Jazz Needs Fewer Critics and More Fans

“Gimme a good review, Jeff!” You got it, George.

It’s been a little quiet around here.  I wasn’t planning on taking a Christmas break, but the demands of work and home call and would not be denied.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Either you’re going to do something or you’re not. If you really want to drop 25 pounds or find another job or scale the Himalayas then you will. Or you won’t.

A new year doesn’t just mark new beginnings, it can mean the end of old ways and old relationships. That’s why 2013 will be the year I stop reviewing jazz.   I’m  not having a crisis of confidence and I haven’t given up jazz in favor of death metal or country  music.   It is time to put a fork in it.   After a decade of writing and listening to jazz, I’ve used up all the words I have.  I don’t have an original thought left in me.

For months now there has been a half-dozen albums sitting on my desk waiting for me to review…and waiting..and waiting.   Some of the CDs are quite good actually.  A few are okay and one or two are totally lame.   My problem is I can’t work up any enthusiasm for even the ones I like.  It’s not exactly writer’s block.   I’m numb to it and in some ways that’s worse than not being unable to come up with 500 words for a review.

You! Go out and listen to some jazz!

I’ve contributed to All About Jazz since 2006 and written 102 reviews and several interviews. The career-spanning conversation I had with the .great George Duke was one of the best I’ve ever conducted and after it was published I knew I’d never write another for AAJ. It was epic in length, exhaustive in the research and limited in impact.  The Duke interview generated over 17,000 page hits. That’s a nice number.  For a blog post.  In relation to the time and effort I put into it the result was a big disappointment.

That’s was the point where I began to wonder, “Does this really make any difference to anyone?”

After close to a decade of writing reviews for AAJ and Jazz Review.com, I’m gratified for all the music I’ve been allowed to hear and the artists I’ve been allowed to interview. Speaking with Patti Austin, Keiko Matsui, Harvey Mason, George Benson, Rachel Z., Everette Harp, Gerri Allen, Cheryl Bentyne, Jane Monheit, Paul Jackson, Jr., Jessy J., Nestor Torres, Chris Standring, Al Jarreau and Cindy Bradley among others was big fun. Musicians are my most favorite persons to interview.

Yet I’m frustrated that the following of jazz is so small. I’m frustrated when an artist asks me what the best venue for live jazz in town is and my answer is “There isn’t one.” I’m frustrated even when I give a jazz release a four-star rating, it will be nearly impossible to walk into what’s left of the music section of a Wal-Mart, Best Buy or Barnes & Noble and buy it.

Check out Billboard’s 2012 Year-End Charts for Jazz Albums and you know what sold the best?  A Michael Buble Christmas album!   Michael Buble?  Are you yanking me?

Can the savior of jazz get a chair?

It gets worse.  The top Five is rounded out by Duets II by Tony Bennett, Kisses On the Bottom by Paul McCartney, Dead Sinatra’s Best of the Rest, and That’s Life from Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr., whom I’ve never heard of, but I guess he was on “American Idol” so that makes him a big deal.   The first album I’ve even heard of is Esperanza Spalding‘s Radio Music Society at No. 6 ( and I thought it was lousy).

My favorite jazz recording of 2012 was Najee’s  The Smooth Side of Soul which came in at #26.   It’s been that kind of year.

Jazz is not dead. It’s not even sick. As long as there are young artists still playing pianos, strumming guitars, pounding drums and blowing horns, the tradition carries on. What I fear is jazz being ignored. You don’t hear it on the radio. You never see it on television. Jazz is not the music of the young. It’s a tough time to be a fan if you don’t live in a city with a jazz scene or radio stations that still program it.

Going forward, I’m looking forward to Hiromi’s  “Move” upcoming in March.    The Japanese piano virtuoso has been a consistently interesting talent whose rise I’ve followed since 2003.    When Hiromi released her third album Brain in 2006,  I positively bubbled with excitement.   THIS is why we love jazz. It’s exciting to see an artist develop. It’s thrilling to hear how self-assured and confident a group of musicians can become when they learn, grow and develop their talents together. It’s a joyous and satisfying experience when it all comes together in a burst of aesthetic brilliance. “

I meant every hyperbolic word, but I don’t get that feeling as often from as many jazz artists any longer.

