The Politics of Politics

Of Slavery, Affordable Health Care, and Crazy Talk…

“I know that getting raped every night by Massa and getting beaten by his wife really stinks, but it could be worse…you could have to sign up for Obamacare!

Because I write about politics, I try to find stuff that takes me away from that topic on my downtime, something that’s become harder to do of late.

Since we have become such a strictly divided populace, everything, even going to a movie, can lead to a political discussion. Last year, the movie The Help angered people because folks found it far too simplistic when it comes to the Civil Rights Movement. George Clooney has made a name for himself producing movies with a political bent including last year’s Best Picture winner Argo.

On Tuesday night, I managed to get a ticket to a movie that is probably going to be much too much for some of you to look at.

The movie was Steve McQueen’s adaptation of Solomon Northrup’s book 12 Years a Slave. 

Now in case you haven’t heard about this picture yet, here’s a little info. The movie stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northrup, a free Black man living in Saratoga, N.Y. who makes his living as a musician. He’s hired to play for a circus in Washington, D.C., goes out for dinner and drinks with his co-workers…and wakes up the next morning in shackles, gets beaten when he tries to explain that he’s a free man, and winds up in the hull of a ship with, of all people, Omar from The Wire.

(Actually, Michael K. Williams isn’t in the film that long…but I admit that I did find myself wishing that Omar would show up at various times during this film…)

Throughout the movie, you see the indignities that Northrup and his fellow slaves, especially the women, have to face as part of their servitude. One female slave, Patsey, portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o gets it coming and going between being raped nightly by Master Epps (portrayed by Michael Fassbender) and being abused by his jealous wife.

(Think of the triangle of Olivia, Fitz and Mellie on Scandal, with Mellie being allowed to beat Liv whenever she wants to…)

Most of the movies that have been done about slavery have either featured comedic violence (Django Unchained) or have otherwise glossed over the subject. Until 12 Years a Slave, Roots was about as realistic as we got when it came to the issue of slavery.

This movie is Roots On Steroids. 

When Master Epps takes his whip to Patsey because he feels she’s been “unfaithful” (and because of his wife’s prodding…) it’s with a graphic brutality that made me cover my eyes a couple of times. As blood flew into the air and skin on Patsey’s back was ripped open by the whip, many folks in the audience cringed.

Some walked out.

Others were crying.

Many of us didn’t have the words to describe what we’d seen.

But because I’m a political writer, one of things I thought as I walked out of 12 Years a Slave was “This is one group of folks who could have really used the Affordable Care Act!”

Now what did I mean by that? 

Dr. Ben Carson, a guy that until recently was better known for his accomplishments as a neurosurgeon and for the fact that Cuba Gooding Jr. portrayed him in a movie, spoke to the Values Voters Coalition in Washington, DC.

Because he’s a doctor, the subject of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare, came up. To most of the folks he was speaking to, this law, which is designed to give people access to health insurance, and thus better care, is the most horrible law ever passed…which is really saying something for a country that can count Jim Crow and the USA PATRIOT Act among its laws.

But while the sentence above might make you scratch your head, Dr. Carson topped it…

“Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” he said. “And it is, in a way, it is slavery.”

O-Tay…

Now last I looked, no one has been so oppressed by the prospect of going on the Healthcare.gov website and trying to acquire health insurance that they’ve asked someone to help them commit suicide, but slavery? Well, slavery might make you want to do that…

While Dr. Carson’s bon mot is the most recent…and the most ridiculous…example, there’s been this trend over the last six years to compare things and people to some of the most heinous events in world history. 

There are signs that feature President Barack Obama dressed in Nazi garb and wearing a Adolph Hitler-esque mustache. To be fair, President George W. Bush was featured in similar signs. The Confederate Flag is being waved in front of the White House by groups that have been led there by current Congressmen and former Vice Presidential Candidates…

And then there’s the whole health care as slavery thing…

Well at least we all know what “socialism” is…

(Probably not…)

As I was walking out of the Ritz Five theater with my Significant Other and an Old Friend discussing 12 Years a Slave, I came up with a list of observations:

  1. Slavery is in a class all by itself when it comes to brutality. Any circumstance where being Shark Bait is preferable to getting to your destination is a special brand of harsh.
  2. Solomon Northrup could have been spared 12 years of hell if someone had told him what freshmen co-eds in colleges and universities around the country are told every Fall: Watch who you’re drinking around…and always know where your drink is. If you walk away from it, it’s no longer your drink.
  3. Whomever is announcing the Academy Award nominations in March had better learn how to pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o because it’s gonna be important….And…
  4. The next person stupid enough to try and equate anything that doesn’t include brutalizing people for fun and profit to slavery in my presence is gonna get dropped like a bad habit with a right hook. 

