Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No, That's Not the Point, Ms. Bullock

Last night, still not quite taking advantage of our new cable situation, inertia struck, and, after watching Better Off Ted, my wife and I found ourselves watching 20/20, "The Blind Side: The Real Story Behind the Movie". This Sandra Bullock vehicle (which has already garnered her a Golden Globe nomination) about a well-to-do white family adopting a black ghetto youth to go on to academic and football success is the feel-good movie of the year, already grossing over $150 million. And one can feel-gooder about it because the ghetto youth the movie's based on, Michael Oher, is now a starting offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens and the "mother," Leigh Anne Toughy, is all-too-sassy, all-too-Southern, and all-too-real.

The 20/20 special was as milquetoast and sentimental as a fluff piece can be--made all the better because the actor who portrayed Oher, Quinton Aaron, is also a hardscrabble ghetto youth made good by starring in the film. Aside from being the perfect fodder for some tried-and-true Mandingo jokes from yours truly, what struck me last night was Sandra Bullock's response to a question posed by reporter, Deborah Roberts.

As with all things interracial and successful in this Age of Obama, there has been a backlash against The Blind Side that falls (surprise! surprise!) along racial lines. Apparently, many folks (myself included) have no desire to see the film because it's yet another stereotypical portrayal of good-hearted white folks helping the hapless Negro to realize the success s/he never could've realized her/himself.

Bullock, with appropriate Golden Globe gravitas furrowed her preternaturally wrinkle-less brow and popped off pretentious, saying something along the lines that if money can't cross racial, religious, and/or cultural lines to help others, what was the point of having money?

Roberts let this slide (this was a puff piece, after all), but Ms. Bullock clearly (intentionally?) missed the point here. It's not that white people shouldn't help black people or blacks help whites or anybody shouldn't help anybody else for fear of trampling across whatever schisms divide this country. They all should, of course. They all do. Every day. And bully for them!

But those other stories are ones we hardly, if, ever see. The Other almost never saves white people--unless it's as some vehicle towards spiritual enlightenment which will enable the white man to turn around and save some colored ass (Dances with Wolves, Samurai, and now Avatar). Precious is only one of a handful of movies (Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me, Alikah and the Bee) where the Others help each other. And The Pursuit of Happyness is the only movie in recent memory where the Other actually helps himself to succeed.

Instead, since the days of Conrack, we have been fed a steady diet of good-hearted white folks (I call them "White Messiahs") going in and rescuing those poor darkies from their circumstances, their poverty, and, one can only assume, from their very selves. Hollywood will bend, twist, and make up the facts (Mississippi Burning) to fit this alabaster altruistic narrative (Oher himself has objected to the way that The Blind Side has portrayed his biological family and hates that the movie claims that the Touhys actually taught him how to play football) while often ignoring or glossing over whatever role white privilege may have played to put these Others in the dire straits they find themselves in. Yes, somehow, mystically find themselves oppressed, but don't worry, the White Man will save them!

We've already seen the teacher and the warrior fulfill these roles ad nauseum. This latest spate of sports films (starting with Hurricane and continuing with The Express and, yes, The Blind Side) is just the latest incarnation of our White Messiah made celluloid.

My own problem with these movies is that, though they come from a much different, much more liberal place, they still spread the message of white supremacy. No, The Blind Side is not Birth of a Nation, with the Klan riding in to save the day. However, this flick and those like it oddly mimic the notorious Dred Scott decision which stated that blacks "have no rights which white men are bound to respect." But instead, they say that blacks and other Others have "no achievement attained not given to them by the white man"; that any gains by an Other could not have been reached by her/his own initiative and skill, but given to them by kind-hearted white folks who pulled them out of their own mystically-disadvantaged mire; that those gains are somehow tainted, most definitely not earned (as white folks' most definitely are), and, therefore, are no achievements at all or at least no achievements "which white men are bound to respect."

It is a common sentiment, idea, stereotype, myth that has pervaded white culture since the Civil Rights movement, casting a haze of doubt on all Black achievement outside of the accepted arenas of sports and entertainment. As an example, there's probably not a single black alumnus of a prestigious university who has not heard accusations of affirmative action at some point in their academic career--though affirmative action actually doesn't exist at the lion's share of those institutions. Professional blacks have probably heard that same sentiment or seriously suspect it exists in their own workplaces.

After all, didn't Rush Limbaugh say that Obama "probably didn't get out of Harvard without affirmative action" (though how one graduates with the help of AA is beyond me)? And wasn't this the same myth exploited by Geraldine Ferraro when she claimed that the black then-senator wouldn't have been competing for the Presidency if he hadn't been black, completely ignoring the facts that there'd never been a black President, that Obama's was truly a rags-to-riches story, and that Hillary Clinton wouldn't have been a Senator, let alone a Presidential candidate, if her husband hadn't been President?

Yet this myth persists, constantly besmirching any gains attained by this country's "Others," and movies like The Blind Side perpetuate this myth. That's the point, Ms. Bullock. That is why folks like me complain about such movies, why we look suspiciously at such movies, at why Hollywood continues to make such movies, and why we're always suspicious as to why white America continues to eat these films up with such self-congratulatory weepiness. And that is why folks like me refuse to see movies like The Blind Side and won't be in the least bit happy when you win your Golden Globe and Oscar for starring in it.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Congratulations, Not That Oakland!!!

Well, we don't really want to talk about my fantasy football team this year. For the first year in my fantasy existence, I decided to forego research and just go with my gut for the draft. How something so big could've been so wrong is still beyond me.

That aside, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to the 2009 champion of the V.J.J. Walker fantasy league, Not That Oakland, who rode the backs of Ryan Grant, Jamaal Charles, and a stifling 49ers' defensive performance to beat Too Tuff, 92-73.

Congrats!!! And way to go, Too Tuff and Washington Express, for dominating the entire season, and Mark's Marauders, who started the season something like 0-5 to ultimately take third place.

See ya next year, yall.

Monday, December 28, 2009

40Madnizz Begins Today!!!

At 1:05pm on May 1, 2010, "acclaimed" author and all-around misanthrope, Bill Campbell, will turn 40 years of age. Instead of meandering in the miasma of WoeIsMe, Mr. Campbell has decided to lose his godforsaken mind!

To celebrate his 40th year on this lovely planet of ours, old books will find electronic formats; new books will be published; tours will be conducted; interviews given; a new internet radio station will molest your ears; novels will be written; new jobs started; diets will be undertaken and quickly abandoned; gyms will be joined and assiduously avoided!

There's no telling where 40Madnizz will take us! Peru? Pittsburgh? Peoria? Your local pub?!

Could there be an audio book in the wings? Is there an accompanying comic strip? Will the blog continue?

Well, yeah. That's an easy one. But what else?

Will 40Madnizz come to your town? A town near you? Can 40Madnizz, like Paisley Park, be found in your heart? Or is it floating somewhere within the smoke blowing out of the author's hindquarters?

Well, join the 40Madnizz fan site on Facebook to find out, be kept informed, and, hopefully, be amused.

Be talking to you soon!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

One Sweed-Ass Game!

I had no idea that the Steelers had cut last year's second-round bust, Limas "Lame-Ass" Sweed and that the Baltimore Ravens picked him up and figured out a way to clone His Royal Sweedness 21 times and have them all play the entire game. And yet, there I was--just hours ago--watching the Sweedest game of the season.

I mean, damn! Ravens! Yall had it in the bag. You could've clinched your own playoff spot and knock the Steelers out of the hunt. Yet, you spread your Sweedness all over the Sweedin' field and Sweeded yourselves into a precarious playoff position while giving your arch-rivals hope for another day!

I mean, 11 penalties for 113 yards?!!! Two of which negated not "sure" touchdowns, but actual touchdowns?!!!

