Uncategorized

Actually, no…I don’t have to #FeelTheBern

Democratic candidates 2016

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and the only person guy in the race that cared about cities until he dropped out…

Although it feels like it actually started on Inauguration Day 2013, the race for the 2016 Republican and Democratic Presidential nominations actually began last night with the Iowa Caucuses…or as I like to call it, Beginning Our 21st Century Electoral Process In A Place That Looks Like America Did In The 1700s.

For far too long, the Political Pundit Class has been abuzz with expectation about the Iowa Caucuses, who will win, who will lose, and what this means for the 2016 Presidential Race.

But you’re gonna have to forgive me if I’m already kinda fatigued with the whole process. While that’s been happening earlier and earlier as I experience presidential election years as your Mad (political) Scientist, I think that this year is some kind of record.

Why? Because when our political discourse devolves to the point that people are using terms better used to describe someone you might see on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,  count me out.

Let me explain.

By now, you’ve met all of the people who hope to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when Barack and Michelle Obama move out in 2017.

Until he lost the Iowa Caucuses last night, the Republican frontrunner was Donald Trump,a man who had managed to confound everything I ever learned in Political Science class by angering and offending almost everyone without dropping a point in the polls. He was beaten by Ted Cruz, a man who wishes he had that skill, thanks to Evangelical Christians.

(Am I the only one who finds it odd that the main group in this country that complains about ISIS and Muslim caliphates is the one group that wishes it could get away with creating a caliphate of it’s own?)

Marco Rubio, a guy who appears to have gone to the Sarah Palin School of Being A Public Official came in third, Dr. Ben Carson, who was the frontrunner at one time despite his propensity to compare everything (and I do mean everything) to slavery came in fourth, with former Hewlitt-Packard CEO (and Planned Parenthood video truther) Carly Fiorina, the Man With The Golden Mop, Gov. Chris Christie, and a whole bunch of guys that you’re not hearing a lot about including Rick Santorum, Sen. Rand Paul, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (who was supposed to be the frontrunner) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who makes too much sense to be considered for the nomination.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a man whose ad based on the Adele song “Hello” is easily the frontrunner for Worst Campaign Commercial Ever, dropped out last night. Paul joined him in the “No Longer Running” category earlier today.

Which brings us to the Democrats.

Anyone who thought that Hillary Clinton wasn’t going to make another run at the presidency after losing the Democratic nomination to Obama in 2008 needs to pass around whatever you’re smoking because it’s obviously the good stuff.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was the only person talking about cities, dropped out of the race after falling to third in the Iowa Caucuses last night. What angers me most about that is how he was treated while he was in it….which was like a third eye. I get that in our current media landscape, paying attention to more than one or two things at a time is hard, but if folks would have tried it, the country may have benefitted.

Which brings me to the only person other than Clinton that the media seems to be paying attention to: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He and Clinton were in a statistical dead heat in the Iowa caucuses, which Hillary won by the skin of her teeth and he currently leads in New Hampshire, another one of those states that determines America’s presidential candidates despite not looking at all like America does anymore.

Sanders, who has spent his entire time in the Senate as an Independent that caucuses with the Democrats, defines himself as a Socialist in a way that indicates that he knows what Socialism actually is. He’s filling basketball stadiums with people who are really taking to his message of breaking up banks, taxing the 1 percent, and providing a free college education and healthcare to everyone.

While I have some folks in my circle of friends that call Sanders’s ideas dangerous, I don’t agree necessarily. Free school for all might make it possible for me to get the last three classes I need for my masters. While I now have health insurance, something that diabetes made hard to get before the Affordable Care Act, single payer, Medicaid for All insurance could work.

But yet, I don’t #FeelTheBern, which has led to some really uncomfortable confrontations with friends of mine who do.

When I point out that much of what Sanders wants to do is going to be tough if not impossible because one or both house of Congress is going to remain in the hands of a Republican majority that’s come real close to committing treason a few times, I’m accused of an having an “irrational hatred” of their candidate.

When I ask about Sanders’s record when it comes to people of color or policies about things I find important like education or cities, I’m either told to “do your research”, something that I’d dare you to tell to a 85-year-old Super Voter, or and this is my favorite, to clarify my so-called “liberal bonafides” because I’m asking questions that make me look like a “shape shifter”.

No. I’m not kidding. I got called that by another Sanders supporter. That kinda did it for me. Like I said, when we’re using terms better suited to an episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s a problem.

Now I understand that people are passionate about whom they support politically. I get it. And I also know that because of how passionate you are, you kinda take it personally when someone doesn’t necessarily agree with you.

But as my late Mom always put it, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, something that Sanders supporters might want to take into consideration.

I read an article in The Atlantic a while back called “Here Comes The Berniebro”, which was a mostly flattering portrait of the young, mostly White men who are spending a lot of time on Social Media and in the streets to get you to #FeelTheBern.

While in most cases they’re harmless, some of them are, well, pushy.

In another article I read on the website “Jezebel” entitled, “Bernie Sanders’ Campaign is Concerned About the BernieBro” these guys have been going around harassing women who support Clinton and coming for the neck of anyone who questions their candidate, something I’ve experienced first hand.

To be fair, Sanders’s partisans aren’t the only ones doing this stuff. Ever talk to a Trump supporter? Whew! And I spent most of the 2008 Democratic Convention dodging Clinton’s rabid PUMAs (Party Unity My Ass for those of you who may have forgotten) and the vitriol they were bringing.

Like I said, I understand passion. But as someone who spends more than a little time in the Presidential Sausage Making Factory, a registered independent, and someone who reserves the right to demand an eloquent argument for your candidate if you’re trying to get me to support them, it’s time for those who have been resorting to name calling, browbeating, and other less than helpful means to try and push me, and others like me, into the Bernie Sanders Fire Pit to back off.

Otherwise, there may be a run on aloe vera as the Democratic primaries roll on…

Aloe vera, as you know, heals burns…

 

Advertisements

You Don’t Own Me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overprivleged asshole in BMW

 

Nice car…for an asshole…

You don’t own me,

I’m not just one of your many toys

You don’t own me,

Don’t say I can’t go with other boys…

You’re not gonna find a whole lot of Lesley Gore on my I-Pod. In fact, the version of this song that I found myself listening to after reading about Elliot Rodger’s “Cute, Blond Girls Don’t Like Me, So I’m Gonna Kill Everybody” rampage on Memorial Day Weekend in Isla Verde, California was the version performed by Dusty Springfield.

