Friday, February 20, 2009

More than the Cartoon...

 I hate to disagree with my friend, Alex on anything, even mildly, especially since he invited me onto his lovely site to write and contribute.

All I can do now, is offer my perspective as an African-American. (Oh, and by the way, for those readers who didn't know before my "startling" announcement, uhhh, surprise! Yeah, I know. It's a blog, it can be hard to tell.)

There isn't an African-American that I know who saw that cartoon and didn't have a visceral reaction to it.

And yes, I mean that visceral reaction.

Drawing a cartoon, like that, with that subject matter, and placing a monkey anywhere within fifty miles of it, is asking for that reaction. I also believe that the (yes) racist, editor who approved the piece knew exactly what he was doing. The history of stereotyping African-Americans and animals is far too long, far too deep to be ignored.

I know there is a reaction from the quote-unquote white community that pushes back against anything the Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are for. I think a lot of my, again, quote-unquote white friends would be surprised how many in the African-American view these two as clowns. To me, Sharpton and Jackson's number one cause has always been Sharpton and Jackson. Any actions they undertake must always be viewed through that prism.

At the same time, when they're right, they're right. Don't blame the weak-ass messenger for the message.

Personally, I think you can debate the racial connotations of the cartoon. I think you'd be wrong, but you can debate it.

What cannot be debated is the violence associated with this cartoon, and in context of the Obama Presidency...that, more than the monkey itself is what's fueling the anger in the African-American community.

The President's personal safety is something that is personal to a lot of African-Americans. Lord knows its personal to me. It is a fear that almost kept some African-Americans from voting for him, much less believing he could win.

Look at the some of the incidents that have happened since the President's Election:

Sales of handguns have gone up.

A cross was burned on the lawn of Obama supporters in Hardwick, New Jersey.

Political Figures in both Georgia and Texas warned their constituents of an "Obama Dictatorship" or "Obama Tyranny".

A Teachers' Aide from the Allison Park suburb of Pittsburgh told a bi-racial student: "that Obama was going to be shot and killed. And that our flag is going to be the KFC [Kentucky Fried Chicken] flag and that the new national anthem will be 'Moving On Up' "

Again, told this to a freakin' student.

Students on a School Bus in Idaho started chanting "Assassinate Obama".

The Secret Service arrested a guy in Mississippi for threatening to kill the then-President-Elect. (BTW, thank you Secret Service for nabbing this guy.)

A Colorado Man was indicted recently for threatening the same.

Three men torched black churches (allegedly) within hours of the President's swearing in.

And of course, there was the lovely story of the man who said he had a delivery for the President, and was actually packing a rifle. (Again, thumbs up Secret Service...but this one sounded kinda easy. He did walk up to the front door thinking he could get in and just see the President.)

Again, just since the Election.

Forgive us for being more than a little bit paranoid.

The introduction of anything resembling violence toward this President isn’t going to be greeted warmly by anyone in my community, not even in jest.

In the end, this was an image of a Police shooting, in and of itself a sensitive subject in my community. It is an image of the shooting of a monkey, given the history of stereotyping African-Americans, every bit as painful. The monkey is also supposed to represent the author of the stimulus bill. This is where there's room for debate over the racial connotations of the cartoon; the Artist going so far as to say "if anything, the monkey represents Nancy Pelosi."

Yes, because gunfire is exactly the reaction you should have to a piece of legislation you disagree with.

But while the President may or may not be the author of the Stimulus Package, his was the face most associated with it. (He may not have written it, but I have no doubt than an awful lot of it came out of the White House.) In the end, this Artist and his Editor have decreed, however seriously you want to take it, that the penalty for this bad legislation, should be death.

That struck a nerve.

It was not without good reason.

Originally posted on Fort McHenry

The Cartoon



Here's why the now infamous New York Post cartoon didn't cut through me as deeply: I equated the animal with Congress in general, not the president. The language ("They'll have to find someone else to WRITE the next stimulus bill") also indicates the intent of the satire. Obama never WROTE the bill...that's Pelosi's and Reid's baby; if anything THEY ought to be offended. But in any case, I filtered it through my personal lenses and I realize those are of a white, foreign-born, middle class man. I am hyper-aware of that.

