Saturday, February 28, 2009


My goodness. More from the New American Tea (Bag) Party here.

Beware Larry Craig. Continue Reading »

Black History Minute (or Two)

That was quick. Black History Month, I mean. But I suppose that's the problem with having it in February.

There was so much to cover, so many things I wanted to learn, so many times I wanted to highlight the contributions made by Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and George Washington Carver. (True story: Dr. Carver died penniless and insane, still trying to play a phonograph record with a peanut.)

Anyway, speaking of music, I've really wanted to clear this up for a long time: 95 South (later known as the 69 Boyz and Quad City DJs) was once the victim of a deceitful and relentess campaign by Tag Team to take credit for one of the catchiest rap songs of the early '90s.

As a Son of the South, I feel it's my responsibility to inform you that "Whoot, There It Is" was released well before "Whoomp! (There It Is)." In fact, "Whoot" started receiving spins in 1993 while "Whoomp" wasn't released until 1994. Not to mention, "Whoot" was the far superior song.

People have been lying about this for far too long. 95 South, I hope it's not too late for us to say we're sorry.

Continue Reading »

Friday, February 27, 2009

Linked Up

I'm thinking of a new name for this regular item. The Dump? Unloading? Linkilicious?

Eh. It's not a big deal, either way:

1. Ben Smith makes a great point: if the GOP burns through Michael Steele, Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin before 2012, who do they have on the bench that isn't a white male?

2. Brilliant: "How is it that the stars of the Republican austerity movement come from the states that suck up the most federal money? Taxpayers in New York send way more to Washington than they get back so more can go to places like Alaska and Louisiana."

3. "Slum love," eh? Friggin'. Baby. Off the hook. TNC pwns Michael Steele about his painful attempts at slanguage. Are we not sure that he's a mole in the Republican Party?

4. Out there, beyond the cutting edge, GOP elected officials are still saying stupid things.

5. A good friend sent me this link, where some run-of-the-mill right-wing nutjob calls for several states to think about nullification in response to President Obama's stimulus plan. I suppose this idea has appeal for people fond of the Civil War. Like some of Sean Hannity's fans.

6. If you can't take your woman out for a date that doesn't involve a restaurant with $240 tables or rounds of $15 martinis, chances are you're spending money on the wrong woman.

7. If you roll with President Obama, you have to be made of win. Even the in-laws.

8. A quintessential example of bad timing. I'm not sure phenomenon is quite the right word.

9. It's Penthouse magazine. Not quite sure that I expected the work atmosphere to be all that tame. But still ... no excuses.

10. As long as you're not hurting anyone and you're being responsible, I could really care less about what goes on in your bedroom. And I absolutely loathe people who resort to name-calling when it comes to women in this regard: "whore," "slut," "ho." Thus, I'm digging the portion of this somewhat explicit sex column labeled "Slut Factor."

11. Speaking of which, I honestly can't understand the antipathy directed at former Danity Kane member Aubrey O'Day. Puffy is some sort of audacious hypocrite, with the nerve to talk about someone being "overly raunchy, and promiscuous."

12. Believe it or not, things are looking worse for Sen. (at the moment) Roland Burris.

13. What to do if you get laid off. Remember: it could happen to any of us.

14. That in mind, my thoughts and prayers are with the folks at the Rocky Mountain News, San Francisco Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News. 2009 is shaping up to be as bad, or worse, than 2008 for the newspaper industry. Sheesh.

15. Regular commenter and blogger extraordinaire A.T. has an on-going list of 25 albums that have made an impression on him. The link is to part one. I've never asked him before, but I get the feeling that he's a music teacher. Even if he's not, I'm still learning quite a bit over at his site.

16. And to make this a Sweet 16, I feel like mentioning that the First Lady has somewhat improbably turned me into a huge fan of Bravo's "Top Chef." I only tolerated the show at first because Padma (pictured above) was involved and because I'm something of a tee-vee hog during football season. But now, I'm hooked. I was absolutely riveted by the season finale, even though the FL's favorite finished in third and an absolute goober won the top prize. It was a good look for them to film the final two shows in N'awlins. Made me miss Louisiana. Once again.

