GOP

What About Your Friends?

I kinda wondered what would keep a 90-year-old man in failing health on a terrorist watch list...

I kinda wondered what would keep a 90-year-old man in failing health on a terrorist watch list…

There’s a saying: The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend.

That saying has played a pretty large part in the foreign policy of the United States since, well, forever.  It’s expected that if you’re going to be a friend of ours, you also have to be an enemy to our enemies. For example, if you want to be cool with the folks who run things here in the United States, it’s okay for you to swear allegiance to Israel, which is one of our friends, but you can’t hang out with, say, the leader of the Taliban.

Failure to understand and observe this dynamic can lead to your getting the  side eye from certain leaders here in the United States. It can get you branded as someone who, in the words of our favorite Sage From The Yukon, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, pals around with terrorists.

There are a whole lot of examples of this in American History…the latest being the man pictured above, former South African President Nelson Mandela. When the anti-apartheid activist died last Thursday, we learned a lot about him. We learned about how he passed the time in the 27 years he was imprisoned on Robben Island. We learned about how he ended up in Johannesburg (His parents had arranged a marriage for him). We learned about the trials and tribulations that Winnie Mandela, his wife at the time, had to endure because of the iconic status he had obtained as a freedom fighter among Black South Africans.

But the most interesting thing that we learned about Mandela, or Madiba as he was known among the Xhosa, is that despite a couple of visits to the United States in the 1990s, a lack of any violent activity since his release from prison, and the fact that he was an aging statesman in poor health, he was on the U.S. Terrorist Watchlist until 2008.

Now what would keep a 90-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner in failing health on a list that included Osama Bin Laden, a dude that masterminded the biggest terrorist attack in our nation’s history?

The fact that Mandela didn’t follow the whole “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing.

(And can we talk about how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu couldn’t afford to come to Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa on Tuesday, but can afford $6,000 in scented candles? Who needs $6,000 in scented candles? What in the heck does that look like?!)

Now in the 1980s, when American news organizations knew that it might be a good idea to know what’s going on in the rest of the world because it could impact us, we all learned about the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The nation’s Black majority was being ruled by a White minority that can be charitably described as cruel. Blacks lived in shanty towns called homelands. They were forced to carry passport-looking ID cards to show they were in the right place and punishment was pretty swift if they either didn’t have the card or were in the wrong place.

Police brutality took on a whole new meaning there as activists like Steven Biko were killed in prison. The African National Congress, the political party to which Mandela belonged, was outlawed. Blacks themselves had no right to vote.

Because even Stevie Wonder could see that this whole arrangement was Straight. Up. Wrong., Mandela and the African National Congress fought to try and change things. They got arrested and tried for their efforts. Mandela spent 27 years in prison, most of them on Robben Island working in a quarry. He could only see his wife Winnie twice a year…

While he may have been in jail, Mandela’s message managed to get out into the world. A lot of us participated in sit-ins at our colleges and universities demanding that our tuition dollars not be used to finance anything in South Africa until apartheid was no more. We joined organizations like Amnesty International and wrote letters demanding Mandela’s release. There were calls for businesses in the United States to divest from South Africa as well.

Meanwhile, President Ronald Reagan, like many of the leaders in the West, opted to go with a solution that was designed to silence the protestors without damaging any business relationships in South Africa.

Constructive Re-engagement.

O-Tay.

There’s another saying, and I’m going to paraphrase here: If someone shows you who they are, believe them. While that goes for people, that goes double for governments. When a government pretty much lets you know that if you give it money through investment, that money will be taken to oppress the majority of its people, you should believe them…and keep your money, money raised through taxation, in your pocket.

But because South Africa had the right enemies, namely the Communist Bloc, Ronnie Raygun (thank you Gil-Scott Heron!) and his friends were willing to give the Apartheid Government money. Too bad for him that Congress had other ideas…veto-proof ones.

But the enemies of the Reagan Administration’s enemies became Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress’s friends. Folks like Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi and others who were definitely enemies of the United States helped when the West wouldn’t.

Which is why you had stuff like this as part of the list of tributes to Nelson Mandela this week…

Although Mandela found Communism as a philosophy lacking, to many on the Right, that kept getting thrown into remembrances of the man. You see, to most of those folks, the African National Congress should have just kept their mouths shut and waited for the West to finally get off of its ass. We see that you’re being oppressed, but take one for the team…

But it’s not a universal school of thought among the Right. In what can only be described as a shocker, I find that I have something with which I can agree with, gasp, former Speaker of the House, Republican Presidential Candidate, and Tiffany’s Frequent Shopper Card Owner Newt Gingrich.