But that song came immediately to mind when I saw some of the reactions to what he did….and the justifications he gave for doing it in a manifesto that you won’t catch me linking to or quoting here.

You see, Rodger felt that because he was a 22-year-old virgin who had never been kissed (his words, not mine) that he had the right to go around throwing drinks at men of color who got the cute, blond girls who wouldn’t give him the time of day, filling a Super Soaker with orange juice and shooting it at happy couples sitting in the grass at parks, and ultimately killing six people and wounding 13.

I can only imagine how many times he got the crap kicked out of him for all of that drink throwing. I can also imagine what a royal terror he would have been with a case of 2 liter bottles of Coke at the Kanye West/Kim Kardashian wedding. Too many blonds with Black dudes. So little time…

Now I’ve dealt with entitlement a lot over the last few years. As an adjunct professor, a media arts teacher, and as a plain, garden variety woman, I’ve heard the words “I deserve” so much and in so many different ways that if I had a nickel for all of the embodiments of that particular two word phrase used to assault my ears and sensibilities, I could retire. Comfortably. And become George Clooney’s neighbor in Italy.

But it’s the sense of male entitlement that seemed to come streaming out this weekend that put the Lesley Gore/Dusty Springfield classic in my head.While we talk about the sense of male entitlement that allows rappers to grab their crotches and call for their “bitch”, we tend not to talk about the kind of male entitlement that led Rodger to become a drink throwing, Super Soaker shooting, mass murdering Manzilla.

So that’s what we’re gonna talk about.

And don’t tell me what to do,

And don’t tell me what to say,

And when I go out with you,

Don’t put me on display, ’cause

You don’t own me,

Don’t try to change me in any way

You don’t own me,

Don’t tie me down because I won’t stay…

It seems that Rodger had an issue with women putting him in the “friend zone” in favor of men that he viewed as less than the “supreme gentleman” he saw himself as.

In his world, somebody needed to feel the wrath for that…

“You girls have never been attracted to me,” he said. “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it. It is an injustice, a crime.”

Now let’s keep it real for a second, shall we, because I’ve heard this complaint from more than a few so-called “nice guys” and “good dudes” in my life.

I put the following on my Facebook page on Sunday:

“Okay, let’s think about this a minute.

If I had a nickel for every man who has stuck me into the “Friend Zone” since I started noticing boys, and I’m including the guys wanting to stick me in the “Friends With Benefits Zone”, I’d have been able to quit working about 15 years ago. If I add the guys who decided that I was only “friend” material in favor of a girl who ended up putting them through a rash of crap, I could have shaved off another five years. But while I’m pretty sure that many of the menfolk who are my Facebook friends see themselves in my remarks, and you should, I never felt like I was so entitled to you that I felt justified killing you and all of your kind. Most women don’t.”

And that’s kind of the bottom line, isn’t it?

Most women would accept their space in the “Friend Zone” with as much grace as you can muster when you get your heart broken. She may not return your calls for a while. She may block your Facebook posts or even unfriend you. She might even decide that since being your friend means having to sit and watch you be affectionate to someone who isn’t her, it might be time for her to make some new friends. It’s not that she doesn’t care about you anymore, it’s that she’s (a) protecting herself and (b) doesn’t want to be the dour one in all of the pictures.

(Heck, when the Girl Your Mama Warned You About turns out to be, well, the Girl Your Mama Warned You About, she’ll even listen to you when you cry. You’re gonna have to take some snark with that shoulder, and when she thinks you’re strong enough to hear it the phrase “I told you so” will come out, but hey, nothing in life is free…)

But if it’s a choice between killing you and going shopping, most of us are hitting the mall because we realize that we’re not entitled to you.Women are pretty much taught early on that we’re not entitled to much.

(And besides, we’ve probably gotten a hold of your credit card number so when you see the $1,400 Louis Vuitton bag charged on it, don’t say you weren’t warned…Just kidding…I think…)

But let me get back to my point here, which is while we don’t like rejection, we can take it.

Sometimes, because even the “nicest” guy often feels he’s entitled to a girl and that this girl is somehow deficient if she doesn’t return his affections,  you can’t. And that becomes problematic.

There’s a hashtag that’s been burning up Twitter since the shootings on Friday called #YesAllWomen. Tweets launched under this hashtag talk about the various ways that male empowerment has meant bad things for women. Stuff like “no” being thought of as a starting point for sexual negotiations instead of the declarative sentence it is; being catcalled on the street and getting called all kinds of things when you say “Don’t talk to me like that!” and the fact that I have to protect myself from being raped because for some reason you as a man were never taught that “taking” what you want from me without my permission is against the law.

The men viewing the Tweets from this hashtag fall into three pretty distinct camps:

*The men with daughters who are saddened to see that women go through all this. They are ready to whip their sons into shape around these issues if they haven’t already and in addition to whistles for their wives and daughters, they have also bought a 9mm Glock pistol that they have no problem using if you mess with any woman they love, from Mee-Maw right on down to that cousin who claims to be putting herself through college by twerking…..

*The men who see Rodger as a guy that might not have done this if he had used their method for picking up women…more on that later…and

*The men who think that these killings and the reason Rodger gave for them should send the following message to women: “Be nice to us…OR ELSE!!”

I don’t tell you what to say,

And I don’t tell you what to do,

So just let me be myself,

That’s all I ask of you…

I learned something this weekend through the coverage of the Isla Verde murders.

Apparently, there is a Pick-Up Artist Community. Who knew? I didn’t even know that people still did all of that “Here’s my manual on how to pick up women in bars” kind of stuff anymore. I guess it’s because I find myself laughing my ass off at these over cologned, tight pants wearing, driving my fancy car back to my Mama’s basement freaks of nature as they approach anything that moves and a few things that probably never did.

But apparently they do. And more than a few PUAs, an abbreviation that I heard on an episode of “The Closer”, but never thought I’d actually hear in real life, weighed in on how lives could have been saved if Rodger had learned how to up his “game”.

“Until you give men like Rodger a way to have sex, either by encouraging them to learn game, seek out a Thai wife, or engage in legalized prostitution—three things that the American media and cultural elite venomously attack, it’s inevitable for another massacre to occur,” said Roosh, a poster on the “Return of Kings” website. “Even game itself, as useful as it is on an individual level, is a band-aid fix upon a culture which has stopped rewarding nice guys while encouraging female whoring to benefit only the top 10% of alpha males, all in the name of societal progress. Game is a tiny release valve on a cultural pressure cooker where meaningful relationships have become sick, fractured, and unfulfilling compared to the time of our grandparents when traditional sex roles existed. Game may not have led Rodger to find his dream girl and live happily ever after, but it would have given enough results to stop him from killing six innocent individuals and himself. Until you allow and encourage all men to get sex by some means, these massacres will be more commonplace as America’s cultural decline continues.”

