Saturday, August 23, 2008

The silly season endures

Via Hilzoy, some GOP operative had this to say about the selection of Biden as Obama's veep:
"They've picked the only guy in Washington who thinks he's a bigger celebrity than Barack Obama. It's the Britney-Paris ticket."
Really? Are the Republicans aiming to be taken seriously at all this fall? Continue Reading »

Sports Saturday

In Tampa, today is a perfect day for football - now that the rain has passed. Luckily, I've got tickets to the Bucs-Jaguars preseason game tonight. Let's hear it for a quarter and a half of NFL-caliber ball.

So, let's do this thing. And if I seem a bit distracted, it's because I'm still listening to analysis of Joe Biden's speech in Springfield a few minutes ago. How about that for Joe-mentum?:

Let's start in Tampa, where a familiar name has popped up on the local prep scene. Eric Dungy, son of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, will play for Tampa power Plant High this season. Dungy led Park Tudor High in Indianapolis with 27 catches for 331 yards as a sophomore last season. He'll team with top quarterback recruit and Georgia commitment Aaron Murray at Plant. Says a analyst of Dungy: "He's a definite D-1 guy for sure."

Also in local prep action, consensus top 10 hoops recruit John Henson will play at Sickles High after transferring from his high school in Austin, Texas. The 6-foot-10 Henson, a North Carolina commit, moved to Tampa after his father took a new job in the area. What a story. The dude grew 5 1/2-inches last summer on his way to becoming a blue-chipper. Henson still might want to sleep on that bench press a bit - he weighs only 200 pounds.

I haven't been able to read the Olympic coverage of all the major media outlets but the Los Angeles Times, in particular, has been doing a great job in Beijing. Among other things, they've called out IOC President Jacques Rogge for chiding Usain Bolt and they've come up with a tongue-in-cheek way to measure the medal count using the Medals Per Capita formula. In case you're wondering, Jamaica is No. 1, Bahamas is No. 2 and Slovenia is third. Lagging far behind are the U.S. at No. 42 and China at No. 68.

Two-time British Olympian Matthew Syed confirms, quite personally, that athletes are all about the bow-chicka-wow-wow in the Olympic Village. "A British runner (anonymous again: athletes are not supposed to talk to journalists unaccompanied by a PR type, least of all about sex) said: 'The swimmers finished earlier in the week and it was like there was an eruption.'"

Sports Illustrated comes up with six good reasons why the Jamaicans are running away, so to speak, from the rest of the world. Having Usain Bolt on your team can't hurt. And a suspect drug-testing program.

Speaking of Bolt, The Palm Beach Post kills a rampant online rumor (maybe) about the Miami Dolphins being interested in signing the Jamaican speedster.

How does out-of-sight, out-of-mind Montana manage to garner a little national spotlight, if only for a second? By instituting a fantasy football lottery. I'm not sure how it'll work out but much props for the creativity.

Jason Whitlock shows some love for a man who sorely needed it when he was alive, Gene Upshaw. But it's never too late.

Shawne Merriman might play this season after all, with two torn knee ligaments. Ugh. I can't see how that's a good idea but, then again, I'm no doctor.

And, finally, my homie Zen sends along a link that combines two of my favorite things: football and women. It's a celebrity-heavy list, if you ask me: Elisabeth Hasselback, Gisele Bundchen and two former Playboy Playmates.

Ok. That's enough for today. Enjoy Saturday - one more week until football season kicks off. I can't wait.

UPDATE: This will be my first football season as a resident of Florida, which excites me to no end - as long as my favorite copy editor doesn't require too much of me on weekends. One of the benefits: I'm currently watching a 1986 showdown between Florida and Florida State on the Sunshine Network. Ah. This will never get old to me. Continue Reading »

About experience

Once and for all, Barack Obama should strongly attempt to shut down all this nonsense about his relative lack of experience to run the country.

How and why? Because, unless I'm mistaken, John McCain has no experience as president either. The job is so unique that nothing else is a real approximate. Thus, the only way you can earn the experience necessary to be president is by actually being president.