Even you'll have to admit that you deserve to lose after such a performance. Oh yeah. I forgot. Right. The refs threw the game.

Well, we know who didn't catch the game...

Yep. Your boy Derrick Mason pulled the Sweed of all plays by dropping a nice floating pass while he was wide-open in the end zone, letting the ball bounce off his face mask instead of landing in his hands. I heard our boy, Limas, cried on the sidelines with pride in his eyes.

Now, I gotta confess, after the Steelers plummeted from 6-2 to 6-6, I'd completely given up hope for this year. I figured, a Super Bowl champ who loses to KC, Oakland, and Cleveland didn't deserve to be in the playoffs. But after last week's miracle against Green Bay ...

and your complete Sweed-up today, B'more, I'm starting to like our chances.

Now, if only the Eagles would stop Sweedin' around and beat these stupid Broncos!!!

This post dedicated to M.C. and M.D.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Grizzly Bear

Here, I couldn't get this damned song outta my head and now the video's stuck there, too. Hope you enjoy.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Daddy Custody: Another Loss for Feminism?

Mrs. Unknown considers me a feminist, and, aside from my damn-near ritualistic objectification of women, I'd tend to agree. For the vast majority of my adult life, you could find me Feminism's amen corner, agreeing vociferously with whatever the womyn said. However, I'm starting to wonder if I'm growing more and more conservative with age because I find myself growing less and less in agreement with more things feminists have to say. A wonderful case in point would be last month's feature on Michel Martin's Tell Me More when she had a panel of feminists talking about the rise in fathers' winning custody of their children in divorce settlements.

Basically, with women's gains in the workplace, garnering promotions and subsequent financial remuneration, they are more steadily becoming their families' breadwinners and their men are taking on more child-rearing responsibilities, some even becoming their children's primary caregiver. As a result, when such families go to divorce court, a growing number of these men are winning primary custody of their children.

Though light-years away from divorce myself, I did take an especial interest in the feature. As many of you who have read the ongoing Poohbutt Chronicles know, for some time I was a "stay-at-home-ish" dad. We felt it important that Pooh be home for her first year of life, and, if we could swing it, one of us would stay home with her. It was something I desperately wanted to give my wife, providing for her to stay home, but since I'm still a bum and unknown writer (see the title to this blog), it just wasn't possible. Mrs. Unknown is the breadwinner here. But, since my job is incredibly flexible (if not at all profitable), I stayed home with the kid for 12 hours a day and then worked a few hours at night, then on Saturdays, and the occasional Sunday. It was exhausting but well worth it. Those 16 months Pooh and I stayed together were the greatest gift any man can ask for. I hope one day to possibly be able to return the favor.

So, listening to Tell Me More that day, I was encouraged to hear there were more men like me shedding old gender stereotypes and stepping up to raise their kids. I was also encouraged to hear that the courts were gradually willing to accept that men could indeed fulfill that role--despite the consistently reinforced media message that we are complete, incompetent, bumbling idiots in that arena.

Of course, the women on Tell Me More were in exact opposition to my cheery Mr. Mom viewpoint. They saw these recent court decisions as a punishment against working mothers. They said that, despite feminism's gains, the court still viewed a woman's proper place to be the home. Therefore, if a women had the cojones to work outside the home while having children needing to be raised and have the temerity to earn more than their hubbies, judges were going to castrate these harpies by giving their kids away to their former men. They viewed this new child-custody trend as yet another defeat for feminism.

I don't know if I'm just being a contrarian here, but I actually view it as feminism's victory.

Despite the myths that we've been raised with, it's not as though women did not work outside the home before the '60s/'70s' iteration of the feminist movement. It's just that it was assumed that middle-class women would return home after they got married. Those who didn't were just assumed to be helping their husbands make ends meet. Therefore, women were stuck wading in secretarial pools and other "pink collar" jobs. It was assumed that they either did not possess the ambition, qualifications, and/or character to move up the corporate ladder.

The feminist movement did away with such stereotypes. There is still work to be done. Glass ceilings do still exist, but female doctors, lawyers, and executives are no longer people who raise eyebrows.

Feminism has gradually changed the workplace--though not as rapidly as we would like here in the States. There's still a lot of work to be done with maternity and family leave and childcare. Oh, to be Europe! But it has changed it so much that even men are asking for such things from their employers.

Some men are even asking it of themselves in the home. Though American women are still tasked with most household duties, it is changing for the better. According to a study published last year by the Council on Contemporary Families: "The average woman – employed full or part time – with children is doing two hours less housework per week than in 1965." So, there is a struggle for gender equity going on within the American home. So much so, there are even men willing to stay at home to take on primary caregiving responsibilities.

The fact that the courts are acknowledging these changes and granting men custody is not a sign of defeat for feminism, it is actually the fruits of feminism's victory. While I believe that gender roles have never been static, I think gender role stereotypes generally have been. Women were always supposed to stay home and tend to the house and children while the men always went out there and earned for their families. So, while feminists were out there tearing down the assumptions for the former, they created and encouraged the dismantling of the former.

This is not a zero-sum game, where feminists' victories created men's own defeat. In fact, I think both sexes have gained immeasurably by feminism's gains. In other words, the striving for equality can eventually bring about said equality. It does not confer equality while retaining certain privileges--making one side "more equal" than the other. If a woman is no longer assumed to be inferior in the workplace, it can also mean that she will no longer be assumed to be the superior mistress of the homefront. If a woman can be a CEO, why can't a man cook the meals, change the diapers, and provide "Daddy kisses" to magically heal all booboos?

One panelist complained that judges didn't understand that "a Mommy never stops being a Mommy." What she failed to understand is that a caring father never stops "being a Daddy," either. I know I sure as hell don't.

The main point of this argument, which one panelist pointed out, is that divorce simply is not fair. People are always punished for terminating the marriage contract. It's not fair to the father. It's not fair to the mother. It's not fair to the breadwinner nor the primary caregiver. Each side will have legitimate gripes before, during, and after any divorce settlement. But, most importantly, it is not fair to the children--who never, ever had any say in their parents' getting married nor procreating nor splitting up and forcing them to divide their homes, loyalties, and lives between their feuding parents.

Therefore, the paramount issue in any custody battle is not whether the working mother or stay-at-home father (or vice versa or whatever mutation each side happens to take) are being punished here because no matter how you slice it (absent of abuse, of course) the children are the ones who are ultimately punished here. The primary issue is in whose home will their lives find the most benefit. So, in all honesty, I find it an encouraging sign that our courts are more carefully weighing each family's individual circumstance as opposed to simply relying on steadily "outmoding" gender stereotypes to determine where a child will be happiest.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Time to Hang 'Em Up, Ben

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's career ended on June 12, 2006. That was the day "the youngest quarterback to lead a team to the Super Bowl championship," full of youth, hubris, and foolishness five months after said Super Bowl championship rode his motorcycle, helmet-less, into an oncoming vehicle, busting up his knee, breaking his jaw and nose and, way too apparently (even soon after the accident), busting up his noggin pretty good.

I know it sounds pretty ridiculous to say that a quarterback who has thrown for over 13,000 yards, 86 touchdowns, and 60 interceptions and has led his team to yet another Super Bowl victory since that incident ended his career three and a half years ago. And yet ...

No, wait. Strike that. What was really ridiculous was the day that really ended Roethlisberger's career: August 11, 2006. That was the day that Steeler head coach, Bill Cowher, knowing full well that Big Ben had suffered a serious head injury, declared Roethlisberger would start the first pre-season game: "He will play for a short period of time, and I will leave it at that. Everyone else will play a series or two."

Ben promptly sprained a thumb ligament on his throwing hand in that game. So, he had the busted-up knee, jaw, and nose, the messed-up thumb, and, oh yeah! the concussion!

