Media Obsession With Tiger Woods Is Overkill


I didn't even have to flip a coin to decide between writing about politics or Tiger Woods today.

I guess I'm just glad I don't watch much TV - my mother told me yesterday that she was tired of all the cable news analysts who were calling for Mr. Woods to come forth, to spill his guts, to COME CLEAN and "set the record straight."

Or at least make a comment long enough for them to turn into a soundbite that they could play every ten minutes for the next week.

Somewhere during this last weekend, while I stayed off of the internet, S. and I happened to watch the movie "Obsession" that stars Beyonce and Idris Elba. It's always a struggle to watch a B-movie, especially one that is trying hard to be a C-movie, and this one was no exception. I actually came in about halfway through, when Idris Elba had a confrontation with his wife, played by Beyonce, over an alleged dalliance with a white woman who had been a temporary employee where Elba worked.

The only thing I could think about as I watched that scene was the "maybe he did, maybe he didn't" scenario swirling around Tiger's carefully constructed life.

Maybe these people in the media who are making their bones this week on Woods misfortune have forgotten who made Tiger Tiger. Maybe some of them were secretly wishing the famous Tiger roar had gotten out of control to give the story a more predictable hook. Maybe they would prefer not remember the dominant, unyielding presence Earl Woods was in his son's life until he died. Maybe it doesn't make for good ratings to state the obvious about Woods silence - Tiger and his father have not ever been the kind of men who really gave a good god damn about other people's opinions.

I have no idea how much money Mr. Woods has, but something tells me that if he didn't make another dollar in his life he could still gas up his private jet. People of modest means, and even those in the "less than 25 million in the bank" club, like many of those news commentators who are on your TV every night, often do a poor job of giving the super rich advice.

So I won't waste my time trying to tell a rich man what to do in his own house.

But if one of my fair haired talking heads in the media gets lazy, and starts bringing up O.J., as if every relationship between a black man (sorry Tiger, but they would have been selling your "Cablasian" ass back in the day right along with Obama and the rest of us) and a white woman is destined to end in violence, I'm going to pretend my keyboard is a driver...

...and their ass is the ball.






I Must Be Living Right


I must be living right.

I was outside yesterday, blowing the drifts of leaves that had accumulated on our end of the cul-de-sac off the street when my neighbor walks up with a box of Partagas cigars. I had actually just finished a cigar, so there was a certain amount of serendipity to his arrival. To add icing on the cake, so to speak, I reminded him that I'd just had a birthday the day before. The timing of it all seemed to make him smile even harder as he handed me that beautiful yellow box.

Turkey, wine and talk filled the rest of the day. Everyone at the table seemed to be very upset about the breach of security at the White House earlier in the week, but other than that, we successfully stuck to good old homegrown gossip and personal milestones for the rest of the day. In the interests of maintaining the holiday spirit for another day or so, I will save all comments about the reality show gate crashers who waltzed into the state dinner at the White House on Tuesday night for another day.

Unless something big happens, I think I'm going to stay off the internet for a day or two and see what else is happening in the world. Some of my neighbors have been busy putting up Christmas decorations all week, as if they have been looking forward to escaping from the economy and politics and war for a little while.

The thanks has been given.

The bread has been broken.

And in a little while, when it warms up, I will light one of these cigars.

Let the season of good cheer and good tidings begin.




Why Barack Obama Is GOP Enemy Number One



The first time I saw this video, I was not surprised at all.

What I wanted to know was where the directive came from that had all of these voices repeating the same type of phrases over and over, as if by the sheer force of their vocal cords and the machine gun like repetition of "Obama" and "rape", these radio and TV shock jocks could conjure the image of the black male rapist deep within their listeners psyches, throwing yet another log on the fire of racial animus the conservative minority still relies on, even in 2009, to do the dirty work of coloring the minds of their less sophisticated supporters against Barack Obama.

What I found out got me to thinking so deeply about what the purpose of Brown Man Thinking Hard should really be that I had a hard time getting my arms around what it was I wanted to say about the video above. So I pushed "PLAY" over and over while I wrote this.

I am a big believer in the power of language. And even though I struggle to use the most positive words I can, in some instances, I think this power, when used in a negative manner, far exceeds that of the largest caliber gun to terrorize people, to threaten their sense of security, to connect them to their deepest seated fears.

The GOP believes the same thing.

This video actually coincides with another thought I had in the last couple of days. Given the many millions more people who self-identify themselves as Democrats versus those who identify themselves as Republicans, why hasn't the Democratic Party simply extinguished the GOP by now?

George Lakoff, a fellow at the Rockridge Institute and the author of Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, had the best answers I could find to my question in the excerpts below from an interview he did for UC Berkeley News back in 2003.

LAKOFF: "...conservatives, especially conservative think tanks, have framed virtually every issue from their perspective. They have put a huge amount of money into creating the language for their worldview and getting it out there. Progressives have done virtually nothing...And that's the problem. Liberals don't get it. They don't understand what it is they have to be doing."

