24 February 2010

"Change" Costs Money - Why Congress Is Like A Strip Club

I spent way too much time last week poring over the numbers of the Congressional Black Caucus and its affiliated charities. But in trying to give the story more context than the Two Erics who wrote the article for the New York Times were able to muster, I did come away with two things:

More than $13 BILLION dollars were spent by lobbyists on Congress between 2004 and 2008.

Only $55 MILLION dollars were collected by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and CBC related charities between 2004 and 2008.

that lead me to two conclusions:

Number One - the Two Erics should have been carnival barkers instead of reporters or the terrible financial analysts they showed themselves to be - $55 million dollars is less than one half of one percent of all the bribe money that changed hands during the same period.

Number Two - Change will cost money. For all those folks out here in the blogosphere who marched and called and voted for Barack Obama and now think he is a traitor, a turncoat of the worst order for not instantly swapping existing programs and policies for the ones you say you want, get your checkbooks out.

Because your president cannot do it alone. Ten dollar words will lose against 10 million dollar fundraisers every day day of the week, and ten times over on Sundays, no matter how smoothly your president can speak, no matter how collegial he is, no matter how bipartisan, or no partisan - because even as he speaks to them, your Congress people have their hands out.

When Obama calls them in their offices for a private chat, guess what? They've got a big donor on the other line, waiting until they get done with the president.

How do you get the change you want? You are going to have to put enough money in the game to alter the balance of power. Its a lot like going to a strip club. You may have an earnest face, and talk a good game, but until you start shelling out those twenties, nobody is going to shake that ass for you.

Congress is just like those strippers - right now you are talking, your president is talking, and they are not listening, just like those chicks in the club can't see you if you aren't asking them to dance.

It takes more than two or three twenties to keep a stripper's attention, especially if they don't know you because you just started coming to the club. She knows that painting contractor or that lawyer who is in there once or twice a week are good for rent money, for a trip to the beach, for a new wardrobe or some jewelry - your two twenty dollar bills can't fill up her gas tank.

"Change" will cost stacks of greenbacks.

How does the new guy at the club get the strippers to give him that special treatment right away instead of hanging all over their Steady Eddie insurance agency owners and car dealers?

He can make it rain.

Just pull out a couple of stacks of twenties, bust the wrapper, and throw them in the air when a stripper is on stage.

It will cost more than a few thousand to get your Congress people to get off the laps of their Steady Eddie's and really push your agenda of change in a meaningful, fully funded way.

Unlike the Two Erics, I will tell you up front that the numbers I am about to give you are based solely on a strip club comparison, and absolutely NO regressive analysis or donor displacement theory or even a calculator was used.

"Change" - the real kind, the long term variety that will actually redirect the way or government functions, will cost $1.5 to 2 BILLION a year. Putting a few hundred million a year is the pot is a waste on time.

'Cause if you only make it rain in the strip club because its your birthday, and come back three months later, them strippers will smile at you and wave at you...

...from their Steady Eddie's laps.

It's the same wave your Congressman will give you.

22 February 2010

Vernon Hunter, The Real Patriot In IRS Attack, Was From My Hometown

I've got a million other things to do today, but I went to bed angry and I woke up mad about the lack of an outpouring of heartfelt compassion for dead IRS employee Vernon Hunter. Actually, "angry" isn't the right word. I'm upset. I'm incensed. I am in a foul mood. To put a finer point on it, I am in a "put a match to gasoline soaked cracker-assed crackers who dare to utter one word of praise for Joe Stack" kind of mood today about the lack of press coverage of Vernon Hunter, or any real information on his life, or any concerted effort by any media to talk to his family members.

It wasn't until I went to my hometown this weekend in South Carolina that I realized Mr. Hunter was from the very same place. I have been stewing ever since. I wrote an article about it at Big Think.com, where I do my thing on my own media platform of sorts on my blog "Resurgence". It wasn't enough. It wasn't until I read jimstaro's diary "Son Speaks Out" this morning that my fingers started getting itchy and my head started to throb. It wasn't until I thought about all the bullshit we waste time cauterwauling over that I knew what I had to do.

I'm from a small college town - Orangeburg, South Carolina - which has been quietly grooming black men like Vernon Hunter by the thousands since Reconstruction. If the ROTC program at South Carolina State University hasn't produced the most black military officers in the US, it is in the top 3. Ordinarily, I'd look this kind of shit up and provide you with a handy link but I'm not in the mood today.

Vernon didn't attend South Carolina State, but I am damn sure it affected him because it affected me every time I passed its gates. My father, who is a couple of years older than the late Mr. Hunter, didn't know him, but he knew the man the local paper quoted who had grown up with Mr. Hunter.