He was still scheduled to start the 2006-07 season opener until he was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. He actually missed the season opener (Charlie Batch started in his place) but was back for the second game--just two weeks after doctors cut into his stomach. He was 17 of 32 passing for 141 yards while throwing two interceptions and was sacked twice--a story we rarely heard his first two seasons before his accident but one we've heard damned near every game since the accident.

So, if you're still keeping count, before Ben even started that season he had the busted-up knee, jaw, nose, and thumb; the abdominal surgery (which I've heard takes something like six months to recover from); and, oh yeah! the motherfucking concussion!!!

For us fans it was a frustrating experience, as the Steelers stumbled onto an 8-8 record and completely missed the playoffs. The "experts" and pundits blamed lack of intensity on Pittsburgh's lackluster performance. Personally, I blamed that motorcycle accident and, most importantly, Bill Cowher.

Without getting too much into it, I've seen a bit of what a serious head injury can do to a person. How it can diminish them. Turn a very intelligent person into someone who can barely retain the strains of a conversation--let alone a job. How a usually mild-mannered person can turn into a tempest of emotion with violent, depressive mood swings.

I also talked to my mother-in-law, who's a doctor in nursing, about the Roethlisberger accident. She'd told me that someone with that serious of a head injury would not be allowed to be very active for an entire year after the incident--let alone play football!!!--because having a concussion makes one more susceptible to getting more concussions. Head injuries generally take a year to heal, and it is really hard to detect the extent of damage the brain has received until months after the incident.

In other words, there was absolutely no way that Big Ben should've been playing that season. No medical professional (outside of the sports industry) would've allowed him to jog on a treadmill (to say nothing of playing football) for months after his head went through that windshield. It was simply too dangerous for him to be on the field. They were risking further damage to the man's brain and, for all they knew, his life.

And the infuriating thing is, they had to have known. Yet, they kept Ben out there.

On October 26, in a game against the Atlanta Falcons, Roethlisberger was carted off the field with yet another concussion. The Steelers were 2-4 after that game. And yet, the next week, with two concussions in four months, he played against the Oakland Raiders.

He played one of the worst games of his life against one of the worst teams in the league--fumbling the ball once and throwing four interceptions. Something was obviously wrong. And, though I was well aware of the supermachismo that rules football, I was still furious. Roethlisberger shouldn't have been out there, and, if I knew it and my mother-in-law knew it, then Bill Cowher had to know it, too. After that Oakland loss, the Steelers were 2-5--their season effectively over. There was absolutely no reason to have Ben continue the season.

But his determination to start Ben seemed personal. There were times in Cowher's reign when things seemed to get personal with him. Like his benching Kordell Stewart just three games after he led the Steelers to the AFC Championship game--though the two losses were to the far superior New England Patriots (Super Bowl champs) and the Oakland Raiders. Then the millions the Steelers were paying to have a healthy Duce Staley sit on the sidelines.

It seemed like he was punishing Roethlisberger for being stupid enough to ride a motorcycle without a helmet. He probably didn't want the boy to ride a motorcycle period, and he was going to show Roethlisberger the error of his ways. It didn't matter what happened to the Steelers' season--which was ruined by this decision. Nor did it matter how dinged up the boy got--he ... would ... learn.

But I think what we're all learning is that Cowher's decision has probably prematurely ended Roethlisberger's career. 'Cause one of the many things that last Thursday's game against Cleveland showed me is that, once again, something ain't right with Big Ben. After coming back way too soon from yet another concussion, he just didn't look himself or particularly aware of what was going on around him as he was sacked eight times against one of the worst defenses in the league.

I know that the NFL is now playing lip service to taking concussions seriously. If that were really true, I don't know how they let Roethlisberger play another down after his latest concussion suffered during the Kansas City game. As I've stated, having one concussion makes you more susceptible to receiving others. Since Ben's accident three and a half years ago, he's had four head concussions and one spinal cord concussion (whatever that is).

Now that the league has been forced to acknowledge that these head injuries can lead to a shortened life of depression, suicide, and tragically violent outbursts, it's time that they acknowledge that four concussions is simply too much for one person to suffer, to acknowledge that they have more than likely caused irreparable damage, and that it is football that caused it.

Personally, I wish Bill Cowher would get on the air and explain why he did it. Why, on August 11, 2006, he decided that a seriously injured Ben Roethlisberger was going to be his starting quarterback. Was it machismo, some form of punishment, actual ignorance, or was it the short-term costs of having your million-dollar starting QB out a season that drove his decision to shorten Ben Roethlisberger's career and possibly his life?

Because the former is most definitely shortened. The League may not be as serious as they're acting right now. However, folks are becoming more and more aware of the damage that concussions do. And we can be fairly certain that Big Ben, "one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league," will continue to suffer them. And there will come a point--probably not next season but probably the season after that--when he'll have suffered so many concussions that there will be a public outcry (though, apparently Hines Ward will be calling him a "pussy") for him to hang up the cleats.

I hate to say it--because I love the way the man plays and I love the way he keeps winning Super Bowls for us--but I think that time is now. He is not only one blow to the head away from ending his career--but possibly, just possibly, one away from ever possibly having a normal life again.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Health Care Quote of the Day

Sen. Joe Lieberman tells the New York Times why he's suddenly decided to torpedo the Medicare buy-in he's supported for at least the last nine years and as recently as three months ago.

Apparently, the liberals liked the idea too much.

“Congressman Weiner [D-NY--and huge champion of the public option] made a comment that Medicare-buy in is better than a public option, it’s the beginning of a road to single-payer. Jacob Hacker, who’s a Yale professor who is actually the man who created the public option, said, ‘This is a dream. This is better than a public option. This is a giant step.’”

Way to go, Joe! I guess you're living the dream ... of every right-wing nutjob who's ever wanted to destroy anything resembling a progressive agenda. I guess that's what it means to be an "independent." Good luck getting that GOP nomination in '12.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"No Friends Here"

Children like routine, repetition, consistency. Children do not like change.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard that. How many times I've told it to myself.

It's that mantra that has provided the only negative part to this whole new move. What will this massive change--the new house, the new routines, the new daycare--mean to Poohbutt? It's funny. I mean, the girl's two. It's not like she's going to remember any of this. I realize that, always have, and yet, it hasn't stopped the guilt from creeping in.

Well this morning, it washed over me like a great flood. I was dropping her off at her new daycare. Yall know I didn't handle the first daycare situation all that well. Well, Pooh had her issues as well. In fact, she pretty much kept to herself for the first five months she was there. The teachers would constantly tell me how well-behaved and how quiet Pooh was there. Eventually, they confessed that she hardly ever spoke to any of the other children or the teachers and really just spent the days playing by herself.

Something magical happened when she turned two. She became an extrovert and became quite popular with the other kids. Every time she entered the school, everybody would be like, "Good morning, Poohbutt." And when she left, it was "Good night, Poohbutt."

She'd enthusiastically wave and say goodbye, and then proceed to babble for the next half hour as I drove us home.

You can see why I was apprehensive in changing daycares. But I did. We didn't have much of a choice.

It's been a little over a week now. As you may have predicted, the teachers are telling me how well-behaved and quiet my girl is. So, I know what that means. They're also saying how well-adjusted she's been.

Well, maybe at school. But, at home, she's going through some changes: mean-mugging and throwing all kinds of fits. But that's to be expected. Her world has changed quite a bit these last 8 days. But these drastic differences between her reported conduct at school and her definite outbursts at home make you wonder what's going on in that little mind of hers and what's going on with her at the new day care.

I pulled up to the daycare, threw the gearshift into neutral and applied the parking brake. I turned, and chirped, "Here we are, Pooh, at your new school."

She had this vacant look on her face and whined ...

"No friends here, Daddy."

