Can Minorities Be Racists?

My buddy often watches the news on the TV he has in his office while he eats his lunch, which means that I am apt to get hot and bothered phone calls from him right when I am trying to enjoy reading the paper in peace while eating my own midday meal.

"Hey man" he yelled into the phone yesterday, "can you believe this? They're calling Sotomayor a racist!"

He caught me before I'd read the New York Times, but it just so happened that I had perused a USA TODAY with breakfast, so I had an idea of what he was talking about. "Now you get to see what all those think tanks are really there for - to manufacture ideas and talking points and buzzwords to sway the political discourse."

"But a racist?" he said. "I thought black people - I mean, minorities - can't be racist."

"If you're looking for a definition," I said, "in my mind a racist person has to have power, or access to power. So, if you have an Attorney General who is black, what he says starts to mean something different than if he is just a guy in the public. Or the president. It used to be that we could count on being powerless to shield us, but now that things are changing, I don't think we can automatically say "black people can't be racist" anymore.

My buddy mused over that one for a minute before going to another topic. And just like that, I saw that the changes in the political landscape these past few months was starting to trickle down to our everyday lives.

What did Sonia Sotomayor say that has conservative talking heads calling her a racist?

"Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.

Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement.

First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise.

Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

From the Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture in 2001, delivered by Sonia Sotomayor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

It is this sentence - "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life" - that has sparked the latest debate over our first Hispanic Supreme Court nominee. Within the context of the entire speech she gave, one could argue that she was simply trying to explain why her Latina identity is important. Professional spinmeisters who reside deep in the bowels of the Democratic Party machinery are hard at work right now trying to recast this statement in a way that makes its message more palatable.

I think she said what she meant, and she meant what she said - given that all other things are equal, the experiences gleaned from the perspective of being a minority in this country provide minorities with a broader knowledge base than that of a mainstream American. Almost every Downtown Brown I know feels that they have seen more of life than their white counterparts, even if they have essentially had the same upbringing.

When there was no way in hell any minority could be a state governor, or U. S. senator, or Attorney General, or Supreme Court justice, or the president of the United States, we could say things like Sonia Sotomayor said with impunity in our efforts to balance our own mental scales. Even though the reality is that most of us will never sit on the Supreme Court, or command the nation's military, or control the country's federal prosecutors, we are still as minorities going to have to begin to manufacture new ideas and talking points and buzzwords of our own in order to more accurately define our relationship to today's America.

Sotomayor: Latina Woman Thinking Hard

Since I had already weighed in on the Obama Administration's Supreme Court options a couple of weeks ago in Supreme Court Needs Big Man With Inside Moves, I thought about writing about another topic today, at least until I read yesterday's New York Times article about Sonia Sotomayor. It was a pleasant respite from all of the forensic reporting going on out there that is attempting to take the candidate's life apart, day by day, hour by hour, as if she is a suspect on CSI.

I like her.

Even with all the pictures of Judge Sotomayor circulating on the internet and being shown on TV these days, I still wouldn't know who she was if I ran into her on the street. But I would know, from the way those brown eyes peer out across those broad cheeks, that she is an intelligent and thoughtful woman.

On of the things that stuck out at me as I read the article in the Times was a childhood anecdote about her mother, who always seemed to manage to find another pork chop if an unexpected guest showed up. Maybe this resonated with me because of my own love affair with pork chops, which began in my own childhood. Or maybe it was the way her mother proved to be resourceful in a pinch, the way my own mother was and still is, that immediately made me feel like I had an inside track to understanding Judge Sotomayor's impressionable years.

As I marveled over this common ground of our upbringing, I couldn't help but think of the africano influence that was a part of the Puerto Rican heritage tree.

Another was having a complete edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica in her house when she grew up. The edition that still sits prominently in the center of the bookcase in my parent's house is almost thirty five years old. Short on pictures, and long on precise, exacting descriptions, it was the must have item for families who wanted their children to have the best educational opportunities.

I like her.

My buddy swears that he knows exactly who she is, because he dated a few Puerto Rican women in high school who had the same background. Some of our friends who are black women lawyers are taking the nomination in stride - "we knew he was going to get a hispanic woman over a black woman" - biding their time for "the big payback" President Obama will eventually have to deal with regarding his African American supporters.

I still like her.

The dogfight over her confirmation will begin in earnest in June. By the time the special interest groups have sliced and diced her life's accomplishments into little pieces that they can rearrange to suit their agendas, you may not recognize her. But to me, she will still be the same woman who grew up on a magical supply of pork chops. The woman who studied the same pages of Encyclopaedia Britannica that I did a few years later.

Keep thinking hard, Sonia Sotomayor.

Graduation Ground Zero Keeps Brown Man Busy

The graduation weekend for the Resident Diva has taken every minute the past five days. Graduation Ground Zero began at our house and ran all the way through last night. Plenty of family and friends, food and drink.

The Brown Man will be back in action today or Wednesday after he catches up on current events.


Brown Man

Martin Luther King Jr.© Incorporated

Bernice, Dexter, and Martin III - better known many of us in the ATL as "those damn Kings" - are bucking mightily for the Three Horsemen of the Nonviolence Legacy Apocalypse. As I watched Bernice King and Martin Luther King the Third on CNN last night, discussing the latest legal battle between them and their star struck brother Dexter, it seemed like they were playing out a childhood spat, with all of its attendant name calling and chest beating.

Maybe they could get together with Ralph David Abernathy the Third and form a support group for children of the civil rights movement who can't figure out how to do anything worthwhile in their lives. They could call it "For The Children Of Civil Rights Leaders Who Have Considered Committing Political Suicide When Being In Front Of The TV Camera Is Not Enough". Of course, there would be no dues. They would charge them to...charge them to...well, hell, they would charge them to us, even though 99.99999% of us aren't eligible for membership.

Why did they even come out of their caves - oops, I mean high rise condos - to waste six or seven minutes of cable news bandwidth tonight?

As I've said here before, in a previous post, I can't begrudge the King children for making money from their legendary father's image, likeness, and copyrights. In America we sell everything else - why not sell "The Dream"? As much as I agree with Jeffrey Toobin's point of view most of the time, I have to tell him to give his outrage a break on this one. The Kennedy children would have sold their mother's drawers if they figured someone would buy them.