I may not give up critiquing jazz entirely, but I will ring down the curtain on my AAJ contributions. My taste in jazz  always were more mainstream than the majority of their writers.   I know a lot about jazz artists, but many times AAJ’s annual  “Best of” lists  didn’t have a single name on it I recognized.   There isn’t much use for someone who prefers  Fourplay,  Jeff Lorber or Norman Brown to some Yugoslavian thumb piano player.

My love for jazz  still runs strong, but I’ve run out of words to express that love.  I began covering this music because I wanted to spread what Kirk Whalum calls “the gospel according to jazz.”   I’m still  excited by its endless energy and uncanny creativity, but I have doubts I’ve been as effective advocate for jazz as I hoped I would.  Looking at  what is currently riding high on the smooth jazz charts and it’s more like “snooze jazz” to me.

Maybe what jazz needs are fewer critics getting the music for free and more paying fans to keep it alive.

Jazz doesn’t need saviors. It needs supporters.

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“Django” is Tarantino Unchained

Just a couple of guys looking for White folks to kill.

Nothing says Christmas like a movie depicting Blacks as slaves, being torn apart by wild dogs, beaten and whipped, fighting each other to the death,  and repeatedly being called “NIGGER.”.   Is there a better way to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday than seeing Django Unchained?

Sure hope so.  I’m not the guy who tells others not to watch a movie he hasn’t seen himself.   I do not want to see Django Unchained and I won’t try to criticize a movie I haven’t seen.

But I’m very familiar with how Quentin Tarantino enjoys waving around his ghetto pass and gleefully drop “N-word” bombs in his movies.   He did it in  Reservoir Dogs.  He did it in Pulp Fiction.  He did it in Jackie Brown and he’ll be doing it on steroids in Django Unchained.

I’m curious what makes you think you call me “nigger?”

Django is Tarantino mashing up spaghetti westerns, blaxploitation and other genres he was fond of when he was still a video store clerk.  There’s nothing historically accurate about a Black bounty hunter running around the South with a kindly German (!) named Dr. King (ha-ha.  Real Funny, Quentin) Schultz killing White folks.  If that were remotely historically accurate it would be called “Nat Turner Unchained” and he’d be butchering White folks with hatches.

Go back through his filmography and you’ll see Tarantino indulging his Hip White Boy status.  He casually drops N-bombs like it ain’t no thing but a chicken wing.   Why?  Because he’s a critic’s darling and they give him a pass they would never give Spike Lee or any Black director.   Spike makes Do the Right Thing and he’s accused by hacks like Joe Klein of potentially starting race riots.   Tarantino makes a movie theorizing what Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name would be like it he were a bad-ass Black man killing White folks in the South and Black folks are the first ones to line up to buy a ticket.   Whose fantasy is being indulged anyhow?

What is the least authentic moment in Pulp Fiction, the movie that put Q.T. on the map?  Not the stabbing Uma Thurman through the breastbone with a shot of adrenalin.  Not the anal rape of Marcellus Wallace whose ass is literally saved by Bruce Willis.  It’s after Vincent Vega blows Marvin’s brains out and they end up at Jules Winfield’s “friend’s house.”

The entire movie Jules is a bad-ass.  He takes shit from nobody, not even his boss, Marcellus.  Yet when he’s standing in front of his “buddy” Jimmy (played by Quentin Tarantino) he turns into a straight-up PUNK.

"It's okay if I call you "nigger" 'cause we're pals, right, Sam?"

“It’s okay if I call you “nigger” ’cause we’re pals, right, Sam?”