(What I do for this blog…)

And because there is a Pick-Up Artist Community, there is an Anti-Pick-Up Artist Community. Again, who knew?

Rodger was a part of the Anti-PUA sect. In fact, he was a frequent poster to the site PUAHate…

But while they call themselves haters of PUAs, a lot of their rhetoric was as misogynist as the stuff that Roosh feels the burning need to share with us. In fact, a poster on PUAHate’s Reddit page (the PUAHate site and Twitter feed itself have been shut down), asked “Will American women become nicer as a result of today’s events? People in New York were nicer after 9/11…”

And then there’s this conversation…

“It’s ridiculous that people keep accusing Elliot Rodger of being a misogynist and bellyaching about how misogyny and violence towards women is so horrible. Out of the 7 people who died, the majority (5) were guys. He killed his two roommates and whoever the third guy was, and then he killed a random guy on the street and then he killed himself. If anything, the stories should be about how dangerous it is for men out there.”

“Yes. That’s how society is. If an event happens in which 1000 men die and one woman’s hat is blown off, it’s an attack on women. Never mind the penis-havers. They’re barely even human. Remember, in any disaster: “women and children first” to safety.”

Wow. I’m amazed that women aren’t beating each other up for the chance to get with you guys!

If I’ve noticed anything in the Age of Obama, and believe me there’s been a lot for me to notice, it’s that we’re real close to being the America that the late Gil-Scott Heron talked about in his classic “B-Movie” where we’re decrying women’s rights, civil rights and gay rights as “all wrong”.

Especially when some rich guy, or a Black guy with a bunch of Ivy League degrees, blows the lid off of your privilege.

I’m young, and I love to be young,

I’m free, and I love to be free,

To live my life the way that I want,

To say and do whatever I please…

There seems to be a trend toward putting people in “their place” these days.

But here’s the thing about putting people in “their place”. Usually, its them who decide what that place is.

When Michael Sam kissed his significant other after becoming the first openly gay man drafted into the National Football League, he was saying that the NFL is my place, and this is the person I want to share this moment with. If you have a problem with it, kick rocks.

When the moving vans brought Barack and Michelle Obama and their family into the White House six years ago, they were saying, to paraphrase Diana Ross, “It’s our house, and we live here…”

And when a woman tells a man like Eliot Rodger that she’s not interested, she shouldn’t have her life threatened, or have to pay with her life for that.

Because, and I say this to the PUAs, the PUAhaters, and all of the arrested adolescents who believe that you have a right to any woman you want, you don’t own us. You never did.

It’s 2014. I thought that you would have picked up on that by now….

I leave you with the sounds of Dusty Springfield…

The Wrong Legacy

Image

Will the last student of color at the University of Michigan please turn out the lights? Thanks!

It’s the weirdest things that jog your memory sometimes.

For example, the latest pronouncement from the Supreme Court regarding the use of race as a criteria for collegiate admissions made me think of a lawsuit filed by two Howard University students against Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

The students, Lauren Cofield and Laurin Compton, sued the Howard Chapter of AKA because they were denied admission to the sorority despite the fact that both of their mothers were members, thus making them legacies of the chapter.

I asked my Significant Other, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, if being a legacy meant that you automatically got into a fraternity or sorority. He said that while it gets you noticed, it’s not a guarantee.

The suit was filed in 2013 and according to the last story I read on it, a piece in the Huffington Post, the students’ mothers (and co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit), Lessie Cofield and Sandra Compton, had their privileges within AKA, the sorority in which they are members, suspended.

With allegations of witness tampering and other things, according to the Huffington Post story, this suit could get really, really ugly before it’s done.

But then again, anytime that privilege, be it the privilege of entering a sorority or the privilege of entering a university, gets threatened, those who enjoy that privilege, or think they should, tend to go for the mattresses.

I bring this up because I believe that this Supreme Court decision does what Supreme Court decisions do best these days when it comes to racial issues: take what is seen by some to be a “privilege” due to race away while keeping a true “privilege”, like for example legacy admissions, intact.

Or, put another way, it balances so-called “fairness” in collegiate admissions on the backs of potential students of color.

In case you missed it, the Supreme Court decided by a vote of 6-2 (with Justice Elena Kagan abstaining) to allow the State of Michigan’s constitutional amendment making it illegal to consider race in college admissions to stand. One of the consequences of the amendment is that the percentage of minorities on public university campuses, such as the University of Michigan and Michigan State, has dropped by 25 percent.

In her 58 page dissent to the ruling, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who must have really been pissed because writing 58 pages of ANYTHING on purpose requires passion, said that while the Constitution doesn’t guarantee people of color and women anything in the political process, “It guarantees that the majority may not win by stacking the political process against minority groups permanently.”

And let’s face it, that’s kind of what rulings like this do. The folks that make decisions like this don’t take into consideration the fact that people of color and women are basically competing on an uneven playing field. It’s like playing a baseball game in which the opposing team gets spotted 10 runs in the first inning and you have to catch up somehow knowing that you’re always going to be 10 runs behind.

Even if you had a team made up of Major League sluggers of color like Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Hideki Matsui and David Ortiz, you’re still not gonna catch up unless the disparity is recognized.

Which brings me back to legacy admissions. Former President George W. Bush is never gonna be confused with Albert Einstein, but he got into both Harvard and Yale.

How? Because his father, former President George H.W. Bush is an alum of both schools. Thus, he’s a legacy. Thus he got the privilege of admission that includes.

Basically, he was born on third and thought he hit a triple, something that the students most impacted by the decision that pissed Justice Sotomayor off so bad she killed 58 pages worth of trees can’t say.

And that’s unfair…even if the conservatives cheering this decision want you to think otherwise.

So let’s do this.

Let’s remove all preferences. Let’s make it so everyone, and I do mean everyone, who applies for college admission has to do so knowing that their merit and their merit alone will be the only criteria judged.

No more Affirmative Action? Fine. But let’s have no more Legacy preferences either. You’re a bright kid. You don’t need those extra points you get from Mummy or Daddy’s degree from the school of your choice, right?

I know this is wishful thinking on my part because the folks who champion “merit-based” everything know that if it were applied to them, things would get ugly.