  

I especially mean that last one…My ancestors kind of demand it…




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Real. Clear. Politics.

Does this look like the place for politics?

If you’ve followed this blog at all you know that I love politics and all things politics.

But while politics is my favorite contact sport, I also know that there are places, things and events that politics just should not touch. I don’t like the fact that we have elected school boards. I think that things like health care should have no political contact.

And so should things like natural disasters, bombings and other things that cause mass carnage. Will someone try and make political hay of these things eventually? Yes. But should that hay be made within days of their occurrence? No. In fact, Hell No!

I bring this up in light of some of the things that have shown up on my Facebook timeline, my Twitter feed, and other social media spots regarding Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing. While I understand that for some of us every day is Politics Day, when it comes to this incident and making political hay right now, I think that Susan from Sesame Street says it best…

From the moment that my I-Phone started going off with alerts about the bombing to the moment that the television set in my dentist’s office switched from the Katie Couric Show, a show that illustrates just how little the host has grown as an interviewer since her Today Show days, to coverage of the bombing, I hoped that we would have a few days, maybe a week, before the personal switched to the political.

Folks didn’t even wait for President Barack Obama to address the nation before they got started.

My fellow travelers at Salon, Mediaite and Gawker were kind enough to compile the best of the worst responses to the tragedy. Here are some samples:

For starters, let’s go with Fox News contributor Erik Rush, who has probably figured out that nothing goes away on the Internet, even when you delete it: 

“Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring more Saudis in without screening them! C’mon! #bostonmarathon,” 

When asked if he was already blaming Muslims for this despite the investigation being in it infancy, Rush responded  “Yes, they’re evil. Kill them all.”

Not to be outdone, Alex Jones, maintainer of the blog InfoWars, tried to say that the bombing was an inside job designed to lead to the “TSA groping you at sporting events soon…”, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney asserted that it was actually a Boston PD bomb squad drill gone horribly awry, and we’re not even going to get into Bill O’Reilly’s Nazi comparison or the fact that people are trying to make a buck off of this in the form of t-shirts and other merchandise.

After seeing this kind of stuff all day, I took to my Facebook page and put up the following:

While most everyone has shown restraint and not politicized the Boston Marathon attacks, there have been some folks that can’t help themselves showing their behinds on my timeline.
For them, I have this:
Stop it. Stop it now. Now isn’t the time.

I got a response from one of my friends on the right who said that now was exactly the time because, and I quote, “the country’s lack of leadership has been exposed. Harshly.”

Now, I could have said the same thing on Sept. 11, 2001 when the man who was president at the time was sitting in a Florida classroom reading the book My Pet Goat and looking right stupid, but I didn’t. That wasn’t the time. Thousands were dead. Hundreds were injured. People were mourning. People were in pain. If it’s between politics and people, my usually acerbic wit takes a backseat to my “Do you need a hug?” impulse.

So this was my response:

People are mourning. Folks have literally run their last fucking marathon because their legs have been blown off.
And you think that it’s time for us to start thinking about 2014?! Really?!
If someone had tried to politicize Sept. 11 when it happened, my status would be exactly the same. I may not have agreed with the folks running my government, but when it’s between people and politics, people are gonna win every time with me.
So I repeat…
This. Is. Not. The. Time.

What I’m starting to notice is that when there’s a tragedy like this, the toxicity of our politics really shines through. We’ve become so ready to search for scalps, come up with hackneyed theories and look for an “other” to blame at times like these, that little things like facts tend to fall by the wayside…just ask the New York Post, which had 12 people dead (it was actually only three) and an Arab man arrested. (He wasn’t.)

Unfortunately, compassion takes a backseat too. 

So, while I understand that some of you can’t help yourselves, ask yourself what you’d say to this person if you saw….

Her….
Or better yet, his Mom….

Surviving the Game

“That went well…”

Because I was trying to teach small children how to do journalistic interviews yesterday, something I would only recommend to the most patient of my fellow travelers in journalism, I missed seeing Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s speech to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or the NAACP as it’s better known.