Mr. Hunter went to Vietnam and came back alive and sane, which I have been told is a major accomplishment, not once but TWICE. Two tours of duty in a fucking war zone, and the man ends up getting killed by his fellow countryman, a cowardly assed cracker who didn't want to pay his fucking taxes.

Maybe Mr. Hunter needed to have sandy blond hair and mournful blue eyes so I could see his image plastered all over my TV. Maybe Mr. Hunter's son Ken needed to be standing by a fucking pickup truck with a pair of shit kickers on in order to merit more than the barest of attention from the shills who pose as our Fourth Estate.

So what the fuck are we doing about it? Why the fuck are the radio towers that spew the "Joe Stack is a patriot" garbage into the air for its cracker assed cracker talk radio audience still standing? Why isn't Joe Stack's face photoshopped under a turban with the caption "J. Stack Bin Laden"?

And why isn't Ken Hunter's face on every TV screen in America right now? Ken is a bigger man than me, because if you sat your overprivileged ass down in your upper middle class home and premeditated the murder of my father, I couldn't forgive you.

Not never.

Not for one god damned second.

Where is the outrage? Where is the pushback? Where are the wholesale, 24 hour a day condemnations of ANYONE, from Fuckhead #1 Rush Limbaugh to the rest of the Cracker Convention acolytes and the ridiculously transparent, whiter than white Tea Party that is three sheets away from being the Klu Klux Klan?

These people who champion a man for killing employees of the government, employees who make no policy decisions, command no armies, but carry out the will of our Congress are now the enemy? Were these people asleep in civics class? Or have they decided it is open season on government employees, many of who are black, the same way their forebears decided it was open season on black people whenever we seemed to be getting a little bit too "uppity"?

Why aren't the white people with good sense - if you read this far that means YOU - as fed up with these fools as I am?

There is no communist or socialist ideology that is as poisonous as the one that drives these rabid people like Joseph Stack to kill people because he has run into a few of life's challenges. Because his fantasy lifestyle has run amok. Because that bullshit of superiority he has built his whole fucking life on was shown to be nothing more than air.

So why aren't my white friends with good sense rooting these people out instead of worrying about why the president doesn't call up to let them know their wish list is being processed at the new "Where Dreams Come To Life" building in D.C.

You have done it before. You can do it again.

Call, write, and email these lazy, wouldn't know the right end of a story if it stared them in the face media companies, and tell them YOU ARE OUTRAGED that they have more footage of the killer on TV than they do of his innocent victims...

...and then beg, badger, cajole, or irritate the shit out of the next three people of any color who have good sense to do the same.

Don't do it for me.

Don't do it because Joseph Stack wasn't worth pissing on.

Do it because this man from my hometown deserves better than this.

Do it because Vernon Hunter's family deserves to have their father's face on TV for the next two weeks so America can see what A REAL PATRIOT, THE KIND WHO DUCKED ENEMY BULLETS, looks like.

Do it because you champion humanity, not insanity.

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18 February 2010

I Am Not Amused

I am not amused.

I actually felt something come over me yesterday when I saw Wolf Blitzer breathing anxiously into his microphone as he wondered why the eight missionaries being held under suspicion of child trafficking violations who were released from the custody of the Haitian government yesterday were quickly spirited away from the island in a U.S. government plane.

It was as if all the inequities, all the preferential treatment, all the institutionalized racism I have been researching for a mini-series on race and perspective had come to a boil just behind my eyes. It was a sudden throbbing pressure just behind my sinus cavity that seemed to ratchet itself up a notch with every connection that popped into my head between what I was seeing on the screen about the privilege of whiteness, what I have been reading about the privilege of whiteness, and what we all already know but willfully choose to ignore that makes racial inequality at once so insidious and so apparent that rooting it out requires no less than a reworking of the very foundation of our entire social structure.

I feel as if I am listening to mad men when I hear reporters casually talk about the prior life of the murdering professor in Huntsville as if the shooting incident this same murdering professor had been involved in, a prior  incident that resulting in her having a dead brother was the kind of thing that was merely "eyebrow raising". It was a heinous incident in which the police report alone recounted so much circumstantial evidence that a first year law student at the bottom of his class could have gotten an indictment. It was a situation where the ruling of a local police chief WHO HAD DONE NO INVESTIGATION allowed the murdering professor in her prior life to simply walk out of the police station WITHOUT A CHARGE -- a textbook example of the privilege whiteness brings in America, and one my news media and the rest of the country have chosen to ignore, as if this literal "get out of jail free" card is one we all carry.

