Those Whom Speak the Truth Will Suffer For It.

Eric Holder,  President Obama’s first attorney general,  had only been on the job for a month when he called out the whole damn U.S. of A. for its timid reluctance to talk about race in an open and honest way.   Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”

Conservatives already didn’t like Holder before,  but they were really pissed at him for being rude enough to remind the nation this isn’t a post-racial paradise.   When Black people tell White people things like this they are going to get crushed for doing so.    This is where Colin Kaepernick finds himself in today.

If you’re a professional athlete and you’re actively supporting Black Lives Matter, you’re putting yourself in the frying pan.   If you refuse to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner, you’re cooked.   America loved Muhammad Ali  after he got sick and no longer dangerous, but they don’t want NFL players walking in his shoes.

As a longtime San Francisco 49ers fan, my interest was rekindled when Jim Harbaugh selected  Colin Kaepernick as the quarterback to lead the 49ers back to somewhere Alex Smith never could get to:  The Super Bowl.  They came up three points short to the Baltimore Ravens, but the future looked bright for the  Niners and Kaepernick looked like the guy to return the franchise to its Montana/Young glory days.

Only four players remain from that 2012 Super Bowl runner-up and after today’s final  roster cuts today while Kaepernick is  still one of them,  it’s only as the $11 million back-up to the wretched Blaine Gabbert.

The scourging of Colin Kaepernick takes several different lines of attack.

“Kaepernick is a rich, well-paid football player who should shut up because where else is he going to enjoy this level of success.”

Because only poor people have the right to protest?

“Kaepernick is a lousy football player who should be cut, traded or ride the bench in San Francisco. Who is he to say anything?”

It’s true Kapernick is not the hot property he once was, but he is an American citizens and American citizens are not required to stand and observe the National Anthem. This right extends even to professional football players. Incredible, yes I know.

“Kaepernick isn’t Black so what does he know about how Black men experience racism?”

That one came courtesy of NBC Sports’ Rodney Harrison. Harrison, who suffered at least 10 concussions in his playing days and was suspended four games in 2007 for using Human Growth Hormone, later “apologized” for questioning Kaepernick’s racial roots because he didn’t know Kaepernick was Black.

You may not believe it, Rodney Harrison, but this IS a Black guy. (Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)

You may not believe it, Rodney Harrison, but this IS a Black guy.
(Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)

I can’t even.

“I acknowledge Kaepernick’s right to protest, but since America is one of the least racist countries on the planet, he’s protesting about the wrong thing.”

Here’s the thing:  if you only agree someone has the right to protest when you agree with what they’re protesting about, you don’t really believe in the right.

Kaepernick is not the next MLK. He’s not the next Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali or any other Black athlete who has stood up (or sat down) to protest the racial inequities of America. He’s the first Colin Kaepernick and he’s following the light all those before him cast upon the darkness of American racism.

Some guys don’t get it. Like Rodney Harrison. Some guys do like Bart Scott.

“I think the death of Muhammad Ali has stirred the pot. It has moved the needle to where athletes are becoming socially conscious. They’re not concerned about the bottom line. They’re not concerned with their dollars. They understand that they have a voice and [they’re] almost ashamed of how they used their voice in the last 20 years since Jim Brown, Lew Alcindor, Muhammad Ali stepped up for social change. Now, guys are ashamed and I think they’re going to try to do something about it.

“We just honored the same man that we persecuted back in the day. It’s always the right time to fight for justice, fight for what you believe in. It’s never a convenient time to talk about what you believe in. You’re supposed to wait til tomorrow? Until he’s not a player? Who’s going to listen? If he had tweeted, who would have cared?”

The way this supposedly washed-up, scrub QB is being vilified, scorned, mocked, and damned, you would think he came out of the huddle, ripped off his jersey revealing a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt, and then pulled out an American flag and set it on fire on the 50-yard line. All he did was remaining seated on the bench instead of standing for an anthem that has lost its meaning for him.

