Relax. It Only LOOKS Like Diversity.

These are not your father’s Avengers. Or anybody’s father’s Avengers.

Here’s how the comic books dividing lines worked in my house when I was a kid.    The boys started off with DC and Batman and Superman and Superboy and then we got sophisticated and left Lois Lane’s 1000th stupid scheme to find out Superman’s secret identity and Jimmy Olsen being turned in a cockroach or something and moved over to  Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men,  and the wondrous splendor of Stan Lee/Jack Kirby’s Marvel Universe.

My sisters read Archie Comics.  And they were welcome to it.   Which reminds me…ever notice you never see Jimmy Olsen and Archie at any of the same parties?  Archie Andrews has never been cool, never been hip, or anything but a series of unfunny gags  from the world’s oldest teenager.  The dilemma was how to make anybody give a damn about this terribly trite ccomic book.

The solution to this problem was to create an alternate universe with an adult Archie.   It’s Middle Age Archie is going to get taken out as he courageously bites the dust saving his gay friend, a U.S. Senator from an assassination attempt.

This is the standard go-to move for the comic book companies to drum up buzz.   Take a beloved character  like Superman, Batman, Captain America,  announce they are going to be killed off and wait for the headlines.   And it works!   But what nobody bothered with was diggging into why Adult Archie was really about to bite it and it turns out because the title flat out doesn’t sell.   According sales figures from May, Life With Archie was #386 out of #439 comic books in sales.   It sold an impressive  2,064 copies.

To put it another way, if Adult Archie wasn’t about to die, they would have to kill him.  Shooting Archie is a mercy killing.

Far less of a contrived stunt is the Secret Life of Archie.   What secret?    There’s a pretty good reason he never chose between Betty and Veronica.



Hey kids! Suggestively Gay Comics!  I’m not saying.  I’m just saying.

Whether its offing Archie and Wolverine,  making Captain America a brother or Thor a woman, it’s all about pandering and pandering desperately for a little bit of attention.  Comics exist primarily as intellectual property for films and to tell the same stories in ever more expensive formats.     Whether they call it The New 52 or Marvel Now,  what comics primarily provide is not occasionally innovative fun, but meaningless “event” after meaningless event.

It’s 2014 and there is still only one monthly title from the majors with an openly gay hero. It’s hard enough to get the heterosexual White males that make up the core of the comics audience to support titles with women or racial minority heroes. When Marvel replaced the Ultimate Comics version of Peter Parker with Miles Morales, a Black and Hispanic teen that was a major change and I recall the howls of outrage fueled in part from racist comic fans. It’s no accident a lesbian lead character is as far as pushing the envelope with sexual orientation goes. A homosexual super hero’s got no shot.

Change the gender, change the race, change nothing else.

Change the gender, change the race, change nothing else.

Homophobia is one reason  the concept of gays in comics is confined primarily to second-stringers, supporting characters and heroes which can be created, discarded and forgotten.

The takeaway from all this is its okay to kill off a long-running established characters (because they always come back) and its okay to give over their name and uniforms to a woman or person of color (because they will eventually take the name and uniform back) or to marry them off, rape and murder their wives, husbands and family members, impregnate them, body swap them, paralyze them, lop off a limb, steal their sight, make them old and infirm, and pretty much do any blessed thing to a long-running established character because you can always retcon it out of existence.

Don’t stress over Dead Archie,  Muslim Ms. Marvel, Thor with breasts in her breastplate or Afro Cap.  Before you can start to hate it, it’ll be over.

Just don’t make them gay.  Phony diversity is cool, but that is the Line of Death which must never be crossed.   There are straight fans who would riot if a major super hero came out.   Or create really angry Tweets.   The prospect of  pissing off all those timid editors and misogynist, homophobic fanboys would be reason enough to do it.   Every group wants to see themselves in their heroes and not only the ones whom are popular with the majority and  comics shouldn’t pander  exclusively to the majority while the minority settles for tokens and table scraps.

I would  be a lot more interested if we were about to get a Black writer on Captain America. Or about any comic book from Marvel and DC.  I’m  over diversity for the sake of appearances thing

If Lois Lane can turn into a Black woman it’s equally possible for Superman and Batman to look deeply in the others eyes and tenderly whisper, “I wish I knew how to quit you.”  Is that an image that disturbs you, dead reader?  Perhaps, but enough with  seven decades of the side eye and vague hints. Go big or go home.