[Jules, Vincent and Jimmie are drinking coffee in Jimmie’s kitchen]
Jules: Mmmm! Goddamn, Jimmie! This is some serious gourmet shit! Usually, me and Vince would be happy with some freeze-dried Taster’s Choice right, but he springs this serious GOURMET shit on us! What flavor is this?
Jimmie: Knock it off, Julie.
Jules: [pause] What?
Jimmie: I don’t need you to tell me how fucking good my coffee is, okay? I’m the one who buys it. I know how good it is. When Bonnie goes shopping she buys SHIT. I buy the gourmet expensive stuff because when I drink it I want to taste it. But you know what’s on my mind right now? It AIN’T the coffee in my kitchen, it’s the dead nigger in my garage.
Jules: Oh, Jimmie, don’t even worry about that…
Jimmie: [interupting] No, No, No, No, let me ask you a question. When you came pulling in here, did you notice a sign out in front of my house that said “Dead Nigger Storage”?
Jules: Jimmie, you know I ain’t seen no…
Jimmie: [cutting him off again; getting angry] Did you notice a sign out in front of my house that said “Dead Nigger Storage”?
Jules: [pause] No. I didn’t.
Jimmie: You know WHY you didn’t see that sign?
Jules: Why?
Jimmie: ‘Cause it ain’t there, ’cause storing dead niggers ain’t my fucking business, that’s why!    

What is the point of that scene?   Besides  Tarantino trying to make Sam Jackson his bitch while he screams “nigger” repeatedly.   Is it to set up something of importance?  Is it a key plot point?  Does it provide exposition or advance the story in a way, shape or form?   Or is it simply there for shock value?

There is a difference between using “nigger” to be historically accurate or realistic (Martin Scorsese knows how to do this and not be gratuitous in the usage) and doing it because Tarantino is one of those White boys who thinks he’s so down with the chocolate he has a ghetto pass to say what he wants and charge you $10 to watch him do it.

I say he doesn’t.

“Now, in this scene, I grab your gun and call you ‘nigger.’ Ready?”

If Tarantino really wanted to do a movie about a bad-ass brutha who kills White folks, nobody’s made The Nat Turner Story, but that’s a feel-bad, not a feel-good story.   The guy whose last movie featured machine-gunning killing Hitler isn’t exactly interested in historical accuracy.

I suspect if Spike Lee were to make a movie about a Black guy and his Jewish buddy were traipsing around Europe in WWII killing Nazis in bloody, graphically violent ways and liberating concentration camp prisoners, someone would say it was in bad taste.   There will NEVER be a mainstream movie made by Hollywood that correctly,  honestly and accurately portrays slavery in all its horror.   Blacks are either bystanders waiting for the good White folk to save us (Lincoln) or Black action figures playing out someone’s revenge fantasy (Django).

Blaxplotation was based upon the fact that Black people will pay good money to see their most negative stereotypes (pimps, pushers, gangsters) glorified as urban heroes.   Tarantino is simply the latest self-styled auteur to carry on the time-honored tradition of getting Blacks to embrace fairy tales as entertainment.

I like some Tarantino flicks and hate some others.  I can’t say whether Django is any good or not, but I know I have no interest in seeing it.  I’m just not feeling this movie.  I listened to a podcast the other day where two Black critics, one Latino and one White dude all agreed Tarantino used the racial epithet excessively and gratuitously.    Do I really need to hear “NIGGER” screamed at me in Dolby Surround-Sound for two hours and 45 minutes?

It’s okay if others do, but I do not.

The Grinch That Killed Christmas

Merry Christmas, Sandy Hook.

Eventually we will forget you.  We will forget the horrific details.  We will forget your names.  We will forget how we felt.

We say we won’t forget.   We say this time it will be different.  We won’t let the politicians wriggle off the hook or the gun lobby to control the debate.  Not this time.    But  will we really do anything different this time than all the times before?   We promised all those victims all these times before we wouldn’t forget and we did and we wouldn’t let it happen again, yet it does.

What’s so different this time?

After all, you weren’t our kids.  Someone else will mourn you.  Someone else will walk past your empty bed.   Someone  we don’t know who live somewhere we’ve never been will mourn you.

