The Lowdown on the Down Low

The sort of brotherly love that sisters fear?

(In 2004-05, there was a rash of scuzzy stories, some bad books and a lot of hype about a new phenomenon in the Black community.  Straight Black men were supposedly creeping around on their wives and girlfriends and having sex with (wait for it) gay men!   A former Columbus, Ohio resident named J.L. King put out a ghost written book about it, suckered Oprah into doing a show about the down low and prompted an annoyed activist to write a book of his own debunking King’s tall tales.  In 2005, I wrote this article about it).

You can be forgiven if the term “on the down low” doesn’t mean anything to you.   If you’re a conscious African-American woman though it may be a reason for you to suddenly give the fish eye to your man.

The term “down low” or “DL” has various meanings but The Black AIDS Institute defines it as “Black men who consider themselves heterosexual but who also have sex with men without telling their female partners.”  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) uses the term, “MSM” which stands for “men who have sex with men.”  For some African-American men, they do not identify with the white-orientation and political terminology of being “gay.”

For a Black woman being on the DL means you may be secretly sharing your man with another man.  That was the stunning message of J.L. King’s 2004 bestseller, On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of “Straight” Black Men Who Sleep With Men.  In 190 pages, King, a former Columbus resident, documents a largely anecdotal story of his own experiences as a down low brother who enjoyed sex with black men while being married to a black woman.

King’s story was featured on Oprah and in a New York Times Magazine feature about Black men on the DL.  Black women, the target audience for King, snapped up copies of the book and swapped stories on how to note the tell-tale signs of DL behavior.   There were shocking stories in the media of rocketing HIV infection rates among Black women.  King related a litany of grim statistics in his book.

“…the AIDS rate among black women is three times higher than among Latina women and eighteen times higher than among white women.  Today black women make up more than half of all women who have died from AIDS in the United States.  African Americans make up 13 percent of the population, yet we now account for nearly 50 percent of all new AIDS cases in the United States.  Sixty-eight percent of all new AIDS cases are black women, 75 percent of whom contracted the disease from heterosexual sex.”

Black women were turning up HIV positive in shocking numbers.  Why and how was this happening?   Along came J.L. King with an answer that seemed simple, understandable and plausible.  Black men were having unprotected sex with each other and then passing it on to Black women.

First, black people, have been trained to internalize and repeat the very prejudices used against us.  Second, a few opportunistic blacks are all too willing to tell white America exactly what they want to hear about us.  And third, white America is all too willing to publicize and promote controversial black figures who are severely ill-informed.

In 56 words activist and author Keith Boykin shreds On the Down Low.

Debunking the down low phenomenon is the purpose Boykin’s new book, Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies and Denial In Black America.  Boykin is an activist, president of the National Black Justice Coalition and served as Special Assistant to President Clinton on gay, lesbian and civil rights issues.  Boykin says he didn’t want to write a rebuttal to King’s book, but when the hype over it refused to settle down he felt obligated to respond.

“I really didn’t want to write about the down low.  I’m sick of the down low,” Boykin said in a telephone interview with an audible sigh.  “My only purpose in talking about it now is to get people to stop obsessing, hyping it and sensationalizing.  It’s been blown out of proportion as this huge global issue that it is not.”

Boykin says that King originally approached him to ghostwrite his book, an offer Boykin refused when he concluded King was motivated solely out of a urge to make a buck.

“When I found out what J.L. King’s book was about I was really alarmed.  He asked me to write his book and I declined,” Boykin said.  “Reporters kept calling me and asking me to comment.  I told them what I thought, but it seemed there would be a huge article full of misinformation King was spreading and there would be a little, tiny quote that would say, ‘Keith Boykin, an activist, disagrees’ I realized there was no way to respond to it without writing a book.”

Boykin's book attempted to debunk King's scary tales.

On the Down Low is a pretty lousy book.  Perfect for reading on an airplane, but too anecdotal and smutty to be taken as the definitive word on Black male sexuality.  King releases his next book,  Coming Up From the Down Low, in April.  According to an interview in The Southern Voice, the purpose of the sequel is to “…more or less try to heal the turmoil among African-American women.”  That’s sweet since that turmoil was no small part caused by King’s alarmist book.

After soaking in both books I now feel that I know far more about the DL than any heterosexual man should.  I understand why King’s book went off louder than a bomb among Black women.  King confirms their worst fears:  Black men are all dogs and don’t mind dicking anything that doesn’t move too fast.  On the Down Low takes one man’s irresponsible sexual behavior and blows it up into a national crisis for Black couples.