It’s only a comic book and comic fans like difference in their comics.  Just not the radical kind.

The Execution of Eric Garner by the NYPD

He didn’t want to be arrested, but he shouldn’t be dead.

It was hard to miss Eric Garner.  He was 6-4 and between 350 and 400 pounds.  He was hard to miss, but easy to kill.

Garner was protesting a NYPD officer’s attempt to arrest him for selling illegal cigarettes.  Several cops wrestled the father of six to the sidewalk as he yelled, “‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe! Get off of me, get off of me.”   Sgt. Daniel Pantelo applied an illegal choke hold on Garner who apparently suffered a heart attack and died.  The event was captured on video as the cops angrily ordered a man recording the assault on Garner to step away.

To serve and protect, huh?  Who protected Eric Garner from the NYPD.

I’m sure some apologist for the cops will say this was all Eric Garner’s fault. He had no business being a 400 lb diabetic with chronic asthma and resisting the po-po.

But mostly he had no damn business being so Black. That’s always a crime.

This story will fade from the headlines. My attention to it will not. I will await to see how justice handles a gross injustice.  On social media I’ve seen talk that Garner’s killing is simply another manifestation of life and death under the oppressive boot of an aggressive, militaristic police force that acts as an occupying force to keep the niggers, spics and poor White trash in their proper places.   Well, there may be some truth to that, but let me say this about the talk of Americans living in a “police state.”

The NYPD has a long and troubling history of police brutality, but there is a difference between police “brutality” and living in a police “state.”

In a true police state, Eric Garner would never be stopped by the authorities, accused of selling illegal cigarettes and die as an officer executes an illegal choke hold and executes him on the spot.

In a true police state, Mr. Garner would not be allowed out on the streets to freely roam as he likes. He would be stopped, compelled to produce his identification, state his business, and suffer detainment and incarceration should the authorities dislike his response.

This is not the reality of the situation. The reality is Black men being belligerent with White cops never ends well and when you’re big and scary-looking on top of being Black that simply compounds the drama.

People are looking for a devious, Machiavellian explanation for the sorry fate of Eric Garner when the age-old, obvious one explains it well enough

This is not a police state.

Unless these cops walk.

As they walked for Clifford Glover.

As they walked for Randolph Evans.

As they walked for Patrick Dorismond.

As they walked for Eleanor Bumpurs.

As they walked for Anthony Baez.

As they walked for Sean Bell.

As they walked for Amadou “41 Shots” Diallo.

THEN it’s a police state.

Garner was summarily executed on a New York sidewalk.

LeBron Proves You CAN Go Home Again.

I’m back. Get it?

It’s a good thing for both LeBron James personally and for the city of Cleveland specifically that after a bitter four-year estrangement, he’s coming back to the Cavaliers to try to finish what he started. It’s an even better thing for those of whom live in Ohio where this whole “is he or isn’t he” scenario has played out in real-time.

The way James handled The Return beat the hell out of the public relations fiasco that was The Decision. Everything about The Decision was overstated, overblown and a barely concealed flipping the middle finger to Northeast Ohio where James toiled seven years carrying a Cavaliers team mostly devoid of talent. Bitter feelings and bad karma abounded on both sides though Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert carried it too far with a poison pen letter soaked in Haterade that could be found on the team’s website as recently as a week ago.

“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE

You can take it to the bank.

Not one of Gilbert’s non-James teams finished above .500. The bank stayed closed.

That letter has since been scrubbed from the Cavaliers website, but the Internet never forgets no matter how much Gilbert wishes it would.

LeBron’s words to Sports Illustrated (and quite noticeably not ESPN) were far more gracious in showing the grace, class and maturity he had developed in four years that were missing in Gilbert’s published temper tantrum.    If you haven’t read it you definitely should.   It’s pretty damned impressive reading.

I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.

When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.

I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.

To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?

Michael Wilbon, who is from Chicago, said it well when he noted James has “Midwestern values” and he honestly LIKES living in Northern Ohio. James could live anywhere  on the planet. What’s so terrible about going back home?

When LeBron left four years ago and more importantly, HOW he left was awkward, clumsy and a hot mess of hype, bad juju and ugliness. He went out like a punk. I called him “LeGone” and meant every word of the contemptuous vitriol I spat his way.

