What About Your Friends?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constructive Re-engagement.

O-Tay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess that’s why he’s an icon…

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A Table Made From Pain

The place setting for Bryan Keller. In March 1993, domestic violence took him away. He was 6-months-old.

When you go to a convention, any convention, there is always a marketplace or exhibit space where you can buy things, get books signed, listen to speakers, be regaled by sponsors, and otherwise connect with fellow participants.

The Pennsylvania Conference for Women, where I spent most of my Friday, is no exception. The conference, which celebrated it’s 10th anniversary this year, is a place where women can connect with each other, learn and be empowered. In addition to workshops on everything from starting your own business to work/life balance, participants were treated to speeches from Judge Glenda Hatchett (yes, THAT Judge Hatchett), and former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

(Clinton’s got her presidential candidate haircut and pantsuits workin’…I’m just sayin’…)

Between Hatchett, Albright and Clinton, I got a chance to go into the exhibit space for the conference. I walked past a lot of booths designed to get me to buy stuff, got to meet Judge Hatchett, and told the folks at Independence Blue Cross that their advertisement “Live Fearless” was grammatically incorrect, something that’s been bugging my fellow journalists and copy editors for a minute.

(By the way folks, it’s a national ad. The local representatives say they can’t correct it. So it goes out as “Live Fearless” despite the fact that it bugs us. I tried.)

After walking past various book signings, the booths of sponsors like QVC, and some of the nicest jewelry I can’t afford, I started to walk past what I thought was a display table for a china manufacturer.

Upon closer inspection however, I saw that it was more than just plates. 

There were pictures. Pictures of women. Pictures of children. Pictures of families in happier times. Trinkets and stuffed animals. It made me kind of curious.

As we approach the Holiday Season, we start to think about holiday dinners and whom we’re looking forward to seeing at the table as the turkey and cranberry sauce are passed around.

But we also think about who isn’t there. While we don’t mean to, we think about the empty places at our table. We think about the people we loved who used to fill those seats. The smiles we only see in pictures now. The loss. 

That’s what this exhibit, “An Empty Place At The Table” represents. It represents the memories of those who were lost. The women. The children. The futures.

All lost to Domestic Violence.

“Empty Place” was created in 1993 by the Women’s Resource Center. The Center, which is based in Scranton, Pa., serves about 2,000 people in Susquehanna and Lackawanna Counties who are trying to get out of domestic violence situations every year, according to Carol Shoener, the Center’s economic advocacy director. It was a response to a two-week period in which three people lost their lives to domestic violence, she said.

“These place settings represent real people,” she said. “The families came to us and created the place settings. Some of the people represented we worked with personally before their death.”

The place settings focus more on how the person they represented lived, rather than how they died, something that gives the families connected to them a chance to heal, Shoener said.

Alicia Ann Smith loved the great outdoors and was planning to join the Army…


In some cases, it gives those who would otherwise go unremembered and unmourned a respect they may have otherwise not received. The person represented by this place setting was a Jane Doe…


But if you’re a longtime reader of The Mad (political) Scientist, you know that I gravitate to the stories of children who have been failed by those whose job it is to protect them. The picture at the beginning of this blog is the place setting of a 6-month-old child who was lost to domestic violence.

Unfortunately, his wasn’t the only place setting dedicated to a child. Sheena Marie Jones was 7, liked Mickey Mouse, and was a Royal Reader…


And then there was this picture…

“Three years ago in July, these boys were killed when their Mother’s partner set the house on fire,” Shoener said. She and her other son survived, but she was injured in the fire and spent a great deal of time in the hospital. She was able to create these place settings just this week. This is the first time they’ve been displayed.”

Before I walked completely away from the table, I walked around it again so that I could check out all of the place settings. 

One of them looked, well, familiar. It was the set of plates with octagonal bowls that I bought at the Wal-Mart in Horseheads, N.Y. I used them for my place at 4051/2 N. 4th St. in Elmira.

It was the set of plates on which I used to serve dinner for the man I was seeing when I lived there.

I met him at work. He seemed very nice. He sent me flowers, something no one had done for me in a while. I thought it had the potential to be something special.

But as time went on, I started to find out some stuff that bothered me a little.

He was a little possessive. No, I take that back. He was a lot possessive. In fact, when I made the decision to move back to New Jersey after my father died, he told me that my Mom didn’t need me at home as much as he needed me there.

That was a red flag. A big one.

But there had been smaller ones that in retrospect I shouldn’t have brushed off.

There was the “you need to stop hanging around your friends because you should be with me all the time” thing.

The rape charge that my friend the Police Reporter discovered when doing one of those “I’m looking out for you because this guy kinda gives me the creeps” background checks.

The threats that this friend got when he discovered that I had this information and from where I’d gotten it…something that led to my friend buying a pump shotgun.

The harassing phone calls. The night he showed up uninvited at my Mom’s house in Jersey….a variety of things.

But what made me decide that this was a manifestation of a problem I didn’t want to get any deeper was I went back to New York to visit him for the last time. We went on a day trip and I had a really good time.

When we got back to his house that night, I made dinner. I didn’t have something I needed to finish the meal, so I borrowed it from a neighbor. It’s what neighbors tend to do for each other if you get along at all.

His reaction to that scared me. He didn’t hit me, but because I feared he would, I grabbed a knife. 

When I’ve gotta do that, it’s over. I don’t even think I waited to get back to Jersey to break it off. I did it from a phone booth on the Pennsylvania Turnpike…near Scranton if I’m not mistaken.

While I had a support system that gave the the strength to get out of a bad situation (and an older brother that could have made the solution permanent without leaving a trace), not everyone does. If your abuser is your sole source of financial support and you’re so beaten down emotionally that you lack the strength to leave, getting out can seem impossible.

And in some cases, even if you leave you’re not safe. The thing that has always made me scratch my head when it comes to Orders of Protection is that the only way that they can be enforced is if they’re violated.

That. Does. Not. Make. Sense. Especially since you have to survive a violation to report it, and not everyone does….

If you’re being abused, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. If you’d like more information on the exhibit “An Empty Place At The Table”, contact the Women’s Resource Center at 570-346-4460.

