundation upon which future Congresses can build. By the time this debate is over there will be a number of no’s that will turn into yeses and more than a few birds whose feathers will change. And don’t forget to keep buying that dog food.

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education. – Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Disputed Truth

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Opinions are like…

As I watch more and more coverage from media outlets of interviews with “average Americans” giving “their opinions” I become less believing of the common political and media mantra of the intelligence of the average American. While there are many Americans who are politically, financially, and socially savvy, there is also a large number who are not. My question is, “Are all opinions of equal value?”

An example would be a major medical operation, is my opinion as layman of the same value as that of say a neurosurgeon? Is an uninformed, illogical opinion of equal worth as someone who has spent years studying, reading, and researching an issue? I believe there are three categories of thought in this country and most of us fit into some combination of the three.

• There is the category of critical thinkers who research and study a broad range of issues. This group not only seeks information that reinforces currently held beliefs but also information that challenges these beliefs. This group is not led by a personality but by the pursuit of information wherever it may lead them.

• The next category is the group that is ignorant (they don’t know something) and blissfully so. They don’t hold any concrete ideological views. This group is content to be ignorant but entertained. They will seek information only when it is relevant to something going on in their lives at that moment. This group is not led by any personality per se, but by the media or entertainers. They gain much of “their opinions” from television dramas, sit-coms, and shows like Oprah, Entertainment Tonight, etc.

• The final category is the group who is also ignorant (they don’t know things) and are opposed to learning them. They chant with pride we don’t know anything and we don’t want to know anything. This group is anti-information that does not reinforce their currently held positions. This group is led by personalities like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck.

One of our greatest strengths as a nation is our defense of the individual. One of our greatest weaknesses as a nation is the elevation of the individual over the group. I don’t believe people around the world are smarter than we are, but are raised in a different culture. Many of them are raised in a culture that understands the need that sometimes the group’s survival trumps the individual. They appear to have a better understanding of their place in the world. There are many in this country that still believe in a certain manifest destiny that we have somehow been selected by some supreme being to rule the world and if anyone disagrees with our world vision then damn them. It is this attitude that has made nations that were once allies, now foes. It is this belief that allowed George W. to declare that God had chosen him to be President and so many people never batted an eye.

As our new President accepts the Nobel Peace Prize I hope we all remember that he does not have the accomplishments of some past recipients, but he is still our President. We should all feel a sense of national pride that the rest of the world thinks enough of him to give him such a great honor. If I am at a game and as an American I am cheering for a team and I look to my right and see Hamas wearing the same jersey I am and I look to my left and see al Qaeda wearing the same jersey I am wearing you would think maybe I would begin to wonder if I am cheering for the wrong team. But that’s just my opinion and we all know that opinions are like buttholes, everybody has one and most of them stink!

"Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped." - Elbert Hubbard

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

You Are Expendable

This blog is to that 20-25% of the population that has now become expendable to our economy. When we switched from a manufacturing based economy to a market based economy the need for a large work force became unnecessary. As our manufacturing infrastructure was being dismantled more and more of our people became expendable and many of those workers were the low skilled and under educated. In a manufacturing economy there is a need for low skilled and low educated workers to learn repetitive skills to keep the manufacturing machinery humming.

We as a nation must come to grips with the fact that we are a declining empire. Instead of reinvesting in our infrastructure and in our people we have chosen to invest in those whose only job is to perpetuate this false notion of selling crap as if it were gold. Our markets today are based on this notion that things that have no value are valuable. When you discontinue manufacturing products then the only methods for creating wealth is to create false markets of false worth. A good example would be the derivatives market that were bought and sold globally as valuable commodities when the reality was they were worthless. What we have created as an economy is a giant ponzi scheme where those on the top continue to prosper while those in the middle and especially those on the bottom continue to suffer. What has always amazed and intrigued me is how the wealthy have convinced the middle class to vote for policies that are in direct contradiction to their own interests. Policies that have allowed the top 1% of our population to double their wealth in the last decade while their tax liabilities have continued to decrease. As any historian knows the great empires of the past have not fallen from the assaults of outside foes but because of internal excesses that were allowed to fester until they crushed these empires.

The question now becomes what do we do with these expendable people. The answer we have come up with is to warehouse them. We warehouse them in our inner city ghettos and in our prison system. We have created a permanent underclass with little or no hope for mobility. These folks live on the margins of our society. These folks don’t vote nor do they participate in the larger efforts of our society. We have created a false economy for them to participate in (illegal drugs) but it is an economy where we control the winners and losers. We control this false economy by the people we target to prosecute for their illegal activities. Can any of us honestly believe that if we as a nation did not want illegal drugs in this country we could not prevent their introduction or at least decrease their availability? We lie to ourselves and say we want to educate, train, and employ them, but my question is this even if you educate and train them what jobs will they have? It is not enough to train and educate people if you don’t have industries to employ them. We must create industries to provide employment opportunities for these forgotten people. If we don’t then we will not have enough prison or ghetto space to house them.

