It’s still Obama and everybody else

The president feels the love.

Even the most hardcore political junkie needs to detox every so often.  Especially when the Republicans are determined to drive the collective intelligence of the American people down ten to twenty points.   When Rick “Foamy” Santorum sneers at President Obama as a “snob” for encouraging attending a college and bettering the chances of snagging a good paying job, we have definitely hit bottom.

As dumb as the Republican presidential candidates have been and all the dumb things they have said, Foamy just totally abuses the limits of how extreme a candidate can be.   Santorum denounces the divide between church and state, going so far as to declare when President Kennedy declared his Catholic faith would not influence his decisions, it made him “sick.”

Which couldn’t be better if the Democrats had planned it..  The more Foamy comes out as the American Taliban, the more he marginalizes himself.   His appeal to conservatives as the newest Not Romney and the Anti-Obama is a kick-butt strategy in the primaries where the partisans eat it up on a spoon, but would get him nowhere in a general election.

Foamy is a better presidential nominee than Mittens because not only would Obama whip his monkey ass, Foamy would be a drag on the entire Republican Party ticket.   There were fears in 2008 that John McCain had more appeal to independent voters due to the respect and admiration he earned as a conservative willing to buck the party line and reach out to his Democratic colleagues in the Senate.

But Santorum was never a leader and he wasn’t respected. He’s always been a right-wing tool and so entrenched as a far-right winger he couldn’t possibly convince independents and moderate voters he’s even close to holding centrist positions.  By definition that makes him unelectable.  The party establishment knows that which is why they have to destroy Santorum and continue to prop up Romney.

Santorum has bet it all on the idea that the GOP will penalize moderates and reward extremists. As bets go, it’s not an unsound one, but it leaves him no wiggle room in a general election.  With Mittens eking out a three-point “win” over Foamy in his home state of Michigan and slaughtering him in Arizona, his rocky road to the Republican nomination is back on track, but Romney is being diminished, not strengthened the longer it takes him to knock off his challengers.   He looks weak, unpopular with the base, and he can’t focus on preparing for Obama while he’s fending off first Newt Gingrich and now Santorum on his his right flank.

Who you callin' a "jerk-off?"

The extremes promote candidates, but they don’t win in national elections. Just ask George McGovern and Barry Goldwater.

I’m not worried about Foamy becoming the next President of the United States.  I’d like him to continue bloodying Mittens and softening him up.   I’d like the current version of the Republican Party to go out of business and be reborn minus the racists, the homophobes and the sexists trying to regulate a woman’s womb.
There are already Obama supporters who can’t stop laughing at the Republicans auditioning for who can be the biggest tool.  I have had my share of laughs as well, but I’m not about to declare this race over and done.

There are no sure things this many months out from Election Day.  The economic recovery is soft and can go south if unemployment creeps back up or Israel attacks Iran and a new crisis in the Middle East flares up.  There is always the possibility of a scandal or another terrorist attack.

The odds of a second term for the president are getting better, but while Team Obama shares the amusement of watching the Republicans ripping into each other, they aren’t permitting themselves the luxury of assuming they don’t have to win the election.  When the GOP finally gets their act together they are going to come at Obama with everything they have.

Negative ads and nasty campaigning?  We’ve only just begun.

Obama should run scared because what lies ahead is a lot scarier than anything Mittens, Foamy or the Newtster can throw at him.

Can Viola Davis Get A Little Help?

Attractive, intelligent, talented and looking for a part worthy of her.

Viola Davis, you is kind, you is smart, you is important, and by the grace of God you will be in better movies than The Help.

I’m sure it stings a bit losing the Best Actress award, but if you had to lose to someone, there’s no shame in coming in behind Meryl Streep.   I am just as happy that Octavia Spencer won an Academy Award for a performance in a movie that I will never watch as I was for Monique winning an Academy Award for a performance in a movie that I will never watch.

Once upon a time, Halle Berry was supposedly looking at playing Elaine Brown, the Black Panther who wrote “A Taste of Power.”  Anyone wanna guess why that flick never got green lit and Halle is doing crap going straight to DVD now?

I want to see Black women being able to play leaders of entire countries like Streep instead of their hired help.  Why settle for sistas always having to play subservient roles like this?  You think Denzil or Samuel L. would play a sassy butler in 2012?

I’ve been asked, “How can you criticize a book you didn’t read and a movie you didn’t watch?”  The answer, is I can’t, but then I’m not criticizing the work, I’m criticizing the part Davis and Spencer played.  Not the performance.  The role itself.

