Michael Vick: Out of jail and back on the field?

Out of jail, but back in the NFL?

Out of jail, but back in the NFL?

Michael Vick is out of jail and back in the NFL…maybe.

For those hardcore Vick haters he will never be sorry enough or punished harshly enough to their liking.   Killing pit bulls is a heinous act of cruelty, but it doesn’t rise to the level of murdering a human being, no matter what the ASPCA or PETA says.

In this country once you’ve served the time for your crime you’re allowed to come back out and pursue a livlihood.    Yes, even those who have killed humans.  Defensive end Leonard Little got drunk, took the life of a woman in an automobile accident and he’s currently drawing a paycheck from the St. Louis Rams.  There are gang-bangers, drug users and abusers, alcoholics, wife-beaters and all other kinds of riff-raff  playing in stadiums across the NFL any given Sunday of the season.   Where are the protests against them?   Why isn’t anybody upset about those guys?

Since Commissioner Goodell reinstated Vick,  general managers around the league are tripping over their feet to rush to the microphone and declare they have “no interest” in signing the quarterback.   But saying “no interest” isn’t saying you never will have any interest.   Football has a way of chewing up its own and sooner, not later,  a team will see a starting QB or his backup go down to a season-ending injury.   That’s when “no interest” can turn into “Get me Michael Vick, quick!”

The NFL is a conservative institution and right now you can see teams testing the waters.  Before they go out and sign Vick they want to get a sense of how the public is responding to Vick be allowed to play again.   If there’s a furious backlash to a QB starved franchise like my San Francisco 49ers signing Vick  team officials will (excuse the expression) run like scalded dogs from the mere suggestion.

Some people think these are Vicks peers.

Some people think these are Vick's "peers."

If Vick is truly repentant for his crimes and he has learned from everything he lost, then like anybody else who pays their debt to society he should be allowed to resume his career (if he can).

There have been plenty of sportswriters smashing their computer keyboards in fist-pounding indignation that a dog killer like Vick should ever be allowed to sully a NFL locker room again.  A lot of them are the same guys who though Vick was a punk before all the trouble started and couldn’t have been happier when his life turned into crap.

A better judge of Vick’s character is a man such as the recently retired head coach of the Indianapolis Colts,  Tony Dungy.  Dungy met with Vick while he was in prison and wrote on his blog this week:

“I think Michael deserves the chance to show people he has changed and learned from past mistakes, but my true hope is that he will make sound decisions about his future and, at the same time, let people know more about the person that I’ve come to know recently. I know the public will be skeptical, but I think, over time, people will find there’s a different side to him than what they’ve seen so far.”

Vick, like too many other young Black men had to go to jail before his reckless and foolish ways came to a sudden stop.  As he returns to the normal world outside prison, Vick is going to find it hard enough to pick up the pieces of what could have been a brilliant career in pro football.

Without being in an environment with structure, rules and discipline, Vick is at risk to backslide into bad habits and bad company.  A strong-willed coach such as Mike Singletary of the 49ers, who demands respect and professionalism from his players would be perfect for Vick.

Vick may not be among the Top 10 or Top 20 quarterbacks in the league.   But there are 32 statrting quarterbacks and another 32 guys warming the bench behind them.   It’s a no-brainer that he’s still among the best 64 guys at his position.

He has enough obstacles to clear that he put in his own way.  He doesn’t need people whom are unwilling to forgive his past blocking him from pursing his future.

Playing for Mike Singletary might be the best thing for Vick.

Playing for Mike Singletary might be the best thing for Vick.

“Supernatural” at ten years and Santana’s downward spiral.

A lean, mean, Latin-rock machine at Woodstock.

Young, gifted and proudly Latin.

Never mind a dream deferred.  What happens when a dream is realized?

I count myself as a hardcore fan of Santana, but while I am a fan of the man and the band, I am not a fan of Supernatural.   In many ways it’s success marks the end of  Santana as a cutting-edge artist.

 Carlos Santana’s Supernatural  marks it’s 10th anniversary in 2009  and proved success can be great for an artist’s bottom line, but can come at the cost of them spending a lot of time making increasingly tame and safe music vainly trying to catch lightning in a bottle again.   Michael Jackson faced the same problem after Thriller.  His following albums enjoyed varying degrees of success, but how many times can you make the best-selling record of all time?  Once should be enough, but it wasn’t for Jackson. 

Singing winds, crying beasts and that ass-kickin guitar.

Singing winds, crying beasts and that ass-kickin' guitar.