Maybe Kaepernick eventually goes and maybe he stays.  Either way, the 49ers are going to suck.  This is a rotten team. and the bookmakers give them the least chance to make it to the Super Bowl.   I knew this before this drama jumped off so where Kap stands on the national anthem, Black Lives Matter or being able to check down to a receiver probably isn’t going to make much difference to the overall product on the field.

American history is soaked in the blood of Black people. It is the nation’s Original Sin and it didn’t end as much as it evolved. If it hasn’t why are we still having this discussion. Racism is a cancer, not a bruise. It goes dormant and then it blazes back to ferocious life.

White Americans have a remarkable talent to ignore the past, sugarcoat the future and hope the future never comes. This works for them until every so often someone like Colin Kaepernick comes along to remind them, that’s the America they created for themselves. It’s not the one Black Americans live in.

Thanks,  Colin for reminding the rest of America, but its gonna cost you.

Muhammad Ali: Black Action Hero

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary.

Impossible is nothing.

~Muhammad Ali

President Barack Obama’s remarks on the passing of Muhammad Ali:
Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d “handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail.”

But what made The Champ the greatest — what truly separated him from everyone else — is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing.

Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time.

In my private study, just off the Oval Office, I keep a pair of his gloves on display, just under that iconic photograph of him — the young champ, just 22 years old, roaring like a lion over a fallen Sonny Liston. I was too young when it was taken to understand who he was — still Cassius Clay, already an Olympic Gold Medal winner, yet to set out on a spiritual journey that would lead him to his Muslim faith, exile him at the peak of his power, and set the stage for his return to greatness with a name as familiar to the downtrodden in the slums of Southeast Asia and the villages of Africa as it was to cheering crowds in Madison Square Garden.

“I am America,” he once declared. “I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me — black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”

That’s the Ali I came to know as I came of age — not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us. He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn’t. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.

He wasn’t perfect, of course. For all his magic in the ring, he could be careless with his words, and full of contradictions as his faith evolved. But his wonderful, infectious, even innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans than foes — maybe because in him, we hoped to see something of ourselves. Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world. We saw a man who said he was so mean he’d make medicine sick reveal a soft spot, visiting children with illness and disability around the world, telling them they, too, could become the greatest. We watched a hero light a torch, and fight his greatest fight of all on the world stage once again; a battle against the disease that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes.

Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace.

RIP to The Greatest.

Perhaps there’s a way to honor Muhammad Ali in his passing without mentioning how he wasn’t just The Greatest, but America’s most famous conscientious objector, America’s most famous Muslim, and a transitory figure of social justice and Black pride.    Don’t sleep on that last point.  Ali was an American success story, but he was a Black super hero first and long before one showed up in the comic books.

Obama not only knows that, he celebrated Ali’s undisputed Blackness.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but losing Ali is so much more than losing another great athlete, a great humanitarian and activist and the G.O.A.T. For any conscious Black person, losing Ali is losing a hero, a role model, a symbol of Black power, pride, potential and principle. Ali was all that and at one time he was literally the most famous man on the planet and was recognized wherever he went in the world.

The important thing now is to not let The Greatest be neutered into some sort of cartoon character who beat guys up and said outrageous things.    Ali was Black Power Personified.   Controlled anger with a dangerous edge.  Sex, swagger, and style.   Ali didn’t just talk it, he walked it.   Ali was our Black James Bond: men wanted to be like him and women wanted him.    I should know and I’m not a woman.

If someone wants to say, “Ali was the Greatest,” that’s fine. If someone wants to go deeper and say “Ali was a hero and here’s why” that is also fine.    Haters should step off.

That was always the difference between Muhammad Ali and the rest of us. He came, he saw, and if he didn’t entirely conquer – he came as close as anybody we are likely to see in the lifetime of this doomed generation.
~ Hunter S. Thompson

Don’t believe the hype: They love Ali now but they hated Ali then.