We’re Americans.  We love our kids.  We love our guns too.  Don’t ask us to choose between the two because you might not like the answer you get.

Sandy Hook will be forgotten.  The media will move on to another tragedy in another place.  They know the next atrocity is always just around the corner.  This is America.  There is always another atrocity just around the corner.

I’m not a “ho-ho-ho” kind of guy when its a good December and this has not been a good December.   Adam Lanza is The Grinch That Killed Christmas.

The killer nobody saw coming.

It isn’t a Merry Christmas and the holidays aren’t all that happy.     Sandy Hook takes its place along Columbine, Red Lake , Virginia Tech among the bloodiest school shootings in our country’s bloody history.    Certain places  seem inconceivable to be targeted to become a slaughterhouse.   Churches and schools head the list, but as history has proved time and again.   Nowhere is off-limits.  Everyone is eligible to be a victim.

In the wake of Sandy Hook, Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas.  It seems like  denial of reality.   Adam Lanza and the lurking monsters like  him are the Grinches That Killed Christmas.

As sure as the night follows day,  there will be those eager to speculate about what happened, why it happened and how it can be prevented.  Some of this contemplation will lead to constructive suggestions.   Most will be useless.  What’s left will be useless bullshit.    That’s when its time to tell the NRA to move over and make some room for media.   They have to take their share of the shame.

For the most part the press has done some very good writing and reporting on this tragedy.    It’s hard to balance the public’s right to know with the Newtown families need to grieve, but most of the media have conducted themselves in a responsible, respectable manner.   Which means there are those who have done some very bad writing on this tragedy.

Meghan McCardle wrote a long-ass piece for The Daily Beast where she pondered possible solutions and offered and one “you’re yanking me, right?” proposal.

I’d also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.

Yes, that’s an excellent idea. Adam Lanza would have been foiled if only those cowardly six-and-seven year old children had overcome the natural urge to cower and run for cover and instead had rushed the gunman en masse.

Come on, kids! Dogpile on the shooter!

No way that wouldn’t end well. Perhaps Miss McCardle also believes the Japanese kamikazes were a brilliant military tactic too.

For even more simple-minded answers to complex questions, we mosey over to The National Review where Charlotte Allen observes:

There was not a single adult male on the school premises when the shooting occurred. In this school of 450 students, a sizeable number of whom were undoubtedly 11- and 12-year-old boys (it was a K–6 school), all the personnel — the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the school psychologist, the “reading specialist” — were female. There didn’t even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at Adam Lanza’s knees. Women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers. The principal, Dawn Hochsprung, seemed to have performed bravely. According to reports, she activated the school’s public-address system and also lunged at Lanza, before he shot her to death. Some of the teachers managed to save all or some of their charges by rushing them into closets or bathrooms. But in general, a feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm. Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel. Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza.

To her credit, at another point in her essay Allen observes, “This is stupid advice.”

Allen is absolutely right. Her advice is stupid.    A male janitor doesn’t mean  he’s a male action figure.   Had there been one big, strong man working a Sandy Hook that would have meant…nothing.   At his bullshit fest of a press conference,  the NRA’s  Wayne LaPierre said, “The only way—the only way—to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun.”

There was an armed guard at Columbine.   He couldn’t stop Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold from doing what bad guys do.   There was a campus police force at Virginia Tech and what good did that do?

None of this helps prevent the next Sandy Hook.   And it’s coming.  We all know it is.

If you were looking for a Christmas Eve message of joy and glad tidings you will be disappointed.    The joy is not there.  The tidings are grim, not glad.   Lives have been lost .  Hope has been crushed.

There’s not a lot to be merry about.

The NRA Loves Their Guns. They Hate Your Kids

I am a reasonable man and if you don’t believe me I will shoot you in the face.”

For shock and awe, you don’t need to go far beyond the Twilight Zone weirdness of National Rifle Association chief flunky Wayne LaPierre‘s press conference to present their profoundly stupid suggestions on how to respond to the slaughter at Sandy Hook elementary school.  Among their suggestions were to put armed guards in every school, establish a national database of the mentally ill and criticizing Natural Born Killers, a 20-year old movie and violent videogames for putting bad thoughts in the kiddies.