What I know about ‘The Help’ is there is a Black woman who says Kathryn Stockett stole her life’s story and made a gazillion bucks from it.  What I know about ‘The Help’ is not all books and not all movies are made for all people.   I’m not picketing any bookstores selling the book or theaters showing the movie.  By all means, enjoy them both.

However, I don’t see any reason to say I  have to support an artist when they are engaged in a project I’m not interested in.  I remember when Halle won for  her Oscar for Monster’s Ball and even Angela Basset, dogged her out for that role.  Maybe that’s someone’s favorite flick, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who really likes Monster’s Ball.   Haven’t Black folks reached the stage where we don’t have to shrug our shoulders and accept whatever old, White and male Hollywood serves up as their preferred version of entertainment.?   What’s wrong with demanding and expecting movies that makes us feel good about images depicted on-screen?

I would love to see Viola Davis in a contemporary adult love story with her paired with someone like Idris Elba,  There is a market for films pitched to Black audiences.   Tyler Perry has proven that to be true.  Those kind of films don’t get produced by Hollywood.  But Black women as maids or morbidly obese illiterates brutalized by their psychotic mammas?  Comin’ right up!

No win, but no wig either for Viola at the Oscars.

You get what you’re willing to put up with.  I’m looking for some portrayals of Black women and men that don’t revolve around telling little White girls how kind, smart and important they are.  Sue me for my unreasonably high standards.

Hattie McDaniel won a Best Supporting Actress award for playing a maid in 1939.  73 years later and I’m supposed to pump my fist for another sister playing a domestic?.    I get it that Black women have played servants, maids, domestics and all that good stuff.   They  have those roles down pat.  Can’t we move on to playing something else yet?  If  Sisters in Outer Space are too far-fetched, how about at least a doctor or lawyer?  Can an executive in Hollywood concede that’s not too wild an idea?

I don’t write scripts, but I do know there are stories to tell and movies to be made about Fannie Lou Hamer and Coretta Scott King and Kathleen Cleaver and Angela Davis and Shirley Chisholm and other sistas who ain’t wiping no little White kid’s snotty nose.

There are a plethora of stories to be told about Black women leading countries, freeing slaves, fighting for their civil rights and just to be accepted as women. I’m 56 years old now and I’m getting pretty damn tired waiting around for a decent movie about Black women who were the backbone of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. When are those stories going to get around to being  told?

Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer need something more than the recognition of an Oscar.  They need the validation of roles that allow them to stretch and show their talents as actresses.  They deserve better and we do too.

Just how good is Davis anyway?  Until she begins to receive the opportunities and roles Meryl Streep gets to showcase her skills, we may never know.

Jazz should soar, not bore.

Jessica Williams flies high, but under the radar.

The best thing about jazz is it opens your ears to musicians you might otherwise miss.  The worst thing about jazz is when a musician plays it so safe it almost puts you to sleep.

JESSICA WILLIAMS TRIO/FREEDOM TRANE (Origin Records)

It is no coincidence that pianist Jessica Williams draws inspiration and energy from saxophonist John Coltrane, another iconoclast whose dogged pursuit of his individalistic muse stood in defiance of trends, customs, critics, and marketplace concerns. Like Coltrane, Williams prides herself in being relentlessly faithful to her own standards of how to play and how to market her music. While that enables her to be a fiercely independent talent, it has also made her an underrated one.

On her solo piano outings, such as The Art of the Piano (Origin Records, 2009), Williams’ playing is engaging while remaining serious and cerebral. Augmented on Freedom Trane by bassist Dave Captein and drummer Mel Brown, Williams shows off her ability to swing. Never loosing her impeccable sense of taste, Williams is downright frisky and playful on Coltrane and Sonny Rollins’ “Paul’s Pal” and, on the title track, she’s bopping and grooving hard with Brown’s timekeeping, which is right in the pocket. It’s the sort of tune that demands another listen just as soon as it’s over.

As a soloist in the trio format, Williams is simply incandescent and the musicians synchronize like a well-tuned machine. Freedom Trane is a homage to Coltrane’s seminal A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1965), but Williams’ goal is not to emulate what Trane, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones did in 1964, but to expand upon it. “Prayer and Meditation,” one of four Williams originals, fits comfortably with a lovingly rendered interpretation of Coltrane’s “Naima,” where the Steinway ‘B’ gently caresses like a warm touch. The lush and verdant “Welcome” closes out this super session.

Williams reveals in the liner notes how Coltrane speaks to her as she writes:

John speaks through his horn: “no road is an easy one, but they all go back to God.” God, for me, is us, all of us and everything; it’s the sea and the sky and the stars. We are star-stuff, we are one vibration in a standing wave, and it doesn’t matter if it’s called God or Allah or Aum or Chi or Orgone. It’s gravity and light-years and galaxies colliding and little kittens kittening and bodily love and that chill you get when you listen to great music or see a great painting or hear the sounds of the forest.