Romney, in what can only be considered the equivalent of walking into Ohio Stadium in a Michigan sweatshirt before the Wolverines and Buckeyes take the field on a Saturday afternoon, came to the civil rights organization’s annual convention in Houston in an attempt to do one of three things: (a) pick off some of President Barack Obama’s supporters in the African American community (b) make the Republican Party seem like it wants to be more attractive to people of color and (c) show independents and whites turned off by the antics of such folks as Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and others that the adults that ran the Republican Party prior to 2010 were still, at least marginally, in charge.

At the very least, and I know this because i’ve covered NAACP conventions, Romney could be guaranteed a respectful audience. The gathered folks might not be real fond of what he had to say, but they’d show him the courtesy of listening. One thing that we are taught almost from birth as African Americans is to be respectful.

But while we’re a respectful people, even the most genteel among us isn’t going to let you pull down your pants and take a crap in the middle of our living room floor without us pointing out to you that it’s not cool…We’re probably not only going to ask you to leave, but will send your crap out along with you in a bag that you might hope doesn’t break before it hits you in the head…

Which is something that Mitt Romney found out on Wednesday when he said that among the first things he’d do as president is get rid of every wasteful program including the repeal what he calls Obamacare, what Massachusetts residents call Romneycare, and what those of us who need it to survive call the Affordable Care Act.

(I have a blog post coming on that, but let’s stick to this for now.)

And the crowd, well, responded…

I hear tell that Romney wasn’t surprised that he got booed for this. That’s probably because of (d) which is, he goes and speaks to Black folks, gets booed, and all of the white folks who have lost their minds completely over the last four years because we dared put not only a Black man, but a Black man with an African name and a pretty Black wife and two beautiful Black children into the White House feel better about voting for him despite the fact that he’s done the equivalent of an Extreme Makeover to make himself palatable to them.

Now is there a part of me that thinks it’s rude to boo someone that you basically invited into your home? Yeah. Miss Ollie, my late mother, would be mortified if I brought someone into my home for the sole purpose of being rude to them. She would tell me that if I was going to do that, I shouldn’t have asked them over in the first place.

And on one hand, she’d be absolutely right.

But on the other hand, there’s that whole “taking a crap in my living room” thing to consider.

While I can totally understand that Romney is running as fast as his legs can carry him from President Obama’s version of the healthcare plan he put together in Massachusetts, he needs to understand that most if not all of the folks in the audience that makes up the NAACP either know someone or are someone who could benefit from affordable healthcare.

Don’t believe me? Here’s some stats from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured:

  • African Americans are less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance than whites (53 percent vs. 73 percent.) This is in spite of the fact that eight out of 10 African Americans are in working families.
  • While Medicaid provides somewhat of a safety net for African Americans who have income levels at less than 200 percent of the poverty level, families that make more are uninsured at a level of 30 percent because they make too much for Medicaid, something that would be taken care of as part of the expansion of the program in the ACA.
  • Uninsured African Americans are at least three times as likely not to have a primary care doctor than uninsured whites. Much of this is because income levels in the African American community are lower than that of whites. 

I could go on, but hopefully you get my point.

Mitt Romney didn’t get booed by the NAACP because, as Rush Limbaugh says (and can someone tell me again why we’re still paying attention to this gasbag who was supposed to be in Costa Rica by now) the group is racist. He didn’t get booed because the NAACP, as some dude on Sean Hannity’s program put it, is a hate group.

He got booed because he told a room filled with people who live the whole health care disparity debate on a daily basis that he, basically, didn’t care if they lived or died.

Don’t know about you, but if you’ve been through some of the stuff that I’ve been through due to a lack of health insurance, you’d have probably booed too…and you may have used a megaphone.

So while I understand that there are folks who feel that the audience at the NAACP convention committed a faux pas by booing Mitt Romney, I can also see why they did it.

And in my next post, so will you.

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”…

Back up off me, y’all!


Wanna know what the big story was for me this week?

No, it wasn’t that Newt Gingrich allegedly asked his ex-wife for an open marriage so that he could have permission to continue to cheat on her with his current wife….

It wasn’t that Vanessa Bryant became the $75 million (and three mansions) Woman thanks to marrying a man too undisciplined to keep it in his pants and too stupid to get himself a pre-nuptual agreement….