It is as if we brown skinned people have been trapped in a classroom with mad professors, a group of men and women whose sage faces house wild eyes, wild eyes that blink incessantly as these professors tap their chalk against the board, insisting that in these cases there really is no inequity, that we are seeing things, that we must not question their assertions that “2 + 2 = 5”, that “8 ÷ 2 = 3”, or that “3 × 2 =7”, even though we can see by simply counting with our fingers that these things are not true.

It is as if these professors are telling us “your fingers are lying to you”, even as we see them arrive at the same conclusion we do before they remember to add or subtract a finger to support what they’ve written on the board.

Even now, I can imagine that there are people all over America who have been harboring resentment at the way those “poor missionaries” have been treated. That there are people all over America who have already deduced from their armchairs in Whiteland that the murdering professor “needed help”, was “off her medication”, “didn’t really know what she was doing”, “probably was abused as a child” or whatever comes next on the laundry list of excuses that seem to arrive like clockwork whenever white Americans who don’t look like they came out of a trailer park commit heinous acts.

That throbbing in my head was compounded by the virtual lynch mob that has lit out after Governor David Patterson’s aide, a six foot seven inch tall black man named David Johnson who has been accused on more than one occasion of domestic violence, and was arrested over twenty years ago for selling crack cocaine to an undercover agent as a teenager. In case you don’t know what that really means, I’ll fill you in – the police didn’t arrest a future Scarface, they arrested a misdirected kid who was trying to peddle twenty or thirty dollars worth of crack rocks, the kind of drug possession charge suburban criminal lawyers where I live get thrown out every day of the week when they are levied against their prep school clients.

This is the point in the narrative, though, where those same people who are so sympathetic to the child stealers and the brother killer fall back on that shop worn racial stand in for the original "its them niggers" these days -- the label "he's just a thug" -- and start wondering why the police don’t “throw away the key” when they lock up people like this and just keep them in jail for life.

The throbbing intensified as I realized that this horror show would be on tomorrow and the next night, that it was the only show going, a perpetual stage production titled "Angels and Demons", in which I and my brownskinned brethren were destined to play the Demons, no matter how much good we might accomplish, no matter how much trouble we might avoid, while our white skinned counterparts were perennial Angels, no matter how much blood drenched their hands, no matter how many died because of their willful acts, no matter what law they broke or ignored.

The throbbing has eased a little now that I’ve written this, but I will imagine that it will return whenever I click on the next internet link or turn on the TV to hear the mad professors insist yet again that ”2 + 2 = 5”, even as we watch the blood stains dry on the hands of another Angel gone bad.

05 February 2010

The Demonsheep That Ate Carly Fiorina's Political Aspirations

"Baa baa, black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir -- three bags full."

One of my buddies called me the other day.

"Man, we should become political consultants," he said. "You think we could start a firm?"

I don't know the first thing about political consulting from a "what do you do everyday" perspective, or how you would go about billing your clients, so I said, "that sounds good, but think about it -- we don't know anybody on the national level, where they will buy any old bullshit, who might recommend us, and we can't deliver anything tangible like votes or big donations on a local level -- it just doesn't sound like it would work."

We shot the breeze about a few other things, and then I hung up the phone. It was pretty late, so I clicked up TweetDeck to take a tour around the Twitterverse before I went to bed.

The hashtag "#demonsheep" kept showing up so much in my stream of followers that I finally tweeted to one of my Twitter buddies who usually has reliable information to find out what the hell was going on.

She shot me back this link, then hit me with another message -- "#demonsheep will be looking for you. LOL!!"

After clicking the link and watching the attack video that Carly Fiorina's people put together to make her primary opponent for a U.S. Senate seat in California, Tom Campbell, look like he's a Fiscal Conservative In Name Only (FCINO), I had to wonder if my buddy wasn't onto something with his political consultant idea.

I mean, I even went over to The Weekly Standard, a conservative standard bearer, where another one of my twitter buddies is their in-house blogger, to find that even she was at a loss for a way to put a positive spin on the latest antics of this out of control GOP candidate:

"This thing's going viral, but not necessarily in a way that will help Carly Fiorina's message. It just oozes that special brand of ludicrous hilarity that the Internet loves, and the Internet will give the demon sheep many, many lives. And, you will now be able to say, "I knew the demon sheep when."

If I thought the creation of the demon sheep was an intentional Internet hit, I'd be impressed, but I'm not sure it was. Nor am I sure that the true inanity required to produce viral hits will ever be the kind of thing that serves political campaigns well, but here's to the Fiorina campaign for creating something we'll all remember."

Mary Katherine Ham
The Weekly Standard

I'm actually putting together a video myself this week, so I was acutely aware of all the bad editing and the off-kilter tempo in this campaign video. The funniest thing, though, wasn't the video, but the promise from Fiorina's spokespeople of MORE TO COME that will be even crazier.