Maybe not everything Williams says scans completely, but it’s possible to hear her making her way on a spiritual journey, and Freedom Trane provides that special sort of chill that comes from hearing great music—and this is most definitely great music, made by a great (and sadly underrated artist). This is a high quality and highly recommended performance by Williams, a consummate musician of astonishing grace, passion and skill.

MICHAEL LINGTON/PURE (Trippin’ n’ Rhythm Records)

Here is a disclaimer: Michael Lington plays alto and tenor saxophone, and the saxophone is the dominant instrument of the smooth jazz genre, every bit as much the electric guitar is the dominant instrument of rock ‘n’ roll. This means Lington is trying to stand out in an extremely crowded field.

So what is it about Lington that makes him distinctive and unique compared to Eric Marienthal, Euge Groove, Marion Meadows, Kim Waters, Jeff Kashiwa, Boney James, Dave Koz, Mindi Abair or Walter Beasley? Nothing much, and that is an observation, not a criticism. Lington does not distinguish himself from the pack because he plays it right down the middle.

Everything that’s expected in this sort of instrumental pop music is in abundance on Pure. The playing is professional, the collective sound matters more than the individual solos, the production is slick, clean and polished to a sheen, and with only one tune clocking in over five minutes in length, nothing lasts long enough to become particularly annoying—or involving.

An example of how safe as milk Lington plays it is his throwaway take on Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.” It’s a perfectly okay version, but what made the original distinctive was the point where Withers holds a note for a jaw-dropping 18 seconds. The saxophone gives Lington the power to approximate the human voice, but does he try to blow and hold a note like Withers? He does not—as if going for the same soaring grandeur Withers achieved might tamper with the relentless smooth groove.

When Lington allows himself to jam he’s pretty good at it. Jeff Golub‘s guitar jumpstarts “Playtime,” and the middle section of Pure gets on the good foot from there until the energy flags at the end. If you’re going to tackle a classic like Jr. Walker’s “Shotgun” you had better be willing to step your game up and Lington does overcoming a wobbly vocal from ’90s blue-eyed soul belter Michael Bolton. Bolton’s upper register has pretty much gone A.W.O.L, but Lington’s sax fills in the patches.

The musicians surrounding Lington are uniformly good and the guest appearances from Golub, Lee Ritenour, Jonathan Butler and Brian Culbertson, among others, stay within the lines of the overall production. Lington makes no obvious missteps in the choice of cover tunes, and the originals make for perfectly satisfactory listening even if nothing memorable ever happens.

Lington knows what his audience wants and Pure delivers the jazzy, if not the hardcore jazz.

(These reviews originally appeared at All About Jazz.)

Strange Bedfellows: The Gay Defender of a Gay Basher

"...and the Lawn Jockey for the Most Hateful Bigot goes to ME!"

MSNBC finally had enough of their in-house Little Hitler and fired Pat Buchanan.  The aging old bigot greased the pole himself with his Suicide of A Superpower book where he whined about the end of White America by 2025.

Following his exile from the supposedly “liberal” cable channel, Buchanan fumed that his left-wing enemies had finally claimed his scalp.

My days as a political analyst at MSNBC have come to an end.

After 10 enjoyable years, I am departing, after an incessant clamor from the left that to permit me continued access to the microphones of MSNBC would be an outrage against decency, and dangerous.

The calls for my firing began almost immediately with the Oct. 18 publication of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”

A group called Color of Change, whose mission statement says that it “exists to strengthen Black America’s political voice,” claimed that my book espouses a “white supremacist ideology.” Color of Change took particular umbrage at the title of Chapter 4, “The End of White America.”

I know these blacklisters. They operate behind closed doors, with phone calls, mailed threats and off-the-record meetings. They work in the dark because, as Al Smith said, nothing un-American can live in the sunlight.

No one is being “blacklisted” here. Certainly not Buchanan. He’s still free to write his shitty books and columns and appear on whatever TV show that wants to air his rancid views. CNN and MSNBC have said, “no mas” so he’s free to continue polluting PBS and The McLaughlin Group or Fox News if they need another Glenn Beck type.

No surprise that Buchanan accepted no responsibility for his downfall.  He’s not the self-reflective type.  What was a slight surprise was how Buchanan’s bouncing triggered an onslaught of hand-wringing weeping and wailing from useful idiots like The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan, the gay neo-conservative whose soft spot for bigots includes Ron Paul.

"Stop being mean to Pat just because he's mean to you."