And it wasn’t even finding out that President Barack Obama can carry a tune, something that’s probably going to give Republicans and every black man who’s tired of hearing “Why can’t you be more like Barack?” just another reason to hate him…

For me the biggest news of the week was the news that Paula Deen, the Southern Fried hostess of the only Food Network program that I can get my boyfriend to watch with me without hearing him complain about it, is a Type-2 diabetic…and has been for the last three years.

Deen made the announcement as part of the unveiling of a website from Norvo Nordisk, a drug company that has employed her as its spokesperson for the diabetes medication she takes, something called Victoza. The website includes recipes for healthier meals created by Deen, who is better known for things like the video above, which features her making a deep-fried cheesecake.

(Mad (political) Scientist’s Note: Her son, Bobby, has just started a show on the Cooking Channel called Not My Mama’s Meals, designed to take the creations that his mom made famous and make them healthier. Someone’s gotta think of the brand, I guess…)


Predictably, every nutritionist, chef and Paula Deen critic came out of the woodwork to call “Shenanigans!” on her for waiting until she was given millions by a drug company to talk about her illness and also for continuing to cook the kinds of food that everyone associates with giving you Type -2 diabetes, which can be caused by obesity among other things. Most notable among those critics is fellow celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who took to his Twitter feed to proclaim that he should, and I’m paraphrasing, go into leg breaking so that he could make millions off of selling crutches.

Now do I think that Deen is just a tad disingenuous for tying the announcement of her diabetes to the announcement that she’s gonna get big bucks for telling people about her medication? Yeah. I’ve got my issues with that. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I had a doctor that I swear was in bed with the pharmaceutical companies. I felt like a lab rat by the time that I finally switched doctors, his unwillingness to take me off of Avandia, a drug associated with heart attacks in diabetics, being the last straw.

But do I think that she’s the anti-Christ because she refuses to say “I’m never going to eat another spoonful of macaroni and cheese ever again”?

No.

You see, my hope is that Deen uses her bully pulpit on Food Network and everywhere else she goes to use a word that no one seems to want to use when it comes to the politics of food consumption in this country:

Moderation.

Now I know that to some of you who will read this blog, I’ve just said a bad word. You’re not supposed to practice moderation if you’re a diabetic. You’re supposed to want to eat nothing but salads, and fish, and sugar-free stuff for the rest of your life. You’re supposed to look at a chicken wing like it’s toxic. You’re supposed to think of your disease every time you even think about eating.

To those of you who feel this way, I have a simple and concise one-word response.

Bullshit.

Now I recognize that my response may be perceived as harsh. I recognize that to those who love the diabetics they call family and friends this may appear unfeeling. I get it. While I think that you should focus more on whether or not we have health insurance than what we’re eating, I do, indeed, get it.

But here’s what you need to get when dealing with us when it comes to food: We know what we’re dealing with even better than you do. So we’d really appreciate it if you wouldn’t stare down our throats as we have that occasional serving of macaroni and cheese during the holidays. We’d love it if you wouldn’t begin fretting the minute we take a bite from a Red Velvet cupcake.

In other words, we’d appreciate it if you didn’t treat us like we can’t control our impulses. We’re not Kobe Bryant…

Let’s be honest with ourselves here. If folks actually ate the stuff that Paula Deen (and if he’s honest with himself, Anthony Bourdain) cooked all day every day, you’d be able to pick their hardened arteries out of their arms within six months. Rich, fatty, deep fried foods aren’t generally included in the everyday meals of most people.

But when things like macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, Red Velvet cake and Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream are on the menu, folks should be allowed to enjoy them without being made to feel like they’re going to die within an hour of consuming them.

As a nation, we have an obesity rate that’s kinda ridiculous. Our rates of childhood obesity are so outrageous that First Lady Michelle Obama has made reducing them her cause. Granted, Congress isn’t helping her much by saying that pizza is a vegetable (which it ain’t), but she’s trying to get more veggies into our kids.

However, I can’t help but think that some of America’s problems with obesity stem from our dysfunctional relationship with food. When you try and shame people into losing weight by making snide remarks, or chastising them whenever they so much as take a bite out of a piece of bread, you make food more important than it actually is.

That makes people self-conscious.

Which leads to their feeling ashamed of eating.

Which makes them eat in secret.

Which leads to depression.