But a funny thing happened over the last four years. My harsh feelings toward James disappeared. How he played on the court with the Heat and how he lived his life off the court with his family won me over. We never hear about James getting in trouble, being busted for drugs, shooting up strip clubs at 2:00 am, banging women coast to coast and dropping’ Little LeBrons all over the U.S.A. From all appearances, James is a solid, stable Family Guy who stays out of the headlines with all the usual non-sports related shenanigans.

Will the second time around be just dust in the wind for James?

As regards Dan Gilbert goes he was a total a-hole the way he handled LeBron taking his talents to South Beach. He spewed contempt for his lone superstar. But for all his bluster, Gilbert had to know how screwed he really was once James left town. He said they would win a championship before James did but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Check the Cavs record since the ’09-10 season.

09-10: 61-21 (James’ last year in Cleveland)
10-11: 19-63
11-12: 21-45 (lockout shortened season)
12-13: 33-49

If you were Dan Gilbert wouldn’t you pretty much kiss LeBron’s ass to get him back?

Dwayne Wade weighed in with his own thoughts on his former teammate’s return to the Buckeye State:

As a friend and a teammate, I am sad to see my brother LeBron leave to begin a new journey. In 2010, we decided to come together all for one goal — to win championships and we succeeded. We were friends when we first joined the league and created an unbreakable bond the past four years. Our collaboration will always be very special to me both personally and professionally. We shared something unique and he will always be part of my family. LeBron made the right decision for him and his family because home is where your heart is. I know this was not an easy decision to make and I support him in returning to his roots. As an organization, a community, and as individuals, we achieved the goals we set when we first signed on together. We are champions.

Washington Wizards v/s Miami Heat December 18,...

King James and D-Wade say goodbye to all that.

Classy, but then the Miami Heat is a class organization as other well wishes to Lebron from team owner Micky Arison and general manager Pat Riley have echoed Wade’s sentiments. When James returns to Miami in the future he knows he will hear the boos of the disappointed fans, but they will likely be drowned out by the applause of the grateful ones remembering the four consecutive championship appearances and two wins King James led the Heat to.

If Wade is ready to move on, why should I hate on LeBron for coming home to take care of unfinished business? Sure he may never win a championship with the Cavaliers, but it won’t be because he didn’t come back to try.

There are plenty of unlikable owners who own great teams. I am not going to boo the Cavs because their boss is a jerkwad. Plenty of us have worked for bosses who were bastards, but we did the job and cashed the check anyway. Why should we hold James to a higher standard then we do ourselves?

Let’s be honest here. James did what he thought was best for him and his family.  I know there are “fans” who honestly believe LeBron should have put their needs ahead of his own.   They need to set the alarm clock and wake the hell up.

Welcome Home King James.   Now can I get back to focusing on NFL football camps opening Friday?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s the “Return of the King.” You got a problem with that?

 

Paul Hardcastle: The Snoozejazzmaster

You’d slide out of your chair too. From boredom.

Jazz: noun, often attributive \’jaz\ a type of American music with lively rhythms and melodies that are often made up by musicians as they play

Jazz. Say the word. J-A-Z-Z. Paul Hardcastle calls his side project “The Jazzmasters.” If he means he plays instrumentals, it is. If he means truly understanding the idiom, it’s not.

A lot of jazz albums end up in my mailbox.  A few are good.   Some are terrible.  There are some rare gems, but most are competently mediocre.

The Jazzmasters VII is total shit.   It is dull beyond belief.   It is tedium, tiresome and the embodiment of the worst of snooze jazz.   It didn’t even hold my interest long enough to get me to hate it.

The not-so Secret Sauce of Hardcastle’s success is his music is designed, calculated, formulated and manufactured so as not to deviate from the template. There is no discernible difference between a Jazzmasters release and a Hardcastle solo joint. They are interchangeable and the sound faithfully follows Hardcastle’s freeze-dried jazz/chill formula. This sort of Tinker Toy, generic pap is popular in the same way McDonald’s french fries are popular: all the consumer must do is consume. Whether it provides any nutritional value is purely secondary.

The titles are generic. “Unlimited Love,” “Soft Rain” and “Starlight Express” sound like names for bottles of perfume. Songs start, stop tinkle quietly and fade away. There isn’t a single hook or a spontaneous moment. There are no twists, no turns, no diversion, no digression, and no deviation, only cold efficiency.

To be a jazz master shouldn’t you actually play jazz?