The same thing applies to Santana.  Supernatural was a happy pairing of shrewd marketing, shiny production, and good, if not particularly great, guitar playing by Carlos.  Unfortunately, for this veteran Santana fan, it also heralded the end of an era as stopped taking risks and started playing it safe and following a formula.  Carlos praises Miles Davis,  Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, but these days duets with  the likes of Big Boi, Will i. Am and Chad Kroeger. 

I half expect somebody like Soulja Boy or Lady GaGa to show up on his next album and then I’ll try not to puke up a lung when Carlos says some trippy-dippy hippie crap like, “I feel Lady GaGa is a connected soul with the oneness of the universe.” 

15 million sold, nine Grammys and one mediocre album.

15 million sold, nine Grammys and one mediocre album.

Several years ago, during a trip to New York  I found in a record shop the three-lp Lotus album which was only available at the time as a Japanese import.   I clutched my prize, pulled out my $30 bucks and stood behind Bianca Jagger to make my purchase.  I’ve seen Santana close to a dozen times, bought every album and consider him rock’s most underrated guitarist.  Behind Jimi Hendrix and maybe Eddie Van Halen, but far ahead of Pete Townsend and Keith Richards.  

 I heard Carlos perform much of Supernatural  in concert before the album was released. “Smooth” was performed live by vocalist Tony Lindsay instead of Rob Thomas, but it still sounded great.  My wife and I were up out of our seats dancing at the time but had no clue “Smooth” would  go on to be the song of 1999. 

 Supernatural was and is a muddled assortment of songs that work and others that don’t work at all.    Some of the collaborations that were problematic then are complete failures now.   The worst offenders are  the wretched “Put Your Lights On” featuring the rapper/vocalsit Everlast who wasn’t remarkable at rapping or singing, “Wishing It Was” with Eagle-Eye Cherry (who?) and the aimless “Do You Like the Way” with a sleepy rap by Lauryn Hill and Cee-Lo pre-Gnarls Barkley vocals.   It doesn’t help.

“Love of My Life” is marred by the exquistely awful Dave Matthews and only partially redeemed by a sizzling Santana solo.  I have a feeling bigger things were expected from the song, but it was roundly ignored by radio and justifably so.   It sucks.  Hard.   

The stand out songs are “Smooth,” “Migra,” ” Corazon Espinado,”  “Primavera” and “The Calling” featuring Eric Clapton, mostly because Carlos doesn’t try so hard for something radio-friendly.   He just plays his ass off.   “Corazon Espinado” is a mash-up between the Santana band and Mana, the Mexican pop/rock band that kicks maximum ass.   Like so many Santana songs it’s sung entirely in Spanish without translation and Carlos shreds his guitar wringing out one firery lick after another.  

Supernatural is no masterpiece, but it still has  an energy missing from the Shaman and All I Am follow-ups albums.    Santana has never made a totally worthless album (though Illuminations with Alice Coltrane comes awfully close), but  even when he cranking out lazy, aimless albums such as Shango and Zebop!  featuring Alexander Ligertwood’s underwhelming vocals and some terrible songs, there was always at least a few redeeming moments provided courtesy of Carlos’ guitar and the drums/congas/timbales percussion section led by Armando Peraza and Raul Rekow.

The only thing messier than the cover is the music.

The only thing messier than the cover is the music.

Unfortunately, Carlos has become a sideman on his own albums deferring to the guest vocalist of the moment and shuffling his own band to the sidelines.    I listened to Shaman one afternoon with my brother while we were playing video games and we just looked at each other in unhappy dismay over how BAD it was.   It was easily one of the most terrible albums a major artist released following a hugely successful one.  Neither Shaman or All That I Am are part of Santana collection and I have nearly all of his main studio and live albums on CD.    

There were always guest musicians on previous Santana albums, but guests are what they were.   The change in philosophy now is the guest vocalists lead the way and Carlos just hangs back in the mix playing rhythm and an occasional lead just to remind everyone it’s his name on the cover.    As for the signature Latin percussion section of the Santana band,  it’s getting harder to find them buried way down in the mix lest they impolitely overwhelm the vocals.   

But a decade ago  it was “Smooth” that drove Supernatural to sell 15 million copies and nine Grammys including Album of the Year.  It’s simply a perfect piece of pop music enhanced by the signature Santana guitar.  Sung by Rob Thomas of  the band Matchbox 20, it was originally written for George Michael, but ended up in the hands of Santana instead.  Carlos liked it and had Thomas sing it.  The rest is history–literally.   “Smooth” spent 12 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. 

You couldn’t get away from it.  Unless you were deaf or on the moon, you heard “Smooth.”  Not only was it easily  Carlos’ biggest hit per Wikipedia, “Smooth” is by some standards the biggest hit ever on Billboard’s charts and in the magazine’s ranking of the top 100 songs of the first 50 years of the Top 100, it ranked second only to “The Twist.”