Which leads to overeating.

Which leads to obesity.

Which can lead to diabetes.

See where I’m going with this?

So rather than condemn Paula Deen for being a diabetic who makes gooey butter cakes (I personally make chocolate chip cookies from scratch…I eat two and give the rest away), I’m hoping that her being a diabetic forces us to have a conversation about moderation….

because, as she often puts it, she’s our cook, not our nurse.

No, I’m not gonna eat all this butter! So back off of me, y’all!

We Almost Lost Detroit…


 Imagine this scenario:

You live in a pretty decent sized town. The elected officials in your town aren’t the greatest. The town’s budget is a bit of a mess. Jobs have left that probably won’t be back because the industry they were connected to no longer exists in the form it used to. There’s been a few instances of corruption and some of these local officials have found themselves taken away in handcuffs for their malfeasance. So your town has an election, and you, and your fellow townspeople, vote to throw these bums out and replace them with people who have a plan designed to fix the budget, drum up some business….and by extension some jobs. And to put a cherry on top of this new hot fudge sundae, they’re probably the most ethical folks in your town, so you know their hearts are in the right place.

Now imagine that despite the fact that you and your fellow townspeople have done what they could do on a small-“d” democratic level to get the town back on track, the governor of your state decides that your efforts aren’t enough and armed with a law that his political cronies worked hard to get implemented, nullifies the intention of the voters in your town by installing an overseer with unlimited power that can do anything he or she wants…and your taxes are forced to pay for his decisions.You have no way to protest this person’s actions and they can’t be voted out.

Now if you’re a longtime resident of Washington, D.C., this particular scenario is probably something you’re far too familiar with. Depending on who the current occupant of the White House is and which party holds the majority in Congress, you either have a say in how your taxes are used on the federal level, which means you have some actual control of your budget, or you’re basically told, “We own you bitch! Shut up and take it!”…which is something that I’m sure that Newt Gingrich probably said when he was Speaker of the House in the 90s.

But if you’re a resident of one of the 50 states that make up the rest of United States of America, you probably never thought that you’d ever have to deal with this scenario in any way, shape or form. I mean, why would any governor decide that he or she was not only going to take over a town government and give the citizens in said town no say in how their government, a government that’s supposed to represent them, conducts itself?

If you live in the state of Michigan however, that’s the reality you’re currently living under. Especially if you’re living in the towns of Flint, Pontiac, Hartranft, Ecorse, Benton Harbor, and Three Oaks. Under the Emergency Manager Law, one of those draconian measures that always seem to go hand in hand with what I like to call “bully government”, Gov. Rick Snyder can decide unilaterally that he doesn’t like your town’s government, have it removed, and replace it with one he likes…one that isn’t accountable to you, the citizens.

Now we here in Philadelphia have our own smaller scale experiences with things taken over by state-sponsored entities that have no accountability to us as citizens despite the fact that they are financed through our taxes. The School District of Philadelphia is the biggest example of this, followed closely by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

But just like in Michigan, state takeover hasn’t equalled excellence. Heck, we here in Philly could have told them that. The School District of Philadelphia has been operating at a deficit ever since the Commonwealth took it over, as are the towns that have been subject to this particularly heinous power grab.

The Detroit School District, which has been under state receivership for a while, is still a mess.

So imagine the horrified looks on the faces of the folks in the City of Detroit, a city that managed to survive Kwame “I don’t wanna be a freak, but I can’t help myself” Kilpatrick, the greed of GM, and a whole host of other things, when they found out that despite electing a new mayor, Dave Bing, a new city council, and trying to put its own house in order, it and another town, Inkster, are Gov. Snyder’s next takeover targets.

Wow.

There are a lot of things not to like about this law. We can talk about how it’s a total subjugation of democracy. We can talk about how it doesn’t give towns in Michigan an incentive to try and clean up their governments on their own because they know, no matter what, the Governor will take over the town if he doesn’t like their choices. We can talk about how political in the most grotesque sense this is.

But what really stood out to me about the consequences of this law was this: if Inkster and Detroit join the ranks of Michigan’s takeover targets, 50 percent of the state’s African American community will be living in towns governed by officials they didn’t elect, can’t un-elect, and aren’t accountable in any way to them.

Wrap your head around that for a moment. I’ll wait…

That means that 50 percent of Michigan’s African American community has no say so in their own governance.