But I can talk trash about how little these three clowns actually do, other than sit around practicing the correct way to pronounce "legacy" so that they can tap that latent feeling in your gut that you get every time you think about the bullet that ended Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. The King Center, their privately managed non-profit piggybank, isn't even a bad joke anymore. It's just bad - badly managed, barely maintained, and poorly integrated into the community in which it sits, a bad dream if there ever was one.

It is the way the King children act like they can have their cake and eat it too that makes you want to tell them to go jump off the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

I think the fallacy of the stance the King children fall back on whenever anyone questions the sincerity of their intentions when they block/freeze/deny access to the Martin Luther King Jr. image is this - they have derived their strategies from the entertainment world. There are full time staffs who work to control the images of Elvis, Ray Charles, Bob Marley, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. But they are working with the estates of performers who were strictly in the business of selling themselves to their audiences.

To reduce Martin Luther King Jr.'s life work to the mere detritus that fills file folders and court exhibits is like sticking a copyright symbol after Ghandi©, or Mother Teresa©. Having the right to do something doesn't mean that you should always exercise that right. But these Three Stooges can't see that. All they can see is the money. I know Bernice and Martin the Third said "money isn't an issue" several times, but the only time people are vociferous about proclaiming it isn't the issue is when it is.

Their brother Dexter is at least smart enough to admit the obvious. He wants to get paid. But can be he put his "CEO" fetish aside - he is the CEO of everything King related, even if he hasn't "executived" anything other than conference calls with law firms for years - long enough to realize what every other CEO in the country knows? That cash cows need to be fed and groomed and cared for in order to keep producing their sweet milk? That golden geese sometimes quit laying their precious eggs?

The bad thing is, copyrights last forever if they are properly renewed. The good thing is, a hundred years from now, when this squabbling threesome are dead and gone, they will be largely forgotten.

MLK - even with his ©, thank God - will not be.

Colson Whitehead Steals My Lunch Hour

Colson Whitehead has been stealing my lunch hour all week. His latest book, Sag Harbor, couldn't be any more frank than it already is about the life of upper middle class black teenaged boys. I usually read the New York Times for lunch, but this week I couldn't tell you if we are invading Bangladesh, or selling our nuclear warheads on EBay. Or whether President Obama has issued the Los Angeles Lakers a playoff bailout, complete with rules changes, so they can get into the NBA finals.

Since it is graduation week around my house, I was already in a nostalgic mood, reminiscing about my own graduation from high school twenty five years ago, recalling all of the pains and pleasures and promise we all had back when we stood on the cusp of the rest of our lives. Whitehead's book has reawakened subterranean memories, stirring the dust from the long forgotten details and rituals that suburban black teenagers like me practiced as if our lives depended on them.

A disclaimer here - I am an unabashed fan of Colson Whitehead, warts and all, having been seduced by the sly prose and ingenious premise of his first novel, The Intuitionist. I had to work with him a bit on John Henry Days, although I could see how he was following in the footsteps of Delillo, and to a lesser extent Pynchon, with his rambling narrative in that book. And even though I was disappointed by Apex Hides The Hurt - upset, actually, at the idea that my man had been reduced to reproducing his amazing authorial voice for literary Scooby Snacks - I have read it four or five times, mostly because it resides in a place of honor in my favorite bathroom.

So I felt a little bit like a groupie when I handed over twenty five dollars last week for a copy of Sag Harbor. I knew right away this book might be different, because when I got home, a gaggle of the Resident Diva's friends were all perched around the island in the kitchen. Not only did one of them open it up - she actually read a paragraph or so before handing it back to me with a sage nod. For high school seniors who have become allergic to anything remotely academic in these last few days before they get their diplomas, a gesture like this was unprecedented.

Why do I like what I've read so far so much? Because Whitehead has taken one of the most maligned subsets of black America - that cohort of well educated bourgeois professionals who are themselves descendants of well educated bourgeois professionals, the kind of black people who make the Obamas look like new money, they who are the mostly pale skinned and squiggly haired tribesman who coexist amongst the rest of us - and masterfully connected the lives of this bunch of beach house owning black folks to the rest of the tribe.

Never one to dwell on the physicality of his characters, he simply assumes for the most part that you know these things, and pretty much sticks to the storytelling. The other thing that keeps you in the ballgame is the way he leaves all the adults, their problems and their pettiness at the far periphery, describing them mostly through scathing anecdotes and brief asides.

The music, the lingo, the yearnings and longings are all so authentic you feel he is telling his own life story. Which he is, in a way. But to connect his fictional recollection to my life, which was about as middle of the road middle class as it got - we ate steak on Fridays, but we never had filet mignon; we had cable TV, but no premium channels; our ranch house had central heat and air, but no rec room; we owned a small lot at a South Carolina beach, but no beach house - was the hat trick that he has pulled off in spades.

My buddy's cousin, who went to college with us, was a Sag Harbor child. But to my South Carolina raised mind, which only understood the pecking order between Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head, and held a vague understanding of the social significance of Martha's Vineyard and The Hamptons, the way she would say "our house on Sag Harbor" was interpreted by my Low Country sensibilities to mean "my parents are struggling to pay two mortgages instead of one".

The people around me at lunchtime probably think I am crazy. When I'm not laughing out loud at something, I am talking to the book. "This brother broke down Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force!" The thing that is most compelling is the way Whitehead pulls no punches, none at all. His description of the peculiar teenage black middle class methodology we all used to use when we first began to string together curse words was so accurate he could have been reading my mind.

So if you've got twenty five dollars laying around, buy this book. Because there is nothing like reading the work of an author who knows how to tell a story, and knows the story he's telling.

High School Baccalaureate Preview Of Real Thing

Almost fifty percent of black high school students in America don't graduate from high school on time.

No matter how beautiful, profound or august the many, many ceremonies were that we attended Sunday in honor of the Resident Diva's upcoming high school graduation, "almost fifty percent" kept coming back to me all day long. While I stared through the narrow glass pane of a door just off the vestibule of the church at seven forty five Sunday morning, drinking in the sight of the happy brownskinned faces floating atop their respective schools graduation gowns, I wondered about those other black kids, the ones who weren't graduating with their class.

Almost fifty percent.

It is a shocking number, until you realize that only seventy percent of ALL high school seniors graduate on time.

