Month: January 2009

A "Ward" of Contradictions

Have you ever seen a conundrum in person?

If you haven’t, please look to the right of my column here and avail yourself of the visage of one Wardell Anthony Connerly.

If you’re wondering why I consider Mr. Connerly a conundrum, it’s because one minute he can be totally right about something, and on the other hand be totally and completely wrong about something else.

For example, Connerly’s group, the American Civil Rights Institute, believes that thinking that discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people is wrong. But the group also believes, as I alluded to on Monday, that the 1965 Voting Rights Act should be repealed because Barack Obama is now the president and because of this, people of color have no more problems utilizing their franchise.

Folks who think that the Civil Rights acts of the 1960s were just the beginning of the struggle for equality for people of color have spent countless hours damn near scratching holes in their heads in an attempt to understand Ward Connerly.

This gentleman has spent most the last 20 years trying his best to pretend that racism and discrimination still doesn’t exist in this country. From California’s Proposition 200 to Michigan’s Proposal 2, this dude’s been busy in the name of something else that has made me damn near scratch a hole into my head at times….the notion that white folks have been hurt by people of color asserting themselves into society.

And his next target is the Voting Rights Act. People of color don’t need it anymore, you know. One of us is president. (Although in Connerly’s world, Obama is only black for the purposes of saying that racism is dead.) There’s no more impediment to voting.

That Connerly believes that tells me that he doesn’t get out much. Because if he did, he might have seen black students finding a hard way to go when they tried to vote in Florida in 2000. Or he might have seen some of the irregularities that have taken place since when it comes to voting.

You know, if Connerly actually left the Church of the Poisoned Mind that he lives in, he’d probably notice that the folks demanding enforcement of the Voting Rights Act the loudest are white.

Yeah, dude. White. White folks are complaining about being denied the right to vote. Check that out!

There are so many blogs, websites, and other things in cyberspace complaining about the voting system in this country that it’s ridiculous. And almost all of them are run by white folks. White folks that saw a guy that they didn’t want in the White House go in and stay for 8 years took to the Internets and started logging all of the voting irregularities they saw.

So, Mr. Conundrum, might I suggest before you start assuming that this particular group right needs to go the way of the DoDo, you check out who you’ll be tangling with this time around.

Well, at least I don’t live in Illinois

I live in Pennsylvania, where we have a governor, Ed Rendell, that I really wish would shut up every once in awhile.

Ed Rendell and a live microphone is almost always a recipe for disaster. He tends to do stuff like equate the public review process for the state’s budget with “whining”, get on national news programs and compare his party’s presidential nominee with Adlai Stephenson (who got his ass kicked in a presidential campaign for being seen as “too brainy”) and other things too numerous to mention.

But, I can take some solace in the fact that at least he’s not Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. While Ed can say and do some off the wall stuff, at least he’s not doing stuff like going on The View and begging for his political life.

In case you’ve been in a bunker somewhere, here’s the whole Blagojevich scene: The United States Attorney’s Office in Chicago arrested the governor before Christmas on charges that he tried to sell President Barack Obama’s senate seat. Since Obama obviously isn’t going to finish his term, the governor has the constitutional right to appoint someone to fill the expired term.

While Chicago is famous for it’s political horsetrading, I think that Blagojevich has taken it to a new level. Some of the highlights from the tapes include such things as him calling Obama’s senate seat: a fucking valuable thing. You don’t just give it away…I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden!”

Or, my personal favorite Blagojevich response regarding the Obama folks and the “gratitude” they offered if he appointed someone they liked: “Gratitude! Fuck them!”

(It’s the Def Comedy Jam of politics folks!)

Despite being asked not to appoint someone to Obama’s seat because the person would be considered tainted automatically, he did appoint someone, Roland Burris, and after much saber rattling on the part of Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, he was seated two weeks ago. Granted, he will probably get his clock cleaned in the next election, but Burris is a senator for now.

Naturally, the Illinois legislature, a group that he’s been beefing with for quite some time, has issued articles of impeachment because that’s what you do when your governor gets indicted and he refuses to resign. The House has already voted to impeach him. The Senate trial is going on now.

Yet, Blagojevich is making the national rounds trying to get the rest of the United States to stand behind him. Personally, I think that the rest of us don’t have a dog in this hunt. Blagojevich needs to take his case to the citizens of Illinois…unless they’ve already decided that they’ve had enough.

And my guess is that they have.

But they, like us, are going to have to stick with it for awhile.

A conversation about dissent

This morning, I hopped on and read the Daily News like I do everyday. (Yes, I know that it’s a betrayal of my status as an ink-stained wretch, but if I’m not in my office first, getting the Daily News just isn’t going to happen!)

After seeing that the world hadn’t blown up overnight, I read the opinion section of the DN, which is where I’m reminded every day that although Philadelphia has some pretty sophisticated people, it’s also got some ignorant assed mothers within its city limits (and within the whole tri-state area) and all of them have computers.

