Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Tribute to Heroes

To all heroes, to my hero and to yours. Heroes do not always have to wear blue uniforms nor do they always have to bear arms. Heroes come in all forms. They come running down a hundred and ten flights of stairs or like my Mother, they multitask and care for everyone. They give selflessly, not for a reward but just because, for that's what heroes do. To the city of New York to the FDNY to the families of 9/11 to your hero and to mine, I lead a salute to everyone who has ever served and continues to serve a need greater than theirs. Thank you.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mating Habits of Elephants

In their natural habitats, mature female elephants come into estrus (heat) a few days every year. For this specie estrus marks a period of ovulation during which the elephants are ready to mate and possibly get pregnant. Elephants are interesting animals. They are highly intelligent and very social and have cohesive family units. The family unit is usually led by the matriarch who leads the entire herd in search of food and water. Elephants are gentle yet very strong animals. Typically, elephants are somewhat similar across the globe. From Africa to Asia, similar behavioral traits are obvious among elephants. However, while elephants across the globe are alike American elephants differ markedly. The mating habits of the American elephant is shrouded in secrecy and cloaked with hypocrisy and lies. Often, their mating sites are discovered, resulting in huge news stories, resignations from office, public apologies and lots of damage control.

A few days after the death of Strom Thurmond, a story that would forever change his legacy broke. Strom Thurmond always had very strange mating habits. But what differs markedly in his case was there was as absence of a public apology. Not that he would have given one had the knowledge of his first child become public before his passing. Thurmond was in his time the foremost crusader for segregation and still holds the record for the longest filibuster ever by a United States Senator in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957. For all Senator Thurmond's crusading he lived by a double standard. He nonetheless managed to keep the fact that he had fathered a child with his parent's maid when he was a young lad a secret. His relations with the maid Carrie Butler would result in the birth of his daughter Essie Mae Washington-Williams who was adopted by Butler's uncle and aunt. Although Senator Thurmond did not actively play a role in the upbringing of his child he supported her financially and granted her access to him that led many to suspect that she was more than just a loyal constituent. If hypocrisy didn't have a definition, I would put Strom Thurmond's name as a reference. He severely hindered the progress of African-Americans in the United States. First from South Carolina, and when that platform became too small, from the floor of the United States Capitol. Thurmond did all this hoisting the banner of the Republican party. A party which all too often has produced men and sometimes women like Thurmond who find it hard to practice what they preach. Such is the nature of American elephants.

Then there was Mark Foley. Everyone who worked with and knew Mark Foley knew he was gay. Everyone except for Mark Foley. Foley was born in the Florida town of Lake Worth to Irish Catholic parents who raised him as a devout Catholic lad. Foley lived the life of the astute Catholic boy marked by service in the Catholic church and attendance at Sacred Heart Catholic School. It was at school that Foley crossed paths with the school priest The Reverend Anthony Mercieca. It was with Mercieca that Foley began a journey of sexual exploration. Mercieca would often take the impressionable Foley on trips that involved sauna baths in the nude, trips his parents unwittingly encouraged. Trips and events that became etched in Foley's psyche and were reproduced when he began fraternizing with young male Congressional pages. Events that would lead Foley to enacting tough laws in Congress. Laws that were meant to prevent young boys like Foley from falling prey to sexual predators like Mercieca. However, Foley's laws were not passed quickly enough to prevent him from morphing into a twenty-first century Mercieca. Foley's life did not end on September 28, 2006 when the story about his inappropriate instant messaging with Congressional pages became public. Let's just say we became privy to the mating habit of an American elephant from Florida. Foley unlike Thurmond is different because he actually passed laws that could lead to his own prosecution. At least Thurmond's laws halted the progress of African-Americans but Foley's were his own death sentence signed with his own blood. While he served in the House Foley developed a reputation as the foremost crusader against child pornography and at one point developed an interest in reviewing a nudist resort for teenagers in Florida. For the landmarks he achieved he signed his one sentence resignation letter when it became apparent that his refusal to do so without prompting could become fodder for a huge public scandal in the Republican party.