Boykin has created the better written, better researched and more serious book in Beyond the Down Low,  but I’d be surprised if it had even a fraction of the impact of King’s raunchy horror show.  First impressions have a way of becoming lasting impressions and Boykin has the unenviable task of trying to debunk a popular book that already has a foothold in Black culture.

The CDC says African American women are most likely to be infected with HIV as a result of sex with men, a point both King and Boykin agree on.  However, while King cites irresponsible Black men lying about their sexual orientation as the primary cause, Boykin agrees with the researchers that the definitive reason Black women placing them at risk has yet to be established.

Boykin thinks he knows why King’s book found a receptive audience among Black women.

“Nobody had any good explanation for why HIV infection rates were going up for Black women.  So along comes somebody to say the DL is the reason why everybody said, ‘It seems to make sense.’  The only problem was the AIDS rates weren’t increasing for black women.  They were declining.” Boykin says.

“It’s sad that the media hasn’t told that story, but it’s been there in the CDC data for anyone to see.  Part of the problem is people don’t understand statistics and I think J.L. King doesn’t understand statistics.

Remember where King says Black women made up 68 percent of all new AIDS cases?  Not so fast, says Boykin.

“He used some statistics in his book that completely distorted the reality of the AIDS epidemic and everybody in the media assumed it was true.  In King’s book on page 10 he mentions that 68 percent of all new AIDS cases were Black women.  It’s not true,” Boykin says.  “It’s 18 percent. That’s based upon a basic misunderstanding of statistics.  It’s 68 percent of all AIDS cases among women are black women, not of all overall cases.  That’s a critically important distinction because women make up only a small percentage of overall AIDS cases in this country.”

“King’s representation that Black women are 68 percent of all new AIDS cases is giving people the completely inaccurate perception that Black women are at greatest risk for AIDS and there’s no evidence of that”

The world didn't need a sequel, but it got one anyway.

Boykin hastens to add that there are twice as many Black men diagnosed with AIDS than Black women and adds, “We do have a AIDS epidemic in the Black community.  We make up 13 percent of the population but we’re 54 percent of all new AIDS cases.  People need to understand how to process the information correctly.”

The down low is a juicy story, but like King’s book, it is short on hard facts.  Black men on the down low, just as gay men generally, aren’t likely to bare their souls to government researchers.  The CDC can’t say that the down low is a major cause of rising HIV rates among Black women.  Poverty, denial, high-risk behavior, substance abuse and higher rates of other sexually transmitted diseases are listed by the CDC as among the factors that spread HIV.

“It fits into a long process of the demonization of our sexuality,” Boykin says.  “This story demonizes all Black sexuality from my perspective.  It demonizes Black men as predators and it stigmatizes Black women as diseased and undesirable.

“I wanted to figure out how we get beyond the blame game because blame alone isn’t going to solve the problem.  Demonizing men on the down low will not make them straight.”

(This article originally appeared in The Columbus Post in 2005.)

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Women Are Raped. Men Rape Them. (Simple, huh?)

What's wrong with this picture? Everything.

The visual is as stunning as it is disturbing.  A woman lies prone on a bathroom floor, her underwear pulled down around her ankles.  The implication is she is the victim of a sex assault.

Even worse is the finger-wagging tone of the ad:   “She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t say no.”

The ad was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Liquor Board to dramatically illustrate the dangers to women of drinking alcohol to excess to the point they can be taken advantage of.  Following a slew of criticism for the ad as victim-blaming, the board has pulled the ad.

Haven’t we learned yet it’s not a woman’s fault if she is raped?

The ad was absolutely asinine, tasteless, lurid, but its biggest problem is the advice is useless.

A woman can drink until she’s down on all fours and not be raped.

A woman can sip ginger ale all night long and be raped.

It does not matter if a woman is drunk on her ass or sober as a judge. She can do everything wrong and get home safe and sound. She can do everything right and become a victim.

Drinking to excess is not a good idea for anyone. If it’s not a valid excuse for a man to say, “I drank too much. That’s why I raped her” why would it be a valid reason to blame a woman by saying, “You drank too much. That’s why you got raped.”

What should be done now is to burn all those posters and come up with a new one and this one should hold the proper parties accountable. REAL MEN DON’T RAPE.

Women don't ask to be raped. Men choose to rape women.

The penis is not a separate, sentient organism.  Men control the penis, not the other way around and they alone, are responsible where it goes.  Don’t put it where it hasn’t been invited and there’s no risk of ever becoming a rapist.