QUESTIONER: How does language influence the terms of political debate?

LAKOFF: Language always comes with what is called "framing." Every word is defined relative to a conceptual framework. If you have something like "revolt," that implies a population that is being ruled unfairly, or assumes it is being ruled unfairly, and that they are throwing off their rulers, which would be considered a good thing. That's a frame.

If you then add the word "voter" in front of "revolt," you get a metaphorical meaning saying that the voters are the oppressed people, the governor is the oppressive ruler, that they have ousted him and this is a good thing and all things are good now. All of that comes up when you see a headline like "voter revolt" - something that most people read and never notice. But these things can be affected by reporters and very often, by the campaign people themselves."

QUESTIONER: Why haven't progressives done the same thing [learn how to frame their language]?

LAKOFF: "...conservatives, especially conservative think tanks, have framed virtually every issue from their perspective. They have put a huge amount of money into creating the language for their worldview and getting it out there. Progressives have done virtually nothing...And that's the problem. Liberals don't get it. They don't understand what it is they have to be doing."

"Conservative foundations give large block grants year after year to their think tanks. They say, 'Here's several million dollars, do what you need to do.' And basically, they build infrastructure, they build TV studios, hire intellectuals, set aside money to buy a lot of books to get them on the best-seller lists, hire research assistants for their intellectuals so they do well on TV, and hire agents to put them on TV. They do all of that. Why? Because the conservative moral system, which I analyzed in "Moral Politics," has as its highest value preserving and defending the "strict father" system itself. And that means building infrastructure. As businessmen, they know how to do this very well.

Meanwhile, liberals' conceptual system of the "nurturant parent" has as its highest value helping individuals who need help. The progressive foundations and donors give their money to a variety of grassroots organizations. They say, 'We're giving you $25,000, but don't waste a penny of it. Make sure it all goes to the cause, don't use it for administration, communication, infrastructure, or career development.' So there's actually a structural reason built into the worldviews that explains why conservatives have done better."



This interview was done a few years ago, as this next segment shows:


QUESTIONER: Do any of the Democratic Presidential candidates grasp the importance of framing?

LAKOFF: "None. They don't get it at all. But they're in a funny position. The framing changes that have to be made are long-term changes. The conservatives understood this in 1973. By 1980 they had a candidate, Ronald Reagan, who could take all this stuff and run with it. The progressives don't have a candidate now who understands these things and can talk about them. And in order for a candidate to be able to talk about them, the ideas have to be out there. You have to be able to reference them in a sound bite. Other people have to put these ideas into the public domain, not politicians."


If you take a step back and look at the political landscape of the past eighteen months, it becomes evident why Barack Obama is GOP Enemy Number One. Frank Luntz, the famed and feared GOP strategist who is a key influence on many of the party's political buzzwords and phrases, took his hat off to the Obama team last year, acknowledging that they had outwitted the McCain camp from Day One.

The organization Obama built, in terms of discipline, communication and ability to stay on task, was unprecedented for a Democratic nominee. Non-union citizens literally "bought in" to the political process with small donations that made them feel like they were a part of something big. Obama campaign members learned how to tap into the power of the personal narrative, successfully influencing and motivating reluctant citizens to not only register to vote, but also show up at the polls. Most of this was done by volunteers FOR FREE.

That's the kind of thing that really scares the people like the Koch family from Wisconsin or the Scaife interests in Pennsylvania, and others like them who are willing to lavish billions on a conservative media system designed to keep them in control of the political process.

I am already seeing Limbaugh and Malkin and Hannity and O'Reilly and Savage for what they are - mouthpieces, similar in function to the White House press secretary, who sit on top of the billions of dollars of really rich men, billions they get to see but not touch.

In a few weeks, after a healthcare bill gets to the president's desk, you will start seeing the words and phrases from the Republican "black box", words and phrases so inflammatory that they could be labeled "radioactive. The cacophony of vitriol will be at a fever pitch.

Don't be dismayed.

It will be the sign of progress - the sound of the GOP noise machine in decline.






Is The Obama Administration Under Siege From All Sides?





Despite the intense political media focus on Sarah Palin this week, the Brown Man found time to talk to my man Sean Yoes, a senior reporter at The Afro American. Yoes is the host of "The WEAA/AFRO First Edition", an hour-long political talk show on Baltimore's WEAA-FM (88.9 FM), which airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m.

You can click this link and push the "Listen Live" button at the top of the page to hear the show.

This week, we talked about the criticism of the president that seems to be coming from all sides these days as the Obama Administration deals with foreign wars, high unemployment, economic woes, and a high level of political animosity, not only from their opponents, but from many of the people who helped elect Barack Obama president.

Find out what Sean Yoes and the Brown Man think tonight at 8 pm on the show.

As always, it was fun. Check it out if you have a chance.






