Month: February 2010

Just Like Starting Over

Because I’m a masochist, I sat through the first hour or so of the Health Care Summit held at the White House Today.

I also sat through it because (a)my mom is in the hospital and I can only imagine how much she’d need to pay if she had to pay for the care that she’s currently getting. Of course, there’s no accountability in the current system so the jokers who left her in the middle of the floor of the rehabilitation center she was in will not be punished unless we sue ’em, but at least she’s got insurance and (b)I don’t have insurance, which can be kinda tough when you are also a diabetic.

I saw exactly what I expected to see, which was a whole lot of posturing, the talking points that will be used in the 2010 Midterm Elections and a repeat of the 2008 Presidential Election.

(By the way, it ended the exact same way as last time.)

I’ve said more than once that it’s time that President Obama gave up the whole bipartisanship thing because it only works when both sides want to play. Since no one else seems to be able to get this through his thick head, I think that it’s time that Michelle had a talk with him.

But one thing I’ll hand the President is that he realized that the only way he was going to come within 100 miles of getting something done is if he kept the participants in this travishamockery focused, even if it was only for a few minutes.

As the Republicans came at him with entreaties to scrap the bill, complete with visual aides, talking points and the like, the President kept saying pretty much the same thing: “Got a better idea? Bring it! What do you like about the bill?”

He, unsurprisingly, got nowhere.

Now I know for my Republican friends, this is great. They think that we have the best health care system in the world, despite the fact that 30 million people are left out of it. They think that if you don’t have money for health care that you don’t deserve it. And whatever you do, don’t be a freelance writer or someone with a pre-existing condition that might need some financial assistance. We can’t afford to help you, we have wars and unneeded defense contracts to pay for.

Besides, if the Democrats don’t pass heath care reform, the Republicans can use it against them in 2010 and possibly get the one thing that they really want: a return to power and another chance to finish the job of turning the country into a place where the poor and the rich move even further apart.

However for the rest of us, this kinda sucks. Health care needs reforming. There are folks that are going without it. Something needs to be done now. Our economy takes a hit everytime someone has to spend money that they could have spent on something else on something related to health care.

So I personally am hoping that the Democrats realize that they have the majority in Congress and decide that they have had enough of the Republicans obstruction tactics. There’s an option that they can exercise, and it looks like they may decide to do it to get health care reform done.

It’s called reconciliation…and it means that a simple majority gets a bill passed. What’s cool about this is that it also takes some of the power away from those conservative Democrats that have decided tht the insurance companies shouldn’t have to compete with the government or anyone else to provide health insurance at reasonable rates.

What’s not so cool, at least to the Republicans, is that it takes their favorite weapon, the filibuster, out of their hands.

We’ll find out over the next few weeks how things are going to go down in terms of this bill, but it should be interesting.

If nothing else, we won’t have to put up with another travishamockery like this one again any time soon.


Black Tea

When the subject of racism comes up, how it manifests itself depends on who is having the discussion.

If you’re in a room filled with people of color, the conversation begins with the assumption that racism exists, it has an impact on our everyday lives, and we have to negotiate it in order to do such things as work, go to school, or otherwise live our lives.

But if that room is filled with white people, the conversation changes. In White World, the assumption that racism exists isn’t a given. If it is indeed acknowledged, it is usually only in the context that it isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be because (a)People of color are doing better than they were in the bad old days of Jim Crow and (b)Well, the PRESIDENT is black now, so racism is gone.

(By the way, it amazes me how the only context in which Barack Obama is totally black is during the “racism doesn’t exist anymore” discussion.)

From the moment that Barack Obama became the first black man that we could discuss during President’s Day, folks much smarter than me knew that he was going to cause a lot of folks some mental anguish.

One of those folks was Dr. Sonya Peterson-Lewis. Peterson-Lewis is a professor of African American Studies at Temple University, and she told me that because white men would no longer be able to think of the presidency as their own exclusive club now that Obama has joined it, they’d have to make some adjustments, adjustments that they may not be able to make without manifestations of fear rearing their ugly heads.

Enter the Tea Parties.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with tax protesters doing their thing. They’re entitled to it. To say that I have serious problems with my tax dollars going to defense contractors, wars, Dick Cheney’s pension, etc. is an understatement.

But I’d never allow my protest to manifest itself by carrying a sign like this around:

If you’re a fan of President Obama, or are just afraid to see the anger that creates signs like that go to its illogical conclusion, the urge to say “Hey! This is nuts!” tends to rise up inside of you.

When it comes from people of color, the urge is easily ignored. He’s one of us. We’re supposed to say “Hey! This is nuts!”

But when it comes from a white person, especially a white man, that urge gets noticed. I had a friend who was run out of town by the Klan for acting on her urge to say “Hey! This is nuts!”, but it didn’t make as much of a noise.

Making a noise is something that Keith Olbermann has become kind of good at.

During a Special Comment on Monday night’s edition of “Countdown”, Olbermann did something that white men aren’t really big on: he talked about racism using the paradigm used by people of color. He not only assumed it existed, he called people on it.

If you missed it, here it is.