Posting might be light over the weekend. But somehow, I usually seem to find a way to come up with something to talk about and the time to do it.

Stay tuned.
Continue Reading »

President, Please

Within days, I expect Michael Steele to attempt to drop this in during an interview with Neil Cavuto.

We've come a long way from the late '90s, eh?

UPDATE: Fixt the embed. Sorry for the confusion. Continue Reading »

Half Man, Half Amazing

While hip-hop fans spent much of the 1990s arguing about the relative supremacy of Biggie and Tupac, I was thinking the argument wasn't really legit if Nas was left out of the conversation.

On the strength of Illmatic alone, Nas deserves consideration as one of the best rappers of our generation. But don't get me wrong: Nas has been a prolific and important artist well beyond his debut album.

I'm not one to dwell on the good ol' days of his career. It almost seems silly, especially when you sort through his actual catalogue. A second Top 10 list could be made of the songs that didn't make the first cut.

Anyway, first the honorable mentions: Halftime, Thief's Theme, Ether, U Gotta Love It, Get Down, You Know My Style, 2nd Childhood, Made You Look, Doo Rags.

10. Silent Murder - This line has always stuck with me: "Was it the mind of CIA that bumped off Malik Shabazz?/Fuck what they teach in class, I'ma reach the mass." An 8th-grade dropout that made good. Paired with the sample from Soul II Soul's "Get a Life," this one is a classic.

9. One Love - With Q-Tip handling the production, Nas sent out an unforgettable love note to everyone in lockdown. You could easily consider this a sort of social statement, especially given the disproportionate numbers of black men in prison (which hasn't really gotten any better since '94): We haven't forgotten about you.

8. New York State of Mind, Pt. II - I like this one a lot better than the original on Illmatic. Could be that I simply preferred DJ Premier's production on this version.

7. One Mic - Great concept, great execution. I gotta admit that it took awhile for this song to grow on me. Seems like that happens to me a lot when it comes to really good, complicated music. Sometimes I have to ignore my gut, so to speak.

6. Where Y'all At? - This never made the cut for Hip Hop Is Dead, which is too bad. This is the song that album was missing.

5. I Gave You Power - Once again, Nas came up with an interesting concept: a narrative from the perspective of a gangster's gun. Seems simple, but not many have the skills to pull it off.

4. No Idea's Original - My favorite of Nas' numerous mixtape releases and, thankfully, it actually made the cut for The Lost Tapes. Love this part: "On a different coast, but we share the same sunlight/Your part of the world, might be like colors and gangs/While on my side, brothers will murder for different things/But it all revolve around drugs, fame and shorties."

3. It Ain't Hard to Tell - The entire song is a Hip Hop Quotable. And it marries nicely with the track from Large Professor. In fact, it's really hard not to install this joint in the top spot. But everyone can't be No. 1.

2. Nas is Like - Just when people had started to write him off, Nas and DJ Premier teamed up again for what I consider to be his best post-Illmatic song. Even the video feels familiar, just Nas in a booth with a mic, Primo on the 1s and 2s, and the camera panning across the backdrop of New York. This has always been Nas' element and it's obvious.

1. The World is Yours -More than anything, this song represents the artist Nas was and has always strived to be: introspective, boastful, humble, profane, thoughtful and political with a taste for the material. No one has blended those competing instincts quite so well. And it all spills forth on this awesome Pete Rock-produced track.

In retrospect, it's no small wonder that many people consider Illmatic to be Nas' best album. Here's the producers who contributed: DJ Premier, L.E.S., Pete Rock, Q-Tip. That's a virtual murderer's row of hip-hop architects, no?

And what's crazy is that my favorite album of his might be It Was Written. The sequence changes with each spin, much like the order of these songs. If I did this list three months later, the order might be reversed and some songs might not make the cut.