Getting it now?

As times get harder and towns find it difficult to keep up, it would be no surprise to me at all if more laws like this found themselves being proposed in state legislatures.

But in the words of the Rev. David Bullock, one of the leaders of a march to Gov. Snyder’s Ann Arbor home in protest of the law, it would be a bad idea to use a lack of funding as an excuse to take away the right of a municipality to govern itself.

“There is no connection between dismantling democracy and fixing a deficit,” Bullock said. “Democracy allows for accountability and transparency. If you take democracy off the table, you have tyranny. There is no accountability. We must also add that emergency management does not work. The Detroit Public Schools is under emergency management: still has a deficit. Benton Harbor is under emergency management: bills paid late. The city of Highland Park was under a weaker form of emergency management for nine years: still has a deficit. You cannot manage a blood loss. If I were in a car accident and I was losing blood, you wouldn’t manage how much blood I was losing. You would stop the bleeding and you would send a blood transfusion. We need targeted reinvestment in Michigan.”

Let’s hope they get some. Beats the hell out of the alternative.

Bringing the Crazy…


When I last wrote about the Republican nominees for President, I pointed out the fact that Michelle Bachmann, the Republican Congresswoman who never seems to be at a loss for words, had managed to get through the first of the Republican candidate debates without making any major faux pas.

I also pointed out that we shouldn’t expect Bachmann to stay off of the Crazy Train for long. When you have a reserved sleeping bunk for interstate travel on said train, getting on and off is no problem for you. Hell, Bachmann might have a long-standing reservation on the Acela car with her level of crazy.

Well, she’s back in her bunk and, as she often does, Bachmann, a favorite of people who couldn’t define socialism if their lives were on the line (or as they’re sometimes called, The Tea Party), has brought her stunning lack of knowledge of American, African American, or any other kind of history with her.

Apparently, Madame Bachmann has signed one of those things that always seem to bite Conservatives in the ass: a family values pledge. Bob Vander Plaats, a social conservative from Iowa, has put together this pledge entitled: “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMILY” (emphasis theirs).

Now for the most part, the pledge has the usual boilerplate “family values” language. You can’t get divorced. Gay folks can’t get married unless they marry folks of the opposite sex and live like normal folks. (Believe it or not, I just had that discussion with someone yesterday.) Rejection of all of those parts of the First Amendment that say that we have freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion. No Sharia Law. No abortions. Pretty standard stuff.

(Not to change the subject too much, but where did the idea that Sharia Law was coming to America come from? Did it come from the same folks who said President Obama is a Secret Muslim from Kenya?)

But the part of the pledge that seems to stand out for a lot of folks, particularly a lot of black folks, is this one:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

Okay. Let’s talk about this.

First of all, if you sat through even five minutes of Roots, you know that this statement is inherently wrong because let’s face it, the job of the slave master in those days was to make black women single parents, if they were allowed to truly be parents at all.

You see, the only reason why black men and women were allowed to get together in a sexual way during slavery was to produce more “young, black bucks”. These weren’t love connections for the most part. They were the master’s way of ensuring he’d have a steady supply of slaves to work the fields, cotton gins, and to serve as nannies for his kids.

For those slaves who did find love, marriage was out of the question. Marriages between slaves weren’t recognized and even if the slave masters did recognize that these two “darkies” had jumped the broom, it didn’t prevent him from selling either half of this couple whenever the need arose. The kids were fair game for the auction block as well and were often taken away from their parents at a very young age to be sold to another plantation.

Heck, at least the kids of single parents in the Age of Obama get to stay with at least one parent…and there’s no FOR SALE sign on ’em either!

So a basic knowledge of history renders Mr. Vander Plaats inaccurate…and a little silly.

Now why is Madame Bachmann the only one who has come up in connection to this historically inaccurate pledge?

Well, there’s two reasons:

First, is the fact that we’ve been regaled by Bachmann’s lack of knowledge of African American History before. A few weeks ago, she tried to tell us that the Founding Fathers were trying their hardest to end slavery. Granted, it took them about 100 years, a Constitutional Amendment, and a Civil War, but they were busting their asses to change things….at least according to Bachmann.

And secondly, Bachmann has been the only GOP candidate to sign this pledge so far. That’s no real surprise because she’s the only one just thrown off enough to take it as seriously as Vander Plaats wants the GOP candidates to, but it’s kind of telling that the other candidates haven’t touched it with a 10-foot-pole.