I decided to do something that I never usually do: I read Christine Flowers column this morning.

Now for those of you who don’t live in Philly, that name means nothing to you. But for those of us who read the Philadelphia Daily News on the regular, she’s one of the DN’s conservative voices, and while she’s not anywhere near Ann Coulter in terms of making no sense at all (which makes her at least readable at times), she’s been known to make me want to ask her “Are you living on the same planet I am?” every once in awhile.

Friday’s column was entitled: My Big, Fat, Patriotic Promise and it focused on one of my favorite subjects: dissent. Flowers has promised to use her Constitutionally-protected right to dissent every chance she gets when it comes to President Obama, saying that she won’t be bullied into supporting the president when she doesn’t agree with him by his supporters.

I agree totally with that. I’ve already outlined some of the stuff that I don’t agree with President Obama on. I’m still pissed off about the FISA vote. I’m wondering why in the heck Hillary Clinton’s in his cabinet because if I were him I wouldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her. I’m wondering why he didn’t throw up on William Kristol’s shoes when he had his dinner with conservative columnists a few weeks back.

I’m glad that I live in a country where I can say stuff like that. To me, the right to criticize our government is one of the most important rights we have in this country. I use it as often as possible.

But what I feel like saying to Ms. Flowers, Rush “I hope he fails” Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and all the rest of the right wing is that there is a certain level of hypocrisy that I see in this demand for your right to dissent. Or did you sleep through the last eight years?

I seem to recall a certain “my country right or wrong” attitude on the part of the right when it came to President Bush and some of the decisions he made, especially after Sept. 11.

Don’t think that the USA PATRIOT act is a good idea because it’s filled with things that even Richard Nixon didn’t try? Shut Up, your being unpatriotic. You want the terrorists to win.

Don’t think that the War In Iraq is the right war to fight because the people who actually pulled off the Sept. 11 attacks were based in Afghanistan and that’s where we should keep our focus? You don’t support the troops! You’re unpatriotic. You hate America. (Wanna know how dumb you sound when you say this to an Army brat? Very.)

You don’t dig the fact that the United States is spying on its own citizens illegally in the name of fighting terrorism? Our government has the right to do this. They’re trying to keep us safe. Shut up you Commie!

See what I mean?

Dissent is patriotic…but it’s gotta go both ways. I’m sorry that it required your losing the reigns of power for you to get that, but it is what it is. Maybe if you spent some time reading the Constitution, you know that document that your boy George and his VP Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney spent eight years wiping their asses with, you would have known that and stopped throwing around the word “unpatriotic” like most folks say “pass the salt.”

Flowers also asked that the government not impose its views on her. All that I have to say is that for the last eight years, we had a dude in office that you supported who damn near turned this country into a theocracy.

(Which is another thing I’m not feeling Obama on. Can we lose the whole “faith based” initiative thing especially since all it is is a way for religious groups who want to discriminate against gay people to get federal money to espouse their views? I don’t want my tax money to go to folks like the Salvation Army, who reserves the right not to hire people because they’re gay or lesbian or the Mormon church, who spearheaded the whole Proposition 8 thing.)

Again, I go back to the whole “read the Constitution” thing. All that might happen is that President Obama turns us back into a secular government, which means that if I go to my local CVS and ask for some birth control, the person ringing me up at the counter can’t refuse to sell it to me because she believes that I should only be allowed to get my freak on if there’s a wedding band on my finger.

But, Obama supporters, I say this to you: look at how you were treated the last eight years and do the opposite. Let those who wish to dissent have their say. They’ll make you mad. They may make you laugh. But let ’em have their say. It’s the American way.

The next four years are going to be really interesting.

If you want to read Flowers’ column, here is the link.

Speakin’ of FISA…

Here’s something that I heard on “Countdown With Keith Olberman” last night.

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Like I said, I’m still a little pissed off with President Obama over this one. Spying on reporters? Not cool. Not at all fuckin’ cool!

The return of civil liberties

I had to work on a project for my day job today that kinda made me happy.

That project: I had to find an expert that could talk about how the executive order that President Barack Obama signed requiring that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp be closed within a year would impact the war on terrorism and what that means for our relationships with other countries.

Considering that Guantanamo Bay is second only to Abu Ghraib in terms of places that scream “We’ve got Torture and Shit!”, and it was a roach motel where people get locked up, but they don’t come back out, I was quite glad to see that the new Head Dude made good on that particular promise.

Now you’re probably going to hear a lot of folks say that a year is too long and that these guys should be released, and now. But there are a couple of things that make the year time limit make sense, at least according to the folks that I interviewed.

One, some of these folks no longer have homes to go to, according to Peter Spiro, a law professor at Temple University. The logic on the part of their countries of origin is that if you believe they’re that dangerous, why should we take them back?