God. I thought I was gonna cry right then and there.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Top 10 CDs of 2009

Well, it's been a long time since I've been a music critic listening to hundreds upon hundreds of the 100,000 albums that reportedly come out each year. I was about as "in the know" as one could be--and yet totally clueless about the vast majority of music coming out. In fact, it used to be funny when I'd tell people I was a music critic and they'd be utterly shocked when I'd never heard of their favorite artist du jour. Telling them that there were something like 100,000 CDs that came out that year was no excuse. I'm guessing it wasn't. But there's just too much stuff out there to be up on most of it, and I felt totally secure in my ignorance.

Well, no longer being a music critic, I'm even more ignoranter now. But I still like my music. I don't really try all that hard to keep up with what's going on, but I do happen upon stuff that I really enjoy. I thought, since I haven't blogged in awhile, I'd share my ten favorite discs of the year. I liked a bunch of stuff this year and actually feel bad about a bunch of the stuff that I didn't include.

Please don't treat this as an authoritative list (after all, I don't know shit). Just think of it as a helpful Christmas guide for that know-it-all smart-ass music fiend who always scoffs at what you give them for Christmas (we are soooo ungrateful).

1. Mos Def - The Ecstatic

Yeah, yeah. I know. Mos was soooo last millennium. I get a lot of crap at work for still liking the Defster, but I can't help it. I think he's actually striving towards genius, and I gotta respect it. Black Star and Black on Both Sides are hip-hop classics, and I think The New Danger should be. True Magic was true crap, but I think Black Dante really redeemed himself with The Ecstatic--even though, there are moments where it sounds like a Stones Throw compilation. Madlib got lazy on this one and just used a beat from one of his Beat Konducta tracks. But still ... Madlib, Oh No, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Chad Hugo from N.E.R.D. teamed up to produce one hell of an album. Now, dear co-workers, ridicule away!

2. Blakroc - Blakroc

The '90s had The Heavy Rhyme Experience, and the 2Gs will (just barely) have this album--where a great band teamed up with some of the best rappers around to give us one of the best musical experiences a hip-hop head can have. Confession: I was never much of a fan of The Brand New Heavies nor The Heavy Rhyme Experience. However, I am a fan of the Black Keys, and I do love this disc. They've got Luda, ODB, Q-Tip, Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, Nicole Wray (who can sing her ass off), Rza, Raekwon, Jim Jones, and NOE (who sounds a little too Jay-Z for me. But M.O.P.'s Billy Danze is the one who really stands out here. His ubertestosterone vocals mesh perfectly with the BKs' dirty rock stylee. Blakroc is the best mix of rock and rap since Rage gave up their battle against the Machine.

3. Passion Pit - Manners

Yeah. I wrote about these guys before. And what I wrote about them before still stands:

"I don't know exactly how to describe them. Maybe something like--2Gs electro-rockers with a taste for late '80s dance music and a dash of the Beach Boys. Something along those lines. Maybe."

Let me just add that they are catchy as hell. Just listen to "The Reeling" to see what I'm talking about. I just can't stop returning to that song and this album--no matter how hard I try. I think I'll be listening to this one for years to come.

4. The Heavy - The House That Dirt Built

I'm a bit of a The Heavy fan. Actually, I try screaming their praises every chance I get. You don't hear me, dough. Not that I blame you. I've been trying to ignore myself for years. Anyway, I used to describe their first album, Great Vengeance and Furious Fire, like: "Well, imagine if Lenny Kravitz didn't suck." That album had more of a dirty, retro funk--like Poets of Rhythm, Sugarman Three, and Sharon Jones--feel than this one does. This is more of a hard-rocker. I still love it, though. I hate it when artists give me the exact same thing on their sophomore efforts.

5. Shafiq Husayn - En' A-Free-Ka

Now, if my scuttlebutt is correct, Sa-Ra (of which, Shafiq is a part) felt shackled by Babygrande on their debut release, The Hollywood Recordings. They celebrated their release from the major label with a 23-song release on one of my favorite indy labels, Ubiquity. That album, Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love is a sound to behold. There aren't too many creative forces in R&B these days trying to make lasting music, and I applaud Sa-Ra's efforts. However, I'm from the LP era. Give me your best 9-10 songs and leave me begging for more. After listening to Nuke Eve a few times, I'm left begging for Gatorade to replenish my electrolytes and an extra cranium to help me digest it all.

I enjoy Shafiq's solo En' A-Free-Ka much more. Yeah. It's 17 songs long, but it doesn't feel as exhaustive. Also, I feel like I know where Sa-Ra's coming from a bit more easily--like they're on a Sly-and-the-Family-Clinton-Prince-3000 train that I've been on before. Shafiq feels a bit more unique. If you're of the Mary J. Blige school of R&B, I don't think you'll enjoy this much. But if you can handle Badu, you'll definitely want to check Shafiq--and Sa-Ra--out.

6. Major Lazer - Guns Don't Kill People ... Lazers Do

I love Diplo and his music so much, I even dedicated an entry in My Booty Novel to a Diplo set I went to. Major Lazer is the brainchild of Diplo and Switch. Oh, wait. According to Amazon, Major Lazer is ...

"a Jamaican commando who lost his arm in the secret Zombie War of 1984. The US military rescued him and repurposed experimental lazers as prosthetic limbs. Since then Major Lazer has been a hired renegade soldier for a rogue government operating in secrecy underneath the watch of M5 and the CIA. His cover is that of a dancehall night club owner from Trinidad and he enlisted the help of long-time allies and uber-producers, Diplo and Switch, to produce his first LP. His true mission is to protect the world from the dark forces of evil that live just under the surface of a civilized society. He fights vampires and various monsters, parties hard, and has a rocket powered skateboard."

Yes, these white boys are crazy. And so is their music. Guns Don't Kill People ... is a futuristic dancehall madhouse where Baltimore, Rio, and Kingston collide in Diplo and Switch's hands to give you a maddening dance adventure you ain't never heard before. Amanda Blank and Santogold make appearances, of course, along with a bunch of dancehall wizards to provide one magical experience.

7. Diamond District - In the Ruff

I think half of my co-workers are somehow involved in the DC hip-hop scene. As a result, I've been exposed to what my adopted town has to offer, and I gotta tell ya, I like it. For those who keep clamoring that hip-hop is dead, come to DC to have the life breathed back into your hopes. Oddisee is our local super-producer. He's got those hyperbolic drums much like Black Milk, and, like Tronic, every track jumps out at you, smacks you in the face, and steals your wallet. Rapper XO is pretty cool. And I'm a big fan of yU, whose Before Taxes was bound to make this list, but I wasn't sure if it came out in '09 or '08. Cop that, too, if you can find it.

8. The Dead Weather - Horehound

Jack White is one of the reasons I actually started listening to rock again after 20+ years of hating the stuff. Oh yes, I can listen to the White Stripes all day long. I even like his other side project, The Raconteurs. But this ... this I fell in love with. I can't get enough of lead singer Alison Mosshart's voice (I guess I'll have to check her out in The Kills). The two together--with an all-star band of musicians from groups I've never listened to--have created something so rough, so rugged, so raw, I find myself huddled in the corner of the shower, scrubbing my black ass pink under the scalding-hot water, until I somehow feel clean again. Oh yes, you can call it love.

9. Tegan & Sara - Sainthood

I generally like my music pretty rough around the edges. Hostility and aggression are also admirable qualities. I've gotta tell you, I'm surprised these sisters are on this list myself. I'm chalking up to a Celebration of My Inner White Girl. All I can say is that Tegan and Sara's power pop is so infectious that, by the second time I listened to Sainthood, I was already singing along. And whenever I need a feelgood moment, this is the disc I turn to.