That being said, I get it. I see how it may cross lines...divisive lines, hurtful lines, historical lines. I understand the protests in front of the Post building yesterday, especially coming on the heels of Attorney General Holder calling us a "nation of cowards" when it comes to racial dialogues. I think the Post's apology was the right thing to do. It was insensitive to run the cartoon and I personally believe both artist and the paper knew this was coming. I don't trust corporations; this stinks of a benign-enough stunt for the Post to pull, then ameliorate the situation with a quick apology to the African-American community. The press it has generated for the paper is gargantuan...and invaluable. I believe the Post weighed its options and decided this was a good enough risk to take.

What I loathe is the reactionary furor from the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson---now longtime stalwart leaders of the African-American community---who need to realize that their time and glory days have passed. These are the community's dinosaurs who, much like parasites, now thrive on static and the toxic puss flowing from re-opening racial wounds perpetually. With these two men around there will NEVER be any progress made between the races; I whole-heartedly believe these men's personal and financial well-being is based upon widening division lines between whites and blacks. I am convinced that these two are detrimental to the African-American community.

The days are approaching when a new generation looks at a cartoon like this and does not let it divide and conquer its communities. That new generation is our children, raised by us to understand that the only race is the human race, and that color is absent, and equality and rights do not cut one way or another. Nor are they bought and traded like commodities. That new generation will shake its head at the insensitivity of such cartoons, understanding fully the history and struggles of the African-American community in this country, as well as the complex inter-relationships of human beings in general. The new generation will take unified, appropriate, consumer action against companies and corporations like the New York Post. It will speak with its all-inclusive, cohesive processes and will effect change by flexing its all-powerful consumerist muscles against all perpetrators or perpetuators of racism, bigotry, and exploitation.

I truly believe these days are coming. Personally, as a father, I am doing my bit to ensure I am privy to living in these times before my jig is up and they discard of me properly in a six-foot hole. That is my hope.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

TPM: Trailblazer is Toast...Part II (Senate Version)

This is from the office of Dick Durbin, and it's his official statement on the Burris matter. (That breeze you feel is the axe starting to fall. If not, he's getting awful brazen about wishing a colleague, a Democratic colleague, out of the Senate.)

(Note: All emphasis...of mine.)


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) issued the following statement today on the evolving situation regarding Senator Roland Burris (D-IL):

"When we met with Roland Burris in January, we made it clear that in order for him to be seated in the U.S. Senate he needed to meet two requirements - first, that he submit the proper paperwork certifying his appointment, and second, that he appear before the General Assembly's Impeachment Committee to testify openly, honestly and completely about the nature of his relationship with the former governor, his associates and the circumstances surrounding this appointment."

"We asked him to testify in the impeachment proceedings, not to embarrass Roland Burris, but to give him an opportunity to clear the air regarding this appointment from a tainted governor. Our hope was that he would use that opportunity to assure the people of Illinois and the other members of the United States Senate that he was not involved in any wrongdoing."

"Now the accuracy and completeness of his testimony and affidavits have been called into serious question. Every day there are more and more revelations about contacts with Blagojevich advisors, efforts at fundraising and omissions from his list of lobbying clients. This was not the full disclosure under oath that we asked for."

"These news reports and the public statements by Roland Burris himself are troubling and raise serious questions which need to be looked at very carefully."

"The State's Attorney in Sangamon County is reviewing the affidavit and other materials associated with Senator Burris' testimony to see if criminal charges are warranted and the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee has begun a preliminary investigation into this matter."

"This is the appropriate course of action and I await the outcome of those investigations. The people of Illinois deserve nothing less."

As I said yesterday, in far fewer words (remember, I'm not a U.S. Senator):

"If you sufficiently bury Blagojevich…if you prove to the Senate you are your own man, we'll get this over with and let you in."

Well, he didn't.

Multiple amended statements does not equal"testify openly, honestly and completely about the nature of his relationship with the former governor...


Sooner or later, toast.

The Return of the Permanent Campaign (VIDEO)

One of the things Scotty McCellan (aka Puffy McMoonface to you Stephanie Miller fans out there), bemoaned in his book "What Happened" is the culture of the so-called "Permanent Campaign" that's seemed to have taken over politics.