I don't know if I can say about many other solo hip-hop artists. Which means that if we're ever talking G.O.A.T.'s, I'm always going to bring God's Son into the conversation.
Continue Reading »

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Random Acts of YouTube

Teaching you the fine art of self defense since 1978.

I've got lots of paperwork and writing to wrap up today. But more tomorrow, including a links dump and a my personal shoutout to God's Son. Continue Reading »

Nothing but love for ya

Once, I flirted with the idea of getting a tattoo. But I realized I was forcing the issue when I couldn't come up with a really good idea for one - something that I'd be cool with when I was, say, 55.

Why do I mention this? Well, believe it or not, the First Lady is not the first woman I've squired. Just the only one I've seriously considered marrying. And I'd like to think we're both in this for the long haul, the til' death do us bit.

As an aside, I've always thought certain kinds of tattoos on women were cute. Things like butterflies, flowers and phrases in Swahili. Limited to places like shoulder blades, the lower back, ankles, wrists, and maybe the, uh, groinal area like the girl in the picture above.

But for obvious reasons, I'm not down with any tat of someone else's name. That's as much of a repellent as a wedding ring or a baby stroller.
Continue Reading »

An unkind cut

To borrow a line from Ray J, I'm absolutely mind-boggled that two of the best linebackers of my lifetime could be playing for different teams next fall.

Ray Lewis in Dallas? Derrick Brooks in, uh, someplace else?

Just goes to show that everyone eventually gets old and slow. It's not just happening to me:

The rebuilding project has begun in Tampa Bay.

The Bucs sent shockwaves through One Buc Place Wednesday by releasing 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks as part of a sweeping youth movement.

The team also released running back Warrick Dunn, receiver Joey Galloway, linebacker Cato June and receiver Ike Hilliard.

Lewis and Brooks. Both a couple of boys from Florida, both Super Bowl champs, both sure-fire Hall of Famers. If there were better linebackers in the past decade, you're gonna have to prove it to me.

Brooks also might have been the best college linebacker of my lifetime. Continue Reading »

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Deep Thought

Does it make me un-American to think that we can't do anything? Continue Reading »

Down in the bayou

To me, one truism has always been that we get the government that we deserve. Now I'm not so sure anymore.

I'm thinking particularly of the unfortunate souls in Louisiana who've had Bobby Jindal thrust upon them as their leader:

Jindal was something of a disaster. The delivery was awkward and sing-song (comparisons to Kenneth from "30 Rock" are ubiquitous). The arguments were tone deaf and tiresome. The anecdotes were long and pointless. Jindal hadn't quite practiced enough with a teleprompter. He not only seemed like a guy selling a bad product in an infomercial, Jindal seemed like he was new at it.

It was painful to watch, both because the speech was bad and because it was hard not to feel bad for the guy embarrassing himself on national television.

Ok, so maybe it's not fair to draw too many conclusions about his political viability based on a single speech. A speech that is generally a set-up for failure; hardly anyone ever comes off as a winner in the response to a State of the Union-style address.

So, what then of Jindal's actual record? As I noted the other day, he's been quite overrated for a long time now. He once lost to Kathleen Blanco, for chrissakes.

The comparisons to Obama? Uh ...

It's unclear what prompts the comparison between the two other than that they are both young, brown, Ivy League-educated, and beloved by their respective bases. But it's a comparison that the monochromatic Republican Party, anxious to show its inclusiveness, has been happy to accept. That makes it no less inane, and no less transparent an attempt to put a nonwhite face on an increasingly white party.

Jindal and Obama could not be more different, and the contrasts begin but don't end with the fact that one of them changed his name to fit in while the other carried his daddy's "funny" African moniker all the way to the White House.

As the First Lady noted last night, it's highly doubtful that Jindal's father ever called him "Bobby" at a young age. He probably called him Piyush, his given Indian name which apparently means "drink of the Gods." (Also, can you imagine the shitstorm Obama would have faced this fall if he'd publicly referred to himself as something, like, Timmy?)

So yes, Jindal obviously isn't ready for prime time. And he might never be.