Somehow, that makes sense to me. If Timothy McVeigh had been put in Guantanamo Bay, I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have wanted him to come back here. He gave up his right to the creature comforts of America when he parked that Ryder truck filled with fertilizer in front of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Two, since there’s a crisis of confidence with some of the evidence collected against these guys, doing a full-scale federal court thing may not yield convictions…and some of these guys do need to be in a lockup somewhere, Spiro says.

So…here are some of the options that Spiro says we have:

*Start from scratch: Since the military tribunal system has been thoroughly discredited, something must be created that isn’t quite the federal court system, but gives the accused more rights than the tribunals did.

*Try those detainees for whom the evidence collected passes the smell test in Federal Court. Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University said on last night’s edition of “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” that he likes this approach. He doesn’t believe that a new court is needed.

*We could transfer the detainees back to Baghram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, but that would be a bad idea, Spiro says. That’s because the International Community is already staring at this Air Force base and is ready to pronounce it “Guantanamo: The Sequel!” It wouldn’t make sense to open up another place where folks can be tortured when you’ve just closed a place where folks were tortured.

*Do something similar to involuntary committment for high-value detainees for whom the evidence to convict wouldn’t stand up in federal court. Again, if you’re releasing folks because they weren’t given due process or habeus corpus, this also wouldn’t be a good look because it implies force.

So what is Obama going to do? It’ll be interesting to watch.

But considering the fact that I’m still pissed off with him about agreeing to the Bush Administration’s amendments to the FISA Act, Obama has a really short leash with me on civil liberties issues.

However, I’ll give him props for at least making a start.

Niecy Goes to Washington

Just for the heck of it, I applied for a credential to yesterday’s Inauguration of President Barack Obama. I didn’t expect to get one because a conversation with the Senate Press Gallery folks gave me the “we have folks from all over the world applying for credentials” line.

Much to my surprise, I got it. I have pictures posted on my Facebook page in addition to the one that is attached to this post.

But being a part of history, while mostly a good thing, isn’t always easy.

I found that out at about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning when my alarm went off at my friend Brian’s house in Washington, D.C. He was kind enough to let me crash on his couch while I was in town covering the inauguration.

Waking up at 4:30 a.m. doesn’t make me a happy camper. I’m not a morning person. I’m especially not a morning person when it comes to hopping onto a filled-to-capacity Metro train with hundreds of thousands of other people and being pushed by what Brian refers to as “tour-ons” (a combination of “tourist” and “moron”) being searched and x-rayed, and then sitting out in a field on a 20-degree winter morning.

However, Brian wasn’t trying to hear me complain about this because, as he so eloquently put it, “You’re going to see history. Stop bitchin’!”

Since the nature of my and Brian’s relationship is such that we can say really rude things like that to each other and still remain friends, I took his advice in the spirit in which it was offered.

And to be honest, he had a good point. Why complain about the fact that you’re going out into an open air icebox when you know that the stuff you’ll be writing will be part of the historical record detailing the inauguration of the nation’s first president of color?

I still have my ticket, which placed me in Section 8, front row, right in front of the Capitol building. I was the last seat on the right. Don’t worry. You didn’t miss me on television. Believe it or not, I had better seats than Halle Berry and Russell Simmons, but not as good of seats as Bruce Springsteen, Oprah, Samuel L. Jackson, or Diddy, Beyonce or Jay-Z. It was okay, though. I could still see stuff.

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have applied for the credential. I’m not real big on crowds these days. I’m especially not real big on crowds of 2 million people who could (or could not) be in a good mood depending on the turns that the weather takes. And I’m really not trying to be in a crowd where some knucklehead from a white supremacist group could decide that he wants to make his bones by taking out the first African American president. (Even though Brian, who works for Homeland Security, says that would have been impossible.)

But I wanted to follow this story to the end.

However, it’s not really the end, is it? The fun part is just beginning for the new Head Dude. Let’s face it. Former President George W. Bush has left Barack Obama the equivalent of a giftwrapped box of flaming shit in front of the White House to deal with.

So the question becomes: What are you gonna do now? We’ve had hints during the transition, but now those hints must become policy and that policy must become action. What kind of honeymoon is Obama going to get and how long will it last? Will he be judged for your good and bad deeds as just another “president” or will every assessment of him include the word “black” as a cudgel.

And what about Michelle, Malia and Sasha? Unlike the 90s when Bill and Hillary Clinton were able to keep the media somewhat at bay so that Chelsea could have something resembling a normal life, the Paparazzi age is here. Is Marian Robinson going to have to get all “Black Grandmama” on somebody for harassing her grandkids (and you know it’ll happen.)Will Michelle shoot some reporter the same “Black Mama Look” that she shot Hillary Clinton during the Democratic National Convention?

The next 100 days are going to be interesting to watch on a couple of levels. However, if the look that Obama had on his face prior to being sworn in is any indication, I think he can handle it.

Now how did he look? He looked cool. Really cool. The kind of cool that says “I’ve got this, people. We’re going to be all right.”

Considering the mess he inherits, it’s a cool he’s going to need. I hope he’s able to maintain it.