Maybe for them to understand how wrong they are, and how much of an advantage they’ve enjoyed without realizing it, it needs to.

What Becomes A Feminist Most?

The flexibility of feminism...

The flexibility of feminism…

I’m going to start off by apologizing profusely to those readers of The Mad (political) Scientist that were hoping to see the 2013 People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards as the first official post on our new WordPress.com site. The nominations have been made, the votes have been counted, and the Sluggos are all set…

But as I was getting ready to let you know who you, my readers, picked to get a figurative (not literal) punch in the face, I found myself involved in a discussion of feminism, feminists of color, and who gets to identify themselves as such….

Or at least that’s how it started. By the end of the day, I had read another piece that made me want to tell everyone having this discussion to shut the hell up…especially if you bought a copy of R. Kelly’s new album Black Panties. If that, or anything else from R. Kelly, is in your record collection, you don’t get to call yourself a feminist anymore. Period. I’m gonna need for you to shut your hypocritical pie hole.

(I like pie hole. I think I may use it more often.)

I’ll start from the beginning.

In case you’ve been in a cave in Afghanistan or pay no attention at all to pop culture, Beyonce’ released a new album on I-Tunes on Thursday. The magnum opus is only available on I-Tunes and includes 17 videos to go with 14 songs (!), many of which are apparently autobiographical. She released it without any studio promotion and because it’s on I-Tunes, directly to her fans. You’ll be able to find it at most record stores around the country on Dec. 20.

It’s actually not a bad idea on her part. Beyonce’ has already sold close to 900,000 copies worldwide and will be coming in to the Billboard 200 at Number One when it’s announced. My guess is that her promotional budget isn’t all that large on this and because she shot a lot of the videos while on tour, travel budgets weren’t that rough and tumble either.

While you expect a Beyonce’ album to ignite a lot of conversation, it’s only one type of conversation that’s kind of caught my interest: a conversation on feminism and women of color.

Editor’s note: I have not heard this album in its entirety, nor have I seen any of the videos in full. You can’t buy singles or individual videos from this album until Dec. 20. Since I don’t have the cash to plunk down on an album that will basically be a review copy for me, I’m not going to discuss the album itself at all. I will, however, be looking at the wider discussion of Beyonce’ and feminism that the album has initiated. So Beyhivers, stand down. I’m not in the mood and when we get to the second part of this piece, you’ll see why. 

I was at home watching a segment of the Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC when the connection between this album and feminism came up. Harris-Perry and her panelists made the argument that Beyonce’ stands as the entertainer’s “feminist manifesto”. Here’s the segment:

Now the main tune that everyone seems to have focused on in terms of giving Beyonce’ her feminist cred is a  tune that’s been referenced here on the M(p)S before, one we will refer to as The Song Formerly Known As “Bow Down”. For the new collection (I don’t know if I should call it an LP or a CD because you can’t pick it up terrestrially yet…) its been mixed with a speech entitled “Why We Should All Be Feminists” that activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave as part of the TED Talks series and given a new title: “Flawless”.

So because I’m a glutton for punishment, and because Melissa Harris-Perry is someone whose opinion I respect a whole lot, I asked the question “Is Beyonce’ a feminist?” on my Facebook page during the latest East Coast Snowmaggedon Saturday night.

I think that the best initial response that I got to this question came from the lovely and talented Kellie C. Murphy, who blogs a lot about stuff like this. She said, and I quote, “Girl, just go stand outside right now with a key attached to a kite. You’ll go much quicker and easier…” She wasn’t totally wrong about that because,  let’s face it, Beyonce’ is the Third Rail of Black Entertainment. If you touch her, you will be electrocuted…

The answers I got were interesting…and also depended on your definition of feminism.

For the people who were in the “Beyonce’ is a feminist” camp, her new music is a feminist manifesto because it shows a woman who is using her ability to make her own choices to be a performer, a wife, a mother, and in the case of the song “Partition”, a woman who is willing to ruin a nice evening gown by letting her man get it a little messy in the back of the limousine. Anyone who doesn’t realize this is taking things a bit too seriously…or maybe academically…

From the Crunk Feminist Collective: 

“We need to stop acting like a radical feminist is the only kind of feminist to be. I mean look, I’m radical and committed to a robust structural critique. But I appreciate the good few liberal feminists in Congress who show up and actually fight for reproductive rights that can be on the books! As Meek Mill says, there’s levels to the shit. But newsflash – everybody didn’t go to college. So when women of color start waxing eloquent about how our grandmothers and mothers were the first feminists we knew and many of them would “never” use the term, I wonder then why we don’t understand Beyonce’s homegrown brand of feminism – one that honors female friendships, one that recognizes and calls out sexism and domination in her industry, one that celebrates the power of women. No, it ain’t well-articulated radical social justice feminism, but if you need a Ph.D. to be a feminist, then we’ve got bigger problems, folks. AND I’ll take a feminist that knows how to treat her homegirls before one who can spit the finer points of a bell hooks to me all day erry-day.”

(Maybe it’s a bias I picked up from spending so much time listening to the music of The Children Of The Corn, but I had a hard time getting past the Meek Mill section of this critique to get to the rest of it. When you shout out one of the Patron Saints of Rap Music Sexism, you kind of make it a slog…)

On the other hand, some feminists of color (and most traditional, read: “white” feminists) felt that calling Beyonce’ a feminist makes as much sense as calling me an astrophysicist. In their eyes, Beyonce’s brand of feminism is a corporate friendly one that advocates for her freedoms…and no one else’s.

Probably the most provocative essay I read on this came from the blog Real Colored Girls and it caught my attention because any essay that uses Pimp Theory as part of a critique on feminism is going to get the attention of a smart ass like me. The argument that the post “The Problem With BeyHive Bottom Bitch Feminism” makes is that…

Well, let’s let them say it…

“As womanists and black feminists, we have a responsibility to bring it with our cultural work which we will infuse, at all times, with an ethic of care and responsibility. The coontocracy of assimilationist corporate negroes is in full effect, riding for patriarchal capitalist agendas and having us believe that somehow Bey’s success is a step toward some dystopic vision of progress for Black women. There may be empowerment for some folks but by and large it is a false hope steeped in capitalism and individualism, supporting the escapist desires of rampant pornographic consumerism.”

(Can I tell you that “coontocracy” is one of my new favorite words now?)