A national database of the mentally ill?  Sure thing.  No way that could encroach on their Constitutional rights.   Anybody wonder how many NRA members would show up on such a database?

As far as violent video games goes, let’s apply the NRA logic to it.  Violent video games don’t kill.  Gamers do.

As far as Wayne LaPierre’s suggestion to put an armed guard in every school it would cost over $5 billion to implement his crazy plan.  I was under the impression this country is broke and can’t afford that kind of new spending.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics there are 98,817 K-12 schools in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says cops make $55,000 a year. So we could put $5.4 billion as the low level estimate of the cost. Cops obviously have health care benefits and pension and disability benefits for police offers tend to be fairly costly so the real price would be higher than that.

To sum up Wayne LaPierre’s press conference, his remarks prove what most of us already knew.

  • Whomever wrote LaPierre’s remarks should be fired. He came off like a yammering drunk falling off his bar stool.
  • It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.
  • Wayne LaPierre is a fool.  And a stupid asshole too.

Even as  LaPierre was running off at the mouth exposing how much of a fool he truly is, at the same time there was another shooting spree in Pennsylvania that left four people dead including one woman in a church.  Would LaPierre put armed security guards in the pews too?

It was nauseating to see this enabler of killers and greedy gun manufacturers crying his big crocodile tears of insincerity about the children of Sandy Hook.  The lying sack of shit couldn’t even bother to get the number right of how many kids died!   LaPierre is human garbage.

I have no time to waste or energy to expend arguing with close-minded, mouth-breathers who love the touch of cold, hard steel designed only to kill to the sounds of happy children living, laughing, loving.

Those who “think” like LaPierre don’t give two farts in a windstorm about the dead and wounded in a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school classroom. To care about this and to want to do what is necessary to stop it from occurring again is dismissed as “understandable emotionally.” Which couldn’t miss the point any wider if he tried. The point is simple: Children are dying. We would prefer this to STOP.

There IS no middle ground with dead enders who quote numbers they pulled out of the air or out of some orifice and declare proudly, loudly and stupidly, “THERE IS NO PROBLEM. DO NOTHING. DEAD KIDS ARE THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE OF A GUN CULTURE!”

People who think like that have nothing of worth to contribute to the solutions to prevent further Sandy Hook slaughters and prefer the confident smugness of maintaining an absurd absolute position where nothing can be discussed, never mind debated or negotiated.

There is no end in sight to the American death dance with guns.  There is no dealing with a reactionary turd like Wayne LaPierre.

Entering into discussion with people who think like LaPierre makes about as much sense as entering into discussion with a pig in a mud hole.  You get dirty and the pig enjoys wallowing in the muck

“I poop for the NRA.”

Obama Wins Again…TIME’s Person of the Year Award

The Man is the Person of the Year.

TIME magazine did away with their “Man of the Year” award for the gender-negative “Person of the Year,” but dammit, I prefer MAN of the Year and this year’s man of the year is…(drumroll, please)

President Barack Obama. 

Two years ago, Republicans liked to say that the only hard thing Obama ever did right was beating Hillary Clinton in the primary, and in electoral terms, there was some truth to that. In 2012 the GOP hoped to cast him as an inspiring guy who was not up to the job. But now we know the difference between the wish and the thing, the hype and the man in the office. He stands somewhat shorter, having won 4 million fewer votes and two fewer states than in 2008. But his 5 million-vote margin of victory out of 129 million ballots cast shocked experts in both parties, and it probably would have been higher had so much of New York and New Jersey not stayed home after Hurricane Sandy. He won many of the toughest battlegrounds walking away: Virginia by 4 points, Colorado by 5 and the lily white states of Iowa and New Hampshire by 6. He untied Ohio’s knotty heartland politics, picked the Republican lock on Florida Cubans and won Paul Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wis. (Those last two data points especially caught the President’s interest.) He will take the oath on Jan. 20 as the first Democrat in more than 75 years to get a majority of the popular vote twice. Only five other Presidents have done that in all of U.S. history.