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…




Follow the Leader

This here’s my Stepford Wife pose…please make a note of it…

What I’ve always loved about the news business is the chances that it’s given me to use what I picked up in the Sociology classes that I took both in high school and college.

Now what do I mean by that? I mean that when big, sort of cataclysmic things happen in news, stuff like the Sept. 11 Terrorist Attacks, the election of Barack Obama as our nation’s first President of color, the school shootings in places like Columbine and Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon bombings, we find out where we are as a society. Not the window dressing that we put on daily just to get around, but the stuff behind the curtain.

In other words, the Wizard of Oz comes out from behind the curtain when we’re hit with a national disturbance or a change that we didn’t see coming.

Last Saturday, we had one of those national disturbance things happen in the form of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

In case you were in a cave somewhere last weekend, and I don’t think that being in a cave could have even kept you from getting this information, Zimmerman was found not guilty on all charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, a unarmed teen whose only crimes as far as I can see were (a) being a Black teen in a neighborhood that wasn’t his own and (b) being a Black teen in a neighborhood that wasn’t his own, wearing a hoodie, and defending himself when some dude with a gun decided to come at him.

As I said at the beginning of this post, stuff like the Zimmerman verdict, stuff that everyone in the country has taken a position of some sort on, tends to show us where we are as a country. Social Media has become the mother of all GPS systems and has really given us a pinpointed location in this regard.

So here’s where the Post-Zimmerman verdict GPS seems to be pointing.

One, I’ve noticed that a lot of folks, most of them White, all of them Conservative, think that Trayvon Martin deserved to get shot.

I have heard from a lot of the Conservatives that I let populate my Social Media life that Trayvon was a thug, he wore a hoodie, he was up to no good, and he sucker punched Zimmerman, so he deserved to be shot.

I surmised that these folks got their butts kicked a lot in high school because the only people who would think that it’s okay to shoot someone because they’re kicking your butt in a fight that YOU started are folks who got their butts kicked a lot in high school.

Under the Stand Your Ground law in Florida it’s perfectly legal to do this. I can’t change that as much as I’d like to. But folks, don’t try and justify it. While it’s legal, it doesn’t make it any less wrong. And it doesn’t make George Zimmerman any less of a punk because he decided to end a fight with a gun that he couldn’t end with his hands.

The GPS has also pointed me to this conclusion: Many of the same folks who think that Trayvon Martin deserved to get shot also believe that African Americans are incapable of something that we’re actually pretty good at.

Multitasking.

They believe that African Americans are not allowed to speak out about the injustice they perceive the Zimmerman verdict to be because they’re not paying enough attention to Black on Black crime.

(*cracking my knuckles because my fingers are gonna need to be really nimble for this*)

Now do I start at the section where this insults the intelligence of an entire race of people or do I go directly to the part where I use the word hypocrite a lot?

I think I’ll start at the insult because the ignorance implied in it burns and I’d like to put it out.

Because I’ve had times where I’ve had to remind certain White folks that I was not only as smart as they were, but in many cases smarter in my sleep, I’m sort of used to having to battle the perception that Blacks don’t know their heads from their asses.

So while having the folks who think that Trayvon Martin Deserved To Get Shot camp tell me that they find it impossible for Blacks to work for justice on both the Trayvon front and, for want of a better way to put it, The Children of the Corn front, is an annoyance, it’s a familiar one.

It was the Black folks, especially the College Educated Black Folks, that I found disappointing. When people of color with college educations start buying into this mess, I feel the Earth vibrating because the Talented Tenth are once again making W.E.B DuBois do double-back somersaults in his grave.

I didn’t see every piece of video in this particular vein, but I did see NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley’s interview with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo. In case you didn’t, here it is:

Now people were more than a little mean to the Round Mound of Rebound on this, and I have a problem with people advocating that someone not be allowed to speak. But while I don’t believe that Black folks are a monolith, that Barkley is going along with something that was disproven in court, namely the whole “Trayvon had none of Zimmerman’s DNA on him, so how could he have hit him?” thing is a little troubling.

(Editor’s Note: I know that some of you want me to start calling people Uncle Toms here, but I won’t. If you call a Black person who bashes other Black people an Uncle Tom, you are insulting a noble literary character who allowed himself to be beaten to death rather than sell out his fellow slaves. Maybe we need to put “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe back on scholastic reading lists…many folks need to re-read it…)

I’ll end this section by pointing out that it’s more than a little disingenuous for people who have had no real concern about Black on Black Crime in the past to try and use this case to deflect that lack of concern onto Blacks themselves. Let’s be honest here. Your sudden concern is more about neutralization than anything else. You’re hoping that if you shout “Well, what about Black on Black Crime?!” loud enough that you’ll distract people from working toward the goal of decriminalizing the very existence of Black men.

Because let’s again be honest here: if being a Black man suddenly becomes decriminalized: meaning the ability to wear anything you want to without getting shot; the end of the assumption of criminality because one is Black On Thursday; and the right to self-defense without fear, what will you do with all of that prison space?

First of all, if I had a nickel for every press release, invitation to visit, and request to mentor that I get from groups in the Black community that are working their asses off on less-than-shoestring budgets to try and keep Black children from killing each other, I’d be sitting off the coast of Barcelona in a really nice villa writing books about baseball and coming back to the States during the summer just to catch a few games.

And secondly, let’s get down to the hypocrisy part.

One of my Facebook friends felt the need to post this picture to my timeline a couple of nights ago.

Oooh…It’s Al and Jesse…Let’s use this to try and scare ’em off…!

In case you don’t know who these gentlemen are, they are the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Or as I like to call them, The Straw Men That Folks Pull Out Whenever A Discussion of Racism or Civil Rights Comes Up.

As you can see, it’s a picture with some statistics about Black on Black crime and a demand that either of these gentlemen, or anyone else in the Black community, be able to name a Black person that’s been killed. When this was slapped on my page, it was done so with the belief that it would shame people into no longer talking about Trayvon.

Since I can name a couple of Black folks who were killed by other Blacks since Trayvon Martin’s death, mostly because they were former Children of the Corn, it was all I could do not to break out the bag of hammers.