Being a senator for four years or 40 years doesn't prepare you to run the executive branch anymore than being a governor or a congressman or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Was George W. Bush ready to be president in 2000? Is he even ready today? Why did we never hear similar concerns during Dubya's first run for the White House?

This is a lame and flawed complaint that Obama and his camp have somehow allowed to gain traction. At some point, Obama is going to have to turn to McCain and say, "you've never been president either. You've never been charged with running the country, just like me. This is about whom voters feel would best be suited to represent our country through their political ideals, their values and our relative qualifications. Let's stop with the silliness, ok?"

And, honestly, I get the feeling Obama would never be experienced enough for some people. Let's agree or disagree over the issues that matter to the future of the country. But let's not play this dishonest game about who has the most experience. It's a game where, truly, there are no winners. Continue Reading »

So it's Joe after all

All that drama for Joe Biden? Seems a little silly now, doesn't it?

Biden seemed to be the clear frontrunner from the moment that it was reported Obama had narrowed his choices to Indiana Governor Evan Bayh, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and Biden. Considering that, Obama and his campaign did a masterful job of squeezing all the suspense out of a relatively safe pick - Obama owned the political spotlight on Friday and probably will throughout the weekend leading into the convention.

Not only was Biden the safe pick, he was the best pick of the three. I've already made it known that, for the short term, Hillary Clinton would have been a better choice. But overall, Biden not only shores up Barack's obvious weaknesses against John McCain, he is someone who could govern in harmony with Obama. I don't think Clinton passes that final, important test.

Newsweek gets into the relative merits of having Biden on the campaign trail - he's a virtual foreign policy expert, has the stripes to go after McCain in a way that Obama can not and he's been a good Democratic soldier for more than 30 years, thus the inexperience charge against this ticket loses some steam. (Curiously, pundit after pundit has mentioned Biden's Catholicism as appealing to certain voters, which is odd to me. Will that really come into play here?).

Biden's negatives are pretty weak: he's known for speaking off the cuff and out of school, and his first presidential campaign in 1987 was submarined after he was found to have lifted portions of a speech from a British politician. Certainly, McCain and Co. don't want to get into stump slip-ups or political scandals from 20 years ago.

And McCain's first attack ad against the Obama-Biden ticket doesn't carry much heft. History is full of presidents who picked vice presidential candidates whom they clashed with during the primary.

No, Biden doesn't represent the "change" that some people were looking for. He might not completely heal the rift among Obama and disgruntled Clinton supporters. But he's good man with few real flaws despite working in politics over four decades. That's a choice I can support.
UPDATE: Ta-Nehisi notes that no one, absolutely no one, that McCain picks as No. 2 really wants a piece of Biden during a debate. Biden-Pawlenty or Biden-Romney or, even better, Biden-Lieberman shapes up as a mismatch on the scale of The Dream Team vs. Angola.
UPDATE 2: Via Ta-Nehisi, FiveThirtyEight predicts the choice of Biden sews up Pennsylvania and puts Florida into play because of his appeal to older voters. Who really knows?
Continue Reading »

Friday, August 22, 2008

Heiling the Hitler Games

Conservative "journalist and socialite" Taki Theodoracopulos has some interesting thoughts about the Berlin Games of 1936. Seems that Taki thinks Adolph Hitler put on quite the party:

It might seem politically incorrect to say this, but the Berlin Olympics were the best ever staged, the last time white American and European men and women competed on an equal level with blacks, despite the great feat of Jesse Owens in winning four gold medals.

Well, its almost certainly politically incorrect to say that. Not to mention completely ridiculous.

Save track and field and maybe basketball (though Argentina won the gold in Athens), I don't see this overwhelming presence of blacks on the medal stand that has made it impossible for others to compete. Or was the tint off on my living-room TV during swimming, handball, diving, volleyball and archery?

Also, as far as I can tell, the only country with a sizable number of black athletes (other than the U.S.) to crack the top 20 in overall medal count is Jamaica.

But who needs the facts when you're trying to wistfully remember all the fun people had in Nazi Germany? Continue Reading »

Go ahead and take it

Prosecutors have offered to drop one of two assault charges against embattled Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in exchange for his resignation.