The Thurmond scandal and the Foley story are somewhat stale but there's always fresh news in the American savannah. The newest story is about a 17 year old recently engaged or soon-to-be married daughter of the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Historically, the Republican Party has always pushed for family values. However, as though anticipating Sarah Palin's grandchild and the ensuing scandal, they have campaigned less on family values in this election. Understandably, there are more important problems like the economy and the war, so family values can take the back burner. It's quite interesting that the mainstream media has shied away from labeling Bristol Palin as an out-of-wedlock mother a term reserved for low-income earning, projects dwelling, wayward teenagers and instead has chosen to refer to her as newly engaged or soon-to-be married. Put an end to the drama, she is a 17 year old who was sleeping around while her mother was spreading the message of abstinence to Alaskan public schools. I respect her for keeping her child, but most girls in the African-American community keep theirs as well. Yet, they earn the title baby mamas, which although is less derogatory still bears the stench of illegitimacy. In a few months Sarah Palin will welcome what may be her second grandchild because for all we know Trig maybe her first. The stories are as colorful as the individuals but the mating habits remain the same. American elephants scattered across the terrain have similar mating behaviors.

How About Senator John McCain?

The speech we've all been waiting for was finally delivered two nights ago. In his acceptance speech, the Senator from Arizona laid out his plans for the American people. I did not watch the speech in its entirety because I do not quite like Senator McCain's style of delivery. However, I read the transcript on NPR and found it rather poignant. Nonetheless, there are several points in the speech that I do not agree with.

In his opening remarks, McCain thanked the current administration and also was gracious enough to George H. Bush and his wife. It wasn't an accident but rather deliberate that he did not mention the efforts of Bill and Hillary Clinton, a couple who have tirelessly served the American people. McCain made the argument that if elected his administration would work across partisan lines and would give credit where it was due. So, what's the problem with giving a little credit to the Clinton administration for the economic challenges it successfully addressed? So, there goes the first mistake of his speech.

Also, most of the speech was spent attacking the Obama campaign. At times, it almost seemed as though the Obama campaign was synonymous with the current administration. It was sometimes unclear if McCain was attacking the current administration for its failures or the Obama campaign for its proposals. It seems as though he was not sure what route to take in criticizing George Bush and so he superimposed the failures of his party's current administration on Obama.

Another sore point was when the Senator addressed the failing school system. He provided options for parents with children trapped in underperforming schools but failed to mention a program that has become a thorn if the flesh of the current administration; "The No Child Left Behind" reform. How do we in Senator McCain's own words shake up the system and give parents choice? Rewarding good teachers and helping bad teachers find new line of work does not improve the quality of education of any country. There is a root problem when schools underperform. Mostly, it is poverty. His speech did not address what needs to be done in rural Mississippi or Georgia where underperforming schools are the norm and not the exception. For several years, students in the state of Georgia have come in the lowest percentile in performance on the SAT and ACT. How does McCain plan to address that problem? If he needs advice, I'd suggest using community organizers who know the people, but McCain and Palin may be offended by that.

On taxation, the McCain campaign has mentioned that it will keep taxes low. However they have failed to mention who reaps the benefits of the lower taxes. From the analysis of several respected pundits on the issue, yes the McCain campaign has a plan to lower taxes but that plan does not benefit the average income earner. From what I've gathered so far, the reduction is going to serve the needs of the upper echelon of society while people who really need to see their taxes reduced are going to wonder what went wrong with the promises.

On the issue of health care, McCain promises to help Americans find and keep good insurance. News flash, it has always been possible to find and keep good health care. What has not been possible is paying for the good health care so that once it's found it can be kept. The United States has some of the best healthcare facilities the modern world has seen. However, paying for this world marvel is no joke. I recall a visit I made to the doctor a few years ago when I was having some pains that were diagnosed as an ulcer. I went in for a procedure that the technician told me would last 7 minutes but would cost upward of $700. I refused the procedure, went home and ate my way regularly to good health. I found a doctor to attend to me in seconds but I could not have ever afforded the bill even with an insurance plan. Insurance lest we forget is not a philanthropic enterprise. Insurance companies are in it for the money.

Addressing the problem of energy, McCain echoed the sentiments of Palin and Guiliani. They promised to drill for more oil. However, drilling is not the problem distribution is. While drilling may reduce a dependence on foreign oil, I have yet to find an argument that drilling will reduce the cost of energy. In the long run, independence from foreign oil will be good for the national security of this nation but high energy costs will only cause domestic havoc. For the increase in oil prices the nation has experienced over the last couple of months, the relative calm of the American people should be applauded. Only in America can gas prices double without a comensurate salary increase and the people hold their peace. Only in America.