As I mentioned earlier, Congress voted to hit South African with economic sanctions, which stuck despite the veto of Ronnie Raygun.

Most of the Senators voted to override the veto, but a small group voted to keep financing the Apartheid government. In fact, one of them spoke out this week and said that he didn’t regret his vote to maintain the veto.

That senator? Well, it should be no surprise to anyone that it’s former Vice President Dick Chaney. I can only imagine what’s going to come out of his piehole when someone mentions to him that President Barack Obama shook hands with Raul Castro, president of Cuba and brother of Fidel, at Mandela’s memorial service on Tuesday.

(Editor’s Note: For those of you who are disgusted by the fact that President Obama shook hands with President Castro, don’t be. What did you want him to do, punch the dude in the mouth or something? Home training is a beautiful thing. Try and get some…)

It should also be no surprise that once folks discovered Mandela on that watch list, they cajoled President George W. Bush’s administration to take him off…despite the objections of his VP.

While I can understand the impulse of some to say that Mandela deserved the scrutiny that goes with being on the terrorist watch list because he took help from some pretty sketchy people without asking a lot of questions, I submit that the Cold Warriors making these criticisms need to shut their hypocritical pie holes.

We’re a country that tends to have no problem with tin horn dictators as long as they’re OUR tin horn dictators. Don’t believe me? Two words: Anastacio Somoza. Want three more? Jean-Claude Duvalier. We can even add Augusto Pinochet, Manuel Noriega, Ferdinand Marcos…the list of people we’ve paid to subjugate their people in the name of American interests in the Western Hemisphere alone is extensive and makes any so-called “moral” authority we have non-existent. I mean hell, my Dad fought in Vietnam. We’re not even going to go there…

Nelson Mandela, his willingness to forgive, and how that forgiveness helped South Africa move forward was brought up a lot this week.

That he extended this forgiveness to an allegedly democratic West that wouldn’t befriend his country until it had to makes Nelson Mandela a better man that I would be under the circumstances.

I guess that’s why he’s an icon…

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Bringing the Crazy Part III: The Muslim Brotherhood Edition

What?! Me, Crazy?!

When we last left Minnesota Congresswoman, and Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann, she was bowing out from the GOP Presidential Race, much to the chagrin of political columnists, late night comedians, and smart asses like me who were looking forward to seeing what a presidential debate between Bachmann and President Barack Obama would look like.

But while she is out of the Presidential Race, Rep. Bachmann is never far from the spotlight. She’s one of those folks that from whom the combination of an open mic, and a vivid imagination spring the kind of results that not even the best novelists or screenwriters could make up.

Her latest bit of “We’re gonna find the anti-Americans and smoke ’em out of their holes” nonsense involves Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and a fellow member of the Minnesota delegation, Congressman Keith Ellison.

Now why is she singling out Abedin, the wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York and Ellison?

Because they’re both Muslims.

And in Bachmann Land, a place that I imagine is a bit like the Eagles’ “Hotel California” (You can check out anytime you like, but you may never leave…) that makes them members of the Muslim Brotherhood that are helping this Egyptian political party bring down America.

No, you’re not reading that wrong. A current member of Congress is accusing a fellow sitting member of Congress and the wife of a former member of Congress of being part of a group that she says is looking to bring down America.

She made the accusation against Abedin in a letter that she sent to the Inspectors General of the Departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice that asked that they look into possible ‘tentacles’  of anti-American activity.

(Man, do I wish that Rep. Weiner was still in Congress! His floor speeches used to be one of my favorite things about C-Span. I can only imagine what he would have said about this…)

The accusation against Rep. Ellison came this morning in a story published in The Star-Tribune about Rep. Bachmann’s appearance on Glenn Beck’s program Thursday night. “He has a long record of being associated with [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] and with the Muslim Brotherhood,” she said to Beck.

(By the way, does anyone watch Glenn Beck’s new program? When you’re so off the wall that you get kicked off of Fox News, what does that say about you?!)

In any case, the accusations have caused a bit of an uproar and unlike most things in the current Congress, it’s bipartisan.