We need to have an honest conversation with ourselves and with our politicians and stop the lying. We have to as a nation be willing to accept the truth and the reality of our position. Those of us in the bottom 99% of the population who has not seen their wealth double must unite and demand that the wealth of our nation be distributed in a more equitable manner. We need political leaders who have the wisdom and the political will to create a new deal that focuses on reestablishing our manufacturing infrastructure. We must put an end to this giant pyramid scheme we currently call our economy. Let’s be clear those other empires saw the issues that would be their undoing, but chose to ignore them and continue down the path of self destruction. My fear and my guess is that we will do likewise and sit quietly on the airplane as it continues to descend into the ground. We will continue to focus on the minutia that the wealthy continues to feed us to keep us from discussing the real issues that we face as a nation. An example would be the current healthcare debate. Who among us does not believe that our current healthcare system is broken and will bring our economy to a crashing stop? Yet, rather than be able to agree on what we all know are the facts we allow the wealthy to turn this into a partisan debate of philosophy. Why do we believe that we are right and the rest of the industrialized world is wrong? The only thing we are missing is Nero fiddling. Nero where are you when your country needs you?

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Myth of the Super Black Woman

At the risk of offending women in general and black women specifically I have undertaken the task of destroying a commonly held myth by both whites and blacks. This myth has so permeated our collective conscious that it is often depicted in story and movie. This mythical black woman is often times portrayed as some super human single black mother who has overcome tremendous obstacles to raise her family despite the odds. It has given way to the belief by many that black women have some inherent strength or ability that allows them to be able to raise children successfully without men. The danger of this myth is that because of it today many black women are choosing to do precisely that. They have accepted and fostered this false belief to the point that many look at men as merely sperm donors and have no expectations of their presence in the lives of their children. Let me state unequivocally and without wavering the experiment of women raising children by themselves has failed and failed miserably.

Due to the fact that so many men have allowed themselves to be silenced by feminists today any male that in any way calls into question a woman’s desire to give birth, raise, and fail her children is considered a chauvinist. Because we have allowed women to frame the arguments surrounding family, children, and reproduction men no longer have any opportunity to take part in the discussions or analysis of these issues. Despite the propaganda of some women and the lack of concern by so-called news organizations the evidence is clear. The vast majority of children raised in single women head of households are suffering and as a result the society at large is suffering. The society is suffering because not only do these children create
social problems, but this lifestyle is growing throughout our society. Granted divorce is playing a larger and larger role in our society and creating a large number of these homes, but what is also playing a major role is the desire of women to have children without the expectation of having men in the lives of their children.

To me for a woman to deliberately have children without the expectation of having the father in that child’s life is the epitome of selfishness. With all of the empirical data we now have concerning the ill-effects of such a household on the great majority of our children it would be considered unconscionable for anyone but a woman to consider such a choice. I don’t agree with the logic that many of these children are accidents or mistakes of reckless people. If you make a mistake and have a child under these conditions that is one thing, but if you have multiple children from multiple men then this is no longer a mistake it is a lifestyle choice. The evidence is clear that not only is this detrimental to our children’s well being, but also to our nation’s well being. It is not about a woman being strong enough to raise children alone. An example would be if I break the doorknob on my door and I use some rope to open and close the door, granted that would work but that is not how the door was designed to work. No matter how I would like for it to be otherwise the fact remains I am making the best out of a bad situation. Young women who are raised in fatherless homes make up 85% of the future single unwed mothers so we are perpetuating the education, crime, and social problems into generation after generation. The proof is that in the 1960’s 20% of all black children were being raised in single mother households; today that number is almost 70%.

In spite of the rare success stories that we see on the television the truth is that most of these children grow up in and remain in poverty, they are poorly educated, and prone to criminal activity. We hear about the 15% that are successful and ignore the 85% who are not. Imagine if at your job you were 85% wrong about whatever it is you do and then not only were you not terminated but you were promoted as a success story. Black women are not genetically or culturally disposed to be able to withstand the rigors of raising children alone, no woman is. The sad part is that this is not a problem of poor or teenage women, but a choice being made by older women. The majority of new unwed mothers are women over 21. We have turned having a baby into a fashion accessory or a substitute for missing intimacy.

There will be those who criticize me for "picking" on the women, but let’s be honest women have always driven the reproduction and repopulation of the species. It was the morals of women in the 1960’s that had the rate at 20% not the morals of men. There will be those who say black women don’t have the requisite number of potential partners and my answer to that is that if black women are doing such a good job of raising these young men why are there not enough good men? Are there other external reasons for the lack of good black male suitors? Of course there is. There is racism, there is systemic marginalization of black men, and there is lack of economic development. The problem is simply this and it hasn’t changed since 1960, until we begin to stabilize our families and provide a healthy environment for our children to develop the tools they need for success all the integration, money, and opportunity won’t make a bit of difference. If we open up a door and our kids are not prepared to go through it then we all fail.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Bush/Obama Administration?