Sullivan wrote,  “Sixteen years ago, when I came out as HIV-positive and quit TNR’s editorship, Buchanan, who had sparred relentlessly in public with me over gay equality, wrote me a personal hand-written note. He wrote he was saddened by what he heard – which was then regarded as an imminent death sentence – and wanted to say how he would pray that I would survive, if only so we could continue to argue and fight and debate for many more years. He was one of only two Washingtonians who did such a thing. I was moved beyond words. But he knew I loved a good argument as well. Over a gulf of ideological and philosophical difference, we could debate reasonably…He’s a complicated man and I will not defend for a second his views on many things. But he is also a compassionate and decent man in private and an honest intellectual in public.”

I particularly found this passage by Sullivan  interesting, “He truly believes what he says and has read and researched a huge amount and has thought carefully about his extreme out-of-the-mainstream views. He is a serious figure in that respect. Compared with Al Sharpton or Ed Schultz, he is a paragon of intellectual integrity. He is not a propagandist. He is a passionate writer who loves nothing more than a good argument with a worthy opponent – and he has a serious sense of humor to boot.”

As far as Sullivan concerned it’s all good to be a racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, Nazi slurping, sexist bigot just so long as you have thought carefully out your extreme out-of-the-mainstream views and you have a sense of humor.

Sullivan extols Buchanan’s compassion and decency while ignoring how it does not extend to other gay men. This is the same “honest intellectual” who said AIDS was “nature’s revenge” and history of denouncing homosexuality includes remarks such as:

The gays may counter that the American Psychiatric Association has, of late, dropped homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. That, however, tells us less about the nature of homosexuals than about the moral courage of the APA. If a covey of quacks voted tomorrow that masochism, bestiality, and incest were not signs of personality disorder, that don’t necessarily make it so. One need not be a doctor of philosophy to know that when some 40-year-old male paints his face with rouge and lipstick and prances around in women’s clothes, he ain’t playing with a full deck.

Homosexuality is not a civil right. Its rise almost always is accompanied, as in the Weimar Republic, with a decay of society and a collapse of its basic cinder block, the family. Homosexuality involves sexual acts most men consider not only immoral, but filthy. The reason public men rarely say aloud what most say privately is they are fearful of being branded ‘bigots’ by an intolerant liberal orthodoxy that holds, against all evidence and experience, that homosexuality is a normal, healthy lifestyle.

There is no brief for police harassment or persecution of homosexuals. They have the same right to protection from exploitation as alcoholics, who are, likewise, sick people. As for putting practicing homosexuals in prison, as some state laws mandate, that is like throwing B’rer Rabbit into the briar patch.

As an openly gay man, Sullivan’s passionate defend of his buddy Buchanan is as indefensible as Jews that collaborated with the Nazis.  What’s the gay equivalent of an Uncle Tom?

Buchanan can take his tired act over to Fox News after burning out at CNN and MSNBC. Fox is the logical last step for this Angry Old White Man before Stormfront,  Nobody ever got fired from Fox for being too prejudiced.

The tolerance for Buchanan’s hatred for everything non-White, non-heterosexual and non-Christian is legendary, documented and unlimited. Idiots like Andrew Sullivan can kiss his Irish ass all they like, but for anyone who doesn’t fit into the Wonderful White World of Pat Buchanan, you’re on his enemies list.

I’m extremely pleased to consider myself as an enemy to all things Pat Buchanan. Sullivan should smarten up and realize Buchanan’s America has no room for gays, even conservative British ones.

No, Read OUR Lips, Pat. You're FIRED!

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Not So Sweet Home Alabama?

Soon to be home, sweet home Alabama?

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Whomever said getting there is half the fun never drove to Huntsville, Alabama.  There’s nothing fun about it.  It’s a long, dull trip whose sole virtue is the speed limit is 70 miles per hour so at least you’re getting through  Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama at a good pace.

Otherwise, I can’t say much good about the trek.  As my wife was bringing us through the last miles through the darkness, she was sweating bullets trying to stay out of the way of the idiot in a Dodge truck hauling a trailer that was fishtailing back and forth.   To say it was nerve-wracking is to put it mildly.  Then we got hopelessly lost once we got into Huntsville trying to find our hotel.

The things mommies and daddies do for their darling daughter who wants to see the university she’s been accepted by.   She was excited, but by the time we finally rolled up to the hotel we were too whipped to even think about finding somewhere to go for dinner.   All I wanted was to collapse into bed and despite lunch being a distant memory, I was happy to scarf down some potato chips and call it a night.