Senator Mary Landrieau deserves an Oscar for her performance leading up to last night's Senate vote on cloture to officially open the Senate floor to debate over the long awaited healthcare legislation. She certainly won the best actor award among a cast of dozens last night, walking away with 300 million dollars in federal money as a trophy for the state of Louisiana.

Those fake pained expressions of Senators Landrieau and Lincoln have stared out from TV sets and websites for the past two weeks, as if they were agonizing over a decision that would end life as we know it in America. The White House has done a pretty good job of keeping up the ruse themselves, encouraging the heightened emotional tenor about what is really a cost containment bill in a way that tugs at the population's sense of what is right and wrong.

A more accurate, but decidedly less appealing name would be the "If We Don't Do This Your Government Will Go Broke Bill". But in the land of 29% credit card rates, mortgages with balloon payments, and payday lenders who have people knocking down their doors to get in, approaching something like this strictly from a dollars and sense perspective, with the idea that common sense and logic would prevail in the minds of the public and Congress, would have been a total waste of time.

My parents were in town this weekend. So we sat over an extended dinner and talked, with my father offering story after story of South Carolina politicians from the 50's and 60's who used every opportunity to enrich themselves or their cronies and extend the reach of their powers within the community at large. The same political charades that went on then in my home state are going on now in your Congress, with senators who will be playing the press statement version of "Texas Holdem" for the next few weeks, all of them posturing and bluffing each other for the inevitable deal making that will be required to secure their votes.

I guess you could say that the next few weeks will really be like watching a poker tournament, with all of the subterfuge and bluffing that goes along with it. Except the stakes they are playing with, and the pile of money in the middle of the table - it's all ours.






Brown Man Has His Say On BBC Radio


I joined a panel yesterday on "World Have Your Say", a BBC Radio show that focuses on hot topics from around the world, to try to answer the question "if it’s not racism, why do some Americans hate President Obama so much?"

The online article touting yesterday's show actually featured a link to a piece here at Brown Man Thinking Hard from last year, titled "Obama Hate: "Obama Loves America Like O.J. Loved Nicole". Even though I'd never done a group discussion via phone on live radio, it seemed to be right up my alley.

Now I've got an idea of what a rookie must feel like when he hits the floor for the first time in a big time Division I basketball program.

The producers or production assistants over in England were very nice and unfailingly polite. It was so interesting hearing the tart, lilting way their tongues herded each word in a sentence along, with an extra lash for the final word if they were asking a question, that it was a struggle to pay attention to what they were saying to me at first.

The guests were a mixed bag - a reverend/political activist from Louisiana, a radio host from Cincinnati, a reporter/columnist from L.A., and a newspaper person whose title I can't remember. The host was pretty good, keeping the show moving by alternating between our comments, real time emails that he read on the air if they illuminated a point someone had made, or took the conversation in a more interesting direction, and call-in listeners from around the world, although most of ours were from the States.

But back to this rookie thing.

I have a new level of respect for the amount of time Sean Yoes gives me twice a month on the AFRO/First Edition at WEAA to basically say what I want to say, at a pace with which I'm comfortable. My fellow panelists yesterday were old hands at this, experienced enough to know how to use their "radio" voices to elbow their way into the ring to say something. So I didn't get to say much. And they all seemed to lead with their standard talking points, which got me hot under the collar after awhile.

It was as if I was listening to a chorus of Baghdad Bob's, each of them valiantly pursuing their line of patter as if the host had simply gotten bad information about the racial overtones that are becoming more distinct in the criticism of President Obama by certain Americans.

It's moments like these when I feel a little guilty for falling down on the job sometimes, for not coming up with more posts on more topics, for not hitting the bricks here each and every day to try to counter some of the misinformation that so often becomes the dominant discussion by the media.

When I asserted that FOX News was unprecedented in its nightly vitriol against Obama, a chorus of voices raised to denounce MSNBC's treatment of President Bush, as if Keith Olbermann's rants were the equivalent of FOX's entire lineup, hour after hour, yelling about our "Muslim, radical" president.

The guy from L.A., Ben Shapiro, used the phrase "radical policies" so many times I thought the topic had changed and we were talking about another country. As I sat there, phone to my ear, I pictured a computer server somewhere, silently tallying all the on-air uses of these kind of key phrases and relaying the running totals via Blackberries or IPhones to the army (and it IS an army) of right wing political zealots across the country in front of TV cameras and on radio shows, helping them to calibrate their patter accordingly in order for the group to hit their daily target.

Later in the show, when I actually tried to talk about some of the research on race and politics I'd done for a blog series last year, the Cincinnati radio jock jumped in to agree with my assessment that the number of actual racists were small before quickly adding dismissively "that these are people who have no power."

I countered "but when the people in power let these people speak unfettered in this country, that's a problem." I was a statement Mr.Cinncinati took personally.

I actually wasn't talking about anyone down at his level, though. When Mr. Cincinnati calmed down, I told him "It's not you, but the people who run our media companies." When the executive suite allows this kind of ridiculous behavior to typify their networks, THAT is a real problem, one all of us should be up in arms about.