One of the things Puffy was going to look for in a new candidate was someone who was going to end the permanent campaign mentality. Puffy wound up voting for Obama.

Now, in all fairness, the President tried it his way for a couple of weeks early in the Stimulus Package. You see where it got him.

Now, Obama is waging full-on, non-stop assault for his Economic Recovery plan, all four phases of it (Stimulus, Homeowners, Banks, and eventually...Health Care). He's been out of Washington more than he's been in it, signing legislation, holding town halls, driving the Congressional Republicans off the front page, and...more importantly...driving everyone's poll numbers up (including Congressional Democrats, no small feat).

And now, we've got outside groups airing campaign ads...all this when there's no campaign going on.

I understand Puffy's point, but we tried it his way. So...tough [BLEEP]. He who tries it your way goes home four years from now.

Originally Posted on Fort McHenry

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Trailblazer" is Toast...

I had a bad feeling about this dude.

I had a bad feeling from the start.

But now, my bad feelings about the guy may not matter. Sooner or later, Senator Roland Burris is toast.

It wasn't just the fact that he took an appointment by the most ethically challenged Governor in recent memory. It wasn't just the fact that he turned out to be far, far, far down the list, or that others had reservations about taking the appointment from Blagojevich and wisely said "hell no".

And it sure as hell wasn't about his grave, either.

When Harry Reid said, that the Senate would not seat him, I cheered. There quickly appeared an article in that backed him up, saying that the Powell Case, the precedent most frequently mentioned in relation of the Burris case did not necessarily apply to the Burris case. Oh man, I loved that. I was so happy.

But then, it was just about the only article out there saying the Senate was right to not seat him. All the others, on the other hand, said the opposite.

Even my dead old Dad was against me. (Yeah, I'm talkin' about you, old man.)

In the end, he was seated. In the end, the math was too good. The Senate had to cave, and wanted to put this business behind it.

But as the cheese stood alone, I warned my Dad, I warned a lot of my friends…this guy was bad news.

And in this case, the Tombstone had a lot to do with it.

One of the conditions Harry Reid had put on Burris getting his seat was his testimony before the Impeachment Proceedings in the Illionois Senate. In a nutshell, "If you sufficiently bury Blagojevich…if you prove to the Senate you are your own man, we'll get this over with and let you in."

Thus, Roland Burris went before the Illinois Senate.

And thus, Roland Burris may have perjured himself.

During his January 8th Impeachment Testimony, Burris was asked this question:

QUESTION: Did you talk to any members of the governor‘s staff or anyone closely related to the governor including family members or any lobbyists connected with him, including, let me throw out some names, John Harris, Rob Blagojevich, Doug Scofield, Bob Greenleaf, Lon Monk, John Wyma? Did you talk to anyone who is associated with the governor about your desire to seek the appointment prior to the governor‘s arrest?

BURRIS: I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed. Yes.

As Keith said last night, this was on its nose truthful, but at the same time a little vague, so he was pressed again.

QUESTION: The point is, I was trying to ask did you speak to anyone on the governor‘s staff prior to the governor‘s arrest or any of those individuals or anybody who was closely related to the governor?

BURRIS: I recall having a meeting with Lon Monk about my partner and I trying to get continued business and I did bring it up, it must have been in September, maybe it was in July of ‘08 that, you know, if you are close to the governor let him know that I am certainly interested in the seat.

So, Burris admits to talking to Lon Monk, one of Blagojevich's hacksabout wanting the Senate Seat in September or July of 2008, nice and specific.

The problem was he forgot to mention that he had talked to Rob Blagojevich about the Senate Seat as well. That would be Rob Blagojevich, Governor Rod's Brother, and apparently Chief of Staff (unindicted). The other Chief of Staff, John Harris was indicted and arrested along with the human hair helmet.

On February 4th, Senator Burris filed an affidavit amending his testimony before the Illinois Senate, where he goes from zero conversations with Rob (not Rod) Blagojevich to three conversations with Rob (not Rod) Blagojevich.

Oh, and Rob (not Rod) Blagojevich may have asked him for a contribution in advance of his getting the Senate seat.

Let me illustrate some of the problems this presents.