We visited Alabama A&M this morning at 11:00.  It’s nicknamed “The Hill” and that’s not just hype.  As part of our tour, our guide led us up a hill to visit the dorms. Our daughter said her legs were sore afterward and I was gasping like a dying fish, but my wife’s knees wouldn’t cooperate with her to go on with that part of the tour.

What I saw of the campus was a  “C”, except for the women’s dorm which was an easy “D”.  I can’t describe how ugly, dreary and old these rooms were. I’ve seen nicer jail cells.

I wasn’t knocked out by the visit.  Certainly not enough to pack my daughter up and send her four states and one time zone away.  James, the senior who showed us around was friendly enough, but less than totally forthcoming.  He showed us the area where activities were held such as outdoor concerts and plays, but no classrooms, cafeterias or the library.  He probably wouldn’t have shown us the dorm if I hadn’t asked.

When we asked about any crime problems on the campus, James shrugged it off with, “Oh, there’s no crime problem here.”  Later we would find out that wasn’t exactly true.

A 2009 article in The Daily Beast ranked the 25 colleges with the highest crime rates and Alabama A&M came in at #21, right behind Harvard at #20.

A historically black land-grant university in Normal, Alabama, Alabama A&M was established in 1873 by the state legislature as the State Normal School and University for the Education of the Colored Teachers and Students with 61 students, two teachers, and a yearly budget of $1,000. Now the school has 6,000 students. Nearly all crimes happened on the campus, which is located close to Huntsville.

Digging a little deeper, the information got worse, not better.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — More people have been robbed on campus at Alabama A&M and Alabama State universities in recent years than at any other schools in the state, according to a Birmingham News analysis of the last six years of crime data reported by Alabama colleges and universities.

Alabama A&M leads the pack, with 63 aggravated assaults on campus over the six-year period, plus 29 robberies, 16 sexual offenses and 463 burglaries. On a campus with an average enrollment of about 5,500 students, that makes for a violent crime rate of about 19 incidents per 1,000 students over the time period.

News reports show that police have been called to A&M several times in recent years, including a shooting in January 2010 that left three students hurt, and a melee outside a dormitory in October 2010 involving about 25 students. One student was taken to a hospital after that fight, which police said at the time was retaliation for an earlier break-in at a dorm.

The facts paint a picture not as pretty as James the tour guide would have us believe.  I don’t know if it bothers me more that he thought he could b.s us or we weren’t smart enough to do our homework.

HBCUs operate at a considerable financial disadvantage compared to behemoths like Ohio State, so most comparisons to them are unfair and don’t paint a flattering picture. Yet while I would prefer my daughter attended college closer than 500 miles away, a factory like OSU can chew up and spit out students who aren’t ready for the demands placed on them.  If Alabama A&M come off as slightly shabby that is in part because HBCUs are usually underfunded and can’t compete with White counterparts for the latest technology and the creature comforts that come from a deep pool of alumni with deeper pockets.

We are looking at places like A&M  because we don’t want our daughter to get lost on a campus too large and  impersonal. If all we wanted was for our child to receive an education from a prestigious institution with a big name we would send her to one. My hope is that my daughter will not simply be a consumer in society but a contributor to society and among other like-minded students, a HBCU may give her the tools to become a woman who changes the world.

There are many factors to weigh when choosing a school and Alabama A&M didn’t do enough to close the sale.  I haven’t ruled it out, but neither have I ruled it in.  I won’t send my daughter anywhere she will not be safe, has no support system, or will struggle to thrive.

She has her mind set that her happiness depends on allowing her to go to A&M.  While I care about her happiness making her happy won’t be my primary concern when the final decision is made.  We indulge our children, but as long as we’re paying the way we will choose the destination.

It's not a good sign when the football stadium is newer than the dorms.

Bros Before Hos: Black Academics Style

History will be made Saturday morning when Melissa Harris-Perry, a professor of political science at Tulane University, hosts a morning political talk show on MSNBC.   Asked what her show will be about Harris-Perry told The Amsterdam News,  “Although it’s not a show about race-look, I’m a professor of African-American politics, so we’re going to be talking about race. I’m a feminist, so we’re going to be talking about gender. I’m a parent, so we’re going to be talking about kids and young people. I live in the South, so we’re going to talk about politics beyond the D.C.-to-New-York corridor. It’s a political show but it definitely has a point of view.”

Those are points of view absent from the Sunday morning talking heads shows where Black women are non-existent.  I welcome Harris-Perry and wish her well.  But there’s no news that someone can’t find a way to receive it as bad.   Enter Cornel “the ‘Fro” West and his Mini-Me, Boyce Watkins.

