Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Visions of Blood

If there were no hell, man would need to invent it. So many people do so much evil here on Earth and escape punishment, there has to ultimately be a place where justice is finally meted out. Some are consoled with the death penalty, but that’s mostly for the poor. What about the rich and powerful? No matter what they do, no matter how many lives they destroy or end, they seem to always get off scott free. Most never see the insides of a courtroom; if they do, they generally get off; if they’re sentenced, the Michael Milkens of the world are shuttled off to Club Feds with manicured lawns and tennis courts crying about doing “hard time”; and bastards like Augusto Pinochet, Slobodan Milosevic, and Ken Lay would rather die than face terrestrial punishment. So few receive a righteous gunning down like Anastasio Somoza, eternal damnation seems to be our last hope for retribution. And we console ourselves, singing, "If there's a hell below, they're all gonna go."

But sometimes our fantasies can’t wait, and we resort to dreams of good ole-fashioned street justice. “Boy, f I caught that bastard in an alley … on the street … alone …” Oh, we’d take that jerk to task. Beat him down like the punk he is. Take a pound of flesh out of that ass. That would teach the powerful a real lesson. Even in our fantasies, it’s not enough, but it makes us feel better believing that our fists could knock the rich and powerful down a notch.

The problem with living in DC is that the powerful truly walk among us. Tim Russert was a neighbor of mine. My wife was 10 feet away from W. when he and “Condi” were condemning “nation building” after the Afghanistan invasion. I’ve been in the same room as Bill Clinton, Sandra Day O’Conner, and Ted Kennedy; the same bar with Barbara Bush the Younger; met Bono en el Baño; been given free cartons of Camel Lights by a powerful tobacco lobbyist; gotten drunk off of the telecom lobbyists’ dime; and was even bought by and had a drink with an assistant director of the FBI. And I’m not even in politics.

So, when you cry for the opportunity for street justice, in this city you have to be careful what you ask for. Because, sooner or later, you may just get it. I sure di. In 2004.

It was a nice, fall morning. I’d just genuflected to middle age, eating my All Bran “shit rods”, grabbed my water bottle, and was off to the gym. I walked outside to see three, official-looking black SUVs. Paranoid Black Man Instinct instantly kicked in, checking to see if my shit was correct. You got any drugs or guns on you, Bill? I asked myself. Wait, you don’t do drugs and hate guns. Somewhat relieved, I hesitantly walked by—hoping these bastards (whoever they were) wouldn’t pin a gun and/or drugs charge on me.

When I turned the corner, I faced a squat, powerful brother with Pecs o’ Steel that spanned all six lanes of Connecticut Avenue and a white coil sprouting from his left ear. Three black SUVs plus this black behemoth equaled one, powerful sumbitch. Before I had a chance to speculate who, a little lump of graying timidity popped out of the dry cleaners. I gasped, coming face-to-face with the ultimate apparatchik of evil.

Paul Wolfowitz. At the time the Deputy Secretary of Defense. The face of the Iraqi invasion. God, I hated that bastard. I hated all those neocons—that cabal of pseudo-intellectual dweebs who couldn’t fight their way out of a high school locker who got their menopausal machismo on by heralding others’ deaths and tortures. During Vietnam, Wolfowitz studied math at Columbia to get a deferment, Bush had his Daddy get him into the Texas Air National Guard, and Cheney was “too busy” all the while trumpeting the war effort, while folks like my Uncle Bob eschewed college, volunteered for the Marines, and received two Purple Hearts—his Jeep getting blown to bits in the jungles outside of Saigon. And while my little brother was bogged down in Baghdadi firefights, these paper patriots were busy wrapping themselves in the flag, questioning the patriotism of Max Cleland (who lost three limbs in Vietnam), and circle jerking to “Shock and Awe” casualty reports. God, I wanted a piece of them. And here was Wolfowitz, right in front of me, hunched over with dry cleaning, scuttling along as though he were still traumatized by the wedgie Biff Tannen gave him back in Hill Valley High.

Come on, Bill, I urged myself as Wolfie walked towards me. You can do this, Negro. Sure, you’re fat and out-of-shape. Sure, you haven’t been in a fight since 1994. (My last fight was the first fight I ever started, and, in a fit of divine justice, I broke my hand in the fracas. Taking my punishment, I never got it fixed, figuring I’d re-break my hand if I ever fought again. But this would be worth it. Besides, could you imagine the parades they’d throw for me in San Francisco if I said, “I broke my hand on Paul Wolfowitz’s face”?) You can do this, Campbell!

No, you can’t.

“Who?” I asked.

“What?” Wolfowitz asked.

I suddenly realized that Supa Brotha was looking at me. Interested.

Have you ever head-butted yourself, Campbell? he telepathically asked.


It’s a process where a powerful, virile brother—such as myself—takes your head, shoves it up your ass, all the way up through your entire digestive tract, and out through your mouth to where you’re actually looking at yourself. Then, said powerful, virile brother proceeds to smash your head into itself until the victim is rendered completely unconscious.

Damn. You can do that?

The brother just looked at me, Sphinx-like. Wolfie was just a slug away. It was now or never. I looked at the brother again, at Wolfowitz, at the sight of my head traveling past my morning bran through my large intestines, back at Wolfowitz again, Supa Brotha.

I sigh. “Good day, Mr. Wolfowitz, mighty fine job you’re doing.” I bow reverentially.

“Why, thank you,” Wolfowitz smiled. The Brotha smiled. I went on to the gym promising to punish myself with extra stomach crunches.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Johnny Jumpin' Sharks


I was at work Wednesday afternoon when I heard the noise. People were already gathered at the window by the time I got there. I sidled up next to Beatmeiser, who was staring out the window, dumbfounded.

“What happened?” I asked.

“He’s finally gone and done it,” Beatmeiser answered, stunned.


“John McCain.”

“What’s he done?”

“He’s finally jumped the shark.”

I looked out the window. McCain was down in the icy waters of Punk Ocean, arms sort-of raised in victory with his leather jacket glistening in the sun. a Coast Guard helicopter was already swooping in to rescue the Senator. Fox News was already heralding him as a hero again.

“Damn,” I said, disappointed yet again in the “Maverick.”

Like a lot of you, I kind of liked McCain eight years ago. I fell for the whole “Maverick” schtick, and just loved the “Straight Talk Express.” He seemed a breath of fresh air after years of Clintonian “It depends what your definition of is is” BS.

(Author’s Note: Just because I may or may not like a politician’s mediated image does not mean I’d vote for the bastard. I like Huckabee—he’s charismatic and funny—but there’s no way in hell I’d vote a fundamentalist preacher in for president.)

But also like a lot of you, I’ve been really disappointed with John McCain these past few months. All the lies, half-truths, manufactured outrage has been taking its toll. This campaign is just meant to depress the Obama vote and probably won’t work. But it seems as though the Maverick will try anything to win this election.

Since 2000, McCain has made little concessions to Bush with his eyes on this year. It was understandable. He’s a politician, not a messiah. The problem came for me when McCain caved on waterboarding. McCain, who (if you haven’t heard) was a victim of torture during his imprisonment in Vietnam, was initially outraged over Bush’s pro-torture stance. There was some harrumphing and posturing, but when it came down to it, Bush made his intentions to torture clear, and McCain quieted his opposition. The political theater complete.