Assuming he can manage to avoid jail time on the other charge, Kilpatrick might want to reconsider his initial rejection of this plea deal.

Kilpatrick needs to face the facts: he's not going to be mayor for much longer, given the universal push to get him out of office. But there's no need to compound that disappointment with a move from City Hall to a cell block.

Pride ain't worth that kind of ass-whipping. Continue Reading »

The G.O.A.T.

Frank Deford on one of the silliest arguments to emerge from the Beijing Games:

First, how do you even begin to rate any team athlete against an individual sport athlete? What is the basis of comparison between a shortstop and a golfer? It's hard enough judging two shortstops. None of this nonsense takes place anywhere else.
I spent, probably, a good three or four hours arguing with friends over e-mail the other day whether or not Michael Phelps was the greatest Olympian of all time (I think not). To me, it's a question without an answer. What's more, does Phelps have to be the greatest? Isn't it enough to be on the short list?

But here's a few reasons why I won't entertain the suggestion:

1. ESPN's Tim Keown points out that the gold pile Phelps has amassed shouldn't be the deciding factor because "I'm thinking Carl Lewis would have won a few more gold medals if track and field included the sideways 100 and 200, the backward 100 and 200, and the 100 and 200 individual medley (forward, sideways, backward)."

2. It should be telling that before Phelps, the previous owner of the most Olympic gold medals was also a swimmer, Mark Spitz. It's a terrific accomplishment but I imagine that few people would have considered swimmers to be the two greatest athletes in the Games' history.

3. The Jim Thorpe Factor. In the Stockholm Games of 1912, Thorpe won gold medals in the decathlon, pentathlon, long jump and high jump. Of the 15 total events in the decathlon and pentathlon, Thorpe won eight of them. Not to mention, Thorpe went on to play professional football, baseball and basketball. I find it hard to believe that Phelps is that well-rounded out of the pool.

4. Usain Bolt. Three events, three gold medals, three world records. I might be biased as a track enthusiast but being the "World's Fastest Human" seems a bit more prominent than being the world's best swimmer. Every able-bodied human can run. Not everyone can swim, you know? Continue Reading »

What's playing in my deck...

Not a lot of time this morning. I'm sort of running behind. But the music selection was interesting:

1. This D.J. by Warren G
2. Pass the Dutchie by Sonic Youth
3. Throw Some D's remix by Rich Boy featuring Andre 3000, Jim Jones, Murphy Lee, Lil Flip and The Game
4. Odoo by Fela Kuti
5. Where It Started At by Hi-Tek feat. Jadakiss, Papoose, Raekwon and Talib Kweli.

Peace. Continue Reading »

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Panic attack

I'm ready to admit it: I think Barack Obama might want to seriously reconsider Hillary Clinton for the bottom half of the Democratic ticket.

I really don't know how we got here. But after seeing a number of polls show a tightening race in recent days, I'm wondering if Barack needs every bit of Clinton's army of "18-million."

Certainly, I remain a tad disgusted with the lengths the Clinton camp seemed willing to go to wedge themselves into the nomination, not to mention, all the fresh material they provided for McCain in the general election campaign.

But we have to acknowledge the obvious here: Obama has been - and will be - locked in a tight contest this fall, and he'll need all the buzz and wide-ranging support that he can muster. In that context, I think bringing along the Clintons helps to defeat McCain.

It's not a perfect marriage, but honestly, those don't exist. And there's no reasonable argument against Clinton's qualifications or tenacity. She proved to be a campaigning force in the final weeks of the primary. The Clinton brand carries serious weight in places like Ohio, Florida, western Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Indiana - no state is too small in the battle for electoral votes, ask Al Gore.

Not to mention I'm highly dubious of any poll that shows people as "undecided" this deep into the campaign. There's new research indicating undecideds are "are sometimes fooling themselves, having already made a choice at a subconscious level." So, remember, whenever you see a poll showing more than 10 percent of potential voters as still figuring it all out, that might actually be a voter too embarrassed to admit he or she can't cast a ballot for the black guy with a funny-sounding name.