In an interview, West unloaded on Harris-Perry, his former colleague at Princeton. “I have a love for the sister, but she is a liar, and I hate lying,’ says West. . . . She’s become the momentary darling of the liberals, but I pray for her because she’s in over her head. She’s a fake and a fraud. I was so surprised how treacherous the sister was.’

Yet before West heated up a clothes hanger to whip on Harris-Perry with, Watkins had scribbled his own bit of character assassination with a piece, “5 Reasons Melissa Harris-Perry is Perfect for MSNBC.”

If I end up sounding like a hater, it’s because I probably am.  White people, as a collective, have never like (sic) me very much and advocating for black folks has never been an easy way to pay the bills.  Also, my gripe with Melissa is the same I’d have with any black person who allows herself to be propped up by the Democrats to do their dirty work against Cornel West as he spoke on behalf of black, brown and poor people.   Harris never proved that Dr. West was wrong – she only sought to discredit him and dismantle his voice.  In that regard, she was no different from a slave using the master’s gun to kill the leader of the negro rebellion.

She is clearly a liberal who happens to be a black woman, not a black woman who happens to be a liberal…The whole light-skinned black liberal thing works in her favor:  I should start by noting that I’m a bit light-skinned myself and nearly all of my relatives are of the “high-yella” variety (I was adopted).  So, this is not meant to offend anyone with light skin.

Watkins breaks out the pimp stick.

In one breath, Watkins says he doesn’t mean to offend light-skinned Blacks.  Can you guess what he follows that caution with?  If you guessed offending light-skinned Blacks, you win!

But, the emergence of Barack Obama has opened the door for quite a few light-skinned, non-threatening, black superstars of both politics and media:  Cory Booker, Harold Ford, Don Lemon on CNN and a few others have been able to benefit from this wave.  Harris-Perry is a perfect fit as the (in the words of cousin Pookie) “light-skinded-ded,” red-bone, highly educated liberal that white folks tend to love.  Nothing militant will come out of her mouth, unless she’s angry about a new immigration law or some civil liberties violation in the National Defense Authorization Act.  Not to say that there’s anything wrong with the “light-skinned liberal analyst” phenomenon, but I wonder how successful these folks might be if they looked like they were siblings of Wesley Snipes – darker skinned commentators and pundits deserve opportunities as well, and I argue that they are being put to the side (can you think of one dark-skinned person in prime time media?  Me neither).

The cherry on top of Watkins talking out of both sides of his mouth comes with a slap at Harris-Perry for doing the exact same thing he does.

Black journalists have long complained about what Al Sharpton referred to as “All white, all night,” in which most of the major cable news outlets didn’t have any hosts of color on their nightly branded shows.   The best way to shut down that criticism is to hire Al Sharpton himself, which is exactly what MSNBC did.  But one challenge is that neither Sharpton, nor Harris-Perry, is a professionally-trained journalist, so there are still quite a few talented black journalists who are seething over the fact that MSNBC went after black scholars and activists, rather than seasoned media professionals.

For the record, I am not a real journalist either.  I am one of those scholar/activists who’s been able to benefit from the bias of which I am speaking (I have more media appearances than nearly all of my journalist friends).

Nobody made more of an issue about Sharpton landing the MSNBC gig than I did, but Watkins has twisted the legitimate concerns of “real journalists” who would like to see Blacks who do this thing for a living a shot at these television gigs as well as Black scholars and activists.

Watkins doesn’t like Harris-Perry, he’s not happy for her and he even goes so far as to question her Blackness and commitment to Black people because she prefers Obama to West. It just comes off as that small-minded, crabs in a barrel mentality that keeps us busy squabbling over small stuff that isn’t worth squat.

Call me a cynic, but this “I won’t do cable TV ’cause I want to keep it real” rap is more than a little self-serving. There are too many Black folks who are doing cable TV and they aren’t running away from their Blackness by doing so.   Watkins spew out a hit piece that is mean, petty, and it smacks of simple envy. If MSNBC offered Watkins a show he’d run over  West to get it.

On his Facebook page, Watkins denied everything in response to my challenging him about Harris-Perry.

Never blame on malice what can be adequately explained by sexism.

Brother, I can give you the real deal on the “smell test” – my goal is not to be objective about Melissa or to politely say “congratulations” to someone I think is bad for black America.


I make it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that I am not appreciative of Melissa’s views. Her attacks on Cornel were uncalled for and unvalidated – I was very angry at the way she allowed white folks to prop her up on a platform so she could do the dirty work for the Democrats who were upset that Cornel was out speaking on behalf of poor, black and brown folks.