There are many reasons for this, but the biggest by far are the nation’s changing demographics and Obama’s unique ability to capitalize on them. When his name is on the ballot, the next America — a younger, more diverse America — turns out at the polls. In 2008, blacks voted at the same rate as whites for the first time in history, and Latinos broke turnout records. The early numbers suggest that both groups did it again in 2012, even in nonbattleground states, where the Obama forces were far less organized. When minorities vote, that means young people do too, because the next America is far more diverse than the last. And when all that happens, Obama wins. He got 71% of Latinos, 93% of blacks, 73% of Asians and 60% of those under 30.

That last number is the one Obama revels in most. When he talks about the campaign, he likes to think about the generational shift the country is going through on topics like gay marriage — an issue on which he lagged, only to reverse himself last spring. He connects it to the optimism he felt as a young man, the same thing he always talks about with staff in the limo or on the plane after visits with campaign volunteers. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” reads one of the quotes stitched into his new Oval Office rug — an old abolitionist cry that Martin Luther King Jr. repurposed while marching on Selma, Ala. Obama believes in that, and he believes he is more than just a bit player in the transition. “I do think that my eight years as President, reflecting those values and giving voice to those values, help to validate or solidify that transformation,” he says, “and I think that’s a good thing for the country.”

I have no problem with President Obama being TIME’s Person of the Year.   The brother worked hard for it, he fought hard for it and hell, he deserves it.   I put a poll on a debate board asking if Obama winning the honor was a good choice.

Obama’s selection was deemed “a good choice” by nearly 65 percent, “a terrible choice” by 9.68 percent, “someone else should have won”  got 3.23 percent and “PSY (Gangnam Style) got 22.58 percent.  I’d say better luck next year, but I seriously doubt a one-hit wonder like PSY has a next year.

All props to the president.  It’s an honor well deserved.

But…

Based upon their ability to withstand the long, torturous Bataan Death March that was the Republican primaries, the relentless pummeling from a shitstorm of 60-second negative attack ads brought to you by the influence of Super PACS thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, a fat and lazy media that marginalizes most candidates and trivializes the entire process, and the repulsive waste of money that comes when two men raise $1 billion to run for a job that pays $400,000, the Person of the Year should have been The American Voter.

We deserved it.

The Thin Man stands tall.

The Character Assassination of Susan Rice by the Coward John McCain

“I love it when an evil plan comes together.”

Susan Rice was hounded by the yapping attack dogs of the Right.   After weeks of being destroyed by the lynch mob mentality of the Right-wing media and cowardly Republican senators, Rice gave in and formally requested to President Obama not to chose her as as the next Secretary of State.    They were probably hi-fiving in the Senate cloakroom.  They dragged her reputation through the mud with John McCain, playing the part of Torquemada calling out  Rice as, “not very bright.”

Not very bright? Susan Rice was the valedictorian of her high school class, graduated from Rice attended Stanford University, where she received a Truman Scholarship, and graduated with a B.A. in history in 1986 and was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Not very bright? Rice was awarded a Rhodes scholarship and attended the New College in Oxford. She served in the Clinton Administration most notably as a member of the National Security Council and as the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. She later would join the Brookings Institute.

Not very bright? Her tormentor John McCain graduated from the Naval Academy 894 out of 899. In 2008, he thought Sarah Palin was very bright and qualified to be the Vice-President of the United States.

I don’t have a prejudice against old White men. I have a prejudice against one specific old White man who destroyed a highly qualified and intelligent Black woman based upon nothing more but his repulsive ego, poisonous pride and nauseating vanity.

For the role he played in the destruction of Susan Rice, John McCain is a reprehensible human being.

Characterizing John McCain as an Angry Old White Man is not racist or ageist, and it is not an admission of bias toward White men.  Angry, old, or otherwise.