The average American looks up, they distrust politicians in general and they don't think they've been told the truth, and I think they got good reason. They've watched a Bush/Obama spending cycle that began with a stimulus package last year which failed at $180 billion, a housing package in August which fail--or July which failed at $345 billion, a Wall Street bailout at $700 billion, a Federal Reserve guarantee of $4 trillion; a stimulus package of $787 billion, which we're now being told weeks later isn't big enough, but which had to be passed so quickly no one could read it, because we had to get it out there immediately.[1]

I saw the new, old face of the Republican Party this weekend on a Sunday talk show and I was shocked at the new tact of the Republicans. According to Newt Gingrich the last eight years has been the Bush/Obama administration. Who knew? In an effort to once again fasten President Obama to the current economic meltdown the new strategy appears to be to unite him to the failed policies of the Bush administration. The once revered George W. has now been turned into a tax and spend liberal by the very same people who heralded his accent to power. These people have no shame. They are willing to throw Bush under the bus for the sake of some political advantage that doesn’t exist. Do they think that the public is so incompetent that they don’t know the difference between Bush and Obama for the last eight years? Here’s a hint Obama is the tall, dark one.

So are we to assume that the last eight years were not Republican run as we were led to believe by their policies and their utter failure? So Republicans were not the ones who put the economy and our nation on the road to a “China Syndrome”. You have to hand it to them though that is innovative. You attach the incoming administration not only from another Party but another galaxy to the previous failed administration which happened to have been from your Party. My guess is that the goal of this strategy is to try and reduce the amount of patience the American people will have with the new President since he has been in office for the past eight years and hasn’t done anything.

Now for those following at home here is the latest. Not only did President Obama not inherit this economy he actually caused the economy to crash as a member of the Bush administration. Theoretically he has not been in office for only two months after all so his policies don’t deserve anytime to work. After all they are the same big spending, big government policies of that other liberal stalwart George W. Bush. How Mr. Gingrich can expect any national political aspirations to be taken seriously following comments like these are beyond me. But considering no one on the panel gave them a second look maybe he knows something I don’t. The problem with Mr. Gingrich and all of his new and old GOP faces is not that they are new or old; it is that their ideas are old. The GOP continues to repackage their “new” faces with the same failed ideas. I mean to try and pretend that the Republicans outside of George Bush had nothing to do with what is happening in the country today is ludicrous.

Mr. Gingrich would rather join his other political cohorts and fiddle while the empire burns and continue to be apologists for the wealthy than pitch in and help. For anyone to say it is unfair for the taxes of the wealthy to be raised after decades of tax-breaks and inequitable distribution of wealth is completely out of step with the mood of the country. For anyone to argue against giving 95% of working Americans a tax-break they are out of step with the mood of the country and the polls attest to this fact. While Mr. Gingrich and the other ignore the polls munchkins continue to try and deny his popularity the President’s numbers continue to rise. Now the new line is that the President has popularity but doesn’t have credibility with the people. Let’s be clear it is not the President that doesn’t have credibility it is the bankers, politicians, and talking heads that have no credibility. The public is tired of hearing about bankers and wall-streeters who continue to take bail-out money and hoard it or continue to live in a culture of a by-gone era. The public is tired of politicians who refuse to understand that they are hurting and “Just say no” is not an option. The public is tired of media-types who live in a bubble telling them who is at fault and who to trust.

Mr. Gingrich there was no Bush/Obama White House and until the Republicans can acknowledge their role in this economic melt-down and begin to articulate a new strategy that addresses these problems they have no credibility with the public. The public is not willing to ignore the last eight years or pretend they never happened. Until the Republicans can acknowledge their failures they are doomed to repeat them, but not at the expense of this nation. You can’t start a fire and then charge the firefighters with arson. The best thing the Republicans can do to avoid another 50 years in the wilderness is to begin to help craft real legislation that will turn this economy around at least then the Democrats won’t be able to take full credit for the salvation of our country.


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Thursday, March 5, 2009

America is Cool Again

Not since the early sixties has America so epitomized the notion of cool in the world as we do today. What began as a fist bump on the primary trail has reached a national shout-out before both chambers of Congress. The Obamas in the White House has once again provided the world with the desire to be a part of America and part of the cool that they perceive America to be. Whether it’s the pop star reception of Hillary Clinton in Asia or the talk around European capitals the buzz is unmistakable. The thing about the Kennedy administration that many have forgotten was that they had style and exuded cool to not only Americans but to the world. They made other people in the world want to be American and if they couldn’t be American to immolate American style and coolness.

After decades of waiting America and the world can now usher in a new era of vitality and panache. We must not underestimate the value of chic and coolness in the global marketplace of ideas. America represented more than just democracy and capitalism to the world. America represented the freedom to express your coolness in ways that the old world could not. America represented new ideas and new ways of expression, innovation and a spirit of compassion for those who did not share our abundance. It is hard to recruit people to kill you if they see in you their hopes and their desires being realized. The reason we are despised in the world today is because we took those hopes and those desires of the worlds unwanted and we profited from them. Our concern wasn’t to liberate them or enrich them instead it was to exploit them. We offered them hope and instead gave them whiskey and a “Big Mac.” Instead of embracing and acknowledging the value of their cultures we judged and condemn them.