Finally, the most disturbing aspect of McCain's speech was the incessant references to God or to His grace. Since when did McCain become evangelical? It's sad but sweet talking that way has never failed to woo evangelical Christians. The same Christians who snubbed McCain are the same ones who at once offered him support once he asked Palin to join his ticket. Its akin to the United States having friendly ties with Iran simply because Iran goes into a partnership with Great Britain. How does Palin at once make McCain a suitable candidate? James Dobson is now a supporter of the McCain-Palin ticket. How did that happen? Remember my post about how the Convention seemed like a revival? Their Convention style was a ploy to get evangelical Christians on the ticket and they won. I wish the church would open her eyes and seek discernment because for those who listened closely touchy evangelical issues such as gay rights and abortion were left out of the major Convention speeches. Undoubtedly, these Republicans are up to something.

So, for lack of words, it's on. The campaign has began in earnest. The Conventions with their pomp, pageantry and bright lights are over. Now the real work must be done. We must elect the best candidate as President of the United States.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Day Three at the Convention

Last night marked the third day of the Republican National Convention. The atmosphere at the arena was much the same as it has been in the last two days but was marked by some great speeches. The notable speeches from the evening were Huckabee's, Guiliani's and Palin's. Huckabee looked markedly sad, and could not help himself from wishing out loud that he were the actual nominee for his party. He praised Obama and applauded the advancement made by Americans for having a man of color as the nominee of a major party. Noting the achievements of his party he lauded their candidate and praised the efforts of his party. In all, he gave a typical "Huckabee" speech.

Then came Guiliani. His speech lasted twice as long and cut into the time for Governor Sarah Palin's acceptance speech. Sure his speech was rousing and energetic and definitely full of Republican propaganda. He rambled on about Senator John McCain's service to country and spent the rest of his alloted slot criticizing Senator Barack Obama. He noted that Barack did not vote on major issues but merely noted his presence on the floor. He turned Obama into fodder for his incessant parody and got huge guffaws from the crowd. If words could break bones Guiliani may have caused a few fractures last night. I have to applaud Guiliani though. He is a great speaker and still has it going on in all respects. Humor, charm, great oratory, and boy did he look heavy.

And how about Palin? She gave the speech of her career last night. She introduced her husband and their five children and significantly failed to acknowledge her unborn grandchild and soon to be son-in-law. She lauded the men and women who serve this nation and mentioned that her son Track would be deployed on September 11 to serve in the war efforts. Like any normal family she noted that her family has their own challenges and are just about as regular as mine and yours. How interesting. I'll have to say that despite my disapproval of the McCain-Palin ticket, Palin did give a very powerful and unifying speech last night. She gave a speech that may have won the hearts of some undecided voters. Making a case about children with special needs she struck a chord with a women who have family member who are special needs individuals. She also resonated with feminists by showing that women could have it all- family and a career. Additionally, she recalled the achievements of McCain, noting once again his integrity and devotion to country. She covered her achievements as governor of Alaska and as mayor. I would have to say that Palin is quite a remarkable woman who has done well for herself.

Her achievements in Alaska in terms of cutting wasteful spending and passing legislature that truly serve the people are remarkable. Proving to be the actual maverick of the party Palin's speech last night reached some very high notes. Having only met Senator McCain a few times before joining the campaign, she seems to have more chemistry as part of his ticket than Obama and Biden have together. It can almost be predicted that if McCain wins the White House, he would have a better working relationship with Governor Palin than Obama will have with Biden. By choosing Palin as his running mate, McCain did what Obama should have considered. Perhaps he should have chosen Hillary Clinton as his running mate. For all Hillary's achievements, it's quite sad that Palin should have a shot at actually becoming a part of the Executive Branch of the government (a title that should have gone to Hillary Clinton). I'm not making the argument that it's Hillary's birthright but who would have thought that Palin an unknown governor from the state of Alaska might come this close.

What was interesting though is it seems as though Palin and Guiliani were comparing notes. They both took on Obama's credentials and heckled his work as an organizer. Guiliani speaking about Obama's work as an organizer sounded more like he was at a comedy show than at a political convention. Same goes for Palin who noted that her job as mayor was similar to Obama's as an organizer except that she had real responsibilities. I hate to admit this but they really stuck the knife in the ham this time. Their heckling was unfair and cold. Community organizers are very vital. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a community organizer. The Civil Rights movement was built around the strength of organizing communities to stand up to white oppression and Jim Crow laws. I know that the attacks on Obama's resume as an organizer was in defense to Palin's mayoral resume been criticized but they both went two far, Guiliani especially. From Palin's speech, I gather that these two are ready for a fight and the debates ahead will be interesting.