(Heck, Newt Gingrich would probably touch it and turn into a pillar of salt right there.)

Now you’re allowed to adhere to whatever beliefs you want to adhere to. It’s your world. I’m just trying to live in it.

But some information from a study done regarding President Obama’s Twitter Town Hall this week should tell these candidates that instead of returning the phone calls of Vander Plaats and his social conservative ilk, they should be talking to people who can answer a question that would be far more beneficial to black families than what they’re discussing right now.

That question: Where can I find a job? That’s what most of the folks Tweeting the White House wanted to talk about. They weren’t interested in a lack-of-history-lesson.

Now this being a free country and all, you can run on whatever platform you want when you’re running for elected office.

But I can’t help but laugh derisively when I see conservatives sign family values pledges like this at the same time they’re making sure that families don’t have the minimum they need to keep themselves together: things like health care, education, and heck, a job.

Maybe you all should pledge to do something about that…

Raising Cain


I’ve kind of hesitated to discuss Republican Presidential Candidate Herman Cain here on the Mad (political) Scientist.

Most of that hesitation stems from my lack of knowledge of the man. In fact, all that I knew about the guy until recently was that he used to be the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, a chain that I frequented when I had money to spare as a student at The Ohio State University. It was okay…but when I came back home to the Delaware Valley, I realized that Godfather’s was a greasy, nasty mess compared to what I get at places like Ralph and Ricky’s or Gianfranco Pizza Rustica here in South Philly.

But I also hesitated because whenever you write about African American Conservatives, and you’re not one, anything you say that isn’t totally complimentary is seen as having a bias against conservatives and blacks that don’t “toe the line” of the Democratic Party. You especially get that particular knock when you point out that most of what comes out of these African American conservatives mouths sounds (a) unfeeling, (b) unrealistic and (c) not at all in tune with what’s really going on in the African American community.

However, since I’ve already annoyed a lot of folks by saying that I think it’s more than a little stupid to demand that Rep. Anthony Weiner resign over putting a picture of his privates out on the Internet when the only person who should be pissed off about this is his wife, I figured, why not? I’m feeling adventurous…

So here goes…

I started to pay attention to Herman Cain just because he’s a black dude running as a Republican and that kind of commands attention. My twin brother is a Republican and that has led to more than one, let’s say, nasty argument. He particularly likes trying to explain the First Amendment to me, a part of the Constitution that conservatives really seem to have a special scorn for…

I also began paying attention because he’s one of those Tea Party folks and I’m really interesting in seeing if that means he’ll be taken seriously or if he’ll get the same treatment that Alan Keyes got in 2008. For those of you who don’t remember the Keyes campaign, I’ll keep it short. He was a black conservative that ran for president. He was treated like an interloper. He didn’t get to participate in any of the Republican debates. He got no traction.

So far, Cain has been invited to all of the right conservative parties. My guess is that this is going on because (a) his Tea Party affiliation and (b)because there are some Republicans out there who are hoping that he can chip away at President Obama’s support in the African American community.

Cain himself believes that. He says that African Americans are actually conservatives.

His argument does have some merit. I say this because there are certain topics that when you discuss them with black folks, you might as well be having a conversation with a rock-ribbed member of the Christian Right.

For example, let’s talk about gay rights. To be exact, let’s point out the fact that in many ways the struggle for rights for gays and lesbians mirrors that of the struggle for rights that blacks went through in the 1960s. I did that in a column that I wrote a long, long time ago regarding the stabbing of a gay man by a black University of Arizona student. The stabbing was a pretty blatant hate crime and I said that prejudice is bad, no matter who espouses it.

I won’t get into the emails I got from one dude about that. Let’s just say that everything from my blackness to my sexuality was questioned.

And I definitely won’t get into the fact that I’m still waiting for my mom to have “the talk” with me, and I’m 47 years old!

(Remember this the next time that you see a statistic showing that HIV/AIDS is going through the Black Community like Grant went through Richmond…)

But where Cain might have a problem with getting Blacks to join him for a cup of Tea is when he says stuff like “Blacks are too poor to Tea Party.”

And where he might have a problem getting anyone else to take him seriously is when he says stuff like he won’t sign any bill over three pages long if he’s president and that his Middle East policy would consist of giving Israel everything it wants at the expense of the Palestinians.