I'm not usually given to rash decisions. But I'm worried here. Obama seems poised to name his veep pick before the week is up. Is it too late to reconsider?

UPDATE: Apparently, I'm in good company. Michael Tomasky agrees. Continue Reading »

In search of a better epilogue: Gene Upshaw

In recent years, it became popular to vilify NFL union head Gene Upshaw for all the things people said that he hadn't done and wouldn't do.

What's often left unsaid are all the things Upshaw actually did. Upshaw, who died last night of pancreatic cancer, left behind a legacy of accomplishment that defies his very modest south Texas roots.

A few years ago, I tracked down Upshaw on his cell phone for a story about his alma mater, Texas A&M-Kingsville, and its improbable success at sending players into the NFL despite being about as far from the spotlight as a football program can be. Upshaw was the prototype.

It would be best if I just refer to the passage from that story here:

Upshaw's path to the NFL was anything but traditional.

During a freshman orientation in 1963, Upshaw stopped to watch football practice at Javelina Stadium. He hadn't planned on playing football in college until coach Gil Steinke, who led Texas A&I to six NAIA titles in 23 years before retiring in 1976, invited him to come out for the team.

Upshaw quickly earned a scholarship, and at the end of his four years with the Javelinas he had transformed himself into the Oakland Raiders' first-round pick.

The transformation didn't stop there. After a 15-year Hall of Fame career with the Raiders, Upshaw became executive director of the players' association and, most notably, ushered in NFL free agency and created a new stream of wealth and freedom for players where none had previously existed.

Despite that, a vocal group of retired players led by Mike Ditka started rallying against Upshaw because of the NFL's somewhat arcane disability claim-system (as if all industries don't have that in common). Of all people, Bryant Gumbel called Upshaw a "personal pet" of the commissioner on national TV. Problem was, as ESPN's TMQ astutely noted, Upshaw had actually created a system that was " fabulous not only for current NFL players but for the very retirees now complaining so bitterly."

For more on the topic, Sports Illustrated's Gary Smith sketched a remarkably complex and compelling portrait of Upshaw and his very public battle earlier this year. Needless to say, as a former Raider, Upshaw had little fear of being the bad guy.

In the end, Upshaw was still battling the perception of being a lapdog. I wonder how much this ugly showdown contributed to his swift decline in health - at 63, he was in remarkable shape and worked out religiously. He deserved a better epilogue, I think.

I'll never forget his final words to me during that conversation, when I'd interrupted his preparation for a family vacation to Mexico. We chatted amiably for about 30 minutes, as if we'd known each other for far longer. At the end of the conversation, I thanked him again for his time and apologized for holding him up. It's ok, Upshaw said, "it was my pleasure."

No, Gene. It was mine. Continue Reading »

Dropping the baton

I figured something like this might happen to the U.S. men's and women's 400-meter relay teams. Especially after their collectively terrible performances in the individual 100-meter competition.

Dropping the baton happens more often than you'd think at this level - notably, the U.S. men's team did it at the Seoul Games in 1988 when it was a slight gold-medal favorite over the Ben Johnson-led Canadians. So, it's certainly plausible the relay snafus were simply a case of bad timing and worse luck.

But there's a nagging part of me that wonders if the Americans sabotaged their own chances to prevent a potential embarrassment against the Jamaicans in both races.

Don't think it didn't cross Tyson Gay's somewhat fragile mind that he'd probably have to hold off Usain Bolt on the anchor leg in the finals. It's probably better not to know for sure how that would have turned out, certainly for Gay.

If anything, the relay failures of the Americans unofficially cemented Jamaica's status as the preeminent sprint champs of the world. And really, we didn't need the visceral proof to know that. Continue Reading »

The bright side of The Games

If you like Olympic athletes and attractive women (and many of you do), then you'll most certainly like this link to an impressive picture thread.

Some of this material is probably NSFW but I guess that depends on where you work.

If I'd only known beforehand, I probably would have been all about synchronized swimming. Continue Reading »

Coming out of the dark

Via Matt, a link to a New York Times article about several companies that are embracing more transparency during salary negotiations.