But, to me, this was more than just “politics as usual.” Here, McCain was supposed to be a moral beacon. He knew the terror and futility of torture firsthand. He could’ve provided much-needed cover for much weaker politicians to oppose Americans officially torturing prisoners. But he caved—his desire for the Presidency so strong, he was willing to violate the same Geneva Convention he probably clung to so desperately in the Hanoi Hilton.

So, why should we be surprised if McCain lies about things small (“I always buy American”—I don’t know, I’m sure Lexus, VW, and Honda have American plants) and large (“Obama will raise your taxes”—neglecting to add, “if you make more than $250K a year”)? After all, that is actually a part of politics. Though both candidates said they were above that sort of thing, they are both doing it. Besides, the chips are down for the Republicans. The war, the economy—so much GOP philosophy (deregulation, pre-emptive war, anti-environmentalism, supply-side economics) seems to be filing for Chapter 11. Even tried and true culture war tactics seem to be falling on deaf ears. Hear anything about gay marriage lately?

McCain seems to be twisting in the wind. He’s embraced “agents of intolerance” like the Hitler-praising John Hagee only to cut him loose when he actually starts praising Hitler. He’s flip-flopped on off-shore oil-drilling and the Bush tax cuts. With the picking of Sarah Palin, he’s thrown his experience argument out the window and now embraces a running mate who embraces the very same earmarks he’s railed against for years.

McCain probably no longer recognizes himself. And to cover all these reversals, obfuscations, and naked desire to “just win, baby,” to maintain his image of integrity, his camp has manufactured a campaign of outrage. The man has been outraged with Wesley Clark, personally insulted by that ultra-hippy Supreme Court, furious with Obama too many times to count, pissed at Madonna, and damned near ready to kick Jim Webb’s ass. McCain’s been so pissed so often, I’m surprised nobody’s either straitjacketed him or simply cried, “Wolf!”

And each time a new “outrage,” another lie comes out, I’m thinking, Oh, he’s gone and jumped the shark now. I’ve thought it couldn’t get anymore outrageous. But each time I’ve been wrong. McCain’s simply been practicing for Wednesday afternoon. He was on his skis, he was in the water; but he was jumping some mackerel, a dolphin or two, a stingray.

I mean, this is the same man who promised to run a campaign based on dignity and ideas. When he’s called on it, he blames Obama for McCain’s negative ads, saying the Dem should’ve debated him 10 times as he’d originally requested. This is the man who still rides around on the “Straight Talk Express.” Yet, he won’t allow the press to even talk to his running mate. And if they even think about reporting on her spotty past, they’re accused of being sexist. And if you use “lip” or “stick” in a sentence, the manufactured rage is far louder than the indignation heard over Darfur.

They apparently jumped a marlin on that one. Still a pretty big fish, and it’s got that really sharp nose.

But, even with all that subterfuge and lack of substance, McCain is falling in the polls faster than an A-4 Skyhawk over Hanoi. The Palin stunt is no longer working. No matter how hard they try, the issues keep popping up. While McCain talks about the fundamentals of the economy being strong, the Bush administration is begging for a Wall Street bailout. McCain’s own economic advisor, Carly Fiorina says neither he nor Palin (she later adds Obama and Biden) could run a company. The Maverick suddenly wants to fire the head of the SEC, the FEC, hell even the ACC! (Understandable, Duke is the root of a lot of evil—but you can’t pin this economic collapse on Coach K.)

With his stock falling with each tick of the clock last week, McCain then went back to the tried and true lie, blaming Obama for our economic woes! No, it wasn’t McCain who’s been a heavy supporter of deregulation for the past three decades. It was Obama! Phil Gramm, the architect of a lot of this deregulation, wasn’t a McCain advisor. He was Obama’s! McCain wasn’t the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee for six years. It was the four-year senator, Obama! Well, that explains why McCain earlier said the economy wasn’t his strong suit.

You could tell that Johnny was flirting with that shark jump last Friday night. You could see that fire in his eyes. But it wasn’t until the polls came out earlier this week having the Maverick down four to nine percentage points that the leather jacket, water skis, and homoerotic '70s shorts came out and you could hear the boat revving.

Then he did it. In a vain attempt to appear as though he’s got a handle on this Wall Street debacle, that he’s large and in charge, and that he cares for the middle class (or at least those of us in the middle class who make $2.5 million a year), John McCain announced that he’s suspending his campaign. As we heard the splash, we found out that the details of this suspension are just as murky as the water he’s now wading in. Does it mean he’ll air no more ads? Will there be no more canvassing? No more fundraising? What does “suspending” his campaign mean?

The Coast Guard helicopter’s dropping a line down to the man right now. No, suspending means canceling today’s debate. Ahh, now we see the real reason. But no, we don’t. Yesterday, the idea was floated that they not cancel the presidential debate, merely postpone it, to say, October 2nd. You know, when the veep debate’s supposed to be. Who wants to see young, beautiful Sarah Palin debate that crusty, old Joe Biden, anyway? She has more executive experience than Biden and Obama combined. Trust us on this one, people.

And now, it all makes sense. Look into the water and you’ll see that McCain did indeed clear a shark on Wednesday. It was a hammerhead. He’s still holding out the option of jumping a great white later. It all depends on how this latest ploy works.

Hey pilot! Why don’t you leave the old bugger in the water a little while longer? Maybe he’ll grab the Straight Talk dinghy and float off into the sunset. I’m sure Fox will laud him as hero as he majestically disappears.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

President Bush to Address United Nations

Through much diligent reporting and several unnamed sources, we at Tome have been able to get an advanced copy of President Bush's farewell address to the United Nations planned for later today. We present the complete text here:

President Bush: "Hey yall, tell me how my ass tastes."


Monday, September 22, 2008

The Grandparent Effect

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my family, and, though you better not tell them and swell their heads, I actually like my in-laws. While most liken their visits to the in-laws to prison stays in Siberia, I look upon it as merely a jaunt to Wisconsin, a pleasant, amiable place where you’d think they’d serve more kielbasa.

And Poohbutt absolutely loves the grandparents. Who wouldn’t? God, they spoil that girl. No longer is it “just you and me, kid” or just her boring, old parents. There are suddenly parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, great-uncles, great-aunts, cousins, neighbors, random passersby, all collected to lavish attention on her—which I’m pretty sure is how it should be in her mind.

I mean, we’re all born narcissists, right? And how wouldn’t we be? As soon as we’re born (if we’re lucky), there are at least two grown people running around like lunatics trying to satisfy our every need. I cry, they feed me. I whimper, they pick me up. I clear my throat, they give me something to drink. These suckers are so into me, they even change my clothes when I soil myself. Heck, I don’t even do that.

Throw the extended fam into the mix, and my li’l girl is in kiddie heaven. All these people are climbing over themselves showing her just how special she is. They cheer her every babble, offer her all kinds of toys, feed and clothe her, hug and kiss all over her. The Grandparent Effect—where every baby is a star!

(Which is how it should be.)

And this past Fourth of July, Poohbutt was in a parade to help her granddad’s run for city council. And all those people came to see her. I mean, what is this “Independence Day” all about, anyway? The girl did not disappoint her adoring public—laughing and smiling and being all coy and cute—giving the people what they want. It’s the least she could do for her loving fans.