In October 2008, the U.S. Department of Education released regulations that change requirements for state calculations, reporting, and accountability systems for graduation rates under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). These new regulations require states to report and use a "four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate" with the following formula:

    Graduation = # in adjusted cohort who earned a regular diploma
    Rate # in adjusted cohort

The "adjusted cohort" is defined as the number of first-time ninth graders four years ago, plus students who transfer into the cohort, and minus students who transfer out, emigrate to another country, or are deceased.

How the hell does a teenager not graduate from high school? Most students take average classes, not the AP or honors courses. And if you are in an area with a lot of black kids whose test scores indicate that they are behind the curve academically, you can bet your bottom dollar that the schools they attend offer remedial courses for all the core subjects, along with enough simple-minded electives to provide all but the most determined dropout the opportunity to cop themselves a high school diploma.

Even so, almost fifty percent of our children - OUR CHILDREN - will not graduate with their ninth grade classmates.

This is going to be a good week in the Brown Man household here in the ATL - a celebratory one - and I thought I was going to stick to providing positive, life affirming posts this week, but this "almost fifty percent" that keeps ringing in my head is such a damn shame, I don't have a choice but to rant a little bit here.

We can't even begin to get in the game if we are doing the basics. Graduating from high school should be like breathing - an absolute necessity for ALL of us.

S. and I sat through the early service and watched the presentation of the Resident Diva with all the other graduates from high school and college. Their names were called one by one, just like it will be later this week. They stood in front of the congregation and listened as the pastor waxed rhapsodic about the milestones they had all achieved. Scholarships were awarded. The student's caps and gowns shimmered in the glare of the overhead lights all the while, as if they were a menagerie of brightly colored birds.

But with "almost fifty percent" rate of black high school students not graduating on time, these brightly clad specimens of African American youth might as well be on the endangered species list.

We are saving whales. We are saving rain forests. We are saving snail darters. But people, regular human beings?

The church had requested that the graduates attend both Sunday services to be presented to the full congregation. I am normally the first to grumble about the amount of time this church, like a lot of churches, seem to want to waste on dreaming up elaborate programs of dubious social value, but for once I was silent. Silent and smiling, because this was the kind of ritual I could get behind one hundred and fifty percent.

We passed into the dining room for a breakfast prepared for the graduates and their families. Most of the students had removed their caps and gowns. As they grouped together around the tables and reconnected or introduced themselves to new friends, they looked different.

In the hour and a half since they had first lined up, with just that small amount of focused attention they had received this morning, they looked smarter, and sharper, and more self assured than they had been standing behind that door in the hallway at seven forty five. The graduates-to-be looked the way passengers on a train look at the very beginning of a journey, right when the wheels of the rail cars they are in begin their first reluctant revolutions - like they were finally starting to get somewhere.

A parent, a woman in a black dress with a short haircut and an inviting smile, sat at our table. Ten minutes later it was as if we were old friends. It turned out that the woman was retired military. She had been a drill instructor.

So when I mentioned the "almost fifty percent" factoid that had been swimming around in my head all morning to the drill instructor, she looked at me as if she wanted to tell me to "drop and give me twenty for telling me this cockamamie story". "We, we, we, we, we - we gotta do something about this," she said. "Now."

And as I sat through the first half of service number two, I thought about what she'd said. We gotta do something about this. But what else could you say to a statistic like that? Members of the well scrubbed negro club have been saying this for years - for decades - but we have yet to come up with anything that can even remotely be considered a solution.

If the high school baccalaureate service is a preview of the Real Thing for graduates-to-be, I'm just wondering - what kind of preview did our high school dropouts-to-be have last weekend?

Diamonds In My Own Backyard

The good thing about a blog is that, in an otherwise mundane week for news, you can write about other things that you think are more important.

The two things that piqued my interest this week more than Miss California, the president's commencement speech at Arizona State University, or the blowout scoring in the NBA playoffs were items I found right in my blogroll.

First up - Jason Campbell, hereby known as "Dr. Jay".


Jason has ascended to that rarest of academic heights by being awarded his PhD about a week ago. I don't know how many black men will earn doctorates in 2009, but I do know that the number of ALL blacks achieving this educational milestone in 2006 is somewhere around 1,650 - so it would be safe to say that this years crop is a pretty small number.

A long time ago, back when I was in college, I used to think about becoming an English professor, but spending the amount of time that I did in the department getting my bachelor's degree cured me of that notion. The men, none of whom were black or Indian or anything other than WASPs and Jews, seemed to be from another planet. Although there were a few PhD's in my neighborhood growing up, and we lived near a college campus, there was something about these men at my alma mater, men who seemed to be overly cloistered from the world, that caused my desire to wane.

So it is with a sense of awe and nostalgia that I salute Dr. Campbell, who has persevered in spite of the long odds against the completion of his entire program of study. I hope the toolbox he brings to the table culturally as well as intellectually will inspire young black men contemplating a life of scholarship the way I was that there is life after the dissertation.

The second thing that caught my eye this week is a profound statement about the direction in which our media, and by extension our society, is headed that was on The Flack last week. The Flack really isn't a political blog, but Peter Himler, a veteran New York public relations professional, reveals so much about the massive effort that is at work in the advertising world practically around the clock in an attempt to control and predict our behavior in order that others may profit from our malleability that I just had to include his blog on my list.

One of his latest posts talks about the latest thing in marketing is something he calls "journalism 2.0" in his article "Forget Journalists. It's The Algorithm" :

It involves the confluence of three big digital drivers: advertising, algorithms and content creation:

    "...former MySpace Chairman Richard Rosenblatt has spent the past three years refining a set of algorithms that it uses as a guide for mass-producing content that it publishes on its many Web properties."

As I understand it, Mr. Rosenblatt's company, Demand Media, creates content, not based on a journalistic assessment of what's news or newsworthy, but instead on an algorithm that matches (and attempts to monetize) consumer and advertising demand for a given topic.

If I were you, I would be afraid of anything like this. Very afraid. Maybe you aren't willing to admit how limited your mind is, but I am. If the only information I could ever get was only the information I wanted, how could I learn anything new?

To paraphrase motivational speaker Earl Nightingale, these two bloggers I've spotlighted tonight are just some of the "diamonds in my own backyard."