This can't help but be a good thing, especially since management efforts to keep employees in the dark about the going-rate has effectively been used to suppress salaries. It's highly frustrating, and something that I've experienced a couple times in recent years. Each time, I came away feeling that I left too much money on the table during negotiations.

But how could I possibly know? I had nothing to compare my experience to. My future co-workers were understandably chintzy about telling a newcomer about their respective paychecks. And, sadly enough, this is not at all unusual:

"It’s a very American, very middle-class phenomenon,” said Ed Lawler, the director of the Center for Effective Organizations at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, who has studied salary transparency since 1962. “The way we were raised is that it was bad taste to talk about how much you make.”

Our pay “tells people what others perceive to be our value,” he added, “and we worry that we will fall short."

Therein lies the problem. Somehow, someway, we've come to conflate salary with personal value, and fearful that we don't measure up, all but a few of us are extremely guarded when it comes to talking about what we earn. Which can only benefit management.

This is where collective bargaining can be helpful. Having worked at a union-protected news agency once before, I can tell you that transparency about salaries goes a long way toward assessing your worth to your employers. This is helpful for professional development, no?

But if we're not moving toward collective bargaining and unions, then it would seem the rank-and-file among us would stop being so tight-lipped about our paychecks. The only ones who win under our present system are management.

As Matt notes:

"After all, management knows perfectly well what everyone’s earning. And management also has some sense of what everyone is worth. And management wouldn’t pay people more than management thought they were worth, but management would gladly pay someone less."
Continue Reading »

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Of veeps and abortion rights

Of all the political hot-button issues that matter in this particular election cycle, I simply can't understand this renewed Republican fixation with abortion.

This occurred to me recently, as I listened to yet another pundit explain that right-wingers wouldn't stand for the pick of a pro-choice vice president nominee for John McCain. That specifically means Joseph Lieberman and Tom Ridge, candidates who are flawed for Republicans for a number of wholly unrelated reasons.

But as a practical matter, abortion has been legal - with varying restrictions - in our nation for the past 35 years. For an issue that has had little personal effect on an overwhelming majority of contemporary voters, it seems a bit imprudent to use abortion as the fulcrum upon which to decide the bottom half of a presidential ticket.

What about the war in Iraq? The slumping economy? Soaring fuel prices? The housing crisis? These would seem to be the issues of substance that McCain and, to a lesser degree, his vice president could actually affect through a Republican agenda.

On the other hand, abortion would be a much more difficult fight for the executive branch and would require some level of involvement by the other two branches of the government (at the least, the nomination process for any potential Supreme Court justices and a majority vote of that panel - though conservatives may be only a vote away from overturning Roe v. Wade).

Don't let conservatives fool you. Neither McCain nor his vice president could unilaterally decide to make abortion illegal because they like babies. It's more complicated than that - McCain has a better chance of having barbecue this weekend over at John Lewis' house.

I'll grant that there are plenty of valid reasons to oppose abortion rights (though as a guy, I can't understand much the male concern with a woman's personal reproductive choices). But to disqualify a candidate from the veepstakes based on his or her beliefs about one - one - issue, without regard to qualifications, stance on other important issues or whether he or she helps McCain in November, seems unwise.

Which makes a lot of sense, given who we're talking about. Continue Reading »

Barack's right-hand man

If Reggie Love can write - and, as a Duke grad, there's no reason to suggest that he can't - he will have a hell of a memoir on his hands someday.

Check out this E:60 report on Love, Barack Obama's right-hand man and former Duke football and basketball star. The segment is appropriately titled "Chief of Stuff." (hat tip to my boy Darryl for the link). Also check out the accompanying story on

To me, Love is proof that sacrifice and versatility can go a long way on a number of levels. For awhile, he was making $20K-something working in a mail room on Capitol Hill. Now he's taking e-mails from Scarlett Johansson and playing pick-up hoops with Barack.
By the way, if Reggie isn't so good with the words, consider this my formal offer to be his ghostwriter. Even though I hate Duke.
Continue Reading »

Usain Bolt is Unbelievable

Usain Bolt strikes twice in Beijing, completing an unprecedented world-record double with a mind-boggling 19.30 in the 200-meter final.