But I was glad to hear Mr. Cincinnati get all huffy for a moment or two before he segued back into his stock speech for someone with a different point of view.

It was the moment that made the whole hour worthwhile.

I'll be back.





Suffering In The Name Of Freedom


It's bad for this president to bow to the Japanese, but it's good for the last president to kiss the Saudis.

With that kind of logic, I'd hate to think what President Obama should do for the Chinese.

After all, what's a couple of trillion between friends? Especially when we haven't got the cash to pay that "couple of trillion" in Treasury debt off that the Chinese seem to be patiently holding while we make our bankers richer fix our economy.

Between the punditocracy who pray at the church of "American superiority", and the punditocracy who worship Saint Sarah's every breath, I have been totally uninspired these last few days.

Our news media is suffering from a inability to reference anything other than itself, which means that there is probably going to be nothing but an endless loop of President Obama bowing to the Chinese emperor, Sarah Palin gossiping about her alternate universe, Levi Johnston struggling to express himself in front of a camera, and a hundred television reporters and experts analyzing THEIR OWN COMMENTS on this madness as if that is supposed to explain why these things should be important to us. But how much more do I really need to know about this stuff?

So I went to China myself to see what was really going on.

First stop, China Digital Times. The biggest issue in this publication is a raging debate about the Great Firewall of China. The internet there is very, very heavily censored by the state.

From Chinese twitterers:

@zhengyun: President Obama arriving China with the his spectacular army of Twitter, Facebook, Blogspot, Google Picasa, Youtube, Yahoo! meme ……

@philfenghan I will not forget this morning, I heard, on my shaky Internet connection, a question about our own freedom which only a foreign leader can discuss.
我不会忘记这个中午,断断续续听着一个他国领导人才会讲到的关于我们自己切身自由的问题。 #obama

@hecaitou: The Netease page about Obama answering the question of Great Firewall of Twitter survived twenty seven minutes.
网易关于奥巴马回答防火墙和Twitter的页面,存活了27分钟。

@blogtd: #Obama President Obama, if you cannot update your Twitter and Facebook while you are in China, I will be happy to provide humanitarian aid.


I am no foriegn policy analyst by a long shot, but as a life long student of human behavior, it looks to me that China is going to have to figure out if they really want to grow the ranks of their middle class citizens, which has been the source of stability in Westernized nations, or keep the type of totalitarian control they have now. You can't have your cake and eat it too, Emperor

And in case the Emperor isn't paying attention, our bowing president would be only too happy to take back boatloads of bright Chinese students to study in our universities.

I made a few other stops, at places like the Angry Chinese Blogger, but the picture of a country that restricted its citizens internet access had a hold on me. I thought about our freedom here to make fun of the president, or complain about the government. I thought about the freedom we have to support who we want for president, for congress, for the senate, for mayor or city councilman.

So I guess I'll be lumping it with the rest of you, enduring Sarah Palin and Levi Johnston as long as the people who sell us stuff figure they can make some money from our eyeballs.

I'll be suffering in the name of freedom.





Senor Dobbs: Adios!



It just so happens that I was on the phone yesterday with a staffer from www.RedBrownandBlue.com, asking her about the reception they'd gotten from the black bloggers they'd reached out to recently as they launched their publication - we ended up talking about some of the very same attitudes towards our Latino brethren that cost Lou Dobbs his job today at CNN.

"Every...what's the phrase now...'undocumented worker'...every 'undocumented worker' is alright when they are cutting your grass or cleaning your house," I said to her. "If these 'undocumented workers' can do the work, and we want them to do the work, why can't they be 'citizens' and pay some taxes?"

I told her I was going to add their site to my blogroll. "Immigration is the next big issue coming up in Congress" the staffer reminded me. "Uh huh," I said. "I know. I might be interested in doing a column. Is that okay?"

She assured me that they were always on the lookout for good writing on relevant issues.

"Some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem-solving," Mr. Dobbs said on his show tonight.


For those of you who are unfamiliar with ExecuSpeak, the English translation of Dobbs statement is "they told me to take my crabby ass home."

Dobbs may have quit today, but he had painted himself into a corner long ago.

Good riddance.

Sometimes, though, in a situation like this, you wonder, when a person like Dobbs leaves, if you are losing the devil you know to gain the devil you don't.

It's highly unlikely they will get anyone as cantankerously wrong as Dobbs.

But back to this new kid on the block, www.RedBrownandBlue.com...

...I'll have to admit that it was the name that drew me in. In fact, I had just spoken to my brother about this during our discussion the other day about the city of Atlanta mayoral race. "The only thing the AJC kept talking about were black and white voters," I groused. "The good only simplicity of the binary existence is all they want to deal with. I guess it makes for an easier story to report. But what about the Mexicans? What about the Asians? What about the Eastern Europeans? What about the Ethiopians? Did any of these campaigns have a significant presence on their campaign staffs of Spanish speaking people?"

