Month: June 2008

Mr. Obama, welcome to the Woodshed

When I went online to read the New York Times yesterday (I’m an ink-stained wretch but I didn’t have the $1.50, sorry), I saw two stories on Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, that caught my eye.

One of them was a story about how he’s decided to opt out of public financing for his general election campaign and the other was about his willingness to go along with the Democratic compromise with President George W. Bush on the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) bill.

One out of two ain’t bad, but the one he whiffed on is about to earn him a trip to my woodshed.

First of all, unlike most of my friends on the left, I had no problem at all with his refusing to take federal matching funds for the campaign. If anything, it showed me that he picked up some street smarts as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago.
Why? Because anyone who’s spent any time on the streets knows that you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.
Obama may not have spent much time on the senate floor, but the man ain’t dumb. He knows that as a Black Man trying to get into the White House someone in Republican 527 land is trying to make a very special set of attack ads for him; the kind of attack ads that will make us all long for the “Willie Horton ad” days.
(For those of you who don’t remember the Willie Horton ads, hit the Google and type in “Willie Horton+Michael Dukakis”. It’ll all make sense to you.)
While $84 million, the amount that Obama would have gotten in public financing, sounds like a lot of money, it’s the equivalent of a knife when you’re getting hit by 527 ad guns coming at you from organizations with deeper than average pockets.
So I, for one, am glad that he’s got the good sense to go out and get him a gun. Neither Sen. John Kerry or Vice President Al Gore did, so when Bush whipped out an AK-47 he blew their asses away.

But while I applaud Obama’s good sense for not taking public financing for the general election, I’m pissed off at him because he’s doing the same thing that made me decide that Sen. Hillary Clinton wasn’t fit to be president: compromising with the Bush Administration regarding our civil liberties.
As a constitutional law professor, I would think that you’d know better Senator.
To those of you who don’t know what the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is and why it’s important, here’s a little primer. FISA was passed in 1978 because we had a president named Richard Millhous Nixon who liked to spy on those who opposed him, like say, Democrats. (Again, for those of you not old enough to remember this, hit the Google again and punch in the word “Watergate”.)
The way that it’s supposed to work is, federal agencies wanting to spy on suspect foreigners in this country would come to the FISA court, state their case, and get permission to wiretap. If they wanted to spy on Americans who they though might be working with these suspect foreigners, agencies had to come in to the FISA court and ask for permission within 72 hours of the time they wanted to look at ’em.
It was a law that was rarely talked about and no one really paid attention to it until after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks happened.
Then Bush started the process of dismantling it. You see, he thinks that he should be able to spy on anyone, foreign or domestic. He thinks that the phone companies should give him the records for any phone he asks about. He thinks that if he has to go through the FISA court, it’ll take too long and he won’t be able to protect us from the things that go bump in the night.
You wanna know how many times the FISA court has refused a request from the federal government to wiretap a suspect foreigner? Three. And that’s in 30 years.
Anyway, someone found out that the phone companies were giving Bush’s cronies copies of people’s phone records.
Folks got mad.
They started suing phone companies.
Congress wanted to talk to the phone company people, but Bush wouldn’t let ’em because it would violate “national security” for Congress to ask them “Why are you helping this clown spy on Americans?”
The suits got thrown out, but they could be refiled.
So what does Congress do? They put together this “compromise” bill that would renew FISA Bush’s way, complete with amnesty for phone companies from civil litigation.
Obama says he’ll vote for it.
Bad move, dude.
Phone companies should be made to pay out the ass for helping this administration violate civil liberties. For that matter, Bush should be made to pay for yet another instance of his wiping his ass with the Constitution.
Now I understand that you’ve gotta play nice with the other kiddies because you want them to campaign for you in the fall, Sen. Obama.
But you’re also the de-facto leader of the Democratic Party now. It’s time that you started putting your foot up the behinds of folks like Sen. Harry Reid and Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer and letting them know that stuff like this isn’t cool.
Because if you don’t, people are going to start questioning this whole “change we can believe in” thing. I know I will. And I may just get in your face about it during the Unity 2008 convention in Chicago next month.
But for right now, you need to go right into the woodshed, because the American people are about to give you a whuppin’.