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On the one hand, I have to give Olbermann his props for understanding that we can’t get past racism if we don’t talk about it honestly. But on the other hand, watching my friend go through what she’s been through for speaking out has been an education. She’s had to move several times, has found things like dead rabbits at her door, and has yet to find a place in which she feels safe.

Hopefully, MSNBC will do a better job at protecting him than everyone from the FBI to the local police department has done with protecting my friend.

But if not, Olbermann might consider going to his next New York Yankees game strapped. I’m just sayin’…

The Cabin Fever Blog

In case you don’t have access to the Weather Channel (or any of the many overwrought weathermen that seemed to be coming out of the woodwork on television yesterday), where I live, Philadelphia, was hit with a pretty massive snowstorm.

Because this latest snowstorm came on top of the snowstorm we were hit with last Saturday, a snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow on the City of Brotherly Love, I haven’t been really able to leave my house, something that has given me entirely too much time to think.

So, here is a bunch of random thoughts that sprung from my Cabin Fevered mind….

*President Bill Clinton was admitted to the hospital today. He was complaining of chest pains and had to have one of his arteries unblocked. According to his doctor, he’s going to be okay. Get well Mr. President. There are young ladies in Harlem just waiting for you to chase them!

(oops! Did I say that?)

*If we believe our friends at the National Enquirer, John Edwards is about to become the Democratic Party’s version of Newt Gingrich.

(For those of you wondering what I mean by this, here’s the story. Newt Gingrich handed his wife divorce papers while she was in the hospital battling cancer.)

Weeks after finally admitting (without a “Maury” style DNA test I might add) that he was the father of mistress Rielle Hunter’s baby, the NE is reporting that Edwards is gonna divorce his long suffering wife Elizabeth (who finally kicked him to the curb, thank God)and marry his baby mama.

Now Edwards says that isn’t true, but let’s remember that the National Enquirer is the “news” organization that broke the story about the Edwards/Hunter affair. I wouldn’t dismiss this out of hand.

*If you want to get a weatherperson all hot and bothered, say the word “blizzard”. They look at a blizzard in the same way that all of the exotic dancers in Dallas will be looking at their poles during NBA All-Star Weekend: it’s their time to shine and they know it.

“Blizzard” also seems to have the same impact on climate change deniers. They came out of the woodwork as the snow fell on my little hamlet of Philadelphia. Many of them, most notably Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, hopped on their poles immediately and started swinging their panties around their fingers.

(sorry for that visual. It’s grossing me out too!)

The thing is, climate change is the reason why we’re gonna see more snow here in Philly this year than I did the entire time I was in Upstate New York. The damage that’s been done to our environment has caused me to be able to a variety of things ranging from putting on shorts to see a Mummers parade (Google it. It’s hard to explain)to having my air conditioner attached to me during the summer because Philly is on it’s 10th day in a row where the temperatures are 90 degrees or higher.

Usually, the prospect of Philadelphia having two blizzards in four days is something that no one even discusses. But this year, we’ve gone through most of our snow removal budget because, well, we had two blizzards in four days.

So the next time that your favorite climate change denier tries to throw the whole “Al Gore is a fraud! Look, it’s snowing!” thing at you, tell him (or her) that your bud The Mad (political) Scientist was able to go Christmas shopping in a sweatshirt. In Philadelphia. In December. Without a jacket. You get what I mean…

*I tend not to namecheck people like singer John Mayer. He’s a little too folky for my tastes and this is more a Gil Scott Heron kind of blog.

But this week, Mr. Mayer became a cautionary tale for the Twitter generation through an interview that he gave Playboy magazine. In said interview, which I read because there are certain things that you’ve just gotta see for yourself, Mayer shared enough to cement his reputation as one of music’s biggest douchebags.

Rather than tell you what he said, here it is:

Mayer: Someone asked me the other day, “What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?” And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a nigger pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, “I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.’”

PLAYBOY: It is true; a lot of rappers love you. You recorded with Common and Kanye West, played live with Jay-Z.

MAYER: What is being black? It’s making the most of your life, not taking a single moment for granted. Taking something that’s seen as a struggle and making it work for you, or you’ll die inside. Not to say that my struggle is like the collective struggle of black America. But maybe my struggle is similar to one black dude’s.

Now if he had stopped there, even with the use of the N-word, he might have been okay. Sure, dropping an N-bomb is still gonna piss off a lot of people, but that might have gone under the radar with most news organizations.

But because Mayer apparently has the worst case of diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain in music today, he didn’t stop and ended up in the crosshairs of a group of people you don’t want to be in the crosshairs of:

Black women.

PLAYBOY: Do black women throw themselves at you?

MAYER: I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.

PLAYBOY: Let’s put some names out there. Let’s get specific.

MAYER: I always thought Holly Robinson Peete was gorgeous. Every white dude loved Hilary from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And Kerry Washington. She’s superhot, and she’s also white-girl crazy. Kerry Washington would break your heart like a white girl. Just all of a sudden she’d be like, “Yeah, I sucked his dick. Whatever.” And you’d be like, “What? We weren’t talking about that.” That’s what “Heartbreak Warfare” is all about, when a girl uses jealousy as a tactic.