Multiculturalism is more than a trendy moniker. It is a reality here in Atlanta. With the small number of votes cast in the mayor's race, I believe Kasim Reed, who so far is still my fantasy candidate (since I don't live in the city limits), would have had a chance to be the mayor last week if he had included a strong outreach effort to these communities.

To the people who feel a little discombobulated right now by all of this - to the people who want all of us brown and browners to hide under a rock somewhere, or go jump off a cliff en masse, or just simply assume our usual position of deference, waiting for them to take the lead, I'm not sorry to say it, I'm happy as hell to shout it - you are going to discombobulated for the rest of your lives.

And if you haven't visited one of my long time blogroll members Adventures Of The Coconut Caucus - "we put the panic in Hispanic" - you need to check them out. They are hilarious!









I've been toying around with some comments on the Obama campaign documentary that aired last week, but every time I got started on them, something else came up. Election Night. The Fort Hood shootings. The healthcare bill passing in the House of Representatives. The latest goings on in the Atlanta mayoral race.

Now that there is a lull in the action, maybe I can get back to By The People: The Election of Barack Obama, the documentary directed by Alicia Sams and Amy Rice that HBO premiered last week.

Maybe it's the fiction writer in me, but somewhere around the forty five minute mark in By The People , I wondered how much more this would really resonate with viewers if, instead of watching this solo on a single TV screen, everyone who viewed it was sitting in front of a bank of flat screens, with the Obama documentary playing alongside Amistad, Roots, The March on Washington, Birth of A Nation and Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, the sound turned down on all of the screens except for By The People, the images of the past flashing across the screens in your periphery as you watched the main event, creating the most meta of meta-narratives you had ever seen...

...and even then, I don't think any stretch of video tape could possibly begin to contain the enormity of the idea of a black man being the president of the United States of America.

For me, what this documentary showed more than anything was how constrained we are as a nation by the febrile and inadequate imaginations of our media, a group of people who often pat themselves on the back for their self described open mindedness when they are usually the most narrow minded link in the information chain.

Add to that the endless hours of cable news punditry that was dedicated to the fluff, gossip and innuendo rather than the things that really wins campaigns, the nuts and bolts business of organizing and registering people to actually cast a ballot, and it becomes apparent why we hold the news media in such low esteem, even as we take our cues from them, for we are too lazy or too preoccupied to search out the raw facts and analyze them for ourselves.

I wrote over a hundred thousand words during the presidential primaries and the presidential election last fall. And in going back through all of them to put together a retrospective ebook culled from this very blog - an effort which is a lot harder and is taking a lot longer than I thought it would have three weeks ago - I got a chance to relive some of the feelings I had during this ground breaking and historic race.

In some ways it was like being in the kitchen of a fancy restaurant while top chefs prepared a ten course meal - seeing all the hard work and planning that went into it made the end result all that much sweeter.

By the end of By The People, you sense that the editors have done their job well, because they have strung enough emotional wellspring moments together to have you yourself get a little misty eyed when they show Candidate Obama tearing up on stage the day before the election while he speaks of the death of his grandmother.

The most poignant part of the film for me was an unremarkable moment early on, when the cameras were whirring in the Obama kitchen, taking in the sight of Michelle Obama playing a game with her children at the kitchen table when the phone rang. Daughter Sasha rushed to the phone, her eyes glancing into the camera to her right before remembering to look away as if the camera wasn't there.

It was a telling reminder of the way we are all influenced by the presence of recording devices, and how our real life instincts are often muted when someone is watching us. The lives of the Obama family have been forever altered by this election. Every once in awhile, when I see a moment like the one young Sasha had during this film, I want to believe that we can give them their real lives back after this is all over.

But the reality is, we will be watching this family for a long time to come.













Miles Davis might have had the right idea.

Sometimes you just need to turn your back to the audience and blow.

Bwwwwwwaaaap!

What is going on behind the scenes in the city of Atlanta's mayoral race?

Bwwwwwwaaaap!

Can Kasim Reed win without the help of the Maynard Jackson Amen corner?

Bwwwwwwaaaap!



Even though I don't live in the city of Atlanta, what goes on there is important to me and the other four million people who live in the Atlanta metro area that surrounds the city limits.

My brother, who does live inside the city limits, says voting was very light in his precinct in the Atlanta's northwest quadrant. "You had to stand in line when I voted here last fall," he said. "Last week I breezed in and out."

Why more of those newly registered Obama voters didn't return is not really a mystery.

I'd like to say that I don't understand why Kasim Reed, the candidate I still like despite the Jackson endorsement, didn't decide to adopt more of the proven winning strategies of the Obama presidential campaign, but I've got a theory about his lackluster performance last week.

It's an idea that began growing in my mind about the time that I heard Brooke Jackson-Edmonds, daughter of Atlanta's first black mayor, on the radio in the last days of the campaign, endorsing Reed as if she was a proxy for her late father.