The Sen. John McCain that would have given President Obama a run for his money four years ago showed up on the Senate Floor to denounce the accusations, calling them “sinister”. Speaker of the House John Boehner, seeing yet another one of the ways that the Devil takes his payment up front and in pounds not ounces when you make a deal with him, said “Accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous”…and not just to my position as Speaker of the House…

(Actually, that last part was mine…)

And just about everyone compared Bachmann’s charges to someone that no Republican likes to be connected to: Joseph McCarthy.

For those of you who don’t remember the whole Red Scare thing (and to my former students, no, I wasn’t there and I’m not that old…smart asses…) Communism was the boogey man in question. Because the Soviet Union had become this big thing post World War II, Rep. McCarthy thought that Communists had infiltrated the United States and were trying to bring America down from within.

As a result, he held a series of hearings that led to mothers testifying against sons, husbands against wives, artists being “blacklisted” and unable to find work, and a climate of fear that so seriously abridged freedom of speech that it got ridiculous.

Fortunately, JOURNALISM existed back then. Folks like Edward R. Murrow dug into McCarthy’s charges and exposed them as false, which is what journalists are supposed to do. Once that happened, McCarthy and his series of hearings came to an end…and McCarthy himself would up dying drunk and friendless.

But unfortunately, it appears that no one has learned from this exercise. Earlier this year, Rep. Allen West, a man that Kid from Kid and Play will be suing any day now to get his hairdo back, accused members of Congress of being Communists.

However, to outdo Bachmann in the Congressional Sweepstakes of Crazy, you’ve gotta work real hard and get up real early…She always brings it, and it’s usually a level of nuts that no one could make up.

Now are there folks in the so-called Muslim World (and I say so-called because I went to a panel discussion on Islam and the Media earlier this week that kind of taught me that this is how I should refer to it) that might want to knock America down a peg or two? Yep. While no one wants to admit it, we haven’t always been kind to folks in that part of the world.

But is everyone who practices the faith of Islam here in America looking to do the country in? Nope. Most Muslims are just trying to live their lives, raise their kids, and follow their faith without people giving them a hard time.

The least that a member of Congress, the body charged with creating the laws that we all live by in this country, could do is not make that harder.

But when it comes to Rep. Michele Bachmann, I think that Mark Twain said it best…

“‘Tis better to be silent and be perceived a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt…”

My Left Foot

Oops…we did it again…

While most folks had their eyes trained on Houston and Mitt Romney’s appearance before the NAACP Convention, I was paying attention to what was going on in Congress.

The Tea Party Republican House (Don’t get it twisted folks. John Boehner no more runs this place than I do) voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or as some of us call it Obamacare, or as others of us call it, Romneycare. Depends on where you are in the country and how you feel about it, I guess.

It was the 33rd time that the House had decided to vote for repeal. Granted, it probably won’t even come to the floor in the Senate, and even if it did it would probably be vetoed by the White House (and there’d be no override because the votes aren’t there…) but they felt they had to do it. This time, they had five Democrats join them in the “repeal Obamacare” fun…

You’ve gotta admire these folks. Their single-minded focus is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s also one of the best manifestations of the definition of “insanity” I’ve seen in awhile. They keep doing this whole “repeal Obamacare” thing the exact same way, yet they’re probably wondering why the result is never different.

Especially since the U.S. Supreme Court took time out of of it’s busy schedule of giving corporations personhood rights while taking away the rights of unions to politically organize to decide that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional by a vote of 5-4. While Chief Justice John Roberts did no one any favors by using the legislature’s power to tax as a means of justifying the individual mandate that’s needed to pay for much of the ACA, he voted to uphold it.

Usually, a Supreme Court ruling on something means It’s a Wrap!

But not when it comes to the ACA.

As my eloquent friend Dr. Germaine Edwards put it yesterday, the Tea Party Republicans are acting like a little kid who can’t accept no for an answer on this one. They’ve gone to Mom and Dad (voting for repeal), and they’ve said no. They’ve gone to both sets of grandparents (the Supreme Court), and they’ve said no. But they just keep asking….

And now it’s up to 33 times.

From the moment that the decision was announced, folks bandied it about. Reactions from some of my friends ranged from “This is going to bring down the republic” to “This is going to screw the Middle Class”, to “It’s an unfair tax!”