The last Weather Report album showcased Santanas guitar.

The last Weather Report album showcased Santana's guitar.

Bigger than the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Elvis Presley or Madonna is a little ol’ song by a band that last definitive moment came 30 years earlier at Woodstock.   Supernatural may end up to be the last “super album” to dominate the charts and rack up sales like that.  Music has become even more fragmented than it was in 1999 and the full-length album format seems to be one younger listeners are turning away from.

Why slog through the crap tracks even on Supernatural when all you want is the hits?   The ability to download only the songs you want and ignore the ones you don’t is killing the album format.  Since Carlos always made better albums than singles,  the transition from guitar god to pop music professional has not been a seamless transition. 

As long as Carlos Santana continues to make music the hope remains he will find a way to strike a balance between his artistic and commercial sides.  I’d love to see him go further into  jazz rock as he did on the final Weather Report album, This Is This where  for all intents and purposes his guitar  replaced Wayne Shorter’s saxophone. 

 If not,  I’ll always have Abraxas, Santana III, Welcome  or Amigos to remind me what a bad mutha Carlos used to be.

Learning to Live with Clarence Thomas.

It really bugs me that someone will tell me, after I spent 20 years being educated, how Im supposed to think.

"It really bugs me that someone will tell me, after I spent 20 years being educated, how I'm supposed to think. "

I used to edit a column written by an attorney who represented the newspaper I worked for.   Every so often we’d get together for lunch and he’d increase what I thought was an already considerable political education.    He was something of a local political insider whom both Democrats and Republicans came to for his council (and contributions).

One thing he listened calmly in response to one of my highly emotional rants about a progressive politician whom had been drubbed at the ballot box in large part to Black voters backing a more mainstream candidate.   He put down his fork and once I turned down the volume he interjected, “Jeff, you can’t be so hard on Black voters.   As voters we are still somewhat politically immature.”

Stopped me dead in my tracks.

Back in his small office at the law firm, he had a picture on his wall that caught my eye.   He was shaking hands and cheesing for the camera with Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas.

Stunned that any conscious, down for the cause, pro-Black brutha  would flaunt a photo glad-handing with the nation’s Number One lawn jockey, I asked him why he had a photo of Thomas in his office.

“Because Judge Thomas is a good man and a misunderstood Black man,”  he said.

I have never thought of Thomas as a good man and never cared if he was misunderstood.  I could give a shit if he is a good husband and father.   What I knew is for 18 years he’s been the Black man on the Supreme Court that’s most  hostile to Black people.  I understood  him perfectly.

Thomas was Uncle Clarence Thomas, the anti-Thurgood Marshall, the most anti-Black judge on the Supreme Court and George H.W. Bush’s worst joke on the nation and jurisprudence.    Whenever opponents of affirmative action claimed unqualified Blacks were being given opportunities based on their color and not their qualifications,  I gleefully pointed to Thomas as all the proof they would ever need.

There are few Black Americans who have benefited more and advanced further by way of affirmative action than Clarence Thomas. His entire career is a testament to a man of mediocre credentials and limited vision rising to a position of power based on his ability to ingratiate, flatter and insinuate himself into the patronage of affluent and well-connected White patrons.

The image that probably made Thomas vow revenge.

The image that probably made Thomas vow revenge.


His brief and undistinguished tenure as a judge, his tepid “qualified” to “not qualified” ranking by the American Bar Association and his 52-48 confirmation by the Senate is a testimony to the monument to mediocrity that is Clarence Thomas. The day that George H.W. Bush stood with Thomas and announced he had selected “the most qualified man I could find” was a bald-faced lie when the words passed from Bush’s lips and nothing has happened since then to validate his absurd claim.

Thomas is a affirmative action baby. Nowhere else would he have been elevated so far and so fast based on his minimal talents, skills and abilities. He is a product of political patronage and far from the best or the brightest to ascend to the nation’s highest court.

Thomas may be right that affirmative action sends people into places they cannot excel. He is the living proof of that assertion and every day he stays on the Supreme Court makes it only more obvious.

Affirmative action is a success and the emergence of a educated, employed and upwardly mobile Black middle class is evidence of it. There is no reason to junk the program because a few Clarence Thomases slip through the cracks and arise to positions of prominence they are not qualified for. Thomas is the exception, not exceptional.

When a career bureaucrat gets appointed to the federal judiciary in 1990 and then in 1991 gets promoted to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court. If that’s not a affirmative action hire, nothing is.