Reed is a young, vigorous, well educated, clean cut candidate who can crisply articulate his ideas - the kind of African American candidate who could have taken advantage of the huge contingent of Obama organizers and campaign volunteers who live in the city to significantly boost turnout numbers.

Why didn't Reed have better voter turnout numbers? Is it because his advisors still meet at Paschal's and The Beautiful Restaurant, instead of emailing and conference calling?

There's more to it, though, than slapping an "e" in front of your campaign and slapping up a website. To gain access to this new force in American politics, Reed probably would have had to change his message a little bit too, to be more overtly inclusive of those white voters who feel their voices have gotten the short end of the stick at City Hall ever since Jackson was mayor in the seventies.

How bad could it be in the "City Too Busy To Hate" to have white and Latino and Asian Atlanta residents involved in significant numbers at meaningful levels of city government...

...unless your candidacy has been anointed by a clique that thinks it owns the keys to the city?

Jim Galloway, who writes the "Political Insider" column for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, published eye opening emails between Bunnie Jackson-Ransom, Maynard Jackson's first wife, and other concerned citizens about the possibility of Atlanta having a white mayor. Galloway would probably lose his job for writing what I'm about to say, but somebody has to say it.


Maynard Jackson is dead.


Because it seems that within the city limits of Atlanta, there are too many people who won't let the spectre of Maynard Jackson's legacy as the first black mayor of Atlanta go. Too many people who are invested in trying to make the historical significance of Jackson's 1973 style of decision making remain relevant here in 2009, some thirty eight years later.

The unique time that the seventies in the South presented were perfectly suited to the young Jackson's talents. A son of the city, who appeared to inherit much of his political skill from his grandfather, John Wesley Dobbs, Jackson didn't crack open the doors for minority participation in city business and city contracts - he blew them wide open, probably because that's the only way he had a chance of changing the status quo.

There's no way to know, no matter how much Monday morning quarterbacking you do, what might have happened to the city of Atlanta if Jackson had possessed a more diplomatic touch, but a look at just about every major urban city that was taken over by black mayors in the seventies will show you that white flight was a phenomenon that affected all of these locales. Losing that part of the tax base crippled most of these cities just when they needed money the most, making it next to impossible for these administrations to keep the pace with the kind of amenities the suburbs had to offer.

Maybe I am particularly sensitive to these kinds of black political machinations swirling around the Atlanta mayoral race because I grew up in a college town with two historically black colleges whose administrations, staff and faculty formed their own insular communities. The college presidents in the old days ran their campuses as veritable fiefdoms, doling out favors and privileges as if they owned their schools, Booker T. Washington style.

A buddy of mine from my hometown asked me years ago how come we didn't live on Atlanta's South Side. How come we didn't consider the Cascade Road area, where a lot of Atlanta's old school movers and shakers lived. "Because I didn't move here all the way from South Carolina to stand at the back of another Negro pecking order line."

A lot has changed in the thirty five years since Jackson was first elected mayor of Atlanta. Some of the walls between America's racial and ethnic cultures have begun to crumble. Things obviously aren't perfect - there are those who call themselves Tea Baggers or Tea Partiers or freedom fighters who are fighting mightily to rebuild those walls that deny non-whites access to power, walls a young Maynard Jackson did a lot to help crumble.

I don't begrudge Ms. Jackson-Ransom or any of the Jackson family and friends for any success or riches they may have garnered because of Maynard Jackson's three terms as mayor or from the many powerful connections he made while serving in office. That's the reality of the political process - "he who wins receives the spoils." And I'm sure the death threats against the Jackson family in the seventies were every bit as real as the ones against President Obama today.

But the handwriting is on the wall.

Without a vibrant city center as a magnet, the Atlanta metro area will devolve into nothing more than an agglomeration of five counties, their tip ends circling the perimeter like charred logs around an extinguished campfire.

Jacksonites, it's time to step aside and make way for the next generation of young political lions to challenge the status quo downtown, the same way Maynard Jackson did 38 years ago, so that ALL the players in the Atlanta of the new millennium can have a seat at the table.






Saturday Night Special: Healthcare Bill Passes House




It looks like the Affordable Healthcare For America Act, better known as the "healthcare act" if you support it, or "Obamacare" if you are against it, will live to see another day as it moved forward from the House of Representatives about 11 o'clock last night, passing with a final vote of 220 - 215. The bill will head to the Senate next, where legislators will repeat the same three ring circus act again to see if the bill can find enough support among the 100 members of its body to continue on the arduous journey of becoming the law of the land.

You know you're getting old when you look forward to watching the healthcare vote in the House of Representatives on a Saturday evening instead of Saturday Night Live.

Last night, the majority of the Democrats in the House looked like they had Saturday Night Fever - indeed, some of them seemed ready to start dancing in the aisles as the electronic vote totals began to accumulate on the tote board. They had withstood the last minute challenge the Stupak-Pitts Amendment presented Friday night, rallying around the House Democratic leadership's decision to allow an up or down vote on including in the Affordable Healthcare For Americans Act language that prohibits federal funds for abortion services in the public option and in the insurance "exchange" the bill would create.