But somewhat overlooked last night was his anecdotal Katrina reference to the late Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee. To put it nicely, Sheriff Lee's legacy will not get the GOP out beyond the cutting edge. This, from his obit in the New York Times:

Sheriff Lee always vigorously denied he was a racist. But with his aggressive — and loudly announced — policing of blacks who dared to cross the parish line from New Orleans into Jefferson, he seemed to give voice to a heavily white jurisdiction that sent the Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke to the State Legislature in 1989. This constituency had voted with its feet decades earlier by abandoning the black dominated city.

In 1986, he drew national attention to his normally unremarked-on kingdom of shopping strips and subdivisions when he announced, after a spate of robberies, “If there are some young blacks driving a car late at night in a predominantly white area, they will be stopped.”

... Up to the end, Sheriff Lee continued to issue provocative statements about race and crime. In 2006, he stirred up a final firestorm when he said, discussing a new plan to focus on violence, “We’re only stopping black people.”

In all, it was a provocative bit of hagiography on a night when my sympathy deepened for my old friends in Louisiana. Now it seems as if they'll be stuck with Jindal for another three years, and probably more, depending on the rallying power of the state Democrats.

Either way, you've got to think the wheels are coming completely off that "Jindal in '12" bandwagon. If not, then the GOP seems headed for a ditch. Or, better yet, a bayou. Continue Reading »

The Baddest Men on the Planet

So last night I was watching President Obama make his way through the crowd, through his friends and rivals, Democrats and Republicans and Joe Lieberman, to the podium.

I couldn't help but notice his calm, his cool, his confidence, his fearlessness, his swagger. He looked like he was chewing a piece of gum. Maybe he was swirling around a toothpick. Maybe he was cracking a joke and I couldn't read his lips. Doesn't really matter.

For Republicans and others planning to throw up roadblocks over the next four years, it must have been a demoralizing sight.

Obama was a man in total control of the room, someone who looked totally in his element after only a month on the toughest job in the world. Last night, it seemed inconceivable to me that he would ever lose in a fair fight - of minds, backroom politics, pickup basketball, Pokeno. Whatever.

It all reminded me of the young Mike Tyson.

Weird, huh? Maybe it doesn't make sense. And it probably doesn't. But let me explain - and I'm not talking about last night's speech at all:

It seems crazy now, with Tyson a virtual punchline of a man. A former boxing champion stripped long ago of his invincible veneer. But once upon a time, Tyson was bestowed with the nickname "Baddest Man on the Planet."

And he pretty much was. Iron Mike won his first 19 fights by knockout, 12 in the first round. He was never knocked down, let alone challenged. He wasn't a businessman like Oscar de la Hoya; Tyson once boasted that "if I don't kill him, it don't count." His powerful fists seemed to have been dipped in concrete.

In short, Mike Tyson was the perfect boxing machine.

Long before he was convicted of rape, or bit off Evander's ear, or threw in the towel against some tomato can, I remember Tyson knocking out then-undefeated Michael Spinks in 91 seconds, putting a merciless beating on former champ Larry Holmes and even swelling Mitch "Blood" Green's eye in a Harlem street fight.

But more than anything, I'll always remember this: Tyson making his way to the ring, wearing a white towel cut to fit over his head, black trunks and black shoes with no socks. He not only owned the ring; he owned the arena. He was calm, cool, confident and fearless. He had swagger.

Because of that, I never saw Buster Douglas coming. Tyson certainly didn't. In fact, nobody did - Douglas entered that fight as a 42-to-1 underdog.

And I feel the same way about President Obama now.

The parallel, to me, is a bit unnerving. It reminds me even the GOP, with rising "stars" like Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin and Michael Steele (Tyson's former brother-in-law), have a puncher's chance to turn things around someday.

On that night almost 20 years ago, I cried - literally, tears rolled down my cheeks - when I heard the news of Tyson's loss in Japan. I couldn't even imagine such a thing happening. In my 11-year-old mind, Tyson wasn't ever supposed to taste the canvas.

I'd like to think I'm smarter than that now.

But let me tell you something very real and very true: I never want to find out.