My buddy called me yesterday with a besieged sound in his voice. He was mad at Obama for going after offshore bank accounts. Maybe he called me because he knew I was probably going to be on the other side of this issue, and just wanted me to be the stand in for the news commentators who couldn't hear him yelling at them while they appeared on the TV in his office. Or maybe he thought he was going to convince me that I should be rooting for the interests of the rich.

I didn't see why this was even an issue with my buddy. I'm no economist, but I would imagine, if you were to look it up, that most of the real wealth in this country has been created, banked and taxed right here on American soil. The offshore banking debacle affects such a small slice of the public that it is effectively a non issue. Then again, my buddy might have more money than I think he does.

After he got tired of trying to get me to see things his way, my buddy went on to tell me that his family's newly acquired poodle had eaten his dinner right off of his plate the previous night, before he got a chance to sit down and enjoy his crab cakes. "Everybody else had already eaten," my buddy said. "My plate was on the table, just out of the microwave, while I made a quick detour before sitting down eat. By the time I headed to my chair my dinner was gone, and the damn dog was licking her lips."

I understood exactly what was behind the plaintive sound of the word "gone" as it issued from my buddy's lips. The same thing had happened to me years ago when I lived with a roommate who owned a dog. Back in those days, when I lived in a bachelor pad, cooking was a rare event. The succulent pork chops and the fluffy white rice had taken me awhile to cook, and I had planned on enjoying an evening movie in the living room of the apartment while I ate. All I had to do was return to the kitchen to retrieve my drink and my eating utensils. It wasn't until I was about to sit down that I noticed the pork chops were missing from my plate.

You go through several stages at that moment you realize that something is wrong - surprise at the incongruity of sitting down to an empty plate, shock at the way the sanctity of your plate has been violated, anger at your own stupidity, and then outrage at the audacity of the damned dog to even dare to eat what was intended for you.

"You want to get rid of that damned dog, don't you?" I asked.

My buddy has heard me talk about my travails with our dog over the past few years. I guess he figured that a purebred poodle wouldn't have the laundry list of bad habits S.'s chihuahua brought with him. But a dog, no matter how highly trained it is, or how long its pedigree is, is still an animal, and remains fully capable of following its animal instincts.

You see the same thing on Wall Street, where the guys who have the pedigrees and the gilt edged college degrees and the distinguished family lineages are as fully capable of following their animal instincts and are as susceptible to greed as the no name guys who have worked their way up from the streets.

Our conversation ended up veering back to my buddy's original topic of discussion. "You're trying to get me to pull for the rich as if they are sitting there helpless," I said. "Come on, man. They've got the best lawyers. Legions of lobbyists they're paying top dollar. And people in congress, and in the administration, and in the press who actually take their calls and listen to them. I don't have any reason to feel sorry for anybody who's got that kind of network."

My buddy sees himself as one of the newest members of the moneyed elite, although he is reluctant to say "we" when talking about America's wealthy. If the Republicans could figure out how to erase the social stigma that comes along with the party's negative perception among a majority of African Americans, successful black professionals like my buddy, who have never really been all that interested in being associated with the riffraff floating around the Democratic party, would join the GOP in droves.

The image of my buddy's empty dinner plate stayed with me all afternoon yesterday.

In a lot of ways, the way my buddy feels about the Obama administration's stance on offshore accounts is a lot like the range of feelings he experienced when he saw that his plate was sitting empty on his kitchen table before he even got a chance to enjoy it - surprised, shocked, angry and outraged that this could happen to him within the confines of his own country club.

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I send an average of one text message a month or less. I don't have a laptop. My monitor is not a flat screen. And I don't walk around with one of those God awful Bluetooth things clipped to my ear like I'm auditioning for a role in the next Star Trek movie.

Despite all these technological disadvantages, I think I enjoy my connectivity to the internet and to other human beings just fine. I've purchased and downloaded songs off of the web (paying for music? - what a novel idea - but when you live with a technology lawyer...). I've bought a few things on the internet, which took making a big adjustment to my usual "cash and carry" M.O. I even joined Facebook a couple of months ago.

So what is it about this Twitter thing that makes it the new hot thing right now? It requires the user to have the ability to do two things I am terrible at - sending text messages and being brief. Reading through the list of Tweets in your account, if you are looking at it online, is like taking a stroll through a psychiatric ward at night when the lights are off. In other words, it's like Facebook without the pictures.

But people love it. I even Googled some gadget that let me automatically turn my blog's RSS feed into Tweets. I seem to get a new follower about three or four times a week. I guess they only join to read the headlines, because very few of them ever click through to my blog. Then again, my blog isn't trying to guess Kirstie Allie's weight, or keep people updated on Octo-Mom, or show a video of the latest version of The Stanky Leg (which back in the incarnation practiced in nightclubs around the country back in the eighties was known as the "you don't have to buy me any more drinks tonight" dance).

Twitter posts do have a rhythm, though, that is as much dependant on the number of users as it is on the prowess of a Twitterer with their keypad. It reminds me in a way of metafiction, the way the narrative thrust of communication is rearranged and reshuffled until the mashup of the old, the new, the relevant, the ridiculous and the absurd all combine themselves to form a new pastiche reality that stitches together electronically the varying components of our lives.

Philosophically, I have been wrestling with this in a work of fiction I've reworked fifteen or twenty times in order to get closer to the essence of the rhetorical question it poses about the way we use our electronic messaging systems - are we storing or retrieving?

More importantly, while we are figuring out whether we are storing or retrieving that link or that attachment that we know damn well we sent you last week when you asked us for it the first time, what is going on in the government? On Wall Street? In our colleges? And if you're about to tell me that Twitter does all that in a hundred and forty six characters, you can stop now, before you embarrass yourself.

Nero fiddled while Rome burned.


We will be twittering.

Star Trek Almost Blew Me Out Of The Theater

My ears are pretty sensitive - not only can I hear cars coming down our street, I can usually differentiate between the neighbors and the residents of my household by the way each car's motor distinctively whines as they pass over the last little incline on the way to the house. Even after allowing for this, I still thought the sound was too damn loud at the movies yesterday. Why were we there in the first place? S., in her own inimitable way, had requested a trip to the movies to see Star Trek for Mother's Day.