Make it your last one.

(In case you’re wondering who the band members are in back of Sen. Obama in this picture, these are members the Florida A&M University Marching 100. They’re possibly the best collegiate marching band in the country.)

Guess what folks….

These two people got married….
And nobody died.

I felt it was important to point that out because the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow gay people to get married was causing too much unnecessary handwringing for my taste. You would have thought that folks were being forced at gunpoint to take same-sex partners for all of the rigormarole.

But neither asteroid, fire, nor Hurricane Katrina the Sequel befell California as a result. Hopefully, the folks in Bakersfield aren’t disappointed. More on them later.

The fact that the apocalypse didn’t begin shortly after the couple in this picture, Phyllis Lyon, 79 and Del Martin, 83 took their vows should serve as a sign that it’s gonna take more than two women affirming a relationship they’ve been in for 51 years through marriage to cause the End of the World. I mean if we calculated 51 years of life for Britney Spears, we’re talking at least 10 or 15 husbands.
But if she got married again, despite her questionable taste in men, no one would lose their minds over it.
And that’s too bad.
I have always felt that being gay is nature and not nurture because if you actually made the “choice” to be gay or lesbian, I’d have to ask you some questions about your self esteem or lack thereof. With what gay people go through, you’d have to be nuts.
For example, did you know that until a few years ago gay people could be arrested for having sex? Yep, that’s true. There were serious anti-sodomy laws on the books, especially in the south. The Supreme Court struck them down and now gay people can have sex just like straight folks.
(Personally, I think that decision came down because someone explained to the men on the court exactly what “sodomy” entailed. Because these laws basically outlawed an act that I’ve been asked to perform by far too many men but won’t get into here, the law got changed.)
However, getting married is still not a universal right for gay people. They can do it in Massachusetts because the commonwealth’s Supreme Court struck down the statute outlawing it.
But on the federal level, President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that strictly defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Several states have put similar laws on the books since then.
(Considering how strictly Mr. Bill has followed the letter of the law in his marriage, I find it kinda ironic that he started this ball rolling, don’t you?)
Neither of the guys running for president likes the idea either. Barack Obama likes civil unions, while John McCain likes Samuel Alito and John Roberts. (that kinda tells me where he stands.)
And don’t get me started on the Bush Administration’s push to put this specialized form of discrimination into the Constitution. It’s amazing how a guy can tear up the parts that deal with civil rights and liberties, and try to replace them with a provision that tells gay people “you can’t get married.”
Unfortunately, California looks like it’s headed for a similar constitutional fight. I was listening to National Public Radio this morning and there was a story on how the county municipal office in Bakersfield has stopped performing marriages altogether because they don’t want to marry gay people. A bunch of religious folks have managed to get a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the November ballot.
But I find it hard to take marriage that seriously. I don’t see what gay people can do to screw up the institution of marriage that straight people haven’t already done.
I mean Britney Spears has been married twice, and one time lasted 24 hours. Michael Jackson found two people willing to do it with him. I have straight friends who have just about made me turn away from marriage completely.
And besides, how seriously should I take something that can be done by an Elvis impersonator in Vegas at a drive thru window?
I wish all of the gay and lesbian folks in California who will be going to the chapels and getting married the best of luck. I hope it’s all it’s cracked up to be for you.
I especially wish Lyon and Martin the best. If they leave this planet tomorrow, they leave it knowing that they made the ultimate commitment to each other….and to me that’s cool.

Where my girls at?

There’s this lady that I have been arguing pretty strenuously with on a listserve I belong to about Sen. Barack Obama’s winning the Democratic nomination over Sen. Hillary Clinton.
I can’t count the number of times that she said Obama’s win was a coup (which I disuputed by saying that he wasn’t Jean-Bertrand Aristide and this wasn’t Haiti) or the number of times that she called him a sexist because he had played by the rules and defeated her girl.
After she told me how much I owed feminism for my career as a journalist, I said that I didn’t actually owe feminism shit because their brand of feminism (read: old-school white feminism) had failed consistently to address the issues of women of color like me.
But i’m a person who believes that everyone deserves a second chance, so i’m about to give those old school feminists, many of whom would beat my ass if they could, a shot at redemption.