The Power Belongs to the Players in the NBA.

Brothers gonna work it out.

Look at this picture.

April 28, 2014 marked the 47th anniversary of Muhammad Ali‘s refusal to be inducted into the U.S. Army.

At Ali’s side during the press conference to announce his disinterest in being drafted to go off to fight the Vietnamese were several prominent athletes who were to show support of the G.O.A.T. Maybe you recognize a few of them?

Imagine if you can what it would be like if there were a Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar willing to step away from protecting their wallets at all costs and dare to stand up as brave, strong and proud Black men against a racist slave owner like Donald Sterling.

Then realize you are imagining and wake up and shake your head in sorrow because what happened then seems nothing more than a dream that could never happen again. The day of the socially conscious athlete seems to have passed and what we have in their stead are better compensated and safely neutered eunuchs.

Sterling: A master with no more slaves.

But then again, there are still men who are willing to say “Enough!”   In less than a week after the news broke of Sterling’s comments to his girlfriend he was gone.  Banished from the league and his team up for sale and all because the NBA owners and commissioner faced a stark choice:  smack Sterling on the wrist with a fine and suspension and wait for the storm to pass or throw his ugly ass overboard with cement shoes because all hell was going to break loose if they didn’t.  These are not stupid people and the dumped The Donald.

It’s always easy to tell others what they should do in situations you’re not in yourself (and most of us will never cash an NBA-sized paycheck), so I grant what I think doesn’t factor into the decision NBA players faced whether they would boycott playoff games to protest Sterling’s slave master mindset as the owner of the L.A. Clippers.

Sterling’s stupidity is not new to the owners or the players. The difference is now there is a will among the players to do something about Sterling.   If three or four teams–not players–all decided not to play their games, the shock to the system of professional sports would be seismic.

As long as NBA ballers are dunking on Sportscenter and saying silent about anything happening in the real world, the league, the owners and the corporate sponsors of both are happy to sit back and counting the money. But let the Bulls, Wizards, Thunder, Grizzlies and Warriors all refuse to take the court in solidarity with the Clippers and the players will see they make the game and can break it.  The players ARE the NBA. Nobody pays hundreds of dollars to watch Sterling sitting on the sidelines with his hands resting on his enormous guts as his gold-diggers and booty calls smile prettily and wait for Mr. Sugar Daddy to buy them a Ferrari, a Range Rover, two Bentleys and a million dollar apartment.

The fans fill the seats, rock the gear and cheer for King James, Durant, and Kobe to give them a thrill. Nobody ever paid money to watch an owner own.

The Thunder without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Bulls without Joakim Noah, the Wizards without John Wall, the Thunder without Zach Randolph, the Warriors without Stephen Curry and the Clippers without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are not subject to being swapped out with a strike-breaking scab. You can’t replace them with subs from the D-league or scrubs off the street.

The players in pro sports have more power than they know and once having tasted it, I doubt they will willingly give it up.

It’s not where we stand in times of comfort that matter, it’s where we stand in times of turmoil. If my boss is doing everything but calling me a nigger to my face, I always have the option to clean off my desk, drop off my pass card and step. I might be choking down peanut butter and crackers and chasing it with a cup of water, but some things are worth it.

Anyone who would place financial compensation over simple human dignity has skewed priorities. Some things are worth giving up a fat check for. Some things are worth walking away from.

David Stern left the Sterling mess for Adam Sliver to clean up (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

David Stern left the Sterling mess for Adam Sliver to clean up (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Some things are worth being a free man instead of a scared slave for.  What price do you place on your humanity?

The hardest part of the hammer Silver dropped on Sterling isn’t the fine and not even the suspension. It’s forcing a rich man to sell his toy.

Donald Sterling is not going to go quietly. He’s refused for years to sell his team. He feeds off of the fame and the notoriety of being one of 30 rich guys who own a NBA team. He’s 80 years old and sitting on a billion bucks. He may decide suing the shit out of the NBA isn’t the worst way to spend his sunset years.