Even former Olympic champ and world-record holder Michael Johnson, who lost what I assumed was a nearly unbreakable mark in the 200, is dumbfounded by the breakout performance of the 21-year-old Bolt.

Consider that before Johnson ran the record-setting 19.32 in 1996, the previous mark was 19.72. And it stood for 24 years.

It's tough to know what Bolt might have done to the record had someone actually been around near the finish line to push him - second place in the race finished more than a half-second behind Bolt, which is a virtual blowout in Olympic-level sprints.

Thing is, Bolt might never have a serious rival - much like boxer Roy Jones Jr. in his mid-1990s prime. Bolt is racing only against the clock and the limits of the human body. Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell were never contenders- and, really, there's no shame in that. It's funny to think that, only a couple weeks ago, some observers thought Bolt might finished third of that trio in the 100 given his lack of international experience.

Like most other things, Bolt quickly put those doubts to rest.

As a note, the great thing about the Olympics is the opportunity to read about events from newspapers in other parts of the world. Sometimes, the American-centered coverage doesn't give us quite the significance of events that we're not winning.

Take for example, this piece from a Jamaican newspaper that takes issue with people criticizing Bolt for "showboating" in the 100-meter final.

Also, The Times Online - from the UK - fills us in on the rapid rise of Bolt. Continue Reading »

Phelps cashing in on his gold rush

Michael Phelps should just take this bit of advice (and, really, the only advice that I'm qualified to offer him): you can't turn Lindsay Lohan into a housewife. And don't try.

But if Lohan really wants to meet Phelps, there's no doubt the Golden Boy will need to dip heavily into the massive condom stash at the Olympic Village.

Either way, it seems as if Phelps is finally poised to start enjoying the real spoils of his Olympic victories. Possibly in a way that few other American stars have before - unless I'm really underestimating the playboy appeal of Jim Thorpe.
Amanda Beard and Lily Donaldson weren't a bad start. Lohan might a slight upgrade in terms of looks and celeb status (if you can ignore that nagging cocaine problem). However, if he's really interested in going for gold, Phelps might want to figure out a way to meet with and console a really disappointed Paraguayan javelin thrower.
In many ways, that might be the biggest prize of the Beijing Games.
Continue Reading »

Obama: The military's money man

As a counter to the John McCain war hero spiel, Barack Obama and his campaign might want to start publicizing this nugget (hat tip to Michael Tomasky) about who's in the lead among contributions from troops currently deployed overseas: Obama, by a 6-to-1 margin.

That lopsided spread is surprising, considering McCain is a decorated war veteran and the traditional appeal of Republican candidates among military types.

Of course, one plausible explanation could be those who sent in contributions might be disproportionately black and brown, and that Obama has committed to withdrawing troops from Iraq within about 16 months. McCain, meanwhile, seems to like to fight and claims to know how to win wars without explaining what a win in Iraq might actually mean.

As Tomasky points out: "if McCain were leading 6-to-1 among this group we'd be hearing a lot about it because it would fit with the established narrative."

I've heard only snippets from Obama's address yesterday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention but I hope this factoid came up at one point or another. More people should know these things. Continue Reading »

Allow him to reintroduce himself

Buried somewhere in the middle of this story about former Tony Toni Tone' frontman Raphael Saadiq is this tantalizing nugget of news: D'Angelo is somewhere in a studio, working on some new music.

It's about time. In fact, it's well past time.

When D'Angelo released his Grammy-winning sophomore album "Voodoo" in 2000, I was a senior in college, Bill Clinton was in his final months as president, Elian Gonzalez was on his way back to Cuba and my Internet browser of choice was Netscape Navigator.

Since then, D'Angelo has virtually faded from the spotlight except for a somewhat public battle with alcoholism and drug addiction and a stint in rehab (more on all that here). He's made more headlines than music, and to be honest, he hasn't made that many headlines.

Either way, I just hope he can stay clean and focused long enough to get out this long-awaited third album, which is reportedly named "James River." D'Angelo needs music and music, R&B in particular, really needs him; I don't think I can take another "hit" song from someone like Chris Brown. No offense.