 As I said toward the beginning of this piece, I can’t really talk about the good or bad of Beyonce’ because I haven’t heard all of it.
But I’ve been a feminist of color for a minute…and I’m a little concerned about the group of newly minted Feminist Beyhivers this album has spawned.
My question is, what happens when their new icon is no longer interested in female empowerment? What happens when Beyonce’, Blue Ivy, and Jay Z finally retreat to that private island that some of us wish they’d go to right now?

What I want my young sisters who are finally starting to embrace what women like Shirley Chisholm, Rosa Parks (didn’t know she was a feminist, did you?) and others have been fighting to get them to understand for years is that feminism is not a pair of Christian Louboutin pumps. It isn’t rolling around in the sand with your baby and your man. It isn’t million selling records. It’s a movement. It has been for a minute. It’s a fight to get poor women equal pay and the contraception they need to be able to choose when they want to have children. It’s making sure that they’re not scapegoated when they ask for help because some in society see their circumstances as problematic. It’s about making sure that they’re protected when they’re being abused and that their abuse is taken seriously.

In other words, It’s a marathon. Not a sprint. And it requires that you fight, really fight, for the sanctity of women and girls.

Some of us do that all the time. There’s an attorney named Gina McCauley who started a blog called “What About Our Daughters?” and has been known to go for the mattresses whenever young Black girls and women are threatened. There’s also folks like Sabrina Lamb, who got the folks at the Oxygen cable network to change their minds about a show called “All My Baby’s Mamas” featuring a rapper named Shawty-Lo and his band of baby mamas, by protesting, getting media attention, and showing the show’s advertisers the error of their ways.

But sometimes, feminists, even feminists of color, drop the ball. When Shirley Chisholm became the first woman to run for president, she was a woman alone. Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose partisans went so far as to say that Black journalists on the campaign trail were so in Barack Obama’s pocket that they received marching orders via telephone every morning when the former Secretary of State  ran for office in 2008, Chisholm was attacked on all sides with no support from the troops. When Michelle Obama was called a “baby mama” on Fox News, “fat” by Rush ‘Why haven’t you gone to Costa Rica yet?’ Limbaugh, and became the subject of a number of gorilla pictures by various right wing groups, the silence from feminists on her behalf was also quite deafening.

But none of that compares to how the group of girls who found themselves victimized by The Chickenhawk That Ate Chicago were treated…

She appears age appropriate at least...

She appears age appropriate at least…

On Monday while everyone was giving far too much thought to Beyonce’, I noticed a story from the Village Voice on my Facebook news feed. The story, done by Jessica Hopper, was an interview with Jim DeRogatis, the reporter that broke the story of what i’ll call R. Kelly’s Young Girl Problem.

While the subject matter caught my attention, I found the 11 times that the story had been shared by my Facebook friends even more interesting. When 11 folks in my circle of friends, a circle that includes journalists, activists, business people and even a few former pro athletes, are sharing the same article, it’s important. The number of share-ers has gone up since then.

And between the story itself, the legal documents, and the Chicago Sun-Times stories that had to be pulled off of Lexis-Nexis because they’re no longer a part of the newspaper’s archives, I made a decision. If you want to call yourself a feminist of any color in my presence, you’d better not be playing music from R. Kelly when you do it. I’d better not see a copy of Black Panties on your I-Tunes playlist.

That’s because we feminists let these girls down. Let them down hard. And I say this because this guy still has a career. If you’re gonna call yourself a feminist around me while dancing to “Step In The Name Of Love”, I’m going to invite you to go to Wrigley Field in Chicago and take as many seats as humanly possible.

The first that we as music listeners heard about Kelly’s proclivities was when Vibe magazine published a copy of the marriage license that he had gotten for himself and the late pop singer Aaliyah. The only problem with that is that at the time, Aaliyah was only 15 and Kelly was 27…

But a fax came to DeRogatis desk at Chicago Sun-Times that said that Kelly had been under investigation by the sex crimes unit of the Chicago Police for two years in connection with allegations that the singer had been going to his former high school and picking up young girls. He’d let them spend time in the studio with him or go to an event with him, and in exchange, he expected sex.

A lot of sex.

Sex in different ways…with different groupings…and with different kinks.

The videotape that featured Kelly relieving himself in a young girl’s mouth was on every bootlegger’s table in 2003. So we all knew about that and I even know a couple of people who’ve seen it.

But apparently that was the tip of the R. Kelly iceberg. There were other tapes. There were other girls.

One of them was forced to have an abortion. Another was so traumatized that she tried to kill herself.

All of them were young, Black girls. Girls who were probably told that if they said anything, they wouldn’t be believed.

The sad thing is, I can’t say that they were wrong to think that.

What’s always disturbed me about this case was the willingness on the part of the Black Community to blame the victims here. These girls were “fast”, as my Mom would put it. They knew what they were doing. They weren’t “really kids”. People need to let R. Kelly alone and let him live his life. They’re just hatin’…

It’s kind of heartbreaking to hear that kind of stuff when it comes to young women of color. But it wasn’t unexpected. My guess is that most of the female Children of the Corn I taught were young girls who got pregnant with the babies they were far too young to raise by someone who should have been told a long time ago that 15 gets you 20…

DeRogatis got that too. “The saddest fact I’ve learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody,” DeRogatis said. “They have any complaint about the way they are treated: They are “bitches, hos, and gold-diggers,” plain and simple. Kelly never misbehaved with a single white girl who sued him or that we know of. Mark Anthony Neal, the African-American scholar, makes this point : one white girl in Winnetka and the story would have been different. No, it was young black girls and all of them settled. They settled because they felt they could get no justice whatsoever. They didn’t have a chance.”

Now I hope to never have to say this again, but here it is: There is no such thing as a 15-year-old girl who deserves to have her mouth pissed into by a grown assed man. It doesn’t matter what color the girl is. It doesn’t matter how old she looks. She’s still 15. If you’re over 16 and you’re pushing up on a 15-year-old school girl, that is wrong. You are wrong. You shouldn’t be doing concert tours. You should be doing time.

 And yet, R. Kelly walks free. There’s nothing that we can do about that because the legal system of the City of Chicago has spoken. Kelly was tried and found not guilty of 14 counts of Child Pornography in 2008. (He was never tried for the rapes.)

I’m sorry, but that’s just plain unacceptable to me.

So I say to my fellow travelers in the Feminist Tribe, do you think that you can apply the considerable energy you’ve spend discussing whether or not Beyonce’ is a feminist into trying to get some justice for these girls, even if it’s symbolic?

Because you see, we owe them that. And the note has been overdue since 2008…

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…

What is Art…anyway?