The Fall of Kwame Kilpatrick

There will always be the fallen heroes. Individuals who fall long and hard on their way to the top or those who reach the top and fall. Eliot Spitzer, Trent Lott, Bill Clinton, Kwame Kilpatrick...I'm actually watching the sentencing of former Detroit mayor, Kwame Malik Kilpatrick. In view of the offenses which include two felony counts, the sentencing should be more severe. However, the plea deal he entered only require that he relinquish all his rights, serve a four month sentence after which he will begin a probation lasting five years and will also have to pay $1 million in restitution.

I'm not sure what the Mayor was going for. Some false air of bravado or if he was just in good spirits. Instead of appearing sober, the Mayor was smug and laughed a couple of times during the proceedings. He even laughed as his sentence was read. He appeared defiant and unrepentant. African-American with more swagger than the entire Lakers team. So, there goes another one. Young and promising public servant has an affair with his Chief of Staff and lies about the affair despite evidence to the contrary. Kwame's gone just like Spitzer left New York so what's next for the city he's leaving behind.

Detroit is America's city that never was. With Kilpatrick's demise the future of the city should be reconsidered. Without doubt, a good Mayor can do so much for any city. Come by Atlanta and see what Shirley Franklin has done for our city. She's revitalized the economy and taken on the sewage problem in the city. Talk about good governance. So while Kilpatrick goes away to serve his sentence let's not forget the important task at hand. What should be done about the city called Detroit?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Stomping in St. Paul

If ever I needed reaffirmation for why I am not a Republican I got that yesterday. Watching the convention, I couldn't help but wonder what was going through the minds of all the people at the Xcel Energy Center. Everything seemed annoying and hypocritical. The Convention seemed more like a Billy Graham Crusade, the exception being loud music than it did a political rally. I'm a huge follower of Pastor Graham but I believe the Republicans are up to something, staging their Convention like a huge revival.

Beginning with First Lady Laura Bush's introduction of her husband down to Joseph Lieberman there was something that just didn't feel right about the Convention. First Laura Bush gave a lack luster introduction. She couldn't be original but had to borrow Obama's slogan about "change we can believe in." This trend was again repeated by Fred Thompson when he hailed Senator John McCain as having "character we can believe in." The sitting President did not deliver his last speech as President to the RNC in person but rather chose to deliver his speech via satellite. He started off by thanking his parents who responded by welling up and beaming pridefully at their son. There would be much to be proud of- he's been President for two terms. But let's face the facts he has done nothing significant for this nation, nothing that will long be remembered.

Every step in Bush's Presidency has been marked by significant failures of all sorts.From his failure to respond effectively in the wake of Katrina, to the War in Iraq, mortgage crisis and the crumbling economy, Bush has done nothing to make a parent proud. It shouldn't come as a surprise though that his Presidency will not be fondly recalled. A Presidency cloaked as this in failure would be cause for sleepless night but not for George Bush. Speaking about his legacy at a press conference the President nonchalantly replied that historians wouldn't care much about him. After all he noted they are not done analyzing George Washington so who would care about 43. He doesn't care what the American people think of him now or in the future. What a sad, sad life. When it's all said and done, he'll be on a ranch in Texas. Keeping his failures in mind, in his address he failed to mention the economy. Further, he did not mention the achievements of his administration. Instead he harped on about McCain heroism in Vietnam, his service to country and his integrity as a man. If you don't care about your legacy, why should anyone about McCain's.

When the President was done speaking, Mrs. Bush came back to the podium to remind us what a fine man her Georgy was. Next was Fred Thompson who gave the speech he should have given earlier in the year to secure the nomination of the Republican Party. The biggest shocker all evening however, was Senator Joseph Lieberman. Can you spell sell out? Seeing Senator Lieberman was totally tragic. He sadly is the last person either party needs. Lieberman made the argument that he was there in honor of country because he believes McCain should be president and not Senator Obama. What a shame! Lieberman at the RNC was just as much a train wreck as Strom Thurmond would have been at the DNC. His lame excuse was that Obama's eloquence was no substitute for McCain's record. How about Sarah Palin? She's never been in Washington and has spent the bulk of her life in a state that boasts more fish and snowballs than people.

Describing the Convention with words like "surreal" and "breathtaking," last night at the RNC was the closest some Republicans have come to an out of body experience. Sadly, I was not moved by the Convention. Not by the evangelical performers (whom I would have enjoyed from a different venue), nor the speeches, nor by the patriotic signs. Judging by what is going on in the White House now I can't see why anyone would even want one more day of another Republican once Bush makes his exit.