Thomas benefited from affirmative action and rose to his position through White patronage and being the appropriate Black face in the right place. That’s not a knock on him for taking advantage of his opportunities. That’s just honestly evaluating how Clarence got over.

What I dislike most about Thomas though is his judicial temperament which is out of the mainstream and far further to the extreme right than any other member of the court.   Witness his two rulings during the last term where he cast the lone dissenting vote against upholding a key portion of the Voting Rights Act (Thomas would like to get rid of it entirely) and once again stood alone in a 8-1 ruling by the Court that proclaimed a strip search of a 14-year-girl was an illegal search.  Thomas was unmoved by her plight.

Jeffrey Toobin has written a book about The Supreme Court entitled The Nine and on the NPR (dirty lefties!) program, “Fresh Air” he talked about Thomas with host Terry Gross:

Clarence Thomas is not just the most conservative member of the Rehnquist court or the Roberts court. He’s the most conservative justice to serve on the court since the 1930s. If you take what Thomas says seriously, if you read his opinions, particularly about issues like the scope of the federal government, he basically thinks that the entire work of the New Deal is unconstitutional. He really believes in a conception of the federal government that hasn’t been supported by the justices since Franklin Roosevelt made his appointments to the court. You know, I went to a speech that Justice Scalia gave at a synagogue here in New York a couple of years ago, and someone asked him, `What’s the difference between your judicial philosophy and Justice Thomas?’ I thought a very good question. And Scalia talked for a while and he said, `Look, I’m a conservative. I’m a texturalist. I’m an originalist. But I’m not a nut.’ And I thought that…

GROSS: Meaning that he thinks Thomas is one.

Mr. TOOBIN: Well, that was certainly the implication.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. TOOBIN: It was pretty amazing. I mean, Thomas is well outside the mainstream, even of the conservatives on the court.

Follow Thomas’ career on the High Court and you don’t have to be a legal scholar to figure out he’s following a philosophy that is radical, extremist and far beyond even what a bona fide conservative like Antonin Scalia feels comfortable with.

Any policy, no matter how well-intentioned, has a failure rate and I count Clarence Thomas as one of the more glaring failures of affirmative action. No one can tell me Thomas was “the most qualified” jurist Bush41 could find to replace Thurgood Marshall. Thomas wasn’t even the most qualified Black judge for the job.

However, merely because a few unqualified minorities or women rise to a position of prominence by virtue of programs set up to remedy past and present discrimination that does not mean the entire program should be junked.   There are not hordes of  unqualified minorities and women lowering the standards and quality of the military, colleges, and corporate boardrooms.

There have always been unqualified, unprofessional and incompetent White men flying planes upside down and making fatally poor military decisions, shooting up post offices, numbing bright minds in college classrooms and running corporations into bankruptcy. How do these idiots get into positions well beyond their abilities? Well, there’s affirmative action for White guys too. It’s just called the “good ol’ boy network” or something equally less formal.

Hey Clarence, wake up! Youve got four years to ignore Obama.

Hey Clarence, wake up! You've got four years to ignore Obama.

People with power and privilege don’t willingly give up either and in fact, fight like hell to keep it. For those whom possess White skin and male privilege, they would prefer to pass those advantages along to their children instead of non-Whites and non-males.

Does diversity and inclusion mean some less than stellar people will rise higher than others? Probably so.  Thomas is the embodiment of a mediocre talent being elevated higher than his own skills and abilities would have ever taken him by themselves. Thomas had the right complexion and the right connections and the right politics at a particularly opportunistic time in history for such a terribly undistinguished man.

But get rid of affirmative action and you don’t get more equality. All  get is power and privilege holding on to both.

Sticking it to Thomas has been easy, if not necessarily fun.    So much of his judicial temperment seems to consist of not missing any opportunity to sticking it to Black people with his disdain for civil rights and First Amendment freedoms.

Thomas is a straight-up thug for life when it comes to dishing payback to liberals, the civil rights establishment and the media.

Thomas was confirmed in 1991 to sit on the Court by a vote in the Senate of 52 to 48.  The narrowest margin ever and you can bet Thomas never forgot the insult.    Only 18 of the 43 remain in the Senate and Thomas is determined to outlast every one of them.

Thomas never set out to be a heroic inspiration in the mode of a Thurgood Marshall. Those were shoes he never wanted to try to fill. But over the course of time and history, Thomas has become the hero he never intended to be. He is the hero of White conservatives. They like how he speaks and love how he judges. They see him as an inspiration and a man to be admired.

Well, he is. Just not by the audience he was originally targeted for.

An awkward moment if ever there was one.

An awkward moment if ever there was one.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  Menace to society?

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Menace to society?