It’s a thin line between freedom of speech and sedition…
The Southern Trees bear a strange fruit
Blood at the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the Southern Breeze
Strange Fruit hanging off the poplar trees…

When I woke up on Wednesday and saw the news about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the death four U.S. diplomats including Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens, I didn’t really think about it much immediately.

But when I found out that the reason for all hell breaking loose was an anti-Islamic film that portrayed the prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and showing him having sex and attempting to wage wars, I thought about this song, the Billie Holiday classic “Strange Fruit”, and the above it.

Now I took this particular picture at the Democratic National Convention last week. It is, in case you’re at all confused, a gallows filled with unfortunate people who have met the hangman’s noose.

(In case you’re wondering, the black-ish looking man with the presidential seal above his portion of the gallows is President Barack Obama.)

I wouldn’t have noticed this particular parade float in the Carnival that was the DNC were it not for the reaction it received from passersby, reaction that ranged from “Oh, yeah motherfucker! I dare you to bring that to my neighborhood! We’ll see how bad you are then!” to the sight of a visibly upset reporter friend of mine who was having flashbacks of her activist father’s targeting by government agents during the bad old days of COINTELPRO.

(For those of you here in the Mad (political) Science Lab who don’t know what COINTELPRO is, go into the Google, type in “COINTELPRO”, and read about a government spy program designed to put targets on the back of anyone brave enough to call for true liberty and justice for all…)

I felt it deserved being memorialized via Instagram two reasons: one, I’m a reporter and that’s what I do and 2, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen President Obama hanging from a noose in recent weeks.

I don’t always reach out to my bud with Secret Service access when I see stuff on Facebook, but when I do…

Now because I post this blog on my Facebook page and I have some Facebook friends who might not quite understand why these pictures represent an offense that many folks should result in charges of treason of sedition, I’m sure that I’ll have at least one person tell me “This is art. I don’t know why you want to abridge this person’s freedom of speech.”

Because these pictures, at least to some of us, represent a crossing of the line between freedom of speech and yelling fire!, as loudly as you can, in a movie theater filled with people. Now if the people yelling at the guy with the truck filled with lynched people had bum rushed that truck, taken the guy driving it out, and beaten the shit out of him, they would have been arrested. And while assault is illegal, I wouldn’t have been mad at them at all because when you drive a truck with a representation of the first African American president hanging from a rope and you do it at a time and in a place crawling with African Americans, you’re asking for that ass beating.

Which is kind of why I’m more than a little pissed off at Sam Bacile, the “genius” whose film Innocence of Muslims started all of this rigamarole. Here’s the trailer…

Bacile, the name this dude is using because according to numerous news reports this guy has told more lies about his identity than Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan has told about Medicare, claims to have made this film, shown it to an audience of…no one, and put it on a shelf where someone found it, translated it into Arabic, and put it on YouTube.

Yeah. Right. Okay.

My guess is that Bacile, and Egyptian Christian who is a United States citizen, made this flick, got tired of his anti-Muslim treatise sitting in mothballs, decided that it needed to get out there, and made sure it went out in a language that would piss off the maximum amount of people.

(He also got the Rev. Terry Jones of “I’m gonna burn a Koran” fame to help him distribute his treatise here in the States. No comment on that.)

Now I understand that art on some level is supposed to provoke. I mean hey, were it not for the whole “supposed to provoke” thing, some of the best music and art that we’ve had access to in the world just wouldn’t be. If such things as Prince’s “Darling Nikki”, and Picasso’s “Guernica” didn’t exist, we’d be living in a pretty sterile world, right?

But while my Christian friends saw only the reaction of Muslims in Libya when it came to the attack on our embassy, I saw a chance to play Devil’s Advocate by asking them “If this movie were about Jesus, how would you feel?”

The room got silent.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s better ways to express your anger with something than killing someone. You can boycott. You can write a letter to the country’s officials and be listened to, especially if the leader of said country has shown a propensity to listen. There’s ways other than Molotov cocktails to get your point across.

But when your purpose is to piss off the maximum amount of people, it can sometimes backfire.

What I find unfair about this is that the United States was hit by the backlash, not the guy who made the film. Meanwhile, this guy is hiding behind our skirts, acting like that kid who’s hiding behind Mommy in hopes of not getting his ass beat by Daddy for breaking the lamp. Were it up to me, I’d make sure that President Obama took the advice of the Seattle Times when it comes to this “cinematic genius”…

People in the Muslim world should understand that this man’s movie is him talking, and not the opinions of 300 million Americans. In the United States he is free to say what he will — that is our culture — and we are free to condemn him. Which we do. His movie is trash and he is vermin for having made it. Provoking rage among the devout might be allowed under the First Amendment, but that doesn’t mean people should do it.

While I’m totally down with freedom of speech, when you’re irresponsible enough with that freedom that it winds up costing folks their lives, you need to take a seat.

The title of this post comes from a favorite song of mine from the 80s.

I leave you now with Howard Jones’s “What is Love?

 


My Newest Colleague…

I wonder how many men failed to get past
the byline thanks to this picture…

I’ll start this off with an apology.

In a posting I wrote sometime last year about a woman dying from complications of a butt augmentation procedure, I promised that you would never see another picture of Beyonce’ on The Mad (political) Scientist.

I made that promise because I was pretty sure I’d be able to keep it knowing that my drifts into the world of pop culture don’t usually include Beyonce’ and her contributions. But about a week ago something happened that told me that I wouldn’t be able to keep that promise…something involving Beyonce’ that not only demanded that I write about it, but also that I use the picture to your left as a means of illustration.

You see, thanks to the folks at the New York Association of Black Journalists, Beyonce’ and I now have something in common, something that I’m sure neither of us would have envisioned before last week.

We’re both award-winning journalists. And no, I’m not kidding.

You see, there’s the ever growing media subgroup that is starting to rise to prominence, the non-journalist, journalist, that my new colleague Beyonce’ represents.

Now what do I mean? I mean that while folks like Tulane Professor Melissa Harris-Perry, Columbia University Professor Marc Lamont Hill, Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson, and now Beyonce’ do many of the things that journalist have traditionally done, such as write a column, host a television show, and serve as a pundit, they are not, technically, journalists. But because they can ask for, and receive, press credentials, be honored for what are perceived as their contributions to journalism by various groups, and are given some of the other benefits journalists have to jump through rather grandiose hoops for, they are treated like them.