Women should take reasonable and prudent precautions to avoid being a victim of sexual assault.  Of course it’s not a good idea to go home with strange men or to drink to excess and lose control of your facilities, but  being cautious and aware is not the same thing as living in fear of the inevitability of rape.

Men are not hardwired to rape.  They learn how to become a rapist.  They can unlearn too.  I’ve never raped a woman.  That’s not bragging. It didn’t require superhuman restraint not to.  All it took was higher brain functions firing on all synapses and cleaned out ears so when she said, “No” it  was not confused as meaning “maybe” or “yes” instead.

You can’t take credit for not doing something you’re not supposed to do.   It isn’t her fault she got raped.  It’s his fault for raping her.

Men rape.  Because they chose to.  Not because they have to.   Women can’t end rape.  Only men can do that.   Men will end rape when they stop raping.   It really is that simple.

Captain Brainfart’s Private Alamo

Coincidence? SURE, it's a coincidence.

It’s just sad what a desperate (and possibly closeted) politician will do when his polling numbers go right down the crapper.

When in doubt, go negative.   When your whole campaign is swirling down the pipes, go nasty and negative.  That’s what Rick Perry’s bottom-of-the-barrel “Strong” ad does.  Rarely do you see a man so desperately flailing to keep himself upright while simultaneously flinging poop in all directions.

In 30 seconds, Slick Rick bashes gays and liberals, implies the president hates religion and makes sure everybody knows he’s a CHRISTIAN (since there are a couple of other guys running who aren’t).

Pure whackadoodle pandering to the Iowa evangelical base because nothing says traditional values like raw homophobia and wrapping up your hate in that old-time religion.

The incredibly shrinking Captain Brainfart

The Republican playbook has been run to the Right in the primaries and pivot back to the center for the general election.   That’s proven to be sound advice, but when you’re barely a blip in the polls like Slick Rick,  you can’t finesse it.  You’ve got to go all negative all the time and throw that bloody chunk of raw meat to the base in hopes they will snap it up and start paying attention.

You can understand it from a desperate man’s point of view.  How would you feel if you were losing to Newt Gingrich?

The thing is, stuff hasn’t been going all that great with all these straight, super-religious freaks running the country Maybe it’s time to turn things over to the sodomites and infidels and give them a shot at running things?

One day they will write books about how awful a presidential campaign Governor Goodhair ran.  Perry may not know how many Supreme Court justices there are or how to pronounce their names, but he is a hunter and going gay-baiting may play well with evangelicals of Iowa.  So far it doesn’t seem to be helping him in the polls where he trails Gingrich, Mitt Romney and even his fellow Texan, Ron Paul.   Finishing fourth in Iowa could finish Perry entirely and wouldn’t that be a crying shame?

Man-whore Herman Cain dropped out the race (though there are real doubts if he ever was in the race) and though Isn’t the most representative state, it does an excellent job of expelling from the American body politic those candidates who don’t measure up.

Slick Rick is mere weeks away from facing his own personal Alamo when he faces the same fate of all foul waste products.

Jesus loves you Ricky. Everybody else thinks you’re an asshole.

Why Do Democratic Presidents Disappoint Liberals?

George, Barack, George Jr., Bill and....hey, Jimmy, move in closer!

Waiting on a flush-and-fill and oil change today, I had time to read an article in New York magazine by Jonathan Chait on the dissatisfaction many liberals feel toward President Obama. Chait’s conclusion? Liberals are dissatisfied because they are incapable of feeling satisfied.

If we trace liberal disappointment with President Obama to its origins, to try to pinpoint the moment when his crestfallen supporters realized that this was Not Change They Could Believe In, the souring probably began on December 17, 2008, when Obama announced that conservative Evangelical pastor Rick Warren would speak at his inauguration. “Abominable,” fumed John Aravosis on AmericaBlog. “Obama’s ‘inclusiveness’ mantra always seems to head only in one direction—an excuse to scorn progressives and embrace the Right,” seethed Salon’s Glenn Greenwald. On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow rode the story almost nightly: “I think the problem is getting larger for Barack Obama.” Negative 34 days into the start of the Obama presidency, the honeymoon was over.

Since then, the liberal gloom has only deepened, as Obama compromise alternated with Obama failure. Liberals speak of Obama in unceasingly despairing terms. “I’m exhausted [from] defending you,” one supporter confessed to Obama at a town-hall meeting last year.