I'm not an action adventure movie fan. Neither is the Resident Diva - she inherited none of her mother's love for science fiction. Growing up, I couldn't stomach watching more than five or six of the original Star Trek episodes from the television show when they came out as reruns in the seventies. So even though this was the kind of science fiction movie outing only S. and her Number One Son could appreciate, since he has moved away from home, S. kind of had the two of us over a barrel. Or maybe this was payback for making her sit through Soul Men, the rambling, expletive larded Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac buddy movie I had to go see when it came out.

But back to this super surround sound mega bass blaster system they've got in these in these metroplex theaters these days - were the movies as loud back in the seventies and eighties as they are now? Or am I remembering it wrong? Our memory has a tendency to play tricks on us, recalling just enough of an event to be able to mold our remembrance into a form suitable for supporting whatever line of thought we are pushing today. And I liked loud music back then, so I may have been subjected to the same level of decibels then that I was yesterday.

I had to call my buddy afterward. "Remember when our parents used to tell us we were playing the music too loud? They were right."

The only good thing about the movie being so damn loud was that I didn't fall asleep, which is what I used to do back when I would take the Resident Diva to see those cartoon movies that were all the rage ten years ago.

I'm no movie critic, but I couldn't quite get a grip on the story. It seemed a little too close to the Star Wars storyline, especially when Leonard Nimoy appeared out of nowhere to play a future version of himself. All I could think about when he tried to give the brash young James T. Kirk some words of wisdom was Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The guy they found to play Bones was spot on, with a face that looked so much like Deforrest Kelley from the TV series that I had to do a double take. I guess those Irish genes always ring true.

And if Zoe Saldana, who played Lt. Uhuru, can't do anything else, she can throw on a soulful crying jag like nobody's business. As a matter of fact, I can't think of a movie I've seen her in where she isn't crying her eyes out in at least one scene.

But how serious can a movie be when it's based on the television antics of William Shatner?

Otherwise, it was pretty standard for a "blow everything in the galaxy" up kind of movie, especially when you already knew that the main characters, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, were going to still be alive at the end. At least until they showed Tyler Perry running the StarFleet training school.

Tyler Perry? All three of us went "WHAT?" at the same time, looked at each other to make sure we weren't seeing things, then laughed out loud.

Maybe Mr. Perry should have worn the dress and the wig he uses to play his signature character "Madea" that he's made famous in his own movies instead of the Star Fleet garb he had on - he probably would have come across a lot more masculine and authoritative than he did as himself. Maybe Samuel L. was too busy making one of the fifty movies he stars in every year to squeeze in some time for this part.

The thing I do like about movies like this that are in the Star Wars vein is the way the screenwriters are basically retelling classic stories, dressing up Greek mythology and Shakespearean plot lines with technical jargon and future speak. Which means that even if the actors sometimes bring the wrong temperament to their roles, or the special effects people get carried away with extended battle sequences, you can still end up with a pretty powerful story. It's really hard to go wrong with "good versus evil" and "the prodigal son returns".

The best thing about the whole movie, at least for me?

We were out of the theater before 3 pm, just in time to catch a nice Sunday afternoon nap.

Mr. President, after watching you try to be funny at the White House Correspondents dinner, all I can say is, you need to be glad you became a lawyer instead of a comedian. I recounted a few of the jokes he and Wanda Sykes told to S. None of them rated a full chuckle. As she sat there, a little annoyed that I was interrupting one of those middle of the night PBS specials on cracking the code of Mayan hieroglyphs, I made a final comment. "The whole time I was watching Wanda Sykes do her thing, I was thinking - how would Bernie Mac have gone over at an event like this?"

After stating the obvious - that if The Mac Man was still alive, there is no way in hell he would have been asked to be the entertainment at such an establishment type of event - I think the reason he came to mind was the way Bernie could cut anybody down to size. There was something in the ferociousness of his delivery that could zero in on the littlest thing about a person and turn it into a full blown rant so full of profanity it would even make Rahm Emmanuel raise his eyebrows.

Bernie would have cut a little closer than Wanda.

    "Every time I turns on my dog gone TV, I see Barack Obama. I thought the election was over. Is that negro still running for president? Got me thinking my damn TV was broke. Here I am, calling up Best Buy, even though I bought my 100 inch plasma from Circuit City - cause you know we got to have that BIG screen - and I'm hollering in the phone to the Indian guy on the other end. 'My TV is broke. Every time I turn it on, all I see is Barack Obama.'

    'No sir, your television isn't broken. The president had a press conference today.'

    'Didn't he have one last week? What's wrong now? Who he bailin' out now? Who he need to bail out is my cousin Jo Jo, cause ain't bailin' his ass outta jail no mo.'"

The Mac Man would have given Michelle Obama a little grief too.

    "Turned on that same damn plasma TV a few weeks ago, just when I thought I had gotten rid of Barack messin up my TV, and damn if it ain't Michelle Obama, the First Lady, standing behind the White House with a hoe in her hand like she 'bout to crop some cotton. Michelle! Has you lost your mind? Don't you know we's in the house now? Matter fact, you ain't just IN the house, you is the master of the house!

    Negroes been running from them damn fields down South for years, trying to get to Chicago, and D.C., and New York - you know, the city life - and here you are on TV trying to get us to start growing some damn fresh vegetables?

    What I'ma look like in my silk shirts and my gators trying to plant some damn lettuce in my backyard? Black as I am in all that sun? You know how much I pay Chemlawn every month to keep stuff from growing in my backyard that ain't grass? I don't need no damn fresh vegetables. I gots collard greens in the deep freeze from 2004. I gots field peas in the deep freeze I inherited from Big Mama when she passed back in 1999. I'm GOOD!"

No other comedian this side of Robin Harris could work profanity as hard as The Mac Man, but Bernie Mac was actually a great storyteller - he could tell a story so well you almost wouldn't notice it if he kept the F-bombs in check.

President Obama, as I've said earlier, is definitely no comedian. In fact, some of his punchlines were as hard to get as those ancient Mayan hieroglyphs on PBS had been. And the little forced laugh he had didn't help matters much in that department. But as an old guy once told me years ago, when I was complaining about how bad my golf game was, "son, if your golf game is any good you ain't working."

I'll take eight more years of poorly delivered jokes any day if Obama keeps working his you-know-what off on his day job.