If you’re a fan of this sort of thing and dig Hardcastle’s chilled out drizzle and you’ve consumed his past product here’s some more of the same old same old. At this point in his career, Hardcastle can be described as one football coach described the other team: He is who we thought he was. Only in the most liberal sense of the word can the sound recordings of Hardcastle be even remotely considered to be any sort of “jazz.”

It is false advertising to proclaim there are any masters of jazz on The Jazzmasters. Hardcastle certainly isn’t interested in lively rhythms and melodies that are often made up by musicians as they play. This is background music. It’s too mechanical, too bloodless  and too flat-out lazy to be anything more than empty sound.

Duke was a jazz master. Miles was a jazz master. Thelonious was a jazz master. Paul Hardcastle is about as much a jazz master as a Kardashian sister.    Before he dubs himself a “jazzmaster” he should learn how to play some first.

Track Listing: Unlimited Love; Rhythm of Life; Free to Fly; Starlight Express; Soft Rain; Domino Effect; Pulse of the Universe; Unlimited Love (the Strings), Come On; Breathe; Echoes of Eternity; Rhythm of Life (Chill Reprise)

Personnel: Paul Hardcastle: unspecified instruments; Rock Hendricks: saxophone; Paul Hardcastle,Jr. : saxophone idea (1); Maxine Hardcastle: backing vocals (2); Cindy Bradley: trumpet (1); Margo Ledue: backing vocals (3)

Record Label: Trippin n Rhythm Records

A different version of this review originally published at All About Jazz.

 

17 America-Related Things James Baldwin Said Better Than Anybody Else.

 

American Wise Man

Here on the Fourth of July, the day this great nation celebrates its independence with fireworks, hot dogs and collective attack of amnesia over its bloody, violent and racist past, it’s good to read some of the writings of James Baldwin.

1. “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”

2.  “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”

3. “I’m not interested in anybody’s guilt. Guilt is a luxury that we can no longer afford. I know you didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it either, but I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of this country and you are responsible for it, too, for the very same reason… Anyone who is trying to be conscious must begin to dismiss the vocabulary which we’ve used so long to cover it up, to lie about the way things are.”

4. “Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?”

5.  “It comes as a great shock…to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance…has not pledged allegiance to you.”

6.  “It is dangerous to be an American Negro male. America has never wanted its Negroes to be men, and does not, generally, treat them as men. It treats them as mascots, pets, or things.”

7. “It is very nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.”

8. “Not a thousand years ago, it was illegal to teach a slave to read. Not a thousand years ago, the Supreme Court decided that separate could not be equal. And today, as we sit here, no one is learning anything in this country. You see a nation which is the leader of the rest of the world, that had to pay the price of that ticket, and the price of that ticket is we’re sitting in the most illiterate nation in the world. THE MOST ILLITERATE NATION IN THE WORLD. A monument to illiteracy. And if you doubt me, all you have to do is spend a day in Washington. I am serious as a heart attack.”

9.  “The American revolution, the terms are these: not that I drive you out or that you drive me out, but that we come together and embrace and learn to live together. That is the only way that we can have achieved the American revolution. “

10. “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.”

11.  “I have met only a very few people – and most of these were not Americans – who had any real desire to be free. Freedom is hard to bear. It can be objected that I am speaking of political freedom in spiritual terms, but the political institutions of any nation are always menaced and are ultimately controlled by the spiritual state of that nation. We are controlled here by our confusion, far more than we know, and the American dream has therefore become something much more closely resembling a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels.”

12.  “Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be”

13. “The American ideal is, after all, that everyone should be as much alike as possible.”

14.  “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”

15.  “I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it. And I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it. “

welcome to america

16.  “A big, sandy-haired man held his daughter on his shoulders, showing her the Statue of Liberty. I would never know what this statue meant to others, she had always been an ugly joke for me. And the American flag was flying from the top of the ship, above my head. I had seen the French flag drive the French into the most unspeakable frenzies, I had seen the flag which was nominally mine used to dignify the vilest purposes: now I would never, as long as I lived, know what other saw when they saw a flag.”

17.  “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

The Supremes Swing to the Right

We’re The Supremes!

The Supreme Court handed down their last decisions dealing crippling blows to the reproductive rights of women and labor unions. Liberals are taking some small comfort in a blistering 35-page dissent by Justice Ginsburg’s but the reasoning of the losing minority of a Supreme Court decision matters only for a day or so and then it belongs to the legal scholars and history books.