“We are all incredibly frustrated,” Justin Ruben, MoveOn’s executive director, told the Washington Post in September. “I’m disappointed in Obama,” complained Steve Jobs, according to Walter Isaacson’s new biography. The assessments appear equally morose among the most left-wing and the most moderate of Obama’s supporters, among opinion leaders and rank-and-file voters. In early 2004, Democrats, by a 25-point margin, described themselves as “more enthusiastic than usual about voting.” At the beginning of 2008, the margin had shot up to over 60 percentage points. Now as many Democrats say they’re less enthusiastic about voting as say they’re more enthusiastic.

The cultural enthusiasm sparked by Obama’s candidacy drained away almost immediately after his election. All the passion now lies with the critics, and it is hard to find a liberal willing to muster any stronger support than halfhearted murmuring about the tough situation Obama inherited, or vague hope that maybe in a second term he can really start doing things. (“I’m like everybody, I want more action,” an apologetic Chris Rock said earlier this month. “I believe wholeheartedly if he’s back in, he’s going to do some gangsta shit.”) Obama has already given up on any hope of running a positive reelection campaign and is girding up for a grim slog of lesser-of-two-evils-ism.

Why are liberals so desperately unhappy with the Obama presidency?

Chait’s argument is, sentimental journeys aside, liberal disenchantment with Democratic presidents has always been present since the glory days of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. That means every Democrat who won the White House (Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton and Obama). All of them took fire from their Left flank.

The entire article is worth reading in full as Chait recalls the way Obama’s Democratic predecessors have left liberals unsatisfied.

"Okay Barack, I got this. Go take a nap or something."

Things were so much better when Bill Clinton sat in the Oval Office, right?  Right?

Bill Clinton’s election, following a dozen years of Republican presidencies, ushered in buoyant hopes of renewal. But liberals experienced his presidency as immediate and almost continuous deflation and cynicism. Clinton did enjoy one major triumph in his first year, when he passed a budget bill that raised the top tax rate, expanded the earned-income tax credit, created a new national-service program for graduates, and reformed other parts of the budget. This was the progressive apogee of the Clinton administration. Liberals at the time viewed it as a sad half-measure. The focus was on deficit reduction, not public investment, and each iteration of the legislation that worked its way through the congressional machinery emerged less inspiring than the last. “The Senate’s machinations on President Clinton’s budget plan have left many Democratic House members feeling angry and betrayed,” noted a New York Times editorial.

The rest of Clinton’s first two years consisted of a demoralizing procession of debacles and retreats. A series of Clinton appointments—Lani Guinier, Zoe Baird—came under conservative fire and were withdrawn in a panic. He steered his agenda toward right-of-center goals, like the North American Free Trade Agreement and a crime bill, serving only to alienate his liberal allies without dampening hysterical attacks from conservatives and the business lobby. Health-care reform collapsed entirely, in part because liberals refused to support a compromise final measure. Six months into Clinton’s presidency, after he had abandoned his effort to integrate gays into the military, Bob Herbert summarized what had already settled as the liberal narrative: “The disappointment and disillusionment with President Clinton are widespread … He doesn’t seem to understand that much of the disappointment and disillusionment is because he tries so hard to be liked by everyone.” Hardly anybody contested that portrait.

Surely the revered iconic, John F. Kennedy is deserving of the Left’s love?

But what about John F. Kennedy, the liberal icon? Kennedy’s reputation benefited from a halo of martyrdom, deepened by liberals’ rage against Johnson, which retroactively cast Kennedy as far more liberal than he actually was. In reality, Kennedy’s domestic agenda slogged painfully through a Congress controlled by a coalition of Republicans and conservative southern Democrats. He campaigned promising federal aid for education and health insurance for the elderly but didn’t get around to passing either one. The most agonizing struggles came on Kennedy’s civil-rights agenda. His soaring campaign promises quickly grew entangled in a series of bargains with Jim Crow Democrats that liberals justifiably saw as corrupt. Kennedy understood he lacked the votes in Congress to push the civil-rights legislation he promised. He placated James Eastland, a powerful Jim Crow senator from Mississippi, by nominating the arch-segregationist judge William Harold Cox to the federal bench. Civil-rights leaders viewed Kennedy’s machinations with something less than unbridled gratitude. Martin Luther King Jr. said that Kennedy “vacillated” on civil rights. When he set up a meeting with activists, Kennedy was surprised to be “scorched by anger,” as G. Calvin Mackenzie and Robert Weisbrot wrote in a recent history of the sixties.

If Jimmy Carter was a bigger loser than Obama and Lyndon Johnson a bloodthirsty warmonger because of the debacle that was the Vietnam War, surely liberals can take heart in the presidency of FDR’s successor, “Give ’em Hell” Harry Truman?