You may recognize this piece of tape as Fox News’s latest attempt to put a target on the back of Sen. Obama’s wife Michelle just in time for the November elections.
While I had no problem with the story itself, which was a story about an anti-Obama documentary that someone is about to put out, I did have a problem with the chyron.
Baby mama?
What’s up with that shit? Who approved that, and why aren’t they out looking for another job?
Well, I’m guessing that the reason this person is still employed is the fact that no one is speaking out about it. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. If the wheels aren’t squeeking, the gas can stays inside.
The first thing that hit me after seeing this, especially in light of Fox News’s whole “Dap as Terrorist Fist Bump” thing, is that Fox needs to be schooled a little on African American Urban Vernacular.
You see, in order for Michelle and Barack Obama to be “baby mama” and “baby daddy” respectively, they would have to be unmarried. In fact, people in that situation are generally no longer in a relationship with each other anymore. Since the Obamas are not only a married couple, but a happily married one from all appearances, this doesn’t apply to them.
The second thing that hit me was the sound of my “sexism buzzer” going off. I have yet to see anyone labeled as a “baby daddy” on Fox News or anywhere else for that matter.
So, I thought, where my girls at?
Whenever Sen. Clinton found herself beset by the forces of sexism, I’d get some interesting email in my email box. The National Association for Women would send me release after release to proclaim their frustration at the latest sexist evil perpetrated against her, and for good reason. Sexism is bad and should be squelched whenever possible.
Now in case you haven’t noticed ladies, this is a blatant case of sexism. Add this to the other attacks that Fox News has launched on Michelle Obama since her husband started inching closer to the Red Button, and the boycott machine should be warmed up and ready to go.
But instead, I’ve noticed what can only be described as a deafening silence.
Because of this, I can only come to one conclusion: if a white woman gets attacked, you’re all on it. But if a woman of color finds herself being smacked around by sexism, she’s on her own.
So much for sisterhood, huh?
Thus the need for a chance for you all to redeem yourself. I want to see the NOW propaganda machine in all of it’s glory. I want to see boycotts mounted, press released issued, statements made. Get on it!
Otherwise, you’ve just proven my point and have proven to me that you are, in the words of my homey Keith Olbermann, “The Worst Persons in the World.”

This Woman’s Work…

I’m going to try not to be really, really harsh to Sen. Hillary Clinton because I know where she’s coming from.
Once upon a time, I lost a presidential election to someone that I knew that I was much better than. I also had some of the same words, words such as divisive and calculating, that have been thrown at her thrown at me.
And yes, when I lost, I was pissed. But I also decided that since I obviously wasn’t needed anymore, I would let the organization go on without me. I didn’t intrude on his victory party, nor did I try to show him up (although I could have with very little effort.)
I was even magnanimous when folks within the organization asked me to come back once they realized that I had much needed strenghts that this guy didn’t. Although my feelings were hurt, I didn’t make it all about me.
It’s too bad that the woman who goes back to being the Junior Senator From New York did.
In my last post, I talked about how it felt to hear Sen. Barack Obama’s speech in Minnesota after clinching the Democratic presidential nomination.
I also had some definite feelings after hearing Sen. Clinton’s speech earlier that evening, and most of them weren’t kind.
My friend Vince and I were coming back from the Melrose Diner here in Philly and caught the speech on KYW-Newsradio. As we heard the senator talk about her 18 million voters, her swing state victories, and her decision to “make no decisions tonight”, Vince said “She isn’t going to let it go, is she?”
Now having seen Hillary Clinton in action for most of the campaign, I certainly wasn’t expecting her to go quietly. When people refer to you and your husband as “the Ike and Tina Turner of Politics”, it’s assumed that you’d never do anything nice and easy.
But this level of gracelessness came out of left field. To not even acknowledge his victory, much less the fact that Obama had just made history, was just plain triflin’. It was about as graceless as you can get, and coming from someone who has taken gracelessness to an art form at various times during this campaign, that’s saying something.
Most importantly, this gracelessness takes away from the more than a little significant thing that she managed to pull off.
Just like black kids can’t say that their color limits them anymore thanks to Sen. Obama, young women can’t say that their gender limits them anymore either thanks to Sen. Clinton. These two people took most of our excuses for not achieving exactly what we want to do away with their mere presence on the ballot.
Sexism and racism may still exist, but their power has been reduced thanks to these two. (Notice that I didn’t say neutralized, I said reduced. I recognize the work that still needs to be done. If I said neutralized, i’d be saying that I’m blind to the racism and sexism that ran though this campaign.)
But that said, there was still no excuse for what Sen. Clinton did.
And that’s why Rep. Charlie Rangel and a whole bunch of other Democratic leaders ripped her a new one for it on Wednesday. After that, the Unity Event that she’s scheduled for Saturday was planned.
But while Sen. Clinton is supporting Sen. Obama, she’s only “suspending” her campaign.
That’s kind of ominous to me, especially when you take into consideration the fact that her most vocal supporters are telling her to either run as an independent, demand to be made the Vice Presidential candidate, or that they’re going to vote for Sen. John McCain.
I want to think that Sen. Clinton isn’t up to something, but I’m not sure that Miss “I’m In It To Win It” won’t grab her bucket of paint and try to paint over the handwriting on the wall.
Want to know what this woman’s work is to me? Getting folks like me, folks who have seen her in action far too many times, to trust her word.