The Hobby Lobby case got all the ink and headlines because it’s a horrible slap at women and their reproductive rights, but the conservative majority stuck it to labor unions too. If these two traditionally Democratic voting blocs still want to sit on their hands (and wallets) after the gut punches Roberts and company handed them, they deserve whatever dark plans the Republicans have in store in for both of them should they retake the Senate and hold the House.

While today’s pair of horrible decisions might seem like distinct issues, in fact they are both part of a larger war on women and workers.

The absurdity of the Hobby Lobby decision (only contraceptives are exempted for religious beliefs because of sluts) is obviously part of the Republican war on women, but it is also very much a war on the poor. An IUD costs about a month’s worth of wages at the minimum wage. If an executive can’t get birth control because her employer gets too hot and bothered thinking of her having sexy time, she can afford it on her own. A Hobby Lobby floor worker? Probably not. For women workers at closely held corporations, this decision will be devastating.

The Harris case is specifically about home care workers in Illinois. Who are home care workers? Women. Poor women. Lots of African-Americans, lots of Latinos, lots of undocumented workers. Home care workers are a major emphasis for SEIU right now; a close friend of mine has spent over a decade on a campaign to organize them in one city alone. Harris threatens all of this. But moreover, it shows how little Alito and the boys care about rights for women wherever they are. It’s hardly coincidental that this case comes down the same day as the contraception mandate. The Court evidently believes that the home is not a workplace, but of course it is a workplace, especially if someone is getting paid to do work. That it is women working in the home, as it has always been, just makes it easier for conservatives to devalue that work.

Of course, it’s about more than just working women and it opens the door for Alito and Roberts’ continued desire to mandate the New Gilded Age, so no doubt we will see new challenges to public sector unionism that will probably reach the Court in 2016 or maybe 2017 at the latest. I am not a legal expert, but my guess as to why Abood wasn’t overturned entirely is that there wasn’t 5 votes for it yet.

Regardless, both of today’s decisions are very much about keeping working women without power both on the job and at home.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court justice.

“What? Me Retire?” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also, when we hear in 2016 that both parties are the same because of [insert pet issue here] and therefore vote for vanity third party candidate, let us remember this day and these decisions. If you think Strip Search Sammy Alito and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are the same, you might want to rethink your positions.

Indeed.

What matters most and in fact the only thing that matters to those disappointed, dismayed and disgusted with how the Court came down in these cases is Justice William Brennan‘s Rule of Five where Brennan would hold up five fingers to his clerks and say, ”Five votes can do anything around here.”

Brennan was a prophet and the Roberts Court is the proof of it.

From 1801 to 1940, less than 2 percent of the Supreme Court’s total rulings were resolved by 5-to-4 decisions. Since then, more than 16 percent of the Court’s rulings have been decided by “minimum-winning coalitions.” In the two most recent Courts, more than a fifth of all rulings were decided by 5-to-4 votes.

Scholars consider these narrow decisions the most political. Research indicates that 5-to-4 rulings are the most likely to be overturned by later Courts. They carry the same legal authority as more unanimous opinions — but not the same moral authority. In this vein, the one branch of government designed to be above partisanship echoes the rise in hyperpartisanship seen throughout Washington.

The Roberts Court has decided more cases by a 5-to-4 ruling (about 21.5 percent) than any Court before it, though only by a narrow margin. The previous Court, led by William Rehnquist, decided 20.5 percent of its cases by this minimum coalition. That rate, however, represents roughly twice the share of 5-to-4 rulings in the Stone Court, during World War II. And the Stone Court had more than three times the rate of 5-to-4 decisions of any Court prior.

Roberts noticed the trend early in his term. “I do think the rule of law is threatened by a steady term after term after term focus on 5-4 decisions,” Roberts told The New Republic’s Jeffrey Rosen in 2006. “I think the Court is ripe for a similar refocus on functioning as an institution, because if it doesn’t, it’s going to lose its credibility and legitimacy as an institution.”

Justice Ginsburg is 81. Stephen Breyer is 75. With the Court’s term over, the speculation will begin again will either one retire while President Obama and a Democratic majority are still in power? It’s doubtful for multiple reasons.