But instead, my Significant Other The Sportswriter With The African American Studies Degree pointed out something else to me that I hadn’t thought of.

He asked, “When are we gonna start talking about White on White crime?”

Since Feb. 26, 2012, the day that Trayvon Martin was shot, there’s been more than a few mass murders.

Let’s start with the latest one: June 9, 2013: John Zawahri, 23, was shot and killed by police at Santa Monica College, but not before killing his brother and father at home three other people at school, carjacking someone, and shooting at passersby.

But here’s some more thanks to our friends at Mother Jones and USA Today and they all have one thing in common: They were perpetrated by White people:

  • July 20, 2012: James Holmes, a graduate student at a Colorado University, went into the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and started shooting. He killed 12 people and injured 70. He is about to go on trial.   
  • August 2012: White supremacist Wade Michael Page shot and killed six people worshipping in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in what police branded a hate crime. He shot himself after being shot by a police officer responding to the incident.
  • December 2012, Adam Lanza walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and gunned down 20 children and six adults.
  • Sept. 2012: Andrew Engeldinger, 36, handled his being fired from his job at a Minneapolis sign company by shooting and killing five people and then killing himself.
  • Later that month, Kurt Myers, 64, of Herkimer, N.Y. shot killed two men and wounded two others at a car wash in the town and held police at bay in a standoff overnight before they eventually killed him.   

I could go on, but I think you get my point. And this is only a partial list…

Now I know that the words “mental health issue” are going to come up, and in the cases of most of these folks, they probably should. Some of the Black on Black crime that folks are suddenly so concerned about should also be looked at from a mental health context, but never is.

But while we’re looking at mental health as a precursor for the crimes I just mentioned, and we should, we should also call them what they are: White on White crimes…

And the first march calling for an end to this is….when?

Finally, I need to explain the caption under the picture of myself I put on the top of this post because, you see, the only way that Blacks could truly be angry about the whole Zimmerman Verdict, at least according to this heading on my sociological GPS, they are instructed to be.

In other words, it’s kind of like my Dad used to say to me when I was doing something that I wanted to do, but that he didn’t want to recognize that I wanted to do like, say, journalism. He used to accuse me of following behind people, when what I was actually doing in some cases was leading.

(Now if I was doing what he wanted, I was leading. I never understood that.)

For being angry over the Zimmerman verdict, Blacks are being equated with robots in some quarters. This rage isn’t independent thought, it’s doing what you’re told by Al, Jesse, or “fill in the blank with whatever civil rights leader you can come up with here”. You shouldn’t do that, the critics say. How can you say that this was about racism? It was a man defending himself from a thug with traces of marijuana in his system.

(Sorry, but I have to cut in here because one of the things that’s bugged me about this case is that it shows there are a lot of people in Sanford, Fla. smoking some weed that they need to leave alone. Actual weed doesn’t make you want to attack anything but a plate of food. That you believe that Trayvon Martin got a hold of some weed that made him want to fight people tells me all that I need to know about the weed in Central Florida. We’ll be leaving that mess alone!)

As I usually do when I hear stuff like this, I call, you guessed it, Shenanigans!

I say this because you can’t get Black folks to agree on what kind of sandwiches to have for lunch, much less come to an across-the-board consensus on any issue. Black folks are also pretty hard to lead. That things like The March on Washington and The Million Man March even happened is more than a little significant if you know anything at all about Black folks.

Thus despite what some may think, the rage over the Zimmerman verdict isn’t about being told what to do as much as it is people combining it with the dismantling of parts of the Voting Rights Act and determining that America is up to some shenanigans when it comes to Black people and their agency again.

The rage is also a lot more multicultural than people want to admit. I’ve had more than a few of my White friends put up profile pics of themselves in hoodies, participate in marches, write their Congressmen, and otherwise say, and this is a direct quote from one of my White friends “That verdict was some bullshit!”

In the world of the People Who Believe That Trayvon Martin Deserved To Get Shot this kind of thinking makes them sheep as well.

But in the world where Justice isn’t just a hollow word, it’s beautiful.

Because of the places my sociological GPS has taken me on this issue, I’m kind of weary right now.

So I’ll leave you with the perspective of a Black Man on this issue. I think he can hit what I missed.


And because I’m feeling the need for some old-school hip-hop, I’ll also leave you with Eric B and Rakim…

For the Children of the Corn, Part II

“Oh, I’m so happy! I can get my gun back, go back to my house, and look for another Skittle-toting kid in a hoodie to shoot! Yay me!”


I was sitting in a booth at the Melrose Diner in South Philadelphia when the Associated Press alert on my I-Phone went off, informing me that the jury had reached a verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman had been on trial in Sanford, Fla. for second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Briefly, the story goes like this: Zimmerman saw Trayvon as he walked home from a convenience store where he had gone to buy a snack for his little brother. He finds the teen suspicious and calls the cops. Saying, “These assholes always get away..,” Zimmerman decides to pursue Trayvon despite the Sanford Police telling him not to. He shoots the teen in the chest and Trayvon dies. Zimmerman claims self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

(Editor’s note: Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, you’re allowed to shoot someone if you perceive that they’re about to harm you. They don’t have to actually harm you, however. They just have to look like they would.)

The trial had gone on for three weeks and people were sitting anxiously by their computers, television sets and smartphones waiting for the verdict. If the jury of six women, none of whom was Black, believed he was in a fight for his life, Zimmerman would go home, a free man. If not, he was looking at 25 years.

Shortly after 10, the verdict came: Not Guilty. On all counts. The jury believed Zimmerman’s self-defense claim and now he not only gets to go home, he gets the gun he used to shoot Trayvon back. 

Lovely.

What made me feel sort of hopeful was the reaction. I expected my Black friends to be ticked off. But a lot of my White friends were too. Disgusted was the most commonly used word.