To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.  ~ James Baldwin

When one of America’s most respected academics is subject to arrest for the crime of breaking into his own home, you’re served notice that to be a Negro in this country is also to be under suspicion at all times.

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation’s pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling.

Police arrived at Gates’ Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had locked himself out of his house and was trying to get inside.

He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to the Cambridge police log.

Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver’s license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody for several hours last Thursday, they said.

Gates, 58, did not return calls for comment today. link

Racial profiling, much?

The cops were called out because of “two Black males with backpacks” were supposedly breaking into a house. The cop questions and arrests a 58-year-old, grey-haired Black man who walks with a cane. Then even after Gates identifies himself the cop still takes him in. For what? Talking shit to a officer in his own home?

The arrest report by the officer is every bit as self-serving as the over-the-top tirade Gates went off on. The cop makes it sound like Gates just went off his rocker ranting about how he was being treated because he’s Black.

Isn’t it just a tad bit ironic that Gates just got back from China, a repressive police state where its citizens have no right to due process and can be arrested without cause for any reason because the authorities say so just to come back to America and get locked up for breaking into his own house?

It strikes me as the height of insanity if we’ve gotten to the point where you can get busted by the cops for “residing while Black.”

"Make me wanna holla way they do my life..."

"Make me wanna holla way they do my life..."

At what point did this incident stop being about a police officer investigating a possible break-in and start becoming a mano-a-mano difference of opinion between a pushy cop and a equally pushy resident?

Once it was determined by the cop Gates had the right to be in the house that should have been where it ended. Apparently, somebody didn’t like what somebody else said and since the cop had the authority, the gun and the handcuffs, it was Gates who got the ride downtown.

I’m not at all surprised the cops would just like the whole thing to go away as a “unfortunate set of circumstances.” So would Mark Sanford. I would strongly suspect certain people have been placed phone calls to certain people letting them know in no uncertain terms, “You don’t want to do this.”

So, no harm, no foul, huh? Except for all those photos of Professor Gates’ arrest photo floating around in cyberspace for all eternity. Well, what’s a little public humiliation for someone once named among “the 25 Most Influential Americans” anyway?

It does serve as yet another reminder that in confrontations between the police and Black males—even highly educated ones that have earned worldwide respect and acclaim—the benefit of the doubt goes to the police and not the Black male.

It also reminds me Malcolm X once asked, “What do you call a Black man with a Ph.d.?”

Malcolm’s reply was a racial epithet that rhymes with “trigger.” But here in our great big, glorious and shiny new post-racial America we’ve evolved  beyond all that.

The answer to the question is “Guilty.  Until proven innocent.”

I gave up trying to make Whites understand how the public servants they see as being out there to serve and protect too often harass and abuse Blacks.   Whites can believe whatever they want.   They’ll say Gates should have shut up and not lipped off to the cop.  They’ll say Gates played the race card.

They’ll say, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what honors you hold or what you’ve done.   When it comes down to your word against a White cop,  his word matters.  Yours doesn’t.”

Message heard loud and clear on this end.

It does serve as yet another reminder that in confrontations between the police and Black males—even highly educated ones that have earned worldwide respect and acclaim—the benefit of the doubt goes to the police and not the Black male.

The complexion of the resident in the White House has changed, but in other ways the ways Whites and Blacks perceive race in America hasn’t changed at all.   Maybe we’ve all grown a bit more complacent and smug, but not much else seems all that different.

We are all presumed guilty until we are proven innocent.


Barack Obama is not your Santa Claus.


"It's not so bad, Mr. President."

As Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols once sneered, “Ever feel like you been cheated?”

Apparently some of y’all do.   And you’re not shy about letting everyone know it.


Bad news Mr. President.   The honeymoon is over and the morning after some folks woke up to find they didn’t like what they brought home.

This is going to be hard as for some people to accept, but you can’t change everything wrong that happened over the past eight years in just seven months.  A change is still going to come but if you were expecting spontaneous results it’s not going to work out that way.     This is the Domino’s Pizza theory of  politics:  we want it within 30 minutes or Barack Obama is a failure.

A Gallup poll says the president’s popularity has dipped below 60 percent.  Moderate Democrats are trying to slow down the pace of healthcare reform.  Republicans are seeing a surge in campaign contributions and are hopeful that will translate into gains in next year gubernatorical and Congressional races.    A lot of people aren’t  happy with the president’s deficit spending.

Oh, and Sarah Palin is on her way down to the lower 48 as the lone superstar of the GOP and thinking that’s going to be enough for her to knock off Obama in 2012. 

If it’s this bad for Obama now, it’s going to be nothing short of an apocalypse for him by 2011.  