Housing Travesty After Katrina Isn't Over

There are times when our federal government's missteps in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina can make even the Keystone Cops look organized and efficient. I just about chomped through the cigar I was puffing on yesterday when I scanned down the front page of yesterday's New York Times to be greeted by the headline "Ready or Not, Katrina Victims Lose Temporary Housing". The first thought that snapped through my mind was we are building new schools in Iraq to replace the ones we blew up, but we can't take care of our own citizens?

Yes, the people are mostly black. Yes, they are the people who are likely to be the last ones to get anything done when there is a deadline. But they weren't homeless before Katrina hit New Orleans. All they are looking to do is put a modest roof over their heads. These people got blindsided just like our bailed out bankers who still seem to be fat and happy with luxurious roofs over their heads say they were when the subprime mortgages they were trading derivatives against started defaulting like crazy. To hear our banking executive geniuses tell it, you would think they were suffering from a natural disaster themselves.

I think we need to take a few of these mythical "bootstraps" our bailed out bankers have abandoned since the Brink's trucks started ferrying money from the Fed into their depleted coffers, braid them into a horsewhip, and start taking some of the hide off of the congressman who make up these Chinese puzzle rescue appropriations that have our bureaucrats harming the very people they are supposed to help. When these guys on Wall Street needed help, we came up with new laws to get around the old ones so we could hand them money.

Where are the FEMA trailers going when FEMA takes them back? To the lots that are still overflowing with brand new trailers and others that have been reclaimed? They will probably never be used again before they end up falling apart. It would probably be cheaper to title them over to the occupants than it would be to administer the tracking program FEMA currently uses to keep up with them and transport them to storage.

Why is this such a big deal? Because the affordable housing that was supposed to take the place of these trailers isn't even close to being finished.

Louisiana state programs in this area have been largely ineffectual: not one of the modest, permanent dwellings called "Katrina cottages" has been built despite federal assistance for the program. Repairs intended for more than 18,000 damaged rental units have been few and far between.

The promised 500 Katrina Cottages have yet to make it onto streets. Meant to replace the FEMA trailers they each cost $25,000 to build. Despite a $74.5 million grant to get the homes finished in time for those living in the trailers no one will be moving from their trailer to a cottage.

Nonetheless, FEMA wants its trailers back, even though it plans to scrap or sell them for a fraction of what it paid for them.

"All I can say is that this is a temporary program, it was always intended as a temporary program, and at a certain point all temporary programs must end," said Brent Colburn, the
agency’s director of external affairs. He said there would be no extensions.

As I puffed on my stogie and finished the article in the Times, I wondered - how do we make things that are so simple so hard? And since when were the tallies on a spreadsheet more important than actual human lives?

Maybe the people waiting to get into these as yet unbuilt affordable housing units should have had a few lobbyists in D.C. who could have persuaded these agencies to change their definition of "temporary" the way our bailed out banks got their lobbyists to get the Financial Accounting Standards Board to relax its accounting requirements so they could say their losses were smaller than they actually are.

I was curious as to what our wonderboy president was doing about this - one of the biggest problems the Republican Party had to overcome in the last election was the perception that they didn't give a damn about the people stranded by Katrina.

President Obama, it is now time for the rubber to hit the road. Or in this case, for the rubber underneath these FEMA trailers NOT to hit the road until these people can find somewhere else to live. The press releases are nice, Mr. President:

President Obama Plans to Continue Rebuilding of New Orleans and Gulf Coast, but with Better Coordination

On Friday, February 20, 2009, President Obama Coordination announced the extension of the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding for another six months, and is also sending two cabinet members to the Gulf Coast. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Shaun Donovan, and Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, will go to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in early March. They will be looking at not only what progress has been made in the five years since Hurricane Katrina hit, but also assess what resources and services the area needs in the future to continue rebuilding.

but you are going to have to take a break from bankrupting GM and Chrysler long enough to redirect the efforts of the alphabet soup of relief agencies and programs that seem to be more interested in making these citizens play musical chairs with their temporary housing than functioning as the humanitarian arm of our government in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Light a fire under your cabinet members responsible for these problems - you know, the same way you lit one under Geithner when a solution to the banking crisis seemed to be out of his reach.

Because ignoring these human kinds of things like this housing travesty after Katrina is one of the surest ways to start turning a two term presidency into a one term administration.

Getting Down At Weezy's

Our new hangout spot is a place called Weezy's Movin' On Up Jazz and Barbeque Cafe. Right around the corner, it's a jazz and R&B nightspot located right in the middle of button-downed John's Creek, Georgia. The owner is a cat named Sanford Sanford, the son of the late Louise Sanford, who you will know forever and ever as Louise Jefferson, the wife of drycleaner George Jefferson on the seventies sitcom The Jeffersons , a show whose reruns seem to be playing continuously on a cable channel somewhere thirty years later.

The show is especially poignant for me because my father, who is a lot taller than Sherman Hemsley, owned a few drycleaning stores in the seventies and eighties when I was growing up. And my mother had a faint resemblance to Isabel Sandford. But we didn't live in a high rise - the biggest residential building in our town had eight stories and was home to all the down on their luck divorced men and families on Section 8 vouchers. We lived in the suburbs, such that they were in a town whose population was less than 20,000 people. My parents, unlike the Jefferson's, did not spend a dime on themselves. And the drycleaning business itself was work of the W-O-R-K variety, something I do not miss to this day. But you heard the jokes anyway.

The royalties from The Jeffersons must be good - Sandford Sandford doesn't let you get in the door without seeing his tribute to his mother. Housed in a former country style barbeque restaurant that used to be a hangout for several players from the Atlanta Braves, the place reminds me of the VFW back in my hometown, with red walls, red carpeting, red ceilings, and red curtains that cloak the stage.

The only political slant I can see coming in this entire post is that Weezy's serves an "Obama Burger" - two beef patties, two strips of bacon, cheese and two onion rings. I had to laugh when I saw it on the menu - there is no way in the world the real Obama would come within ten feet of a cholesterol bomb like this one. The food Weezy's has is good, but the music is really why you come to a place like this.

Maybe it's middle age, maybe it's the other things you have to do with a teenager in the house, or maybe it was just that the places we enjoyed were all the way down in Buckhead, almost twenty miles south - whatever the reason, S. and I haven't really hung out much in the last few years. But one Friday night about six weeks ago, we decided to try Weezy's out since we needed to eat anyway. We ended up closing the joint down.