(Granted, the penalty included in the ACA is only directed to those who don’t get insurance, but I’m tired of telling that to folks…The oxygen I’ve expended on this could have gone to just about anything else…”)

But after hearing a hour or so of this shouting, renting of clothes and gnashing of teeth (Yes, it did get kind of Biblical to me after a while), I decided that I had seen and heard quite enough of this.

So I grabbed my I-Phone, went into my bathroom, hit the camera app, and took the following picture:

Yeah, I know. Kinda gross. Don’t have to tell me…

I then put the following caption on it…

“Under normal circumstances, I would never put a picture this personal on my Facebook page. But I think that it’s about time that some of you saw what happens when a person has no access to healthcare. This is my left foot. You know, the left foot that kept me in the hospital for 39 days and nearly caused me to die from an infection? My foot is gonna look like this for the rest of my life. And it could have been prevented by the simple act of allowing me to buy health insurance. Now ask yourself: Should I have to die so that you could make a friggin’ point?”

I guess that I should explain.

To say that 2011 was a monumentally bad year for me would be a cosmic understatement. I found out just what it means to be poor…but not poor enough…in the good ‘ole United States of America. Now I won’t get into all of what happened to me because I don’t really feel like returning to that place, but one of the things that happened to me is that I ended up homeless. As a freelance writer, I have to hustle a lot to get the money I need to survive. I still have $1,700 outstanding from 2011…

When you’re homeless, you sometimes find yourself sleeping in cars, at extended stay hotels, and at other places that increase your costs of day to day living because you don’t have a home base.

When you don’t have a lot of money, and yet have a lot of overhead, something has to give.

Unfortunately, that something was my diabetes medication. While I could afford one of the prescriptions because it was generic, the other was $285. So I couldn’t always get it. In fact, for three months straight, I couldn’t get it at all.

And don’t even get me started on trying to get health insurance. Whenever I’d call an insurance company trying to get help, the minute I’d say “I’m a diabetic”, the phone would go dead.

I knew that eventually it would all come to a head. And in October, around two weeks after my Mom died, it finally did.

My Significant Other and I were on our way out when I got my foot stuck in his car. I pulled it out, we went where we were going, and everything seemed fine. But when I got up the next day, something wasn’t right because my foot really started to hurt.

Then it began to swell. A lot. Eventually it got so big and so painful that the simple act of going to the bathroom required taking painkillers. But I didn’t want to go to the hospital because I didn’t have health insurance, and thus couldn’t afford it.

But once blisters showed up on my foot, and one of them burst, my Significant Other decided that I was going to the hospital, whether I liked it or not.

When the doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room looked at my foot, they looked at me as if to say “You know you’re not going anywhere, right?”

I probably would have laughed at that if it weren’t for the fact that I was rushed into the Intensive Care unit, hooked up to an insulin pump, and given some serious IV drugs. But the blood tests showed that the drugs weren’t working and the reason was that an abscess was keeping the medicine from getting through.

So they had to operate on my foot. And as you can see by the picture, the abscess must have been a real humdinger because they had to cut a big bunch of tissue out. I got to see what the inside of my foot looked like as a result, and it wasn’t pretty. Trust me on this.

I was then given more serious IV drugs with the aid of a PIC line, physical therapy to make sure my other foot didn’t atrophy, was attached to something called a WoundVac that helped get rid of excess moisture in my wound while helping new skin develop, discovered a serious new (for me) painkiller called Dilaudid, given a skin graft (you should see my left thigh), and wound up developing a new appreciation for the show Animal Cops on Animal Planet.

And I wound up getting all of this care in the hospital because if I had tried to do this at home, it would have cost me the equivalent of what it would cost to produce a small independent film…The WoundVac alone was $500 a day to rent without insurance.

I was able to go home 39 days later a now insulin-dependent diabetic who was hit with a nearly $500 bill for medication that I was able to pay thanks to an inheritance.

(Thanks Mom…)

While I was in the hospital, I was cared for by a group of really good doctors and nurses. Among those folks was a group of residents from my alma mater (Temple Owls are indeed everywhere…) who were budding podiatrists.

They were also the most honest with me. One of the residents told me as he changed my WoundVac dressing and marveled at my recovery, that he was glad that I was doing okay now, because I really wasn’t when he first saw me.