Many folks weighed in via Twitter. Ben Jealous of the NAACP said he was “outraged and heartbroken” over the verdict and vowed to get the Department of Justice involved. Diddy took some time out from promoting his vodka brand to Tweet “I’m hurt and mad as hell! My heart goes out to the family.” My friend Albert Butler of WURD 900AM radio here in Philly reminded us to “Set our clocks back 400 years before going to bed…”

But my favorite Tweet came from the gentleman known as The Field Negro, whose blog you should be reading if you’re not. He said “Maybe Paula Deen will cook Sunday dinner for him tomorrow!”

(I ain’t mad at Paula Deen, but that shit was funny!)

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s parents, also took to Twitter, thanking everyone for their support.

Not to be outdone, folks who believed that Zimmerman was being railroaded for killing an unarmed kid after being told to let police handle things and not get involved also weighed in. Most notably Ann Coulter, who is someone I can always count on to say the most vile shit on occasions like this. Her Tweet: “Hallelujah!”

(If you ever hear about my going to jail, it is most likely because I have, finally, decided to go to wherever Ann Coulter is, and give her the “People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Award” for Lifetime Achievement.)

And my Significant Other was so angry that he nearly left the baseball game he was covering because he was to angry to stay. As I have mentioned before, he’s not just a sportswriter. He’s a sportswriter with a masters degree in African American Studies.

Certainly, a lot went on. As I was writing this, a group of African American fraternities and sororities were gathering in front of the White House in protest. Since First Lady Michelle Obama was given honorary membership to the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority shortly before her husband assumed the presidency in 2009, she might have decided to join her clan.

But as I looked at my Facebook and Twitter pages, and heard people debate the verdict in the Melrose Diner, I was relieved by one thing.

I wasn’t teaching. I’m not in school. I don’t have to try and make sense of the Zimmerman Verdict  for The Children of the Corn.

Because, frankly, I couldn’t. They’d say I was full of shit. And in this case, I’d have to agree.

I mean, how can I look in the faces of my kids, kids who have already had a few interactions with the Criminal Justice system or have parents who have, and tell them that justice is equal under the law after a verdict like this?

How do I get them to tell the police what’s going on in their neighborhoods and testify in court when they look at how Rachel Jeantel was treated on the witness stand…and on social media? How do I get them to understand that if they pull out the guns that they want to carry that they’ll get 25 to life if they kill someone?

There are conversations that all parents have to have with their kids. There’s the “Don’t violate curfew” conversation. The “Learn how to clean up after yourself” conversation. And the one that occasionally gets passed off to me by friends who don’t want to deal with their kids getting their freak on, the “You can’t trust a big butt and a smile” conversation.

But for young Black men, there’s a few other conversations that are unique to their experience. Conversations like the “Don’t put your hands in your pockets when you’re standing in front of the Police” conversation. The “Make sure you have all of your ID where the officer can see it” conversation. The “Don’t argue with the Police” conversation…

However, the Zimmerman Verdict gives us one more mandatory conversation to have.

The “Your life as a Black man isn’t worth a plug nickel to folks so act accordingly” conversation.

When Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was playing for the Atlanta Falcons, he was arrested, tried and convicted for having a dogfighting ring and brutally disposing of the losers. He spent two years in federal prison for his crime.

A woman named Marissa Alexander is doing 20 years in a Florida prison for firing a warning shot_—not hitting him, just firing a warning shot—at her abusive ex-husband. She wasn’t allowed to use Stand Your Ground despite having a credible threat posed to her.

But you can shoot a young, Black man for being “perceived” as a threat to you, and walk out of court a free man.

How do I explain that to a group of people who have already been thrown away at least once? How do my friends who are parents figure that out? And why, for that matter, do we have to?

My friend Tracy sent out a Tweet saying that calling Zimmerman, who copped to no Latino heritage until he shot Trayvon Martin, a Hispanic man and asking when all of the talk about the role race plays in stuff like this was going to stop.

I told her that it would stop when my kids could walk down the street with a hooded sweatshirt pulled over their head, and be assumed to be shooting hoops, not guns.

And that day, was not Saturday. July 13.

Hey Sucka Nigga…

You know Tribe, I love you , but you made matters worse…
The piece of music above is a clip of my least favorite song by one of my favorite hip-hop collectives, A Tribe Called Quest.
It’s called Sucka Nigga and by the end of this post, you’ll understand why I’m leading with it because for the next few minutes, or in my case, the next few paragraphs, we’re gonna talk about words, context, race, music and First Amendment rights.
No word combines all of these issues quite like nigger. 
Now I know that’s a word that’s gotten a few folks in trouble over the last couple of weeks. Paula Deen is real, real out of work because she admitted to using it. There’s a Philly chick that’s a contestant on Fox’s “Master Chef” whom National Basketball Commissioner David Stern would probably like to have a talk with because he doesn’t like it when folks refer to his league as Niggers Bouncing Around. 
Hell, CNN has become the “Let’s Talk About Nigger Network” in light of the Deen incident and the George Zimmerman trial. My personal favorite CNN moment was the discussion that anchor Don Lemon had about it that featured the best imitation of the flash card scene from Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues I’ve ever seen done by a news anchor. They even devoted an hour to a special on the word.
To many folks, it’s just a word. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me and stuff.
And I get that. I believe that the First Amendment came down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets, so I respect free speech. I can even respect the premise that since some Blacks see it as a term of endearment (which I still don’t get), that it can’t be that bad, right? I had a former student walk up to me every morning for four months with the same greeting: “Good mornin’…my nigga…”
Okay. Like I said, I get all that. But that said, I’ve also been known to tell people “If you want to call me a nigger, fine. That’s your Constitutional right. I’d never take that away from you. But when I exercise my right to knock the shit out of you for it, you were warned. Fair?
But while some of the stuff mentioned above has been floating around in my head for a bit especially lately, that’s not what’s inspired this post.
What’s inspired this post is: (a) the perception I’m starting to get that there are White folks out there that want to use the word nigger really badly and are angry that they can’t and (b) the fact that these same White folks have decided that I can no longer get mad when it comes flying out of some racist’s mouth because of what I like to call the “Hip-Hop Exemption” or the previously mentioned “term of endearment” thing.
I’m sorry kids, but on that I’ve gotta call Shenanigans!
You see, while I understand that a lot of the White folks that read The Mad (political) Scientist are going to think that I’m being unfair when I say this, the word not only sounds different, but has a different context depending on who says it. I don’t think it’s right under any circumstance, but…
Well, I’m gonna let author, anti-racism activist and Professor Tim Wise explain it because he does a much better job at it than I do…

In other words, while you might think that it’s hip, cool and trendy to be able to throw around any word you want, until you can find a racial slur connected to white folks that has ever been uttered as someone is being dragged through the street, tied to a rope, and hung from the neck until dead, you, my well-meaning White friends, do not have a leg to stand on when it comes to the whole “Hip-Hop Exception” for the word nigger. You just don’t. I don’t care if Kendrick Lamar or Meek Mill or Nas or Jay-Z or even A Tribe Called Quest stand in front of a mic and do nothing but say nigger for 10 minutes on a record, you’re not allowed to use that word. You’re just not.