10. Doom - Born Like This

There was a time, not too long ago, when MF Doom would've dominated any Top 10 list I could come up with. Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah, Madvillainy, DangerDoom. The man's genius seemed to know no bounds. Even without the MF (I hear he got sued over it--which I guess means that Grimm is the only MF left in hip-hop), Doom is still one of my favorite MCs. He didn't blow my mind on this one, but Born Like This still deserves to be on any Best of list for 2009.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Obama Afghanistan Plan Song of the Day

Speculation has run rampant around the globe in anticipation of President Barack Obama's planned speech tonight detailing his "new" plan for Afghanistan. With Britain's PM Gordon Brown already announcing his intentions to send more British troops to the country, it is all but a foregone conclusion that President Obama is going to follow General McChrystal's plan for an increase of American troops for the region. The question is no longer (nor never really was) whether Obama was going to follow McChrystal's wishes for increased involvement, but to what degree the increase will take. For an in-depth analysis of the war in Afghanistan and President Obama's plans for that war, we go to Tome special correspondent, Pete Seeger, to read between the lines and offer his own special analysis of the situation. Pete?


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Where I'm At

Sitting here watching the Steelers and Ravens. With Big Ben out, I'm surprised this game is as good as it is. Go, Dennis Dixon!

Anyway, it's been a long, holiday week. As you know, we Unknowns have just bought a house. Since I had vacation to burn, I took the week off to paint. There was a steep learning curve for yours truly. And I'm just getting over my exhaustion. Earlier today, Pooh and I put Mrs. Unknown on a plane to Switzerland for a meeting and settled in for a pleasant afternoon of football and pizza. Pooh was screaming, "Go Steelers! Go Steelers!" as I put her to bed.

So, I figure now is as good a time as any to tell you all where I'm at in this Unknown life of mine:

Well, I'll be honest, August's Health Care Stories Project pretty much wiped me out. There I was, saying I was going to take some time off to write a new novel--only to start the most intense blogging project I could've possibly imagine. I don't know. I was getting so upset over the "health care debate," I felt I had to do something. I hope in our own, small way we made a difference.

I have no regrets either way, but I don't think I've really recovered my former "swagger," yet. Of course, there were a lot of mitigating factors. There was work--as usual. Then there was the accursed house-hunting. I may still rant about that later.

I gotta tell ya, though, I was shocked by how all-consuming looking for a house can be. There's a heart-rending, house-hunting paradox that never can and never will be resolved: you're never supposed to get your hopes up when looking at a house, but, in order to put a bid in and possibly commit yourself to 30 years of debt, you really have to see yourself in any given house; and what is seeing yourself in a house if it's not getting your hopes up?

I can't tell you how many Christmases and barbecues I'd envisioned that will never be. How many disappointments. But hey, it was all part of the process. And, as we kept telling ourselves, these were good problems. There are so many folks out there still losing their homes, while we got to buy our first. So, no matter what was happening, no matter how depressing it became, we were indeed fortunate. Even though I'm a little bummed that we didn't get to move back into the city, I know I should count my blessings. And I do.

So, there are a lot of changes in store for the Campbell Clan. The house will not be the last of them. I'll keep you informed as they come to fruition.

One change was my "celebrating" my 39 1/2th birthday. Yeah, I know. A half-birthday. When was the last time you counted one of those? It's just that I'm suddenly looking at the hilltop, and I didn't know how I felt about possibly going over it.

So yeah ... I'm looking at a few changes.

The new Growler is one I'm looking forward to. Frederick Douglass had one. It's where we got the idea. His was a little, windowless brick building he had built in his backyard where he'd go every night to write. Mine is a little room in the basement overlooking our backyard. I painted mine "Jazz Blue." I'm pretty excited. Like Virginia, I will finally have a room of my own in which to write. I can't wait.

Aside from writing, I would kinda like to turn the Growler into my own, private DJ booth. I don't know why, but I can't get the idea of being an internet DJ out of my system. It's just that, as a music fiend, I have so much music I can never possibly listen to, and I like sharing.

I've done the internet radio thing twice before, which met with (a) little interest. But those were just throwing up a bunch of songs and letting them play. There was no real interaction whatsoever. This time, though, I'd like to be an actual disc jockey--talking, ranting, shucking, jiving--with a podcast. No, I wouldn't expect this thing to be a success, either. But I think it would be fun.

Of course, a bunch of things would have to happen before I go on the cyberwaves, though.

One of those things is a new novel. I don't like talking about works in progress, but I will tell you it's a science fiction story, oddly enough, about storytelling. It's been delayed a bit with the move, but I plan to get back to it in a week or two. I think those of you--all 12 of you--who liked Sunshine Patriots will dig this one.

Actually, if all goes as hoped, I'd like to celebrate my 40th year on this planet by coming out with three books next year. One would be the aforementioned new novel, of course. Another would be a sort-of "Best of" Tome here. And I have another book, a satire, that will be sure to piss a bunch of folks off. I'm four chapters into it.

It's weird. I'm not really looking at the impending doom of my 40th birthday as my becoming "over the hill." It's not that I think 40 is the new 20, or any such nonsense. I actually don't know if I am cool with it. But birthdays are good problems. A lot of people never make it to 40. So, no matter what is happening, no matter how depressing it becomes, I am indeed fortunate. Even though I'm a still little bummed that we didn't get to move back into the city, I know I should count my blessings. And I do.

So, for now, I'm just thinking of all the possibilities the new home and the new year can bring. And how cool would it be to do something extraordinary? How cool would it be to come out with three books in one year?

It would be so spectacular (my name not being Nora Roberts nor Stephen King), it almost wouldn't matter if they sold well, or not.


So, that's where I'm at right now. On the threshold of the Eternal New. A little apprehensive. A little scared. Feeling my age and feeling my oats. But more than willing to take on all this change--and the future.

Way to go, Dennis Dixon!

Sure, you lost, but you sure as hell did yourself proud!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Babe!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Latest GOP Duplicity: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

As we all know by now, last week Attorney General Eric Holder decided to give (you all know the phrase) "accused mastermind of the September 11 attacks" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed his day in civilian court. As was to be expected, the GOP is on the attack. Here are some of the things they are saying about the dangers of not trying KSM in our esteemed military tribunals:

"Mohammad is a terrorist--is alleged to be a terrorist. ... The United States court system was not designed to handle unlawful enemy combatants."

"It represents a historic change in how we treat those who are at war with the United States. It is going to create a lot of complications once we are at trial."

--Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)

"I don't know how you can make a statement that failure to convict is not an option, when you have got juries in this country. I think a lot of Americans thought O.J. Simpson ought to have been convicted for murder rather than be in jail for what he is jail for now... I'm a farmer not a lawyer but I just want to make that observation."

-- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

"... a perversion of the justice system."

--Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, in an interview with NBC, said the administration's decision to turn to the civilian court system "may be a new level of repudiation" of the notion that the United States is undertaking a war on terror.

-- AP, Giuliani against trying Mohammed in civilian court

"The president is unilaterally ending the war against terrorism and returning us to a pre-September 11 law enforcement regime. ... Because the trials will take place in federal court. The president is conferring Constitutional rights on enemy combatants who are not entitled to Constitutional rights."

-- Rep. Peter King (R-New York)

"The reality is, we are breaking precedent here. ... The reality is, he would get a fair trial there (in a military tribunal). A case like this, the government is put on trial. The more exciting headlines will be the headlines against the government. The headlines will be, '180 Waterboardings. The CIA did this terrible thing and that terrible thing to me.' Some of it will be lies and some of it will be true."

"It's a political decision because I believe this is being done to satisfy left-wing critics who all during the last two or three years have campaigned against these military tribunals."