Neither Ginsburg or Breyer’s departure tips the Court’s ideological balance. But what if Antonin Scalia (78) or Clarence Thomas (66) were to get a sudden itch to go fishing’ or spend more time with their families? Or just leave the Supreme Court to try out for The View?

Okay. It’s not gonna happen. Scalia and Thomas will announce they’re secret lovers before ever they allow Obama to appoint their replacements.

But even if one of the Justices were to suffer an untimely demise, there’s no way a Republican-controlled Senate would allow Obama to tip the axis of power of the Court to the liberal minority.

This is the current membership of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Do you think there is anyone Obama could nominate Al Franken and Ted Cruz would both vote for?

As far as Brennan’s Rule of Five goes this is a battle the Left lost years ago and it may take many years before they begin to win any.

But the last people I want to hear from are the smug elitists and professional cynics who say “there’s no difference between the Democrats and Republicans.” Yeah, sure. Look at how the justices selected by Democratic and Republican presidents voted and tell me that one again.

Don’t tell me you’re appalled (or even surprised) by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority deciding corporations have more rights than women. Tell me what you’re going to DO about it. The first thing is to vote and keep the Senate in Democratic control. That is, unless you want Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling President Obama whom he will allow to sit on the Supreme Court when a vacancy opens up.

"Me?  And justice?  Now THAT'S funny!'

“Me? And justice? Now THAT’S funny!’

Poet, Preacher, Soul Man. Bobby Womack: 1944-2014

Hard times have befallen another Soul Survivor.

Go down the list. Among the luminaries no longer with us Whitney’s gone. Luther’s gone. Isaac’s gone. Teddy’s gone. Michael is gone. You really need last names?

Bobby Womack is one of the greatest R n’ B vocalists most folks don’t know about. He never had a big crossover hit. Never showed up on American Idol. Never was celebrated by the critics and taste makers the way others are.

But Bobby could SANG. Not “sing.” The real OG’s know the difference.  Womack didn’t make a lot of great albums, but oh, did he make some truly great singles.

I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much

Harry Hippie

A Woman’s Gotta Have It

If You Think You’re Lonely Now

Across 110th Street

Bobby Womack 1944 – 2014

I liked Bobby Womack’s music but I like his attitude nearly as much.  When they get to be that old they don’t care what they say about anyone.  In a 2012 interview Womack gave to The Guardian as his last album was released, The Bravest Man In the Universe, he held back nothing.

Womack was a session music on “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis.  He wasn’t a fan: “People say: ‘What did you think of Elvis Presley?’ I say: ‘He wasn’t shit. Everything he got he stole.’”

Womack co-wrote “It’s All Over Now” with The Rolling Stones and made it a hit but Womack wasn’t all that impressed.  “To be honest with you, I said: ‘Let the Rolling Stones get their own fuckin’ record and record that.’”

Many years later, Womack would show up on the Stones Dirty Work album and found he liked Keith Richards and Ron Wood just fine, but about about Mick Jagger he said:  “Some people never grow up if you give ‘em too much. They gonna be assholes, then they just become a bigger asshole.”

Warming Up The Hague Jazz 2011 - Bobby Womack

Warming Up The Hague Jazz 2011 – Bobby Womack (Photo credit: Haags Uitburo)

Janis Joplin was a friend and Womack was one of the last persons to see her before she died.  Same thing with Marvin Gaye.  “The last time I saw him, the day before he died, he said: ‘Bobby, what’s a nigger got to do to get on the cover of Rolling Stone?’ It was all white acts. I said: ‘Die.’” It’s bullshit, it’s really bullshit. One of the greatest singers in the world. Marvin never knew he was gonna be as big as he is. Now you hear him on commercials every day.”

If character is built through tragedy and hardship, Womack really was The Bravest Man in the World.  One son suffocated when he was four months old.  Another committed suicide.  A third is in prison for second degree murder.  Womack’s brother Harry, the title character of his hit, “Harry Hippie” was murdered by a girlfriend  Womack dealt with the violent death of his friend Sam Cooke, divorces, a 30-year cocaine habit, lousy records, prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Womack didn’t have to sing about hard times.  He lived it.

“Bad as I been, I can sing my ass off, better than I could before. Maybe it’s been preserved or something. If I can take control of my life from drugs, divorces, anything, I stand tall.  I’m speaking for all those singers who gave up. Marvin, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett: I can keep naming them until you say OK, I got enough. They need more respect than can ever be given to them. And I’m gonna set the record straight.”