That’s for the lawyers to worry about.  The league has changed and perhaps irrevocably.   Perhaps only for a moment.   The mantra of the 21st Black athlete has been I just play ball. Don’t say anything about anything that might piss someone off. I’m just a jock. What happens in the real world isn’t important, doesn’t matter. Keep your head down. Cash the check. Keep it moving.

The spirit of unity and solidarity which brought Russell, Abdul-Jabbar, Brown and others to stand with Ali at the most critical point of his career was a singular and inspirational moment.   The story of how the NBA players rallied to remove from the league the cancer that was Donald Sterling doesn’t have as dramatic a moment as one photograph yet it is no less inspirational.

A simple gesture, a quiet protest, a chilling effect.

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Your Boo-Hoos Ain’t Like Mine

Death means more for pretty people.

This is my unasked for and unwanted advice to anyone who didn’t know actor Paul Walker personally, yet feels a deep sense of grief and loss over his untimely death as if they did.

Get over it. 

Paul Walker was a good-looking guy. He made some movies that some people liked and they made a lot of money. He didn’t win any acting awards and wasn’t nominated for any. And he damn sure wasn’t no James Dean.

It is because of his movies, specifically the Fast & Furious franchise, that we know the name of Paul Walker at all, but that’s reason enough for the outpouring of grief.

A little perspective here?

Walker’s death is no more tragic than any other death. It’s only more notable the same way it will be when Snooki or some other reality “star” kicks off Pointing this out is not being dismissive.   It’s a simple truth:  death means more when you’re pretty and famous.

It’s always easier to mourn “celebrities” than it is just folks. Our sympathy is finite and we tend to feel bad when its someone we “know” dies. I’ll feel bad when a Muhammad Ali passes away, but Ali was a star who changed the game. Paul Walker?   He was a pretty face in a business lousy with pretty faces.

Paul Walker and Vin Diesel are both being out-acted by this table.

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” Stalin said, but even a single death is not a tragedy unless it’s unusual or the person was famous. Otherwise, we just shake our heads and keep it moving.

I’m aware there are losers making stupid jokes about the eerie coincidence of an actor who made movies where cars sped around and crashed through airplanes died in a car crash and it probably wasn’t five minutes before the  first tasteless memes about Walker’s death went online. It’s the Internet. Hating on stuff is what the Internet does.

I’m not hating on Walker.  Burning to death in a car crash is bad way to go out.  I feel sorry for his daughter and his fans.  But I don’t feel worse for Walker for his violent demise.  Most celebrity deaths are not “special” events simply because they were celebrities.   Everyone dies eventually and while some deaths are more tragic and have greater significance than an old person passing away in their sleep or a baby in their crib,  the only deaths that truly impact us are the people we know.   Don’t confuse sympathy for the dead with personally identifying with them.

Honey Boo Boo and the Duck Dynasty crew are famous because they’re on TV, but that doesn’t make them important.  Many of these “celebrities” have done very little worth celebrating.   Confusing fame with significance is a mistake.   The difference between stardom and talent is you can be a star and have no talent.  Walker was a movie star, but he wasn’t exceptional when acting was factored into it.

This is the acting requirement for The Fast & Furious films;  Drive car.  Look intense.  Don’t show up Vin Diesel.  Drive car fast.  Drive car faster.  Repeat.

It’s sad he died, but is it any sadder than the people killed in that train derailment in New York or in a car bombing in Baghdad?    It’s no less tragic for the family and friends of Roger Rodas, the driver of the car Walker died in, but he’s been reduced to a bit player in the story.

Anyone shook up by Walker’s death should feel equally bad when its someone not handsome or a movie star.  But I already know what the response will be to that line of thought.

Was he famous? Did he make any movies? Was he anybody special?

No? Well, then don’t bother me about nobodies and let me get back to mourning my close personal friend, Paul Walker.