But then the weekend ends, and it’s just her and her lame Daddy. She suddenly looks around, nothing, then looks at me, still glowing from all the adulation. She declares, haughtily, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”

“Close-up?” I ask. “Wait, you’ve seen Sunset Boulevard?”

“Why, of course, father.”

When did she get a British accent?

“But Poohbutt,” I apologize, “I don’t—well, life isn’t a movie, baby.”

“Hm.” She contemplates. “Well, dearest father, are you familiar with Ice Cube’s oeuvre?”

“You are? God, you mother’s going to kill me. Wait, are we talking about his kids’ movies?”

“Oh, silly man,” she scoffs.

“Yeah, I guess that was foolish of me,” I admit.

“Perhaps, you are familiar with the line, ‘Once again, it’s on.’”

“Yeah, yeah. ‘No Vaseline.’ I love that song. Why?”

She stares at me—waiting for me to get it. I get it.

I gasp. “Oh, shit.”


“But baby, it was just a visit. We’ll see them again!”


And then, for the next several hours, yours truly gets a Basic Training workout—doing thousands of jumping jacks, slaloming through countless obstacle courses, climbing ropes, dodging live bullets and barbed wire—trying to calm down my daughter, who suddenly misses all that grandparent attention.

As I said, I love my family and the in-laws. I love that Poohbutt makes them so happy. When you see the joy and love that everyone exudes—one big, happy fam playing together—you realize this is the way life should be. Not this rat-race, “nuclear family” fiction isolated in our single-family dwellings hooked to the cathode-ray babysitter. There’s something whole and natural about the whole experience. Somehow, we’ve gotten it all backwards. Nothing can replace the entire family. Besides, with all those built-in babysitters, maybe Moms and Pops could go see a movie once in awhile.

But there’s a flipside to each visit—no matter which side of the family’s visiting. It’s the Monday morning hangover. The Grandparent Effect is pretty powerful stuff. Sometimes it takes entire days for Poohbutt to get all that affection out of her system. Apparently, it’s a pretty painful withdrawal process ‘cause that little girl can cry and cry for hours on end.

This weekend was cousin Taishan’s first birthday, and Poohbutt hammed it up as usual, showing off her nascent crawling skills, becoming the Queen of Babble-On, cracking jokes, making people laugh, claiming she’s more qualified than Sarah Palin to be V.P. Sure, she had to share the spotlight with her cousin, but I’m sure she feels she stole the show.

This morning, it’s back to Daddy’s meager love. I mean, the old man’s all right, but …

Wish me luck, people.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

WTF, Karl?!

So, let me get this straight:

-- Tens of millions of people don't have health insurance, those who do are afraid that they'll one day get injured or so sick that they'll insurance companies will drop them and they'll go bankrupt trying to pay off their medical bills.

-- Our bankruptcy restrictions were tightened back in '05, at the time considered a big gift to the credit card companies.

-- Our government spends tens of billions of dollars (through the National Institutes of Health) funding biomedical research. Pharmaceutical companies producing drugs from that very same research can charge us tax payers whatever they want, Congress refusing to haggle.

-- Thousands of 18-year-olds can end up with six-figure debts by the end of their college careers while our nation's colleges and universities make hundreds of billions of dollars in endowments alone.

The only help for these people (aside from the Hope Credit, which will give you a tax credit of up to $1,800 a year and the Lifetime Learning Credit, which is worth $2,000 a year--though you can't apply them for the same student in the same year) is "the market will handle it." But when those notorious Free Marketeers on Wall Street come begging Washington to save them from themselves, our government dedicates $1 trillion (or the equivalent in the Chinese yuan) to bail them all out. And now we American taxpayers own the vast majority of our country's financial "free" markets.

Rumors also have it that Detroit is about to come groveling on Capitol Hill, crying, "You did it for them! Why won't you do it for us?" Never once contemplating making a better car.

Hm ... very little to no aid for the poor, working poor, and the "middle class" we keep hearing about during every campaign. But when the top 10% come calling (though they already make 48.5% of the dollars--or yuans--in this country) ...

I'm starting to think that America has got to be the most ass-backwards Socialist state in human history.

And watch all these assholes start bitching when Congress starts talking about regulations.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Family Feud

After 13 years, it has finally happened. Yours truly (beloved Steeler fan) will be spending the weekend with his in-laws (rabid Eagles fanatics) while the Steelers (God's team) will be facing off against the Eagles (Satan spawn).

Blood may be spilt. Wish me luck.

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

The Black Keys
Attack and Release

Last year, when I decided to expand my listening pleasure to include rock, I fell in love with the White Stripes. I met a guy, Eddie, who told me that I needed to listen to the Black Keys, claiming that they "come from a more authentic place." I just thought him a hater, but, if Eddie's at all representative of Black Keys fans, I can see why they're pissed off at this new effort. But I gotta say, I think adding Danger Mouse as their producer was a stroke of genius. All three of these guys put their feet in it. I betcha this is going to be on a lot of Top Ten lists for '08.

The Heavy
Great Vengeance and Furious Fire

I became an instant addict of these Brits. Hard-driving, retro funk with a hip-hop edge. My wife described them as Lenny Kravitz if he could maintain his avant-retro-garde for an entire album. A friend of mine thought they were a lot like Gnarls Barkley. I read a review that compared the Heavy to both. All I can say is this is on my Top 10 this year.

The Cool Kids
Bake Sale

2008 meets 1996 with tongue in cheek for a good time. A lot of fun.

Y Society
Travel at Your Own Pace

A co-worker, Hater, turned me onto these DC bruddas. Since he hates everything, I figured it had to be good. He definitely didn't do me wrong. It's got that jazzy, mid-90s feel for the sophisticated set. I'd re-title the CD For Lovers of Low End Theory when Luda Is Not Enuff.

Rotary Connection
Rotary Connection

Minnie Riperton's first group. They were soulful psychedelic deconstructionists whose covers of "Soul Man," "Ruby Tuesday," and "Like a Rolling Stone" are not at all recognizable from the original. I think they had three albums, but I only have this one and Aladdin. Both are serious gems. I'm looking for the third because I think it has their version of "Respect" and "Black Gold of the Sun" (yes, Nuyorican Soul fans, that "Black Gold of the Sun"). Dig in those crates for these cats.

Robert Palmer
Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley

My quest to expand my musical tastes and hatred of what's on the radio have taken me down some pretty queer roads. I never ... ever ... ever thought I'd like anything by this cheesemeister. However, his debut album was pretty funky. Consider it blue-eyed Sly Stone, and the tour-de-force, "Through It All There's You," is well worth the shame of having to admit that I like a Robert Palmer album.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I woke up this morning in a cold sweat. My head was pounding. My stomach was churning like a storm surge. I was hung over. But I didn’t have a lick of liquor yesterday, and I knew my usual greasy-burger-Diet-Coke-and-tons-of-aspirin remedy would not be working this day. I knew what instantly what was plaguing me: Sarah Palin!