Sandford is a big man who makes you think of Ving Rhames when he's in a good mood. When Sanford isn't wandering around, chatting up his guests and making them feel comfortable, he is on stage playing the bongos. We were sitting in a booth at Weezy's last weekend, listening to the music and gnawing on some damn good chicken wings, when I wondered out loud "why do we like this place so much? I didn't wait for S. to say anything, but answered my own question. "I think we like it because there are so many black people in here." I guess we've lived in this land of Starbucks and blonde soccer moms so long that it almost feels normal to see only one or two black faces in the grocery stores and bookstores.That and the music.

But these aren't the black folks you think of when you think of Atlanta - the high gloss, high toned Downtown Brown types who get elected to be mayor or are the CEO of an emerging growth company or have just gotten back from modeling in Europe. Nope, these are the people who populate the suburbs - the 40% of us who are I.T. specialists, or H.R. staffers, or middle managers in the myriad of businesses that crisscross the northside of the Atlanta metro, people who go to church almost every Sunday, coach their kids soccer teams, and find time to volunteer with our local civic organizations. Which means it's not the party crowd you think about when you think about Atlanta. In fact, most of the people look like they are from the same kind of small towns that S. and I are from, a sentiment that was underlined a few weeks ago when the singer for one of the bands talked about his hometown, and it turned out to be the same one I'm from.

Occasionally, S. is wistful when the band is playing. A piano player herself, who grew up on all the old jazz standards, she often wonders what it would have been like to be a performer instead of a corporate attorney. the best band we've seen, in my opinion, is the Ike Harris and Friends band. The front man is a riot, and he really knows how to work a crowd. But his best attribute is his ability, even as a young singer, to invoke the raspy, country boy rawness of Otis Redding when he sings "Try A Little Tenderness", which he delivers with all the gusto of the man himself.

In some ways, Weezy's is reminiscent of the place where S. and I first met, although that place was more of a dance club than this spot, which encourages dancing but doesn't seem interested in becoming known as a dance hall. Which is good, because I am getting to like it just the way it is. So if you find yourself in John's Creek, Georgia one Friday or Saturday night, come on in. Who knows - you might even see the Brown Man himself grooving to the sounds.

Torture Is Being A GM Bondholder

We had protesters in D.C. getting arrested for protesting the White House's latest stance on torture and the culpability of the Bush administration - the same protesters whose children are most likely to end up in rehab for drug abuse because their parents wouldn't lay down the law at home when their children needed to be disciplined.

We've got TV pundits and op-ed columnists splitting hairs over the legal definition of torture versus the moral implications its use could have on America's oh so white bread image that the more naive amongst us think is accepted as the gospel by those in foreign countries.

None of these people know what torture is.

If you want to know what torture is, call up a GM bondholder. If you live where I live, you'll probably get one of your neighbors on the other end of the line, or maybe even someone in your own household. If you think that living in modest circumstances means you don't know anyone like that, you are wrong - GM and GMAC bonds are a part of the holdings of a significant swath of the mutual funds that manage your 401(k) and retirement funds.

We all rolled our eyes at Bernie Madoff's clients, because deep down inside, we thought that they were greedy people who got what they deserved after enjoying unusually strong investment returns year after year, seemingly without risk. But this is worse. Offering GM's bondholders a paltry handful of common stock without any cash sweetener in exchange for surrendering their bonds may be one of the worst things the president's underlings have dreamed up yet. What's even worse is that President Obama has ostensibly OK'ed this proposal.

Remember Tom, Dick and Harry back on Wall Street, Mr. President, those same Tom, Dick and Harry bankers that you threw money at like it was confetti at a ticker tape parade? Why not extend GM a measly 75 billion Line Of Credit so they can have enough time to actually accomplish what you want? Why is it so hard, Mr. President, to treat one industry like another?

Chinese water torture has nothing on American bailout torture.

Moral righteousness is at the root of the debates filling the airwaves over torture. It is the same sense of morality that should have been employed in the decision making regarding Detroit's automakers, whose sins are no more venal than those of their Wall Street brethren. The plan you and your staffers have come up with, Mr. President, should be footnoted with explanations as to the kind of logic and the type of methodology you used to come up with the numbers in your workout plans for Chrysler and GM. I am especially curious to see who the genius was who had the audacity to equate the government's ten billion dollar stake in GM with a 50% interest in a reorganized company. Maybe his calculator was malfunctioning that day. Or maybe he just figured nobody was going to pay attention.

Why not offer the bondholders the right to the fifty percent stake if they come up with an additional ten billion to take the government out of the equation? If you had a few real deal guys on your squad instead of policy makers, they would have insisted that you include enough possible permutations to actually give your proposal a chance to work. The bondholders themselves want you to know that your stock swap idea is the worst kind of pandering - if bond holders had wanted stock, most of them will tell you, they would have originally bought stock instead of bonds.

Mr. President, the proposals you laid on the table for GM and Chrysler are like the choices Charles Graner and Lynndie England made at Abu Ghraib with the Iraqi detainees - the unconscionable and unnecessary financial torture of your own American citizens. You are treating your constituents as if they are crash test dummies, who are able to withstand fatal impacts and be put back together again as if nothing has happened. If this is the best you think you can do, you have earned this black mark on your presidency.

Ty'Sheoma Bethea's Middle School Makeover

I had another topic I was going to write about, but the news from Dillon County in South Carolina today was so overwhelming that I had no choice but to put it aside. CEO Darryl Rosser of Saugus International, a classroom furniture supplier, must have felt the same way I did when I saw the story earlier this year about Ty'Sheoma Bethea, a middle school student from Dillon, S.C. who wrote a letter to President Obama pleading for help for her school. Rosser visited J.V. Martin Middle School a few weeks ago, and was inspired enough to mastermind an effort to deliver 2000 pieces of brand new desks and school furniture, organize volunteers, and then coordinate a new paint job for a secret school makeover that took place this past weekend.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this picture of Ty'Sheoma is worth ten times that if its worth one:

The new paint for J.V. Martin Middle was as important as the new furniture. I helped my brother paint a few rooms in the foreclosure he bought after he moved in. The walls had been painted in garish colors, with an unevenly painted band that wrapped around many of the rooms, as if they had tried to reproduce some special effect from a 70's movie. The trim was dingy. But a part of the purchase deal had been the installation of new carpet.