Whose money is she spending on these things? is what I want to know. And how many of these "productions" can she do before she calls into question HER OWN sense of fiscal responsibility?

I used to think the scuttlebutt about Fiornia that insisted she did nothing but work to destroy Hewlett-Packard when she was their CEO was sour grapes, but at the rate she's been going lately, it is a wonder the entire board of directors didn't get sued while she was running the company.

Carly, I'll give you a little political advice for free. Your "tough as nails" act doesn't really play well, especially since you never really turned anything around. And your donors would probably appreciate it if your campaign tried to look like it was spending their money wisely, especially since you are running as a -- ha ha! -- a "fiscal conservative".

And whatever else you do, Carly, PLEASE don't bring back that "Carlyfornia For Congress" idea -- PLEASE!!

Maybe I'll call my buddy back tonight, and tell him I think his idea is a go after all. The name of our firm?

"Blacksheep Political Consultants."

03 February 2010

The Michael Vick Project: What I Saw

I'll be back to politics in the morning -- right now, I will have to say that the verdict on The Michael Vick Project documentary is, "it's all good."

Someone sent me a review of the show that was in the Washington Post earlier today. Now I see why I have to keep writing this blog. I don't know what Hank Steuver, the Washington Post staff writer who suffered through the half hour episode, expected to see -- maybe a pledge from Mike that all of his future earnings go to animal rights shelters? Maybe an Academy Award worthy performance of pathos and some sort of overly heartfelt confessional moment that would have me ready to throw up?

I don't know Michael Vick at all -- have never met him in person, never been any closer to him than the club level seats at a Falcons game in the Georgia Dome -- but to try to translate the actions of a man who grew up in the squalor and despair of the Newport News projects for Midwestern sensibilities is a losing proposition from the getgo.

But that's what the Washington Post is supposed to do - tell you how or why the rest of the world can't possible measure up to the arbitrary standards it imposes on the subjects of the stories it publishes in an often feeble attempt to prove that it is an unbiased observer. I've been a writer for a long time, and I know better. We're all biased, each and every one of us who wrestles with these keyboards in front of us, whether we are stamped "approved" by a major news organization or we are out here slinging past participles all by ourselves.

So I am glad that Mike was the executive producer of his show. Its his story -- nobody in the media is interested one iota in portraying him in a positive light.  It is similar, in many ways, to the way Martha Stewart stage managed her own comeback after her time behind bars. 

I used to have a business partner from the hellhole section of Gary Indiana who could have been Vick's older brother. He was a little taller, a little more muscular, but with the same intriguing dark skin, the same flash about the eyes, and a smile whose wattage put Vick's to shame. And he had also been a star high school quarterback.

But he didn't go to college. He went into the military. When he came out, he sold drugs for awhile until he got his stockbrokers license. And before we became business associates, he became my boss, growing our office to the third most productive branch in our company.

He could get a client to send in a fresh 200K after losing the clients shirt in a stock trade. He could beat up most of the brokers who worked for him. He might drink his lunch. He could get lost in a strip club for hours, even when we had work to do. He could ask me with a straight face "why are my neighbors trippin'" after describing how a male guest at a late night party at his suburban home, held in the middle of the week, ended up running down the street naked while being chased by an irate young woman.

He was the kind of mixture of good and evil you might have to read about in books if you didn't grow up like he did. And even though in the end he succumbed to forces greater than him, he was never shy about sharing his hopes and dreams as well as his fears and his disillusionment with the fairy tale life he was hoping to get to at the end of the rainbow someday.

Somewhere along the twenty minute mark in The Michael Vick Project, I sensed some of the same raw honesty from Mike that I used to get from my business partner.

The Washington Post could care less about whether or not Michael Vick sinks or swims. I don't have that luxury. I am glad Mike got a haircut. I am glad he started wearing something other than sweat pants and do rags. I am still hopeful that he will buy himself a rack of suits, now that the Eagles have decided to pick up his contract. And I will trust that he will continue to take control of his own narrative, to tell his own story, because he who controls the narrative controls what the public sees and believes.

The irony of the whole show? The Kobe Bryant Nike commercial that aired somewhere during the last few minutes. Kobe Bryant didn't go to jail, but he was in a pickle almost as bad as Mike's a few years ago. Now, he's no longer an accused rapist. Now he's just another one of your run of the mill NBA superstars who has won several championships.

As much as I will continue to pull for Michael Vick the human being, I know as well as you do that the reality of his future lies in the strength of his fabled left arm.

We shall see.

In the meantime, I'd steer clear of the Hank Stever's of the world.