I’ve had too much. I’m sick of hearing about her, reading about her, writing about her, hearing about her, talking about her. I’m even sick of her face. I’m sick of the hysteria, hatred, and adoration inspired by America’s Latest Wet Dream, and my body has finally rejected all the toxins I’ve been ingesting these past two weeks.

Enough aleady!

Now look, like all hangovers, I brought this upon myself. Sure, everywhere I look, there Palin is. I think she’s in my kitchen right now making Obama Waffles right now. But I could’ve ignored it. I could’ve pierced my eardrums or gouged out my eyes. I could’ve done something about it. And I certainly didn’t need to be writing about her here on Tome.

So, I vow—right here! right now!—to not write about Her Royal Palinness ever again!

OK, at least for the next week. Right now, she’s being cloistered in Wasilla having the last 4,000 years of human history crammed into her cranium while she looks out her window, staring at Russia. I’m going to take this time to write about something, anything else.

After all, I firmly believe that I’m not alone in my nausea and that the love affair will officially end on October 10 (eight days after the VP debate). Our Pentecostal puck-slapping mama will soon be relegated to the oil bin of history, and we won’t have to hear from her again for another 24 years, when she reemerges ranting about how California Senator Nhung Tran Kardassian wouldn’t be running for President if she weren’t a Vietnamese-Armenian triple-amputee.

Besides, this morning, sensing my pain, 11-month-old Poohbutt fed her Daddy Cheerios for breakfast. I have better things to think about.


Friday, September 12, 2008


I first came across this Sarah Palin accusation while reading the Field Negro blog last week. Yesterday, my boy Dabalu sent me an email about it. Curious, I Googled it and realized that this rumor’s gone viral. Even Michelle Malkin has blogged about it. If you haven’t heard, Sarah Palin’s being accused of once calling Obama “Sambo” and Hillary Clinton a “bitch.”

Here’s the email:

Alaskans Speak (In A Frightened Whisper): Palin Is “Racist, Sexist, Vindictive, And Mean”

September 5, 2008
by Charley James –

“So Sambo beat the bitch!”

This is how Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin described Barack Obama’s win over Hillary Clinton to political colleagues in a restaurant a few days after Obama locked up the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

According to Lucille, the waitress serving her table at the time and who asked that her last name not be used, Gov. Palin was eating lunch with five or six people when the subject of the Democrat’s primary battle came up. The governor, seemingly not caring that people at nearby tables would likely hear her, uttered the slur and then laughed loudly as her meal mates joined in appreciatively.

“It was kind of disgusting,” Lucille, who is part Aboriginal, said in a phone interview after admitting that she is frightened of being discovered telling folks in the “lower 48” about life near the North Pole.

Then, almost with a sigh, she added, “But that’s just Alaska.”

Racial and ethnic slurs may be “just Alaska” and, clearly, they are common, everyday chatter for Palin.

Besides insulting Obama with a Step-N’-Fetch-It, “darkie musical” swipe, people who know her say she refers regularly to Alaska’s Aboriginal people as “Arctic Arabs” – how efficient, lumping two apparently undesirable groups into one ugly description – as well as the more colourful “mukluks” along with the totally unimaginative “f**king Eskimo’s,” according to a number of Alaskans and Wasillians
interviewed for this article.

But being openly racist is only the tip of the Palin iceberg. According to Alaskans interviewed for this article, she is also vindictive and mean. We’re talking Rove mean and Nixon vindictive.

No wonder the vast sea of white, cheering faces at the Republican Convention went wild for Sarah: They adore the type, it’s in their genetic code. So much for McCain’s pledge of a “high road” campaign; Palin is incapable of being part of one.

Now, Field (whose blog I seriously love and read every day) decided to treat this internet rumor as true. I have to respectfully disagree. Not because I’m a Palin supporter (quite the opposite) but mainly because it’s way too convenient to be true—like all urban myths.

All too many of us are willing to believe that a Republican can be racist (warranted or not—I mean, “gentic code” was a bit much, don’t you think?). So, of course, the Republican governor would be spitting “Sambo” on the diner floor. It just reinforces what we already think. But for those supposed Hillary voters who are about to jump the fence, look, Palin called your girl a “bitch.” How can you vote for her?

Despite the image the GOP’s trying to mold around the woman, I don’t think Palin’s a saint. I don’t think she’s all that qualified to be VP, but I also find it hard to believe that she’s a complete moron. And it would’ve been completely moronic for a trained politician to say something like that in public. It wouldn’t be the first time—but it’s still unlikely—especially since it dovetails so nicely against her.

Unlike those right-wing bloggers out there, I’m sure this rumor didn’t come from the Obama camp (they aren’t morons either). Just like I’m sure that McCain’s not responsible for the Obama-Anti-Christ-abortionist-jihadi rumors. I’m just tired of all the bullshit.

Look, I’m not some kind of political naïf, singing “Kumbaya,” wondering why we all can’t just get along. Bitter partisan rancor, vicious rumors, baseless accusations have been an intrinsic part of American politics since Washington hung up his spurs. Claims of bastard children, questionable parentage (did you know Warren G. Harding was our first black president?), alcoholism, debauchery. Our politicians have been some of the most evil sons- and daughters-of-bitches on the planet—or so their opponents would have you believe.

It’s just that this campaign has been going on for way too long. People are anxious. I’m anxious. This election is a watershed moment in our nation’s history. Not just race and gender will be affected. Currently, our country’s problems are so vast and numerous, and Obama and McCain see governance fundamentally differently. We have two seriously divergent paths to choose from for our future. And because these paths are so disparate, because so much is at stake, I just wish … just wish … just …

Ah, screw it.

Sarah Palin is a racist, neo-Nazi lesbian dominatrix who killed and ate Cambodian children when she led Khmer Rouge troops back in ’75! That’s right, when she was nine-years-old! All the while selling state secrets to al Qaeda! And John McCain is her love child!!!

Yeah. That’s right. You heard it here first!


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Six Degrees of 9/11

No one under the age of 15 can forget where they were when they heard the news of September 11, 2001 (like our politicians will ever let us forget). I’d just moved to DC and was about to drive down to Atlanta to move some stuff that day. My wife had taken the car to run some errands first and was running late. I had a 10-hour drive ahead of me and was getting irritated.

She came home, harried. “Bill, I think you’re going to have to cancel your trip.”


“Terrorists have flown a plane into the Pentagon. The Twin Towers, too.”

“Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later,” I said, dismissively, ready to go. And then … “Wait! What?!”

You know the rest—the shock, confusion, the dismay. Even though we lived in DC and the anthrax letters soon followed, I wasn’t one for the fear—or the duct tape. I mean, this wasn’t Tel Aviv or Kashmir or Sri Lanka where you can walk into a café and get blown to bits. I figured al Qaeda had tapped themselves out on that one, and we weren’t going to get attacked again any time soon. How could I live in fear of something that most likely wasn’t going to happen?

But that view was easy for me. I didn’t live in New York, barely lived in DC at the time. I didn’t have any friends or family who died or were injured. For me, 9/11’s like any other tragedy—Darfur, Afghanistan, Georgia—I’ve seen on TV—sad but hardly affected me personally. I am so far removed from the tragedy, I can only feel sympathy for the victims but hardly feel any loss myself. It remained an abstraction.