Or maybe not.   Could we wind the clock back to the summer of 2001 when George W. Bush was seven months deep into his presidency and September 11 was still to come.   Just how disgruntled were his supporters that he hadn’t rolled back every last facet of the Clinton Administration? 

For now, we can sit back and suffer as gays gripe, minorities mope,  pro-choicers pout and every other special interest group complains about Obama not delivering the change they voted for.   At least we know the Republicans are going to continue to be against everything.  They’re nothing if not consistent. 

If anyone was foolish enough to believe any politician, even one as charismatic and smart as Obama,  was going to walk into the White House and turn every day into Christmas they deserve their present disappointment.    Barack Obama is not your Santa Claus.

This week’s go-to gripe for the professional pissers and moaners is President Obama’s speech to the NAACP.   Seems some folks didn’t dig Obama telling them to pull the plug on the kids’ Xbox and make ’em read a book.   Probably Dreams From My Father or something like that. 

With a Black man in the White House, the need for the NAACP doesn’t seem as immediate as it once was.  So when President Obama gave a fire-and-brimstone speech to the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, he seemed to be challenging the NAACP to get its act together as much as the rest of Black America.

Tough love or the cold truth from the president?

Tough love or the cold truth from the president?

Government programs alone won’t get our children to the Promised Land. We need a new mind set, a new set of attitudes—because one of the most durable and destructive legacies of discrimination is the way we’ve internalized a sense of limitation; how so many in our community have come to expect so little from the world and from themselves.

We’ve got to say to our children, yes, if you’re African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not have to face. But that’s not a reason to get bad grades, that’s not a reason to cut class, that’s not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands—you cannot forget that. That’s what we have to teach all of our children. No excuses. No excuses.

You get that education, all those hardships will just make you stronger, better able to compete. Yes we can.

To parents, we can’t tell our kids to do well in school and then fail to support them when they get home. You can’t just contract out parenting. For our kids to excel, we have to accept our responsibility to help them learn. That means putting away the Xbox —putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences and reading to our children and helping them with their homework.

Seems some folks weren’t feelin’ what Obama laid on them.

Within  in the soul of  Black folks there’s a tug of war between “what can you do for us?.” and “what can you do for yourself?”   Barack Obama’s election did not signal the death of American racism.   Instead, it heralds a revaluation of where we are now and how much further we need to go.  

I’ve read some commentators wonder where Obama gets off telling other Black folks to stop feeling sorry for themselves.  No excuses?   There’s plenty of excuses for not trying.   There just aren’t any good ones. 

Your destiny is in your own hands and only you can make it.   I didn’t crib those words from the president.  I had shared them with my own son two days before Obama’s Come-to-Jesus moment with the NAACP.   I get it that it’s still not a easy thing to be young, gifted and Black in America.  In fact, it can be a real bitch.  

It’s still not a reason not to try and make your life better.   It’s still not a reason to put on a belt, pull up your pants and go get a job.   Sitting around waiting for someone to bring you something to eat only works for babies.  Once you’re big enough to sit at the table it becomes your responsiblity to put something on the table to eat. 

These are not original thoughts by Obama or me.   Bill Cosby has been running this rap for years now (and catching a lot of flak).   The same folks who wished Cosby would go sit down somewhere with a pudding pop are finding it a bit harder to tell the president to shut up. 

Neither the NAACP nor anyone else should see Obama’s election as an excuse to ease up and relax.  As Julian Bond observed even the President of the United States can’t get his kids into The Valley Club’s swimming pool. The problems facing the nation are beyond one man’s ability to fix in four years or eight and that includes getting racism out of the body politic.

Like most African-Americans, I’m respectful of what the NAACP has done in the past without actually wanting to join in with what they’re doing now.    Every so often  I’ll read about a lawsuit the civil rights organization is filing against some corporation engaged in discriminatory behavior and how they’re fighting with George Bush, but Bush is gone now and I haven’t paid much attention to anything else the NAACP might be up to.

The Cos sees a lot of himself in The Prez.

Brothers workin' it out and ticking off the Black elite.

These civil rights organizations have a problem.  It’s not enough to be respected.  They need new blood and younger blood in order to grow and thrive.   The NAACP, Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Council are all old in both membership and thought.   They don’t reach the grassroots, catering instead to the middle and upper classes of the race.   The NAACP seems stuck in a time warp refighting  battles already won with tactics better suited for 1959 instead of 2009.

The Black intelligentsia may have their nose out of joint over Obama talking smack about personal responsibility, but they can’t deny he’s right when he says we need a lot more brothers aspiring to be the next Thurgood on the Supreme Court and a lot less trying to be the next LeBron on the basketball court.