Admittedly, there’s not much that Herman Cain and I have in common.

But I hope that he does really well because Black folks need to be involved on all sides of the spectrum. I may not agree with anything Cain says, but I’m glad that he’s a part of the conversation.

Let’s see how long he stays there.

Goodbye Rush!

On what would normally be a day where I’d be out frolicking in the sunshine, sipping an Arnold Palmer (a combination of lemonade and iced tea) and trying to get the lovely and talented Ollie Clay (otherwise known as Mom) out on her deck to enjoy the sunshine, I instead found myself inside typing on my computer and watching television.

Why? Because today was Goodbye Rush Limbaugh Day and I didn’t want to miss a minute of it.

Now what made today a day where those of us who are tired of being forced to listen to drug addicted blowhards who have to order their women through a catalog dance a jig?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Today was the day that moved America one tiny step closer to no longer being the only industrialized nation that doesn’t provide health care to all of it’s citizens. The House of Representatives voted 219-212 to pass health care reform.

While the bill wasn’t my favorite because it creates far too much new business for insurance companies, didn’t include a public option (or better yet, single payer insurance) and is about as anti-choice as possible due to Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak, his fellow anti-choice Democrats, and the executive order they extracted from President Obama that disallows women who want to use their federal assistance to buy insurance that may include abortion coverage, I still had to support it because it was a start toward making health care more of a right and less of a privilege for Americans like myself who are (a)freelance writers and (b)diabetics.

I spent most of the day on my Facebook page listening to both sides of this debate. I even invented a drinking game based on the number of times that we heard certain phrases while watching the debate on C-Span. So if you heard “death panels”, “socialism”, “1700 new IRS agents”, “federally funded abortions” or any of the other oft repeated terms that the Republicans used during the debate, you were to take a drink. Since they got repeated a lot, my suggestion was that you played this particular game with non-alcoholic beverages.

What struck me about the day-long (and I’m not kidding, it took all day) debate was the tone that it took. It was closer to the UK’s Commons Question Time than it was to a normal day at the House of Representatives. You had people shouting, interrupting, and even calling folks names. I should have made a bet on whether or not someone would shout out something rude during the debate, because someone ended up shouting “baby killer” at Congressman Stupak.

(Considering what he forced Obama into to get his vote on the bill, I’d say that the screamer was far from accurate.)

By the time that the vote actually happened, I had conservative Facebook “friends” telling me that the United States was headed for ruin while my liberal “friends” were damn near turning cartwheels.

Now what does this have to do with helping Rush Limbaugh pack his stuff so that he can take his sorry ass to Central America?

You see, Rush Limbaugh knew that the Democrats had the votes to pass health care reform. This knowledge so incensed Mr. Limbaugh that he threatened on his radio show to move to Costa Rica should health care reform pass. Don’t believe me? Here he is saying it:

Well, dude. They passed it. By this time next week, it should be all nice and signed into law.

So now it’s your move.

Do we help you search for a property or have you or one of your mail order brides got that covered?

And do you know that Costa Rica, the nation that you want to run to so that you can get away from all of that nasty health care reform, has had national health care since, well, forever?

That’s the part that’s been cracking me up the most about the whole health care debate. Everyone that’s against it has one thing in common: they all have health care. Folks yelling “Keep your hands off my Medicaid” have Medicaid to work with. Folks with insurance plans from their jobs have health insurance to work with. Folks who are on their parent’s insurance have that safety net to fall into.

In other words, the hypocrisy has flowed like a mighty stream on this one.

So since the only thing that seems to bind health care opponents together is the need to make sure that they have what they need while the rest of us don’t, I’m glad that these folks are being made to grieve the loss of their built-in inequity.

But back to Limbaugh. He said he was gonna leave if health care reform was passed and I’d like for him to be a man of his word on this one.

So here’s what I propose…

Since he seems to love the sound of his own voice, my suggestion is that everyone take the time to give him a call and ask one question: When ya leavin’?

I’m serious. Rush Limbaugh needs to know that we all heard him say he was leaving and that we care enough to give him the best of all possible going away parties.

So here’s Rush’s number: 800-282-2882. Call him between noon and 3 and ask him “When ya leavin’?” Tell him we’ll even hold a bake sale for him if it helps.

Bye Rush! Won’t miss your sorry ass!