That changed a bit for me in the spring of 2004. I was about to go on tour for the first book and was trawling the internet for old acquaintances—college, high school, work, whatever—just to say, “Hey, I’m coming to your town.” As anyone on Facebook or Myspace knows, once you start thinking up old names, others can’t stop popping into your head. Soon, you’re looking up your cousin’s third-grade teacher’s baby-sitting niece.

That’s when I typed in Melissa Doi. She and I had work-studied together at N.U.’s student union building my freshman year. We weren’t great friends or anything, just co-workers—bantered during work hours, stopped and chatted for a minute if we bumped into each other outside of work. Nothing special. Her name just popped into my head for the first time in ages. It still threw me for a loop when I discovered she had died in the Twin Towers.

As I said, we weren’t friends. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I’d thought of her before that moment. The most I can say is I always thought she was cool. So, it wasn’t like I grieved or felt particularly sad. I just felt … weird. Like 9/11 wasn’t anything I was personally connected to, but then suddenly, that tragic day had a face. Melissa’s.

It soon had a voice, too. During the Zacharias Moussaoui (the original “20th hijacker”) trial, the prosecutors played the 911 tapes of Melissa’s calling in. The media picked it up, and for two days straight, I heard her croaking, “I’m about to die, aren’t I?”

The media always play that stuff to shock and horrify. I usually ignore it, but when you knew the person on the tape, it just kind of freaks you out. And it made me feel … I don’t know. I mean, what can be more private than your last moments on this Earth? And she was terrified—and who wouldn’t be, going to work on the 83rd floor on a perfectly ordinary day to realize that you’re trapped in a fiery tomb about to be murdered – and you could hear it in her voice. I just didn’t feel that I had the right to hear it at all. Something like that, something so raw and fragile and heart-rending, should be heard—if it must be heard at all—by close family and friends only. Not some guy who barely knew her decades ago and definitely not by complete strangers. And it shouldn’t be played for shock in the courtroom or ratings on TV. By the end of the Moussaoui trial, I was outraged for ever having heard Melissa Doi’s last words.

I think what upset me most was that none of the September 11 victims’ deaths were their own. It was, indeed, a public tragedy. But it was also 3,000 private ones. And the victims have no say in how the public uses them. Pundits, politicians, chicken hawks, and doves all invoke the name of the 9/11 victims to push their agendas, viewpoints, laws, and wars. But it’s not as though we can ask the victims themselves.

They’ve been being used for seven years now, and we’ll never know if any of them are cool with that. How many of them were actually pacifists? How many would never have wanted the wars we’re fighting or the freedoms we’re eroding? How many would’ve been cool with all of it?

It doesn’t matter. Because the victims of 9/11 are simply abstractions for our public figures to use however they please. Their deaths are to justify whatever agenda strikes politicians’ fancy. After seven years, their power has definitely waned. September 11 no longer engenders the passion and terror it once had. But some still fear and politicians continue to run on it. But death, no matter how public, is a private affair. One’s death should not be used to further another’s ends. I don’t know. Personally, I still don’t feel all that connected to what happened seven years ago. In many ways, I refuse to. However, for me, whenever politicians do utter those words (which is why I try never to listen to Giuliani), “September 11” now has a face.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Maverick Question of the Week

Which of these Mavericks is actually foreign-born and may not have been qualified to run for President?

A. Samuel A. Maverick
(for whom the term was coined)

B. James Garner (TV's Bret Maverick)

C. Mel Gibson
(Film's Bret Maverick)

D. John McCain (The GOP's Maverick)

Check the Comments for the answer.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bill and Boer Town Betty

Here's a correspondence I currently find myself in on Facebook. It's such a sad tale I thought I should share it. Like, we should start a fund or something.

Boer Town Betty: I am getting sick and tired of everybody proclaiming Mandela to be a saint. He was the leader of a terrorist party responsible for bombings and murders of who know how many white people. He might not have physically killed anybody, but neither has Hitler or Stalin. Why is Hitler such a bad guy and Mandela this saint?

We are not safe in our own homes, in the street, in shops! Is this what it has come to? It has been said by Siener van Rensburg that the day Mandela dies, is the day that the blacks will start the genocide on the white people.

Bring it on! We have taken our country back from the English. Trust me, the only thing the blacks have going for them is their sheer numbers.

Bill: Wow, Betty, that's beautiful. I mean, seriously, you brought tears to my eyes. I'm glad to see the post-apartheid world has treated you so well. I pray for you, my beacon of light and hope and unity!

BB: Sweetie, if you don't live here, you will have no idea what the hell I am talking about. I invite you to spend a week in South Africa. Don't the American papers report on all the tourists that gets robbed at gunpoint, raped, beaten and killed? And the tourists only make up a tiny portion of the crime stats. Why do you hate Bin Laden but think Mandela is wonderful? What do you know about apartheid? I find it terribly amusing, all the ignorance.

BC: Why, I assumed that apartheid--much like the antebellum and Jim Crow South--was all goodness and light, where a black man--such as myself--could while away the days just a-singing and a-dancing, absolutely ecstatic over his station in life on his way to the de beers mines. Are you saying it wasn't like that?

BB: We had safety. We could walk to school, play in the streets in the evening, leave the doors unlocked while away. Now we cannot even leave the doors open, never mind unlocked while we are inside. You see, cultures differ. Why force someone else's culture onto me? We had free schooling, blacks included, but they burnt it down, they burnt books. They still do today. When there a march, nothing is sacred. Shops get looted, cars get destroyed. They kill each other. Why, just a couple of months ago, we had the xenophobic attackes. Being married to a Fire Fighter in Johannesburg, my husband's life was in danger trying to help these people. The Sunday I could not even leave the Fire Station. There were groups of men and plenty police and shots being fired. Let's go back to apartheid. Blacks have their culture and I have mine. I do not believe in slaughtering a cow in my backyard. I do not believe in dancing and singing and destroying. Have you heard the news lately? We virtually have no electricity, most of the staff in the municipalities can't read and write! The standard of education has dropped. I know, I have two kids. Wherever they force me to live, it will be better than the hell I'm in now.

Please. Someone help this woman!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Prince & Eye: What's This Strange Relationship?

Author's Note: I wrote this essay back in 2002 when I was a music critic for Ink 19. People--including yours truly--enjoyed it in the past, and I wanted it to become an official part of The Tome. I hope you find it to your liking.



It would, perhaps, take the professional insight of a psychologist or a sociologist to divine what it is about our society that makes us love our musical stars so devoutly -- that makes our adoration cling so desperately to them -- from their nova heights to their ignominious falls and all the scandals in between. If everyone else's obsession is somewhat like mine, perhaps it all starts in pre-adolescence -- that quixotic time when we become aware of our own being and struggle desperately between individuality and conformity with those earnest eyes that glaze over with age. Those confusing times when we first hear "Fly Me to the Moon" or "Hound Dog" or "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and glean from those tunes the profundity that only a 12-year-old can find. And we find ourselves in an adulating fervor and an attachment to those singers even when they become an Alzheimer's mumble on stage or die in an overdosed heap on the toilet or sell their souls, schlocking their own peculiar brand of Liverpudlian U.S. nationalism. No sin, no shame, or embarrassment can be great enough, the deterioration of talent can't be disgraceful enough for us to realize, to abandon those stars, to excise that special place they hold in our hearts. If it sounds like there is any amount of arrogance in this pen, it is not intended -- for I have a ventricle or two dedicated to a star of my own: Prince.