Just to get a sense of what we've been missing, try this out. When I first heard this song, I knew I would be hooked. Has it really been 13 years?
Continue Reading »

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

McCain's third wise man

If John McCain really plans on consulting U.S. Rep. John Lewis (pictured at left) should he become president, he probably should tell Lewis first.

Lewis seemed as baffled as everyone else after McCain dubbed him one of the "three wisest people" he knew and someone he would rely heavily upon should he make it into the White House during a presidential forum Saturday at a California megachurch.

"I cannot stop one human being, even a presidential candidate, from admiring the courage and sacrifice of peaceful protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge or making comments about it," Lewis said in a statement to Mother Jones. But "Sen. McCain and I are colleagues in the US Congress, not confidantes. He does not consult me. And I do not consult him."

And it's doubtful that McCain was seriously going to spend some alone time with Lewis. Can you really imagine McCain calling Lewis into the Oval Office to get advice about efforts to pursue offshore drilling or to sort through Supreme Court justice candidates? Lewis over Phil Gramm or Lindsey Graham? Joe Lieberman?

Get real. That was a silly (and confusing) bit of pandering, even for McCain. Not only has McCain never sought out a relationship with Lewis in their 22 years together in Congress but, as Mother Jones notes, didn't even invite him to a speech he gave in Selma earlier this year celebrating the efforts of protesters like Lewis during the 1965 civil-rights march later dubbed “Bloody Sunday.”

And this isn't the first time McCain has tried, somewhat curiously, to exploit Lewis' civil-rights legacy for political advantage.

It’s missteps like this, I think, that make many black people wary of testing out Republicans and other brands of right-wingers. We’re not ignorant of McCain’s mediocre record on civil rights, including his efforts to keep Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday from becoming a national holiday. It also doesn’t take a grizzled politico to see McCain has done little to reach out to black voters during his time in office – being ambiguous about flying the Confederate flag over the South Carolina statehouse was telling - or on the campaign trail.

Had McCain simply reeled off three names of old white guys - or maybe Mrs. Buffalo Chip -during Saturday's showdown at Saddleback Church, no one would have really cared. It would have been par for the course, and few people would have even batted an eye. But for McCain to inexplicably throw Lewis' name into the mix was disingenuous and came off as insincere.

It was the political equivalent of George Costanza calling his exterminator over for dinner, with McCain hoping to score some points with an audience that knows better. That's... what we used to call him in high school, the exterminator. He's a linebacker. Oh, did we have some wild times.

John Lewis, who is supporting Barack Obama, is going to be one of McCain's three wise men? Hardly.

McCain will ultimately be judged by his actions, or lack thereof, when it comes to some of these sorts of issues. In the end, talking about consulting John Lewis doesn’t mean a whole lot if McCain hasn’t actually talked with John Lewis.
Continue Reading »

Monday, August 18, 2008

Good stuff

Thanks to Matthew Yglesias, I have a new favorite blog. Feel free to check out Michael Tomasky's spot over at Guardian America.

But, please, come on back home when you're finished. Continue Reading »

A job ain't nothing but work

Posting should be pretty light today. My day job is demanding a lot from me with Fay bearing down on Florida, and later this evening, I need to make a much-needed swing by the treadmill and I probably should crack open a book (or three) before the night is through.

I hope you’ll miss me as much as I miss you.

That said, don’t sleep – I have some stuff I want to get into this space. It may just be awhile before I’m able to get it all down. Maybe later tonight, maybe early tomorrow. Maybe 30 minutes from now.

Stay tuned. Continue Reading »

A Senator and a Gentleman

Field Negro wonders whether Obama was too gentlemanly in his defense of McCain during an exchange today with a supporter during a town hall meeting in Reno.

"He was the fattest man when he got off the plane....He didn't want to talk about how he turned in all those names," the supporter said of McCain.

As is his style, Obama refused to co-sign on a clearly inappropriate remark: "Respectfully I am going to disagree about Senator McCain's service, I think his policies are terrible, I think his service was honorable."