To be exact, he said, “If you had waited another day or two to come in here, we wouldn’t have been able to do anything for you. The infection would have traveled through your blood stream and you would have died. We’re glad that you’re grateful that we were able to save your foot, but that wasn’t our concern. We didn’t care as much about saving your foot as we were about saving your life.”

My life.

Over an infection?!

Ain’t that some shit?!

Now you might think that this kind of thing just doesn’t happen here, but in the good ‘ole United States of America, where there’s a difference between poor and not poor enough, it happens more than it ought to. A Cincinnati man who had lost his job and didn’t have health insurance, died last year when a abscessed tooth became infected and the infection spread through his body.

Death.

Over something that could have been cured by pulling a tooth and giving someone some antibiotics?!

In the richest nation in the world?!

Again, ain’t that some shit?!

But it happened.

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand why there was so much screaming, renting of garments and gnashing of teeth on the part of my conservative friends when ACA was upheld by the Supreme Court. The beautiful thing about America is that you can be loud and wrong (or right if you agree) and no one can take away your space on the floor.

But when it comes to whether or not people have access to affordable health care, and whether or not they live or die, your philosophical bent should be put to the side in favor of compassion for your fellow man.

This became an issue during the 57-post discussion that was the result of my slapping my left foot up on my Facebook page. I had one friend suggest that I could have gotten health insurance with a $5,000 to $10,000 deductible, something that wouldn’t have helped me even a little bit. This same friend also went on to tell me that perhaps my lack of health insurance and my illness were my own fault because I haven’t abandoned journalism in favor or something more lucrative that would make me less of a drain on society.

(No, I’m not kidding. And mind you, this is a friend…)

But I also had friends who called me, of all things, brave for doing this.

But that wasn’t why I did it.

“I put my story out there not as a means of garnering sympathy or compliments or anything like that,” I said. “I did it because I felt like this discussion needed a recognizable human face, and I figured mine would be as good as any. I understand where everyone is coming from here. But the bottom line is that you’re dealing with PEOPLE. Not ideology. Not theory. People. So the next time that someone tells you that those of us without healthcare are expendable, remember who they’re talking about.”

“They’re talking about me.”

Which is why in some ways I was hurt by some of the rigamarole when ACA was upheld in the Supreme Court. You’re my friend. You think I’m an okay person. You know I need what this act provides. And you care so much about your ideology that you don’t see that if we cling to your ideological bonafides, I could die? Really?!

In my last post, I said that while I could understand why folks might think it was kind of rude on the part of the NAACP to boo Mitt Romney for saying he’d repeal the Affordable Care Act, I understood why they did it because these folks are on the front lines of the healthcare disparity issue on a daily basis. If they’re not the person in need of health insurance, they’re a relative of someone who needs it and saying that you’re gonna tear a safety net that they really need apart might make them more than a little pissed at you.

And they’re also gonna show it.

So while I don’t condone booing a speaker at a convention, in the case of the NAACP and Mitt Romney, I understand.

Now if we could only help the Tea Party Republicans understand that the ACA is law…and that they might want to apply their laser focus to bills that truly create jobs…I’m just sayin’…

Gotta have a sense of humor. Especially if you’re in the hospital, have a hole in your foot, and haven’t seen your hairdresser in weeks!

Letter from a Philadelphia Jail…

My friend Vince, working to get out the vote…

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t lead off my column with a picture of one of my friends.

But in this case, leading off with a picture of my friend Vincent Thompson makes sense because in the 20-plus years that I’ve known him, I’ve never heard of any issue that he’s felt passionately enough about to commit an act of civil disobedience.

Now what issue has made my friend, a Democratic committee person in South Philadelphia, willing to go all the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on us?

The right to vote in Pennsylvania.

I’ll explain.

As I often say here at The Mad (political) Scientist, I love Philadephia, but Pennsylvania makes me scratch my head so hard sometimes that I’m surprised I haven’t scraped up some of my brain.

A big part of that is because I’ve never seen a state so willing to take on everyone else’s really, really bad ideas. If there’s an idea that shouldn’t be tried anywhere ranging from hyper-restrictive abortion laws to lawsuits filed to fight for your right to not have health insurance (this chestnut filed by our former Attorney General, now Governor Tom Corbett), we’re not only going to try it here, but we’re going to follow the True Definition Of Insanity when we apply it.