No, there's no shame in my game. I am a Prince fan. I have been for most of my life. I had the posters, the pins, the albums, even the purple vinyl 45 of "When Doves Cry." I collected the 12-inches for the B-sides. 1999 was my first concert. And I'll probably be there for his last. I know the lyrics, The Revolution's membership by name, and all sorts of trivia that a grown man really shouldn't know about another adult he's not sleeping with. Yes, I am a fanatic.

Now, I know I'm not alone in this. The Prince fan club is enormous. In fact, I bet if you are an African-American male aged 28-38 (like me), you're a fan. But his club is much larger than that demographic, and at times you can see that legion of freaks in purple trench coats, high-heeled boots, and mascara, screeching, "Come back, Nikki! Come back!"

I don't know all their stories (perhaps they simply love genius), but I'm writing this (obviously) to tell mine. It's been something I've been trying to figure out for years: why do we attach ourselves so readily and steadfastly to other peoples' stories? Why do we take something that can't be more impersonal (mass-produced entertainment) and make it our own to the point that we -- and millions of others -- can personally identify with it and its creators?

For me, it starts with being an Integration Baby. Though the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision desegregating schools had been handed down over 20 years before I entered school, it was still a challenge for a black child entering a majority white school. There was a lot of shit to get over. The Civil Rights backlash was in full swing. The North had been sympathetic to those "poor Negroes" being beaten up trying to get a cup of coffee down in Selma, but, when those same blacks with their "militant" afros started shipping their kids to white schools in places like Sewickley, PA -- well, that was a different story. Bussing, affirmative action, and equal opportunity, white privilege, the riots of the late '60s and early '70s gave rise to Spiro Agnew's "Silent Majority," Dirty Harry and Death Wish safari fantasies in the "untamed" inner city, and a schizophrenic tug-of-war between liberalism and racism -- often being waged within individuals themselves. There were also the recalcitrant, deeply-rooted Stepin Fetchit images of blacks as slaves and coons, phrenologically and genetically inferior beings who were too stupid to handle anything as hard to spell as "Education" and were simply not deserving of the "better things in life" -- just like our neighborhoods, we'd only destroy them, soil them with chicken grease or watermelon seeds. As I said, a lot of shit for an eight-year-old.

That year -- 1978 -- was the year I moved from Cannonsburg, PA (the home of Perry Como and Bobby Vinton) to Carnegie, PA (it was also the year Prince's debut, For You, came out, but his Royal Badness doesn't enter the story quite yet). By that time, for me, there had already been several "nigger"-inspired fights inside and outside of school. My mother's was the biggest conflict, though: to get me a proper education. Our beloved principal at First Street Elementary firmly believed that blacks were intellectually inferior and should be tracked as such (therefore proving himself right). Even when test scores from the University of Pittsburgh showed his brilliant thesis to be more than erroneous in the case of this student, he refused to relent, and I was stuck in the "dumb" track until Mom broke camp and sent me to Catholic school.

Despite what Hollywood tries to tell us about good and evil, even with the issue of black and white, there is no black and white. No total barbed-wired walls of hatred and no all-encompassing embraces of love. Especially in those rapidly changing times when some blacks were earning enough to actually move into white neighborhoods. There was an odd mixture of love and hate. There were neighbors who did accept us and neighbors who didn't. Neighbors who acted as though they did who really didn't. And neighbors you'd expect to hate us who really did love us. That was Carnegie. That was St. Luke School.

There were only two other black families in our neighborhood. One was an offensive lineman for the Steelers, who'd gained the acceptance four Super Bowl rings will get you. The other family had a boy who wasn't too bright and all too willing to play the clown. My arrival was too much, the straw that broke the camel's back. I was greeted by one girl who told me that I didn't deserve to live there and a group of boys who tried running me out with stones and a BB gun. However, since the concept of race and all that that means wasn't firmly implanted at eight, I was befriended by a very popular, portly kid, T.G., and was soon incorporated into certain areas of the neighborhood.

Catholic school was definitely an opportunity. There were fights -- but they were mainly personal, not racial. And the only form of discrimination I received at first was a C in Religion among straight As because I wasn't Catholic (that practice soon ended and I became a straight A student). I even became class president in fourth grade.

But things change. These were the 1980s, and this was western Pennsylvania. The Silent Majority had spoken with razor tongues. Reagan had ridden their chorus into the White House with his revisionist, alabaster Leave it to Beaver 1950s platform. He was making people proud to be "American" again. Harken back to a Donna Reed, Ward and June Cleaver '50s that had no black faces (being lynched because they were impertinent enough to want to vote) and where women stayed in the kitchen (though not all the Rosies had given up the rivet) and the white man ruled his pot-roast-and-potatoes domain with a sagacious fist. One could completely forget Jimmy Carter's "malaise" -- forget those damned terrorist A-rabs and their oil embargoes, forget that ass-whipping the gooks gave us in Viet Nam, those bull dyke bra-burning bitches and their ERA, the pinko commie fag hippies with their free love and costly drugs, the Stonewall homos, and the inner city jungle bunnies who were ready to mug, rape, kill any "honky" who dared to stumble into their concrete forest.

The white-washed Reagan '80s was a time of convenient amnesia, where the troubling questions of the previous 20 years were swept away in a fantasyland America that never truly existed. In a time where white, male privilege was being challenged on all fronts, Ronnie eschewed soul-searching for a new vision of America fashioned out of his Hollywood past, where minority, feminist, and Third World claims for self-determination could be derided as "anti-American." These peoples' claims were to be relegated to a very familiar space -- out back -- and the white man, the "American," was to reassert his primacy.

The entertainment industry took the hint. Gone were those movies that questioned the American ("white"?) experience. Joe, Easy Rider, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now no more. This was a different America. Sylvester Stallone takes a down-and-out shakedown thug for the mob in Rocky, slicks him down and sleeks him up and has him do battle with the inner-city beast (Mr. T) and then the Communist menace (Dolph Lundgren). The same actor gives the ostracized Viet Nam vet, Rambo, a shave and has him win the southeast Asian war our own military could not. Chuck Norris, Gene Hackman, Patrick Swayze, and a whole slew of B actors return to Viet Nam with him, creating the myth that we had actually won the war. Fred Dryer goes to Lebanon to erase the humiliation our Marines suffered there. Clint and Charles Bronson were still painting the dark streets of the inner city red with the blood of blacks and browns, making it safe for whites again. Outside the '70s hold-over, The Jeffersons, and Eddie Murphy, you had two ghetto urchins living high off the hubris of a rich white man (Diff'rent Strokes), Nell Carter's Mammy (Gimme a Break), the token Tootie (Facts of Life), or the stereotypical dark beasts on cop shows like Hill Street Blues.