The Debates: No Bundini Browns Necessary

“Panic? Me? “

There’s laundry to be done.  There are leaves to be raked.   There are plants that went in the dirt in the spring that need to come out for the fall.  There’s always bills to be paid.

There’s always something else I could be doing.    Tonight though I’ll put all that aside for 90 minutes for the second of the three presidential debates.    Nobody needs yet another recap of the first one.   Romney won, Obama lost and it wasn’t even close.   Sure,  Romney won on style while Obama carried the day based upon substance, but since when have presidential races been about substance?

After the first debate the boxing metaphors came down like rain.   Romney jabbed while Obama covered up.    Romney threw punches that were high to the head, directly to the kidneys and below the belt, but at least he was fighting.   Obama just gave away round after right.   And of course,  my favorite Facebook and Twitter fall-back was, “Obama planned this.   He suckered Romney into a rope-a-dope strategy.”

Yeah?  And how did that work out for him?   If you believe the polls all it did was cost Obama the lead as Romney has pulled ahead of him.

It doesn’t matter.   Really it doesn’t.  Obama knows better than anyone he didn’t bring the noise.   I  fully expect he will do better tonight in the rematch.   He can hardly be worse.

The only explanation I’ve heard for the president’s previously passive performance came from a gentleman who has forgotten more about politics than I’ve ever known.    We were talking recently and he said he felt perhaps what President Obama feared was overconfidence that he had this thing wrapped up.    By coming in flat he not only revived Romney’s flagging campaign, he sent a sense of urgency through the entire Democratic Party and every last one of this supporters.    Some thought Obama did fine in the first debate while others were certain he screwed the pooch.  Everyone had a opinion and in the absence of any better evidence,  all of them had a small degree of truth to them.

If post-debate advice for Obama were crude oil, the price of gasoline would be $2 a gallon.    Here, there and everywhere (including here), there’s been all sort of advice on what Obama should do for the next debate.   He should come on strong like a house on fire and burn Romney on his various lies, half-truths and misstatements.   He should lay back, don’t overreact and just call up that unique coolness Obama is known for.    He should panic and beat up on Mittens like an unwanted stray dog.    I suggested Obama take a cold shower and “wake the fuck up” as Samuel L. Jackson would put it.

I don’t think Obama will do any of those things.

I don’t believe Obama will worry about things he can’t control like whether he “won” or “lost” the debate.   Twitter and the post-debate talking heads will decide that so there’s no reason to  sweat it.   Obama has one thing he needs to do and one thing only.   He needs to remind everyone why he was the best man for the job in 2008 and why he still is in 2012.

Watch an old Muhammad Ali video.  You might have to go back in the day when he was still known as Cassius Clay.   There will be two men in Ali’s corner.   One was  his trainer, Angelo Dundee.   The other was a guy who was called a trainer, but what Drew “Bundini” Brown really was Ali’s biggest cheerleader.   Bundini Brown was always in Ali’s ear offering encouragement, advice, folk wisdom, and probably strategy on how to box that Ali let go in one ear and out the other.

Bundini was always there to tell Ali what he should do, but he wasn’t  the one in the ring getting hit.   It was up to Ali to win the fight by himself and all the advice in the world isn’t much help when you’re getting punched in the mouth.

Over the last two weeks,  Obama received unasked for advice coming from all corners.   I’ve told him when he needs to do.   Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama have probably told him what he needs to do.   Malia and Sasha have probably told Daddy what he needs to do.

Does Obama needs someone like Bundini Brown up in his face?

It doesn’t matter.  Nobody’s advice matters.   Not Bubba’s, not Michelle and certainly not mine.   Anyone can tell Obama what he should do but it’s up to Obama to get the job done.    He doesn’t need a Bundini Brown yammering non-stop in  his ear.     This isn’t the first time in the ring.   Obama has debated Alan Keyes, Hillary Clinton and John McCain and any one of them is a more formidable opponent than Willard M. Romney.   Obama has squared off with foreign leaders, members of both sides in Congress, academics, journalists, and been able to hold his own.   Are we supposed to believe he’s suddenly turned into 174 pounds of mushy pudding?