To answer any questions that might be asked about my remarks…no, I don’t want a f*cking job at MSNBC. I’ve been on all the networks numerous times and could have gotten quite a few gigs had I been a “good boy.” I’ve lost millions for speaking what I believe to be the truth and my only goal is to seek independence of thought and commerce for black America. In far too many cases, major black voices are controlled by white-owned media outlets and corporations – That’s why I put all my money and time into yourblackworld.com, which allows me to get my message to the public without having to ask for a white man’s permission. I don’t hate white folks, but the truth is that their agenda is almost always different from your own and they always view us as second-class citizens.

Someone who is “bad for Black America?” What is about Melissa Harris-Perry that is “bad for Black America?”  What’s really bad for Black America are Black academics talking smack like winos on the corner.

Harris-Perry took issue with West when he whined to a WHITE guy (Chris Hedges) how hurt he was that he didn’t get a personal invitation to Obama’s inauguration.

West came off like a jilted girlfriend, not a preeminent Black intellectual. It was pompous, it was small and it was arrogant as hell. Cornel West wasn’t speaking out for poor, Black and brown folks. He was ticked off that “the dear brother” who brought his bags to his hotel room had a ticket to the Inauguration and he didn’t.

There is a cost for working in the mainstream (just ask Roland Martin), but I’m not buying the line only those out of it care about, protect the interests of, and love Black people. No one is required to watch MHP on MSNBC.    Just don’t say you’re “happy” for her when you have made it crystal clear you are anything but.

Going after Harris-Perry for being “light-skinned” is as petty at it gets.  By the Boyce Watkins  standard, only folks as dark as Wesley Snipes (or Clarence Thomas!) can legitimately criticize other Blacks because they are “dark enough to decide who is really part of the club.

The weakest attack to make against someone is to cast doubts upon the content of the character based upon the color of their skin.     Black academics love a good disagreement, but when the intellectual quality of the argument doesn’t rise to the level of a beef between second-rate rappers, that’s pathetic.

West and Watkins are too smart brothers.  They should be smart enough to expend their brain power on a real problem facing Black folks.  Harris-Perry getting a TV show isn’t one of them.   Then again, maybe there’s another reason for Watkins and West’s “bros before hos”  smackdown of MHP.  Maybe it’s nothing more than sexism.  Plain and simple, they are simply asserting their male prerogative to put an uppity sista in her place.

Sometimes its most obvious reasons that are the least considered.

The next time West and Smiley plan a road trip for self-serving publicity, they should pack a booster seat in the back and bring Boyce Watkins along for the ride.

The Grammy Awards Give Jazz the Crazy Uncle Treatment

Rolling in the deep and raking in the Grammys.

This isn’t going to be a long post because it’s about the Grammy Awards. I didn’t watch the show just like I haven’t watched the show for the better part of the last ten years. No, this isn’t yet another “You’re not getting old, the music just sucks” rant. I am getting old and the music does suck, but at least if you’re a jazz fan you don’t have to stay up past your bedtime.

This was the first Grammy program since they cut out most of the major categories for jazz, Latin and other genres that are not pop, hip-hop and rap. Those Grammys are awarded during a pre-broadcast ceremony outside of the TV cameras.   Nobody wants to watch some old jazz cats taking home the hardware for music nobody listens to in America.

My buddy, Rachel Z., writing in support of reinstating the jazz categories dropped by the Grammys said, “Most of the Major labels have in the past 3 years dropped their Jazz Departments.  That is the sole reason why you are seeing a drop in submissions.  Many independent musicians and labels cannot afford a NARAS membership on their own.  Previously votes presented by major labels though a block voting system implemented by the majors.  What would you suggest that I tell my students at the New School who spend their life dreaming of a Grammy that now there is only one Jazz Category?  2/3 less chance to win!  This gives them the same chance as winning the lottery now after the cutbacks in the Jazz Category.  They are competing with people 5x their age in the Jazz Category.  Not to mention putting Latin Jazz next to traditional jazz…???!!!”

When Stanley Clarke and Chick Corea accepted the Best Improvised Solo award for “500 Miles High” from the terrific 2011 album, Forever, I wonder who was there to watch them besides the workers setting up the stage?

Public Enemy once said, “Who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy?” and the marginalization of jazz at the Grammys only confirms that sentiment for me. I don’t care about award shows. I’d rather the musicians make a buck or two, but recognition for them is nice.  It validates my taste.  Unfortunately, jazz is treated like a crazy old uncle the music industry would rather keep out of sight and forget about.

"Does this mean we get to meet Adele?"

They obviously don’t want any more Esperanza Spaldings or Herbie Hancocks taking up any of the face time among all the b.s. awards they have to hand out to nobodies and trendy flavors of the month. In fact that’s what they should call the Grammys: This year’s Flavors of the Month.