What this latest wrinkle in the healthcare debate means for the general public is that for the next few weeks, political advertising will compete with holiday season commercials for your attention as special interest groups pull out all the stops in an attempt to sway public support in a direction beneficial to their own self interests.

President Obama released a statement shortly after the vote. "Thanks to the hard work of the House, we are just two steps away from achieving health insurance reform in America. Now the United States Senate must follow suit and pass its version of the legislation. I am absolutely confident it will, and I look forward to signing comprehensive health insurance reform into law by the end of the year."






The Silent Halls Of Death

It is a cruel kind of sadness that the families of the dead at Fort Hood will have to endure. I would not want to see the story of the military gunman who opened fire on his fellow soldiers yesterday incessantly played and replayed on all the news stations for the next two weeks if I were a surviving family member.

Even as I write these words, there are news producers in studios across the country who are estimating how much of a ratings spike this horrific event will give them the next few days. There are Aryan brotherhoods who are incorporating Major Nidal Malik Hasan's name into their recruitment speeches. Muslim American soldiers who are steeling themselves for a potential backlash within the ranks of their own fellow troops.

These are the kind of real life things, real life but nonsensical, that will go on the next few weeks.

The blood has long stopped flowing from the bullet holes in those thirteen people who died yesterday. The eviscerated flesh around the edges of their wounds have begun to harden. Loved ones, still in shock, are having to scurry about, quietly digging up life insurance policies, forlornly selecting the last pieces of clothing their dead family members will ever wear in this world.

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged by his dungeon; but, sustain'd and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.


From Thanatopsis
William Cullen Bryant



I was required to memorize the phrases above by Bryant almost thirty years ago in high school. It is in times like this that it comes back to me, as clearly as if I had only committed it to memory yesterday.

Yesterday, as I turned the channel to get away from scenes of the chaos, in my mind's eye those thirteen people whose lives were so suddenly snatched from them took their own chambers in the silent halls of death.






Political Spin: The Media's Election Night After Party



The perennial stereotype of the horse racing gambler has been recounted in books and movies as the kind of person who is able to see attributes in the horses that they inevitably lose money on that just aren't there. It almost seemed that they got more pleasure out of not winning than they ever could if their horse actually came in first.

The post race political spin last night was starting to sound the same way as the Democrats began to explain why losing the governor's races in New Jersey and New York wasn't indicative of anything at all other than the will of the voters. "The president", said the White House spokesman, "is not watching returns."

This was one of the funnier quotes of the night - what the hell else would a wonkish pol like Obama, who lives at ground zero in the most political city in the country, be doing? Bowling? Playing Scrabble with the girls? Updating his Fantasy Football picks?

The article "It's The Spending, Stupid" that was released before the results were final in New York's District 23 by Cynthia Lummis, a Republican Congresswoman from Wyoming, was just as funny. "Doug Hoffman’s ascendance is a referendum on the reckless spending of the Obama administration and the Pelosi-Reid Congress." It's kind of hard to call this race a referendum on spending when an unknown Democrat actually won the race last night in District 23, but I'm sure Rep. Lummis will come up with an inventive way to recast this outcome into a positive development.

The races themselves almost seem incidental, so hungry is our political establishment on both sides of the aisle for a chance to trumpet their agendas. I've often wondered why, in such a large country, we can't just accept the fact that people who call themselves Democrats or Republicans in one part of the country may not have the same ideological beliefs as those in another part - that the membership in a political party is an affiliation of similarly minded people in the truest sense of the word, rather than a brain washing syndicate that attempts to indoctrinate its ranks from coast to coast the way fascist dictators do.

The people of New Jersey and Virginia and New York's District 23 know these people running for office better than anyone on the national level ever could. When the smoke clears, and the cameras and the reporters are gone, the voters don't care about the national agendas - they care about what's happening on their streets, in their school systems, and in their neighborhoods and downtowns.

But reporters don't call regular citizens to ask them what they are thinking. They call experts and analysts instead. Then they call Sarah Palin and Glen Beck and Keith Olbermann to get the final word on the matter. They use old articles for research. They listen to other journalists and op-ed writers, and end up publishing coverage that reinforces a binary version of reality, as if we are not a multi-dimensional, multiple narrative population who may or may not act in ways that protect our own self-interests.

It would be easy to say that we have devolved into a nation that is all talk and no action, but that isn't really the case. In many ways, to the people who package and sell political talk, reporting on the saying is is much more lucrative than reporting on the doing - how many ways can you describe the construction of a new bridge that will take two years to complete?

But view that bridge through the eyes of an editor, or a public relations specialist, and all of a sudden the building of forms and the pouring of concrete take on a whole new light as we are bombarded by accusations of graft and corruption, payoffs and kickbacks, shoddy workmanship and back room dealmaking.