Let me say right here that this is in no way their fault. I don’t blame them at all for reaping these benefits. It’s part of a trend on the part of news organizations to farm out what journalists have traditionally done to people who are better known for doing other things. It’s an attempt on their part to try and get readers, listeners and viewers who have decided not to pay attention to traditional news providers to come back to them.

Think of it as a sort of Newsroom Stunt Casting.

But as often happens with Stunt Casting, things can go horribly awry.

When NYABJ announced that the Grammy-award winning singer and actress is being honored for her  Essence Magazine article “Eat, Play, Love”, it was kind of a surprise to a lot of people. The article, which was about Ms. Knowles’ all too brief break from being in the public eye, (the “all too” being my contribution to that phrase) was hailed as “inspirational” by the local National Association of Black Journalists chapter that did the judging.

Okay…

But while my initial reaction was to be totally dismissive of the whole thing, I decided that it would be better instead to read the article written by People Magazine’s most recent “Most Beautiful Woman In The World” winner. I read it with an open mind and was even able to get past the picture at the top, a picture of the author dressed in a white crop top with leather pants, cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat while swinging a lasso.

To be brutally honest, I’ve seen better-written pieces from my first-year journalism students at Temple. Hell, I wrote better pieces as a first-year journalism student at Temple. While the Essence folks called this a chance to get to know a woman who vigorously guards her privacy a little bit better, I didn’t learn a whole lot about my new colleague from reading this piece. There wasn’t a whole lot of “there” there.

In other words, the late Studs Terkel isn’t moving a bone in his grave over this one…

But I have to remember that I’m not a chart-topping artist who is going to be opening the Revel Atlantic City Casino Hotel with a series of sold-out shows. For me to get a gig for Essence Magazine, I might actually have to, well, be able to write or report. There’s no curve for me.

Now I know that some of you are looking at this and thinking, “Gee! What a hater!” Beyonce’-stans, a title that I wouldn’t see as a compliment if I had ever heard Eminem’s record “Stan” in its entirety, tend to think that any criticism aimed even close to her way is based in jealousy, which this is not.

I’m not hating on Mrs. Knowles-Carter; far from it. I understand the freelance writing game. She got asked to write something. She wrote it. Essence published it. She’s being honored for it. And even though I don’t believe a word of what the folks at Essence are saying about Beyonce’ not using a ghostwriter based on the blog posting she did praising First Lady Michelle Obama as a role model, I don’t hate the playa.

The game, however, is really starting to piss me off.

One of the reasons why the first of the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution covers freedom of speech and press is because while the Founding Fathers might not have realized right away that it isn’t cool to, literally, own people, they did realize that the key to a truly free society is to make sure that said society is as informed as possible.

Compared to where we were as a nation 10 years ago in terms of being informed, we’re about as dumb as a box of rocks these days…and most of the fault for this I place at the feet of journalism that focuses more on celebrity than it does actual news.

Good, bad or indifferent, the fact that Beyonce’ is getting an award for an article that doesn’t really even shed all that much new light on the pop artist’s life, is probably the most in-your-face example of that disturbing trend. This Bells and Whistles journalism has led to a news media that doesn’t think before it reacts, is scared of telling it like it is, and forces us to look at things as equals when even Stevie Wonder could tell you that they’re not.

In other words, the journalism epitomized by folks like Walter Cronkite would have told its editors that there’s no way they’re going to give the Tea Party the same amount of ink that it gives more reasonable voices while today’s journalism practically gives it and those of its ilk a megaphone, which it then uses to drown out all reasonable voices.

So like I said, I’m not mad at Beyonce. Or Professor Hill. Or Professor Harris-Perry, who has her own show on MSNBC, a network whose news director told us all point-blank that journalists need not apply for the right to inform people on his network.

But if I were a member of NYABJ who had just gotten a rejection letter from Essence Magazine recently, I’d feel some kind of way after seeing this.

I wonder if Beyonce’ will join NABJ now that she’s a journalist and all. I can imagine how much the entertainment offerings at the conventions will pick up if she does. Wonder if she can get Prince to perform for us in Orlando next year…hmmm…

Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow…

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!

Today is Saturday, Jan. 28.

And in the City of Philadelphia, we have already had 31 people murdered, and a whole bunch of folks shot.

At this rate, The City of Brotherly Love and Please Put The Damned Gun Down may just see the kind of murder rates that we used to see regularly in the late 90s and early 2000s where hundreds and hundreds of folks were shot dead in the streets.

During his first term, Mayor Michael Nutter promised that he’d bring the murder rates down…and would decline to run for a second term if he didn’t.

The first year or so, the rates did, indeed, go down. But starting last year, parts of Philly became Dodge City all over again, something that would occasionally make Mayor Nutter start cussin’ people out…sometimes in front of live television microphones…

At a press conference on Thursday, Mayor Nutter basically told Philly’s criminal element, “I’m tired of all of this murder and shit, and i’m I’m gonna get your asses!”

Mayor Nutter announced a new program to fight the city’s crime issues. Included in this plan is a reward fund that he hopes will make folks come our of their shells and tell police about the murders they’re seeing in the streets, more money for witness protection, which might keep people from getting killed when they do decide to do the right thing, at least 220 new police on the streets charged with going into the neighborhoods where the shootings are occurring the most, and, and I’m pretty sure that this is gonna piss off the folks here in Pennsylvania that believe that a free society is a strapped society, a reward fund for people who turn in folks walking ’round with illegal guns. You get $500 for every illegal gun you get off the street.

Now on its face, this seems like a series of really good ideas.

I’ve been complaining about the sorry state of witness protection in Philadelphia for years now. But while some of the failings of Philadelphia’s witness protection program are financial, some of them stem from the fact that the witnesses that this program tries to help don’t understand that you (a) have to leave your neighborhood to be protected (b) may also have to leave the state and (c) can’t contact your homies from the block because they’ll probably lead the folks who want to keep you from testifying right to you…for the sole purpose of killing your butt! Hopefully, some of the $400,000 that’s going to this particular part of the plan will focus on educating the public on what exactly “witness protection” means…

I’m also down with the whole reward thing. Mayor Nutter came up with the idea of a reward fund designed to pay people for tips after a $20,000 bounty was placed on the heads of three men who beat a man to death in Old City, one of Philly’s tourist areas. Since you just don’t beat people to death among the tourists, we all kinda knew that Da Mayor was gonna throw down the gauntlet…

“To every criminal out there, I just put a $20,000 bounty on your head,” Nutter said. “We are coming for you. We will find you. People will give up that information.”