(For those of you who don’t know what the True Definition of Insanity is, it’s doing the same thing, the exact same way, and yet expecting a different result.)

This week’s Really Bad Idea That Will Soon Become Law In Pennsylvania is the Commonwealth’s new Voter ID law. Under this law, which is modeled after Voter ID laws in places even more backward than Pennsylvania like Texas, Indiana and Alabama, people who come out to the polls will not be able to vote…and have their votes counted that day…unless they produce a state-sanctioned photo ID, such as a driver’s license or a state ID card. Now you can vote if you don’t have a state-sponsored ID, but that vote won’t count unless you come to your county’s Board of Elections with a state-sponsored picture ID within six days.

The reason why this law is on its way to being put on the books is because Gov. Corbett, like most good Republicans these days, believes that there’s serious voter fraud going on. Otherwise, how else would a Black Man From Chicago With A Funny Name have ever become President Of The United States?

The only way that Barack Obama could have succeeded in becoming the first Kenyan-born, Secret Muslim, Manchurian Candidate Sent To Ruin America to become President is by people going to the polls and impersonating other people, voting, and influencing the outcome. Or at least, that’s the logic at work here.

The Commonwealth has pledged $4 million to implement this law, including $1 million that’s supposed to go toward getting people these state-sponsored IDs.

(Now, we could talk about how Philadelphia alone will burn through this $1 million in a week, and also about how I really wish that people cared enough about voting to want to go around committing identity fraud in order to do it, but I would be bringing logic into a situation that has, thus far, steadfastly resisted it….and Lord knows that we can’t have that!)

Needless to say, folks are losing their minds over this.

The American Association of Retired Persons, otherwise know as AARP, is saying that it’s going to make it harder for senior citizens, some of whom may have been born in a house and don’t have the birth certificate needed to get the ID. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, otherwise known as the NAACP, is saying that this is designed to keep people of color out of the voting booth, just in time for the November elections. And the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, says it’s just plain unconstitutional.

Even the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, a group that’s notorious for not even  being able to agree on what to have for lunch during a meeting, have agreed that the law is a very bad idea.

Add to this that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is to get anything like a birth certificate or state ID request processed quickly in Pennsylvania and that this Really Bad Idea That’s About To Become Law In Pennsylvania won’t officially take effect until November (just in time for the 2012 Presidential Elections if you’re keeping score at home), and you might understand why these groups are sounding the alarm.

From the moment that these laws started dotting the national landscape, or put more succinctly, dotting the landscape in places where Republicans control all phases of government, it’s been kind of hard not to notice at where they’re aimed.

Statistically, cities, college towns, and other places similar to this are places where state-sponsored ID isn’t necessarily the Coin of the Realm. In fact, when I cast my first vote in my South Philadelphia polling place, the only ID I needed was a copy of my electric bill to prove that I lived where I said I lived.

But since cities, college towns, and other places similar to these came out in droves for President Obama during the 2008 elections and turned states like Pennsylvania so blue that they could be mistaken for the Atlantic Ocean, folks have decided to put the clamps down.

Now let’s be honest here. These laws aren’t as much about voter fraud as they are about voter suppression. If you keep city dwellers, people who are older, younger, and poorer from accessing the polls however possible, you keep them from voting against the interests of the True Elites, which have been trying to get their country back since the G.I. Bill was passed after World War II, giving everyone a shot at a good education.

And don’t even get me started on how dangerous it is to allow other disenfranchised groups like people of color to vote. Hell, they may vote to allow such things as letting gays and lesbians get married if they’re allowed to stay in the voting pool…and Lord knows we can’t have that!

To it’s credit, the Department of Justice has noticed, and has struck a few of these laws down. In fact, Texas’s went down via the DOJ on Monday. Also, a local coalition here in Philadelphia that includes the National Action Network, NAACP,  Radio One, a voting rights group called the Committee of Seventy, labor unions and politicians has formed to make sure that this law doesn’t pack the punch that it could.
Among the people who are a part of this coalition is my friend Vincent.  

Upon hearing about this law, and how folks could end up not being allowed to exercise the franchise, Vince, who is still the best political reporter I know despite not having done it full-time for a while, got the kind of pissed off that I’ve only seen him get when you mess with his family.  We must have talked about the Voter ID for at least two hours over dinner at the Broad Street Diner one night.  He had been watching the debate over the bill throughout the day on the Pennsylvania Cable Network, the Commonwealth’s version of C-Span.

