Is Hillary Jealous of Bill? Or was it sexism?

Jealousy probably is the wrong word to use, but that’s exactly what a lot of media watchers concluded after the Secretary of State got testy in answering a question thought to be about her husband. Bill Clinton, you see, casts a long shadow. His work in freeing those two journalists from North Korea sent speculation abuzz.

What new role might he play in an Obama Administration? Did he freelance? How much did Hillary know about the mission in advance? There were even jokes about his being on the plane with two women.

For a lot of people, this meant the Big Dog was back.

For his wife, it meant having to share the spotlight on a situation that’s normally handled by her office. And remember, this is a woman who came close to being President of the United States, and now handles foreign policy for the most powerful nation in the world. So how is this made manifest?

A university student in Kinshasa, Congo asks her what was translated as “Mr. Clinton” would think about a World Bank concern regarding a Chinese loan offer to the Congolese government. Clinton fired back, “My husband is not Secretary of State. I am”. If you look at the video of her response, her exasperation is clear.

And you know what? She’s got a point.

Reverse the people involved here, and ask yourself if Bill Clinton would have been asked a similar question in an identical situation. Maybe, maybe not, but could Mrs. Clinton have been reacting to what she felt was a sexist inference? To add an ironic twist to the saga, ABC News says the translator got the question wrong, and that the student was actually asking what President Obama, not former President Clinton thought of that loan offer.

So now we’ll go through at least one news cycle with snarky talking heads, male and female, cocking their eyebrows and asking “What’s wrong with Hillary”? And the substantive work she’s been doing since her appointment will mean nothing. Is she getting enough rest? Will Bill be ordered to fade into the shadows? How are they really getting along?

And once again, we’ll see one unintended consequence of cable news without end. I’ve talked about it far too many times on this blog, but only the demands of the 24 hour news machine can take a possibly misunderstood question and run with it like this. And that’s because we as news/political junkies need our fix.

Too bad. But what do you think?

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Death Panel? What Death Panel?

So now Sarah Palin, private citizen, weighs in on healthcare via (what else?) Facebook.

She calls President Obama’s healthcare reform “downright evil”, and opines it will create a “death panel” that would determine who gets access to care. Death panel indeed! Where do they get this stuff from?

In this case, Palin’s fears about her son Trig and her parents have to do with a provision in the House healthcare reform bill that would provide VOLUNTARY end of life counseling to terminally ill patients. Somehow, and no one seems to be sure exactly how, that’s been turned into euthanasia, and medicine circa 1930s Germany (I’m not making this up).

So I guess this is what Palin means by trying to “effect change” from outside her elected office. Nice try. Combine Palin’s utter nonsense (and the attention it’s getting) with the disruption of town hall meetings on healthcare reform, and you have a small but vocal segment of the American body politic trying to impose its will on the rest of us.

medicare

Their end game is to dilute reform to make it virtually unrecognizable from what we have now. Anything else, they bleat, like a public option or single payer puts us on the path to socialism. But what path does the current system put us on? Could it be something like Social Darwinism, where only the healthy survive?

Strip away all the rhetoric, and what leg do opponents of healthcare reform have to stand on? Put simply, they want no part of a system that affords the working poor access to quality care. If you make so little as to qualify under Medicaid, fine. If not, those geometric increases in the cost of health insurance premiums are on you, pal.

And who funds reform opponents? A guy named Rick Scott, the founder of “Conservatives for Patients Rights”. He also founded a hospital corporation that paid out $1.7 billion dollars to Uncle Sam for fraud. So let’s see now. We’ve got a group of vocal opponents of Obama’s healthcare plan who disrupt meetings at the behest of a failed governor and a medical fraudster. Nice.

I for one am still not ready to give up on single payer, universal care for all. I know people are saying it’s not politically feasible, people have said the same thing about other, equally worthy pieces of legislation. There’s something utterly galling about having the debate on this issue hijacked by the small, the petty, the misinformed, and the deliberately misleading.

As they say across the pond, death panel my arse. What do you think?

Skip Gates Busted- At Home While Black?

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was busted last week in the comfort of his own home. As far as anyone can tell, the reason was because he wasn’t happy at being confronted by police after a neighbor reported a break-in.

skip gates mugshot

The break-in was Skip Gates trying to enter his own home.

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Even more interesting, Gates was arrested for “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space”.

Okay. This happened in Cambridge, which last I checked was in the Boston area. If cops arrested every college kid who got “loud and tumultuous in a public space”, how many kids would be in jail?

Skip Gates was mad because he felt he was being profiled.