Either Obama steps up his game or he doesn’t.  What he shouldn’t do is panic.  There’s more than enough coked-up Chicken Little’s running around crying the sky is falling and the election is lost.

Nonsense.    Nothing has been lost yet.   Obama once said of himself, “I’m skinny, but I’m tough.”   Guess we will have to see how tough he really is.   Just don’t believe everything hinges on what happens 90 minutes at Hofstra University is the end-all and be-all of this election.

And don’t believe all Obama needs his own Bundini Brown in his corner.   He doesn’t need anyone reminding him how to fight.

Can Obama Get Off the Mat?

Obama said knock you out....but when?

A funny thing happened on the way to President Obama’s big jobs address given to a joint session of Congress.  Like so many things in this Chief Executive’s life even the relatively routine matter of getting the speech scheduled at a time of the president’s choosing became a major controversy.

The Tuesday Obama wanted to give his speech fell on the same night the Republican presidential challengers were scheduled to gather for a debate.   This sparked cries that the president was trying to big foot the Republicans so Speaker John Boehner asked the president to move his speech to Thursday instead.   The White House conceded to Boehner’s request and immediately the howls when up how Obama had caved to the Republicans–again.

But it also brought to light a different issue.  How little the GOP seems to respect this particular president.

When she was House speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California verbally tormented President George W. Bush. (Ms. Pelosi’s description of Mr. Bush as “an incompetent leader” comes to mind.) Dick Armey, a Republican former lawmaker from Texas and now a Tea Party leader, referred derisively to Bill Clinton as “your president” when speaking to Democrats. President Ronald Reagan sparred often with Democrats on the Hill.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said this year that his first goal was to see Mr. Obama defeated.

“The closest we have come to this was Tom DeLay’s hatred for Clinton when he demanded impeachment of him,” said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group. “But that was one guy or a handful. Now it is much more widespread, and the toxicity is, and culture is different now.”

Mr. Ornstein pointed to the fight over the payroll tax cut sought by the Obama administration — one that many Congressional Republicans supported in 2009 but oppose now — as an example of Republicans’ opposing Mr. Obama even when they had agreed with him on a policy.

Mr. Obama has had his own contributing role. Often when he has met with Republicans he has taken a scolding tone that irks them. Even some of his fellow Democrats viewed his attempt to schedule an address on job creation before a joint session of Congress next Wednesday — the same night as a major Republican presidential debate — as clumsy if not downright rude. It then became embarrassing when Mr. Obama capitulated and changed the date to Thursday at 7 p.m., as Mr. Boehner wanted.

But the dynamic, which Democrats largely blame Republicans for, has irked many of them, especially on the Hill. “I think it is unprecedented of a leader in the Senate of either party to say the most important goal he has is to make the current president a one-term,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California. “That is about respect, that is about priorities and it is just wrong.”

Julian E. Zelizer, a political scientist at Princeton, said that when it comes to Mr. Obama, Republicans “just keep gaining confidence to force his hand.”

“While there might be a few people whose words have become nastier than usual, I think this is really the new normal in Washington with a president who is always on the ropes,” Professor Zelizer said. “I am not convinced that is about lack of respect so much as the feeling that this is a weak president. If the president seemed more powerful they would have returned the call.”

The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said Thursday that the administration spent “zero” time worrying about whether Republicans in Congress are showing the president the respect that the office deserves. “You guys care much more about this than we do,” he scolded reporters who asked about the relationship between Mr. Obama and Congressional Republicans.

Ready to rumble?

I count myself among the ranks of the “you guys” that Carney dismisses.  If the president continues to act like a doormat he shouldn’t be surprised if Republicans wipe their feet on him.