So we worked. We spackled. We sanded. We spackled some more. We sanded some more. Then we taped off the trim and the carpet. Applied one coat of paint. Touched up a few areas. Then laid on a second coat. He had gotten tired of the whole thing about halfway through. It wasn't until we finished the first room, and pulled the tape away, that he understood what all the fuss was about. It looked like a room in a brand new house in a brand new subdivision.

I imagine that's what happened when the kids at J.V. Martin came in yesterday morning - they thought they were in a brand new school. I know you don't read this blog, Mr. Rosser, but thank you for taking the initiative to do something about the deplorable state of Ty'Sheoma's school.

As heartwarming and tearjerking as Darryl Rosser's gift was, though, it couldn't obscure some of the other, less congratulatory feelings about the people responsible for letting this school get this way in the first place that has been ripping at my gut since I saw the pictures. I don't see why the state school superintendent or the politicians who gathered at an assembly for Rosser showed their faces. I don't even own a gun and I feel like shooting somebody. Actually, I feel like I want to "Jack Bauer" my entire home state government - blacks, whites, Democrats, Republicans - the same way the Keifer Sutherland character tortures those who get in his way on the TV show "24". Waterboarding is too humane for these showboats and charlatans, who have let what little progress they had go to hell in a handbasket.

And for all of you people who have been saying "why can't these people pull themselves up by their bootstraps?" under your breath as you read this, why don't you call the CEO's at Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan and ask them the same damn question? Watching Wall Street's smart guys squirm away from us even as they take our money is like getting to see how a magic trick is done. All of a sudden, it doesn't look so hard.

Business is important, but how long can a business stay viable if we don't educate our children well enough to work in them? How long can they hope to book profits if the populace doesn't have enough basic knowledge to be able to be trained to perform the kind of complex tasks even the lowest skilled jobs demand these days?

The paint and supplies my brother bought for us to paint his house? It didn't cost more than $250 for the two bedrooms and the living room we ended up painting. How much could it have cost for the paint that was used at J.V. Martin? The desks? The Associated Press says somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000. Could it kill the state superintendent's staffers to use their laptops a year longer? Go on one less trip to a training seminar? Would it reduce penny pinching Mark Sanford to a pile of blubbering flesh if he could figure out a way to splurge on the one thing - education - that is almost guaranteed to pay dividends in a declining marketplace?

It would be easy to rag on my home state of South Carolina, but since I live in Georgia, which is exactly the same state if you take Atlanta out of the equation, I'll have to spread it around tonight.

If you are a governor of a state below the Mason-Dixon line, you need to quit patting yourself on the back and get those policy wonks you've got slaving over Roe versus Wade or the latest rebuke to the gambling industry to redirect their efforts.

If you are a congressman or a state representative from a state below the Mason-Dixon line, you need to tie one hand behind your back everyday after you get dressed, so you are constantly reminded of how handicapped your constituents who don't have access to a quality education are.

But these people are mere representatives, mere ciphers for the real hopes and fears that lie behind the breastbones of our citizenry. It is us, the great unwashed, along with those who may feel that they are enlightened because they have read a few books or taken a few classes at some esteemed institute of higher learning, yes it is us who will ultimately determine whether we really care about education.

And if you want to get right down to it, then it is really us as black people who have to regain a sense of ownership of our communities, if not in literal sense, then in a metaphorical one.

We as black people need to repurpose our religion. Some of us worship so much its a wonder we find time to get anything else done, but worship we do. We worship fervently, we worship devoutly, and we worship often, even as our own communities crumble around us.

If we burned the churches down, and met in the schools, we could kill two birds with one stone. Because I haven't seen a house of worship yet that doesn't have working air conditioning, regular maintenance, roofs that are sound, and walls that are solid. And some damn good paint jobs. Think about it - if you happened to run into a few kids after school on your way to choir practice, or football practice - maybe even your own kids - well, that would be all the better.

Quoting the scripture, or Malcolm X, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or even Barack Obama will only get any of us so far. For a lot of us, like my home girl, Ty'Sheoma Bethea, we've had enough inspiration these last few months to last a lifetime.

Now, my people, it's time for some perspiration.

Supreme Court Needs Big Man With Inside Moves

Dikembe Mutombo and Bill Clinton

The cigar guy I get my maduros from had an interesting comment the other day about the NBA. "They don't need to play the whole game. Just put 10 seconds on the clock, let one team inbound the ball, and if they score they win. That's how they all end."

He could have been talking about the ideological battles that take place whenever we have a new Supreme Court nominee. If the president wants an open minded judge, we're going to end up with one that's open minded. If he wants a closed minded one, we're going to end up with one that's closed minded. The degree of each individual candidates open or closed mindedness may vary, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the label on the one who makes it through confirmation will be the one the president was seeking.

But labels, even ones as vague as the two I've purposefully used here, are really just descriptions of where a person's thinking is at this moment in time, especially as they relate to people. My own buddies will bring up stances I've had on certain issues ten, fifteen or twenty years ago that are no longer relevant to my current way of thinking. It is even more interesting to see how much people who are nominated to serve on the Supreme Court can change when they get a job they can't lose.

Does any of this matter to the people who live to fight for something, or against something, so long as they have a fight? Not one damn bit. They are dialing for dollars as we speak, curling the blue hairs of little old ladies in Peoria who can be scared into donating to a cause that will beat back "the baby killers", or getting granola crunchers riled up enough to log onto their donation link to "fight the crazies on the right". The flag waving will commence in earnest by every special interest group in the country once the White House starts floating a few names in the press to see how the public reacts.

And after the all the millions of dollars and millions of man-hours have been spent fighting over this, we will still end up with the kind of candidate the president wanted all along.

If I were President Obama, I'd do what every championship basketball team does these days when it wants to build a squad that will dominate the court for years to come.

I'd get a big man with some inside moves.

Someone who can use finesse as well as brute strength when they need to score. Someone who is a student of defensive and offensive strategies. Someone who has the stamina and habits that will allow them to have a long and productive tenure. Someone who has demonstrated a commitment not only to his professional career, but to his community as well.

And preferably, someone who hasn't spent his whole career sitting on a bench somewhere.