We no longer reached out to the world with a hand of friendship and mutual understanding; instead we hid behind barbed-wire and guns. Before the world got to know us through our people who were willing to suffer the indignities of those they came to help instead of through our military. Those brave young Americans did more for our standing in the world than all of our bombs and rockets. These volunteers allowed the world to see the American people as people just like they were not as conquerors or liberators. The world got to see that we were cool. We may have been too arrogant and overconfident, but we were still cool and were willing to try to help those we could. There were many casualties to our volunteer efforts but the mission continued and for generations we enjoyed the goodwill of most of the world despite our continued efforts to profit from their misery.

So here we are today with a new opportunity to once again reach out to the world with hope and a shared sense of purpose. While there are many who want to continue the gun-boat diplomacy bred by fear and hatred we must overcome those forces and realize that we once again have the chance to influence generations of the world’s people not through might of arms but through right of purpose. We Americans need to believe in the good in the world and the rest of the world is no different. They want to believe that we represent what we claim to represent freedom, compassion, and understanding. Let us begin today to not fall for the politics of greed and the philosophy of fear that has paralyzed us from taking our rightful place in the world as the purveyors of cool and the beacon of freedom.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle have a style and a flair that we have so desperately needed. They both exude a confidence that is not based in arrogant power but based in a quiet acceptance of their roles in this world and humility for the enormity of the tasks that await them. Let’s face it being cool won’t stop al Qaeda from wanting to destroy America but it will make recruiting a little bit harder because cool is a lot harder to rally support against than boisterous and bellicose. We had a similar example in the campaign and it is hard to be against hope. We must understand and accept that what is missing in these men’s and women’s lives is not consumerism or democracy, it is hope. It is hope in the future that it will be better than their yesterday and their today. If we can’t provide the world with hope then it won’t matter how many bombs and tanks we have it won’t be enough to protect us.

Yet, when the President and First Lady walk into a room there is a hope, a sense that our best days are ahead of us. As I watched them arrive at the address of the joint chambers of Congress I couldn’t help but think these folks are cool. It’s funny how sometimes in life you don’t know you have missed something until it arrives and then it is like the break of a new day and you realize this is what was missing. Somehow it gives you comfort that wasn’t there before. I don’t think for one minute that President Obama will solve all of our nation’s problems or that his policies are the only solutions to them, but I get a real sense of the measure of the man that gives me confidence. Tom Delay stated that the American public elects Presidents to be caretakers and not to change the country. While this may have been true for the past 30 years there have been times in our nation’s history when the people elected someone to shape this nation to lead us into a new world. I would ask Mr. Delay if the country elected Lincoln or the Roosevelt’s to be caretakers. I think not. The country does not have the luxury of a caretaker at this moment in history and that is why we rejected the Republicans and John McCain.

The country chose cool and the world will be better for it.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I Was Inarticulate

What ever slim chance Michael Steele had of recruiting young people and minorities to the Republican Party went out the window after Mr. Steele had to bow down and kiss the ring of Conservative “entertainer” Rush Limbaugh. Mr. Steele displayed all of the qualities that are despised by both groups when on Saturday night while trying to pal it up with D.L. Hughley he accused Rush Limbaugh of not being the head of the Republican Party and merely an incendiary entertainer. Just when it appeared that a Republican had the nerve to tell the truth to the ego maniacal Limbaugh and thus freeing the Party from extremists Mr. Steele within hours was prone before Limbaugh begging forgiveness as so many other so-called Republican leaders have had to do.

Newsflash – Rush Limbaugh you are an entertainer, you cater to a certain segment of the population who believes in your extreme characterizations and your simplistic analogies of complex issues. Here is the problem for the Republican Party, while the millions that Limbaugh holds sway over is enough to promote a radio show and enrich his pockets it is not enough to win elections. How can you reach out and expand the Party when you have to sell your soul to Limbaugh to hang on to the dwindling base? While the Republicans continue to await the second coming of Reagan the Democrats continue to shore up solid gains among Independents and moderate Republicans. Rather than recognizing the influence he has and using it for a real Republican examination of the state of the Party and the nation Mr. Limbaugh would rather use it to enrich himself and stoke his massive ego.

This is the problem when you allow a “personality” to dominate a Party there is always the chance that the personality will begin to believe that he is the Party. If Rush was an elected official he would have his time in the sun and then fade away, but because he is an entertainer he can stay around for years and years without having to be right about anything. He is like the local weatherman he can be wrong 70% of the time and still be popular. Mr. Limbaugh can ignore all of those shows he did in support of the same spending and policies he now rails against when George W. Bush was in office. Limbaugh can have the best of both worlds he can say he was right on this issue or that and ignore all of the times he was wrong. He is like Carnac the Magnificent except he is a lot less funny.