Washington is a place of power and with power comes respect.  I’m not exactly sure how Obama can command the respect that is due him as benefits his office, but a show of strength might help.

Back in the day of the first George Bush, disrespecting presidents was called “the wimp factor” and since then every man that’s held the office has come in for more than the usual kind of criticism that’s expected.

Any president is going to face natural adversaries.  No matter how popular a president or his policies are, someone is going to dislike both intensely.

I’m not going to pull the race card (this time at least), because this is Obama’s fault to an extent.  Obama is slow to anger and even slower to show it for reasons I can speculate upon but hesitate to say.   Even if Obama knows in his heart of hearts some of the shit slung at him is based upon his race, he’d never say it out loud.  He’d be denounced as a whiner and it’s a fight he would never win.

Presidents can be seen as weak, even as ineffectual, but if they look like they’re going to cry because they get punched in the jaw, they’re done.  Nobody respects a crybaby.

I won’t be listening to his speech next week just to hear what he has to say about creating jobs.  That’s the most important part, but how he says it will matter just as more.

If he challenges the Republicans to step up and do something more than obstruct and oppose anything he proposes because he’s proposing it I’ll be pleased.  Some have suggested Obama has been playing defense and executing a clever version of Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope” strategy against George Foreman.

The thing is, Ali eventually came off the ropes to knock out Foreman.  If Obama’s strategy is to keep taking roundhouse rights and upper-cuts until the Republicans punch themselves out and get arm weary, it doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect.

If he’s pleading yet again with the Republicans to hold hands and sing “We Are the World” and show his willingness to reach across the aisle in the spirit of bipartisan bullshit, I’ll retch and be disappointed as I choke down the bile rising in my throat.

Right now, I expect disappointment.  Obama needs a Ali-style knockout of a speech.  He’s past the point of covering up, clenching and jabbing as he waits to be saved by the bell.   The Republicans are coming to take his title.

I know Obama can fight.  I’m just not sure if he will.

Is Obama ready to fight for his presidency and his principles?

Black History Month: Week Four

I’m a black American, I am proud of my race. I am proud of who I am. I have a lot of pride and dignity.

~ Michael Jackson

February 22 – Julius Winfield( “Dr.J”) Erving, former basketball player, born Roosevelt, NY, Feb 22, 1950. Also on this day DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince win the first rap Grammy for the hit single “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”

February 23 – Baseball catcher Elston Gene Howard was born in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1965, Howard signed a $70,000 contract with the NY Yankees and became the highest paid player in the history of baseball at the time in 1929.

February 24 – Former world heavyweight boxing champion Jimmy Ellis was born James Albert Ellis in Louisville, Kentucky in 1940. Ellis won the World Boxing Association title after beating Jerry Quarry in April 1968.

February 25 – Muhammad Ali defeated Sonny Liston for world heavyweight boxing championship in 1964. Boxer Mike Tyson becomes the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World by defeating challenger Frank Bruno of England in 1989.

February 26 – Theodore “Georgia Deacon” Flowers wins middleweight boxing title in 1926. On this day in 1964., the Kentucky boxer known to all as Cassius Clay, changed his name to Cassius X as he accepted Islam and rejected Christianity. “I believe in the religion of Islam. I believe in Allah and in peace…I’m not a Christian anymore.” According to two biographies, Muhammad Ali by Anthony O. Edmonds and My View from the Corner by Angelo Dundee, Cassius Clay changed his name to Cassius X on the 26th. Elijah Muhammed, a black Muslim leader, announced Cassius X’s name was being changed to Muhammad Ali.

February 27 – Figure skater Debi Thomas becomes the first African American to win a medal (bronze) at the winter Olympic Games in 1988.

February 28 – In 1932, Richard Spikes invents the automatic gear shift. Also Musician and entertainer Michael Jackson wins eight Grammy Awards. His album, Thriller, broke all sales records to-date, and remains one of the top-grossing albums of all time.


Dr. J. makes a house call.