If we really want to make sure Obama succeeds, African-Americans can take the initiative in improving our own lives instead of waiting for him to do it for us. 

Then by the time Obama does get around to bringing the change we need, we’ll already have a head start on fixing the problems of our communities ourselves.

That’s the Way He Was.

Simply the Best.

Simply the Best.

My memories of Walter Cronkite are pretty much the same as most folks;  I got the news from The Most Trusted Man in America.   That’s not a title you get being good at what you do.  You have to be the best and nobody did broadcast news better than CBS when Walter Cronkite was its face and more importantly, its voice.

 Every night at 6:30 pm, while the kids were eating in the kitchen, our mom and dad were in the living room dining on trays and watching The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.    Sure we trusted Cronkite, but more importantly we believed him. 

Was I inspired by Cronkite?  Certainly I was.  To not be would be like trying to play jazz and not be inspired by Duke Ellington.

No one person inspired me to become a journalist.   A lot of persons did from professional journalists to college professors.  But Cronkite came into our homes five nights a week and told us what the news was.  Later we would learn there’s a difference between what the news really is and what we’re told it is, but Cronkite never lost the trust he earned and never betrayed it.

There’s only a handful of people I can say I’d be intimidated to meet.  Walter Cronkite makes the list.   I can’t say whether he was the best journalist, but he was the most admired and the one that set the gold standard for others to follow.

For those too young to remember Cronkite, let it suffice to say if you’re getting your news from the likes of Lou Dobbs, Jon Stewart or God help you, Faux News, you’re never going to know what it is you missed out on.

It doesn’t matter if you worked in television, radio, newspapers, or any other medium where solid, straight-forward journalism was practiced and preached.  If Walter Cronkite isn’t one of the guys in the business you respected, you’re in the wrong business.

A man dies.  A legend lives forever.

That’s the way it is and that’s the wayWalter Leland Cronkite was.

Clowntime is Over.

More boring than brilliant, but boring is safer.

More boring than brilliant, but boring is safer.

The Senate Judicary Committee confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court are for all purposes over and with the preliminaries over, we can move to vote of the committee and then the full Senate.   With Democrats holding a comfortable margin over the Republicans, it’s not a matter of “if” Sotomayor will be confirmed, but  how many Republican votes will she get.

I’m feeling optimistic.  I’ll give her ten votes from the right side of the aisle.

Journalists who cover the legal scene denounced the hearings as “boring” and complained that Sotomayor was so prepped and scripted by the White House that she revealed almost nothing about herself.   Dahlia Lithwick at SLATE sighed, “What we haven’t learned is anything more about her views on guns, gay marriage, abortion, military tribunals, or eminent domain. We may actually know less about her views on these matters today than we did going into these hearings.”

I have an immense amount of admiration for Lithwick as a journalist and a far better interpreter of these type of proceedings than I ever could be.  For legal reporters, a Supreme Court confirmation hearing is like a sportswriter covering The Super Bowl.  But both events are highly scripted and not terribly newsworthy.  Both the politicians and the coaches stick to their scripts and rehearsed lines.  The only thing spontaneous about the Sotomayor hearings were  the abortion protesters yelling out from the cheap seats.

What we learned was a lot we already knew.   Judge Sotomayor’s 17-years of experience is well within the mainstream of American jurisprudence and there’s nothing there to suggest she permits her ethnicity to influence her for or against a plantiff based upon their race.   She’s smart, possesses a good memory and knows how to dance backwards and away from every rhetorical trap the frustrated Republican minority laid for her.

I watched the opening remarks made by the panel on the first day and after than I was done.   This was a study in math and forgone conclusions.   The math is 60 votes for the Democrats and 40 for the Republicans.  The forgone conclusion was no matter how much trash Boss Limbaugh talked, the Republicans weren’t going to go into the 2010 elections pissing off the Hispanic vote by vainly trying to derail Sotomayor’s nomination.

Sitting to Chairman Patrick Leahy’s right was one Jefferson Beauregard Sessions whom once was sitting where Sotomayor sat for four days. When Sessions was being considered for a seat on the federal judiciary, he was asked about disparaging remarks he had made about the NAACP and ACLU and why he had called a Black attorney “boy” and warned him “be careful how you speak to White folks.”

Lindsay Graham was outsmarted by the "wise Latina.'

Lindsay Graham was outsmarted by the "wise Latina.'

Look at where Sessions is now.  A  failed  nominee as a federal judge, he now sits on the same committee that rejected his own nomination and passes judgment on others for their ill-chosen remarks.

Apparently, you can eventually be forgiven for your intemperate and poorly-chosen words and particularly so if you’re part of the “good ol’ boy” network of the U.S. Senate.