The reason the Republicans can’t have a serious debate is that too many of them genuinely believe that they were right on all of the majority issues and that the vast majority of Americans are too stupid to know it. It is hard to base a winning strategy on we’re right and you’re stupid. The way you expand a Party is not by catering to a shrinking base you already have with more of the same rhetoric that was rejected resoundingly by the majority of Americans. I am not sure what polls these guys are reading but I heard Tom Delay say that the Presidents disapproval rating is at 40%. It is precisely this “alternate reality” that got the Republicans in the position they find themselves today. If we say something enough times to enough people then somehow it becomes true. The American public is becoming more politically savvy than they were in the 80’s and 90’s and the Republicans are failing to accept that reality. Twittering does not make you cool or technologically proficient. The issue is not how you deliver it, the issue is the message. It is the message stupid and right now the Republicans have none. They keep talking about all of these alternative plans and ideas they have and have offered yet no one other than them has seen them. Railing against the government and crying class warfare are not plans and ideas and while they may resonate with the “states rights” groups and the apocalyptic crowds they do not represent what many Americans believe.

Mr. Steele, the groups you claim to want to reach out to respect manhood and strength. What chance do you now see yourself as having after being “bitch” slapped by Rush Limbaugh? Having middle-aged white women calling “you da man” at an all-white country club is not cool and shows a certain callousness towards those you hope to reach. Mr. Steele being cool is not something you buy or something you can steal from someone like trying to co-opt slang for marketing purposes. It is an attitude, a feeling inside that says I know who I am and what I represent, you may not agree with it but here it is. Being cool is a quiet confidence that gives confidence to others. Right now Mr. Steele you represent the desperateness of the Republicans in that you are willing to say whatever you need to say depending on your audience. Mr. Steele you will never be the leader of anything until you stop being the “cool” black dude that you are not. It is easy to think you are the cool black dude when you are the only black dude in the room or the other black dude is Ron Christie or Clarence Thomas.

The other problem is the choice of words used by Mr. Steele during his apology. It is an historical fact that when whites want to give a complement to a black person they admire the first word out of their mouth is how articulate that person is. “He speaks so well.” So by Mr. Steele saying that he in fact was not articulate he is saying that the black dude was wrong, that he did not live up to the “articulate” complement of his benefactors. For many I am sure it will be similar to all of those whites who rented cars from Hertz felt after the OJ trial; sort of betrayed. I guess it is like Limbaugh said, “Get behind the scenes and don’t talk with the grown-ups, you’re not qualified.” I guess to Limbaugh Michael Steele is the epitome of Republican affirmative action, another unqualified black promoted because of race and not qualifications.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

A New Kind of Leadership

President Barack Obama’s summit today on fiscal responsibility did not magically repair the rancor between the Parties, nor did it magically fix the impending crash of our entitlement programs. However, what it did do was to signal a new type of leadership. He demonstrated a type of leadership that I have not seen from a President in my lifetime. What this summit did was it showed that President Obama has no intention of steamrolling the Republicans even though he has the juice to do that. He realizes that in order to solve the long-term solvency issues of this nation it is going to require getting the legislative branch to work together. President Obama demonstrated many times on the campaign trail and has stated since being elected that he is not afraid to listen to differing views and when they are reasonable to adapt his views to accommodate new ideas.

How refreshing it is to see a leader who is not so insecure that he is afraid to consult with even his rivals to craft ideas and positions that benefit all Americans. The lies and secrecy of the past I think have so enamored us that many can no longer recognize true leadership or have never seen it. President Obama has always surrounded himself with the brightest people and a free exchange of ideas and in the end has determined based on his principles and a sense of the situation what is the best decision. You may not agree with his decision but it would be difficult to argue with the process. So often in the past we have had Presidents who have claimed to be one thing (new Democrat, Compassionate Conservative, etc.) and once elected have turned out to be something else. Barack Obama campaigned as a pragmatic leader to the chagrin of many progressives and won because the public liked what it saw during those two years. They liked knowing that he wasn’t easily rattled nor would he make life and death decisions based on emotions and pettiness.

The speech before the joint chambers of Congress I think demonstrated to all who viewed it that we have crossed a new threshold in American politics. The strength of Barack Obama has always been his direct connection to the people of America. There is a genuine bond that has been missing and not manufactured like the George W. Bush outsider persona that was so patently crafted and false. I watched the speech on MSNBC and they had a running graph of Democratic and Republican voters gauging the speech and there was an extended time during the speech when you could not even see the lines. The lines of both had extended past the top of the graph which represented positive responses. As the President was introduced I have to admit that I had to fight back a tear at just the spectacle of it. And the truth be told despite the recent NY Post cartoon so very many Americans are basing their opinions on this President not on his race, but on his character. I just wish I knew how to extend this phenomenon to include all of American life and its people.

I couldn’t help but remember the sovereign tone of George W. Bush after his reelection stating that he had political capital and that he was going to spend it. I wonder what Mr. Bush and Rove now thinks about political capital after seeing the real thing. President Obama is a man of the people who speaks to and for the people of this nation. As his exchange with John McCain over the helicopter demonstrated he is at ease being who he is. There are no phony everyman metaphors that so defined our previous Presidents. He does not have the scripted craftsmanship of Reagan who as the great communicator never spoke without someone else’s words. After listening to his speech I can’t see how anyone can believe that he is not up to the task that we sent him to accomplish. He may not be able to do everything, but it won’t be for a lack of trying.