One, this affidavit is filed a month after Senator Burris's original testimony before the Illinois Senate, and a week after Governor Blagojevich is impeached. The timing couldn't be worse because it makes it look like Burris wanted the seat so bad that he kept his mouth shut (given the pressure put on him by Harry Reid) during the ImpeachmentTestimony, and once his seat was secure, in his mind, he "legally" covered his ass by filing the affidavit. This is what I think actually happened.

Two, another problem is that he has admitted that he sought to raise funds for Governor Blagojevich before he got the appointment. That has the effect of making it look like q quid pro quo situation for a Governor who's about to go to jail for asking for one too many quid pro quos.

Three, then there's the matter of Rod (not Rob) Blagojevich was asking him for a contribution before hand. Same instance, in reverse. Uhhh, isn't this the behavior that landed his brother in the hoosegow in the first place??

And given the gravity of the situation, how exactly does Senator Burris not remember this [BLEEP] when he's asked that question on January 8th? This is where Burris's Legal jeopardy lies.

And is it a coincidence that this all happened on January 8th, Elvis's birthday? You know the Governor is a devoted fan.

Again, everything is timing. Burris could well be innocent of the charges (I doubt it, but hell, you never know), but the people of Illinois and the Senate Ethics Committee have every right to start asking what did the Senator know and when did he know it.

It doesn't help when Burris gives answers like this went pressed:

No. The inconsistencies are coming from you all. The inconsistencies are coming from the press. There are no inconsistencies in my first voluntary affidavit, my testimony before the impeachment committee and no inconsistencies in the second affidavit that I submitted. None whatsoever. Those are factual. That‘s the truth and God knows we shouldn‘t even be here.

This is the answer of a defensive [BLEEP], with no answers. When you have the Law, pound the law. When you have nothing, pound the table.

Look, alledged Senator Burris, like it or not, there are inconsistencies. They may be explainable, but it's going to take a whole lot more than your word at this point.

This is a supposedly safe Senate seat for 2010. Burris shouldn't be running, but everyone in Illinois is acting like he is. The sooner this gets put down, the better for Democrats.

At the same time, a wise Politician, one holding on to some manner of dignity might spare us all this nonsense and resign right now.

But is there anyone from Illinois Government that has shown that kind of dignity recently?

UPDATE: 5:44pm Pacific: According to HuffPo, Toast is also a definition of when, shall it be now or 2010? (Hint: They say 2010.)

Cliff's Notes

Remember those? Before Wiki, before Google, before Ask Jeeves (ha! Remember him?), we had Cliff's Notes. It's how I got through most of my high school Shakespeare and some of that other dreaded "required reading" (Beowulf, Canterbury Tales), so don't laugh. Yes, they were pseudo-cheating, but they nevertheless helped.

We could have used a version of the oul' Cliff's Notes last week, for this mondo-giganto stimulus bill that just got passed in Congress. Why? Because not a single member of either chamber had a chance to read it. Or wanted to, apparently. Indeed, the 1,073-page document (admittedly full of legalese mumbo-jumbo) wasn't posted on the government's Web site until after 10 p.m. the day before the vote to pass it was taken. Shame, shame, shame; Congress has voted to spend almost $790 billion of our money on a stimulus package that no one has bothered to properly commit to the grey matter.

Democrats promised to post the bill a full 48 hours before the vote was taken to allow members of the public, as well as lawmakers, to see what they were getting for their money. Both parties voted unanimously to do this ... and both parties lied.

That Congress lies to the American people is not a surprise---it really ought to legally become part of a politician's job description---but methinks the reason for all this business-as-usual wrangling inside the Beltway is the noxious, internecine warfare between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

These two stalwarts represent exactly that which Obama is desperately trying to fight: status-quo and "good ol' boy" mentality and fraternity, which seem to have thoroughly ensconced themselves into Washington culture, thus rendering all aspects of visionary lawmaking impotent.

It's really a shame President Obama couldn't figure out a way to boot these two brats (along with a few handfuls of their Republican counterparts). The Associated Press called the stimulus bill "sausage making" in the best tradition of Washington politics as usual.

Personally, I'm holding my breath---we need some sort of a chance, but the skeptic/cynic within me is wincing just a wee bit. I cannot help it; I've seen these games for far too long.