The more he watched, the madder he got.

So he made a decision. If someone came to his polling place without a photo ID, he’d not only make sure that they got to polls, but he’d also make sure that their vote counted that day.

“I come from a people whose ancestors got water hoses turned on them, dogs sicced on them, and in some cases got murdered to give me the right to vote,” he said. “Black people have only had the right to vote for real for 40 years. I’m not going to let anyone get disenfranchised by a law that’s a solution in search of a problem.”

Then he said, “I’m willing to go to jail over this. This is about the right to vote. That’s too important to me.”

Hopefully, it won’t come down to that.

But just in case it does, I’m officially announcing the Vincent E. Thompson Bail Fund right now…

……because friends don’t let friends stay in jail overnight for fighting as the ancestors taught us…

Rushie wanna cracker….

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, one of the great things that the Republican primaries have managed to do so far for folks like me, folks who collect research on political campaigns and the use of coded messages,is provide us with the kind of grist for our research mills that money just can’t buy.

From Newt Gingrich’s belief that blacks should demand work instead of food stamps to Rick Santorum’s promise that he won’t give blacks your money (something he said to whites in Iowa) to Mitt Romney’s newfound use of race baiting, a use born of his recent win in the Florida Primaries, the grist for the code word research mill is such that it’s hard to keep up with.

But because he’s got millions of listeners and a need for attention that would rival any 5-year-old boy, I knew that Rush Limbaugh would provide me and my fellow political code word researchers with something we all probably thought that no one would come up with.

Apparently, he’s given himself a title that I’m sure that many people of color might have wanted to give him years ago, but were far too polite to do so.

That title: well, our favorite Oxycontin addict has decided to call himself “The Big Cracker.

Now why would he do that?

Well, I’ve found in the past that it’s best to let Mr. Limbaugh speak for himself, so….

Well, isn’t that special?

I guess that if anyone is going to be “The Big Cracker” in this election, Limbaugh is as good a choice as any. I feel kinda bad for Juan Williams, though. If he felt disrespected by National Public Radio, I can only imagine how played he feels by a group that he thought were his brothers in arms…

But here’s the thing. If the idea is to do what I call The Racist Shuffle, which basically amounts to “I’m gonna call you a racist for pointing out that racism still exists…” Limbaugh did it badly. My guess was that his whole idea was to somehow insulate himself and his fellow travelers from charges of racism by doing the whole “Big Cracker” thing.

Too bad it won’t work…especially in an election year that seems to include the musings of folks like Gingrich and Santorum and stuff like this…

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. This is a campaign commercial that has chosen to portray President Barack Obama as a slave ship captain.

Now here’s the irony of all of this. The Republicans allegedly want more people of color to vote for them. I know someone who has spent much of her time as one of the most high powered Republicans I know trying to get more people of color to consider the party as their political home. In fact, I just saw a guy get ripped a new on by the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC over this issue…

Personally, I wouldn’t mind that. I think that people of color need to have their fingers in every pie possible. If we’re not everywhere we can be, and in decision making positions in these places, we shouldn’t be surprised when our issues aren’t considered.

However, by the same token, you should never stay somewhere where you’ve been shown in more than a few ways that you’re not wanted. If I’m a Herman Cain right now, I’m sticking my foot up the behind of someone in the GOP leadership and telling them to tell EVERYONE that this crap isn’t cool, isn’t acceptable, and is gonna cost us votes we can’t afford to lose…

I wonder if they’d listen….

But then again, I wonder if they really care.

Getting the Point

Hope she made her point…

Arizona Gov, Jan Brewer has probably been interviewed more by the national media today than she has been since Arizona became the only state in the Union where I could be asked for a copy of my birth certificate if I find myself looking too Dominican while in Phoenix.

That’s because she decided to do something that you shouldn’t do to anyone: she decided to stick her finger in someone’s face. That this face was attached to the President of the United States was what made it news.

Otherwise, it’s just another white woman trying to put a black man in check.

Now I know that some of you are going to look at that last sentence and say “Why must you make everything racial? That wasn’t about race. Why is it that every perceived disrespect when it comes to this President gets looked at through the prism of race?”