I know that I won’t agree with all of his policies or decisions, but I will never be able to disagree with his leadership. We as a nation have been given a reprieve from the secrecy and bullying leadership of the past. We have been presented with a thoughtful, articulate, and courageous man to lead this nation and although you may not have voted for him or even trusted him for that matter I doubt that anyone could deny that we made the right choice. He refuses to be sucked into the pettiness that Washington has fallen into, where people who disagree with 5% of a solution condemn the entire solution. I don’t know how long this is going to last but I want to enjoy the ride for as long as it does.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Birth of a New Nation

According to many Republicans the United States is a brand new nation. This new nation was born on January 20, 2009. All of our problems and crisis’s began on that faithful day when Barack Obama became our 44th President. No sooner than he had taken the oath of office the country began its downward descent. You see it was that day that we started a war with Iraq, removed all regulatory agencies from performing their duties, and we provided large tax-cuts to the wealthiest of Americans. President Obama had a very busy day. Somehow they expect the American people to believe that for the last eight years at least that they were not only not in power, but they were not even in Washington.

This has to be their strategy because I can’t think of any other reason for the response of Governor Bobby Jindal to the President’s speech. He begins by giving his own immigration biography which if his Party had their way would no longer be possible and seemed to me to be a blatant attempt to replicate the President’s history as if to say they are similar somehow. Then he began with his “We Americans can do anything” chorus which ran throughout the course of his response. My reaction to the response was that as Americans we do not need the government to do anything that just by the sweat on our brow and the might of our will we can do all of those things that government is too corrupt, incompetent, or uncaring to do. Of course the Republicans had to find someone to deliver the response whose hands were not soiled by the very things that Governor Jindal was decrying in his response, except the state of Louisiana requested 250 billion dollars in federal aid just for the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

The line that has to go down in the annuals of the worst speech writing in political history though has to be his reference to the Federal government’s response to the hurricane. According to Governor Jindal the reason we don’t need our government anymore is because after the hurricane the government at the time was incompetent to handle the disaster. I wonder if anyone had mentioned to the Governor that the government during that disaster was led by George W. Bush, a Republican and was ruled by a Republican majority in both Houses. Do these guys not have access to the internet or library cards? Why would a Republican mention Hurricane Katrina and government incompetence in the same breathe is beyond me, you can’t make this stuff up. I’m sorry Governor but your logic does not stand up to any rational examination. If Governor Jindal is number two behind President Obama then America tonight got to see that there is a huge gap between number 1 and number 2. Sort of like Michael Jordan and the rest of the NBA when he was playing.

Ok, so for those keeping score at home let’s do a recap. First we had Governor Sarah Palin and her inability to grasp basic domestic and foreign policy facts, not to mention her basic lack of ethics when it came to billing the people of Alaska for travel or the RNC for clothing. Then we have Lt. Governor Michael Steele to head the RNC and his on the one hand saying the Republicans need to expand their Party by working with groups whom they disagree with like gays but when asked about
civil unions gave a resounding no. And now we have Governor Bobby Jindal talking about what the economy needs is more tax-cuts and less government regulation. Now I could be wrong but what it looks like to me is that the Republicans believe that if they change the messenger they can continue to keep the same message and the American public will not be the wiser. It is almost like they believe that the American people can’t tell the difference between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin or Barack Obama and Bobby Jindal or Michael Steele. Do they think the American public is so stupid that all we see are genders and races and are not listening to their words? I could go on and on about the “New Republicans”, but why bother.

Instead of coming up with new ideas and policies the Republicans are content to just present new caricatures. They want the American people to ignore or forget about the fact that they presided over all of the current crisis’s we are in and try this new idea they have of tax-cuts for the wealthy and reducing government oversight. We have to remember after all as of January 20th they are the Party of fiscal responsibility and ethics. There is only one slight problem though the country wasn’t born in 2009, it was born in 1776. We may have been born at night but it wasn’t last night.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Our Best And Our Brightest

For years many blacks have just come to accept that integration was the path to success in America. Blacks who have been able to have deftly navigated the integration maze either through employment, education, or athletic achievement. And once reaching the pinnacle of their success they have chosen to leave their neighborhoods, friends, and communities to relocate into white America where they take on mythical status as being more than black. To whites they become not like those other blacks and therefore become more acceptable to their white sensibilities. And in some cases blacks believe they have some mythical characteristics that separate them from other blacks. In their wake they leave behind a community that is devoid of role models and success stories. They leave behind a community that is becoming more financially and morally bankrupt.

Before integration and the black man’s desertion of the black neighborhood the only place for successful black men was within the black community. They didn’t have the option of leaving and joining the majority population so their influence and their example were there for all to see and emulate. With the exodus of these heroes the black community has been left with smoke hounds, drunks, and prison gang leaders for masculine role models. And people wonder why young black men are doing so well? When you remove the presence of successful men in a community a vacuum is created and as with any vacuum something or someone is always there to fill it. In the case of the black community it has been filled by despair, hopelessness, and this penitentiary mentality. The heroes we have been left with are those who exploit and pander to violence, criminality, and gangsterism.