And I guess I have another question: What is it about the word nigger that is so intriguing, so powerful, so awesome to you that it’s prohibition from your list of words tends to piss you off so much?

Wanna know where I was the first time I was ever called a nigger? Church. Nope, I’m not kidding.

I was in the 7th grade and me and my friends had just finished Sunday School at Calvary Baptist Church in Pemberton where I grew up. We were sitting in a pew waiting for church to begin when a girl named Patty Laine walked up to me and told me to get out of the seat I was sitting in because she wanted to sit there.

I told her that there was no reserved seating and because my friends and I were there first, we were going to stay. There were plenty of other places to sit, so go find one, I said.

Well, I guess a combination of being the daughter of one of the founders of the church and White Privilege hit her because she not only grabbed me, but told me to “get my nigger ass out of her seat.”

I hit her as hard as I could…just as the minister was walking by…so naturally, my Dad had to take me home because Pastor Goodhart couldn’t allow me to stay after trying to bash in the head of a fellow parishioner.

But we talked afterward. And after I told him what she said to me, he let Patty…and the people who taught her to say stuff like that, otherwise known as her parents, know that if anything like that happened again, founders or not, they were out.

Because he understood that while it’s misguided for Blacks to use nigger as a term of endearment, the only way that Whites can possibly use it is as a term of disparagement. Of dehumanization. Of harm.

And that’s why, my White friends, nigger cannot be a part of your list of words. The only way it could be is if you somehow went back more than 400 years, kept the Middle Passage from happening, and disconnected it from its associations.

I’d like to leave you with a classic from the late Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase. This is from the days when Saturday Night Live was actually funny…

This Week In Bad Communication


This has been one of those weeks where it seemed as if news was coming out of the woodwork.
From the Supreme Court deciding that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act was no longer needed despite a seemingly endless trail of evidence to the contrary to another Court decision that guarantees I’ll be invited to some really FABULOUS weddings in the not-to-distant future, it’s been a memorable week for news junkies.
But there were two events that everyone had their eye on and had an opinion about. One involved the woman sitting across from Anderson Cooper in this video, the trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. The woman talking with Cooper in this clip is Alicia Stanley, Trayvon’s stepmother, who helped raise him for 14 years, but hasn’t been heard from much.
The second was the revelation that Paula Deen, a personal favorite of us here at The Mad (political) Scientist, had not only called someone a nigger at least once, which as a 66-year-old woman from Albany, Ga. didn’t surprise me a whole lot, but had also looked at planning a plantation-style wedding for her brother Bubba, and had been a lot less than fair to her African American employees.
(And she’s a friend of former President Jimmy Carter’s! I wonder if he knew about this?!)
Now the reason that I’m singling out these two incidents is because they are examples of what happens when you communicate poorly or worse yet HIRE people who communicate poorly. While everyone has taken shots at poor Rachel Jeantel for giving us attitude on the witness stand in the Zimmerman trial, I submit that between the Martin family and Paula Deen and company, there was enough ill communication for Jeantel, who is literate in three languages, to make everyone else look stupid.
I’ll start with the fact that Alicia Stanley wound up on AC 360 in the first place.
Ms. Stanley helped raise Trayvon Martin for nearly 15 years when she was married to his father, Tracy.  They broke up shortly before Trayvon’s death, but since she had been a part of the young man’s life since he was 3, she saw him as a son.
“I raised him along with my two girls,” she told Cooper on CNN last night.
But what made Stanley come on national television was the fact that she felt her contribution to Trayvon’s life had been dismissed. She wasn’t allowed to sit in the front row at his funeral. She wasn’t being told anything about the trial.
She was being made to feel like she didn’t exist, Stanley said.
There was no communication.
So Stanley tearfully put the Martin Family Business out in the street.
Like, for example, she says that Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s natural mother, wasn’t as involved in her son’s life as she’s being made out to be now. When Trayvon felt sick or needed to talk, he came to Stanley, not his mom.
Wow.
My guess is that right about now Tracy Martin, who really comes off as kind of a cad here, and Sybrina Fulton, who comes off as someone who didn’t show up until the cameras, lawyers, and fame showed up, can see Alicia Stanley from space.
But you know what could have kept all of this from happening?
Better communication.
If Tracy Martin had kept his Second Ex-Wife in the loop about her stepson, she wouldn’t have felt the need to go to Anderson Cooper. If he had let her sit in the front row and mourn Trayvon’s passing, she never would have been sitting across from the host of the one show on CNN that people actually watch telling her story.
A simple daily phone call, a little extra thought, and a little finesse could have kept Alicia Stanley out of the public eye…and could have kept the Martin Family from having to put a steak over it’s black one…
But lest you think that poor communication is strictly the parlance of blended families with lower middle-class bank accounts, may I submit Paula Deen for your approval?
Until earlier this week, Deen was the host of the only show that my Significant Other and I could watch together on Food Network, Paula’s Home Cooking. 
But now, she’s out of work. Real out of work.
Not only has Food Network sent her packing, but Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, K-Mart, Smithfield Hams, QVC, Norvo Nordisk, Walgreens, JC Penney, and even her publisher Ballantine Books have told Ms. Paula to go play on I-76, despite, in the case of Ballantine Books, Deen’s new cookbook hitting number one in pre-order sales on Amazon.com.
While Norvo Nordisk and QVC promise to revisit their relationship with Deen once everything dies down, everybody else has torn up the contracts and moved along.
The center of Deen’s problems is a lawsuit that was filed by Lisa Jackson, a former employee in Deen’s brother Bubba Hiers’s restaurant. In the suit, which was filed against Deen and Hiers (because Deen was a co-owner), Jackson accuses Hiers of sexual harassment, racism and mistreatment of African American employees.
What ended up getting Deen in trouble was a National Enquirer article that detailed her deposition in this lawsuit, which contained the admission that she had used the word ‘nigger” at least once and had advocated a special kind of wedding for her brother, who liked to watch porn while at work…
From the deposition…
“[W]hen asked if she wanted black men to play the role of slaves at a wedding she explained she got the idea from a restaurant her husband at dined at saying, “The while entire waiter staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie. I mean, it was really impressive. That restaurant represented a certain era in America…after the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War…It was not only black men, it was black women…I would say they were slaves.”
Can we talk about how this info. came out on Juneteenth, the day celebrated as the day that the slaves in Texas learned they had been emancipated…?
And then there were the videos. 
First there was this one, an interview with the New York Times that introduced us to Deen’s “Black friend…”