At issue here, beyond whether he identified himself to police (there are reports he did, and reports he didn’t), is the maddening sense that no matter how far you get in life, to some people you’re just another black m an. That, and whether expressing that emotion to a cop who at some point must have known he made a mistake constitutes a crime. There will be people, both black and white, who will argue that this incident is being blown out of proportion. Some will even bring up Barack Obama as proof Skip Gates is simply a malcontent with no beef here.

To all those who think there is no consequence to being black in America, I give you the case of Shem Walker.

This Brooklyn Army veteran was shot and killed by an undercover cop on July 11th. His crime? He confronted the cop, who was posing as a drug dealer, on the stoop of his mother’s house.

shem walker

Shem Walker had experienced problems before with people dealing on his mother’s stoop. He paid for his concern with his life. No one is alleging overt racism. The cop who killed him was also black. Yet for all the news about Skip Gates, Shem Walker generates no national headlines.

Some may make the case there’s no link between the two. Those of us who are black and have made it to a certain age know better. Law enforcement makes certain assumptions about black men. Not all do, but enough do that it’s a problem for those who live their lives within the law.  It may not be as pronounced as the days when Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Les Payne was stopped by cops a black from his Long Island home and told there’s no way he could actually live there.

But then, to Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, it’s as if very little has changed. To the family of Shem Walker, you can change very little to nothing.

So you tell me. Was Henry Louis Gates racially profiled?

Can a 10-year-old Beat Down the “N” Word?

Being a man of a certain age, I have a long history with the “N” word. I have heard it used in every way imaginable. That would be as a derogatory, ugly reference to my race (by wither black or white people), as a term of endearment (mostly but not exclusively by black people), and as a throwaway utterance (I didn’t mean nothin’ by it).

It’s always made me wince, no matter what the context, because I know its history.

That means no matter how rappers tried to rationalize their use of the “N” word, it rang hollow for me. Even gifted hip hop artists seem to just throw it into their lyrics as a means of gaining “street credibility”.

Now, all this having been said, it seems to me that use of the “N” word is starting to decline, at least among black people. Maybe it’s the election of President Barack Obama, or maybe linguistic fashion is changing, but I don’t hear it quite as much in ordinary conversation among young black people.

Some might argue that, as a black man of a certain age, I just don’t hear as much conversation among young black folks as I used to?

It’s possible that my perception is wrong, and that groups like Ban the “N” Word have had no impact at all.

NWord-tshirt

However, a friend sent me one of those Funspace videos on Facebook the other day. Normally, I play about 10 seconds of it and then move on, but this one was different. It’s really only after the first 10 seconds that it gets interesting.

It’s a young man named Johnathan McCoy, winner of an oratorical contest at Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple, and his words about moving the “N” word from the vocabulary of black America might just have an impact.

So, instead of continuing with this rant, I give you  10-year-old Johnathan McCoy, whose voice hasn’t even changed yet, dispensing wisdom that should command all our attention.

Many thanks to my old friend Curtis Waller for sending this to me on Facebook.

But bottom line, you tell me. Can the words of this child make people think before they use the “N” word?

Words Into Deeds? Obama Speaks to Middle East

If you read, listened to, or watched President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo, you can’t help but be impressed with its comprehensive nature. He touched on virtually every issue of global concern in the Middle East, from Iran’s nuclear ambitions to respect for women. If you look closely at the early reaction, it seems to fall along predictable lines.

Barack Saudi medal

The question that comes out of all this is whether the Muslim world that Obama was speaking to will trust that American actions will mirror this president’s words. For some in the region, that could be a leap of faith (no pun intended). Many of the problems facing the Middle East, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have raged longer than Barack Obama has been alive.

What then will this president do differently?

He’s called for candor in discussions about areas of disagreement. He also repeated America’s resolve to fight terrorism where it rears its head. Can Muslim countries now believe that Americans can differentiate between radical and moderate Islam? It’s one thing for the president, with experience living in a predominately Muslim country to talk about tolerance.

It’s something else to get that message to the heartland.

Then of course there’s the need for many of the Islamic countries the president was addressing to do likewise. The scourge of ugly stereotypes knows no border or boundary. Muslims harbor them against Americans, Israelis, and yes, even other Muslims. As President Obama points out, no one speech is going to  sweep away these years of misconceptions. Now, however, is a good time to start.

One area that the Middle East will be watching closely is whether this president can convince the Israeli government to stop the spread of settlements in the West Bank. This is an area of serious disagreement between Israel and the US, and places like Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan will be trying to figure out if Obama can convince Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to see things his way.