Truman: The kind of Democrat liberals wish Obama were more like.

Harry Truman has become the patron saint of dispirited Democrats, the fighting populist whose example is invariably cited in glum contrast to whatever bumbling congenital compromiser happens to hold office at any given time. In fact, liberals spent the entire Truman presidency in a state of near-constant despair.

Republicans took control of Congress in the 1946 elections and bottled up Truman’s domestic agenda, rendering him powerless to expand the New Deal, as liberals had hoped he would after the war had ended.

Liberal columnist Max Lerner decried Truman’s mania for “cooperation” and his eagerness “to blink [past] the real social cleavage and struggles,” attributing this pathological eagerness to avoid conflict to his “middle-class mentality.” (Some contemporary critics have reached the same psychoanalysis of Obama, substituting his bi-racial background as the cause.) The New Republic’s Richard Strout lamented how “little evidence he has shown of being able to lift up and inspire the masses.” The historian Richard Pells has written that in the eyes of liberals at the time, “the president remained an incorrigible mediocrity.”

Chait asserts that when it comes to getting down to the job and getting things done, Barack Obama is second only to FDR for what he’s accomplished in his first term.

Part of the reason Roosevelt’s record looms so large from a distance is because historians measure these things differently from political activists. Activists measure progress against the standard of perfection, or at least the most perfect possible choice. Historians gauge progress against what came before it.

By that standard, Obama’s first term would indeed seem to qualify as gangsta shit. His single largest policy accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, combines two sweeping goals—providing coverage to the uninsured and taming runaway medical-cost inflation—that Democrats have tried and failed to achieve for decades. Likewise, the Recovery Act contained both short-term stimulative measures and increased public investment in infrastructure, green energy, and the like. The Dodd-Frank financial reform, while failing to end the financial industry as we know it, is certainly far from toothless, as measured by the almost fanatical determination of Wall Street and Republicans in Congress to roll it back.

Beneath these headline measures is a second tier of accomplishments carrying considerable historic weight. A bailout and deep restructuring of the auto industry that is rapidly being repaid, leaving behind a reinvigorated sector in the place of a devastated Midwest. Race to the Top, which leveraged a small amount of federal seed money into a sweeping national wave of education experiments, arguably the most significant reform of public schooling in the history of the United States. A reform of college loans, saving hundreds of billions of dollars by cutting out private middlemen and redirecting some of the savings toward expanded Pell Grants. Historically large new investments in green energy and the beginning of regulation of greenhouse gases. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women. Elimination of several wasteful defense programs, equality for gays in the military, and consumer-friendly regulation of food safety, tobacco, and credit cards.

Of the postwar presidents, only Johnson exceeds Obama’s domestic record, and Johnson’s successes must be measured against a crushing defeat in Vietnam. Obama, by contrast, has enjoyed a string of foreign-policy successes—expanding targeted strikes against Al Qaeda (including one that killed Osama bin Laden), ending the war in Iraq, and helping to orchestrate an apparently successful international campaign to rescue Libyan dissidents and then topple a brutal kleptocratic regime. So, if Obama is the most successful liberal president since Roosevelt, that would make him a pretty great president, right?

The answer for many liberals to that question would be a resounding “NO.”

Chait says liberals just won't fall in love with their presidents.

Which leads to the question. Are Obama and his six Democratic predecessors all spineless, unprincipled compromises with no sense of core beliefs and all too eager to crumble before conservative opposition or are the expectations of liberals for our presidents to faithfully execute our expectations completely untethered to reality?

If it’s not them, it has to be us.

Democrats hope they can harness the Occupy Wall Street movement and turn it into support for Obama’s reelection and Democrats getting off the mat after the 2010 Republican ass whupping. That’s an understandable thought and one I briefly held myself, but the differences between OWS and the Tea Party are too stark for a George Soros to co-opt and underwrite the movement as the Koch Brothers have. There aren’t the same opportunities to harness that rage into votes.

It’s hard for me to believe Republicans will find Newt Gingrich, a consummate Washington insider and a guy whom the longer you know him, the less you like him, any more ideologically “pure” Newt’s pretty feisty now as he works Obama over, but not so much two years ago when he was standing in the White House driveway with Michael Bloomburg and Al Sharpton as part of an “education tour” at the president’s behest. Mitt will be waving that picture around at a Iowa debate in the near future.