I remember when I was growing up we had professional athletes, doctors, and professional men as neighbors. We interacted with them daily and got to see that a black man could be successful without resorting to dealing drugs, robbing people, and killing their brothers. These men provided hope just by their very presence to many young black men who otherwise would have been consumed by their circumstances. Even children who did not have fathers at home still could go out into the community and see that there had been others who were able to overcome their surroundings and reach to another level. As blacks have been able to wrestle success from the clutches of an economic system that for so long had ignored and marginalized them they began to seek the safety and comfort of the suburbs. While I have no problem with anyone who wants to make a better life for their families in the suburbs, I do believe that we all have to be cognizant of the consequences of our actions. As more and more successful blacks have migrated to the suburbs in their wake they have left a more engrained and intransigent form of poverty, a poverty that feeds on itself and creates more poverty.

In my opinion there are two ways to be successful. One is to migrate to the suburbs and integrate into an established system of success. This of course is the easy route to take because the only work involved is assimilation into the larger culture. The second and by far the more difficult way is to stay where you are and rebuild the institutions that you have. By doing this you create and enforce your own definition of success which may be different from the larger culture. The key question in all of this I guess is do successful black men owe any loyalty to their communities besides trying to sell them sneakers or an occasional drive through the hood? Each person must answer this question within themselves, but as a Christian I am not only judged on what I do but also on the opportunities I have to do the right thing and do not.

Our black youth in our communities are at a crisis point. They are angry and for good reason. When they needed a black man to protect them and to lead them there was no one positive there. Instead what was there was gangs, criminals, and disengaged fathers. No longer were there positive role models to emulate and find a communal sense of pride in. As more and more black kids are growing up without fathers the need for hope has never been greater. These kids need to know that they matter in a world that has basically ignored, shunned, and made them feel invisible. They continue to cry out in dysfunctional ways, but it is the only way they know how to say we are hurting and no one seems to care. It is time for all of us to come together not as a white community or a black community but as one community to rebuild and restore our promise to one another. Yes, I am my brother’s keeper.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Morals Of A Gnat

As I watched the rant of CNBC analyst Rick Santelli concerning the proposed housing bailout of the Obama administration I couldn’t help but think is this where we have evolved to as a country? Where our chief concern is what’s in it for me. Have we gotten to the place where we are taking our moral cues from the same greedy, profit at all cost mentality that got us into this mess? According to this crowd it is now immoral to help those who have become unemployed, sick, or homeless because they have had the misfortune of working for a company that had lay-offs and didn’t have golden parachutes. Because these people are still fortunate enough to be employed and have homes then the rest of the world be damned?

The popularity of this type of behavior illustrates how through the media and our decades of greed we have become desensitized to the suffering of others. We are emulating the attitudes of the “Gilded Age” prior to the “Great Depression” where as long as the misery is affecting others then it is not my concern. This type of behavior is often times seen in courtrooms where we blame the victim in order for us to not believe that we ourselves could be victims of similar mishaps. It is a response to a deep-seated fear and insecurity because deep inside we all know that we could just as easily be that victim. So rather than accept the possibility that it could be us we place blame and give the victims characteristics that reduce their humanity. In this case that all of the people who are being foreclosed on are somehow responsible for their misfortune due to bad decision making or some other moral deficiency.

The problem I have with this guy in particular and with the recent criticism of the economic plans of this administration in general is that people are treating this crisis like it is just another recession and so all we need are a few minor tweaks and the system will right itself. Anyone with the slightest understanding of this crisis and of our history realizes that this is not the 1970’s or 1990’s where we faced market corrections and slight downturns and our solutions did not require radical departures from previous policies. The current crop of naysayers whether they be the greedy or the Republicans seem to be focused on the short-term, for some reason they refuse to look at the overall view. They take snippets of data and scraps of the solutions and say this does nothing to change the crisis this week as if we got here overnight. The problem with many of them is that they believe the history of America started on January 20th and ignore the systemic problems brought about by years of neglect and greed.

What I don’t understand is when did our morals become everybody for themselves? I find it hard to believe that we have become a nation of such selfish proportions. I was taught and firmly believe still that if my neighbor is struggling and if I can help him then I should. We are being bombarded by article after article and rant after rant about the ignorance of the average American for buying homes they could not afford or speculating on the real estate market. It is a common refrain of the right and the greedy to blame those less fortunate for their circumstances as if they were the ones who brought down our economy. It is like the welfare queens of Reagan claiming that every woman on welfare was a black woman driving a Cadillac and living in some fancy condominium. The sad part is that it resonates with people. It allows those who are selfish to ignore and overlook the suffering of those they see every day. It allows them to make judgments about those they don’t know and based on those judgments walk by the homeless, the hungry, and the poor without feeling guilty.