Too Black, too strong, too much for McCain.

It is accurate.

John McCain is angry. He has a history of displaying his temper in public.

John McCain is 76. That’s old.

John McCain is a White male.

Point of fact: John McCain is an Angry Old White Man.

I see how McCain has treated Rice and I see racism and sexism.  Calling Rice “not very bright” when she clearly extremely bright and “unqualified” when her education, experience and training makes her superbly qualified isn’t simply McCain being obtuse. He’s been that way for some time now.

This runs deeper. This runs to his resentment about the young upstart who defeated him in his last bid for the presidency and how resolute and committed an adversary of President Obama he has made himself.

McCain’s relationship with Obama was frosty during his brief time in the Senate and the two men have maintained their adversarial relationship. They still don’t like each other.  Like, at all.  McCain is a relic of a different age where guys like Obama deferred to guys like him. The fact that he had his ass handed to him by Obama must burn like acid.

Enter Susan Rice. The perfect patsy for McCain to twist the knife in Obama just a bit deeper.

There’s no higher principle here. Republican senators have ignored security concerns at U.S. embassies for years and McCain didn’t call for Watergate-style hearing when Republican administrations lost people overseas. If he can read, McCain knows Rice was merely stating the case as presented to her without all the intelligence included. He just doesn’t care.

That’s where McCain’s ugly racism and misogyny kicks in.

This is just payback. Denigrate an otherwise qualified woman as nothing but an affirmative action hire to stick it to her boss that was considering putting her name up for promotion.

The politics of personal destruction win again as brought to you by the 2008 presidential election loser.

In the absence of a more convincing argument about why John McCain went after Susan Rice with such vehemence, I’ll stick to the most obvious one.

Those who have taken umbrage at contention have yet to offer a better one. At this point, I don’t think they have one.

A Real American Horror Story

Connecticut School Shooting

According to the FBI, mass murder is described as “a number of murders (four or more) occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders. These events typically involved a single location, where the killer murdered a number of victims in an ongoing incident.”

The week started with the shooting rampage in a suburban Portland, Oregon mall with Jacob Tyler Roberts using a stolen AR-15 semi-automatic to kill two people and wound a third seriously.

Roberts would not qualify as a mass murderer. His is a shooting spree. The families of his victims could hardly care less.

Mass murder in America seemed to culminate with the Columbine killings in 1999 which left 12 dead.  Then came the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre where Seung-Ho Choi gunned down 32 and wounded 15 others and reset the body count meter until today’s gruesome events.    The timeline of death since Columbine to Newtown is a long and bloody one.

The United States averages 20 mass murder events a year but surprisingly though this is a violent country, it is not as violent as it once was. This is a fact worth noting.

But oh, when we do kill, we kill with purpose, we kill with passion and we kill in big numbers.

We will search for the meaning in the midst of madness. We will say we must delay a debate on guns until the dead have been counted and buried and a respectful interval has passed, but in truth, there is no debate and the issue has largely been settled in this country. Guns are popular. Restrictions on guns are not.

The Columbine victims: We’ve been here before.

We’ve had a debate about guns in America.  Guns won.   Everyone else lost.

The defenders of guns will trot out their time-tested lines about how guns aren’t the problem; people misusing guns are.   They will point to another act of school violence that occurred the same day in China where a madman with a knife wounded 22 children and one adult.   The difference is none of those children died as opposed to the 20 children, six adults, plus the gunman who perished in Newton, Connecticut.

The NRA would sooner see a shooting spree every day before they would support legislation limiting the right to own any damn guy you want.

Something must be done. This is insane. We’re gunning down little boys and girls and their teachers as they try to defend them.  If our youngest and most innocent are not safe from mindless violence none of us are. What that something is, nobody seems to know.    Or if they do, nobody has the courage or the will to take on the gun lobby.

The spark of the holiday spirit was not burning brightly in me before the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Now it has been extinguished entirely.

The world is a beautiful place. The people on it? Not so much.