The music industry was even worse. With the Nuremberg rally at Comiskey Park in 1980, where the crowd burned every disco record they could find, disco died. The dance form had taken the nation by storm and had sold more records than any preceding genre. And, just as has happened when a black musical form levels the country with its popularity, there was a white backlash that attempted to erase all memory of its previous fervor. The jazz of the '20s was forgotten in the Depression until white acts like Benny Goodman, the Dorseys, Frank Sinatra, and the like could put their own bright faces on the dark form. Early rock 'n roll was banned until Bill Haley and the Comets, Buddy Holly, Elvis, and Pat Boone could put a more palatable, brighter facade before the institution. Black doo wop artists were kicked aside by the British Invasion, many of whose members were simply covering previous doo wop hits from black artists (now, who was it who covered The Isley Brothers' "Twist And Shout"?). So, why would Reagan's Back to the Future '80s be any different?

Top 40 radio stopped playing disco or any other "urban" music. Thanks to Billboard's peculiar tracking system, which did not tally actual sales of records but what record owners said sold, African-American releases rarely made the Top 40. In your larger retail outlets, it was difficult to find releases by blacks. And the Bull Conners at the nascent MTV had a "Whites Only" policy so that, unless your name was Michael Jackson (who was getting whiter with each video), your black ass was not even seen on the video station (take for example Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," where Herbie's rarely seen -- and only through a filmed TV screen -- because the video's producers knew that MTV would not play it if Hancock, an African-American, were prominent). So, even music, once again, was becoming racialized.

St. Luke School, where I was the first and only black child to attend (until eighth grade), was to suffer the same fate. There was the beautiful, sagacious Mrs. DiPaolo, who was kind enough to bring in stories about black "welfare mothers" with 20 children and stories of inner city violence and proceed to tell the class how "fortunate" little Billy was to go to school with "us" so he'll hopefully one day not turn out "like the rest of them." She also thought that Europe was a country and shared the same beliefs as my old principal. She would chronically give me Fs on tests, and, when I'd go back and correct them to find that I'd actually gotten an A, she would fail me for my "bad attitude." Much to the school's credit, they fired her after my Mom and the Filipino kid's mother put pressure on them to do so.

But, Mrs. DiPaolo was not the only culprit. Things had changed. There were titters and looks and jokes. Kids were being taught at home. The very parents who greeted Mom and me at school were telling their kids the funniest anecdotes and most hysterical quips, and I suffered for their lessons. It's not as though I hadn't been warned. I still remember that Sunday afternoon when the elders took me aside and told me not to trust them white folks, that they'll turn on you, and I defended my white friends with the fervor of a pre-adolescent and cried and cried and cried -- because how could T.G., B.G., D.F., P.J.M., C.B., how could all my best friends turn their backs on me?

Well, you can figure out what happened. School had become a war zone. Fights were no longer personal. There weren't many, but they all started with "nigger" (or "niger," when they had to revert to spelling). But, mainly, it was jokes and comments and a collective turn of the back. I was no longer to play in their reindeer games. T.G. and the crew let me know I wasn't welcomed in the neighborhood. If I were invited to anything, it was because the whole class was. The Filipino kid, P.J.M., who'd been a really good friend, now hated me because no one knew what a Filipino was to hate one and he, I guess, feared the proximity of our skin tones would dump some of the hate on him. I remember one of the girls to whom I'd grown close, K.B., withdrawing after being called a "nigger lover" (the sin of all sins). And, despite the grades and intellect, I was no longer "the smart kid," the mantle involuntarily being passed to another kid, R.Z., because there was no way in hell a black kid could be smarter than whites.

At the time, if there were any friendships (and there were with R.Z. and S.H.), I no longer trusted them. I trusted no one because at any moment they could and probably would turn on me. It was so easy -- too easy. And, who needed that shit? Besides, I was now the outsider -- and everybody seemed to hold me at arm's length. What I needed was a friend I could trust, a black friend, someone who couldn't easily stab me in the back for a cheap laugh and easy acceptance. Well, there wasn't one to be found. However...

...there was Prince.

1999 had just come out. I was 12 and friendless. A fly in the milk who everyone hated and ignored. Much like the artist himself. The tiny black man with straight hair, high heels, and make-up, who talked about the weirdest kind of sex humanly possible -- and, damn, was he funky!

Now, even in retrospect, Prince is a very peculiar mantle on which to place one's racial pride, but my discovery of Nikki Giovanni, Richard Wright, Claude McKay, Malcolm X, and Fred Hampton were a couple years away. Damned peculiar when you take into account his lying about his own racial make-up ("Am I black or white?"). Not to mention his androgyny ("Am I straight or gay?"). But, here was a freak. I was considered a freak. He was damned proud of it. Why shouldn't I be? And while Michael Jackson was dating Brooke Shields and Emmanuel Lewis and was being embraced by the white establishment (MJ had even left Motown!), Prince was being played by that same establishment despite itself. He was funky and dirty and kinky (though his hair wasn't), singing about things you just didn't sing about and he was doing it funky, doing it black -- spraying his sex all over the place. None of that sanitized popsicle crap that even the whitest girl on the planet (Brooke again) could find acceptable, but the stuff her mother would've sent her to the convent just for listening to.

And, when those white kids found out I listened to Prince -- well, he wasn't Duran Duran or Def Leppard or Van Halen, Black Sabbath, The Who, The Beatles, or Night Ranger -- you know, real music. He was a dirty little nigger faggot who played jungle music. My love for the man's music thickened my lips and limped my wrist. When I tried dancing like him or singing like him, a bone zipped through my nose and I ate human flesh for lunch.

But, by then, I didn't care (sort of). By seventh and eighth grade I knew I was the outsider, the pariah. I knew everything I did was wrong. And no matter what I did, people weren't going to like me for it (like on The Jeffersons when George gave that Klansman CPR to save his life and, upon finding out, the supremacist wished they would've let him die). I was anti, but now I had an anti-hero. And Prince's music let me be proud of that. Every time I listened to the nasty songs ("Sister," "Head," "DMSR," "Lady Cab Driver"), my 13/14-year-old self knew that it was cool to be an object of derision, to be someone everyone else looked down upon, to be black. Maybe it was because we were nastier, sexier, more talented, or more intelligent than the rest of them; it didn't matter. Let them talk down at us, call us fucked-up names -- they were just scared. And their fear wasn't going to stop me from being what I am: black.

So, I went to the concert. I loved every bass-thumping moment of it (thanks, Uncle Rod!). I became a fanatic. I wore my "Prince 1999" pin like a badge of honor. And to damn near everyone's derision, I bought all the albums, had all the posters (even that Controversy one where he's basically naked in the shower -- I gave that one away), and reveled in the new reason behind my ostracism. Because I didn't need their approval.

Who am I kidding? I was a kid. I did need their approval. I just thought I didn't. But, with high school around the corner and the acquisition of a few black friends from the Art Institute, their approval was not as important as it had been. And it wasn't until I'd been graduated from St. Luke that that approval did come.
It was 1984. We were all leaving eighth grade and going off to our separate high schools where we'd get a fresh start with a new, "more mature" crowd. "When Doves Cry" was rocketing up the charts, and Purple Rain had just come out. Even though I was only 14, there was no stopping my going -- several times -- to see the movie. Of course, I was not alone. Purple Rain was the surprise runaway hit of the summer, and Prince had gone from the "nigger faggot" to the superstar. Even MTV played his videos!