People typically seem to prefer status quo politicians who nibble around the edges instead of transformative figures who take whole bites. The election of Reagan after the Carter years is a rare exception to this rule.

There’s a reason why a conservative like Ronald Reagan won election by such overwhelming margins while a true liberal like George McGovern were crushed in humiliating defeats.

Liberals keep looking for their own Reagan. They haven’t found him or her yet and as long as they demand perfection they never will.

We'll miss him when he's gone.

The 49ers Rush Back to Relevance.

Who's got it better than the 49ers? Well, there's the Packers...

It rained the day after the San Francisco 49ers clinched the NFC West to return to the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons, but for this particular long-suffering fan it felt like sunshine and rainbows.

The 49ers have won the NFC West and are back in the playoffs. Reunited and it feels so good! What a difference a real coach makes. Jim Harbaugh has taken Mike Singletary’s leftovers and turned it into fine cuisine.  It’s raining outside but it feels like sunshine and flowers.

It’s not easy being a 49ers fan east of the Mississippi River.   Why, just the other day, some kid was absolutely incredulous that someone could live in Ohio and be a fan of a football team in California.   Out of the mouths of babes.  They just don’t get it.  Geography has nothing to do with being a fan.

There was a point in the lost years of Dennis Erickson/Mike Nolan/Mike Singletary running the Niners into the ground where I just gave up.  Every bit of 49ers memorabilia, the T-shirts, the refrigerator magnets, the banners, the flag, the bumper stickers that were never placed on a bumper,  the Joe Montana and Jerry Rice action figures, all of that crap went into a bag and banished to a dark corner of the basement.

That’s the way love goes.  You can only have your heart ripped out and stomped on so many times before you stop caring or bleed to death.

Patrick Willis talks about whatever he wants.

The 49ers winning a division with stiffs like the Cardinals, Seahawks and Rams is no reason to thump your chest and throwing how bad they are in your face.   Considering the Seahawks “won” the NFC West last  year with a 7-9 record, hell yeah, the 49ers deserve to have a bit of swag in their step.

Opening up a can of whup-ass on the Rams was sad, but it was necessary.  They were standing in the way of the Niners clinching the division, so they had to be moved out of the way.   Blanking them 26-0 was just the cherry on top.

I’m happy for Frank Gore who became the 49ers all-time rushing leader and I’m happy for Alex Smith, the first round pick who will always be in the shadow of Aaron Rodgers.   I’m happy for Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree who are finally justifying their high draft pick status.  I’m happy for Patrick Willis, the best linebacker in the NFL, though he did suffer a hamstring injury that will sideline him for a few games.  I’m happy for obscure players like Larry Grant and Kevin Williams who have emerged in 2011.  I’m happy for Jim Harbaugh, who has been the coach the Niners have been looking for since Bill Walsh left the building.

Most of all, I’m very happy for Aldon Smith, the team’s top draft pick this year who has completely justified his rep as a relentless pass rusher.   Smith put a bull rush on Rams tackle Adam Goldberg where he put him on his butt and dumped back-up quarterback A.J. Feely, giving him his eighth sack of the year.

It was Smith’s ninth sack that topped the eighth one.   On fourth down, Smith sacked Feely again, but instead of breaking out into a bad dance routine, pumping his fist and screaming like he hit the lottery, Smith jumped up, ran off the field, brushed past his teammates, removed his helmet, and sat on the bench with his hands folded in his lap looking like a dutiful student.

It was classy and classic at the same time.  That it was funny was an added bonus.

Class is something the 49ers have in abundance like championships.  Is it like the days when Montana, Craig, Rice, Young, Lott and Walsh were crushing the competition and hoisting five Super Bowl trophies?  No, but winning the division is a step on a road to bigger and better things.

Nobody’s talking about the 49ers return to respectability.  They’re talking about the Packers having a perfect season and Tim Tebow as the Second Coming.   Fine.  Let them ignore the 49ers. I’m good with flying under the radar for now.

The 49ers are finally relevant again.  If it’s not a complete return to glory, relevance isn’t bad as it goes.

Something to get excited about

Seven Clowns in Search of a Car

Newt and Mitt are good names for clowns don't you agree?

Clowntime is over for the Herman Cain Comedy Tour, but the season in hell for the Republican Party continues to plumb even greater depths of idiocy.  With Pee Wee Herman on house arrest for the remainder of the presidential campaign he can stop being an embarrassment to the race, and I mean that in all senses of the word.

The seven remaining bozos keep finding new and novel ways to make asses of themselves.