Because when it comes to a lot of the things that Republicans do and say to this particular president, the prism of race is the most obvious one through which it can be viewed. Don’t shoot the messenger. It is what it is…at least it is what it is in this case…

Now why do I say that? Well, let’s look at it in another direction and you’ll see why.

Suppose the positions in this picture were reversed? Let’s just say that this wasn’t President Barack Obama, but Gov. Barack Obama. And let’s pretend that Gov. Brewer was the President instead. Now let’s further extend this scenario and have Gov. Obama confront President Brewer as she came off of Air Force One and stuck his finger in her face.

Before you could say “angry black man”, people would be calling for his head. How dare he disrespect the President like that…and a white woman to boot? You’re sticking your finger in this white woman’s face? Are you nuts boy?! Better get your nigga ass back in its place…!

(Now if you don’t think that’s how it would have gone down, I have the deed to the Ben Franklin Bridge. I’ll sell it to you if you want….)

But here’s the part of this that kinda cracks me up. When Gov. Brewer made the television talk show rounds today, she said that she felt “intimidated” by the President.

On one hand, I guess I can understand that. If I had done something stupid enough to possibly lead to my ending up face down on the tarmac or looking down the barrel of a Secret Service gun, I might feel intimidated.

But because America is possibly the only place in the world where a white woman can put her finger in a black man’s face and then claim that HE’S intimidating HER, she’s been hailed as a hero on Fox News.

If that’s not proof that we’re deep into the Silly Season of American Politics, you tell me what is.

It is dynamics like this that made me decide that I’d like to know more about political speech…and the coded messages connected to it. It is these codes that have given us such things as “food stamp president”, “welfare queen” “socialism” and other things that seem to act as dog whistles to the people to whom they’re directed.

I started noticing coded speech when I was working for the Reading Eagle-Times in Reading, Pennsylvania. Because I can be a little nuts at times, I found myself covering organized hate groups.

(Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m black. I’m talking to Klansmen. Not the safest gig. Mom got on me about it a lot. Even told the paper that if anything happened to me, they’d have a new owner…)

But while the rank and file of these groups weren’t made up of the brightest bulbs in the lamp, their leadership, the ones that recruited them, were pretty intelligent. They knew what to say to get these folks into the fold. They knew that these folks were looking for someone to blame for the fact that they didn’t have a job, or food for their families and they also knew that they weren’t quite smart enough to say, “Hey! What about the greedy bastards that laid me off?!”

Thus, they were able to say, “It’s the blacks fault!” or “It’s the immigrant’s fault!”…and these folks bought it because it was easier than trying to understand the inner workings of multinational corporations.

It’s almost the same in politics. In 2004, President George W. Bush got a second term because he was able to distract people from the war by keeping their eyes on “gay marriage”. Because bills codifying marriage as an institution exclusive to straight couples were on the ballot, and the anti-“gay marriage” forces were largely Republican and largely religious, he rode to victory.

(Here’s where I say what I usually say when I write about gays and legal matrimony: I still don’t understand what gay folks can do to ruin the institution of marriage that straight folks haven’t already done. I mean hey, we’ve got a guy currently running for president who asked his second wife to consider an open marriage so that he could continue screwing the woman who would later go on to become his third wife. If that’s not proof of my contention, nothing is. Not even Elizabeth Taylor tried anything like that…)

Now coded speech in politics has always been with us. These dog whistles get blown no matter who is in charge.

But when you have an African American incumbent in the White House, and a segment of the population that’s still pissed off about this, the code words come flying fast and furious. In the last few months alone, we’ve heard that Spanish is “a language of the ghetto”, black kids “need to work as janitors in their schools so that they acquire a work ethic” blacks should “demand paychecks instead of food stamps” and that “I don’t want to make life better for black people by giving them your money”.

It’s annoying. It’s grotesque. It’s disrespectful. But it works.

But because it’s appearing in 2012 that people of color have no rights that anyone is required to respect all over again, it makes sense that a woman who tends to make up stories about Mexican cartels killing people in the Arizona desert (something that has been proven false time and time again) feels that she has the right to put her finger in the face of the President of the United States.

However, Gov. Brewer should be really, really glad that President Obama was alone when she wagged her finger at him because my guess is that this picture would have looked a whole lot different if First Lady Michelle Obama were present.

If she’s at all like most of the women I know, you’d have learned the definition of “intimidated”…