"This is our moment"

I was doing a career day in an elementary school once and I was asked why I liked being a reporter.
I told the kids that I dug my job because more often than not I got a front row seat for history. I may not make a whole lot of money. I may not always get the respect I deserve or the praise I’d like. But I have a bunch of press credentials, programs, and other things that serve as my own personal encyclopedia.
That’s why I made sure to grab one of Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign signs during the Pennsylvania primary. They were hard to get, but I managed to grab one and save it like I saved just about everything that I got from covering the Primary. I figured that no matter who won, it would be another volume in my own personal World Book.
I was right. I now have a campaign sign from the first black man to run as a major party presidential candidate in our nation’s history.
I’m pretty sure that because it’s one of those “Where were you when…” moments that everyone reading this blog can tell me exactly where they were at 10:30 p.m. eastern time Tuesday night when Obama told a Minnesota crowd that he had the number of delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination for president.
I was in my car, parked near my house here in Philly. I had just finished listening to a Phillies game (they won) and was switching back to the local NPR affiliate when the speech came on.
I sat in the car, watched the rain fall, listened, and thought about my dad, who died of cancer 13 years ago.
Because he had been in the Army for 32 years, and Republicans are thought to be stronger on defense for some reason, my dad was a Republican. He was also the person that made me and my twin brother read the Ebony Encylopedia of Black History from cover to cover because he wanted us to know exactly who we were and where we came from.
Because he had entered the military before it was desegrated and saw how important it was for people, especially people of color, to determine their own destinies through the ballot box, Dad made sure that when the polls opened on Election Day he was in line and ready to cast his ballot. The only thing that kept him from going to the polls was cancer, and that didn’t stop him really. It just meant that one of us had to take him.
I don’t know if he would have voted for Barack Obama. He’d differ with him on a lot.
But I do know that he would have been glad to have someone who looked like him and had managed to do what he did, which was achieve his goals despite pretty much being abandonded by a parent when he was young, as one of his choices.
I was reading Will Bunch’s blog Attytood on today and he made the point that people died so that this moment could happen.
He’s right. A lot of folks went through hell for this brick and mortar ceiling to be broken. Many of them were young, some too young to understand what was going on. Not all of them were black. But they were all committed.
And those who are still with us are probably sitting back somewhere with a cool drink enjoying this moment, but knowing that the work is only half done.
So I congratulate Sen. Obama and his family for a moment that he’ll finally get to fully enjoy now that Sen. Hillary Clinton has finally seen the handwriting on the wall.
But that’s tomorrow’s post.
p.s. I really like this picture, don’t you?