-- Rudy Giuliani

But, of course, despite what Republican critics want you to believe, trying KSM in federal criminal court is not breaking with US precedence. The original World Trade Center bombers were tried in those same courts. Those courts have also tried and convicted Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, Richard Reid, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, Jose Padilla, Ali Saleh al-Marri, John Walker Lindh, Masoud Khan, and hundreds just like 'em. And, oh yeah, Zacarias Moussaoui (you remember the phrase), the convicted 20th September 11 hijacker, was tried in Virginia back in 2006, which started under Ashcroft's watch (hmm ... "new level of repudiation" there, Johnny?). I wonder what some of those same people said after the latter's trial:

"[The White House] probably thought it might be good to try this one in public."

-- Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)

"Today's verdict is a small but important piece of justice. Mr. Moussaoui's punishment is proof that our society is grounded in the liberating power of justice and the rule of law, which are our most valuable weapons in the war on terror."

-- Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tennessee)

"At times, this has been a maddening experience. The testimony of the defendant was deeply offensive, but through it all the victims have triumphed over the terrorist rants."

-- Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty (W. Administration)

"No, he will be pretty much locked by himself for the rest of his life, which, I think, he deserves, if anyone does. No, this is not an easy sentence by any means. I do think, again, in the sense of justice, that a death penalty was more appropriate."

-- Rep. Peter King (R-New York)

"I testified in the penalty phase of the trial. And it was much more difficult than I thought it would be, reviewing all that, going over it, seeing the films of it.

"And, you know, obviously I'm personally involved in this, but I would have preferred a different verdict. But it does show that we have a legal system, that we follow it, that we respect it. And it is exactly what is missing in the parts of the world or a lot of the parts of the world that are breeding terrorism.

"So maybe there is something good that can come out of this in showing these people that--at least showing the ones that have any kind of an open mind that we are a free society, a lawful society, a decent society, that we have respect for people's rights and that we can have disagreements about whether the death penalty should be imposed on somebody like Moussaoui.

"I think it should have been. I've been a lawyer more of my life than anything else. And I respect a jury's verdict. I sat in front of this jury for about three or four hours. They look like very, very careful and very decent people. And I am sure they did the best they could."

-- Rudy Giuliani

So, let's see, when the Bush administration decided to try Moussaoui in our federal courts, during the very height of "The War on Terror," these Republicans were not up in arms. Ashcroft and Gonzalez (who is also apparently criticizing Holder) initiated these criminal proceedings on this "enemy combatant." Giuliani actually participated in the trial itself. Some, like Giuliani and King, were disappointed that ZM wasn't given the death penalty. But many Republicans, including Giuliani again, considered this civilian verdict was a victory of American jurisprudence and American society as a whole. But now that the Obama administration is pursuing the exact same track that W. went down, America faces the gravest danger we have ever faced!!! All brought about by this rogue President and his AG!!!

Now, Giuliani, who is being accused of flip-flopping, is defending his newfound stance (watch the interview below), saying that there weren't military tribunals during the first WTC bombers trials and that the Supreme Court had declared military tribunals unconstitutional in 2006--which was why he participated in the Moussaoui trial. Well, Rudy, maybe your memory's a little cloudy, but the Supreme Court told the W. administration that they needed to rework the tribunals in June 2006; the Moussaoui trial concluded in May 2006. You weren't complaining about Moussaoui's trial venue any time before then or since.

Hmmm ...

Now, look, it's not as though Republicans are the only politicians who change their positions depending on who is in power. In 2004, Massachusetts Democrats voted in a law to strip the governor of the power of naming a replacement to the US Senate. They thought Dem. Senator John Kerry may win the Presidency, and they didn't want Rep. Governor Mitt Romney to have the power to replace Kerry's seat with a Republican. With Sen. Ted Kennedy's death, they repealed the law, knowing that Dem. Governor Duval Patrick would replace the Dem with another Dem.

It's all normal. It's called "playing politics." It's just ... shall we say, queer that the GOP, the party that portrays itself as the True American Patriots, the party that constantly claims that they are the party to "keep America safe," and who feel that this War on Terror is the gravest, most dangerous threat facing our country today, is so ready and sooooooo willing to play politics on this issue.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tell 'im, BlackMan!

I just had to share this one. Dirty Red, over at A BlackMan's View, has written this brilliantly hysterical and oh-too-true rant about R. Kelly's latest piece of piss-poor pop poop. Apparently, R., the 18th Lunkhead, is extolling the virtues of wanting to get a sister pregnant.

Personally, I can't stand the Urinator. I was still in Chi-Town when he broke big, and, since he was a homeboy, there was nowhere a brother could go to escape the mediocrity. Now, I feel is mediocrity and his depravity deserve my vitriol. Fortunately, Dirty Red's is better. You gotta read it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Our New House!!!

Well, I didn't know whether to jump for joy or vomit all over their offices, but all the eyes have been dotted and the teas crossed.

And here is the Unknowns' new home!!!!

And it will all be ours ...

in 2039!!!!!!!!

And in celebration of this auspicious occasion, we bring you this blast from the past...

Ha! You probably thought it was going to be Madness' "Our House," didn't ya?

C'mon now, you should know by now that I'm more perverse than that!


Friday, November 13, 2009

Peter Galbraith: Advocacy for Oil and the Death of the Common Good

As you've probably heard by now, US Ambassador and renowned "liberal hawk", Peter Galbraith has been caught with his fingers, hands, feet, his entire person, in the cookie jar. Galbraith was Clinton's former ambassador to Croatia and was named second-in-command in Afghanistan earlier this year. During the the lead-up to the Iraq war, Galbraith was a noted "liberal hawk" who strongly advocated Sadam's ouster, giving a peculiar "bipartisan" legitimacy to Bush's claims of Hussein's continued danger to our world.

In 2002, he became an advisor to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz on Kurdistan and has since been a strident advocate for Kurdish autonomy in Iraq and their retaining control of the oil reserves found in their area of the country. "Ironically" enough, back in June 2004, Galbraith set up a little-known company, Porcupine
, that holds a five percent interest in newly-developed oil fields in--guess where?--yep--Kurdistan.

Of course, Galbraith has provided a very peculiar truth in defense of his actions:

“The business interest, including my investment into Kurdistan, was consistent with my political views. These were all things that I was promoting, and in fact, have brought considerable benefit to the people of Kurdistan, the Kurdistan oil industry, and also to shareholders."

Sorry for my lack of eloquence, but ... Well, duh!

His working diligently for the autonomy of his business partners who, if they were to become freer, would favor him with better business deals, which stand to gain him hundreds of millions is no conflict of interest at all. No conflict of his interest.

However, Peter, that is not the issue at all. As Reider Visser, a historian of southern Iraq, has put it:

“Galbraith has been such a central person to the shaping of the Iraqi Constitution, far more than I think most Americans realize. All those beautiful ideas about principles of federalism and local communities having control are really cast in a different light when the community has an oil field in its midst and Mr. Galbraith has a financial stake."

Galbraith says that the Kurds knew about his business dealings while dealing with them and that he had no obligation to tell US and Iraqi officials about his negotiations.

Perhaps Galbraith is right. Maybe he actually didn't have a legal obligation to tell folks what he was up to. But did he not have a moral obligation to let us know what exactly was motivating his actions?

After all, this man has been a vigorous "liberal hawk." His voice helped add legitimacy to the invasion of Iraq. He has strongly fought for the Kurds. He has written op-ed pieces, he's met with other officials and diplomats, he has been on Fox News and Bill O'Reilly advocating these positions. And people took him for his word, took his words as displays of conviction, because they thought he was a dedicated public official, strongly professing all "those beautiful ideas about principles of federalism and local communities having control." But what he was really doing, we can only assume, was trying to line his own pockets.

Now, it's not as though Galbraith's "Advocacy for Oil" is the only example of this. I've already complained about Rep. Mike Ross's enriching himself in a shady land deal with Drug USA while working his ass off trying to stop the public option. I've gone red in the face, screaming about Billy Tauzin's giving the pharmaceutical companies billions with his Medicaid Prescription Drug Bill only to immediately resign and become Pharma's main lobbyist for millions a year. We all know about Duke Cunningham's taking money for military contracts--possibly putting our troops in danger in order to put more money in his pocket. And the Interior Department was tarred-and-feathered last year for Sex-for-Oil scandal.