When it comes to translating words into deeds, that’s a first step. How he handles negotiations (if there will be any) with Iran will also serve as a litmus test. It was significant that President Obama mentioned that “no single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons”. Yet that’s exactly what America has been doing.

The Muslim world should find much to like about this speech. They are right  to want those words translated into concrete deeds, but that will come with time and effort on the part of all of the players.

How do you rate President Obama’s Cairo speech? Can he translate words into deeds?

Obama’s Muslim Roots- Again?

It was bad enough when right wing lugnuts tried to smear President Obama during the election campaign. Remember all those “He’s not Christian, he’s Muslim, and he isn’t really an American” items in the blogosphere? Now, as he tours the Middle East, people who ought to know better are bringing up this foolishness, again.

Witness Jake Tapper, an otherwise “responsible” journalist who has the title Senior White House Correspondent for ABC News (the caps on senior and correspondent are theirs).

Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper

His “Political Punch” column from yesterday is headlined, “The Emergence of President Obama’s Muslim Roots“. Yeah, I know reporters don’t always write their own headlines, but this piece does Tapper’s reputation no good.

It posits the notion that Obama’s people are now willing to talk about his growing up in a Muslim country, and the fact that his father was also a Muslim.

Big deal. We knew all that before, and we also knew the campaign took pains to talk more about Obama’s Christian beliefs than his background of growing up in a predominately Islamic country. We also know why. Throughout the campaign, there were various inferences about Barack Obama’s citizenship, whether his birth certificate was forged, and even the notion that he himself was a terrorist.

Think all that has disappeared? Just take a look at the comments following Tapper’s piece.  For some people, it’s never gone away, because their belief system won’t let it. To be fair, there are a number of comments that make the opposite point, but you have to ask yourself, why would Jake Tapper give Matt Drudge, of all people, fodder for the lead story on his Website?

There are any number of conclusions you could draw from the timing and wording of this item. How about this one?  “Obama heads to Middle East, makes nice with Arabs, means he must be a Muslim”! Is that what Jake Tapper is trying to say? How about flipping the coin, and saying this? “Obama’s contact with the Muslim world as a child can serve him well as he tries to find common ground with leaders in the Middle East”?

But that’s not what we’re reading, not from Jake Tapper or from many others with high sounding titles who write tabloid level articles or columns.

I for one am sick of it. Are you?

Economy? Who cares…

You may have noticed, as I have, that our politicians seem to have stopped talking about the economy.

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Nope, what Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it…Dick Cheney’s trash talk…and whether US prisons can house terrorists …seems to have blown economic news right off the front pages.

The question is, did somebody fix things while the rest of us weren’t looking, or is our attention being diverted for a reason?

Cynic that I am, I choose the latter. Take a look around, America. While things may have bottomed out, they certainly haven’t gotten better. And here’s a telling statistic for you. Last year, there were about 1.7 applicants for every available job. Right now that number is 4.8 applicants. That means those who have been thrown out of work are facing daunting obstacles to finding a new job, even if they’re good at what they do.

Chances are, there are four other people just as good who have sent their resumes to that same HR department. And that’s a single stat. Expand that outward and what you see is a wholesale scramble to reinvent or reset job skills to fit a fast changing market.

But how much do we read or know about the struggles of the everyday working person, or person seeking work?

Hey, that’s not important, pal! Ridiculous arguments about who’s calling the CIA liars (which, by the way, GOP Pelosi stalker Pete Hoekstra actually did), now that’s important.

Barack Obama making the mistake of getting into a spitting match with Dick Cheney (Dick Cheney!!!) over national security is what we ought to spend our time contemplating this Memorial Day Weekend.

Oh, and by the way, our lawmakers don’t just take Monday off. They’re off the whole week! And the House calls it the Memorial Day District Work Period, and they do so with a straight face. The economy, health care, climate change, they’ll all keep until Congress returns. And when it does, we’ll hear more about Republicans wanting a full blown probe of Nancy Pelosi.

Houston, we have a problem. It’s called MISPLACED PRIORITIES. America has a long way to go before the major work that needs to be done to fix things is even halfway finished. When Congress returns, how about they grow a spine and tell Republicans we have a list of terrorists being held in US prisons as long as your arm already. They include everyone from shoe bomber Richard Reid to 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui to American Taliban John Walker Lindh.

Keeping GITMO open or jobs for the American unemployed, which is the Republican priority? Providing health care to those who don’t have it, or trying to gut Nancy Pelosi?

There are choices, aren’t there?

Which topic do you think should be headline news?