However, Field Negro wasn't impressed: "Don't apologize and come to the other guy's defense. ... (Bush) and his ilk show their opponents no respect, and that's how they win elections."

I'd also like to respectfully disagree.

The answer for Obama and other Democrats, I think, is not to engage in the same sort of divisive, Swiftboat-style politics that twice sent Bush to the White House. Obama has not become a frontrunner by fighting dirty; he's offered a more nuanced, thoughtful approach for voters around the country who seem to be growing tired of the resolute and righteous Right Wing.

You really think, given the chance, that Field Negro's so-called "frat boy" could win his way into the White House with the same playbook? I think we all know the answer to that.

Were Obama to embrace cheap shots and deploy Democratic Rove-like goons, it might actually taint one of his more appealing qualities. He is a gentleman, and aspires to elevate political discourse in a way that has been sorely missing from 21st-Century campaigns. Things done changed, as Biggie might say.

And that includes occasionally coming to the defense of an opponent who might not return the favor. Continue Reading »

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Nothing "Lite" about Lakewood

Surely, Barbara Ehrenreich of The Nation meant no compliment to Joel and Victoria Osteen when she referred to their brand of faith as "Christianity Lite."

And I think I resent that jab.

Whatever Ehrenreich - or anyone else - thinks happened aboard that infamous Continental Airlines flight in December 2005, the Osteens have earned a tremendous amount of credibility with me and tens of thousands of others who have passed through the doors of Lakewood Church in Houston.

Let's share: During a really rough stretch in mid-2005, I found myself looking for something, anything that might renew my belief in myself and in the goodwill of others. It was a really, really low point in my life. Maybe the lowest.

So, one Sunday, virtually on whim, I decided to try out the megachurch that had recently moved into the old Compaq Center, once home to my beloved Houston Rockets. No Biblical scholar myself, I simply was looking to feel better about my prospects, feel better about myself and maybe hear The Word.

It worked. I did this, ahem, religiously, for about six months until I moved away from Houston. Occasionally, I would come home for the weekend and stop by Lakewood. When I couldn't make it back, I'd watch Pastor Osteen preach his "power of postive-thinking" doctrine on TV.

Through it all, I was never under the illusion that Joel Osteen was some great, learned, Bible-thumping pastor. Occasionally, the sermons could be a little soft, a bit weak. I know plenty of other Lakewood parishioners who felt the same way. But, in the end, Lakewood was my gateway back to belief and spiritual health.

Understand, I'm far from a devout Christian. This is neither a boast nor a off-handed moment of self-deprecation. It's simply the truth. I'm just not hypersensitive about criticism of the church or The Church. I'm dealing with my own skepticism, you know?

But I do know this: Pastor Joel and the Osteen family open the doors to Lakewood, encourage people to accept themselves and work to change their circumstances and enjoy fellowship together (even with gays, my goodness), and thousands of people leave happy every Sunday. This can't be a bad thing.

And no matter what Ehrenreich might have people believe, there was nothing "Lite" about any of that. Continue Reading »

What's playing in my deck ...

When I was a child, my mother used to have a rule that no secular music - primarily my collection of occasionally profane hip-hop or sexually charged R&B - would be played on Sunday until noon. Assuming, of course, that we didn't go to church that morning.

Until recently, it was a rule that I abided by. I'm not sure if this is a result of me owning a really weak crop of gospel music or if I've steadily become a heathen in recent years - it doesn't help that I regularly work on Sunday mornings.

I probably need to get some more church in my life. Either way, iTunes came up with this:

1. Written All Over Your Face by Rude Boys featuring Gerald Levert
2. After The Love Is Gone by Earth, Wind & Fire
3. If I Should Die by Jay-Z featuring Da Ranjahz
4. Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta by Geto Boys (H-Town, represent!)
5. Coming Where I'm From by Anthony Hamilton

"Tried to be good/Tried to keep from trouble/Living too fast/Tried to make good on the hustle."

Something about hearing Anthony Hamilton makes me want to eat a bowl of grits, place all my belongings in a sack and hitchhike back to Louisiana.

Just sayin'. Continue Reading »