Obama, to his credit, has tried to at least address the "revolving door" between government officials and their powerful business cronies: where both parties go back and forth, trying to regulate the industries they once worked for and/or may work for one day while trying to regulate or neglecting to regulate their former/future employers. Apparently, with far too many people, when the common good is measured against their own, private interests, the former inevitably suffers. And their actions simply cannot be trusted. I mean, can we really think that Galbraith's actions were solely enacted out of his principles of federalism and local control? Can we not imagine the dollar signs floating in his eyes every time he acted on behalf of the Kurds? Can we think that former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's only concern for Goldman Sachs (where he used to be CEO) was driven solely by his need to "save the economy"? Might he have had other motives? Did those motives allow him to see Lehman go down in flames? After all, Goldman Sachs is now making record profits! And do we think that current Treasury Secretary Timothy "Eraserhead" Geithner's might--just might--be hesitant to come down hard on all these financial institutions because they are all his cronies?

But Obama has faced immense challenges in closing this revolving door, has left many vital positions vacant because of this policy, and has actually let a few go through despite this policy. And one can't foresee these problems resolving themselves any time soon.

It seems to me, with the demise of LBJ's War on Poverty and, subsequently, liberalism and the rise of conservatism, that slowly "Greed is Good" has overwhelmed the concept of the "Common Good." When you look at FDR's New Dealers and the children of the New Deal in the JFK and LBJ administrations, you see a full embrace that government can indeed solve systemic problems, that our government, a liberal democracy, is here to solve those problems, to provide the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Classic liberals (including our forefathers, for that is what they were) believed that democracy was placed here to free the people--from the tyranny of the monarchy, from the excesses of government from itself, and, with the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, the tyranny of the majority. These core beliefs, in the middle of the last century, gave us the strengthening of unions, the successes of the Civil Rights movement, social security, Medicare and Medicaid, the national highway system, along with many other "rights" and services that we still take for granted.

With these victories did come some overreaching. LBJ and Sarge Shriver's belief that they could actually end poverty did create a culture of dependence among welfare recipients. And it was a vital critique conservatives provided (if they only would've canned the racial shit) when addressing that fact. However, as conservatives often do, they threw out the baby with the bath water. And when Reagan declared, "Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem," he provided a fundamental shift within the workings of our own government.

People started entering government because they wanted to dismantle government, and they wanted to illustrate, with as many examples as possible, that government indeed does not work. However, if government were actually the problem and if it actually did not work, what was the solution to this problem?

The only answer available, of course, was business. So, for the past 30 years, we have seen our government moving more and more towards to making more money-making opportunities for the money-makers in the name of the "Common Good" but oftentimes running counter to that good. We have seen waves of deregulation. We have seen the privatization of public utilities. You see city after city using tax dollars that they'll never recoup to pay for stadiums for billionaires. You see multi-billion-dollar, multinational corporations like Wal-Mart receive debilitating tax breaks to build stores in their towns, though they consistently lose money in the deal. You see politicians trading favors with their corporate contributors, driving up our national debt in order to give them government contracts the government doesn't need while levees rot in disrepair in Louisiana. And we see these politicians, their staffers, and government bureaucrats trading in their public paychecks for much bigger, private ones, cashing in on their access to government for their own wealth.

And the rest of us suffer for their newfound wealth. After all, despite all its flaws, liberal democracy's overall concern is the "Common Good." And, while prosperity is the concern of almost any government, Business's overriding concern is making money. And more times than not, that concern runs completely counter to the Common Good. When we have government officials whose interests run in both camps, can we really expect the Common Good to truly be served? After all, at any time, they can cash in for some real money, discretely sliding their resumes to the very people they are supposed to be regulating.

It's a critical question we need to be asking ourselves right now. We are now being poisoned by the fruits of the "Greed is Good" credo that our own politicians seem to still be obeying. The deregulation of the S&Ls led to our bailing them out in '89. Our privatization of public utilities led to Enron. Glass-Steagall's repeal led us to our current financial crisis.

Can we expect our astronomic national debt to be reduced when politicians don't want to raise taxes for fear of being booted out of office but they still want to dole out public largess to their corporate contributors? Can we really expect Barney Frank to re-regulate these financial institutions when they give him so much money? We are witnessing first-hand the power that the health care industry's contributions, how that power will almost definitely succeed in thwarting real health care reform. Won't the same thing happen with any kind of environmental legislation Congress may dream up? Is there any issue, any area of concern, any arena in which we can trust any of our politicians will act in the interests of the Common Good?

Galbraith has proved yet another example (let's not forget Halliburton) that we can't trust them when it comes to our own foreign policy. Geithner, Paulson, et. al, have proved it in this latest financial crisis.

Everywhere we turn, we are looking at really tough decisions that our leaders have to make. And they have to make it for the Common Good. Our health care crisis was largely caused by our health insurers; the financial crisis, by our financial institutions; it shouldn't matter what is best for them. What does matter is what is best for all of us. The same goes for Iraq and Afghanistan. And too many other things to list in this already overly long blog post. What we need are the public servants of old, the LBJs and the Sarge Shrivers of the world, the people who wanted to do what was best for this country. Instead, we're saddled with the Geithners and Tauzins of the world, who are only concerned with lining their own pockets.

Lord help us all.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

My BS NFL Predictions -- 1/2way Thru

Well, New Jersey governor-elect Chris Cristie's campaign has ignited an entire and utterly complete political wave of "accountability" and "personal responsibility" never before felt in our elected officials!

With Rep. Mike Ross no longer taking personal money from the drug companies and voting for the public option and Rep. Barney Frank eschewing all that big, beautiful banking money and cracking down on our nation's financially- and morally-bankrupt financial institutions, I have caught the fever as well!

So, in my first act of personal accountability, I have to decided to hold myself ... well, I guess, accountable for the BS NFL predictions I made at the beginning of the season.

Let's see how I've done so far.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: No matter how whack these predictions turn out to be, they can't be any worse than my 2-7 fantasy football season. So please keep in mind that I, like my fellow NFL owner-aspirant, Rush Limbaugh, am simply talking out of my ass.]

NFC East


1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. New York Giants
3. Dallas Cowboys
4. Washington Redskins


1. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)
2. Philadelphia Eagles (5-3)
3. New York Giants (5-4)
4. Washington Redskins (2-6)

I originally predicted that the Eagles were the team to beat here. I still hold that to be true. You just have no clue what Eagles are gonna show up. One week, they dismantle the Giants like they were the Oakland Raiders, or something. But a couple weeks before, they actually lost to the Oakland Raiders.

The Giants are even more schizoid than that. They start off the season going 5-0 and then have dropped the next four straight. But when you have Nazi leadership (aka Tom Coughlin), you've gotta expect your boys to be streaky. You blitz through Poland and storm through the USSR and then find yourself stalled at Leningrad's city gates. No, I don't expect a million people to die as a result of the Giants' season. What I figure is, they'll get their act together this week and streak all the way to the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl.

Hey, did you know there was a Finnish rock band called the Leningrad Cowboys? According to Wikipedia, they are known for their "humorous songs, ludicrous hairstyles and concerts featuring the Russian military band Alexandrov ensemble."

Those hairstyles are ludicrous!

And so is the Cowboys' success (SEGUE!!!). Their schedule hasn't been too heavy, but I'm still a little surprised. The only consolation is that a Tony Romo-led team couldn't possibly win a Super Bowl.