He hopes…

Like I said, I’m down with the whole reward thing. I like that it’s $20,000. That’s a nice round number. But it’s not like it isn’t something we haven’t tried before. Thousands of dollars go unclaimed every year because people say to themselves “I’d like that $20,000, but if I testify, I won’t be alive to spend it! Snitches get stitches…” While the money is nice, it’s not very useful if you can’t get people to take it…Which is also why I’m glad that this plan includes an anonymous tip and text line. This might just loosen things up…

But while spending money on rewards, police, and witness protection is good, many of us here in Philly, a place where you can swim in the potholes in the summertime in some neighborhoods, and where unchecked urban blight runs amok in some places have one question:

Where is our supposedly broke city, a city where city workers have been working without a contract for four years, coming up with all of this money?

Mayor Nutter has set aside $500,000 for the tips program, but could that money be used elsewhere? And could we get a little help from the same philanthropic organizations that you managed to raise a gang of money from to get rid of School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman?

And did you have to use the word “bounty”? When I heard you say this while watching television coverage of your announcement Mr. Mayor, two things popped into my head: a mental picture of Duane “Dog” Chapman and his dysfunctional family scouring the streets of Philadelphia, looking for criminals on the lam and the voice of the late Sammy Davis Jr. singing the theme from the television show “Baretta”.

I know, I know. That’s a big literal. But my guess is that Da Mayor wants the city’s potential murderers to have those same mental pictures.

Let’s hope it works because while my Mom is no longer around to call me every time that someone gets shot to ask me if I knew this person, my older sister is…

And it’s still gonna annoy me…

So if you’re smart, you’ll take Sammy’s advice…

"You’re calling in gay? Now is that the same as a sick day, a comp day, a personal day, or a vacation day?"


On it’s face, the question that I ask as the title of this post probably sounds a little facetious.
But I live in Philly where bureaucrats go to train, so I know that someone is going to get asked that question on Dec. 10, which has been designated by activists as “A Day Without a Gay.”
Folks have been asked to, and I’m not kidding, skip work by caliing in “gay”.

(I can only imagine how pissed off the folks at Fox News are going to be when they figure out their makeup artists aren’t coming in!)

It’s also International Human Rights day, which isn’t at all ironic in my opinion because it’s the denial of a basic human right that led to this most recent interpretation of the movie “A Day Without a Mexican”…the right to get married.

You see, while I was blogging amongst the revellers at World Cafe Live in West Philly on Election Night, I was so focused on the Senate, House and Presidential races that I seemed to have missed the reinforcement with bulletproof glass of another one of America’s dubious glass ceilings. Californians passed something called Propostion 8, an amendment to the California Constitution which recinds the right for gays and lesbians to get married.

This was the response that folks, most of whom were encouraged by the Mormon church, had to the California Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year that allowed gays and lesbians ranging from Mr. Sulu from “Star Trek” to comediennes Wanda Sykes and Ellen DeGeneres (no, not to each other) to get to the church on time.

(Actually, it was probably more like the Justice of the Peace, but you get what I mean.)

Folks have, literally, been on the streets ever since. I attended a protest in Philadelphia the weekend after Election Day and have seen letters to the editor, columns and all kinds of other stuff on the subject of this ban.

Now I’ve talked about this issue before on this blog. In fact, one of the women in the picture I illustrated my post with died not too long ago. So I’m not going to repeat myself…much.

But it’s starting to become a little annoying to me that a nation that’s about to inaugurate a Constituional law professor has seen fit to constantly ignore that document. The Constitution is the basis of our government and it’s about time that we started to follow it more strenuously.

Now what do I mean by that? I mean that it’s time that we stopped putting people in prison camps like Guantanamo Bay without charges. It’s time that we stopped telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies through anti-choice amendments that are usually created by guys that no woman with any self-respect would want to fuck anyway.

And it’s time that we stopped denying folks who are gay and lesbian the right to pursue some happiness by getting married.

“We were devastated,” said Myra Taksa, president of Philadelphia’s chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays when asked for reaction to the amendment’s passage. “My husband and I have been married for over 20 years. But I took my wedding ring off when the first of these laws were passed. It felt like it was burning my finger. Marriage is a civil right, not a special one.”

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot that the No On 8 forces could have done to prevent this situation. They could have gone out into communities of color and explained to the folks within those communities why the right to marry is an important one. (These groups have been blamed for Prop. 8’s passage due to their numbers in support of Barack Obama’s presidency.)

Prop. 8’s opponents could have also gone into the churches and explained their side of the issue. This isn’t “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”, folks. If you walk into a church, you won’t spontaneously combust.

But all that aside, I still think that gays and lesbians should be able to have the right to nest legally. Why? Well, the best reason that I can come up with for why same-sex couples should be given the right to get hitched is because none of the reasons that folks have given me for why it shouldn’t be allowed make any sense to me.

One reason that I’ve been given more than once is that churches would be forced to perform gay ceremonies if a law allowing them were passed. No they wouldn’t actually. So, that reason goes out the window.

Another reason that I’ve been given is that being gay or lesbian is a choice, and thus these men and women could choose to be straight and join the rest of us. That makes no sense because for one to just wake up and make such a decision would imply that this person likes to be discriminated against, sometimes beaten, disowned, and all of other “fun” stuff that can sometimes come with being gay or lesbian.

But the reason that I’m given most often by anti-same sex marriage forces is that allowing lesbians and gays to participate in marriage would besmirch the institution itself.

To me, that shit is funny. Mostly because I know straight folks that have done more harm to marriage than gay people could possibly do. I mean, let’s remember that Michael Jackson found someone to marry him twice. And don’t even get me started on Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez.

Besides, I’m hard pressed to see what impact allowing gays and lesbians to marry would have on your actual marriage. The sight of two men picking out a china pattern isn’t going to lead to your divorce.

So, it’s my hope that as we start looking toward a change in the country, that we also start seeing a change in a few other things, most notably our national proclivity to break what I consider a golden rule—live and let live.

Especially when it comes to letting folks live as man and wife, or man and man, or wife and wife.

For more information on “A Day Without A Gay” activities in your area, go to http://daywithoutagay.org.

Thanks to this election…

You can now get weeded out in Michigan and Massachusetts.

Massachusetts just decriminalized marijuana and Michigan has made it so you can get your weed on if you have an illness like HIV or cancer.

Expect these laws to be challenged in court, or depending on who is in the Justice Department, maybe not.

But until then, if you see me walking the streets of Boston or Detroit, offer me a hit. I’m totally down.