Now this last part makes me ask three questions: What is white-girl crazy? Is it different than black-girl crazy?

And most importantly, when are Holly Robinson Peete and Kerry Washington going to bitchslap this silly motherfucker in his head and can the folks from TMZ make sure it gets on the air when it happens?

I have no problem with people being upfront with their feelings. Let’s face it, I don’t see any sista with a sense of self saying “ooh, I’ve gotta go get me some John Mayer!”

But where I got mad was when I saw this piece on my Facebook page. It was a piece from where writer LaToya Tooles writes the following:

“I doubt you have any idea what it feels like to be invisible, to come to a party looking for a little sexual validation and have white men look through you like you’re wearing sweats. I doubt you know what it’s like to feel the weight of cultural expectations every time you stand on a dance floor, knowing that your dance card will be empty since you won’t play the freak. I doubt you know what it’s like to question everything about yourself — how you stood, how you dressed, how you smiled, trying to figure out what you did so wrong that men simply stayed away? I’m not ignorant enough to think my color is the only reason men would dismiss me, but when that happens enough times, it’s hard to ignore the common factor. Do you know what it’s like to be ignored in a roomful of romantic partners your age? Well, multiply that by 300 years of servitude.

I grew up hearing black is beautiful. I grew up knowing black men and women who believed that in their bones. But that lesson just seems to be lost on too many seemingly smart white men like you.”

In the interest of full disclosure, I have dated a few white dudes in my time. One of them broke my heart so badly that I took a nearly two year sabbatical from men because of it.

But I didn’t let that incident make me feel invalidated. It saddens me that the woman in this piece has allowed John Mayer and his lack of brain engagement to make her feel that way.

But I have hope for LaToya. Maybe she’ll find herself in Dallas during All-Star Weekend and Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki will slip her his phone number. He likes black girls…especially ones with identity theft records….

Well, that’s it for the Cabin Fever blog. Hopefully, it won’t snow enough for me to write another one.

Don’t ask, Don’t tell, Don’t make sense…

This week, thanks to a not-so-subtle request from President Barack Obama during the State of the Union address, the folks in Congress decided to have hearings related to the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

As part of those hearings, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, called for a repeal of the policy that mandates that gays and lesbians be kicked out of the military the minute they decide to come out. Shortly after the hearings, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and former Secretary of State), Colin Powell issued a statement in support.

As I watched portions of those hearings, I thought of my high school American History classes.

In 11th grade, my American History teacher at Pemberton Township High School was a dude named Mr. Cantalupo. Now, there are two things that I remember about him: one, no matter what we were actually studying in history, he found a way somehow to connect it to the Vietnam War. I don’t know what his issue was with that war, but I guess it made sense to him.

And two, an assignment he gave us that taught me something about my parents. We had to interview someone for our history class that had been through a war. World War II was preferred because it happened to be the unit we were studying at the time.

Fortunately, I knew someone who had been through World War II: my dad.

Dad and I sat down and he told me the story of how he snuck into the Army at 16, was discovered shortly after boot camp, and was taken back to his mother in Kentucky to await his 17th birthday and the chance to legally enlist.

But before the Army discovered that they had basically began training a kid to use an M-16, My dad got the chance to see up close the reception a Black man got when he said he wanted to fight for his country. He told me a story that included harassment, threats, and in some cases lynching, especially on the Southern bases.

Before former President Harry S. Truman integrated the Armed Forces, Black soldiers were segregated, given menial jobs, not allowed to advance, and were basically denied the opportunity to serve their country in the best way possible.

But hey, unlike the gays and lesbians currently serving in the military, at least they weren’t kicked out for being Black.

Now I’ve heard all of the arguments against allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. It’ll mess up unit cohesion. It’ll lead to harassment. It’s just not a good idea.

But just like the arguments that I hear when the subject of allowing gays and lesbians to get married, these arguments don’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Let’s just deal with the unit cohesion argument because it’s the one that is most easily refutable.

When you’re in a battlefield, you tend to think of just one thing: getting off of that battlefield in one piece. My guess is that anyone you’re with on that battlefield is thinking pretty much the same thing.

Because of this reality, it makes more sense (at least to me) that if someone was harboring a secret crush on you, they’ll put it on the back burner long enough to make sure that you both make it home. If that’s not unit cohesion, I don’t know what is.

Also, most of the folks that we’re kicking out of the military due to their sexual orientation are just the folks we need right now: folks that can translate Arabic. You remember Arabic, don’t you? The language that the folks who are coming after us in the War on Terror speak? The one that we don’t understand?

Yeah, Arabic.

At a time when we need folks who are actually willing to fight for their country, we really can’t afford to continue letting folks who want to serve not do so because we don’t like who they sleep with.

Eventually, my dad spent 32 years in the Army, was given all kinds of awards and commendations, and rose through the ranks to become a Command Sgt. Major, the highest rank that an enlisted man can achieve in the Army.

Maybe by repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, gay and lesbian soldiers might finally get the chance to Be All They Can Be.