That July at a "graduation" party all the kids were talking, with enthusiasm, about their upcoming high school careers and my anti-hero, Prince. Suddenly, everybody loved him -- and were actually a bit cooler with me. It's funny, because it was an approval that I'd thought I hadn't needed and an approval I haven't even bothered looking for since (in fact, two years later, when I let hip-hop into my life, I loved the fact that white kids hated it -- parts of me wish they still did); but it's hard to express how proud I felt when these kids who'd made my life hell the past three years were lauding the same musician that they'd derided even a few months before. And I can't tell you what joy I felt when B.G., the coolest kid in our class who, of course, really didn't like me all that much, said, "Campbell, I don't know, I used to hate him. But I saw Purple Rain, and Prince is pretty cool."


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Palin Comparison

Much like the rest of you, I spent much of Friday in confusion. That maverick John McCain really threw us for a maverick loop with his maverick choice (did I mention John McCain is a maverick?) for VP. Like the rest of you, I had no clue who the hell Sarah Palin was, and, before I could even start to wrap my head around her bio, my boy TRF (a Republican staffer working on the Hill) sent me a triumphal email over the pick. We traded our usual, faux-combative emails where I warned him, though not knowing why, that the GOP was going to live to regret this one.

At the time I couldn’t figure out McCain’s logic. I’m thinking that most Hillary Clinton supporters are middle-aged, pro-choice feminists. Especially with Roe v. Wade in the 5-4 balance and Ruth Bader Ginsburg stunt-doubling for the Crypt Keeper, how would they find the NRA, pro-life governor at all appealing?

Just because she’s a woman?

And why would McCain negate his most effective argument against Obama—his lack of experience—by nominating someone with arguably less experience to be a “heartbeat away” from the Presidency? Sure, I’ll admit that she has roughly two years of executive experience. But it’s Alaska, for godsakes—one of the smallest, most homogenous states of the Union which gets the most federal funds of any other and every citizen gets an annual welfare check from the oil companies just for living there. How hard could it be to govern that place? Even W. couldn’t mess that one up!

And now, with every day revealing a new surprise about the woman, I’m even more baffled. The abstinence-only advocate has a pregnant teenage daughter (note: many conservatives are claiming this reportage unfair, that family should be off-limits, but Palin’s been the one touting her own “hockey mom” credentials, her military-bound son, and her Down’s syndrome baby as reasons to vote for her; if it was fair to scrutinize Kerry’s military record since he brought it up, why isn’t Palin’s motherhood fair game—after all, only 2.2% of teens get pregnant in this country which makes her situation extremely rare and Palin advocates abstinence-only, which clearly isn’t working in her own family). The maverick Palin hired a Washington lobbyist to get $27 million in earmarks for her town of 9,000 when she was mayor—the same amount Boise, ID, population 100,000, got—wrote a letter to Ted Stevens requesting $200 million in earmarks for the state while governor, and was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it. She’s also apparently a supporter and/or member of an Alaskan secessionist party. The Pentacostal governor, like our President, also believes she’s doing God’s work—even when trying to get a $30 billion natural gas pipeline built through Alaska. “I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that.”

While I definitely don’t understand McCain’s logic in choosing her, I see why he would choose a woman. The Republican brand is rusted, and demographic studies show that it will continue to erode. In less than 40 years, there will be no majority race in the United States. Any party that wants to survive has to reach out to women and minorities.

The GOP, however, has a lot of recent history to overcome. They were the “party of Lincoln,” as they often claim, but those Radical Republican days are long gone. Black folks stayed Republican until 1960 when JFK made that famous phone call to Coretta Scott King while MLK was in jail. After his loss to Kennedy, the card-carrying NAACP member, Richard Milhouse Nixon devised his Southern Strategy, exploiting whites’ anxieties and racism to electoral victory. Those anti-segregation former Dixiecrats also jumped to the GOP ship, and ever since we have had “Welfare Queens,” “reverse racism,” and Willie Horton ads. Blacks now feel quite alienated by the GOP and feel that that party exploits prejudice to blacks’ detriment and their gain. Most black folks can’t help but feel suspect to any overtures made by Republicans, still smarting over past slights.

I don’t think Latinos feel much better about the party. After all, it’s the GOP that drives 187-like, heavily-racialized anti-immigration crusades, often claiming that “those people” can never truly become American, how they ruin American culture, you know the drill.

Much to their defense, it was also the Republicans who first advocated for the Equal Rights Amendment. It was an official part of their platform from WWII until the 1970s—when Phyllis Schafly had it expunged. Ever since, they have been notorious in excoriating “Feminazis,” being anti-choice, and generally deriding most feminist causes.

This is the legacy current Republicans have to overcome if they truly want to reach out to women and minorities. And they will have to run female and minority candidates. But running those candidates isn’t the point. It is not simply a matter of throwing up a black, Latino, Asian, or woman. A black candidate can be just as racist as any Klansman, and many of the (to quote a friend) “self-loathing Negroes” the GOP throws up makes you wonder. And Phyllis Schafly has proven that a woman can be just as sexist as any male chauvinist pig.

I don’t know if Sarah Palin’s a sexist, or not. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. I see that she has definitely energized the conservative base. But I don’t see how her views and her record will appeal to liberal or moderate women—self-described feminists or not. I also don’t see why, if McCain were compelled to choose a female running mate, why he wouldn’t pick someone with more of a proven track record, a Christine Todd Whitman, Kay Bailey Hutchison, or Condoleeza Rice, a woman who one might not agree with but one who has earned her place at the table. When you compare Palin to these women or Hillary Clinton, she is most definitely lacking.

In fact, the Palin pick smells a bit like the choice of Clarence Thomas. The only thing that qualified that man for the Supreme Court was that he was black and conservative. It was the condescending tokenism of his choice that had outraged blacks. So far, it seems the same, tragic logic was used for Sarah Palin. With her spotty, short record, it is hard to fathom what qualifies her to be veep except that she’s young, conservative, and, to quote a leering Orrin Hatch on Charlie Rose last night, “quite feminine.”

I don’t know if feminists will ultimately end up as resentful over her choice as blacks are over Thomas. I do have a feeling, though, that they aren’t going to fall for the okey-doke nor vote for McCain just because he’s picking a woman to be second-in-command. The Republicans do need to reach out, but nobody’s looking for that type of tokenism. The next time they decide to pick a female for a prominent position, they need to make sure that that candidate truly and sincerely addresses female issues—such as equal pay for equal work, health care, education, maternity and paternity leave. The same holds true for minority issues. Until they do that, no amount of tokenism will erase their legacy, and they will forever be the party of Phyllis Schafly and the Southern Strategy—and will probably be relegated to the dust bin of history.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I said I wouldn't do it. I said I was waaaaayyyyy too busy. I said I'd fallen out of love with fantasy sports--real life being far too demanding to care about how many yards Maurice Jones-Drew got this Sunday. Yet, yesterday morning, there I was in my brother-in-law's dining room drafting live on-line. So, here they are, my 2008 addition to the fantasy football canon, the Koontown Murderkats:

Carson Palmer
Eli Manning

Brian Westbrook
Willie Parker
Justin Fargas
Jerious Norwood

Calvin Johnson
Justin Gage
Nate Burleson
Mark Clayton

Chris Cooley
Randy McMichael

Josh Brown
Jason Hanson


Wish me luck!