When a guy best known for reality TV and endless, egotistical self-promotion, Donald Trump, is chosen as the moderator for a Republican presidential debate, it’s a sure sign we’ve strayed over the double line between comedy and outright insanity.

Donald Trump apparently didn’t take kindly to Ron Paul’s decision to skip the NewsMax-hosted forum moderated by the developer and reality TV star, saying it created a circus-like atmosphere around the presidential race.

 “As I said in the past and will reiterate again, Ron Paul has a zero chance of winning either the nomination or the presidency,” Trump said in a statement in response to Paul, adding, “my poll numbers were substantially higher than any of his poll numbers, at any time.”

“Few people take Ron Paul seriously and many of his views and presentation make him a clown-like candidate,” he said.

“I am glad he and Jon Huntsman, who has inconsequential poll numbers or a chance of winning, will not be attending the debate and wasting the time of the viewers who are trying very hard to make a very important decision.”

Trump referred to his book that’s coming out and his claim he is worth more than $7 billion, and asked why he is “not the right person to lead this country out of economic chaos or at least to moderate a debate. I would like to see how Ron Paul would fair in the world of big business.”

Paul was the first candidate competing in Iowa to reject the invitation for the Dec. 27 event. His move may give cover to other candidates to do the same – although Trump’s comments are a reminder of the potential problem with skipping it.

The Eight Dwarfs: Dopey, Sleazy, Crazy, Goofy, Drunky, Nutty, Horny and Clueless.

Seriously Republicans, what the hell is wrong with y’all?

Donald Trump moderating a debate?  Seriously?  What’s next?   Survivor: Devil’s Island with the Republican presidential candidates?  Maybe The X Factor or Ultimate Fighting?  A WWE bout with John Cena and the Rock in an electrified steel cage match against Mitt and Newt?

The utter weirdness of the Republican crop is beginning to devolve into a political version of the Insane Clown Posse.

The rest of the world is taking notice of this horror show as Der Spiegel blasted the Republiclowns as “a club of liars, demagogues and ignoramuses.

Africa is a country. In Libya, the Taliban reigns. Muslims are terrorists; most immigrants are criminal; all Occupy protesters are dirty. And women who feel sexually harassed — well, they shouldn’t make such a big deal about it.

Welcome to the wonderful world of the US Republicans. Or rather, to the twisted world of what they call their presidential campaigns. For months now, they’ve been traipsing around the country with their traveling circus, from one debate to the next, one scandal to another, putting themselves forward for what’s still the most powerful job in the world.

As it turns out, there are no limits to how far they will stoop.

It’s true that on the road to the White House all sorts of things can happen, and usually do. No campaign can avoid its share of slip-ups, blunders and embarrassments. Yet this time around, it’s just not that funny anymore. In fact, it’s utterly horrifying.

It’s horrifying because these eight so-called, would-be candidates are eagerly ruining not only their own reputations and that of their party, the party of Lincoln lore. Worse: They’re ruining the reputation of the United States.

When the only two candidates with enough dignity left to say they want no part of a Trump extravaganza are Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, two bottom-feeders tracking in the single digits nationally (though Paul is polling in second place in Iowa and dropped Romney into third looking up at Paul and this week’s frontrunner, Gingrich), can there be any further doubt this is the most pathetic assemblages of wannabee presidential aspirants in decades?

Instead of the “best and the brightest” the GOP is placing their hopes of deposing President Obama with “the worst and the dumbest.”

When the crusty curmudgeon and social critic, H.L. Mencken quipped, “In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican,” he couldn’t have envisioned the supreme awfulness of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

But Mencken was lucky.  Being dead, he’s not stuck with having to choose from the least-awful of a bad bunch to vote for next November.  He also never had to live in a world with a Donald Trump.

Clowns are creepy enough as it is.  They get even creepier when they run for president.

"I always serve the ladies my Meat Lover's Special' sez Herm.

Neutering Newt Gingrich

“…a stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.”  ~ Newt Gingrich as described by Paul Krugman

At various times another candidate pops out the Republican clown car to enjoy their moment as the media darling and the new Flavor of the Month.   Previously, I’ve chronicled the misadventures of Michele “Batshit” Bachmann, Jon “Hopeless” Huntsman,  Horny Herman Cain, cranky old Ron Paul, and Slick Rick Perry.

Time to neuter Newt Gingrich while he suns himself on a rock.

There isn’t a nastier, more egotistical, unpleasant, and negative candidate than the former Speaker of the House.   He combines Perry’s sleaze,  Romney’s hypocrisy, Bachmann’s fondness for crazy ideas and stupid statements and a lack of moral scruples that would make Cain blush, if he weren’t Black and incapable of doing so.