…and yes, she did say ‘He’s as black as this board…” You weren’t hearing things.

And then there were the two videos she did instead of going on the Today Show like the Food Network told him to…which were pretty bad and have been rendered unable to be embedded.

Finally, Deen went on Today, probably at the behest of her new PR guru, Judy Smith.

For those of you who don’t know who Smith is, she’s the person you bring in when you’ve screwed up so badly that the level of screwed you are borders on grotesque. She’s worked with the first President Bush, Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick, President Bill Clinton’s jump-off Monica Lewinsky, and others.

She’s also the inspiration for the character of Olivia Pope of the television show Scandal. 

And scandal kind of describes Deen’s Today appearance, which was not one of Smith’s finest hours…


My personal favorite part was where she invites anyone who hasn’t said a hurtful remark to throw a boulder at her head and kill her.

Of course, the Internet, as it tends to do responded…

I know, I know. That’s dead wrong. Funny. Not nearly as funny as #PaulasBestDishes or #PaulaDeenTVShows on Twitter, but funny. And wrong. Dead wrong.

But Deen probably wouldn’t be dealing with ripped up contracts, Internet memes, and accusations of racism if she didn’t have possibly the dumbest PR and legal staffs perhaps in the world…pre-Judy Smith that is…

First of all, if her PR staff had let her do the initial Today Show interview instead of two very bad videos, a move that Food Network cited as it’s reason for sending Deen on her way, she might have been able to clear this up.

But secondly, if her legal staff would have said the following sentence to Lisa Jackson, the deposition and all that’s come after it could have been avoided. That sentence: “Let’s settle this out of court.”

Contrary to rumor, people who file a lawsuit aren’t nearly as gung-ho about going to court as you might think. What they really want is compensation of some sort, acknowledgement that you screwed up, and a promise that you’ll do better.

My guess is that Jackson would have been willing to compromise if someone would have communicated to her a willingness to do the same.

Instead, Deen is looking at a empire in tatters. Granted, she should also be looking at beating the mess out of her little brother, but that’s just me.

Now President Carter, who weighed in just as I was writing this, says that Deen should apologize, tell folks about her community service, and otherwise keep her head up.

Bur if he really wants to help his friend, he’ll teach her how to communicate.

Seems like there’s a need for that going around…

I’m gonna leave you with some music from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hip-hop masters The Beastie Boys because they knew all about Ill Communication…kinda like these folks…

For The Children Of The Corn…

Can I get a break?

Like many of you, I’ve been watching the trial of George Zimmerman and paying a lot of attention to the woman pictured above, Rachel Jeantel.

Jeantel was the person on the other end of the phone when Trayvon Martin made his last phone call. She was the one he told about the “creepy cracker’ following him as he left the 7-Eleven with the iced tea and Skittles he had just bought for his little brother.

She was the last one to talk to him. And for her trouble, she spent two days getting questioned on the witness stand by a prosecuting attorney who obviously doesn’t know a damned thing about witness prep and a defense attorney who I can’t describe in a family blog.

And unfortunately, she’s also been beaten up a bit, by Black folks, on Social Media.

Why? Because Jeantel speaks quietly. She doesn’t speak really well. English isn’t her first language and she’s never been taught how to write in cursive. She kinda had an attitude on the stand. She didn’t want to be there and didn’t care if you knew it.

So she got savaged. Folks called her Precious, like the character from that really trying movie that I’ve yet to see, made fun of everything from her hair to her skin tone and even said that her testimony would lead to Zimmerman’s acquittal.

Reading some of the comments kind of pissed me off because Jeantel could have been one of my kids.

Those of you who are frequent readers of The Mad (political) Scientist know that when I’m not covering politics, I’m teaching media arts at an alternative high school in Southwest Philadelphia.

Maurice and I at the Prom

To say that my kids, who I affectionately refer to as The Children of the Corn, are a challenge, is an understatement. Most of them have been kicked out of every school they ever went to. Some kicked themselves out. Others became parents and needed a little extra help.
Hanging out at Morgan State

I have girls who swear that they’re boys, kids who have mouths like sailors, and one kid, Rahkeem, who greeted me every morning with “Good Mornin’…my nigga!” despite my telling him every day that I didn’t care for that.

(Did I mention that for my birthday Rahkeem actually came in and had a conversation with me in which he WASN’T high? That was pretty rare for him. He went to everyone he knew and said “Ms. Clay asked me not to get high for her birthday, so I didn’t!”)

They don’t talk good. They don’t like courtrooms because many of them have spent far too much time in them. The idea of having to be in an outfit that didn’t lead to Ms.Clay screaming, “Pull up your friggin’ pants!” isn’t something they’re into.

But at their core, and sometimes I felt like I had to dig like a coal miner to get to that core, they were good people.

They helped me up the stairs when I broke my ankle. (Granted, they also offered me pills from their stash of Percocet, but we won’t talk about that…)

Some of them helped me sell pretzels and water ice to finance their prom.