Hypocrisy is the greatest luxury.

Senator Lindsay Graham is probably the most likely Republican to vote for Sotomayor but he was also the most annoyingly condescending, patronizing and sexist when he asked her if she had a “temperament” problem and “anger management” issues.  This from a guy who was John “Cranky” McCain’s butt boy last year?

If Graham thinks Judge Sotomayor needs “anger management” what’s his good buddy McCain need? A straitjacket and a syringe full of Zoloft?

Not too patronizing, condescending and sexist Senator Graham.

Oh wait. Yes, you absolutely were.

I don’t think  Graham needs to be bitch-slapped.  I do however have a metal baseball bat I’d like to introduce to his kneecaps.

Anyone wondering why Congress can’t find their way out of a open closet needed to watch the questions being thrown at Sotomayor by both the Dems and Repubs.

They were multiple variations of  the same five or six questions she couldn’t answer because they may come before her on the Court or questions she wouldn’t answer because it would just put her ass on the hot seat.

The Dems lobbed lazy softballs and the Repubs tried to throw heat but most of it  was regurgitated versions of the “wise Latina” remark.   It seemed it was only a matter of time before Senators Cornyn  or Kyl pointed a finger at Sotomayor and barked, “Why do you hate White men?”    Do a bunch of 50-something year old White guys part of a party that seems clueless how to talk or relate to minority groups  really want to talk about race and bias?

Sotomayor’s job wasn’t to provide sounbites for Faux News or must-see television.   She was happy to drone on in a monotone and to remain poised,  charming and utterly unperturbed by the seven sorry senators tasked with the unhappy job of trying to make the 55-year-old jurist come off as some raving liberal, White man-hating Latina.

All she had to do was whether the questions posed by the Seven Dwarfs for 210 minutes and not say anything stupid.  Fortunately, the Republicans went out of their way to fill the void.

How many of these senators slip out of their suits and ties and back into their clown costumes when the cameras are off?

"That all you got?"

"That all you got?"

Dr. King Was A Republican! We just can’t prove it.

You can buy a sign saying he was, but you can’t prove it.


Seems there’s some preacher in Houston claiming Dr. Martin Luther King was a Republican.  He even put up a billboard to tell the world of this revelation.

Shouldn’t a preacher know better than to tell big fibs?

This isn’t the first time  it’s been suggested King had mad love for the party of Abe Lincoln, Richard Nixon and Jesse Helms.    Frances Rice of the National Black Republican Association was writing about it two years ago in Human Events and said,  “It should come as no surprise that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican. In that era, almost all black Americans were Republicans. Why? From its founding in 1854 as the anti-slavery party until today, the Republican Party has championed freedom and civil rights for blacks. And as one pundit so succinctly stated, the Democrat Party is as it always has been, the party of the four S’s: slavery, secession, segregation and now socialism.”

There’s no proof mind you that Dr. King was a Republican or expressed any political affiliation with the Republican or Democratic Party.   Taylor Branch  has written a three-volume trilogy chronciling King and the Civil Rights era,  Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire and At Canaan’s Edge and after 2,912 pages of research if he couldn’t find the evidence there’s a strong likelihood it isn’t there to be found.

Steve Klein, a senior researcher at The King Center dismissed the “King-was-a-Republican” rumor when the GOP ran radio campaign ads in 2006 targeted at Black listeners.

“I think it’s highly inaccurate to say he was a Republican because there’s really no evidence,”  Klein said.

“Me, a Republican? Do I SOUND like a Republican?”

Wouldn’t Black Republicans would have better luck trying to find a few live Black folks who would rather be part of a party that caters to Sarah Palin and  old Southern White guys instead of trying to co-opt a dead Black icon?   Frederick Douglass had mad love for the Republicans back in the day.   Why don’t they brag about him or Booker T. Washington?   Hell, if you want a righteous Black Republican what’s wrong with Condoleeza Rice?

Wait—don’t answer that question.

The nice thing about claiming Dr. King was a Republican is with his kids too young at the time to know and Dr. King and Coretta too dead to confirm or deny it, some asshole can make up anything they want and it will have some plausibility.

An unsubstantiated claim on a billboard don’t mean dick.

Whatever his party affiliation was (and nobody has offered any evidence King was a Republican or a Democrat) there’s no doubt he was a liberal.

It’s easy to understand why Republicans would want to claim MLK as a soul brother on the Right, but his philosophy, his activism, his words, his deeds, his life makes King a very weird sort of Republican.

Saying it doesn’t make it so.  Proving it does and there is no proof King ever was a Republican.