Have we become so jaded that our national conscience can no longer be shamed into action on the part of those less fortunate? It is a shame how the wealthy and the greedy have turned this into a referendum of the middle-class and not a condemnation of the greedy who ran our economy into the ground. While the CEO’s are brought before the cameras not to be drawn and quartered for their excesses, but merely to be scolded like unruly children and sent back to their mansions and country club lifestyles. Yet those poor Americans who can and have lost their homes are told you were stupid and we won’t help you. We reward those who have lost billions of dollars of other people’s money and blame those who have lost thousands of their own dollars. Is it me or is there something wrong with this picture?

No Mr. Santelli, the message our government is sending is not that you don’t have to pay your mortgage if you are laid-off or you have a rotten loan, the message that our government is sending is that we care for all Americans not just the greedy and the wealthy. The message we are sending is that we are a compassionate nation and if that offends your delicate sensibilities then maybe you ought to relocate to a country where excess and greed are not frowned upon. Do I think that it is fair that I have to continue to pay my mortgage while others may receive some help? Of course not, but I thank God that I am not in their shoes yet! How about you Mr. Santelli if it is such a great deal why don’t you quit your job and apply for foreclosure assistance?

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Friday, February 20, 2009

A Nation Of Cowards?

Many of the pundit class in the media have been “appalled” by the comments of Attorney General Eric Holder, the first black Attorney General. In a speech that he gave at the Justice Department for Black History Month the AG stated that in effect when it comes to matters of race we have been a “nation of cowards”. As I observed the many black talking heads run for cover over the AG’s “controversial” remarks it reminded me of the “Jeremiah Wright” incident and many other times when a black person has spoken out in ways that were considered too confrontational. As a defense against the topic many focus on the tone of the speaker and not the message of the speaker. In this way we can continue to avoid the topic because we are so busy debating the messenger. What this allows us to do is to avoid the dreadful facts that in many ways our society and our social interactions have not changed much in the last fifty years.

What I think AG Holder was trying to do was to not allow many of us to fall into the trap that is Obamania. Now that Obama has been elected President many have begin to declare that our racial problems are over, that his election is evidence that we now live in a post-racial society. We are constantly being told that now we have nothing left to complain about – we elected a black man didn’t we? Let’s be clear electing Obama President is a historical and monumental achievement in America and is worthy of praise, but are any of us so naïve to believe that a black man that had to run by not discussing the problems and plight of black people suddenly removed the racial disparity that has for so long divided this nation? Think about this as an example; how many of us took part in the election by doing voter registration, attending rallies, and other volunteer activities and when they were over went back to our insulated enclaves feeling good that we had “made a difference”? For those of you who believe that we live in a transformed America let me present to you some facts that may alter those beliefs.

· In 2004, a typical black family had an income that was 58 percent of a typical white family's. In 1974, median black incomes were 63 percent of those of whites.

· Unemployment among blacks is more than double that for whites, 10.8 percent versus 5.2 percent in 2003 -- a wider gap than in 1972.[2]

· In 2000, the median net worth of a household headed by a non-Hispanic white adult was $79,400. The median net worth of a household run by a black adult was $7,500.[3]

· According to the 2000 U.S. census, an estimated 14.3% of the Black/African American population 25 years and older has a baccalaureate degree, 42.5% has some college education, and 72.3% completed high school. In contrast, 26.1% of the White population 25 years and older has a baccalaureate degree, 54.1% has some college education, and 83.6% completed high school (Bauman & Graf, 2003)[4]

· Only about 5 percent of the nation's churches are racially integrated[5]

So as one can easily deduce from the statistics electing one man to one office does not dramatically change what is happening on the ground with blacks. As I listened to the white pundits I couldn’t help but notice that their take – like so many other whites – was markedly different than the black pundits. They tend to believe that things are better for blacks than the blacks believe. Whether we like it or not at some point we have to begin to address and confront our racial history. For too long we have brushed it under the rug thinking it will just go away and granted that may happen, but at the rate we are going that could take a couple of centuries. In the mean time we continue to live in fear and mistrust of each other choosing to live in separate worlds that only collide when we are forced to by circumstance or emergency. The statistic that sticks out the most to me is the church integration, how are we going to live together when the one place where all are suppose to be equal under God remains so divided?

What many whites don’t understand is that in order for any minority to be successful they have to become experts in the culture of whites. They have to learn the music, the art, and the history of the white society. They have to learn and understand the psychology of whites. So minorities know whites, they have to. By the same token whites can be successful and don’t have to learn about any culture other than their own unless they choose to. You see integration has always been a bottom up proposition minorities integrating up into white schools, white neighborhoods, and white social circles. Rarely do whites integrate into black neighborhoods, black schools, or black social circles. Whites for the most part can still go through their daily lives without any significant interaction with a black person other than service personnel. In the meaningful areas of our lives many of us are still very segregated with the near future looking bleak.

Until we are able to have a free and open exchange of ideas we can never expect to overcome the centuries of mistrust that continue to plague us. Until whites are able to express their concerns about black societal ills without fear of hostility and calls of racism and until blacks are able to confront whites about their role in slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation without whites becoming defensive and blaming past generations we will be unable to bridge the divide that separates us. Are we a nation of cowards? Maybe, but in the past we have been and unless we overcome our fears instead of denying them we will remain stuck in the quagmire that has become race in America.


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