Newt comes up with these weird, but stupid ideas like firing the unionized janitors and hiring schoolkids to clean their own schools.  Gingrich says child labor laws are “stupid” and thinks taking jobs away from adults and giving them to kids instead is a swell idea.

If Mitt believes in nothing, what Newt believes in is flat-out wrong.

Whenever another one of these fatally flawed candidates bubble up to the top of the murk that is the Republican presidential pool, the speculation begins that while they may be less electable than Romney, it positions a Gingrich or Cain as a possible running mate for Mittens.

I dunno. I’m trying to see the upside for Mitt to tap Newt (Mitt & Newt 2012?) and I can’t find it. The conservative base doesn’t like Gingrich that much more than Romney and he does nothing to stir up evangelicals, Tea Party patriots, and Latinos.

Also, Gingrich is already 68 years old. If Romney were to win and serve two terms, Newt would be 76 by the time his opportunity to replace Romney came up.  He doesn’t seem to be a guy who’s going to age gracefully into his seventies.

We are a month out from the Iowa caucuses where we will get the first meaningful stress test of the GOP field and not everyone will emerge in good condition to carry on to New Hampshire and South Carolina.   Mitt is all-in for Iowa after not being able to make up his mind (surprise!), Newt is surging in the Hawkeye state and don’t sleep on Ron Paul’s ability to make things interesting.  The rest of the also-rans, including Horny Herman are pretty much mashed potatoes, gravy and a roll.

 “In Iowa, it’s long been a two-person race between Romney and someone else,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll for Bloomberg. “It is now a four-person race between Romney and three someone elses.”

Poll participant Nate Warwick, 34, a machine operator at a packaging factory who lives in Story City, Iowa, is leaning toward Romney, primarily because he thinks he has the best chance of defeating President Barack Obama in 2012. Still, he’s not excited about his choices.

“There’s nobody out there who is really grabbing my attention, wholly,” he said. “I don’t think the Republican Party has a candidate that can beat Obama right now.”

Everything people disliked about Newt Gingrich before they still don’t like and no matter how “old news ” it is, they still aren’t going to get into a guy who talks smack about “values” while living a life that is the antithesis of it.

“There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”

Feeble explanations and short-term memories aside, Gingrich is still the same unlikable loser he was three or four months ago.  Sure, he has ideas as opposed to dopes like Cain, but a lot of them are bad ideas like this one.

Newt Gingrich is facing criticism for yet another idea he has floated during his presidential campaign — that the country bring back tests for voting, which were banned by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as a tool used to suppress African-American voters. Now, Think Progress reports, none other than Tea Party favorite Rep. Allen West (R-FL), an African-American, is disagreeing — and referring to the sort of discrimination that his own parents faced.

Think Progress asked West about Gingrich’s position that there should be a required knowledge of history in order to vote.

“I mean, that’s going back to some, you know, times that my parents had to contend with,” said West, who then segued into discussing his concerns with America’s education system failing young people, and his admiration of a high school student in his district who has sought to be an intern for him.

He returned to the subject in conclusion: “I think that we need to do a better job educating our young men and women in school, but we don’t need to have a litmus test, no.

Fun fact about Gingrich and West:  The Newster once said he would consider West as a potential  vice-president running mate.  Throw another folder in the Newt Gingrich Opposition Research File. How many cabinets does that make anyway?

The splendid humor in this is how it reaffirms yet again how unappetizing Mitt Romney is to the mainstream Republican palate.  The more the GOP establishment tries to force feed him to the base, they more they back away like balky three-year olds shaking their heads saying, “Nuh-uh.  Don’t want none.”

A guy named Newt versus a guy named Mitt to decide who earns the right to take on a guy named Barack.   This is good stuff.

It gets better as Ron Paul rips the Newt a new hole in a web ad.

I for one, say bring it on. Clash of the Right-Wing Whackjobs. This is better than ultimate fighting and whatever is on NBC.

Newt is a smart guy who has some interesting things to say about the presidency.  That said, he’s also a hopelessly greedy, unethical and morally challenged career politician who should never be elected president.

An egocentric egomaniac.  A hack politician who hasn’t held a job outside of politics and influence peddling in 40 years..  A philandering hypocritical man-whore who dogged Bill Clinton for his sexual escapades while excusing his own..  A really mean S.O.B. with delusions of grandeur.   That’s your new frontrunner, Republicans.   Hope you like him..