Muhammad Ali: Genius in Gloves

He came. He saw. He conquered.

Ali didn’t go to college, but would anyone claim  he was not clever?  Ali wasn’t a Christian, but who doubt that he was touched by God?    Ali was not a learned man of letters, but was he not a poet?   Ali never led a movement, but wasn’t he a leader? 

I don’t need heroes.  I need inspirations.  Men and women who live their lives in such a way that they motivate me to push a little further, dig a little deeper, try a little harder.   A man like Muhammad Ali inspires a man like me. 

The G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time, naturally) turns 68 today and even now remains in my mind the single greatest athlete this nation has ever produced.  That Ali left a bigger footprint than anyone ever did in boxing is beyond question.   No one comes close to being such an iconic figure who is universally recognized anywhere on the planet.   

I was born between two remarkable men: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ali.   Odds are I will never do anything  remotely as memorable as they did, but that I am even able to aspire to their level of achievement pays homage to their greatness.  


As I said, I don’t have heroes.   To my mind a hero is anyone who does what needs be done when the need is greatest.  There are heroes on the ground in Haiti racing the clock to save lives and bring aid and comfort to those desperately needing it.  These nameless and faceless people will receive no championship belts and no parades will be held for them when they return home.   Yet in their own quiet way they are accomplishing great deeds that are as grand as any knockout Ali delivered in the ring. 

Do I take a certain pride in the G.O.A.T. being a Black man?  Sure I do, but not in any kind of superiority way.   If you believe the hype you’d think every Black man in America was either going to jail or coming out of it.   You’d think we were illiterate brutes good only for dunking basketballs, running from cops, making babies we won’t take responsibility for and shooting each other on Saturday night for one dumb reason or another. 

Muhammad Ali proved  it was not only possible to crossover and win the acclaim and respect of the White Man’s world, but you could do so and not lose your soul in the process.   It’s always a delicate balancing act to navigate through a society not of your own making and keep your moorings.   It is not a requirement  to sell out to get over.  Ali proved it could be done. 

Ali would play the clown but never the fool.   He fought for money but he never sold out.   He could be loud, brash and even obnoxious, but he stayed out of trouble and kept his business private.   Ali was a class act.    

On the short list of people I would be in awe of were I ever to meet them, Ali ranks high on the short list.   Sure he isn’t the Mouth That Roared any longer as Parkinson’s Disease has robbed the world of his eloquence.   Still, even to be in the presence of such greatness would be a moment to cherish. 

In this time of manufactured celebrities whose claim to fame is they appeared on a reality television show or parlayed some meager deed into major acclaim,  watching highlights of Ali fights on ESPN  is the closest my kids will get to the unmatched brilliance of a transformative figure such as Muhammad Ali.   I feel sorry for them but glad for myself that I lived in a time where I heard Dr. King’s words as they were uttered and saw the Ali Shuffle in motion.   

I wasn’t present at the creation, but I witnessed the fruition of Ali’s genius.   The list of those who inspire me grows ever shorter.    Every January 17  that rolls around that I’m here for means I can enjoy in the aftermath of my birthday the raising of a toast to a man who carried himself with such grace, poise and dignity that he dazzled everyone who saw him putting the sweetness to “the sweet science.” 

Being a fan of boxing without liking Ali would be like being a fan of rock n’ roll and disliking Jimi Hendrix or being a fan of jazz but thinking Duke Ellington is overrated.   It just makes no damn sense. 

Boxing would have been dead long ago had it not been for the power and personality of a Ali keeping it alive.  One reason why the sport is dormant and nearly dead now is because there’s no Ali to cheer for or root against.   How many kids want to be a boxer now?   Those boys that would shadowbox in the backyard now see wrestlers and ultimate fighting as the way to proving their manhood.  

The world sure could use another Muhammad Ali.   We probably won’t get that lucky again.    


 “I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky — my name, not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me.”   ~ Muhammad Ali