For those of you who don’t get what the big deal about Womack is, I cordially invite you to go listen to some ersatz Robin Thicke “soul” shit as he begs his estranged wife to take his dog ass back or some other plastic poseur.

Another of the real deal, great, original Soul Men has crossed over to that Great Gig in the Sky. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Mr. Womack.

Mississippi, Hot Damn!

Bad guy versus Worse Guy

There is a runoff election tonight in Mississippi in the race between incumbent Republican Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel, who is backed by the Tea Party and other right-wing activists.  Cochran has the support of the GOP establishment who prefer his bland predictability and being a good soldier to McDaniel’s radicalism which would make him a potential wild card and threat to Mitch McConnell’s plans if the Republicans take control of the Senate.

Nobody paid much attention to the race until McDaniel forced Cochran into a run-off in the primary.   Cochran is expected to go down in flames to the hard-charging McDaniel.   In an act of desperation, Cochran is pleading for Mississippi Democrats, especially Blacks to save his seat.  Republican are sending poll watchers to “observe” Democratic voters.

The only reason the Republicans are sending “poll watchers” is not to protect the integrity of the vote but to intimidate Black voters. On the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer where Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner lost their lives buried in the Mississippi mud, this is a repulsive act of Good Ol’ Fashioned Southern Racism.

Mississippi Goddam, anyone?

As regards Sen. Thad Cochran, if he isn’t isn’t cut from the same dirty cloth as James Eastland, John Stennis, Theodore Bilbo, Trent Lott and the other undistinguished gang of losers, idiots and bigots Mississippi keeps sending to the upper chamber in Washington, he’s only a more genteel and low profile version.

Thad Cochran, member of the United States Sena...

Thad Cochran, member of the United States Senate from Mississippi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

He’s been there a long time (36 years), is a committed supporter of pork barrel politics and has accumulated a horrid record on social issues.

Cochran is received an 11% rating from the NAACP, indicating an anti-affirmative-action stance, but that’s positively sparkling compared to his 0% rating by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record and 0% by the Human Rights Campaign, indicating an anti-gay-rights stance.

Not that the challenger (and almost certainly the next U.S. Senator from Mississippi) is any sort of prize. In fact, McDaniel is even less appealing than Cochran.

McDaniel, who surprisingly led Cochran by 1,400 votes in the June 3 primary, has been able to mask how far right he really is. Investigative magazine Mother Jones in 2013 reported that McDaniel was featured speaker for a neo-confederate, pro-secessionist conference in Jones County where many attendees wore Confederate uniforms.

Last Saturday, The New York Times, which has sent two reporters to cover the runoff, interviewed Carl Ford, a 77-year-old lawyer in McDaniel’s hometown of Ellisville. A staunch McDaniel backer, Ford admitted being active in the county’s Sons of Confederate Veterans.

What The Times didn’t know is that Ford had been a Klan lawyer who in 1998 served as a defense attorney for the late Sam Bowers of Laurel. Bowers was Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan during the civil rights era. The White Knights was a Mississippi-born group which the FBI charged with plotting several brutal murders.

Bowers was three times prosecuted as the mastermind for violent racial crimes. A state jury in 1967 deadlocked by one vote on convicting Bowers for the firebomb slaying of respected Hattiesburg grocer Vernon Dahmer, an NAACP voting rights leader. Retried in 1998, with Ford on the defense team, Bowers was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the Dahmer murder. Bowers died in prison in 2006.

I have no doubt a Tea Party prick like McDaniel will do his best to get that NAACP rating down to zero and make the dead and damned souls Stennis, Eastland and Bilbo smile on whatever rock in hell they’re squatting on.

If there were a way for both Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel to lose, the U.S. Senate would be better for it. It’s equal parts laughable and contemptible that Cochran is looking to Black Democrats to save his worthless old ass.

This is some real “the devil you know” shit.

If I were a voter in Mississippi tonight, I’d hold my nose, pull the lever for Cochran and tell any “poll watcher” to bacdafucup off me.

No matter who wins nothing good is coming the way for Black Mississippians from either of these two good old boys.

"Do I whistle 'Dixie?'  Why yes, I do.  Why? (photo: Angry Black Lady Chronicles)

“Do I whistle ‘Dixie?’ Why yes, I do. Why? (photo: Angry Black Lady Chronicles)