Jazz is not a genre where here today and gone later today flourishes. Nor is it a form of music where you can get by as a barely competent rapper or studio enhanced singer. You have to be able to sing. You have to be able to play. And if you can’t do either, you can’t play jazz. Period.

A few thoughts about Adele cleaning up at The Adele Awards (formerly known as the Grammy Awards). I’m an agnostic n Adele. Can she sing? Yes, and no Auto-Tune or wearing costumes made of meat are necessary.

“Rolling In the Deep” is a great song (though, please don’t call it soul) , but 21 is not a great album. “Rolling” kills, but after that it’s pretty slow going. Adele will have a nice long career, but she needs better material.

The Grammys are about celebrity and popularity.  If they could figure out a way to give Kim Kardashian an award for record that wouldn’t make them look insane, they would do it. Most award shows are bullshit anyway.  The Grammy Awards finds all new ways to make themselves even more irrelevant to the art form they pretend to be celebrating.

The Fatal Attractions of Whitney Houston

A voice that soared like an angel crashed to earth dragged down by her demons

For certain celebrities when they pass on and you hear who it was, it’s more of a shrug, than a surprise.

Would anyone really be shocked if Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan or some other professional train wreck were found face down, cold and stiff?  I wouldn’t be.

I’m not surprised Whitney Houston is dead.  I’m a bit sad, but not the least bit shocked.  She had been killing herself for years in a prolonged act of slow-motion suicide.  People that loved her and were close to her tried to help her and tried to save her, but how do you save a woman hell-bent on destroying herself?   You can try, but trying isn’t always enough.

Christopher John Farley, The former music critic for TIME magazine said 12 years ago about interviewing Houston, Now and again you meet people who aren’t as interesting or as nice as you might have thought. For example, Whitney Houston. When I interviewed her some years ago down in Miami, every other word out of her mouth was an “F” word. She cursed more than Snoop Doggy Dog… And then later, as your more untrustworthy stars are apt to do, she denied what she said to me in Entertainment Weekly. Luckily as a journalist — if you’re a good journalist — you tend to tape your interviews, your big ones. So I had the whole interview on tape, and I played it for anyone who wanted to hear it. And that was put to bed. Now and again you’ll run into artists like that who really aren’t like the public image…. That was not as pleasant an experience as one might have thought going in to interview Whitney Houston.

Years later when Houston’s drug problems escalated and her career plateaued, it became obvious that her strange marriage with aging b-boy Bobby Brown wasn’t the case of opposites attracting as it appeared to be.  They were two mutually and equally destructive souls whom together brought out the worst in each other.

I saw Whitney and Bobby as the Black version of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.  Bad separately and worse together.  Before the tacky reality show, there was the notorious interview with Diane Sawyer and her defiant rebuttal to rumors Houston was using crack.  She snarled she was making too much money to buy a cheap drug like crack and spat out the three words that would haunt her for the rest of her life, “crack is whack.”

Nobody bought it.  The defiance and the denial poured out of Houston like a cold sweat.

Houston's decline was noticeable and undeniable.

I’m sorry she is dead.  Her last album was a sad affair where her upper range had vanished and where she once soared through songs like “The Greatest Love of All” and “I Will Always Love You,” now she was croaking and wheezing her way through over-produced crap by creeps like R. Kelly.

Once again it is proven as Rick James said, “cocaine is a helluva drug.”   Addiction took James out and I’ll bet it took Whitney the same way it took Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson.

Like Amy and Michael and Rick, we’ll always have the music after they are gone.  Which is probably for the best.  The music is what matters more than the drugs, the rumors, the scandals, the failed trips to rehab, the cancelled shows and slumping record sales.  Whitney Houston’s star was tarnished by her inability to defeat her demons.  Having it all can leave you with nothing at all.

Tonight and this week, there will be thousands of You Tube videos downloaded of Whitney singing the national anthem and her other hit songs, but from my perspective Garbage’s “Breaking Up the Girl” seems equally apt.

In a modern culture
My friend you must be careful
They’ve a million ways to kill you
In this dangerous world
There’s an art to growing old
Taking chances
Magic happens

One mistake’s all it takes
And your life has come undone
Walk away cause you’re breaking up the girl
It’s a drag
I know it’s hard
But you’re tearing her apart
Walk away cause you’re breaking up the girl

I am afraid that there’s much to be afraid of
Here today and gone tomorrow
Don’t end up in the gutter
Just like the one before
You’re just the same
Such a loser

You’ve go to let her go because you’re breaking up
You’re breaking up the girl

Sad, sad, sad.   Cautionary tales and train wrecks always are.  Houston, she had a problem.

Didn't she almost have it all?