To the people who need the bridge, the politics of it is secondary to actually getting it completed so they can drive over it to get where they are going.

It would be disingenuous to write all of this and not admit that there is certain amount of irony in my writing this, since I have my own political and cultural opinion blog. At the end of the week, I've written a whole lot more than anything I've done to take action. Maybe what I have to say ads to America's political narrative. Maybe it doesn't.

The upshot of all of this is that for the next two weeks, you will be bombarded with headlines like "Palin's Candidate Loses In NY Congressional Race", "How Will Obama Respond To GOP Wins In VA And NJ?", "Dems, Incumbents Get Wake-Up Call", "Analysis: Elections Not A Referendum On Obama", "A Warning To Democrats: It's Not 2008 Anymore", "GOP Wins Reveal Cracks In Obama Coalition", and "VA and NJ Elections: Obama World Stayed Home".

These headlines, however stirring, will do nothing to alleviate the high unemployment rate, and will have no bearing on any efforts to stimulate the economy, the two things America is really interested in seeing improve.







Why Is Newt Gingrich On The Cover Of My Alumni Magazine?


Newt Gingrich and I have the same alma mater.

I had no idea that we both graduated from Emory University.

The publication the school put out for alumni was in the mail today. Emory Magazine, which has got to be one of the best put together university communications out there, is used mainly to let us know what's going on back at the ranch, remind us of how much all the educational majesty leading up to pomp and circumstance for this generation costs, and prime us for the fundraising phone call from a student...

...a solicitation phone call that ironically came between the time I flipped through the magazine and the time, half an hour later, when I sat down to write this piece.

Gingrich was on the cover of this issue, his white capped head covering nearly half the page in a jowly pose similar to the one in the picture above that made me think of Tip O'Neill in the twilight of his career. I didn't know that he was the founder of Emory's Young Republican chapter. What I had always felt was a deep respect for his intellect, even if I didn't agree with many of the political positions he has espoused over the years.

His latest reincarnation, in which he is teaming up with Al Sharpton to push for improvements in the nation's educational systems, may seem odd from the outside, but I have always been amazed at the idea of a professor with a PhD turning his theories into action. No matter how much you may dislike the conclusions he arrives at, there is no way to deny that Gingrich is a first rate thinker.

One of my buddies, another Emory alum, thinks Gingrich is biding his time until the Sarah Palin types wear out their welcome, when my buddy insists that "Newt can take this thing." What my buddy doesn't realize is how much credibility Gingrich's association with Sharpton has cost him with the army of wingnut zombies following Glen Beck and Michelle Malkin, an army who mistakenly believe that they are real Republicans.

The reality for Gingrich is that his time to run for president has passed him by. As he comments in the Emory Magazine article The Man With The Plan, "I was in an airport, and these students came up and said, 'you're in our history book,'", Gingrich says. "I felt very odd at that point."

I don't know what he and Sharpton and Arne Duncan are cooking up, but I think Gingrich's academic background, his political instincts, and his stature will serve the groundbreaking educational tour well. As a matter of fact, this threesome will be in New Orleans tomorrow, November 3rd, and in Baltimore on November 13th.

In a recent interview that included both Gingrich and Sharpton, Sharpton told NBC, "The parents need to be challenged with the message of `no excuses.'" Gingrich responded, "I think that he has it exactly right, that education has to be the No. 1 civil right of the 21st century and I've been passionate about reforming education. And we can't get it done as a partisan issue."

"Amen" to that.



AUDIO for November 1st AFRO/First Edition Interview

This is the audio from the radio interview I did with Sean Yoes on November 1st on WEAA, an NPR afiliate in Baltimore.

Healthcare reform, Joe Lieberman's latest antics, the race in New York District 23, and the ongoing feud between Sarah Palin and Levi Johnston were among the topics.

Audio Of Nov 1 FIRST EDITION Interview with Sean Yoes - Part 1




Audio Of Nov 1 FIRST EDITION Interview with Sean Yoes - Part 2




Audio Of Nov 1 FIRST EDITION Interview with Sean Yoes - Part 3





Enjoy.








Between all of the pomp and circumstance of homecoming weekend at S.'s undergraduate alma mater, I found time to get back on the radio for an interview with Sean Yoes, a senior reporter at The Afro American. He is the host of "The WEAA/AFRO First Edition", an hour-long political talk show on Baltimore's WEAA-FM (88.9 FM), which airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m.

You can click this link and push the "Listen Live" button at the top of the page to hear the show.

This week, we talked about the latest incarnation of the healthcare bill in the Senate, the House of Representatives race in New York's 23rd district that will be discussed on all the Sunday morning political talk shows, and the growing feud between Sarah Palin and Levi Johnston.

Has the level of President Obama's leadership role in the healthcare debate been effective? Find out what Sean Yoes and I think tonight on the show.

As always, it was fun. Check it out if you have a chance.





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