Continue Reading »

Free period

As a nod to my beloved alma mater, I titled this post after the precious between-classes privilege bestowed upon members of the senior class.

Basically, a "free period" was a block of time for students who, by hook or crook, didn't have a class scheduled for that period. We could study in the library, goof around in the cafeteria or hang out on one of the benches scattered around the campus.

Maybe you had them, too.

Anyhow, I mention this because: a. I couldn't think of a better name for this post; b. I needed to give my high school basketball team some overdue props; c. I couldn't find another place for the other item - it doesn't really deserve its own post.

The Crusaders of Strake Jesuit College Prep (in Houston) are undefeated in 33 games, the top-ranked team in Texas' largest classification, the nation's seventh-ranked team in one poll and have four players headed to Division I schools. If they keep it up, they're on track to make some local history.

They kicked off their postseason run last night with a 72-43 win over Katy, a local football powerhouse but pretty much a hoops backwater. Things will get tougher. But I just had to mention that I'm proud of my boys.

Finally, this story really bears mentioning:

Football recruiting, which has long been a strange game, took another perplexing turn Monday when David Oku enrolled at Lincoln East three months before he was scheduled to graduate from Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, Okla.

Oku, the nation's No. 1 rated all-purpose running back by, ... indicated that he wanted to be closer to his girlfriend, whom he met during his visit to watch the Huskers host Virginia Tech.

Wow. I wouldn't even admit that to anyone.
Continue Reading »

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Keepin’ your head above water, making a wave when you can

A few years ago, following a full-blown crisis in my journalism career, I had to live off unemployment benefits for a little more than six months.

It wasn't much money. If I remember correctly, it was $632 every two weeks. But I was grateful for that steady paycheck while I sorted through the rubble and tried to find something meaningful to do with myself.

In the end, my benefits ran out the week before I started a new job in Louisiana. By that time, I had burned through all of my savings. All of it and then some. Had the money run out any earlier, it would have been really tough.

But I was never in danger of losing my apartment or missing a meal. My parents wouldn't have had it any other way.

So as far as unemployment goes, mine was a best-case scenario. I was young, single, childless, college-educated and buffered from epic fail by my family. Not everyone is so lucky.

In recent months, two of my good friends - each married with two young children and a mortgage - have found themselves out of a job. Both are college-educated, both have done well in their respective professions and neither have a criminal record.

But things happen, you know?

And it's useful to remember this when the clowns - we know who they are - are spouting off about losers wasting taxpayer dollars or launching into a rant about "entitlements." There are real people with real problems out there who need this money, no matter the political posturing of Southern GOP Govs. Jindal, Barbour and Sanford.

You never know. It might happen to you.

h/t TNC Continue Reading »

Blue Dogs

The only kind I like.

UPDATE: If and when President Obama ever follows through on his campaign promise to Malia and Sasha, I bet the pooch ain't a blue dog either. Continue Reading »

Monday, February 23, 2009

Deep thought

The steroids "controversy" has given me yet another reason to ignore baseball season. Continue Reading »

Anybody in their right mind ...

... knows that Alan Keyes is not in his right mind. So why stick the mic in his face?

He's right. This is insanity. Continue Reading »

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Temps

As you might imagine, I just had to watch - again and again - "The Temptations" miniseries that was running on VH1 this weekend. Much to the First Lady's chagrin.

No, the miniseries wasn't particularly well-written or even well-acted. But it was chockful of nuggets and entertaining moments that kept me riveted both times I caught it on the tee-vee. A few things worth mentioning:

1. Leon was absolutely born to play the role of a Motown-era soul singer. Seems like he even plays one in real life. But just remember: can't nobody sang, like old Eddie Caine.

2. In his lengthy and generally distinguished acting career, Obba Babatunde has played both Berry Gordy and Gordy Berry. That's definitely some sort of accomplishment.

3. I wonder if it's possible that Otis Williams managed to outlive all the original group members because he really didn't bring much to the table. Walk with me: David Ruffin was the lead singer; Eddie Kendricks could also work the pipes; Melvin Franklin brought the bass; and Paul Williams was the choreographer. What, exactly, was Otis doing in the group?