Others made sure that I was okay when I lost my brother Donnie to a heart attack. 

And when many of them graduated from the program earlier this month, I got more than one thank you….and the occasional bear hug…

I don’t get paid a lot of money to hang out with the Children of the Corn. In fact, I sometimes spent more time helping them get through school than I got paid for. But the only thing that kept me from being them was being born to a set of parents who put a premium on education and nurtured me.

In other words, i got real lucky. Considering that many of my kids don’t have the greatest of relationships with their parents, that’s significant.

So my karmic debt gets paid by teaching kids about media, why it’s important, and how media portrayals determine how you’re treated.

What are you looking at from a karmic standpoint?

Well, to me, if you’re ridiculing a kid, and at 19, Jeantel is a kid to me, your karma is taking a beating. If you’re looking down your nose at that kid when you could be helping her do better, your karma is at  a deficit. If you’re ready to make her the scapegoat for a family that might be denied justice for a murdered son, I don’t want to be around you if a piano is hovering overhead…

So as the late John Lennon said “Instant Karma’s gonna get ya…”

Plus, you should know better. Especially when you’re part of a race of people who are always being doubted…

So when you see the Rachel Jeantels of the world, don’t look down on them. 

Especially if they’re a Performance Learning Center graduate.

Because, while I can call them the Children of the Corn, if I hear you do it, I’ll kick your ass.


This is Jael James. She was PLC’s Valedictorian with a 3.6 GPA…


In Search of Consistency

Sure Dr. Kermit Gosnell deserved national attention. But so do the New Orleans Mothers Day shooters. Let’s get it for them…

The man in the picture above, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, is on his way to jail for the rest of his life.

Yay.

Normally, I would put an exclamation point after that yay, but when you’re talking about a man who is going to be in jail for the rest of his life because he killed babies born alive in cold blood because he didn’t want to give back the money that their mothers paid to have their late-term, unplanned pregnancies aborted, an exclamation point doesn’t seem quite appropriate.

I last wrote about Dr. Gosnell, and again, I’m only calling him a doctor because the Associated Press Stylebook demands it, in 2011 when he was indicted on four counts of first degree murder (for killing three babies that were born alive by snipping their spinal cords) and one count of third-degree murder for killing one of his patients, Karamaya Mongar.). Mongar came to the clinic for an abortion and wound up dying in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania of cardiac arrest after being administered anesthesia by either a high school student or Gosnell’s wife, a hairdresser, I can’t remember which.

(In any case, neither was a doctor…)

I remembered looking through the Grand Jury report and seeing the bodies of babies frozen in jars, stuffed into boxes, and jars filled with little babies feet (why he saved them, I don’t know…). The clinic itself was so filthy that if it were a restaurant bathroom, not only would I not be eating there, a picture of the place would be put on the restaurant review site Yelp! so that no one else would either.

He got convicted on three counts of first-degree murder (for the babies), one count of third-degree murder (for Mongar), and a myriad of other offenses, none of which included being a total douchebag, unfortunately.

Thankfully, he decided not to appeal, thus saving the taxpayers the money needed to execute his dumb ass. Sure, we still have to feed and clothe him, but we don’t have to pay what would surely be some massive legal fees as he appealed his case, so that’s a win. He’s been sentenced to three life terms, which at 72 actually means maybe 10 years max.

I’m pretty sure that’s not enough. You kill three babies because your greedy ass doesn’t want to give up the money you’d lose because these five to seven month pregnant women have changed their minds about terminating their pregnancies, I’d like for you to do a lot more time. In a small cell. With a dude named Raheem. Who just lost a child.

But since this is the best I’m gonna get, okay.

Now the Gosnell case became a national cause celebre’ for anti-abortion activists who thought that the proceedings should be televised on C-Span so that they could get on their soapboxes and say “See! This is what happens when you give women the right to an abortion! This is what all abortion providers do!”

(That’s not the case of course. But why let the facts get in the way of some time honored scare tactics?)

So to shame the national media into coming to Philly and covering what was essentially a local story (because we local reporters doing our jobs was just not good enough), these activists and their media partisans got together and demanded that the Gosnell trial be a staple on networks like CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and others.

They got their way. And that’s okay. It’s not like what Gosnell did wasn’t going to end up on Investigation Discovery at some point. But I can’t help but think that the hearts of these folks were so far away from being in the right place here that it’s ridiculous. You want to make abortion illegal. I get that. But you also want to make making sure the child stays healthy, gets educated, and is allowed to live without the fear of someone rolling into his or her elementary school with a Bushmaster rifle for target practice next to impossible.

Which is why I refer to you as Pro-Birth instead of Pro-Life. If you were Pro-Life, you’d want to make sure that all these kids you want to force women into having by restricting their access to birth control and making abortion so hard to get that they have to go to butchers like Kermit Gosnell had what they needed to truly live. Instead, you want to see them born…so that you can tell them to go kick rocks.

Now I know that some of you are looking at that last sentence and want to tell me I’m wrong.

I’m going to give you a chance to prove to me that you’re not exactly what I said you are and it involves your favorite thing: forcing the news media to focus on what you want it to focus on through fear and intimidation.

On Mothers Day in New Orleans, a second-line parade was going in in one of the neighborhoods in the Seventh Ward. Folks were enjoying their day out, celebrating Mom, checking things out.

Then, this happened…

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Happy Mothers Day! It’s time to start shooting up a poor neighborhood in New Orleans!

By the time the three people who went all OK Corral on this Second Line parade got done, 19 folks were wounded, some of them critically.

And believe it or not, it went unnoticed by a lot of people, many of them hard core news junkies like myself.

So here’s your assignment: make this go viral.

Now the video above would tell you that a story about this has been done on MSNBC and good for them. But it probably would have escaped their notice as well were it not for the fact that it happened in MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry’s neighborhood.

Need some incentive? Two of the 19 victims clinging  to life in a New Orleans hospital are 10-years-old. You know? Kids?

And you all like kids, dont’cha? You may not like to feed ’em or make sure their teeth aren’t falling out or make sure they know how to read, but you do like ’em, right?