And a Daniel Snyder-owned football team apparently cannot even win a single game. Until the day that the Nashville Niggers take the field against the Kansas City Kikes, I will forever hate Washington's football team's name (no, I guess then I'd hate three horribly-named teams instead of just one). And as long as that little Napoleon continues to own the Foreskins, I will forever wish them ill. However, I have to thank them for giving me the football highlight of the year: their giving the Detroit Lions their first win in twenty friggin' games! That was just beautiful.

NFC South


1. Carolina Panthers
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. New Orleans Saints


1. New Orleans Saints (8-0)
2. Atlanta Falcons (5-3)
3. Carolina Panthers (3-5)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7)

Please don't let it ever be said that Bill Campbell can't smoke himself up some crack now. Little did we know, he was apparently on a five-week bender when he made the abovementioned prediction.

I originally thought this division was a toss-up. We all know Carolina's about as inconsistent as they come. And they still are (I mean, who loses to Buffalo?), but they are consistently coming up with the short end of the stick.

I thought Atlanta wasn't going to be as good as they were last year. They seem to be about the same. And, wishful thinking on my part, I thought Tampa would be a little better. Who knows, though? That rookie QB of theirs, Josh Freeman, looked like an absolute beast last week against Green Bay.

The real surprise, of course, is New Orleans. I still don't think you can outscore your way to a Super Bowl, but we shall see.

NFC North


1. Chicago Bears
2. Minnesota Vikings
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Detroit Lions


1. Minnesota Vikings (7-1)
2. Chicago Bears (4-4)
3. Green Bay Packers (4-4)
4. Detroit Lions (1-7)

All right, I was gonna make some excuses for the Bears, saying something like, "It must be harder to integrate a new quarterback into your team than I thought." But I guess Brett Favre proves that one false.

Of course, Jay Cutler ain't no Favre and Matt Forte certainly ain't Adrian Peterson. Mrs. Unknown would be really pissed if I say anything nice about Favre. Seriously, I haven't seen her hate an athlete this virulently since the time she found out that steroid-popping Mark McGwire also had special contacts made to see the ball better. I will say this about the Vikes, though: that recent loss to the Steelers proved that they aren't quite ready for prime time.

Aside from that, the Bears are a lot weaker than I'd originally imagined and the Packers much stronger. The Lions looked damned good against the Redskins last month, but that was just a big ole Battle of the Suck. I'd like to see where they go in a couple of years.

NFL West


1. Seattle Seahawks
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. St. Louis Rams


1. Arizona Cardinals (5-3)
2. San Francisco 49ers (3-5)
3. Seattle Seahawks (3-5)
4. St. Louis Rams (1-7)

Face it, this is a crap division. What was I supposed to say? I think Arizona's #1 by default. Seattle is once again plagued by injuries. St. Louis is, well, now we know what happened to the World Class Wrecking Crew.

But I said it before, San Fran is where my heart is this season. They've still got QB issues, but Mike Singletary's got these guys on the right page. Sure, they're 3-5, but they started out 3-1; and they're dead even on Points Against and Points For. They're tough and are only gonna get tougher.

AFC East


1. New England Patriots
2. Miami Dolphins
3. Buffalo Bills
4. New York Jets


1. New England Patriots (6-2)
2. New York Jets (4-4)
3. Miami Dolphins (3-5)
4. Buffalo Bills (3-5)

OK, I have hated the New England Patriots since Sunday, January 27, 2002. Yeah, that's when the Pats rolled into Heinz Field, bleary-eyed from watching all that videotape, and totally dominated the Steelers on their way to their first Super Bowl victory. Look yall, I'm tired of the hate. I need to move on. I've got a kid now. But the rest of the NFL keeps falling for their Jedi mind tricks, falling for the okey-doke every week, never realizing that they don't have a real running back and their D actually kinda sucks, and let's the Pats come away with yet another victory. I'd actually be impressed--if my hate wasn't so great.

I'd originally predicted the Jets to be in last place (for which I got some crap). But I'm impressed with how Matt Sanchez can put down the hot dogs long enough to eke out a victory here and there.

The big disappointment here has got to be Buffalo (Miami has a pretty good injury excuse). I mean, how the hell can you have two of the most dangerous wide receiver threats in T.O. and Lee Evans and still throw mostly to your running backs and tight ends?! It just boggles the mind. But I guess that's why QB Evans is called "Check-Down Trent."

AFC South


1. Tennessee Titans
2. Indianapolis Colts
3. Houston Texans
4. Jacksonville Jaguars


1. Indianapolis Colts (8-0)
2. Houston Texans (5-4)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4)
4. Tennessee Titans (2-6)

I know some look at Peyton and Eli Manning and argue that they are poster boys for why cousins should never be allowed to marry. Aesthetically, I think they may have a point there. But athletically ... you gotta admit, the Mannings were onto something, doubling up their athletic abilities so that their progeny could be as dominant as they now are.

Like the Patriots and Tom Brady, Peyton and the Colts know how to win. I don't think the Colts are 8-0 material. But we're going to see just how good they are. In the past two weeks, they have lost starting linebacker, Tyjuan Hagler, S Bob Sanders, and CB Marlin Jackson. Indy was fairly vulnerable to the run before. You gotta think folks are just going "three yards and a cloud of dust" on them the rest of the year--if only to keep the ball out of Manning's hands.

The biggest disappointment this year has got to be Tennessee. I often say that water seeks its own level, and, when it comes to Kerry Collins, apparently so does urine. Because his performance this year has been the definition of piss-poor. After leading the Titans to an 0-6 start and that 13-3 season last year a distant memory, Fisher finally benched Collins for Vince Young, who has been living up to all that Heisman hype these past two games. It'll be interesting to see just how far they can turn it around. And let's hope Houston finally makes the playoffs.

AFC North


1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Cleveland Browns


1. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
3. Baltimore Ravens (4-4)
4. Cleveland Browns (1-7)

Oh, like you saw Cincy's starting the season 6-2. I've always been a Marv Lewis fan. So, I'm sorta glad he's righted the ship so far. Let's see how long it lasts (if I sound snarky, don't forget I am a Pittsburgh native). I would be worried except the Steelers are on to that Jedi mind trick shit, too, and own the AFC North.

The Ravens are a little disappointing. The D is getting kind of old, and Ed Reed simply can't be everywhere--though it sure does seem like he is. I wonder if this year will finally convince B'more that they actually need a wide receiver who's not paying AARP dues if they're ever going to get anywhere. Well, I'm a Steeler fan, so I certainly hope not.

The Browns ... hm ... well ...

Here! Maybe these Jim Brown highlights will cheer ya up!!!

AFC West


1. San Diego Chargers
2. Oakland Raiders
3. Denver Broncos
4. Kansas City Chiefs


1. Denver Broncos (6-2)
2. San Diego Chargers (5-3)
3. Oakland Raiders (2-6)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (1-7)

When it comes to pretenders to the throne, the Steelers are singing "Don't Believe the Hype" so often that Chuck D. and the Bomb Squad must be rolling in the royalties. (Yeah, I went a long way for that one). Denver was the latest victim. I can't believe, with Kyle Orton, that Denver's doing as well as they are. But after Monday's game, defenses are going to believe, with Kyle Orton, Denver can't throw the ball down field. I imagine the Orange Crush is about to lose its fizz.

The only problem for San Diego is that LT has gone totally swish and can't be in the least bit depended on. In some ways, I wish they'd shed the Norv Turner Curse and finally win one. But it's so much fun making fun of Norv Turner, it wouldn't seem right for them to win.


My initial BS playoff teams were the G-Men, Minnesota, Seattle, Carolina, Philadelphia, and Chicago for the NFC, and New England, Indy, San Diego, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Tennessee for the AFC.

Well, obviously, Tennessee ain't gonna make it, but the others still have a shot. I also had Pittsburgh and Philly meeting in the Super Bowl. I have a sneaking suspicion it's going to be the Giants, but we shall see ...

We ... shall ... see ...