I might note, however, that he was also greatly aided by the fact that he apparently didn't have much of a taste for cocaine, alcohol or cigarettes.

4. And now, because the miniseries pretty much ignored the brother - Dennis Edwards:

Continue Reading »

The kickoff to 2012?

UPDATE: It's really interesting how the Republican governors of two large and diverse states like California and Florida are appealing to reason about accepting stimulus funds for their reeling constituents while their Southern counterparts are tripling down on the crazy. As a native of the South, I try not to buy into the hype about how backwards things are down here. But Jindal, Barbour and Sanford really aren't doing their part to starve the stereotype.

Gov. Bobby Jindal: Sacrificing the residents of Louisiana upon the altar of his own political ambition since 2009.

BATON ROUGE -- Saying that it could lead to a tax increase on state businesses, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Friday that the state plans to reject as much as $98 million in federal unemployment assistance in the economic stimulus package.

Jindal, who has emerged as a leading Republican critic of the $787 billion spending and tax-cut bill signed into law this week by President Barack Obama, said the state would accept federal dollars for transportation projects and would not quarrel with a $25-per-week increase in unemployment benefits.

Both of those items are financed entirely with federal dollars and require the state only to accept the money. The part that Jindal rejected would require permanent changes in state law that the governor said makes it unacceptable.

"You're talking about temporary federal spending triggering a permanent change in state law, " Jindal said.

But U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., disputed the governor's interpretation and said the new unemployment benefits are designed to be temporary."This bill is an emergency measure designed to provide extra help during these extraordinarily tough times," Landrieu said. "To characterize this provision as a 'tax increase on Louisiana businesses' is inaccurate."

Of course, Landrieu is correct on both counts. Ryan Powers drops the knowledge here but, in short, Jindal is essentially denying unemployment benefits for nearly 25,000 of his own residents in a state where the needs have never been greater.

I can only assume this is what Michael Steele when he said the GOP was looking "beyond the cutting edge." Right off of a cliff.

But before Jindal keeps burnishing his conservative bonafides for 2012, he might want to remember that he's only 1-1 in Louisiana gubernatorial races and he benefitted mightily in 2007 from an absence of quality competitors. When former Sen. John Breaux dropped out of the race, Jindal only had to knock off lesser lights like Walter Boasso and Foster Campbell. Not surprisingly, that wasn't much of a problem.

However, history is a funny thing. People tend to forget it by the bunches. And if history is any guide, Jindal is far from unbeatable in Louisiana.

If the Louisiana Dems haven't thought hard about mounting a serious challenge for '11, they might want to start. Continue Reading »

What we deserve

I had a moderately interesting e-conversation this week about government "entitlement spending." In general, I loath the sort of rhetoric that suggests that federal funds are being wasted on an undeserving class of citizens.

In case you're new to this blog, let me state up front: my heart bleeds liberally. Got that? I think that part of living in a civilized society means that sometimes our tax money will be used to provide for poor single mothers, underprivileged youth and seniors whose pensions don't cover enough of their needs. Even if they're prone to making ridiculous decisions.

I feel this way not only because I have a general concern for my fellow citizens, but because I'm smart enough to realize that life doesn't always unfold according to my plans. Anyone can be laid low by terminal illness, unemployment (I have two good friends who have a total of four kids that were laid off in the past few months) or even divorce.

That said, Atrios pretty much echoes my thoughts about this issue:

It is, of course, true that any government program may provide a benefit to someone who "we" think is "undeserving." That could be because of corruption, poor program design, mistake, gaming of the system, etc. But as Hilzoy suggests, setting up some elaborate system to weed out undesirables is costly and intrusive and often more trouble than it's worth.

Even simple means testing, very common of course, sets up perverse incentives for people. But one day I hope this country grows up and recognizes that the fear that maybe someone is getting something I'm not and they don't deserve shouldn't be the primary philosophy of governance.

Continue Reading »