Then man your phone trees. Call your representatives. Get on CNN News Director Jeff Zucker’s nerves…

Oh, wait. That’s right. These kids were shot with a gun.

And people getting shot with a gun means we might have to talk about gun control, right? Can’t have that can we?

That’s what I thought.

"Who are we here to represent?"

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: The single most useless man in America

I know that some of you are looking at the caption under this picture of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and thinking “Wow! Our Mad (political) Scientist is being kind of mean here.”

Actually, the fact that I didn’t go any further than calling him useless was my being nice. If I said what I really felt about Sen. Reid, then you could call me mean. In fact, you could feasibly ask me if I kissed my late Mother with that mouth….

But let me explain why I think that Sen. Harry Reid is about as useful as a tub of jello…and why I think I may have insulted jello by saying that.

Sen. Harry Reid is the single most useless man in America because he had a public mandate to get something done about a very important issue concerning Americans and even with a majority in his house of Congress, he managed to get rolled by a special interest group.

Granted, the National Rifle Association is not your average interest group. It’s a big group with lots of supporters, some of whom supported what it was you were assigned to do. But when you allow folks like Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell to keep you from restoring something to the Senate that it had before you took over—the concept of majority rule—you deserve a heaping helping of my contempt.

I’ll explain.

While many of us were missing Soledad O’Brien as we watched CNN prove through its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings that it’s better to be last and right than first and wrong, Congress was debating a bipartisan bill that if passed would expand universal background checks to cover gun show and internet purchases, but not purchases made between relatives.

(This had the potential of bringing a Conga line of adult adoptees into Family Courts across the nation to take advantage of this loophole, but I don’t think that anyone thought about that when they put this together.)

The compromise was brokered by two guys who had A ratings from the National Rifle Association, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey. This bit of Democratic (Manchin) and Republican (Toomey) partnership was designed to help the bill get one step closer to President Barack Obama’s desk and make families who had lost loved ones in mass shootings in Colorado, Wisconsin, Arizona and Connecticut and to urban street violence in Chicago feel like their loved ones deaths had counted for something.

In fact, I thought that the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut would put background checks over the hump. Now let’s keep it real here: When 21 white kids get shot by an assault rifle-wielding nut job in their elementary school, that tends to lead to something getting done. I’m not being racist here, something that I need to say because some white person will swear that what I just said was racist, but ask yourself: were we having a conversation about gun control or background checks when the kids being slaughtered on the streets were Black and Latino and the streets they were being slaughtered on were city streets? No. But when it’s an issue to White, suburban families, politicians generally run over themselves to be the first to solve the problem.

Hell, to make sure that something came out of this, the NRA was even invited to the table by Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Manchin and Toomey to put in its two cents.

But while the NRA was at the table, it was also whispering in the ears of the Senators it supports, telling them to vote no on the bill.

And they listened. By a vote of 54-46, the bill strengthening background checks was defeated.

The NRA, of course, was happy. Thanks to their efforts, the Second Amendment stands to take over the rest of the Constitution. As the document’s Third Rail, you’re not supposed to even think about, well, keeping some people and a firearm from ever getting together because gun-rights folks will have a full-on, paranoid freak-out if you even look like you’re going to put the words commonsense, gun, and legislation into the same sentence.

They swear that asking for such things as making sure that you’re not allowing a murderer or a person prone to domestic violence through a background check is a slippery slope that will lead to nationwide gun registration, the government confiscating all of the guns from so-called “law abiding” gun owners, and the inevitable black helicopters of the New World Order coming to call..

(I often wonder if these folks realize that their tendency to have a full-on paranoid freak-out whenever someone puts common sense, guns, and legislation in the same sentence is probably the biggest reason why some of us want to see more gun control, not less.)
But President Obama, Vice President Biden and a group of parents including some from Sandy Hook and victims of gun violence like former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who left her dream job in public service after being shot in the head during a “Meet Your Representative” gathering, were less than amused with the Senate because of this. A member of one of the Sandy Hook families shouted “Shame on You!” in the Senate Chambers.

“Joe, I’m gonna need you to go and get Harry for me after this…”

At a press conference in the White House Rose Garden afterward, Obama, well, let the Senate have it. Calling it “a shameful day for Washington”, a town that’s had so many of them it’s hard to keep count, Obama asked out loud what many citizens were thinking after the vote.

I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent?”

Well, let’s see. They’re not representing the families of the murdered. In fact, some members of Congress said that bringing them into the conversation was the equivalent of “emotional blackmail.”

They weren’t representing those folks who say that closing the gun show and Internet gun sales loopholes makes sense.

And they weren’t representing those who believe that America is awash in guns and large ammunition clips designed to do nothing but kill.


The next thing that the Senate did, pass an amendment punishing states that publish information about gun owners, tells you who they represent.

The Senate, and by extension Congress, represents the NRA.

Thus, they will heretofore be known as “The NRA-Controlled Congress.”

Which goes back to my friend Sen. Reid.

Before Sen. Reid became Senate Majority Leader, you could pass most things in the Senate with a simple majority vote. There were some things that required 60 votes to stop a filibuster and end debate, but most things were majority rules.

But, as they are wont to do, the Republicans began abusing the filibuster rule. Now just about anything of any consequence requires a 60-vote cushion to even be discussed. Since Sen. Reid can’t always count on his majority to hold, certain things end up either not passing or twisting in the wind.

Sen. Reid promised that in a second Obama Administration term, he’d reform the filibuster rules so that majority would rule when it could, and 60 votes would go back to being the gold standard, not the “we’re gonna use it to obstruct” standard. 

But instead of true reform, he caved in to McConnell and didn’t go nearly as far as he should have.

Thus, you can have a majority of the Senate want to see something pass, and instead have it fail.

And with that, Sen. Harry Reid becomes more useless than jello.

My hope is that this defeat makes President Obama do something that he was kind enough not to do during his first term… decide that it might be time for a vote of “no confidence” for Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. 

Because if he doesn’t what happened yesterday is going to be the rule, and not the exception…

And, in the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”